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When Mom Isn’t Mom: What to Expect with Dementia Related Personality Changes

What to Expect with Dementia

Understanding what to expect with dementia means being ready for personality changes.

For her whole adult life, Mom has been quiet, reserved, and kind to everyone. Her friends and family have always known they could count on her to provide wise advice without judgment or condescension. Yet suddenly, since her dementia has begun to progress, it’s as though a switch has been flipped. Mom has become belligerent, angry, and rude. What happened? Is this what to expect with dementia?

Unfortunately, personality and behavioral changes such as this are quite common in someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. They’re part of the natural progression of the disease’s impact on brain cells. Other changes you may notice include:

  • Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies
  • Anger, anxiety, and depression
  • Pacing and wandering
  • Hiding items, or thinking others have hidden things from them
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviors
  • Hitting you or others
  • Misinterpreting reality, including seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Neglecting personal hygiene

The first step if you notice any of these changes in a senior loved one is to schedule a checkup with the doctor. There are a variety of other health conditions that could be causing the changes, so it’s important to rule those out first.

If it’s determined that the changes are dementia-related, there are ways to help manage them more effectively:

  • Limit distractions. Turn down (or off) the TV or radio, and limit time spent with groups of people talking, all of which can add to confusion and frustration.
  • Make simple alterations to the home accordingly. If looking in the mirror frightens the senior, take down or cover mirrors. If a comforter with busy patterns leads the senior to believe there are bugs crawling on it, replace it with a solid colored one.
  • Avoid asking open-ended questions. Phrase your statements and questions simply, giving a choice of two answers. For instance, “It’s time for lunch. Would you like tuna or chicken today?”
  • Create and adhere to a daily schedule and routine.
  • Pay attention to what the senior may be feeling, rather than what is being said. Someone with dementia who is lashing out angrily may actually be feeling fear or worry. Offer reassurance that the person you are there to help, and that he or she is safe.
  • Never argue or correct someone with dementia. If you find yourself becoming angry or upset, step away for a few minutes (if it’s safe to do so) to calm down; or try deep breathing and counting slowly to ten.

Knowing what to expect with dementia and how to provide the best care for someone you love isn’t easy. A trusted, professional care partner, like Nightingale Homecare, can help tremendously with education, resources, and respite care services.

With Nightingale Homecare, the leading providers of in-home care in Paradise Valley, AZ and surrounding areas, you’re never alone. Call us at (602) 505-1555 to learn more about the ways we can make life better for a senior you love with dementia and allow you a healthy life balance as well.

Protect Seniors from Post-Heart Attack Depression

Post-Heart Attack Depression

Post-heart attack depression can be better managed with these tips.

Surviving a heart attack is cause for celebration – yet rather than joy, many seniors experience a surprising but common condition: post-heart attack depression. And by the same token, those with depression are more prone to having a heart attack later in life than those without mental health concerns.

Nightingale Homecare, the leading senior caregivers in Phoenix and surrounding areas, is here to help older adults and those who care for them understand what to watch for and what steps can be taken to alleviate depression following a heart attack or other significant health scare.

A senior may be clinically depressed if the following red flags are noted:

  • Problems with falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling restless, apathetic, sad, hopeless, and/or worthless
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Lack of concentration

If a senior you love is exhibiting signs such as these, try the following:

  1. See the doctor. First and foremost, check in with the senior’s primary care physician for a depression assessment and recommended treatment. The earlier depression is diagnosed and treated, the better.
  2. Look into cardiac rehab services. Post-heart attack depression can be helped through learning and implementing lifestyle changes such as eating healthier and exercising properly. Cardiac rehabilitation is often conducted in a group setting, allowing for social interaction with others who can empathize and understand what the senior is going through and provide necessary support.
  3. Ensure medication adherence. Not taking heart medications as directed can lead to depression – and someone who is depressed may not be motivated to take his or her meds, leading to a vicious cycle. Nightingale Homecare can help with medication reminders and management; contact us to learn more.
  4. Talk with a counselor. Professional counseling can be extremely beneficial for a depressed senior, providing the opportunity to work through the varied feelings that accompany surviving a traumatic event like a heart attack.
  5. Incorporate mind/body relaxation. Studies have shown that depression can be eased through the mindfulness, deep breathing, exercise and clearing of the mind through activities such as yoga, tai chi, meditation/prayer, and deep breathing exercises.
  6. Stay social. The pandemic has made it challenging to maintain social connections, but isolation can have a tremendously negative impact on our mental health. If in-person get-togethers with friends and family aren’t possible, using technology such as Zoom and Skype to stay in touch can make a world of difference in a depressed person’s outlook.
  7. Explore antidepressant options. Antidepressants may be a temporary option to ease symptoms. Ask the doctor for a recommendation, and carefully consider the pros and cons (i.e., any potential negative side effects). It’s important to keep in mind that antidepressants typically take several weeks before their full impact is realized.

