Archive | July 2012

Did You Know…For Veterans?

Did you know Veterans have benefits to help with the cost of inhome custodial care like Comfort Keepers?

Benefits are available for war-time veterans age 65 and over through a tax-free benefit called Aid and Attendance.

Like any government benefit, applicants have to swim through the wake of paperwork but the reward is well worth the effort.

Aid and Attendance can offer the veteran and even their spouse an additional monthly income to help provide for supplemental in-home care, medical assistance and other physical needs. These benefits are also available to surviving spouses of veterans. The benefit payout can range from $1000-$2000 per month (tax-free).

IMPORTANT:  There are agencies and companies who specialize in helping veterans to acquire these benefits. There is a charge and sometimes requires veterans to purchase insurances through their companies. Applying yourself at your local VA can be frustrating and time consuming, but the application process is free. You may see it best to use an independent agency but with the help of a family member or friend, your bank records and  some additional time, the services can be acquired.

HOME-BASED NEEDS – The Veterans Administration also provides Home-Based Needs which is a two-hour visit by companies like Comfort Keepers to assist veterans with immediate short-term needs.

All benefits require you are seen by a VA physician but again, well worth the time and effort.

You can download a free benefits brochure from the Veterans Administration by clicking here or go directly to the application page and begin the process to apply.

Even if your veteran is deceased, consider researching the benefits available for surviving spouses. It takes time. It takes patience. But do it. Our veterans, of all folks, have earned this benefit in their valant service to this country.

And So It Begins…

Children depend on parents. It’s how it’s meant to be. Couples marry, have children and raise them. Their rewards usually come in the form of grandchildren, which at times, means grandparent-dom becomes parenting all over again. The fact is society has changed its view of the family unit. Parents are needed when their children are young, used when their children begin to raise their own families and then become abandoned as the elderly.

It’s a sad fact but true, in the United States our elderly are considered a problem, lower class citizens. Eastern countries honor their seniors placing their care above all other things. Even poorer third world countries refuse to push their aging parents out to fend for themselves. What has happened in America?

Perhaps in our effort to better ourselves we’ve lost sight of the importance of family and the circle of life which bonds us. As a nation, we’ve worked hard to make ourselves independent of others not realizing the end result falls to greed, stubbornness and ultimately, loneliness. 2011 marked the first year Baby Boomers “came of age,” hitting age 65 themselves and though they have raised their own children they are grossly unprepared to care for their own aging parents.

A critical first step to aging parental care is having that first conversation, laying it all on the table. Baby Boomers have to ask the question, “Mom, Dad…what about your care?” No one said this would be an easy conversation. Let’s face it. Talking about our aging brings our immortality into reality.

Still this is not a conversation that should be put on hold until the day mom or dad finally concede to assistance. Mother has a heart attack or Daddy is 90+ and getting feeble. They need help. You need help helping.

The roles of parent and child reverse. The loving parent, the caregiver for 65 years of your life is now the one who needs care and you are now the caregiver. I’m going to walk you through some important steps to help you pull together a good quality of care for your parents. Within these pages you’ll find simple how-to’s, good solid advice and even tough love.

Take a deep breath and prepare for the golden years. Perhaps along the way, you’ll see the importance of having these same conversations with your own children.

So it begins….caring for an aging parent. Our goal – to help ease the transition, to award you a new and appropriate title for your position and to allow you to enjoy the end years of the ones who have loved and cared for you so faithfully.

A Minute – A Lifetime

By Cindy Sproles

It’s true. In a minute you can find a lifetime. The problem is we rarely take the minute. I know from experience, and one that made me rethink, what was important.

I grew up listening to the stories of a wonderful man named Harold. Every Sunday when we’d enter the church he’d snag your hand and pull you to one side.

“Did I ever tell you about the time…”

As a teen, his stories rarely interested me. He’d grown up playing in the same schoolyard as my mother. I’d heard her stories about swinging on trees, playing basketball and sticking my father-in-law in the backside with a hatpin. So I really had no desire to listen to Harold tell his version of the story.

It was never a question of loving sweet Harold. Everyone loved him and you could count on that warm hug every Sunday morning knowing it was genuine and heartfelt. The point is I didn’t really listen.

I grew up, moved away and when I returned home some 15 years later, Harold had aged. He walked hunkered over, his smile was not as vibrant thanks to aging and arthritis, but his stories had not changed.

That first day back at church my kids bounded through the door and who was there…but Harold? True to form, he snagged my youngest pulled him close and introduced himself. He promptly poked a piece of gum in my son’s hand (Harold might have had the same stories but he eventually learned bribery worked if he wanted to share his adventures), and he began to spin a tale. My son was completely enthralled. Sunday after Sunday, Harold met my boys at the door of the church and the pre-church sermon began. The kids thought he was…well…as they put it…the berries.

