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Fostering Freedom: How to Help Seniors Stay Independent Throughout Aging

Sun City home health care

Discover how to help seniors stay independent and safe.

It’s a common struggle among family caregivers: deciding when to step in and help, and when to step back and allow an older loved one to accomplish as much as possible independently. It requires a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, we need to ensure safety is never compromised; yet on the other hand, we never want to do anything to damage a senior’s self-worth and self-esteem.

So the question becomes, how can we help seniors stay independent, while ensuring safety? The Sun City home health care experts at Nightingale Homecare have several key recommendations:

  1. Remember: You’re a team! Changing the mindset from working for a senior to working with a senior can make a world of difference in your approach. Talk with the older adult in an open and honest way about the challenges and concerns he or she is facing, and how you can best provide needed support. Naturally, these needs will change over time; and when cognitive issues come into play, communication strategies will need to be modified as well. But we all appreciate being asked for our input, and to know that value is placed on our feelings.
  2. Allow time before jumping in to help seniors. It may seem more efficient to take care of tasks yourself, but doing so may be at the expense of your loved one’s self-image. Instead, factor in plenty of extra time for tasks, allowing the senior ample opportunities to tackle them independently whenever possible.
  3. Focus on the senior’s strengths. If certain tasks prove to be too challenging for your loved one, shift the focus to those he or she is able to manage more easily. For instance, if preparing an entire meal is too difficult, ask the senior to manage creating her special dessert recipe while you work on the main course.
  4. Remind the senior that helpful workarounds are a positive. A senior may balk at the idea of using a walker or wheelchair initially, or in having grab bars installed in the bathroom. And many times older adults are resistant to the idea of needing someone to help with everyday activities that they’ve been managing their entire lives. Providing a reminder that assistance and home modifications are empowering, allowing the senior to accomplish more independently and to remain in the comfort of home throughout aging, can be beneficial.

At Nightingale Homecare, it’s our mission to deliver the highest quality in-home care help for seniors with the respect and dignity that allow for maximum independence and autonomy at all times. Never coming in and taking over, we work together with seniors and their families to develop a plan of care that addresses all needs – including those for personal freedom. Contact our Sun City home health care team at (602) 504-1555 to request a free in-home consultation and discover how we can improve life for a senior you love.

Is Your Loved One at Risk for Elder Abuse?

Sun City home health care

Learn the 7 main types of elder abuse and how to keep seniors safe.

Elder abuse is a serious issue that involves the abuse or neglect of people age 60 and older. The signs of abuse are often not recognized, leading to gross under-reporting of the problem. In fact, the limited research available suggests that only one in 14 cases of abuse are actually reported to the authorities. Sometimes the abuse is a continuation of existing dysfunctional family dynamics. More often, however, the abuse is a result of changes brought about by the stress of illness, dependency and need for increased care.

Adult children and spouses are the most frequent abusers of the elderly, followed by other family members. The National Center on Elder Abuse defines the following seven different types of elder abuse:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial exploitation
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Self-neglect

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Persons who have been physically abused may have bruises, welts, lacerations, rope marks, black eyes, wounds, cuts, or untreated injuries in different stages of healing. Dislocations, sprains, internal injuries, broken eyeglasses or frames, and medication overdosing or under-dosing can also be the result of physical abuse. The elder being physically abused is often withdrawn, anxious, depressed, and fearful around a family member or caregiver. A red flag that physical abuse may be occurring is a caregiver’s refusal to let the patient have visitors without the caregiver being present.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse includes non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with another person. Bruising around the breasts or genital area, sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal or anal bleeding, and torn or bloody undergarments are signs of sexual abuse.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse involves infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts. Emotionally abused persons may appear agitated, upset, withdrawn, non-communicative, or unresponsive. Emotional abuse often accompanies other types of abuse. In the elderly, unusual behavior often attributed to dementia, such as sucking, biting, or rocking behavior, can also be signs of emotional or psychological abuse.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation is a common form of abuse that occurs in the elderly and involves illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. Financial abuse can include cashing an elder’s checks without permission; forging an elderly person’s signature; stealing money or possessions; coercing or deceiving the elder into signing a contract or will; or improperly using a power of attorney, guardianship, or conservatorship. Other indications of financial abuse include the disappearance of financial papers, checkbooks, and legal documents; a sudden change in banking habits or a change in banking locations; the withdrawal of large sums of money by a person who accompanies the elder; additional names added to an elder’s bank signature card; unauthorized use of an ATM or credit card; the unexplained transfer of assets to a family member or person outside the family; or the unexplained disappearance of funds or possessions.

