Power Behind the Paw

777902d50702d1aed62537f0670485c8The peace behind the paw is a growing trend for aging seniors. More and more nursing homes and assisted living facilities welcome pet therapy into their complexes.

Psychological research has proven pet therapy significantly lowers blood pressure, eases anxiety and increases fingertip temperatures in seniors – a clear sign of stress relief.

The gentle unconditional love of a pet makes a difference. Simply touching the soft fur of a cat or scrubbing the ears of docile dog draws a deep emotional response. Nursing home staffs find the presence of a dog in family gathering rooms stimulates a smile and opens responses to those who have been withdrawn or depressed.

Humans need interaction and for many of our elderly, the feelings of brokenness and lack of attention lessen their quality of life. Pets revive that inner desire to love and be loved.

Despite the obvious benefits of pets there are also issues to be considered before bringing a pet into an aging parent’s home. Every year thousands of pets are sent to shelters, turned out onto the street or euthanized because well-meaning friends and family felt their parents needed companionship.

Before a pet is introduced into a senior’s home, ask yourself these questions:

Is my parent physically able to care for a pet? Can they continually make trips outside to walk a dog? Are they stable enough to use a leash for their dog without worry of being dragged down?

Does my parent enjoy pets? Many folks love to visit with a pet but have no desire to own one. It’s important to respect that desire.

Are there allergies or fears of pets?

Is my parent’s home/apartment or room a suitable place for a pet? Is there a place to walk a dog or are parents able to bend well enough to clean a litter box? These are important things to consider.

If these issues can be addressed appropriately, introducing a pet into an aging parent’s life is advisable. Many seniors will grasp hold of a pet’s comfort and companionship in their presence.

Pets have been known to sense disease, heart attacks and seizures in their owners long before they occur and many are recognized as service animals, helping their owners with daily living skills such as opening doors, moving or retrieving objects and assisting in guidance.

If a pet is something your family sees as a benefit to your aging parent, discuss the matter first. Never surprise a senior with a pet they may not want. Decide the type of animal and the ability of your senior to manage the care. Perhaps a cat is best or a bird – maybe a young, docile dog.

Most veterinarians recommend a young dog who has been trained over a rambunctious puppy and a cat that is mild mannered and loveable over a playful kitten. Use wisdom and common sense when making a decision of pet choices.

Weigh the pros and cons of adding a pet into the life of a senior and should it fit, you will find a wonderful change in your senior.

For more information on Pet Therapy visit your local veterinarian, humane society or

Photo courtesy of & CJMulloy

Seeking a Higher Level of Care

By Cindy Sproles


Courtesy of and PICNIC_Fotografie

Parents are the foundational support of the family. They are the symbol of strength when we are children, caring and providing for us. Their goal – to assure their children grow to be happy and productive adults.

As we grow and take on families of our own, our parents welcome grandchildren into their arms likewise providing that special love and care a grandparent can only give. But what happens when the reality of an aging parent hits home?

No longer are we comfortable with leaving the grandchildren in their care. No longer are we sure they can care completely for themselves. A time comes when the roles must reverse. Our parents need assistance and it’s hard to accept.

Every situation lends itself to the specific needs of each individual parent. Therefore having a conversation about the future needs of their care is vital while parents are in good health and not in the throes of sudden illness.

It is important to know there are levels of care spanning from simple assistance to fully dependent care in a facility. Rushing to either degree is not something one takes lightly, rather it is one family members assess with great care.

*In-home non-medical caregivers – The first stage of higher care is the introduction of a caregiver who can come into the home for a few hours a week to help with the mundane skills life requires. Non-medical caregivers can prepare meals, assist with light housekeeping, and help with personal care and hygiene. Most aging parents can maintain their home for a number of years with just a few hours weekly from an outside caregiver. It is important to take into consideration the pros and cons of hiring a private caregiver, keeping in mind the need for backgrounds checks, and access to personal finances and properties must remain strictly limited and monitored. When hiring through a caregiver company, children can trust background checks are performed and workmen’s compensation insurance and liability insurance is in place to cover the caregivers. Please note, when hiring a private caregiver, families are responsible to pay taxes, provide a 1099, and assure there is workmen’s compensations available to protect both your parent and the caregiver. Check with your parent’s homeowner’s insurance to see what is covered and what is not via their homeowner’s policy. Families are stunned that coverage does not extend to cover private contracted laborers. Though private caregivers can be safe and dependable, families are best served to cover the bases of safety and security by considering a company’s assistance. Companies must meet strict standards of care and are monitored by their perspective states.

