Continued Journey in Eldercare
Updated: Jun 23, 2019
Little NICEties for the Elderly and Disabled
When you are caring for aging parents or disabled individual, you get stuck in a rut and never think about little extras you can do for them while you care for them. A quick way to find out about their likes and dislikes is to sit and talk to them about different subjects or about their youthful days. Pay close attention to the subject matter they talk positively about or activities they miss doing or what fun they had doing while growing up. Something as simple as:
-- a homemade cake, jelly/jam or candy of their favorite flavor
--a massage or facial or pedicure
-- going to the beauty or barber shop
-- a favorite dish they hadn’t had in decades
-- having family/friends over for dinner on their birthday
-- classic movie or play they loved in the past
--going to their favorite sporting event
--buying them that new appliance they always wanted
-- a trip to the cemetery to see their beloved spouse's or dear friend's grave
Other little things you can do to make memories for them include:
-- organizing their photo album for them with names and dates
--provide craft activities that may simulate their past career (i.e. sewing, painting, etc)
-- play board or video games that interest them
-- have pet therapy come into the home
--have a performer come and entertain them (i.e. pianist, magician, quintet, etc)
-- have the grandchildren come and help with activities around the home
-- a vacation cruise or a two-day trip to their favorite place
When they least expect it... out of the blue treat them to their favorite activity. Surprise them and see the joy that comes over their face. Take a picture of that moment so they will have the memories of that day.
Little things such as these can bring happiness into their lives and keep them alert and internally joyful.
Elderly Degeneration of Vision
As your elderly parent or spouse increase in age, there will be a need to adapt to the progressive loss of vision and hearing. Here are some suggestions for Vision:
-- Get an eye exam to get a correct diagnosis and new glasses; preferably two pair due to the possibility of misplacing or breaking them. If they need a prescription for an eye disorder, make sure they follow through with the medications and instructions.
--Buy extra ‘store bought’ reading glasses to have for general purposes around the home. Get metal framed glasses so they won’t break easily and place the glasses in the same area so they won’t get lost.
--Keep the room the same way as they know it and leave out their frequently used items in the area they want it to be but remove all clutter such as coffee tables and rugs so they can walk freely without the risk of falling. And don't forget to show them where you put everything so they have a sense of control in their lives and can maintain their independence.
--Provide brighter lighting in the home. As they age, brighter lighting will be needed.
--If they use the computer or ipad, adjust the zoom and have text to speech option turned on for them.
-- Buy a bright, large letter keyboard for computer and other devices with keypads; preferably with a lighted background.
--Provide your parent with a eyeglass lanyard to be placed around the neck and eyeglass holder at their nightstand for their convenience.
-- DON’T Talk Loud. Their losing the vision, not hearing.
-- Have them eat food high in vitamin A and do eye exercises.
--Take MSM to help with the reduction of floaters in the eye.
--Wear yellow or light brown tinted glasses while outside or using the computer to prevent eye strain and fatigue.
-- Add talking thermostat, answering machine, clocks/watches for their convenience and home alarm system connected to their and your cell home.
-- Paint the room brighter and have darker furniture to contrast the background.
-- Outline furniture items with white or yellow tape to make it more visible.
-- Give them a variety of magnifying glass/sheets, adjustable lamps for their need to read books, magazine etc. Provide audio books if needed.
--Add a magnifying peep hole to all entry doors of their home or yours.
-- Teach them to use their senses such as touch, smell, hearing, temperature changes in their environment.
--Get training on how to walk with you aging parent in public places (i.e shoulder hold, number of steps).
These tips will help you and the one you are caring for to transition as their vision decreases.
Elderly Hearing Loss and How to Adapt
Along with visual losses that the elderly experience, also comes the hearing loss as they progress in age. This can make the family uncomfortable to due the need for the elderly to increase the volume of TVs and audio equipment which disturbs the family. The elderly also get irritated and have outburst of anger because they perceive that you are “ not talking loud enough” while it is they who are losing their hearing.
As a caregiver, here are things to look at for the hearing loss:
-- First check for wax buildup or middle ear infection by a doctor. Sometimes the simple removal of ear wax can resolve the problem. With an inner ear infection, make sure to follow the instructions of the treating physician correctly and completely if there is an infection.
--Get the appropriate hearing aid for your parent. Pricier units doesn't mean better. Make sure the batteries are easy for them to change and the device is not easy to lose. The average cost of hearing aids are about $2K to 3K.
-- Teach them to use their other senses such as touch, smell, hearing, temperature changes in their environment to adapt to the loss of hearing
--Buy an headphone adapter for their TV to reduce noise pollution in the home.
-- Add an amplifier to their door bell or increase the volume of their phone or provide flashing lights for alarms system, doorbells and phone in order to catch their attention since they have decreased hearing.
--Speak slowly and with a deeper voice when speaking to the elderly. High pitch sounds distorted to them. If their vision is still good, use gestures and touch while speaking to them.