Additionally, substandard care, even though financial resources are available, can be an indication of financial abuse. Exploitation may also occur in the form of fraud schemes by strangers.

Neglect

Neglect is the most common type of elder abuse. Neglect may be intentional, such as withholding nourishment, or it may be unintentional, resulting from ignorance or from a genuine inability to provide care. Neglect can also take the form of failure to fulfill an obligation, such as failing to pay for necessary home care services or the failure of a caregiver to provide necessary care. Persons who have been neglected may appear dehydrated and malnourished, have untreated bedsores, lice, a flea infestation, a urine or fecal smell, be inadequately clothed, or live in hazardous, unsafe, or unsanitary conditions.

Abandonment

Abandonment is an extreme form of neglect that involves desertion of a person by an individual who has physical custody or by a person who has assumed responsibility for providing care to the individual. An example would be a caregiver who leaves a dependent elderly person alone for several days while traveling.

Self-Neglect

Self-neglect abuse primarily occurs in the elderly and includes behaviors or absence of behaviors that threaten a person’s health or safety. This definition does not apply to a mentally competent person who makes the voluntary decision to engage in behavior that threatens his or her safety and who understands the consequences of that decision. Self-neglect can include behaviors such as:

  • Hoarding
  • Failure to take essential medications or refusal to seek medical treatment for serious illness
  • Leaving a burning stove unattended
  • Poor hygiene
  • Not wearing suitable clothing for the weather
  • Poor living conditions or the inability to attend to housekeeping

Self-neglect accounts for the majority of elder abuse cases reported to adult protective services. Oftentimes, the problem is paired with declining health, isolation, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or drug and alcohol dependence. In some of these cases, self-neglecters will be connected to support systems within the community that can assist the person to continue living independently. Conditions like depression and malnutrition may be successfully treated through medical interventions. If the problems are severe enough, a guardian may be appointed or alternate living conditions arranged.

Risk Factors

A combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of elder abuse. In many situations, the same risk factors may be shared by both the perpetrator and the victim.

In the elderly population, studies suggest that those at risk are most likely to be female, widowed, frail, cognitively impaired, and chronically ill. Social isolation and mental impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, are two factors that may make an older person more vulnerable to abuse. A history of domestic violence may also make a senior more susceptible to abuse. Particularly in the case of adult children, abusers often are dependent on their victims for financial assistance, housing, and other forms of support. Frequently, these individuals need this support because of personal problems, such as mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, or other dysfunctional personality characteristics. The risk of elder abuse is particularly high when these adult children live with the elder.

Prevention

Home care clinicians, such as the professional Sun City home health care staff at Nightingale Homecare, are in an ideal position to detect situations for potential abuse and to connect the patient and caregiver with community resources that may prevent escalation of the problem. Stressed caregivers can be put in contact with social organizations and support groups and connected with referrals for adult day care, delivered meals, and respite care. Providing resources for caregiving assistance can be a lifesaver. Clinicians should also teach family caregivers to recognize situations that cause increased stress, as well as appropriate ways to handle difficult patient behaviors like violence, combativeness, and verbal abuse. Identifying actions that can deflate stressful situations is critical to preventing abuse.

Reporting Abuse

Home health providers are mandated to report suspected abuse. Mandated reporters are required by law to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement and regulatory agencies. In most states, Adult Protective Services are the public agencies responsible for investigating reports of elder abuse and for providing victims and families with treatment and protective services. In most situations, the suspicion of abuse is grounds for reporting. Proof is generally not necessary, and the reporter has the option to remain anonymous. Even if a situation has already been investigated, circumstances that seem to be getting worse should continue to be reported and documented by the clinician. If the patient is in immediate danger or a life-threatening situation, it’s important to call 911 or the local emergency authorities.

A trusted home care team, like Nightingale Homecare, is instrumental in reducing the chance for elder abuse and neglect. Contact our Sun City home health care experts to learn how we can help a senior you love stay safe, healthy, and well, in the comfort of home.

The Changing Face of Parkinson’s Disease

Phoenix senior care

Discover the 5 stages of Parkinson’s disease and the changes that may occur in each from the Phoenix senior care team at Nightingale Homecare.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, the number of Americans diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is predicted to cross the one million mark by next year – impacting more than those with MS, muscular dystrophy, and Lou Gehrig’s disease combined. In fact, there are already more than ten million people with the disease worldwide.

As such, it’s likely that most of us either already are or will be closely acquainted with someone managing the disease; so it’s important for all of us to better understand how the disease progresses, and what changes might be encountered in each stage. Our Phoenix senior care team has the information you need:

Stage 1

In the beginning stage of Parkinson’s disease, patients typically begin to experience mild tremors on one side of the body, as well as barely perceptible changes to posture, ambulation, and/or facial expressions.

