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Fall Back - Time Change

Posted on October 4, 2015 at 6:38 PM Comments comments (5)
I am sure you have noticed that our daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter. Tonight I observed that it was turning dusk at about 7:30PM. I also noticed that I began to yawn, and I believe that my energy level decreased too. It couldn't be time to go to bed already, could it?

Later I spoke with my friend who is a dementia expert and she said, imagine what it must be like for some with dementia. She went on to say that often, as the seasons change and daylight hours grow shorter caregivers may notice an increase in  sundowning in the person for whom they provide care.

WEB MD states,"If you’re caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, you may have noticed big changes in how they act in the late afternoon or early evening. Doctors call it sundowning, or sundown syndrome.It seems to be triggered by fading light, and the symptoms can get worse as the night goes on.

Sundowning can make caring for someone extra-challenging. They may be:
  • Agitated
  • Restless
  • Irritable
  • Confused
  • Disoriented
  • Demanding
  • Suspicious

 They also may
  • Yell
  • Pace
  • Hear or see things
  • Have mood swings
Up to 1 out of 5 people with Alzheimer’s get sundown syndrome. But it can also happen to older people without dementia.It usually starts during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Sundowning symptoms fade as the disease gets worse. What Causes It?We don’t know for sure why sundowning happens.Some scientists think that changes in the brain of someone with dementia might mess up their internal body clock. The area of the brain that signals when you’re awake or asleep breaks down in people with Alzheimer’s. That might cause sundowning.Other things might trigger it, such as being:
  • Too tired
  • Hungry or thirsty
  • Depressed
  • In pain
  • Bored
Sleep troubles can also play a role. About one-third of people over age 65 have problems nodding off and staying asleep.What’s happening around someone can also set off sundowning symptoms. Some triggers are:
  • Less light and more shadows in the house. This can cause confusion and fear.
  • Trouble separating dreams from reality. This can be disorienting.
  • When you're tired or frustrated at the end of a day caring for someone, he or she can pick up on it, even without you saying anything. This can make them agitated too.

What can a caregiver do to help a loved one who is sundowning?

  • Note what things seem to trigger it.
  • Keep a daily routine with regular times for waking up, meals, and going to sleep.
  • Schedule appointments, outings, visits, and have bath time in the earlier part of the day. That's likely when they’ll likely feel their best.
  • Avoid giving your loved one stimulants like nicotine and alcohol. Make sure if they have sweets and caffeine that they just do it in the morning.
  • Either avoid naps or keep them brief and early in the day.
  • Make a big lunch, but keep their evening meal smaller and simple.
  • Don’t let them exercise later than 4 hours before bedtime.
  • In the evening, close curtains and blinds and turn on lights. Darkness and shadows can make agitation worse.
  • In the late afternoon and evening, cut out as much distraction as you can. Limit things like TV and loud music. Tell other family members (especially kids) or visitors not to make too much noise.
  • Get rid of clutter in your loved one's room.
  • Fix the room temperature so they're comfortable.
  • Try calming things: Put on relaxing music, read, play cards, or go for a walk to wind down.

How Should a Caregiver React?
  • Stay calm.
  • Ask your loved one if they need something.
  • Remind them what time it is.
  • Don’t argue with them.
  • Be reassuring. Tell them everything is OK.
  • If they need to get up and move around or pace, don’t try to hold them back. Just stay close by to keep an eye on them.
  • Keep them safe with night lights and locks on doors or windows. Use a gate to block the stairs, and put away anything dangerous, like kitchen tools.
Also, consider getting a baby monitor, motion detectors, or door sensors. They can let you know if your loved one is walking around.

It's A Fine Line

Posted on January 24, 2015 at 2:38 PM Comments comments (0)
When we care for a family member, we do so out of love and often to give back to a loved one who has cared for us or come to our aid. This is often the case when a child cares for their parent.

Unfortunately, what starts out as a loving gesture over time can become a point of contention. Recently, I spoke with a daughter who decided it was time to bring in some additional help. She said, "I've been doing my Mom's shopping for years and I try to take her to all of her doctor's appointments. But, now I am getting older too. This week, I'm recovering from the flu and I'm still tired. The other day when Mom called with her grocery list, I know I was very short with her. The minute I hung up the phone, I felt so badly about the way I treated her. I don't ever want my Mom to feel like she is a burden." 

If you find yourself in a similar position, may I suggest you reach out to family members who have offered to assist in the past? Contact your Church, local Senior Center or Office on Aging. Explore non medical home care agencies such as Senior Concierge Services as part of the solution. In partnership with these organizations, you can resume the loving relationship that you treasure with your parent and create a much needed balance in your life.