My love for writing had bloomed and I told myself, I really need to write these adventures down. Not only was Harold’s stories fun, full of antics and adventure, but they always, bar none, had a moral — one that resonated with my children.

One Sunday after church, I put my arm around Harold and asked, “Can I write your stories? I’d love to write the Adventures of Harold.”

His eyes brightened and the deep, sunken wrinkles around his mouth stretched into a smile.”You bet. Have I got a book full of ’em.”

“Let’s meet on Wednesday before church. I’ll bring a recorder and you can just talk till your voice quits.”

Wednesday came. I loaded a tape recorder, paper and pen, plus the camera and headed to the church. I waited and waited. No Harold. “Where’s Mr. H, Mom?” My boys ran to the window and kept watch for his truck. After an hour passed my stomach grew weak. That nagging intuition that something wasn’t quite right.

You can guessed the outcome. Harold had passed away. In a minute, a lifetime of stories…joy…fun…and adventure was gone.

It only takes a moment to take in the value of our seniors. Years of wisdom, decades of decisions – good and bad.  An era of history waits for us to simply ask. Simply listen.

I learned my lesson. A painful lesson. That was some 25 years ago but from that day forward, I’d never rush through anyone’s story again. They would always have my full attention. Especially those coming from our elders. The loss of Harold was sad but it was a shame I’d never taken the time to write down his stories…his legacy. His words of wisdom guided my boys and now that they are adults, they can still recount the joy and direction Harold offered.

Our seniors are golden and it’s sad that we as Americans cannot find time for them. We are one of the few countries who put little to no value on our aging. Eastern countries, African nations, European countries hold a deep respect for their elderly, bringing them tight into their family unit and caring fully for them.

 

Start the change. Spend a minute and take in a lifetime. The reward is greater than you can imagine.

Water! Water!

By Cindy Sproles

Marybeth was the new charge nurse in a prominent nursing home facility. As she perused the hallways after resident meals were served, she noticed carton after carton of unopened milk, 8 oz. glasses of cellophane sealed tea and cups of coffee…all untouched. “My residents aren’t taking in fluids.” She commented to the board. “I want to begin a campaign to encourage our people to drink more water.”

So she did. It took time, but Marybeth and her CNA’s poured cups of ice water, inserted straws and even gently placed the straws to the lips of weaker residents. Small cups of crushed ice were given to residents throughout the day. Two months passed and Marybeth and her staffed noticed a number of unique things. First, more of the residents were sitting in the lounge area. They were alert, chatting and social. Better yet, many who would normally refuse to walk, were tooling around the halls on their walkers.

Life at the residence had greatly improved and Marybeth gave the credit to her staff for their continued efforts in encouraging their patients to drink more water. “Things changed after we begin to hydrate our patients.” Water is a vital and healing source for the body and since our bodies are largely made up of fluids, it can’t help but improve the quality of life.

More and more Americans are switching their sights from sugar-filled drinks to water. Good old fashioned water. Nothing seems to truly quench a thirst over H2O. However, for our seniors drinking enough water is tough.

According to the American Medical Association as our bodies age our scale that balances the need for fluids and the desire for them, shifts. Thirst decreases. And the less we drink the less we want. This especially dangerous for our seniors.

Seniors need water and the hurdles happen when this desire plummets. Water hydrates not only thirst but the entire body. Well hydrated bodies sport brains that function better leading to stronger memory and thought process. Water acts as a lubricant to joints and muscles helping keep the body well-oiled and moving.

Aging adults will sometimes suffer with constipation thus adding fiber to their diets. Fiber increases stools and as a result draws more water from their systems. Drinking plenty of fluids aids in digestion and increases bowel functions. Being well hydrated helps aid in more elasticity in the skin, helping ward off dry skin, dry eyes and scratchy throats.

Kidney issues are common in seniors as well. Without proper hydration, the body cannot function to flush out impurities and toxins that build in the system. In a nutshell, water not only washes your dishes at home but it cleanses your body.

Encourage aging family members to keep water freely throughout their house. Adding a glass by the bed, one by the recliner, another in the laundry room and even water in the garage makes for a readily available reminder to reach for a sip.

Watch for symptoms of dehydration in your loved ones by checking for sunken and darkened eyes, drowsiness, confusion, labored or slurred speech, dizziness, chronic muscle aches, labored breathing and weakness. Few realize how important water is to the lungs. By keeping them moist and soft rather than dry and hardened, breathing (especially for those seniors with COPD and other pulmonary issues), is much easier.

Water increases the body’s ability to function properly and learning to avoid high-sugar drinks is one small step in helping improve your aging parent’s quality of life. Whether it’s cold tea, filtered water or flavored no-sugar or calorie water…drink. Water, water…who has the water? Keep a glass handy.

Hot is NOT Always Sexy

By Cindy Sproles

A number of years ago, singer Jerry Reed warbled the lyrics “When you’re hot, you’re hot. When you’re not you’re not,” to his fans. Folks laughed and danced as Reed tickled their funny bones with this catchy tune. Little did we realize how true the lyrics are.