Stage 2

As the disease begins to progress to Stage 2, tremors may become apparent on both sides of the body, along with rigidity and more noticeable changes to posture and ambulation. During this phase, patients can usually still manage daily life independently, although with a bit more difficulty.

Stage 3

Balance and coordination issues are common in this stage, leading to slowed movements and increased risk of falls. Activities of daily living (ADLs) such as getting dressed and eating may require a little assistance – or may simply take more time to complete independently.

Stage 4 

In the fourth stage of the disease, there is a markedly greater level of impairment, and many daily tasks will require assistance, including help with walking and other forms of movement.

Stage 5

In the fifth and final stage of Parkinson’s disease, many patients will need a wheelchair for mobility, as impairment of motor skills advances and there is increased difficulty with standing, walking, and managing daily activities. Hallucinations are also common in this stage.

If you or a senior loved one is managing the effects of Parkinson’s disease, our Phoenix senior care team is on hand to help with personalized services adapted to meet needs both now and as the disease progresses in the future.

Our Journeys Parkinson’s and Movement Disorder program is staffed by BIG and LOUD certified therapists with specialized expertise in improving quality of life for those challenged by movement difficulties such as those experienced in Parkinson’s disease.

  • Our BIG program utilizes a proven exercise approach in which patients learn techniques to make bigger movements that lead to more normalized movement patterns; and
  • Our LOUD program helps patients improve quality and volume of speech, leading to more confident and effective conversation abilities and socialization.

We also work with Parkinson’s patients to improve swallowing, facial muscle control, balance, fine motor skills, fall prevention, and much more.

Call the expert Phoenix senior care team at Nightingale Homecare any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more about our specialty Parkinson’s care program, or any of our other in-home senior care services.

Advancing Through the Stages of Alzheimer’s: Tips to Help Manage the Many Changes

dtages of Alzheimers

Find tips to help with the changes that occur through the stages of Alzheimer’s from the Phoenix senior care experts.

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, families are faced with a number of questions and challenges. How will the disease progress? What changes will I see in my loved one? And how am I going to handle them?

It’s important for family caregivers to equip themselves with as much information as possible about the disease, and this includes creating a plan that is proactive enough to address the current needs, while preparing for those yet to come. While each person experiences the stages of Alzheimer’s uniquely, there are some commonalities to keep an eye out for, particularly as it relates to changes in the person’s personality, mood, and the behaviors that stem from those changes:

  • Increased agitation, anxiety, and irritability
  • Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Pacing and wandering
  • Physical and/or verbal aggressiveness
  • Difficulty understanding the world around them
  • Poor hygiene habits
  • Problems with falling or staying asleep, and differing sleep patterns
  • Physical challenges such as problems with vision and/or hearing
  • And many others

These effects may also come and go as the person progresses from one stage to the next, and new challenges then become apparent. And understandably, trying to help someone who’s experiencing such a wide array of emotions and behaviors can quickly become overwhelming for family caregivers.

Try these tips to bring comfort to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, from the Phoenix senior care experts at Nightingale Homecare:

  • Minimize distractions. Often, confusion and frustration are enhanced for someone with dementia when there’s an overload sensory stimulation, such as the TV or radio playing while others in the room are talking.
  • As much as possible, stick to a daily, predictable routine.
  • Avoid open-ended questions, and instead provide choices; for instance, “Would you like chicken or fish for dinner?” is often more effective than, “What would you like for dinner?”
  • Never correct or argue with the individual.
  • Use statements that reflect the person’s feelings rather than the behaviors that have manifested from those feelings: “It looks like you’re feeling angry today,” rather than, “Why are you banging your fist on the table?”

While it’s natural for family caregivers to feel upset or frustrated themselves when a loved one’s feelings are elevated and behaviors are difficult to handle, it’s also vitally important to maintain a sense of calm, even in the face of distress. The senior will pick up on your agitation, often leading to escalated behaviors. Take a step back, breathe deeply, and count to ten before responding to the senior’s needs.

At Nightingale Homecare, our specialized Connections dementia care program helps those with Alzheimer’s by utilizing a unique, creative, and compassionate approach through qualified Alzheimer’s Whisperers® who are extensively trained in effectively managing the difficult behaviors that often accompany dementia.

We begin by providing an in-depth evaluation, and then create a customized strategic plan to fully meet the person’s needs while empowering him or her to maintain the highest level of functionality at all times.

