The Benefits of a Therapy Pet for Seniors

The Benefits of a Therapy Pet for Seniors

For many older adults, mobility limitations, health issues and low energy can keep them from the social engagement they once enjoyed. Especially in seniors who live alone, social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and poor physical health. Pet therapy has been shown to benefit seniors by improving depression and anxiety symptoms, increasing self-care, and even improving heart-health. It turns out giving and receiving unconditional love is literally good for your heart.

Proven Benefits of Pet Companionship

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation, a nationwide charity committed to connecting seniors with therapy animals, has collected research on pet therapy for seniors. These studies discuss the physiological and psychological impact of animals on seniors’ quality of life. Here are their findings:

Physical Benefits

Heart HealthFrequent interaction with a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Improved ActivityWalking, grooming or playing with a pet increases the frequency of physical activity and exercise, which in turn has countless health benefits.

Healthy BehaviorThose who own a pet tend to take better care of themselves. Caring for a pet helps to develop a routine, encouraging owners to eat regularly or complete chores and other tasks.

Social & Emotional Benefits

Increased InteractionWalking a dog gets senior owners out of the house and increases their opportunities to socialize with neighbors.

Decreased LonelinessPets provide companionship, giving isolated seniors a source for affection, conversation and activity.

Stress ReliefBeing with a pet increases levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that relieves stress. It also provides physical contact, which helps to calm anxiety.

Better Self-Esteem —For seniors discouraged by their age, appearance or limited abilities, pets are welcome company, reminding seniors that they are still capable of being loved and needed.

Sense of PurposeThe company of an animal provides a reason to get up in the morning. Pets combat depression symptoms by eliminating feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Knowing that they are loved and needed enhances seniors’ mental health.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet

If you think your loved one would benefit from owning a pet, ask yourself these questions to help you make a wise decision:

What is the best choice for a pet? If your loved one has trouble walking or is more limited in their ability to provide constant attention to a pet, a cat might be a better choice than a dog.

Is my loved one an experienced pet owner?

Taking on the responsibilities of owning a pet could be overwhelming for a senior who has never had one before.

Are finances an issue? Consider your loved one’s financial situation. Animal care can be expensive, and if your loved one is on a fixed income, owning a pet could cause financial burdens. Assess the costs before you commit.

Choose the right pet. Do your research to find a pet whose age, size, personality and energy level fit well with your loved ones.

Could I adopt an animal in need? Older animals in shelters have a lower adoption rate than puppies or kittens and have a greater risk of being euthanized. Adopting an adult, healthy pet for your loved one can eliminates the stress of training, match your loved one’s energy level and save the life of a loving animal.

Preventing Caregiver Burnout

Preventing Caregiver Burnout

If you are feeling worn down as a caregiver for an aging loved one, you are not alone. You may feel isolated, at times, desperately needing the support of others and seeking guidance as to how to make your life a little easier.  One thing is for sure, all across the country many of us are struggling to care for our loved ones. It’s likely that each one of us will be caring for a loved one in the future. And caregiving is not a short-term commitment.

Being a caregiver takes a toll. This is evidenced both emotional and physically. Unfortunately, our own bodies do not stop needing care while we provide care for others. Many of us are also providing for our own families, still maintaining a day job as well as needing to care for ourselves.  Coping as a caregiver means being able to discern not only your loved ones’ needs but knowing the importance of caring for yourself.

There are some basic “caring” support measures that we must offer ourselves. Remember, you are a very important person, and you need and deserve proper care.

