Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Get Smart: Upcoming Classes and Events

by Emily Anderson

April is showering down opportunities to learn and grow as a caregiver! Check out the events below to connect to professionals and classes related to dementia, caregiving, aging, and Medicare.


Meet the Author: Dementia Care Expert Rachel Wonderlin
April 8th, 2:30pm
Carnegie Library (Downtown), 612 Smithfield St
Speak with the author of When Someone You Know is Living in a Dementia Care Community  at this workshop. Wonderlin specializes in addressing the concerns of caregivers of people in long-term care settings or people who are considering that option for a loved one. Click here for more information.

How to Communicate with Persons Living with Dementia
April 11th, 10am-12pm
Arden Courts of Monroeville, 120 Wyngate Drive, Monroeville
RSVP by calling (412) 3801-300 or emailing Monroeville@arden-courts.com

Identifying and Working with Combative Dementia Behaviors
April 11th, 2pm-4pm
Arden Courts of North Hills, 1125 Perry Highway, Pittsburgh
RSVP by calling (412) 369-7887 or emailing NorthHills@arden-courts.com

Untangling Dementia
April 12th, 11am-1pm
Arden Courts of Jefferson Hills, 380 Wray Large Rd, Jefferson Hills
RSVP by calling (412) 384-0300 or emailing JeffersonHills@arden-courts.com

Tough Conversations--Discussing and Coping With Serious Illness
April 19th, 6-7:30pm
IKOR at 1001 Ardmore Blvd, Forest Hills
This seminar will cover making healthcare decisions, powers of attorney, living wills, and understanding advance directives. Register by clicking here.

Aging in Place With a Plan
April 29th, 10am-12pm
IKOR at 1001 Ardmore Blvd, Forest Hills
Dive in to different types of living arrangements available as we age, with tips on factors to consider if you or a loved one plan to age in place. Register by clicking here.

Orchard Hill Dementia Caregiver Conference
May 6th, 8am-12:30pm
Orchard Hill Church, 2551 Brandt Rd, Wexford
Explore creative and innovative ways to care for a loved one with memory loss. Experience visual arts, creative ideas, and virtual reality demonstrations. Free with a suggested donation of $5. Click here to learn more and register.

Medicare Basics: A Primer for Understanding the Medicare System
May 18th, 12pm-2:30pm
APPRISE, 1 Smithfield St, Downtown Pittsburgh
The first in the APPRISE annual series of seminars, this session will cover eligibility, enrollment, how the parts of Medicare work, and how to compare the options to find what works best for you. Call Bill McKendree at (412) 661-1670 ext645 or email mckendreew@fswp.org to register.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Moments Matter: A Complete Stroke Resource


Thank you to our reader Cheryl for sharing this infographic!

For more information, visit the American Heart Association to learn more about preventing cardiovascular diseases like stroke, or the American Stroke Association to learn how to reduce disability and death from stroke.  


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Six Tips for Protecting Your Loved One with Dementia

by Kristen West

One of the biggest concerns for caregivers of people with dementia is safety around the home, especially if your loved one tends towards wandering and falling. As a caregiver, fears of a loved one getting lost, falling while at home, causing a fire, and other safety risks can cause you stress.

People rarely wander aimlessly, and though their decisions may seem reckless or irrational, they rarely intend to cause themselves harm. Usually, individuals with dementia who wander are looking for something or someone, believe they need to be somewhere, or are interested in doing something. It can be hard to understand these behaviors, and it is often difficult to communicate with a person who is seeking something through wandering. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your loved one while putting your mind at ease.