Here's to making a difference in the lives of others,

Caregiver's Car Kit

Posted on January 5, 2015 at 9:07 PM Comments comments (0)
It’s a New Year and a perfect time to take inventory of your Caregiver’s Handy Car Kit.Here are some of my favorite items (in random order), that I carry in mine so that I am always prepared for the things that life may throw my way.
  • disposable wipes
  • small first aid kit
  • extra pair of undergarments and/or disposable briefs for women and men
  • universal clothing usually sweat shirt, pants and socks
  • one size fits all pair of slip on shoes for women and men
  • blanket
  • rain poncho
  • umbrella
  • hand sanitizer                                     
  • pen and paper          
  • sun glasses
  • quad cane and/or  walker
  • large garbage bag, small sandwich bags
  • bottled water and Ensure or Boost
  • nutrition bars
  • peanut butter crackers
  • disposable cups, plates and eating utensils  
  • flashlight
  • paper towels

Here's to fun adventures in 2015!

Brag & Borrow

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (100)
As caregivers we like to share and support one another in this complex journey of ours. That said I want to Brag about a great SCS idea & encourage other caregivers to Borrow it. I am sure you'll agree that transitioning a loved one to a
senior living community such as assisted living, rehab center and skilled nursing facility can be daunting.

A few days ago we helped a family with the admission of their loved one to The Welsh Home for a short rehab stay. Within 24 hours the entire family participated in a comprehensive Care Plan meeting. It was quite impressive. You could sense the family's anxiety decrease. They began to feel validated for selecting The Welsh Home.

As the admission day went on, other staff made an extra effort to learn about the personal preferences of the new patient from food, to socializing with others and participating in activities that could brighten her day.

Finally, the icing on the cake. With the family's guidance, SCS set up the patient's room in advance of the admission with familiar photos, family treasures and flowers. Most importantly we created a poster to convey important information to the staff especially the STNA's. The poster is hung in a highly visible area in the patient's room. It includes the names of family members with corresponding photos, nicknames, favorite colors, successful caregiving tips that the family has used at home that might help the staff in their job and much more. When someone thinks of another useful tip or makes a care discovery, they add it to the poster.

This simple idea has meant a great deal to the family and has made the patient's transition much easier. Caregiving is now a collaboration between staff and family, positive relationships are developing, it's a real team effort. 


Adding Aromatherapy to Your Caregiver’s Toolbox

Posted on July 24, 2013 at 12:28 PM Comments comments (169)

Thanks to Registered Dietician, Barbara Bauer, Clinical Nutrition Program Manager at Sharp Coronado Hospital, SCS incorporates aromatherapy into our clients’ personal plan, especially for common health challenges in the elderly such as:                                                            - decreasing weight                                                                                                                           - immobility and,                                                                                                                           - sleeplessness

When used correctly, aromatherapy is a simple, non medical, effective tool for caregivers. At SCS we use aromatherapy to stimulate eating, energize and promote relaxation in our clients. We believe in this approach and thought we’d share the article that first sparked our interest. The following are excerpts from the article, Seven Ways To Use Aromatherapy To Care For The Elderly At Home.  Registered dietician Barbara Bauer, Clinical Nutrition Program Manager at Sharp Coronado Hospital offers the following seven tips in her commentary.                                                                                                                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Located in San Diego, Sharp Coronado Hospital and Villa Coronado Skilled Nursing Facility have documented many successful aromatherapy cases. Elderly patients improved to the point where they no longer required appetite stimulants and their sleep medications were decreased. This method gained national attention.

If you wish to include aromatherapy in your caregiver’s toolbox, Bauer suggests the following: “use quality essential oils which are modestly priced and long-lasting. To promote alertness, put a drop of peppermint oil on a cotton ball and place nearby. Peppermint is known for its energizing properties. To stimulate appetite, apply a dab of Citrus Bliss, cardamom, bergamot or ginger essential oil with a cotton swab onto clothing or protective covering at mealtime; near the nose. In Bauer’s 2010 study, staff applied Citrus Bliss to patients’ coverings during two meals each day, and most of the 50 patients tracked stopped losing weight. Six of the seven patients who were taking steroidal appetite stimulants transitioned off the medication, maintaining their weight without unpleasant side effects."

"Put a drop of lavender oil onto a cotton ball and place inside a pillow case at bedtime to encourage sleep. The scent of lavender induces relaxation, and many Sharp Coronado staff members place lavender behind their computers on particularly stressful days, Bauer said. Run a bath before bedtime and sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil into the water. Baby-care companies have been touting the relaxing effect of lavender-scented bath soap for decades, and the same principle applies to adults, " Bauer added.  

"Use a few drops of any essential oil — depending upon the desired effect — in a diffuser or humidifier. Mix essential oil with unscented lotion and massage onto the skin. Peppermint lotion will energize, lavender lotion will relax, and citrus lotion will stimulate appetite. Softer, more moisturized skin is an added benefit. Bauer recommends starting with one drop of oil per 4 ounces of lotion and adding from there. Burn a candle scented with the desired essential oil. Alternatively, place a candle (in a glass jar) onto an electric cup warmer. Bauer occasionally uses this option in her office, where open flames are not allowed. Essential oils are derived from nature and are chemical-free. Bauer has never seen a patient experience an allergic reaction to essential oils, she said. However, some patients may dislike the scent of certain oils, and she advises caretakers to let their loved ones smell the oils before use. She also warns that essential oils in their pure form shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin, as they have the potential to cause irritation.”

