Although there’s long been a stigma attached to aging that leads us to believe that our senior years and frailty go hand in hand, the latest statistics paint a far different – and more promising – reality. Not only is life expectancy higher now than ever before, but when asked about their health, as many as 41% of seniors claim to feel either very good or excellent.
In fact, the prognosis for senior health is even more encouraging when considering that many facets of aging are often within our control. For example, lifestyle decisions, such as not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying physically active, are major health determinants that we can personally control.
There are, however, some chronic conditions that can affect seniors regardless of how well they take care of themselves. Following are some of the top conditions seniors may face, and how you can help your senior loved ones maintain optimum health.
- Arthritis. Likely the top condition impacting older adults – nearly half of those over age 65 – arthritis pain can cause seniors to reduce activity levels.
- How you can help: Work with the physician to create an individualized activity plan and review medication, therapy and other treatment options.
- Lung Diseases. Respiratory diseases, such as COPD, emphysema, and asthma, are troublesome enough, but can also result in an increased risk of pneumonia and other infections.
- How you can help: Encourage your loved one to stop smoking, ensure that he or she has received lung function testing, and is using oxygen and any other medications exactly as prescribed.
- Dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect more than 10% of the senior population, and likely even more, since these conditions can be difficult to diagnose correctly.
- How you can help: Caring for a senior with dementia is a challenging undertaking for families. Enlisting the help of a professional senior care agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s care, such as Nightingale Homecare, can help both the senior and his or her loved ones significantly enhance quality of life.
Nightingale Homecare provides experienced, compassionate Phoenix senior care services covering the full spectrum of conditions of aging. By providing thorough in-home assessments, we create customized plans of care that meet individual needs now, and continue to monitor those plans so that future needs are both anticipated and met as well. Contact us at 602-504-1555 to allow us to get to know a bit about you and your senior loved one, and to share how we can help him or her enjoy life to the fullest!
Have you ever heard a song for the first time in years, and it instantly took you right back to the last place you were when you heard it? Or opened up a new box of crayons for a young child, took a whiff of that distinctive waxy fragrance and felt instantly transported back to your own childhood?
The longstanding impact of both music and art on our memories and senses is incredible, and that impact isn’t lost on those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, either. Perhaps you’ve seen one of the many videos that have gone viral, such as this one, in which a miraculous transformation occurs when those with Alzheimer’s listen to old, familiar tunes. Or you may be familiar with the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Memories in the Making” program, in which those with dementia can use art as their voice in sharing thoughts and emotions.
At Nightingale Homecare, our Arizona caregivers have the opportunity to experience firsthand the joy and peace that seniors with Alzheimer’s disease display when given the opportunity to engage in art and music activities, and offer the following ideas to help you implement some creative projects for your senior loved ones:
- Help the person get started with an art project, but then step back and allow the work to progress in the individual’s own way and timeframe.
- Stick to adult-level projects, so as to never convey to the person a demeaning or condescending tone.
- Prompt conversation around the art as you’re working, allowing the person to reminisce or share any details about colors selected, the story behind the artwork being created, etc.
- Select a specific genre of music that the person enjoys, and particular songs, if possible.
- Encourage participation through movement, clapping, tapping, singing, etc.
- Choose music pieces that suit the particular mood you’re hoping to invoke, such as quiet, soothing music to calm the person, or cheerful, upbeat music to boost energy and enthusiasm.
It’s important while engaging a senior with dementia in art or music projects to remain mindful of the person’s enjoyment level in a particular activity. If he or she becomes frustrated or agitated, shift gears to a different activity or rest period.
If you’d like assistance from our experienced and fully trained Phoenix area caregivers in implementing music or art activities for your senior loved one, call on Nightingale Homecare. Through our specialized Connections dementia program, our caregivers, who are certified as Alzheimer’s Whisperers®, offer an exceptionally gentle and therapeutic level of care that provides seniors with an unparalleled level of comfort and understanding, and gives their family members enhanced peace of mind.