1. Install monitors & locks as needed. Depending on the stage of your loved one's dementia, you may want to consider technology that will alert you when your loved one is walking about or leaving the house. A door mat with seat pad alarming, a programmable digital door locks, or a door alarm can alert you if your loved one exits the house or moves to a different part of the house. Child-safety devices, such as special door handles and safety gates can also be useful. Share the codes for locks and alarms with those who assist you in caregiving and write the information in a clear place for anyone who may be a frequent guest in the house. Remember if you increase the number of locks in your home you should make sure everyone can exit in the event of an emergency. 
2. Get wearable identification. Your loved one should wear a form of identification because they may change their outfit or leave the house without their wallet. Common identification methods include ID bracelets, markings in clothing and wallets, or labels on items like canes and walkers. Identification should include emergency contact numbers and important medical information, such as of diagnosis of dementia.   
3. Use GPS tracking to your advantage. If your loved one has a cellphone, consider using the built-in GPS to keep track of them. There are also systems which can be attached to clothing, keys, and other important objects, such as the Tile App. If your loved one already wears a personal emergency response system and tends to wander away from home, consider one with GPS capability. In Allegheny County, Project Lifesaver can also supply a watch-like tracking device for people who at risk due to wandering.
4. Fix fall hazards around your house. Visual impairments are a part of Alzheimer's and other dementias. It may help to place window clings to glass doors, lock gates around the yard,  and ensure adequate lighting outside the house at night. Check for fall hazards including loose rugs, poor lighting, stairway clutter, lack of handrails, and uneven flooring or pavement. If there are animals in the house, remember to keep food, water dishes, leashes and doggie doors away from areas where your loved one may walk and potentially trip. 
5. Decorate your house to accommodate dementia. Solid-color walls painted in light hues to reflect more light help people with dementia navigate, while confusing patterns on wallpaper can be disorienting. Consider color and texture contrasts between walls and floors to help with depth perception. Mark the edges of steps with brightly colored, glow-in-the-dark tape.  Again, adequate lighting is a key to preventing falls, and poor lighting can create shadows which can be scary and confusing for individuals with dementia. Use strong, low-glare lighting and night-lights or motion-sensor lights.  
6. Safeguard other hazards around your house. Consider installing automatic stove-turn off devices and turn down the heat in the water boiler. Have a family member clean out the refrigerator periodically and make sure food and cooking equipment is easily accessible. Store cleaning and laundry supplies in an area where it cannot be confused for food or medication. To make some of these adjustments, take a trip to your local hardware store and ask to look at child-safety devices, many of which also help keep a confused loved one safe.
Protecting your loved one as they age with dementia can be tricky, but by making small changes to their environment, you can vastly impact their day-to-day living and keep them safely at home.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Need More Patience? HALT!

by Emily Anderson

"I'm just not cut out for this," Bob sighed, "My wife was always the patient one, but I get so frustrated that I think I can't take it anymore."

Being a caregiver is a labor of love, but it is also an extremely emotional and frustrating task. It is natural and normal to feel frustrated and to lose patience at times. Many caregivers, though, wish they could have a bit more patience with their loved one. We often think that patience is an innate characteristic--something you're either born with or not. But actually, patience is a skill that we can practice and grow.

The first step in growing more patient is to notice what day-to-day factors drain your patience away. A quick tool is to run through the acronym HALT. It reminds us to pause and check for these common drains on our energy or patience: Am I...
...Hungry?
...Angry?
...Lonely?
...Tired?
Take steps to fix these basic conditions and you will find that your reserve of patience stays fuller throughout the day.

Hungry

Have you forgotten to eat, or eaten only junk food? Our bodies need nutritional food to sustain energy, repair tiredness and stress, and keep us going. Hunger can also be emotional--when you feel low, you might also be hungry for intangible things like appreciation, affection, or an activity you once loved. If a physical or emotional hunger is the root of your impatience, set aside time to grab one of these healthy snacks, call a friend, or read a book--whatever will help you address that hunger!

Angry

With this one, seek to understand what is causing your anger and find a healthy way to express it. Are you angry at a difficult situation, a particular person, the unfairness of the universe, or maybe with yourself? Did one big thing happen to make you angry or has it been building and spinning out of control? If your anger is with another person, you may be able to talk to them and express why you are upset. If that is not a possibility, find another way to discharge your anger, such as through exercise, journaling, talking to a friend, or doing something calming. Recognizing and addressing anger turns it into an opportunity for growth rather than a source of destruction in your life.