*Assisted living – When in-home care is not enough the next step of care is assisted living. Parents live in an assisted living community. Their independence is 100%, being allowed to come and go as they please, even drive if they are physically and mentally able. Assisted living offers full internal assistance if needs require. Facilities or communities provide meals, transportation if needed, and a physician, nurse practitioner, or RN on staff 24/7. The primary requirement for living in assisted living is to be independent enough to get themselves out of the building in the event of a fire or facility emergency. Otherwise, assisted living can help parents up until memory care or full care becomes necessary. Assisted living is far more affordable than families imagine. It’s important to know that when families close the parent’s home and turn off utilities, cancel insurances, and either rent or sell a home, those same funds can now be diverted to the cost of assisted living. On a personal note, our family rents our parents home through a realtor and all those funds go to defer the costs of assisted living. Between those funds and parental social security, the costs are met easily and there is no drain on our family. Of course, every situation is different, but it is wise for families to delve deeper into this option and have an open mind.

*Nursing home and end-of-life care – The circle of life continues despite our best efforts. Seek the assistance of an attorney early on to protect parent’s assets in a revocable trust, then when the time arises for full-time nursing, families are somewhat prepared. Do your homework. Seek out the facility that can best care for your parent and then take it upon yourself to be proactive. Visit frequently and at unexpected times so the facility staff sees you are actively involved in your parent’s care.

Write down the wishes of your aging parents and when the time comes for additional assistance, there will be no questions. Make the transition to assisted care easier by early preparation.


Photo Courtesy of and PICNIC_Fotografie

The Signs of Elder Abuse


Photo courtesy

By Cindy K. Sproles

This country has seen a recent rise in elder abuse and fraud. In lieu of these issues it’s important that families and friends of the elderly understand the types of abuse which plague our seniors, educate themselves, and become an active force in recognizing and protecting loved ones.

The word “abuse” alone sends a chill down your back, and in a world of such uncertainty, not only are children attacked, but our elderly are prime targets as well.

Abuse rears its ugly head in more forms other than just physical attacks. Learn to understand the methods which plague our senior citizens and know how to react.

Mental Abuse – Many times, impatience brews in family members, friends, or caregivers as seniors become increasingly more dependent. As their mental capabilities deteriorate and the level of understanding normal daily routines falters, individuals become “curt” or “short” with seniors. Frustration rises because seniors may be a bit more contrary than in the past. It’s not uncommon for individuals to “brow beat” seniors, verbally attacking their sense of dignity and degrading their sense of self-worth. Remember, words spoken can never be taken back. Despite the mental level of a senior, words, can and do, cut to the core. Chose your words carefully and learn coping skills to help manage the frustration that may grow while caregiving.

Financial Abuse— Our seniors worked hard through the years, scrimping and saving, for their retirement. At best, many live a meager lifestyle. Unfortunately, predators do not choose their victims by wealth, rather by vulnerability. Elders fall victim to phone scams, door-to-door salesman, slick con men, even neighbors who will take advantage of someone who is unable to care for themselves. Worse yet, are family predators – those within the immediate family, who freely take from the finances of their seniors without permission or under the smoke screen of “caring” for their needs.

