Family Caregivers: Caring for Yourself & Others

Family Caregivers: Caring for Yourself & Others

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, approximately 66 million Americans (35% of the US adult population) serve as family caregivers for adult or disabled relatives. With the population aging and living longer, more caregiving is being provided by spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings and other family members.

Taking care of loved ones as they age is important and rewarding work, yet it’s no secret that family caregiving can be extremely stressful and demanding. As caregiving responsibilities grow, family caregivers experience significant challenges in their own lives.  Finding the balance between your needs and the needs of your loved one is the key to keeping your personal health and well-being a top priority.

A few tips to help family caregivers find balance include:

  1. Take care of your own health – It’s essential to take care of yourself so you can continue to be there for your loved one. Make sure to see your own medical doctor when needed, eat healthy, get good sleep, and stay active.
  2. Practice self-care – Find time to do activities that you love. Take small breaks throughout the day to unwind, even if it’s 30 minutes.
  3. Give yourself credit – Practice self-compassion and acknowledge everything you are doing for your loved one. You weren’t trained to be a caregiver, so cut yourself some slack if you’re feeling overwhelmed or trying to be too perfect.
  4. Set boundaries – Healthy boundaries are important for you and your loved one. If able, have a discussion around what your role will be now and as their needs progress. Encourage your loved one to stay as independent and as involved in their care as they are able.
  5. Take respite breaks – There are many community programs and services that offer short term (hourly or daily) care to caregivers. Take advantage of these programs.
  6. Ask for help – Caregiver burnout is real and nothing to be ashamed of. Seek support from other family members, friends or support groups with caregivers who are in the same situation as you are. Our professional caregivers at Hallmark Homecare are available to provide personalized care as well.

Need some additional support caring for your loved one?
Hallmark Homecare offers personalized in-home care to help people remain at home. Our caregivers are specifically matched to each client and their unique needs. This offers clients and families peace of mind and provides family caregivers with a much-deserved break, so they can focus on spending quality time together with their loved one instead of on caregiving or household tasks. There’s help available when you need it, and we’re happy to assist!

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!

Relief for Caregivers Through Respite Care

Relief for Caregivers Through Respite Care

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care for the elderly is any service that supports and maintains the primary caregiving relationship by providing temporary care to an aging parent or loved one.

If you’re the primary caregiver for an aging loved one, you may be experiencing some form of stress or burnout. It’s natural for caregivers to become so involved in taking care of someone else that they tend to allow their own needs to get put aside.

This is why respite care is so important for caregivers. As the number of caregivers increases— and there are already an estimated 50 million caregivers in the country today—the number of people suffering from exhaustion, stress, isolation, depression and physical ailments is also on the rise. This is no coincidence. Caregivers need to recognize that they deserve a break from their responsibilities to take care of themselves, too. And taking some time away from caregiving duties will make the person a better caregiver in the long run.

Many caregivers feel guilty at the thought of seeking respite services for their loved ones. A recent survey of caregivers by the National Family Caregivers Association showed that it’s especially difficult for spouse caregivers to acknowledge that their role of caregiver is different and separate from their role as spouse. Caregivers need to acknowledge that caregiving plays a totally separate part in their lives, and that the job of long-term caregiving can be too big for just one person to handle.

Finding Relief in Respite Care

The benefits of respite care are numerous for caregivers. Taking time away from caregiving demands will leave a caregiver refreshed and renewed, allowing them the opportunity to re-energize to be a more effective caregiver. Caregivers deserve time for activities they enjoy, whether it be reading, gardening, taking a walk, taking in a movie or museum, or whatever relaxes and eases the caregiver’s spirit. It’s also important for caregivers to maintain social relationships with friends and other family members to avoid isolation and depression. And caregivers may just need time to take care of personal errands such as seeing their own doctor, or possibly attending a support group with other caregivers.

Ideally caregivers will have regularly scheduled breaks that can be provided by help from friends or family members. However, if that support is not available to the caregiver, there are a variety of respite care options available. Respite care services are offered through community agencies, homecare care companies, direct-hire options like Hallmark Homecare, and residential care facilities. A good place to start in the U.S. is the Eldercare Locator, a free nationwide toll-free service designed to assist older adults and their caregivers to find services in their community. Additional resources are local senior centers, Area Agencies on Aging, and the Family Caregiver Alliance.