Let Nightingale Homecare’s compassionate, skilled, and experienced caregivers in Phoenix and the surrounding areas provide the assistance a senior with post-heart attack depression needs. We offer friendly companionship, planning and preparation of heart-healthy meals, motivation to stay physically active, help with ensuring medications are taken properly, and many other services, according to each person’s particular needs.

Call us today at (602) 505-1555 to get started on a brighter tomorrow for a senior you love!

The Perfect New Year’s Resolutions for Family Caregivers

Resolutions for Family Caregivers

New Year’s resolutions for family caregivers help make self-care a priority.

The dawning of a new year brings with it hope, optimism, and a chance to start fresh. For family caregivers, the new year is an ideal time to take stock of caregiving routines, making adjustments that benefit both you and a senior you love.

While there are countless instances of joy when caring for a senior, too often family caregivers place all their focus and energy on their caregiving responsibilities, leaving no time or energy for their own needs. Since the ability to provide effective care is directly linked to maintaining your own health and wellness, the new year is a perfect time to commit to making and keeping resolutions for family caregivers.

  • Ask for help. Reach out to family or close friends and ask for assistance with caregiving responsibilities. Think about ways in which those close to you can help with tasks such as bringing over a meal one night each week, managing finances, scheduling appointments, and more. Set up a recurring schedule so that you know you can count on assistance each week, thereby freeing you up to make and keep your own medical appointments, maintain an exercise routine, or have lunch with a friend.
  • Be present. Family caregiving requires not only physical stamina, but emotional stamina, too. All too often, family caregivers can feel drained by the emotion of caring for a senior loved one. They hope a situation will change, even when they’ve seen the same outcome time and again. Whether wishing for assistance from your siblings or hoping that your dad, who has Alzheimer’s, will stop asking the same question repeatedly, it’s important (and sometimes difficult) to accept things the way they are. In doing so, and in being fully present in reality, you can focus emotional energy on positive things, while at the same time caring for your emotional health.
  • Make self-care a daily priority. Set aside short blocks of time throughout the day to focus on self-care. Start your day with stretching, meditation or prayer. Take a brief walk around the block or simply sit outside and enjoy the sunshine for a few minutes each afternoon. Connect with friends on the phone, read a book, or start streaming a new series in the evenings. Make “me time” a priority, even if it’s only for short periods of time each day.
  • Schedule routine breaks. Trying to take on all of the caregiving tasks day in and day out is a recipe for burnout. Partner with an in-home caregiver like Nightingale Homecare to schedule respite services so that you can take a break each week or plan a weekend away to indulge in some much-deserved R & R.

Let Nightingale Homecare help you keep your New Year’s resolutions by providing the trusted in-home care that families in Phoenix and the surroundings areas have turned to since 1994. In addition to respite care, our professional and highly-trained care team can customize a care plan designed especially for your loved one and can include:

  • Assisting with housekeeping and laundry
  • Planning and preparing healthy and nutritious meals
  • Providing transportation to social outings and medical or personal appointments
  • Engaging companionship to enhance socialization and reduce isolation
  • Helping with personal care needs such as bathing, dressing and using the toilet
  • A full range of skilled nursing care services
  • And so much more

Reach out to Nightingale Homecare today at (602) 504-1555 to learn more about how our skilled and non-medical home care in Phoenix and the surrounding areas can help you and a senior you love live life to the fullest in 2021.

The Holidays Look a Little Different This Year: Holidays with Seniors During the Pandemic

Holidays with Seniors

Celebrating the holidays with seniors this year requires careful planning and consideration.

Back in March, when the words “pandemic” and “COVID-19” just began to creep into our vocabulary, we had no idea that by the holiday season, we’d still be right in the thick of isolating, social distancing, and doing whatever we can to keep ourselves and each other safe. Yet here we are, and it’s important to carefully think through the risks associated with celebrating the holidays with seniors this year.

At the heart of the quandary lies the knowledge that both COVID-19 and isolation from loved ones bring serious, potentially life-threatening risks to older adults. Harvard epidemiologist Julia Marcus explains, “There’s no easy answer here, just like with everything else. It’s not about safe or unsafe. It’s about figuring out how to balance various risks and keeping risks as low as possible.”

