All posts in Family carers

Four Fantastic Ways Technology Can Support Your Elderly Relative

We often hear the term “golden years” used to refer to the time between retirement and when we leave this earth, yet many do not understand its meaning. For many, their final years can be a difficult period, fraught with illness, loneliness and general despair. It often falls into the hands of family members to look after and assist their elderly relatives during this time, which can be quite difficult if you’ve never before had to help take care of a loved one. We live in an amazing world these days: the combination of medicine and technology can mean that life is not just extended, but enhanced. If you are helping a loved one and want to keep them happier at home, then continue reading to find out about four ways that technology for older people can help maintain their independence.


It is quite rare to get to the end of your life without ever needing to take some form of medication along the way. Unfortunately, the ageing of our brains can hamper our ability to remember to take our medicine, which will only accelerate the process of deterioration. The Tabtime Medminder offers a solution for this problem, and revolves around a combination of technology for the elderly and smart medicine. The device in question is a pill dispenser, which can ensure that your loved one takes his or her medicine when they need it. This inexpensive and portable solution offers the following:

  • Easy to use interface with no confusing technology for older family members
  • “Set it and forget it” programming: an alarm will alert the family member when it is time to take their medicine
  • Storage of up to one week’s worth of medicine at a time; can hold dozens of pills
  • Large LCD buttons and screen for configuring alarms – perfect for those with bad eyesight
  • Flashing lights and auditory responses will gently yet effectively remind the user when to take their medicine
  • Detachable daily pill blocs can be attached to the alarm keychain for on-the-go use

The MedMinder pill dispenser is available for around £20 on Amazon and through other retailers – a small price to pay for peace of mind for you, and better health for your loved ones.

GPS Watches

While not true for everyone, many older people resist technology due to a feeling of intimidation and a fear of the unknown. This can make it difficult to monitor or engage with the elderly in a remote fashion, but you want to be able to keep an eye on them no matter what. We all understand just how difficult this can be when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, so a passive solution is needed. Enter the concept of GPS watches, which are making big waves in the world of technology for the elderly. So how do they work?

GPS watches include a cellular responder that constantly tracks the location of the wearer. Anyone with a provided phone number or login from afar can pinpoint the exact location of the person at any time. This in turn will display the location on Google Maps or a similar mapping software, which can help you find the person in the event they have wandered off – or if they are currently at home.

Home Sensors

In the past few years, integrated home technology for the elderly has become increasingly common – especially for areas of the home where accidents are common (like the bathroom). A variety of home sensors are now available that can tell you a whole slew of things about what your elderly relative or friend is doing. Some of the possibilities include:

  • Whether the lights in the home have been left on or off
  • When the last time the front or back door was opened
  • If the person has entered the bathroom or bedroom
  • Home intercom systems that allow for instant help in the event an accident occurs
  • If appliances like the refrigerator or stove have been left open or on

Many people seek a new, optimized place for their loved ones to spend their retirement. If you are considering the purchase of a retirement home for your parent, grandparent or other relative, then asking about whether any smart home sensors are included or available is generally a good idea.

Phones for older people big-button-phone

Regardless of resistance to technology, one piece of technology for the elderly that most enjoy is a phone. Being able to chat with friends and family – as well as access emergency services if needed – shouldn’t be a hard sell. Many phones are not easy to use for older people, however, this has led to the development of many different phones being developed specifically for older people.

Some of the main features you can expect to find on a phone for older people include improved speakers for better hearing, large buttons that can be easily read and an emergency call button. A good example is the Big Button Memory Phone Not only does it come with extra large buttons to help them see numbers accurately, it also offers 8 picture customisable memory buttons so that loved ones can be reached easily.

New technology is coming on the market every day so if your elderly loved one is facing a challenge do get in touch and I will try my best to help.

10 Top Tips For Communicating With Someone Living With Dementia

Communicating with people living with dementia is one of the greatest challenges to relatives and carers alike so I hope these tips will help you.