It is also ideal for caregivers to create space in their home that is solely for the caregiver, whether that be a reading nook or an extra bedroom. Caregivers are advised to designate time every day, such as while the care receiver is taking a nap or when they first go to bed, that is just for the caregiver.

Before planning respite care, caregivers should talk with their loved one about it, so that he or she understands the benefit to both.

Remember that respite care should not be considered a luxury, but a necessity for the well-being of both the caregivers and their aging loved ones.

Summer Activities for Seniors & Caregivers

Summer Activities for Seniors & Caregivers

Enjoying the warm summer temperatures doesn’t have to be a distant memory for elders and caregivers. Finding an interesting activity that is suitable for a senior’s abilities may take some creativity and planning, but it is well worth switching up the routine and getting out of the house.

The Benefits of Getting Outside

A main advantage of heading outdoors, even for a short period of time, is being able to soak up some sunlight. Sun exposure generates vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy brain, bones and muscles. Getting out also enables elders to socialize with new people and be stimulated by new experiences and environments.

Ideas for Outdoor Activities

When selecting activities to do with your loved one, focus on hobbies and interests that they used to enjoy. What is something they always wanted to try? Don’t be afraid to ask what they miss doing or what they’d like to revisit. Have a couple of suggestions prepared to choose from and head outside to enjoy the day together.

Catch a sporting event. Attending a grandchild’s soccer game or a professional baseball game can be an action-packed way for your loved one to reconnect with a favorite pastime.

Fish for fun. You can cast a rod from a dock, pier, or other location, even if someone has mobility problems or uses a wheelchair. Check your state’s or province’s tourism websites to see if they provide listings of accessible fishing locations.

Be a tourist. If you live in a city, take an open-air bus or trolley tour to see the local sights. Another option could be a boat tour, depending on what type of equipment an elder needs to take with them. A Sunday drive around town can also allow a senior to check out happenings in the community that interest them. This could be a neighborhood rummage sale, farmers market, community event or even just blooming flowers and trees.

Take a dip. If a senior is willing and able, spending some time in a pool is an excellent way for them to incorporate some physical activity into their routine that seems more like relaxing than a workout.

Stroll around. If a walk is possible, start slow and work up to longer outings. Either keep the first few walks short or bring along a walker or wheelchair in case your loved one gets tired and needs to rest along the way or requires help getting back.

Be an animal lover. This could be as simple as encouraging a loved one to sit outside and enjoy the sights and sounds or could mean an outing to the zoo or local dog park. There are plenty of options for seniors who enjoy animals to get outside and either interact with or observe nature.

Picnic outdoors. Picnics are another flexible activity that you can plan at a park, in your own backyard, or on the surrounding grounds of a long-term care facility. At the park, seniors can watch children run around and enjoy the buzz of outdoor activity. Make sure to locate an area with comfortable seating and plenty of shade in advance or remember to bring your own.

Go out for a treat. Most seniors have a favorite place to eat that picks their spirits right up. Instead of limiting this indulgence to special occasions or the post-doctor’s appointment routine, make an outing out of it “just because.” This could consist of a coffee and pastry from a favorite breakfast spot, or a lunch special from the diner around the corner. If the weather is nice, enjoy your goodies at a patio table.

Older bodies don’t adjust to temperature changes or perceive thirst as well as younger ones. With each of these activities, be sure to watch your loved one for signs of fatigue, thirst, sunburn, and overheating that could signal it’s time to leave, perhaps with a promise to return at another time.

First Aid Kit for Seniors Living at Home

First Aid Kit for Seniors Living at Home

First aid is an important consideration when caring for an elderly person at home. It is important to know that seniors are more vulnerable to accidents and injuries since they often lack strength, flexibility and can have brittle bones.  Also, their sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste may have declined, making them more vulnerable to accidents. It is very important that the elderly take care of their skin as well, because they are more susceptible to skin infections and disease due to natural changes in aging skin. These changes make the skin less elastic, thinner and dryer allowing more injures while also being slow to heal.