  • Exercise Daily: Whatever our caregiving schedule, we can only take care of others if we take care of yourselves. Walk, run, stretch, lift weights, dance, and do whatever you do, but do some physical exercise 30-60 minutes four to six times a week. If you only have ten minutes a day to exercise, this better than no time at all. A walk around the corner is a great way to clear your mind. Exercise truly does relieve stress, increases your energy level and protect your health. Strength training two times a week will help keep your bones strong and your muscles firm. This is important if you are caring for someone else. Every morning, think through your day and try to anticipate little pockets of time you can devote to exercise. Take whatever measures you must to make it happen…do as if your life depends on it!
  • Accept Your Own Limits: As a loving caregiver, we want to be able to say; “I can do it all”, but we need to accept, that we also must care for ourselves.  We must proactively ask for help and support from outside. Taking good care of yourself and your loved one involves recruiting additional help at times.  Even if you feel you do not need extra help now, you will need assistance in the future. Everyone needs a break and time to enjoy their own life. It’s so much better to have peace of mind that the world will go on without you when you need or want time away. Talk to your doctor, a senior care professional, a pastor or others that you trust about your situation. Respite care is an excellent resource for giving you “time off” from caregiving to take care of yourself.   Plan ahead by making a list of people you can recruit to help you. Having options will help you manage the extra demands of your time and give you a sense of control.
  • Relax: Daily relaxation is vital to our own health. Deep breathing, meditation, praying, or doing whatever helps you to reduce stress. If possible, take time at the beginning and the end of the day to practice these techniques and any other available moments you can.
  • Talk: Everyone needs to share their own caregiving challenges and successes. It is always reassuring to know that you are not the only one having certain struggles. Find people you can trust and share your heart with them. Join a support group for caregivers. Just know that you are not alone and hearing another person’s story can be a great comfort. You may help someone else as you share your thoughts and feelings as well.
  • Schedule Time for Yourself: You may not remember the last time you left your responsibilities and just took time for yourself. Caregivers typically feel very guilty taking time away from their loved one. Taking time to do something that is not work-related will actually make you a better caregiver. Read a few pages from a book, window shop, take a nap or go to the beach. It is not just okay, it’s vital for your wellbeing.
  • Get Enough Rest: If you are lacking on your sleep, your body will soon let you know. Without proper sleep you’re putting your own health at risk. Try to get at least eight hours of rest each night. If you are required to be up at night with your loved one, take naps the following day when your loved one is sleeping.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: If you are preparing meals for your loved one, this should be a good way to manage eating healthy for yourself. Just as you want your loved one to eat well, your nutrition is vital to your health.  Keep veggies and fruit available for snacks, eat whole grains, avoid high fat and carbohydrates, increase your water intake to six to eight glasses a day and avoid concentrated sweets and too much caffeine.
  • Get Organized & Simplify: Being a caregiver, a parent, a grandparent, a worker outside the home, etc. brings many demands of your time. Control those demands by recruiting your own family to help with chores at home.  Stay organized daily with whatever method works for you. Simplify by saying no to activities that may not fit the current demands of your time.

Caring for a loved one is a tough job. At times it’s frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting. It’s also one of the most rewarding jobs you will ever do. But, as a caregiver, you know your loved one is reliant on you and wants you to be healthy and happy. We all perform better physically and mentally when we are taking care of ourselves. So make sure you’re not forgetting to make yourself a priority.

Hallmark Homecare Featured in the “Wolf Report”

Hallmark Homecare Featured in the “Wolf Report”

Hallmark Homecare was featured in the Wolf of Franchises’ “Wolf Report” which is a weekly analysis of franchise brands and the entrepreneurs behind them. The Wolf Report is written for current and aspiring franchise owners who want to find the next big brand. For those looking for emerging franchises with promising financials, the Wolf Report is a place to get it.

Here is a portion of the text regarding Hallmark Homecare:

Fast Facts

Background
· Founded in 2012, franchising since 2019
· Based in Nevada; 5 franchise locations
· Helps clients hire caregivers for elderly family members

Fees + Investment
· Royalty: 6% of gross sales
· Brand Fund: 1% of gross sales
· Franchise Fee: $50,000
· Initial investment: $60,000 – $77,000

The Wolf’s Take

Financially, the 3 year performance looks great, especially given the investment tops out at $77,000.

In addition to the numbers, it’s a business that you can run from a home office and requires no employees to be hired. As I discussed a few weeks back with Mobility 101, there’s also tailwinds for any businesses targeted at seniors:
· By 2030, all baby-boomers will be age 65 or older
· There are 73M baby-boomers nationwide, aged between 57-75 years old
· Until 2030, 10,000 baby boomers will hit retirement age every single day

Hallmark’s Model

While I’m no expert on the ins and outs of senior care, Hallmark claims to be able to find caregivers for families at a much lower cost than traditional players in the industry.