All communication has a purpose and no word or action is meaningless. What sounds like nonsense or repetition of the same question or sentence is, to express a feeling, to show a need, to give information or to get a response. What appears to be an inappropriate response or action may be a form of communication and there can be different ways of interpreting their words or actions.

Communication is more complex than mere speech and difficulties usually begin when people with dementia struggle to find the right words. With my mother this sometimes turns into a guessing game with howls of laughter when I guess the wrong word and tears of frustration if we go on too long.

Things you can do: MC900433934-2

1. Slow down and present as calm, even if you don’t feel it!  People with dementia are unable to process information as quickly as we are.

2, Look into their eyes so they know you are talking to them.

3. Use open and relaxed body language (difficult in a stressful situation I know) and watch what their bodies are saying too.

4. Listen carefully and interpret the meaning behind what they are saying. What time is it? This might mean, I don’t know what I should be doing or I want to go home.  My mother often talks as if she is on an aircraft.  She probably means she wants to get far away from feeling confused, overwhelmed and forgetful.

5. Look for the meaning behind behaviour.  I find it helpful to replace the notion of ‘wandering’ with ‘wondering’ to find a solution. Wandering may have a purpose or the person might be responding to a hallucination.

6. Divert attention to another subject when the person keeps repeating the same questions.  As the long term memory is usually preserved for longer it may help to talk about something in the past.

7. Give reassurance.  I often find that by stroking Mum’s hand, or giving her a hug, the reassurance takes away the stress of her trying to communicate something that is clearly important to her.

8. Change the subject and go back to it later if the person becomes agitated.

9. End a visit calmly and positively.  Feelings will remain and visits can stimulate warm feelings and bring comfort to the person.  Afterwards your loved one may have forgotten your visit and who you are, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

10. Visual and spacial problems

Mirrors –  People may not recognise themselves and think it is someone else they are looking at.

They can misjudge the edge of the table or bathroom furniture unless distinctive with contrasting colours.

Pouring liquids can be can be difficult or even dangerous.

People with dementia are confused by busy patterns

Make sure there is plenty of light. Older people living with dementia often poor eyesight to!

Important to remember…

  • Feelings remain after facts are forgotten
  • The ability to sing remains after speech goes
  • It is the moment of their experience, the ‘here and now’ that is important to people living with dementia

Top Tips For Visiting Someone Living With Dementia

Dementia covers a group of symptoms such as memory problems, decreasing ability to think or reason and difficulty communicating.

People with Dementia often find it hard to let you know how they feel. They often become confused, anxious and sometimes frightened.  Finding it hard to recognise people.  However, feelings remain and visits can stimulate warm feelings and be comforting.

Here are some things you can do to help when you visit someone with Dementia

  • Wear something bright and colourful and approach them from the front, don’t be tempted to tap them on the shoulder or approach them from behind.
  •  Introduce yourself with an explanation of who you are
  •  Smile and make eye contact, sitting down next to them at their level
  • Touch their hand or arm gently if appropriate
  • Make sure you speak simply, one comment at a time
  • Listen and give them time to answer or comment.  Be patient.
  • It is important to be positive and reassuring.
  • Try to avoid questions or choices, try ‘A cup of tea?’ (not, tea or coffee?) Be Patient.
  • Accept incorrect statements as they may be caused by memory loss or faulty logic. Acknowledge the emotions behind the words.

I find these tips very helpful. They were based on work undertaken by Dr. Jennifer Bute a retired GP who is living with early onset Alzheimer’s Dementia.


Making Difficult Decisions For An Elderly Relative

Caring isn’t easy and it is quite normal to feel lonely, misunderstood; unappreciated and angry about what is happening to the people we love. Question Mark

However much care we give our elderly loved ones, decline in strength and health is usually painful and it can be very discouraging to know this is happening despite our best efforts. Unfortunately there are no magic formulas or training manuals and we just have to strive to do our best.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to make unpopular decisions about “what is best” for people we love. This can make us feel as if we are betraying them or letting them down in some way, which was certainly the case when we made the decision to move my Mother into a care home. Although we considered every possible option and I knew there was no other way Mum could be looked after because of her obsessive dependence on my father whose own health was deteriorating, I felt guilty at being unable to come up with a solution that would have enabled them to stay together.