Contact us at 602-504-1555 any time to learn more or to get started with our professional, creative in-home care for seniors.
One of our goals at Nightingale Homecare is to place caregiving tools in the hands of those struggling to provide senior care to a beloved family member suffering from dementia, knowing how difficult it can be to know where to turn when challenges seem insurmountable. We’ve previously shared some tips on how to recognize and diffuse the combative, aggressive outbursts that Alzheimer’s patients sometimes exhibit, and we have a few more tips to help caregivers de-escalate these challenging behaviors.
And so, for the next time you find yourself confronted with an aggressive episode, we offer you the following steps to help restore a sense of calm and peace:
- Avoid aggressive signals, such as clenching fists or crossing arms.
- Maintain caring eye contact, while trying not to stare aggressively at your loved one.
- Breathe slowly and deeply.
- Stand at a slight angle, at least two arm lengths away, avoiding fully-facing the agitated person to protect the chest and abdomen if he or she suddenly hits or kicks.
- Keep the nearest door open, and position yourself between the loved one and the door, so that he or she is not blocking the exit if you will need to leave quickly.
- If possible, position yourself so that there is a piece of furniture between you and your loved one, for further protection.
- Speak in a firm, calm voice.
- Watch the tone and volume of your voice. Keep it low, as most people tend to raise both their tone and volume when excited or threatened, resulting in high-pitched yelling.
- Say something that helps your loved one to know that you understand his feelings: “Mom, I can see that you’re really upset, and I want to help.”
- Treat your loved one with dignity and respect, and never threaten or belittle the person for the behavior.
- Don’t argue or try to reason with your angry loved one, such as saying, “I do not always forget your newspaper.”
- If possible, try to “undo” whatever has made the person agitated. For example, if combative behavior resulted when you approached your loved one to give him a bath, back off and leave him alone for awhile.
- Distracting him with his favorite activity can also be effective: “Dad, your favorite TV show is on now, would you like to watch?”
- When trying to de-escalate a loved one’s behavior when more than one caregiver or family member is present, it is helpful if only one person talks, to avoid confusing or frightening the loved one.
Safety is the top priority when dealing with a combative loved one. If family or caregiver safety is threatened, you should leave the area immediately, and get any other persons to safety, if needed. If the situation is extreme enough that you cannot effectively handle it, the police should be promptly called to assist.
Nightingale Homecare’s dementia care program, “Connections,” has helped numerous families and patients succeed in living safely at home with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We provide innovative, empathetic, and thoughtful care that has real impact in the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s.
When it comes to choosing an Arizona home care company for your loved one, trust the agency that trains its clinical professionals and caregivers in the “Alzheimer’s Whisperer” program, implemented and guided by Dr. Verna Benner-Carson, a national dementia care expert. For expert home care based on deep understanding of those living with dementia, call Nightingale at 602-504-1555 or contact us online to speak with a dementia senior homecare specialist today.
Mom doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but recently, that sweet elderly woman who’s been known for her gentle demeanor throughout her life has been exhibiting combative and aggressive behaviors, courtesy of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. How can the family members who love and care for this senior cope with these new challenges?
It’s important to note that once your loved one experiences an episode of dementia-related aggressive and combative behavior, the likelihood of it occurring again is high. The staff at Nightingale Homecare understand that the best way to manage combative behavior is to prevent it.
Proper management can significantly decrease aggressive incidents. Body language, appearance and tone of voice that convey kindness and calmness are probably the most important tools to utilize when approaching a combative person. Perform tasks gently, and avoid hurrying or pressuring your loved one. Giving the appearance of impatience or annoyance may trigger a combative reaction. Provide a predictable, calm environment and ensure that your loved one’s needs for food, rest, comfort, and social interaction are met. You may have to remind your loved one who you are frequently, to avoid anxious or aggressive reactions with a possible mistaken identity.
