Tag Archive | elderly

Grief and the Aging

By Cindy Sproles

Photo Courtesy www.freedigitalphoto.net By Arvind Balaraman

Photo Courtesy
http://www.freedigitalphoto.net
By Arvind Balaraman

Grief. It took his breath and pressed against his chest.

Thomas stood at the side of his wife, Marie. He grasped her hand and held tight. She opened her eyes and a tear seeped from the corner. Marie took in a deep breath, then relaxed. She was gone.

Thomas and his two daughters were prepared, or as prepared as they could be. After sixty-five years of marriage – a lifetime together, he felt Marie’s fingers loosen from his. They stood quiet, staring at Marie, unable to speak. The nurse rushed into the room and immediately began to search for a pulse. She blew on the stethoscope to warm it and placed it gently against Marie’s chest.  Within seconds, she glanced over her glasses and nodded.

What now, were the only words Thomas could muster together. “What now?”

Marie’s daughters stood firm by their dad. Together they walked him through the funeral arrangements and burial, but when the day arrived to leave their dad alone at home, both daughters were distraught. Though Thomas had managed well through the formalities of Marie’s death, the girls knew that first night he was to be completely alone grief, could overwhelm him and take his life as well.

Death is hard, regardless of the circumstance. It’s a little easier to accept when a loved one has lived a long life like Marie, but even at best, it’s difficult. Statics from Harvard sociologists say men are 22% more likely to die after the death of a spouse, compared to 17% for women.  “Women seemed to be wired differently when it comes to coping with loss. It’s part of their nurturing nature,” according to sociologists.

Families find it sadly true, that after the loss of one parent, the second will pass away within months. According to Harvard’s sociologist, this is not uncommon. Aptly named, widowhood effect, physicians find true physical changes happen in the surviving spouse.  Weakness leading to falls. Stress leading to heart issues, lack of appetite and failure to remain properly hydrated, all translate to a decline in the surviving spouse that often leads to death as well.

The question then becomes, how do families help prevent the widowhood effect?  First and foremost, families should encourage and allow the remaining spouse an opportunity to grieve naturally and fully.  This process is different for every individual. Spend time talking about the loved one.  Discuss the circumstances around their loss, reminisce joyful moments, and encourage healthy tears. Often, families assume a time frame of grieving on the surviving parent, expecting them to pass through the phases of acceptance, and then move forward.  Sadness, loneliness, broken-heartedness is normal. Should this time exceed a reasonable amount of time, talk with your parent’s physician to decide, according to that parent’s health and personality, how to move forward. Don’t rush to clean out personal effects as the process of sorting through these things tends to be very therapeutic.

Provide nutritious meals and stress the importance of good exercise and proper rest.

Finally, spend quality time with your remaining parent. Involve them in family activities, encourage them to reconnect with friends, even become involved in community activities. Helping parents re-enter their normal life’s activities is important.  There is nothing stronger than the bond of a life-long marriage. The stability found inside these relationships is a life force.  When it’s suddenly taken apart, adjustment is difficult.

Take time to discuss end-of-life decisions as a family. Learning the desires of your parents will help you guide them through a difficult season.

Encouragement and Prayer Make Good Caregivers

When the tables turn and we become the “caregivers” rather than the “cared for” in the lives of our parents, fear can easily take over. Though the years we’ve depended on our parents to be the lifeline and support for us in most every aspect of our lives. They’ve supported us through hard times, loved us when we were un-loveable, and been the solid rock of the family foundation.

Taking the helm in the care of our parents means turning loose of the dependency and becoming the one to be depended upon. What we fail to realize is that not only is this a frightening time for us, but it’s an equally scary time for our parents.

For years, our parents have been strong and able. They were raised in an era when caring for yourself was a necessity. Therefore, handing over the shards of independence cuts deep into their being, and it’s difficult to accept help when the time arises.

The stress which accompanies the care of an elderly parent can be overwhelming. Not only do children deal with the financial issues and the physical needs of their parents, but mentally shifting the thought process toward being the caregiver becomes more difficult. Separating our love for them from their care is tedious.

Many times our parents fight the need for help—they refuse to see their physical needs have increased. Finding a caregiver who can gently aid in this transition is vital. Being a caregiver is a tough profession, and often filled with frustration and hurt. However, being armed with the tools of knowledge can help ease the transition.

Encouragement is a must—reminding seniors that their opinion still counts and then respecting that opinion as well.

Respect and integrity—one of the hardest things to manage is to remain in control of how we treat our seniors both physically and mentally. Even a parent in the deepest stages of dementia recognizes respect and had a need to have their integrity honored. It’s easy to take the care of our parents to extreme and treat them as children rather than adults who simply need assistance. Honor their integrity and respect them fully for they are still our parents.

Pray – Doctors and hospitals nationwide are beginning to recognize the power of prayer. Pray daily for the empathy and gentleness necessary to handle the situations that arise with our elders. Pray for their health, their understanding and pray for the family as a whole. The knowledge of praying friends uplifts those who are in need.

Work with seniors, not against them—Digging in with stubborn heels is not always the appropriate way to handle things. Relax and move slowly into the transitions when ever possible. Allow seniors the opportunity to adjust.

Caregivers hired from outside the immediate family will generally have the upper hand in dealing with aging parents. A caregiver trained in the appropriate manner will come into a home, encourage, assist and gain the trust of the parent, providing  and making inevitable changes for seniors easier.

Choosing a company who has the ability to train and teach the art of good caregiving is important. Comfort Keepers provides caregivers who are trained in unique and loving caregiving skills.

Seek the help of a good company such as Comfort Keepers. Allow them to assist your loved ones into and through the transition of aging.