For aging parents being hot is not as sexy as the song insinuated. Often summer heat can be deadly. As our bodies age the ability to regulate our body temperature lessens. The thirst mechanism is also thwarted and we’re more susceptible to heat stroke and dehydration. Senior’s appetites are less and their metabolisms are slower, thus placing them at severe risk.

The following factors place seniors at a higher risk for heatstroke:

 *Certain medications (especially diuretics and antidepressants)

 *Use of alcohol

 * Inability to manage personal care

 * Unavailability of air conditioning or fans

 * Some mental illness and Alzheimer’s 

 * Certain medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and COPD

The single most important thing families can do for their seniors is to check on their loved ones numerous times a day during extended heat waves. Often the elderly “feel” cold and are inclined to up the household thermostat, raising the temperature higher. Watch for signs of heatstroke such as a red face, weakness, heavy breathing, dizziness and lack of sweat.

Encourage seniors to dress light. Lightweight, light-colored cotton materials help seniors remain cool. Keep cold bottles of water handy, damp cool rags and fans or air conditioning available. Limit outdoor activity especially during mid to late afternoon when heat indexes rise. Rest and eat light meals. Stress the importance of keeping hydrated but avoid alcoholic drinks. Remind seniors to take temped bathes or showers and to avoid hot laundry rooms on days the temperatures are toasty. 

Don’t let your aging parents fall prey to the heat. Keep them safe and remind them daily of their importance to the family unit. Drag out those old family photos and glean through the times when hot meant more than the temperature outside.

 

  

Personal Emergency Response Unit

DO YOU HAVE ONE?

Know a senior living alone who would like a little peace of mind? A PERS or personal emergency response unit is just what you need.  With just a push of a button help is on the way. It is a waterproof pendant worn around the neck or wrist. If a emergency situation happens to occur all you have to do is push the button and a trained profssional will respond quickly.

For more information contact Comfort Keepers 423-246-010.

Anger and Dementia: Both Sides of the Coin

Time can be the enemy

By Cindy Sproles

The clock of dementia holds a pendulum that swings both directions. Not only does the backlash affect the patient but it affects the family as well. An otherwise docile adult may become violent at the simplest change. Words become their arrows of hurt and anger burns in each one that pierces the heart.

 For families, the difficulty comes in understanding why a loved one would be so brutal especially when family members are making every effort to please the patient. The first step in grasping hold of incoming flares of anger is accepting the lash outs are not personal. It’s the disease speaking and acting, not the person we love.

 While patients may experience a vast array of behavioral changes from wandering, hallucinations, insomnia, and even aggression—their behaviors can be worsened by their environment and their own inability to deal with stress and frustration. Imagine yourself in the patient’s position, unable to articulate needs, handle normally simple tasks or even remember their next sentence.  Finding the trigger for sudden outbursts takes time but once family members hone in on the cause, they are able to take steps to avoid or alleviate “hot” spots.

Though family members cannot always control their loved one they can, many times, control the situation and environment that trigger outbursts. By locating the agitations or points of disorientation in their loved one, family members can help manage a comforting and caring place for their parent. Lessening loud noises, dim lighting and even certain  television programs, family members can ease some of the outside environmental triggers and reduce sudden stresses.

Remaining claim as a family member or caregiver is important. This is where the pendulum swings in the other direction. Not only do patients experience anger but family members or extended caregivers suffer this same frustration.  Continued repetitive questions from patients, frustration in trying to understand a need or repeated scares from wandering parents raise the stress levels to a new high for family members.

According to medical professionals and in-home caregiver companies, families, on average, have one adult child who maintains the bulk of parental care. The burden, even when done with great love, is taxing. Family caregivers normally have their own personal family to care for as well and by adding the additional weight of parental care, it isn’t long before anger and resentment rises.

So, how do families manage this dilemma? First and foremost, they remind themselves daily, this is a disease not a personal attack. Lash outs are not a sign parents do not love or care for their families. Secondly, provide a weekly break for the family caregiver away from the patient. Everyone needs time to rest and the job of caregiver is a demanding job.  Hire professional caregivers to assist in the care of your loved one. Companies such as Comfort Keepers can provide that needed respite for family caregivers.

Communication is imperative—continued dialogue with siblings, physicians and therapists helps manage the onset of anger.

As the holidays approach, remember the mixed emotions that trail in the wake. The holidays, though overall a joyful time, also drudge up past losses of spouses or children as well the hustle of shopping, change and unexpected visitors. Prepare your loved one, maintain as normal an environment as possible and remember, roll with the flow.

The disease takes its toll. Cling to the joyful memories of parents when care was easy and take time away from the situation to let emotions ease.

Anger is part of the disease but dealing with it in an effective and loving way is possible. Seek further information on anger and dementia for both parents and families from the Alzheimer’s Association at http://www.alzfdn.org .