 What to Put in Your First Aid Kit

It is important to keep a well-stocked first aid kit on hand. You can purchase a kit or create one of your own. You can create one using a portable file box that can be found at any office supply store or large discount store. Be sure to keep your first aid kit someplace where it can be located quickly and be sure to give it a regular check up by replacing expired items and updating informational lists.

Creating a list of insurance information, medical contacts, and medications could prove to be a very helpful addition to your first aid kit. We often have trouble trying to remember things in the event of an emergency, which is why adding procedures for specific conditions would also be a great asset to your first aid kit.

In being prepared for emergencies let’s take a look at what a first aid kit should have in it:

  • Thermometer
  • Antiseptic solution or wipes, such as hydrogen peroxide, povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Calamine lotion for stings or poison ivy
  • Hydrocortisone cream or ointment
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Band-Aids in assorted sizes including knee and elbow sizes
  • Latex gloves (these should be worn any time you may be at risk of contact with blood or body fluid of any type)
  • Triangular bandages for wrapping injuries and making arm slings
  • Thermal patches
  • Instant cold pack
  • Gauze, tape, and Ace bandages
  • Hand sanitizer or soap
  • Tweezers, scissors, safety pins and needle
  • Eye goggles and sterile eyewash such as a saline solution
  • Pain and fever medicines, such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Decongestants to treat nasal congestion
  • Anti-nausea medicine to treat motion sickness and other types of nausea
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Antacid to treat upset stomach
  • Laxative to treat constipation
  • First aid manual
  • The senior’s medication list with dosage and times taken
  • Phone numbers for emergency contact, doctors, pharmacy, and insurance information.
  • If needed: blood pressure monitor, oximeter, blood sugar meter and/or AED (Automated External Defibrillator)
  • Medical forms such as living will, DNR, or advance directives

When traveling, take the kit with you. You may want to add a blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, medical consent forms, and a medical history form. For specific medical conditions be sure to include any necessary equipment and instructional information. If you elect to keep a separate travel first aid kit, be sure to copy and include all medical information.

Purchasing a First Aid Kit

The American Red Cross and many drugstores sell first aid kits with many of these items. Remember, for the kit to be useful, you need to know how to use it. You may want to take a Red Cross first aid course or at least purchase a first aid manual to learn first aid basics.

5 Tips to Help Curb Isolation During COVID-19

5 Tips to Help Curb Isolation During COVID-19

There is no doubt that we are all trying to figure out our “new normal” during these unprecedented times.  Here are some tips to help the elder loved ones in your life: 1.  Keep Caregivers Coming – It’s important to keep the same routine to help alleviate feelings of anxiety, loneliness or depression. Make sure that the caregivers that are coming in and out of the home are otherwise following social distancing and safety precautions recommended by the CDC. Also, make sure they know to alert you if they have any concerns that they may have deviated from social distancing.  It could save a life! 2.  Check-In with Loved Ones Daily – Most of us have had a lot of different emotions as we are isolated to our homes, watching the news, etc. It’s no different for your loved one. Check in with them daily, if possible, to see how they’re doing and feeling.  You may find it changes from day to day. 3.  Use Technology to Stay Connected – Technology has been key right now to connect. You may need to set up the technology for your loved one and teach them the basic steps of how to use it. You can connect on the phone, your tablet or computer. It is so nice when there is the chance to see the person you’re talking to on the other side. You can use technology to share old photos or play games like Bingo or Trivia. 4.  Visit Using Social Distancing – Even though we can’t interact the way we’re used to, it doesn’t mean that you can’t visit. Grab a chair and visit in the driveway or on the porch. Make sure you are at least 6 feet away and following safety tips. 5.  Have Your Loved One Teach You Something – Many of us are struggling right now to find purpose in our days when we’re feeling cooped up at home. And for many seniors, they are more used to a lifestyle at home. But, it doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with it. Have your loved one teach you a recipe, share something they learned over their life of travels, give you tips on what they used to do to have a thriving garden, or share stories of a time in their life you don’t know about. This is a great way to keep their brain active and for you to connect with them in a different way than you have before. Even though these are challenging times, a positive attitude and mentality of abundance can help our mood and mindset.  By staying home and social distancing, we are experiencing one of the most global acts of solidarity we may ever witness.  And on the hard days, remember that “this too shall pass”. And if you or your loved one would benefit from in-home care, please reach out.  We’d be happy to help.