Seven Ways To Use Aromatherapy To Care For The Elderly At Home                                 Eagle & Times, News, July 12, 2012  

A Must Read

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 8:26 AM Comments comments (0)
A client shared a wonderful book with me and I thought I would pass it along. Although it is specific to caring for someone with Alzheimer's or a related dementia, it has heartfelt tips for anyone who is caring for a loved one.
Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers
by Frank Boyles, University of Arkansas Razorback Athletic Director Emeritus
A Quote from the book:"My best advice to you is to treasure each day and to live it to the fullest. Cherish the time you spend together and, perhaps most important, love each other. I hope you find peace in knowing that it is still possible to live and love when someone you love is living with Alzheimer's disease."

A Creative Solution

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 1:11 PM Comments comments (0)
They were all ready for the wedding. Flight itineraries were in place, bags were packed, guest rooms were prepared and a week of festivities planned. The bride had arranged for this milestone event for more than a year.

It had been almost eight years since the family was last together for Auntie Meta's passing. During that time, so many things had changed. The "kids" were now teenagers. A few more relatives had moved out of town. One thing for sure, the family was spread out all over the U.S. How great it will be for the family to be part of this joyous occasion. The youngest Jeffrey was two, the oldest Aunt Betty was 87...three generations of relatives. 

Then it happened, a few days before departure Aunt Betty began having a problem with her balance. She became very concerned and feared that she would fall if she tried to go to the wedding. Like a house of cards, everyone's plans began to change. Now the entire family would not attend. Some would stay behind to help Aunt Betty,

But, all was not lost. Aunt Betty remembered her friend Lillian had just returned from a family vacation. Lillian took a non medical caregiver with her on the trip. Her family was relieved of their caregiving responsibilities and Lillian didn't feel like she was a burden. Everyone had a wonderful time. Lillian said it was one of the best vacations they ever had. 

It was a light bulb moment for Aunt Betty...she would do the same!
The moral of the story: Whether you are being cared for or if you are the caregiver, know that circumstances can change. When "life shows up" you don't need to change your plans, just look for a creative solution."

Autumn Is Here

Posted on September 22, 2012 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)
It's here! Today we turn over a new leaf and enter into autumn at 10:49. I must admit, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I am grateful for changing rich colors, pumpkin bread and harvest fests. For chipmunks that scamper in between the crunching leaves, for the smell of my neighbor's fire pit as it burns brightly in the early evening, and for the gift of an extra hour.

So, when you turn your clock back today, take a few minutes to be still and lean into this seasonal transition. Change is inevitable, it's how we deal with it that matters!

Perpetually Positive,

A Labor of Love

Posted on September 2, 2012 at 9:31 AM Comments comments (0)
Happy Labor Day Weekend!

It's a time to relax, enjoy family and friends, fire up the grill and just kick back. However, when you are caregiving, this may not be possible. For many, caregiving is a 24/7 responsibility. It truly is a "Labor of Love." For me, there is nothing more personally rewarding and more challenging than caregiving for a loved one" It's a daily workout of trying to achieve a balance that ensures that you have the time to love yourself and recharge your batteries so that you're in the game for the entire race, not just the sprint. 

So, when family and friends visit this weekend, be sure to let them help you. Ask them to each bring a dish. Make it a Labor Day Potluck. Let them assist with caregiving tasks which may include: preparing a plate, assisting with eating and other personal care needs. Allow your guests the pleasure of engaging your loved one. You can aid this process by having a few photo albums at the ready which are great conversation starters.  Or how about a deck of cards or love letters to stimulate interaction.

With a little fore thought, you can kick back, and get a much deserved break. Giving others an opportunity to become involved now and in the future.

Wishing you a great holiday weekend!

Loss of a Loved One

Posted on April 28, 2012 at 1:03 PM Comments comments (0)
The anniversary of my Mom’s passing occurred just a few days ago. I can’t believe it’s been three years already. What I find really astounding, is the feeling of serenity that has replaced the emptiness.
My Mom and I were best friends. Rarely did a day go by that we wouldn’t at least talk. For many years we worked together and played together. There was no greater shopping partner than “Choo Choo.” We enjoyed many a trip and sale. In fact, some of my favorite memories were of our shopping excursions in Seattle and Chicago.
Now, that’s not to say we didn’t have our moments. We drove each other crazy at times, but, we were always there for one another.
It was a privilege to be with her during her final hours. Even though she knew she was dying she never complained. For six months she faced each day with the grace, determination and sometimes stubbornness for which she was known.  
With the help of a wonderful hospice team from Cleveland Clinic, Mom was able to die at home, with dignity, surrounded by her family and the things she cherished.
With everlasting love and serenity,