Guilt is an emotion commonly associated with caring for an elderly relative and it can sometimes cause us to delay making a decision, until suddenly it reaches a crisis.

However, I would advise you to avoid making life-changing decisions during a time of crisis if you can. Consult with health and care professionals, discuss the matter with your relative and other family members, make the decision and know that you have done the best you can.

Mum, Dad and Dementia

I was on a residential course for my social work training over 30 years ago when I first heard my mother had been diagnosed with dementia. She has had chronic mental and physical health issues all her adult life including anxiety and depression for which she had electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) Talking therapies such as counselling and CBT were not used in those days and I believe that ECT was responsible for her memory loss in the early days.

Mum has always been reserved, strong willed and used to getting her own way. She has also had a low self esteem for as long as I can remember, the reason for which I have never been able to understand.

I have seen first hand from working with people living with dementia how dementia effects everyone differently and how big a part personality, character, life experience, past occupation and lifestyle play in shaping a person’s dementia journey.

Mums dementia journeyleg-lifters

Over the years Mum’s memory deteriorated. Making choices became difficult for her and she would avoid answering the phone, asking my father to take over calls. Dad has always been a source of reassurance for my mother. Just by being around he provided her with a sense of security.

As Mum’s faculties declined my father gradually assumed responsibility for the things she could no longer manage – cooking, cleaning, laundry, finances and arranging and escorting her to the many appointments she had.

The impact of dementia on relationships

My parents had been happily married for over 60 years when my father’s eyesight and health began to fail. His previously placid manner began to change as he increasingly became frustrated with my mother, constantly correcting her when she said or did something wrong. I repeatedly asked him not to give in to the urge to ‘put Mum right’ when he knew something she said was wrong but he was unable to stop doing it.

It was sad to see two people who loved each other struggling to cope, My mother’s cognitive decline and deteriorating memory on the one hand and my father’s failing health and ability to cope on the other, both unable to understand each others’ perspective. They were both experiencing emotional reactions to debilitating, frustrating and frightening changes to their inner world and increasing dependence.

Dementia affects the whole family especially those closest to the person living with dementia. The impact on my father was made worse by his own deteriorating health. He was overcome with guilt at no longer being able to care for my mother and the anger and frustration he felt towards her was a new experience for him. This happened alongside increasing exhaustion due to his illness and it was painful to watch this proud, competent and kind man fighting dependency.

The end of an era

Eventually Dad could no longer cope. Mum’s frequent need for reassurance (the result of  anxiety and memory impairment) and her mental and physical dependency on my father got the better of him and my mother had to move into a care home, something I had always dreaded and done everything possible to avoid.

Separation anxiety

For a long time, my mother was even more anxious than usual. She refused to leave her room in the care home, refused to be compliant with staff (the only way she was able to maintain control) and talked of wanting to die. I think she was experiencing Separation Anxiety; a state of excessive anxiety when an individual is apart from a person (Dad) or place (her home) that makes them feel safe and secure. For people living with dementia, separation anxiety is one of the most common causes for wandering (or as I like to call it ‘wondering’ as there is always a reason) but as Mum was unable to walk unaided, she was unable to wander.

About a year after moving Mum  into a care home, my father’s health deteriorated. I moved in to care for him at the end of his life and he passed away soon after. Mum eventually had to leave the care home due to her poor mobility, lack of compliance with staff and challenging behaviour. However, I will save that story for next time!