The standard model seems to be an agency model i.e. caregivers sign with agencies, who then handle all the work of placing them, but in exchange for being the middle-man they have to boost prices to ensure they are profitable.

Meanwhile, Hallmark franchisees are able to go directly to caregivers and match them with a family. The main value add from the franchisee is they’re able to throughly vet caregivers so that families can rest easy knowing they’ve chosen a trustworthy caregiver.
What wasn’t clear to me was how they’re able to access these networks of caregivers that aren’t tied up in the agency model.

Nonetheless, if you’re interested in this industry and a low cost + low overhead model, it’s worth looking into!”

Getting Educated About Alzheimer’s Disease

Getting Educated About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, irreversible disorder of the brain and the most common form of dementia. The disease affects the cognitive parts of the brain that are involved in thinking, remembering, and using language. It can severely impair a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Dementia isn’t a specific disease, but rather a general term to describe any loss or decline in brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior, and is serious enough to interfere with daily functions. There are numerous types of dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s Disease Causes and Risk Factors
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the excessive shrinking of certain brain tissues, which occurs when neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and eventually die. It’s not known how this process begins, but the brains of people with Alzheimer’s contain amyloid plaques (which are abnormal protein deposits between neurons) and neurofibrillary tangles (twisted strands of a protein called tau) that likely affect neurons. Research suggests that the genes you inherit may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Other possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Preventing Alzheimer’s
Making healthy life choices may help prevent or slow the onset of Alzheimer’s. These preventive measures include eating a healthy diet, drinking alcohol moderately, maintaining an active lifestyle, getting adequate sleep, keeping your mind active and engaged and forming lasting and healthy social connections.

The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a checklist of common symptoms to help you recognize the difference between normal age-related memory changes and possible warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s always a good idea to check with a doctor if a person’s level of function seems to be changing. The Alzheimer’s Association stresses that it is critical for people diagnosed with dementia and their families to receive information, care and support as early as possible.

Early Warning Signs
• Memory loss
• Difficulty performing familiar tasks
• New problems with writing or speaking
• Confusion with time and place
• Poor or decreased judgment
• Problems with abstract thinking
• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Changes in mood or behavior
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• Withdrawing from social activities
To view the full checklist, visit http://www.alz.org/10-signs-symptoms-alzheimers-dementia.asp.

Advice from a Caregiver on Stress Reduction

Advice from a Caregiver on Stress Reduction

Lisa Bailey is a kindergarten teacher and caregiver to children and her husband who is undergoing cancer treatment. She shares her top coping strategies in this article for living a balanced life as a caregiver. You may find some of these strategies helpful in your own journey.

      • Make all choices from a solid base of integrity. I try to make medical and personal choices from the base of my Christian faith, which helps free me from second-guessing myself.
      • Be clear about today’s reality. Don’t imagine things are worse than they are. Enjoy the good parts of today and don’t let worries for tomorrow take over your emotions and thoughts.
      • Talk honestly to family and friends. Honest, frequent communication with close family and friends about caregiving concerns is much easier than trying to play catch-up later.
      • Learn the medical lingo. It will help you as a caregiver and a medical advocate to learn as much as you can about your loved one’s medical situation. The Internet is a helpful resource, but be cautious about which websites can be trusted. Ask questions of the doctors and nurses. Check the accuracy of your information if you are at all troubled or in doubt.
      • Be aware that pain, stress and medications may release the patient from their social “filter” and they may say some difficult things at times. Listen and be compassionate as best you can.
      • Control what you can control. Lots of articles about stress-management advise letting go of control; I have found that being in control of some areas of my life has greatly reduced my stress.
      • Let go of what you cannot control. For me this means leaning on my faith; for others it may be working with meditation or other techniques that will focus and center you.
      • Get help with house work and yard work—paid or unpaid. Help with household chores has helped me prioritize my most important tasks.
      • Prepare meals in advance and freeze them. I do bulk cooking and freeze pre-prepared meals.
      • Plan your work; then work your plan. Keep bills and insurance paperwork organized and pay bills on time. Be proactive about taking care of tasks and errands. Don’t let things pile up.
      • Nest. Everyone needs a comfy place to relax and rest. Make a comfortable nest for your loved one and for yourself by having a comfy chair with afghans, pillows, fresh flowers, candles, books and great music to your nest.
      • Journal for yourself. There are so many ways to re-center yourself, but none works as well for me as journaling. Even if you have never kept a journal, try starting one to help you clarify feelings, manage your stress and plan the work you need to do as caregiver.
      • Find joy in living life, whatever the circumstances. Whether illness or infirmity limit the scope of you and your charge’s activities—remember to bring meaning to your lives through activities you both enjoy: a good meal, movies and shows, music, reading aloud, playing card or board games, and trying new activities that may be creative and enriching.
      • Keep a vision for the future. None of us comes here to stay; we know that. But we also know that we can “grow until we go,” and we should. We make plans for our future.
      • Give. While I have learned through my husband’s illness to receive the gifts of help, encouragement, prayer and love from other people, giving to others in return keeps us feeling emotionally and spiritually full and is always worth the effort.
      • Release yourself from expectations for perfection. As humans, we all experience “feet of clay” when we do not have infinite energy, wisdom or capabilities to manage our lives. This is normal. Get through each day as best you can, and don’t dwell on mistakes.
      • Take good care of yourself. Eat good food, remember to exercise, rest and learn to say no to outside demands. See your doctor and dentist for checkups. Get away from the house regularly—and not just to run errands, but to do an activity you enjoy to renew your spirit.
How to Create Fun for Frail Seniors