-- Those with severe hearing loss, make a communication tablet so you can write down what you want to convey to them and they can read it if their vision is still good enough to read.
-- Teach them to know where and how to use their escape routes in case of fire, how to contact you and how to call the fire and police dept with ease.
Looking at these areas and providing your aging parent or spouse with the appropriate equipment and techniques for hearing loss will help you as a caregiver.
My Elderly Parent is Getting Mean! Why?
During the illness or injury, you watched your ailing parent/spouse become weak with no motivation and lethargy during the disease state. But gradually over time as they recover, they seem more interested in things and people around them, they get to the point where they are getting out of bed, walking around their room and eating better. But all of a sudden they are getting grouchy, bossy and uncooperative with you. They fight you on everything whether overtly or covertly. You are getting more frustrated and stressed as they behave worse. Rest assured this IS NORMAL! We see this often as the patient gets better in their health. They become “ themselves” again, an independent personality; like they used to be. These are signs of improvement; returning back to their normal self.
On the other hand, where the parent or spouse who is usually known for being calm and cooperative gradually you begin to see unusual behavior of mean heartedness, cursing, outburst of anger. Then it is time to take them to the doctor for an assessment for organic brain changes. Some form of deterioration of the brain has occurred and need to be addressed ASAP! Emotional Lability is the fluctuation in mood from happy to sad will also need to be address if this begins to be demonstrated in your aging parent or spouse. Take them to the doctor to get a diagnosis and get the medication they need to stabilize them. It will take a couple of weeks for medication to begin to work so be patient and look for the improvement or degradation then report it to the doctor.
These are two typical reasons why you as the caregiver may see these types of changes in mood and behavior in your parent or spouse. Simply put, either they are getting better or they are getting worse; always be on the lookout for these shifts in mood.
Are You Chasing Off Your Help?
Working with patients and their caregivers can be rewarding and a joy to work with. Caregivers who are willing to learn are very accommodating and want to know more when given the chance. But on those rare occasions we get a caregiver who is difficult to work with and hard to please. Those of us in the medical field understand caregivers want the best for their parent or spouse but some behavior of the caregiver, especially those who are direct relatives, can cause those who would have helped them with the care of the elderly parent or spouse to disappear with no plans to return.
Here are some reasons why some caregivers end up losing a person that would have provided assistance with the care of your parent or spouse:
Unable to do Things EXACTLY the Way You Want . I have seen caregivers complain about little things such as the way a towel is hung on the rack, how a bed is made up or how the clothes were folded. Because the person helping didn’t do it the way the caregiver would have, they complain to or about the person. If the helper is continually corrected on everything they do, they will eventually leave.
Not doing Everything as Scheduled by the Caregiver. With a parent or spouse who has dementia or Alzheimer, having a schedule is important but it NOT about being on TIME as it is being in a specific SEQUENCE. For example, those with memory issues, being consistent in the sequential steps is important to get their cooperation. Therefore, the correct sequence of getting up, going into the bathroom first thing in the morning then washing their face, brushing their teeth followed by going to breakfast is needed in order to prevent confusion. But for all others who are not suffering from memory loss, the need to be on a tight schedule causes too much stress on your helper and you end up losing them.
The Helper is Too Early or Too Late. I have experienced this myself while treating patients. These caregivers complain about you coming before your scheduled time or you came too late (5 to 10 minutes) without considering you may have to deal with traffic, an accident, a previous patient or inclement weather. To the helper, there’s no way to please you either way so they give up and never return.
Complaining or Sarcastic Remarks. I have seen adult caregivers make sly, critical, degrading remarks to the person helping them in an covert manner. Others have talked to the one who helps as if they are scolding a child. These individuals are adults and have no need for someone to be judgmental or sarcastic towards them when they are sacrificing their time to help YOU. This is a sure guarantee to make a person who is helping you with your parent/ spouse or disabled individual to walk away from you.
Going Back and Redoing it Yourself. A neighbor may cut your grass for you or a teen come help you wash and fold clothes but you go back and redo it yourself... again! This says to your helper that they are not quite able to perform the task to your liking, especially to those who are helping you out the goodness of their heart. They will eventually wean themselves from you because you are being ungrateful.
All of these forms of behaviors from a caregiver will make a person helping you, leave you to do all the work yourself sense they weren’t “good enough “ for you. You will find it hard to find a replacement person to help you because the “word around town” is that you are too difficult to please. Be aware of your actions toward the person who comes to help you. Always show gratitude and appreciation toward anyone who lends a hand in the care of your aging family member whether paid help, friend, neighbor or relative.
Taking a Cruise...Together!!
Most caregiver would never think about taking a cruise during the time of caring for their aging parent or spouse. Leaving them behind is out of the question, right? Sure, for those restricted to bed it would be impossible and would need to be placed on respite care if you are going out of town. But those who are able to transfer to and from a wheelchair, use a walker or rollator and walk with a cane several feet, you can take them with you.
