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.
Help loved ones overcome senior isolation with these tips.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been paramount to seniors’ physical health to stay isolated; yet we know that senior isolation carries with it a number of serious health concerns as well. The challenge has been balancing both the physical and emotional needs of older adults, and for many, the answer has been found in technology, allowing for social interactions during a time of quarantine.
Yet technology brings with it a challenge in and of itself. As many as one in three seniors have never used and do not have access to the internet at home; and for those who do, half need assistance with setting up and utilizing a new app or device.
Our aging care professionals offer the following tech tips to help the seniors you love stay connected in order to prevent senior isolation:
Ensure seniors are equipped with the tools they need. Many older desktop computers lack cameras, speakers, and necessary software to access programs like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime. Decide if your loved one would be most comfortable with a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, and find a version without all the bells and whistles, making it more user-friendly.
Download apps according to interests. The sheer number of options available in the great worldwide web can be overwhelming. It’s helpful to select a handful of apps or sites that the senior will especially enjoy to play games, stream movies and music, learn a new skill or hobby, and to contact family and friends.
Instruct the senior and maintain a patient attitude. Remember how it felt when you first learned to drive, or speak another language, or solve an algebraic equation? Keep those feelings in mind as you teach an older loved one how to get around on a new digital device. It will be especially challenging trying to remotely provide instruction over the phone, so stay calm and patient and allow as much time as needed for the senior to grow comfortable with his or her new technology.
Explain the risk of scams. Senior scams are rampant, and scammers are extremely savvy in what they do, making it difficult for many to detect until it’s too late. Talk with your loved one about setting boundaries, such as never giving out credit card or other personal information over the internet (unless it’s through a known and trusted site).
Partner with Nightingale Homecare! Our team of senior care experts are always available to help the older adults we serve learn new technology, connect virtually with loved ones, and recommend appropriate and engaging activities seniors can do online.
Nightingale Homecare, the leaders in home care assistance in Peoria and the surrounding areas in Arizona, helps prevent senior isolation for older adults in our community each and every day. We offer friendly companionship to engage in a variety of activities at home, such as conversations, games and cards, exercise programs, arts and crafts, and so much more, according to each person’s interests and always in adherence to safety guidelines. We also provide a full range of home health care services to meet the medical and non-medical needs of seniors, right at home.
Find help for dealing with chronic stress in seniors related to COVID-19.
The arrival of COVID-19 has forced our country to face a major crisis.
Although Americans of all ages are experiencing the stress associated with the outbreak, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) estimates that nearly 28 percent, or 14 million older Americans, live alone and are especially vulnerable to stress. NIA studies have shown that isolation and loneliness can increase existing physical and mental conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline. During the pandemic, the effects of those conditions increase for seniors due to even higher levels of isolation and loneliness, as well as the fear of severe illness if they do contract the virus.
Unlike a stressful event that has an identifiable beginning and end, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing and often changing event that has the potential to cause chronic stress in an individual. Chronic stress related to the pandemic can disturb all the major systems in the body. The body reacts to chronic stress differently, with the individual maintaining a constant state of alertness, despite there being no imminent danger.
Caregivers and family members can help support elder loved ones by understanding chronic stress and its effects on seniors, and then help loved ones engage in self-care activities that promote a sense of safety and security.
Things to Watch For
Monitoring for signs of chronic stress is critical in ensuring that you or your loved one gets help when needed. According to the CDC, stress during an outbreak such as COVID-19 can result in:
Fear and worry about a person’s own health and/or the health of loved ones
Reassure yourself and/or your loved one that although we cannot control the virus, we can take steps necessary to control our emotional and physical reaction to it. Below are some tips for you and/or your loved one if experiencing the stress of social isolation and fear related to the pandemic.
Take Up A New Hobby or Re-Activate an Old One: This helps to create a sense of purpose. It can be something like growing a garden, cooking, sewing, reading, scrapbooking, completing puzzles, or other activities.
Stay Active: The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week for seniors. Getting outdoors and walking or participating in an age-appropriate workout are examples of moderate activities. Due to the sometimes extreme temperatures experienced in Arizona, be sure and plan outdoor activities for the coolest parts of the day. Wear a cloth face mask and practice social distancing while outdoors, and be sure and check with a health care provider before starting any exercise program. Physical activity will help physical and mental well-being.
Take Breaks from the Media: Reading, watching and listening to news about the pandemic can increase anxiety. It is important to stay informed, but limit the amount of time spent watching the news and stick to credible news sources.
Eat Well: Plan meals to ensure the proper number of calories and nutrients. The USDA website is a great source of information for planning healthy meals. Click on this link to explore recommendations.