Lonely

Caregivers of people young and old often feel isolated. Though you are many hours with another person, that person may not be able to meet the needs we all have for connection, support, and companionship. Many people keep their loneliness secret because they don't want to "burden" family or friends with "whining and complaining." Your friends and family may be stronger than you think though, and are probably looking for ways to support you if you will let them! Reach out for a phone call, an outing together, or to have them drop by and visit.

Tired

Too little sleep or other kinds of rest damages our ability to think, concentrate, and cope with daily challenges. Many caregivers treasure the few quiet hours they get in the morning or evening, even though it cuts into their sleep time. If you are going to give up sleep, make sure you do something truly rejuvenating with that time, rather than "vegging out" in front of the TV.


Practice catching yourself and asking these questions when you feel low on patience and in time, you may find that your patience grows. For more tips on improving your patience skills, check out this article!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Emergency Preparedness

by Kristen West



In southwestern Pennsylvania, we call this season "Swinter"--somewhere between spring and winter, when you might get torrential rains and you might get heavy, slippery snow and ice. These and other events can pose a hazard to your loved one's safety. For older adults, there can be different factors to keep in mind when preparing and responding to emergencies. Even though you may have previously devised an emergency plan, as your loved one's needs and capabilities change, it is important to adjust your plans.

Identify the Risks 

Is the area you live in prone to natural disasters, water shortages, power outages, blizzards, or other events? Do you live in an area first responders can easily access? You might want to consider how a lack of water or power would impact your loved one's medical needs, dietary restrictions, and comfort.

Make a Plan

You can use the Family Emergency Plan from Ready.gov as a guide for building an emergency plan. Consider what sort of care your loved one requires on a daily basis and how you would deliver that care if providers were not able to reach your house, or if you were unable to leave your home to reach your providers. It's important to record contact information and Social Security numbers, as well as information about medication, health conditions and health insurance for all family members.
https://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/pdf/infographic-are-you-prepared.pdf

Create a Support Network 

If your loved one requires a significant amount of care, try to build a support network that includes family members, friends, neighbors, doctors, and community members who are ready to respond in case of an emergency. Be sure of what you  your needs are in case of a disaster and what physical limitations might affect the delivery of your needs.

Prepare an Emergency Kit 

Include enough water and nonperishable food to sustain each person for three days. Make sure you have enough medication to last at least a week, as well as extra glasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries. If you are not able to obtain emergency medication, be sure to fill your prescription on the first day you're eligible for a refill, rather than wait for them to run out. Keep a digital copy of your birth certificate, insurance policies, Medicare card, and financial forms with your kit. You can find a full list of what to include in your emergency kit here, or view the infographic on the right in a larger format here. Remember to include food that fits with your loved one's dietary restrictions and other medical needs.


For more tips on how to prepare for emergencies from AARP, click here. You can also watch this short video by FEMA.gov for more information.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Review: Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions

by Kristen West



Navigating chronic conditions can be tricky, especially when you are caring for someone with a chronic condition for the first time, or while you yourself have a chronic condition. Luckily, researchers at Stanford University wrote a book about how to better manage chronic conditions. 

Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions by Kate Lorig, David Sobel, and Virginia Gonzalez, is designed to instruct individuals to manage pain so they can live with chronic pain while living a satisfying, fulfilling life. The book draws input from people with long-term aliments, and points the way to achieving the best possible life under non-traditional circumstances. 

The book covers information such as understanding and managing common symptoms; exercising for flexibility, strength, and balance; communicating with family, friends, and health care professionals; healthy eating; managing medication; and making treatment decisions. The text is broken down into sections so you can skip around without having to read the book cover to cover and still gain valuable information. The book is also resourceful reference guide for everyday issues and includes many visual aids and quick reference charts. 