Choose a financial caretaker over senior funds. Be it a trusted family member, a banking institution, or an accountant who is required to provide monthly updates on funds, expenses, and reconciled bank statements. There is generally a small monthly fee for this service, but it is one that secures a safety net for your loved one. The point is to have a plan that holds that financial caretaker responsible and accountable for the job they are entrusted.

photo courtesy & geralt

photo courtesy & geralt

Physical Abuse – Though it’s hard to imagine, physical abuse happens more frequently than we want to believe. Keep a close eye on your senior. Should you notice flinching when you approach, as though they fear being struck, take that as a red flag and investigate. Notice any bruising or unusual pain. Keep a continued check on behaviors, constant sleeping, loss of weight, even a sudden change in speech. All these things can stem back to physical abuse. Be proactive in your aging parent’s daily life, whether they are at home with caregivers or in a facility. Never keep the same visitation schedule, rather rotate visits and times. When caregivers or facilities are not sure you are going to pop in, they remain more proactive. Finally, when any signs of abuse appear, act immediately. The happiness, safety, and care of your loved one ultimately depends on you.

Medical Abuse – This is one type of abuse that is especially scary. Whether in a facility or at home, be aware of all medications being administered to your loved one. Keep a physical check on prescriptions, number of pills, and the reaction of your loved one. Are they being dosed with medications to force them to sleep? Is this necessary? Are medications given properly and is your loved one responding well? These are all questions we are forced to ask.

Reputable pharmacies or home health nurses will fill personal pill holders for individuals. However ever you choose to manage medications, keep a close eye on them and monitor your loved ones constantly.

Elder abuse comes in many forms and as the care for your loved one grows more intense, seek the necessary help needed to best care and maintain the safety of your aging parent.

Comfort Keepers, Kingsport, TN

I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself. – Maya Angelou

Aging is inevitable. Nothing we do can stop the pull of time. 2011 Baby Boomers came of age. The post World War II babies grew, matured and now are turning 65. Not only are Baby Boomers turning 65 but they are now the generation caught between their own retirement and caring for their aging parents. Modern medicine has extended our health and the elderly are living far beyond those of yesteryear. Now, their care is a rising issue.
More and more Americans choose to remain in their current home communities, preferring to “age in place.” Contrary to popular belief, only a small minority move to warmer climates at retirement and fewer than five percent reside in nursing homes.  As one client recently stated in a note, “certainly makes quality of life easier for me.”
Medical statistics show seniors allowed to remain at home fair better overall. Their overall quality of life is happier, and though health issues may arise,
recovery progresses faster in their own homes. But the question remains, “Is living at home really safe?”
In some cases, no.  However, with assistance from professionally trained caregivers, seniors can not only remain in their home but thrive there.  “Comfort Keepers’
signature philosophy of interactive caregiving takes a holistic approach to care that allows for integrating the physical, mental and emotional health of each client, enhancing quality of care,” says Linda Bambino, owner of Comfort Keepers
First Row: Wendy Smith, Linda Bambino, Theresa Bright
Row 2: Rebecca Trent, Cindy Sproles

“As the continuing care of our aging adults increase, the need for individuals trained in “tender-care” climbs. There is security in trusting the day-to-day needs of family members to individuals who are well trained and caring.”

According to Bambino, “many people do not feel they can afford these types of home care services but there are programs out there if you have the time and patience to pursue them.”  Many veterans do not realize they may be entitled to veterans pensions or qualify for Aid and Attendance.  Many retire from their places of employment and may have long term care insurance benefits. Other financial institutes offer additional funds for the homeowner such as a reverse mortgages.  Other state and community based programs are available for those who qualify.
Comfort Keepers strive to employ individuals with a passion and love for the elderly. The agency remains diligent to provide clients with the highest quality of life
and dignity achievable during their golden years. By providing individuals assistance with the basics of life, such as light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation and daily living skills, the key desires of seniors to remain at home in an environment where they are safe and happy becomes a reality.
The standard of Comfort Keepers of Kingsport reaches deep into the heart and belief of our staff who believe the care industry is not only grounded in integrity but love and compassion. “Our offices function on strong ethics and honesty and we search for those same qualities in our employees.”
Hundreds of families entrust the care of their loved ones to Comfort Keepers. Individuals may contact Comfort Keepers for a free in-home assessment and guidance on quality in-home care for their family members.
We believe in preserving senior’s desire to do what they want, by helping our elders remain happy and at home. Visit us at our offices at 1134A Moreland Drive, Kingsport, TN or call 423-246-0100.