Stay Connected to Your Community: Religious organizations, libraries, senior groups and families are finding creative ways that people can stay connected. Look into Skype, Zoom, and virtual services online and make some calls to find out about what is going on.
Get Rest: There are loads of recommendations for getting the sleep you need, but you need to put those tips into practice…and that takes practice! Check out the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendations by clicking on this link.
Maintain a Routine: Routines help improve sleeping, eating and emotional and physical health.
Manage Medications and Self-Monitor: It is important that medications and chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are well managed during isolation, especially during the pandemic. Health care providers should be consulted for any challenges with managing medications or illnesses. Many doctors can now conduct telehealth visits, allowing seniors to get care without ever leaving home.
Meditate: Deep breathing, stretching and meditating can help calm the spirit. Mindful Magazine offers an excellent online guide to meditation. Click on this link to explore. Another exceptional provider of meditation and mindfulness is HeadSpace. Check them out by clicking this link.
Managing Your Mental Health
If you and/or your loved one already have mental health or substance abuse issues, you may find it more difficult to cope with those struggles during the pandemic. Don’t be surprised if you experience some depression during this time. It’s important to recognize that this isn’t a sign of weakness, and there is success in treatment. Look for these signs that you may be experiencing depression:
Sadness or feelings of despair
Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
Loss of interest in socializing or hobbies
Weight loss or loss of appetite
Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
Lack of motivation and energy
Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
Fixation on death; thoughts of suicide
Slowed movement or speech
Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
Loss of self-worth
Worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing
Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene)
Worsening pain, such as arthritis, headaches
Many support groups are holding online meetings to help provide support. Check out these online support groups:
If you notice your own or your loved one’s stress reactions are interfering with life for longer than a week, call your health care provider. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, or feel like you could harm yourself or others, call 911.
Use this COVID-19 self-assessment tool from the home care team at Nightingale.
Nightingale Homecare is dedicated to ensuring our patients’ safety and good health during the COVID-19, or “coronavirus” pandemic. Anyone can get the virus and may have mild or severe symptoms. However, if you are an elder adult with underlying conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, hypertension or diabetes, you are considered to be at higher risk for developing more severe complications from the virus, and need to be particularly cautious.
Of course, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus, so it is important to stay away from people who are sick, or may unknowingly have the virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person who are in close contact, or through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
People with pre-existing conditions are encouraged by the CDC to stay home whenever possible and to go out only for medical care. If you do venture out, do so with a cloth face covering, avoid crowds, and stay at least six feet from others at all times. It is especially important to use hand sanitizer while out and to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after being in a public place.
While home, you should pay special attention to your hand hygiene, especially after blowing your nose or coughing, and avoid touching your face, nose and mouth. It is also important to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily: tables, counters, doorknobs, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, and light switches.
Anyone who does come into your home should always self-screen, and not come in if they are feeling sick, have a temperature, or have been recently exposed to anyone with, or suspected of having, COVID-19. In addition, your guests should wear a cloth face covering, practice good hand hygiene, and stay at least six feet from you at all times.
All of Nightingale’s patients are asked to self-screen for the virus daily. To self-screen effectively, you must know the symptoms associated with COVID-19. The following is a list of known symptoms of COVID-19:
· SORE THROAT
· SHORTNESS OF BREATH
· NEW CONFUSION
· LOSS OF TASTE/SMELL
· CHEST PAINS
· BLUE COLOR IN LIPS, FACE OR EXTREMITIES
· TEMPERATURE > 100.4
· SHAKING WITH CHILLS
· MUSCLE ACHES
At Nightingale Homecare, we ask all our patients to go through the following self-checks daily. We use a tool called a stoplight self-assessment, and patients are asked to evaluate if they are in the GREEN, YELLOW or RED ZONE.
THE GREEN ZONE
If you can affirm all of the statements below, you would be considered to be in the GREEN ZONE, and would not need to do anything other than monitor for symptoms that may develop and continue taking precautions.
I am breathing easily.
I have no fever or chills.
I am not coughing, wheezing, or experiencing chest tightness or shortness of breath.
I do not have a sore throat.
I am able to maintain my normal activity level.
I am alert without confusion or unusual fatigue.
I have no loss of smell or taste.
I have no diarrhea or stomach upset.
I have no color changes in my face or extremities.
THE YELLOW ZONE
If you note any of the following symptoms, you would be in the YELLOW ZONE, and you would need to contact your health care provider right away.
I am coughing more than usual, or have a sore throat.
I have a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit when taken orally (or a tympanic recording), or 99.4 under the arm (or temporally).