I found cruise lines which are favorable toward seniors or the disabled looking for a calm quieter environment in which to relax, unwind and be with or around other seniors or those with similar conditions looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of children, teens and young adults. Here are the two prime choices.
Holland America “Vista Class” Ship are recognized for their wheelchair bound passengers to be transferred with ease and have available mobility devices at their port and wheelchair accessible cabins. Open seating during meals and bars that is wheelchair accessible, age appropriate shows and performances
on board with complementing decor throughout the ship. They even have relationship with the Medical Branch at UTMB at Galveston in case of a medical event.
Royal Caribbean’s Voyager, Freedom and Oasis Ships which has wheelchair maneuverable atriums and cabins which can accommodate wheelchairs. For those medical needs, this cruise line has affiliations with the American Medical Emergency Physicians of Florida along with a helicopter pad on the ship for immediate transfer to a medical facility if need be.
Let your aging parent or spouse know well in advance your plans to take them on a cruise. You will find some are afraid of taking such a trip but if you give them time to mentally get prepared to go and physically have everything in order so they won’t feel like they are a burden to you. So don’t hesitate to take your elderly or disabled loved ones on their final destination cruise. You won’t regret the experience and the memories you’ve developed.
Simplify Your Household Tasks
As a caregiver, elderly or disabled individual, you will find your energy level is less than optimal, making you feel tired, falling asleep throughout the day and unable to complete things you had planned to tackle before the end of the day. But there are ways to simplify household chores, manage your lifestyle without feeling exhausted.
Here are some ways to accomplish the things you set out to do in your life:
1. Clear out items you are not using and hadn’t used in decades. Give those things to family and friends first then donate the rest to a charity so others can benefit from them.
2. Get things organized in your home. After clearing out unwanted and unneeded items, you will be able to organize and clean easier because you eliminated many clutter items from your home.
3. Cleaning can be taxing if you are fatigue so breaks things up into manageable tasks. For example, sweep and mop the floor one day then vacuum the next day; wash,dry and fold those items you can and hang the others that will need ironing for later.
4. Buy items that will make your house cleaning easier such as the Spin Mop, a wide head dust mop, a long handle dustpan and angled broom. Purchase two toilet brushes for the bathroom; one exclusive for cleaning the toilet and the other with a scrubbing head on it to clean the shower and bathtub. Buy a portable handheld vacuum for high places and a self-propelled vacuum for the floor.
5. Hire someone to come help you clean on those occasions when you can’t do “one more thing.”
6. Don’t forget to get plenty of sleep through the night and supplement your diet with high grade enzymes, vitamins and minerals to keep your body functioning properly thereby reducing your fatigue.
And there you have it... house cleaning; simplified
Finding “At Home” Jobs
While caring for your elderly parent or spouse can take a lot of your time. Some will be able to take on part time jobs as I did while caring for my mom. Others will find it impossible to leave the home to work and others can’t afford a caregiver to come in on a regular basis. This article is written for you all. These jobs can be full time, part time or contract. For online jobs, you will need wired headset, noise cancelling microphone with a quiet in-home office, internet with computer access and some require certain system programs to work from home.
Here are some jobs you can do from home without having to leave your parent or spouse...
Look on YouTube for List of Jobs for Beginners. Jobs such as data entry, taking surveys selling through apps, mystery shopping, moderators for social websites. Don’t forget to look at other videos reviews of the company and check the BBB to avoid being scammed with work at home jobs.
Caring for Pets at Home. Some people need someone to care for their pet while on vacation or set hours of the day. This type of job allows you some flexibility to refuse or accept taking in a pet and your elderly parent or spouse get some pet therapy time. If you have your own pet, make sure that the visiting pet and yours are a good fit. Advertise on local site such as Nextdoor and Craigslist.
Sewing at Home. Some people have a few items they need sewn up such as pant legs, torn clothes, clothes needing to be taken up a bit or larger ripped items such as pillows and throws. Other would like to have things made but don’t have the time to do so. Here is where you can do it for them with a short term commitment. Again advertise on Nextdoor or CL or local fabric stores.
Companies Needing at Off Site Workers. Amazon, Apple, Fancy Hands and other larger companies need remote customer service, phone agent, editor and medical transcribers. You hire on directly with them as full time with benefits. Some smaller companies may need only part time or seasonal help so go online and see what’s out there.
Online Marketers. There are companies in need to people to help other businesses promote their products and services to those who utilize the internet. You must have a computer, a phone and basic writing and computer skills. You can devote as little as two hours a day.
Blogging Jobs Online--If you are a good writer and communicator then this is the job is for you. Blogging can be fun if your are creative and love working on a computer and talking to others. Just remember each job is different when it comes to blogging so make sure it's your cup of tea.