And while we’ve learned to avoid super-spreader events, experts warn that the recent spike in infections has been attributed in large part to transmissions within home gatherings.

So how can you make the best decision for your family this holiday season? Here’s what you need to know:

  • The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently redefined “close contact” as it relates to the spread of infection to 15 minutes of cumulative exposure during a 24-hour period, within six feet of others (as opposed to the former 15 consecutive minute definition).
  • Although these guidelines reference maintaining social distancing of six feet, it is believed that aerosol transmission can occur at much greater distances – there’s nothing magic about the six-foot figure.
  • Family members considering air travel (or other public transportation) are, of course, at a greater risk of exposure to the virus, and can still transmit the virus to others, even if they remain asymptomatic. The safest course to follow would be to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival, and then get tested – an incredibly difficult protocol to follow.

As a result of these factors, the CDC’s official holiday celebration guidelines encourage people to stay at home with those already living in the same household, which raises the issue of senior isolation and the serious emotional and physical toll it can take on older adults.

Dr. Anthony Fauci explains, “There are some families who are so frustrated with not seeing each other for so long, they’re going to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to take the risk. My mental health of seeing my children or grandchildren is so important to me that I’m going to take the risk.’”

If a senior you love expresses these types of feelings, and is experiencing the negative impact of isolation, you’ll need to carefully consider the risks vs. the benefits of getting together. In that case, face coverings, social distancing, and handwashing are necessary, and time spent together should be limited. Outdoor visits are also preferred.

The holiday season of 2020 may not be the Normal Rockwell celebration we’d wish for, but know that Nightingale Homecare, the leading Phoenix home health agency, is here to help make it as merry and bright as possible for the seniors you love. Contact us to learn more about how we can help alleviate isolation for seniors, coordinate the technology necessary for contactless visits with a senior loved one, and so much more.

You can reach us any time at (602) 504-1555 to discover the measures we’re taking to keep seniors safe, to find out if our services are available in your area, and to answer any questions you may have about our in-home care services.

Relieving Caregiving Stress with Gratitude

Caregiving Stress

Focusing on what we’re thankful for is a great way to relieve stress.

“There’s always, always something to be thankful for!”

This quote, attributed to Rhonda Byrne, is a popular one this time of year, as we turn our thoughts to all of our blessings in the season of Thanksgiving. And, it may just help to relive caregiving stress.

For family caregivers, a heightened level of stress can cause negativity to creep in, magnifying problems and challenges and making it difficult to shift focus to gratitude. Still, research shows that those who practice gratitude are happier, protected from depression, sleep better, have a boosted immune system, and have healthier relationships, in addition to reduced stress.

So how, in the midst of caregiving, can you begin to experience the benefits of gratefulness? We have some tips to help.

What IS Gratitude?

Actually, it’s important to know what gratitude is NOT. It’s not a matter of ignoring difficulties and denying that we have negative feelings as a result of them. It is about tuning in to the positive aspects of life that are present in the midst of the problems. It’s a matter of perspective, and realizing that as bad as things may seem to be, there are glimmers of light shining through the darkness.

Benefits of Gratitude

Choosing to pay attention to even the smallest thing for which we’re grateful actually trains our brain to improve our level of optimism. It breaks the downward spiral of negativity, which improves overall quality of life and wellness in a variety of ways – including allowing us to provide a higher level of care for the seniors we love.

How to Begin Living More Gratefully

One of the best ways to begin experiencing the benefits of gratitude is by keeping a journal – which may feel intimidating at first; who has time for journaling while caregiving? But it doesn’t have to be elaborate or wordy; a simple spiral-bound notebook and a sentence or two each day is all it takes. The key is being consistent, to create a new habit and routine of being thankful.

Designate a few minutes at a set time each day, whenever it works best for you, and simply sit down in a quiet place and think about one or two aspects of life that you’re most thankful for at that moment. It can be as simple as a beautiful sunrise, a warm bath at the end of the day, or a phone call with a friend. Write it down in your journal, or draw a quick sketch if you prefer.

Then at the end of each week, or whenever your stress level is elevated, read back through your journal entries to help shift your perspective.

Know that our experts in home care in Paradise Valley, AZ and nearby areas are always here to partner with you to ensure you have plenty of time available to rest and recharge. Our respite care services are the perfect solution to caregiving stress, allowing you to take much-needed time to yourself while knowing your senior loved one is receiving the very best care. Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!