 

All Tripped Up

By Cindy Sproles

One of the most common incidents we face with aging parent are falls. Well over 70% of these falls occur within the home…the most familiar place to our parents. Not only can seniors easily break  bones from a fall but they can also die. Taking fall prevention seriously can save your parent’s life.

The primary cause for falls is environment. It’s the normal things in our homes that literally trip us up. As parents grow less steady make a round through their home.

Watch for:

*Throw rugs – Small rugs wad and roll easily beneath feet that tend to scoot. Without permanent attachment to the floor seniors can easily catch a toe or stumble over a wrinkle. Remove throw rugs from hallways, doorways, bathrooms and kitchens.

*Clutter – Clutter is a major source of unnecessary falls. Years of once fond memories become a source of acumulation. Take time to declutter senior’s homes. Remove stacks of magazines, unnecessary furniture that might block a more open walking area and small items such as foot stools. Make walkways through the home as wide and clutter free as possible. Clearing shelves of loose papers and stacks of unnecessary “stuff” allow seniors free handspace –a place to hold and steady themselves if necessary. Clear counter tops so parents do not have to reach and stretch resulting in a loss of balance and a fall.

*Medications – Unfortunately as wonderful as medications are they can sometimes cause dizziness or blurred vision especially when seniors are required to take multiple perscriptions. Always check with the doctor to verify all medications seniors are taking will work well together. Even medical records can become cluttered and physicans may not see all current medications.

*Vertigo – Aging tends to bring vertigo for some. If parents appear dizzy or unable to regain balance after standing or walking several steps seek the help of their physician. To be safe, pad sharp table corners, cabinet edges and even hutch corners in case seniors topple and fall while reaching to steady themselves. Many times vertigo will insite a sudden fear and senior’s legs will collapse or they will try to sit where they stood. Keeping walking areas clear of obsticles will help prevent major injuries.

*Pets – Pets are wonderful additions to a family for companionship but before a pet is introduced be sure aging seniors are able-bodied enough to manage the care and dodge the animal when underfoot.

Easy Fixes:

*Add a PERS unit. – A personal emergency reponse system is a simple button worn on the wrist of around the neck at all times. Should a senior fall a simple push of the button will bring almost immediate help. PERS units generally cost $29-$45 per month but the investment is well worth the life saving minutes that can be rendered in the event of an emergency.

*Add a ramp over stairs inside and outside the home. If stairs are too numerous inside many insurance companies will pay either partically or infull for the installation of a chair lift that will carry seniors safely up and down stairs. Check with their physician and secure a perscription for this item.

*Install indoor hand rails, especially in bathrooms. Handrails can be easily installed inside and outside tubs and showers and around toliets.

*Put a portable phone in the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and living room. It makes good sense. When the phone rings, seniors do not have to rush to answer – one is always handy.

*Secure in-home non-medical assistance – Companies like Comfort Keepers can place well trained caregivers for as little as four hours a day to assist seniors as the need grows. Caregivers not only aid the senior but they offer a much needed respite for family members.

Don’t let your seniors “fall” victim to a stumble or trip. Make their home as safe and secure as possible.

What About Our Elders

By Cindy Sproles

“Place the elderly in prisons. They will get a hot shower a day, video surveillance to ensure immediate nursing assistance (i.e., in the case of a fall – many elderly victims will be stuck for hours without assistance,) three meals a day, access to a library, computer, TV, and a gym. Put criminals in nursing homes. They have cold meals, lights off at 7pm, one bath a week, live in a smaller room and pay rent at $4,000 a month! It’s pretty sad that we treat prisoners better than the elderly. (But not surprising.)”

In September 2011 this paragraph hit Facebook and thousands of blogs across the country. Though unsure of its origin, hundreds of thousands of people posted and reposted this paragraph to show their disgust in our country’s health care system and in protest of the twisted idea of elder care.

Though, as Christians, our plight is to love our neighbor as ourselves, it’s hard to find the justification in a system that seems this twisted.

Example: Marybeth had tried for days to contact her elderly neighbor, Stella. Stella had family but they lived out of town so Marybeth would check on her weekly to make sure she had food. Today, she called 911 and after hours of waiting for permission, firemen slammed in Stella’s door only to find her at the foot of her steps, walker upside down, legs twisted, and deceased.

Stella received a minimal check from Social Security, barely enough to pay her power bill. She had no one to help her apply for food stamps and no money to even pay for a medic alert button. Stella died as a result of neglect.

Thousands of our elderly, our national treasures – warriors of this country’s freedom and rights, are left to fend for themselves during a time in their lives when they are least able to manage.

Aging bodies take even the sharpest mind and deteriorate personal skill levels to a point of need. Some require massive assistance while others simply need help dressing. The point is simple. Do to others as you would have them do to you Luke 6:31.

Family is important and for so many who no longer have this luxury, it’s a need that should be met.

Whom ever wrote the phrase, “Place the elderly in prison,” may have had a point. At least in prison our national treasures would have care.

As the year begins, remember Luke 6:31. Remember our elderly and ponder on the fact someday you too will be in need. Cherish your aging parents, love your neighbor, treat others as you wish to be treated and lift a hand to assist our elderly. It may be you who is the difference in life and death.

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.

The Power Behind the Paw

Who COULDN’T love that face?

The power 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 finger tip temperatures in seniors – a clear sign of stress relief.

 There is something to be said about the gentle unconditional love of a pet. 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 have felt the need to place them in the home of their elderly.

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

 *Is my parent physically able to care for a pet?

*Does my parent enjoy pets?

*Are there allergies or fears of pets?

*Is my parent’s home/apartment or room a suitable place for a pet?

 If these issues can be addressed appropriately then perhaps 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 in making a decision in 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 http://www.powerofpaws.com.