How to Create Fun for Frail Seniors

As a caregiver, you are focused on your loved one’s safety, finances, medical treatment, nutrition and therapy. You busy yourself with doing everything in your power to keep them comfortable. You worry about their reduced energy level, increasing fatigue, physical weakness and variable mental status. But do you know how important it is for them to just have fun? To laugh deeply, live in the moment, to briefly not be defined by age and frailty and to forget pain?

Below are some ideas on how to add fun and stimulation to their lives:

Mini-Field Trips
Seniors look forward to having a day out, but as they age, they don’t have the stamina or mobility for trips to fascinating museums, monster malls, wooded parks, loud modern restaurants, etc. But they may be able to go out for an hour or two. My mom adored a simple trip to the supermarket—colorful flowers, fanciful balloons, acres of fresh, bright produce, bakery smells, energetic families with huge carts. It was an hour that she talked about for days. Another day we drove one short mile to a local antique shop. “I had those gold Fostoria glasses,” she pointed out. “Your dad and I would stop at the Fostoria factory store on trips to see my brother in Washington, DC.”. Talk about the glassware led to reminiscing about her deceased brother, until she interrupted herself; “Look at the quilts—just like my Grandmother’s.”. And so on, pushing her walker forward toward the next memory. The first trip to a small local department store just before Christmas involved a little arm-twisting. But once there, lights, perfume, soft velvety fashions and just ahead a decorated Christmas tree, worked their magic. She relived it all week. Recently she had favorite rings that needed resizing, I invited her to come to the jewelry store with me. She appreciated being the “customer,” the center of attention. Other ideas might be a quilt shop for a former quilter, a hardware store for the ardent handyman, the library, bakery, family style restaurant, plant store or flower shop.

Fun at home
You don’t have to go out to have fun of course. Opportunities are right there in their home to have fun and fight boredom:
• Stage a sing-along to their favorite music. Play the music loud and clear. Get all dressed up and take some photo portraits—use them for family gifts.
• Rent/borrow movies—old ones, funny ones, scary ones.
• Have a deck of cards on hand and play the old familiar games—gin rummy, hearts, war.
• Scrabble is great fun with grandkids, and good for the brain too.
• Keep a puzzle going if you have a spare tabletop—people coming in always get engaged and stay to talk.
• Pull out a family album—get them to identify the older ones you may have forgotten and take notes or audiotape the stories you hear. Family photos trigger floods of memories.
• Rearrange furniture and pictures—just for stimulation.
• Order in or cook some favorite foods that aren’t usually indulged in as a treat.
• Manicures and pedicures are a special treat too.
• Have candy for drop-in guests and gifts for visitors—think about birthday and holiday gifts and “shop” online.
• Make up a holiday or birthday wish list from the web—send it to family members.

Think about what your loved one has always enjoyed, listen to what they talk about, look around your neighborhood and give it a try!