Additionally, Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions is a companion book to the Better Choices, Better Health or Chronic Disease Self-Management Program which is offered through Familylinks in Allegheny County. The program is a workshop for adults given two and half hours, once a week, for six weeks, in community settings such as senior centers, churches, libraries, and hospitals. People with different chronic health problems attend together and discuss chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, and strokes. Workshops are facilitated by two trained leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with a chronic disease themselves.

Researchers have found that people who participated in the program demonstrated significant improvements in exercise, cognitive symptom management, communication with physicians, self-reported general health, health distress, fatigue, disability, and social/role activities limitations. They also spent fewer days in the hospital and trend toward fewer outpatient visits and hospitalizations.

For more information about a program in your area, click here

Whether you choose to participate in the class, or peruse the book, you are sure to learn some tricks to better care for yourself and your loved one. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Better Night's Sleep

by Emily Anderson

Are you dragging around the house guzzling coffee just to be functional? Are you quick to anger, have little energy for your usual hobbies, or having trouble reining in your appetite? You might just be short on sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, but if you're one of the many people getting 6 or fewer hours of shuteye, you might be going into sleep debt, leading to those feelings of grogginess and crankiness.

Caregivers have some particular challenges that can make getting a full night's rest challenging. Many caregivers find their sleep interrupted when they respond to a loved one's needs during the night, such as helping someone to the bathroom. Even if you don't have to get up, many caregivers feel like they sleep with "one ear open," listening for sounds of a disruption or a fall. Some people use the nighttime hours to catch up on other duties that didn't get finished during the day or to get some much-needed "me time." Finally, for many people, worries and "to dos" dancing in their heads keep them up long past lights out.

Generally, sleep problems fall into three categories: Trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and just getting too little sleep. The tips below will work to help you get back to a better sleep routine, but you can also use them to help your loved one get a better night's rest if needed.

Trouble Falling Asleep


1. Develop a wind-down routine. Whatever makes you feel calm and collected, make a habit of doing those things in the hours leading up to bed. Consider including some light tidying up, a caffeine-free tea, a chapter of a book, and hygiene practices like brushing your teeth or a warm face wash. Whatever you choose, it should be mildly stimulating to boring, not thrilling or anxiety provoking, like the latest installment of your favorite suspense novel.

2. Stay away from electronics and other bright lights. The blue light from TVs, phone screens, and computers can signal to your body that it's morning and time to rev up, rather than night and time to quiet down.

3. Deal with your worries. Many of us have trouble winding down because worries or tasks from the day are still lingering in our minds. Write down you worries or your to-dos and tell yourself that they will be there for you in the morning.

Trouble Staying Asleep


1. Assess what wakes you up. Are you hot or cold? In pain? Hearing a noise? Going to the bathroom? Make a plan to avoid those problems in the future, such as avoiding liquids 3 hours before bedtime.

2. Try a relaxation technique. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and repetitive prayers often work to quiet the mind and let you go back to sleep.

3. Stop thinking in bed. If your worries intrude, relaxation techniques aren't working, and you find yourself having trouble getting back to sleep, don't stay in bed for longer than 20 minutes. Get up, do something boring until you feel tired, and then try to go back to sleep.

Getting Enough Sleep


1. What's keeping you from just going to bed earlier? Maybe you need to delegate some tasks or accept the fact that not everything on your list will get done today. Many caregivers stay up to catch some quiet time they don't get during the day, which is enjoyable until it starts cutting into your sleep. If you choose to use the nighttime to relax, make sure it is quality relaxation--TV and mind-numbing phone games are often less rejuvenating than you think.

2. Take a nap. If all else fails, find some time to catch up on 15-20 minutes of rest during the day. Even if you can't sleep, a short period of deep breathing or sitting down can help you feel refreshed during the day.


To learn more about getting better rest, try the National Sleep Foundation's Lifestyle column!