I have loss of smell or taste.
I have diarrhea or vomiting.
THE RED ZONE
If you affirm any of the following statements, you would be in the RED ZONE and would require immediate, emergency medical attention:
I am experiencing unrelieved shortness of breath.
I have a persistent cough.
I have a fever over 101.4 degrees Fahrenheit when taken orally (or a tympanic recording), or 100.4 under the arm (or temporally).
I have a change in the color of my skin, nails, or lips to gray or blue.
Fall risk prevention is easier with this handy checklist.
Each year, thousands of older Americans fall at home. Many of them are seriously injured, or worse. Falls are the leading cause of injury death among those 65 and older. Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook but easy to fix. Many falls can be prevented by making simple environmental, personal and lifestyle changes.
This checklist from the Phoenix home health care agencies families trust at Nightingale Homecare will help you find and fix hazards in your home. The checklist details hazards found in each room of your home and identifies what you can do to correct the hazards. Your home health care team can also assess your specific risk of falling and suggest ways to prevent falls.
When you walk through a room, are floor surfaces uneven?
Repair uneven surfaces in the home.
When you walk through a room, do you have to walk around furniture, paper, boxes or clutter?
Ask someone to move the furniture so your path is clear.
Remove boxes and clutter to open up passageways.
Do you have throw rugs on the floor?
Remove the rugs or use double sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip.
Check rugs and mats periodically to see if backing or tape needs to be replaced.
Are floors waxed?
Do not wax floors; it makes them more slippery. If floors must be waxed, use non-slip wax.
Do you have to walk over or around wires or cords?
Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall. If needed, have an electrician put in more outlets.
Arrange furniture so that outlets are near lamps and appliances to eliminate the use of extension cords.
STEPS AND STAIRS
Are there papers, shoes, books, or other objects on the stairs?
Pick up things on the stairs.
Always keep objects off the stairs.
Are some steps broken or uneven?
Fix loose or uneven steps.
Even small differences in steps’ surfaces or riser heights can lead to falls.
Are you missing a light over the stairway?
Have an electrician put in an overhead light at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Use the maximum wattage bulb allowed by the light fixture.
Reduce glare through indirect lighting, shades or globes on light fixtures.
Do you have only one light switch for your stairs?
Have an electrician put in a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Is the carpet or flooring on the steps loose or torn?
Make sure the carpet or flooring is firmly attached to every step. You can also attach non-slip rubber treads to the stairs, or paint the stairs with non-skid paint.
Are the handrails loose or broken or only on one side of the stairs?
Fix loose handrails or put in new ones.
Make sure handrails are on both sides of the stairs and go the length of the stairs.
Are stair steps difficult to see?
Paint a contrasting color on the top front edge of all steps so you can see the stairs
Apply non-skid and colored tape on the outer edges of the steps.
Evaluate stair access; would a ramp or stair glide/stair lift be appropriate?
Install stair ramp or stair glide/lift as appropriate.
FLOOR PLAN LAYOUT
Is it possible to modify the living areas of the home?
Consider modifying the layout of the home to keep all living areas to one level of the home.
Are the things you use most often on high shelves?
Move items in your cabinets to lower shelves, about waist level.
Install shelves and cupboards at an easy-to-reach level.
Use a pole reaching device to access items on higher shelves.
Is the tub or shower floor slippery?
Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the tub or shower floor.
Use a shower chair or shower board with a hand-held shower head while showering.
Do you need some support when you get in and out of the tub, or up from the toilet?
Have a handyman who is qualified put in grab bars next to the tub and toilet.
Is the light near the bed hard to reach?
Place a lamp close to the bed where it is easy to reach.
Is there something sturdy to hold onto next to the bed to help you get out of bed?
Place a heavy piece of furniture next to the bed.
Have a qualified handyman install a grab rail onto the wall.
Use a cane or walker for support.
Is the path from your bed to the bathroom dark?
Install a nightlight so you can see where you are walking.
Keep a flashlight near the bed.
Evaluate and add lighting throughout the home
Put in brighter bulbs. Use lamp shades to reduce glare.
CHAIRS AND TABLES
Are chairs and tables sturdy, without casters?
Avoid tripod or pedestal tables. Tables should have four sturdy legs.
Remove casters from chairs and tables.
Are frequently used chairs equipped with arm rests and high backs?
Using arm rests makes it easier to sit down into or to stand up from a chair. High backs provide support for the neck and also provide support when transferring weight.
Are frequently used chairs high enough to ensure ease in standing?
Place firm cushions in chairs with low seats.
Consider using a chair lift to help you get in and out of the chair.