Evaluating and understanding some important factors about your loved one’s aggressive episodes is crucial to circumventing future occurrences. It may be helpful to document for other caregivers and family members the answers to these questions:
- What triggers the aggressive behavior?
- What early signs of aggression does my loved one display?
- Does my loved one’s behavior progress to physical violence?
- What helps my loved one to calm down?
When working with an aggressive/combative loved one, it is important to maintain a constant awareness of your loved one’s mood and affect. Even subtle reactions, like clenched jaw and fists or a stiffening of the body will give you some clues that the loved one may have difficulty coping and is feeling anxious.
Signs of escalating aggressive behavior may include:
- Raised voice, yelling with possible cursing, or sexualized language
- A frightened or angry look in the eyes
- Tensing of the body, such as clenched fists
- Increased respiration
- Flushed face
- Pacing or repetitive behavior with agitation
- Removal of clothing, bandages, NG tube, oxygen tubing or IV lines
- Threats to family or caregivers
- Paranoid ideation
- Aggressive use of objects in the environment: grabbing, pulling and throwing things
- Hitting, pinching, spitting, pushing, kicking
Should your loved one become combative, remember that your goal is to de-escalate or “bring down” the reaction. It is important to verbally acknowledge your loved one’s distress by showing concern and avoiding an authoritarian or harsh tone. It is also important to project a calm, yet attentive, facial expression. Your loved one is likely to become more agitated if you react by becoming agitated too.
Verbal de-escalation skills can be learned through training and practice. The specially trained home care staff at Nightingale Homecare can assist you in learning these techniques. Give us a call at 602-504-1555 and we’ll arrange a time to meet with you to offer tips on helping your beloved senior remain calm and to feel at peace. Our Arizona home care services for those with Alzheimer’s are also an invaluable resource for families, providing the compassionate, expert dementia care needed to allow family caregivers a chance to catch their breath, relax and enjoy some much-needed downtime. Contact us any time to learn more.
We all look forward to getting away from it all from time to time – to rest, recharge, and explore an exciting new destination. And those who provide care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease are no exception. The big quandary for these family caregivers, though, is how to manage a vacation with the myriad of unique circumstances surrounding their loved one’s care. Is it even possible to travel with someone struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia?
Dr. Verna Benner Carson, creator of the Alzheimer’s Whisperer® program, shares some helpful suggestions to maximize the enjoyment, comfort and safety for the Alzheimer’s traveler (and those who are providing care):
- Take a trial run: A mini “test” trip can provide a good indication of how the person with Alzheimer’s will react to traveling.
- Pick an appropriate destination: Selecting a location that’s familiar and not overly crowded can go a long way in reducing stress and complications.
- Forewarn all involved: If the trip includes visiting friends or family, it’s a good idea to advise them in advance of any limitations or behavioral challenges that may be experienced.
- Safety first: If the person with Alzheimer’s has a tendency to wander, it’s crucial to have a safety plan in place. Enroll him in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program, and make sure he wears an ID bracelet at all times.
- Consider individual needs: One particular area of concern is bathroom needs. Handling incontinence while traveling can be challenging, and keeping needed items (and a change of clothes) readily available at all times is vitally important.
- Pack some distractions: Time flies when you’re having fun! Bring along plenty of activities such as an iPod loaded with favorite music, playing cards, manipulative items, snacks, etc.
- Don’t go it alone: Especially for road trips, having at least one additional adult in the car can go a long way in keeping the atmosphere peaceful, allowing for the person with Alzheimer’s to be kept calm, engaged and safe.
If your loved one is in a later stage of Alzheimer’s and would not respond well to travel, call on the certified Alzheimer’s Whisperers at Nightingale Homecare. We provide respite care services throughout the Phoenix, AZ area, ensuring that those with Alzheimer’s or any other condition of frailty are provided with compassionate care to allow family caregivers some much needed time away. Call us any time at 602-504-1555 for a free in-home assessment so we can learn more about your needs and share with you how we can help.