Partnering with the professional Alzheimer’s care team at Nightingale Homecare helps not just the person with dementia, but his or her family caregivers as well, providing the opportunity for the respite required to maintain a healthy life balance. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!

Lower Your Cholesterol with These Tips from the Phoenix Senior Care Experts!

Phoenix Senior Care

Take these steps to lower your cholesterol.

If your doctor has warned you that your cholesterol is creeping upward, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help improve it before trying cholesterol-lowering medication. And if you already take medication, the tips below can actually improve the cholesterol-lowering qualities of your medication.

It’s helpful to understand what cholesterol is, and how it can affect your health. Cholesterol is manufactured in your liver and has several important functions. It helps to keep the walls of your cells flexible and is necessary in the production of several hormones. But, like anything else…too much of it can create problems.

Cholesterol is transported in the body by molecules called “lipoproteins” which carry cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins in the blood. Lipoproteins levels in the blood are used to determine cholesterol levels. You may have heard that low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are bad. This type of lipoprotein carries cholesterol to deposit it on blood vessel walls, leading to clogged arteries, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure and heart attack. So, it is important to lower this level. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are the good lipoproteins, helping to carry cholesterol away from vessel walls and preventing artery-clogging disease. So, it is important to raise this level.

Your hereditary influence is something you won’t be able to change, but how you manage other high-risk influences can make a difference. Listed below are lifestyle changes that can help you lower your cholesterol while improving health and quality of life, courtesy of the Phoenix senior care experts at Nightingale Homecare:

WATCH YOUR FATS

  1. Focus on Monounsaturated Fats

Your doctor may recommend a low-fat diet for weight loss, but often a diet low in fats can reduce not only your harmful LDLs, but may also reduce the beneficial HDLs. In contrast, a diet high in monounsaturated fats will reduce harmful LDLs but also protect higher levels of healthy HDLs. A few good sources of monounsaturated fats:

  • Olive oil and olives
  • Avocado
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews
  • Canola oil
  1. Use Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fats

Studies show that polyunsaturated fats reduce LDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some good sources are:

  • Fish oil supplements
  • Seafood with high fatty content: salmon, mackerel, herring, bluefin and albacore tuna
  • Seeds and tree nuts (not peanuts)
  1. Eliminate Trans Fats

Trans fats are handled differently by the body than other fats. They can increase total cholesterol and LDLs, and also decrease the beneficial HDLs. Use of trans fats leads to heart attack and stroke. In the US, food companies are required to list trans fats on nutrition labels. However, they are allowed to round down when the amount of trans fat per serving is less than 0.5 grams. This means some foods contain trans fats even though their label says “0 grams.” Read further on the nutrition label. If a product contains “partially hydrogenated” oil, avoid it, as it contains trans fat! Foods that contain trans fat include:

  • Margarine
  • Store-bought cookies and crackers
  • Fried fast food
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Non-dairy creamer

INCREASE SOLUABLE FIBER 

Soluble fiber actually reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream by increasing probiotics or “good bacteria” in your intestine. These bacteria will reduce harmful lipoproteins and LDLs. The best sources for soluble fiber include:

  • Beans
  • Peas and lentils
  • Fruit: apples and pears
  • Oats and whole grains: not the quick-cooking oats, which have the fiber processed out
  • Fiber supplements like psyllium

ADD WHEY PROTEIN 

Whey protein found in dairy products can help lower both LDL and total cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure. Foods containing whey protein include:

  • Milk
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Whey protein powder

AVOID SUGAR 

If you see sugar, corn syrup or any word containing “ose” at the top of the ingredient list, avoid it.

EXERCISE

Moderate exercise every day can not only combat obesity, it can also help raise good cholesterol levels. Be sure and check with your doctor before you start any exercise program. Try to work up to at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least 5 times a week. Some exercises to consider:

  • Brisk walking
  • Riding a bike
  • Resistance exercise
  • An exercise class
  • Playing a favorite sport

QUIT SMOKING

Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by changing the way cholesterol is handled in the body and results in the faster development of clogged arteries. Quitting smoking helps improve your HDL cholesterol levels. This will lower your blood pressure, improve your liver function, and reduce your risk of heart and lung disease.

LOSE WEIGHT

Carrying a few extra pounds contributes to high blood cholesterol. Weight loss will reduce your total cholesterol by decreasing the creation of new cholesterol in the liver.

As mentioned, sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower cholesterol to optimal levels. If your doctor orders medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed along with continuing your lifestyle changes.

Call on the Phoenix senior care team at Nightingale Homecare for more healthy living tips, and for the professional in-home care assistance that ensures older adults are living life to the fullest! Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more.