Keeping Mum and Dad Occupied and Happy

Guest post by Emma Banks – Carer for her elderly father

Though their mobility and activity levels may change as they continue to age, it’s important to keep your elderly parent engaged as they enjoy a well-rounded life. Studies show that boredom and depression lead to forgetfulness, which make it even more important to help your elderly loved one find hobbies that they love and can easily do at home or with friends. Some of the best ways to keep Mum or Dad happy and positive include:

Get them on an exercise plan that works for them

Physical fitness is a huge part of keeping your elderly parent feeling good. Regardless of their ability level, you can find some form of physical activity that works for them. Popular options include swimming, walking, and Tai chi. You may even consider joining them for regular workouts, as this lets you spend quality time together, while making sure that your parent  is staying active. As an added bonus, studies show that when an older person is exercising regularly, they will enjoy better mobility, fewer physical ailments, and a more positive outlook on life. 005_father_and_daughter_optimised[2]

Find a replacement for the TV

Some older people are more comfortable at home, which is fine, but sitting in front of the TV all day just isn’t a stimulating way to live. If your elderly parent spends a lot of time at home, encourage them to use these hours to read books on new subjects, browse the Internet for blogs or articles they find interesting, or to start a scrapbook. These activities are much more active than just sitting in front of the TV, and will leave them feeling far more satisfied.

Get them something to care for

Depending on your parent’s energy level, consider getting them a pet or a plant to care for. Many older people explain that they feel out of place when they no longer have young children or a spouse to care for. Getting them a pet, whether it’s a bird, fish, dog, or cat, helps them to feel as if they have a purpose. If you don’t think your parent has the ability to care for a pet, you can get them a plant. They’ll still enjoy watering the plant and watching it grow, plus the green adds life and energy to the home.

Make the home comfortable

Ultimately if your parent doesn’t feel at ease in their own home, they’ll quickly become depressed and anxious. There are several steps you can take to make sure Mum or Dad love where they live. Start by removing any unnecessary clutter or rubbish from the space so that it feels neat and tidy. This also helps to eliminate any tripping hazards, making it easier for them to navigate around the space without worrying about slipping. I also try to keep the kitchen full of good foods and drinks for Dad. Everything from fresh fruit to treats. My father’s favorite chocolates are from a supplier here in the US called Shari’s Berries so I also try to keep a healthy stock of those. In the UK , Cocoa Loco supplies similar.

Take care of any light renovations, such as repainting walls or changing pictures on the wall. Even a few simple touch ups can completely reshape the appearance of a home, making it a much more modern and appealing place to spend time.  Make sure that doors and windows are easy to open, and that items are placed within easy reach in cabinets.

If you sense that your parent is still uneasy about living alone, consider bringing in a paid carer a few days per week to help them with basic chores such as light cleaning, grocery shopping, and laundry. In many cases, this can help to make your elderly loved one feel more comfortable in their own space. It also takes some of the stress off of them, as they can enjoy their independence without having to worry about mustering up the energy to deal with the shopping or cleaning up after a meal.


You can play a major role in ensuring that your loved one remains happy and engaged throughout all stages of their life. By getting them into a routine that’s filled with hobbies they love and a comfortable, clean home, you’re helping them to ward off depression and anxiety.

The Cost of Failing To Review Medication

My  mother has suffered with poor health all her life, having multiple and long term mental and physical health problems, including severe depression and vascular dementia.  When she was at home I managed her medications  The point I would like to make here is that I would always look up a new medication she was prescribed  to view the side effects and contra-indications if I was unaware of them.  I also regularly sat down with the pharmacist to review them.

Since Mum moved into a residential care home, 3 years ago, I have not only lost control of her medication, but also the knowledge of what she has been prescribed.  Soon after being admitted to a care home she was prescribed Aricept, it’s pharmaceutical name is Donepezil. My mother  also prescribed another drug for her dementia, although when I looked it up it’s primary use was for schizophrenia. Her medication for depression was also changed.   These drugs are very powerful.  Unfortunately I did not look up the side effects of these medications, as I would have done had my mother been at home.

Mum’s health deteriorated significantly

Several months ago Mum’s condition deteriorated, she began feeling and being physically sick, and more latterly became floppy, to the point she had to be fed and given her drinks.  Her speech became slurred and incoherent,  she was disengaged, unable to follow conversation and was sleepy all the time.  I kept asking for her GP to investigate Mum’s condition. She was seen by a variety of GPs but never her own, and had various blood tests and changes in medication, including another prescription for a drug to ease her sickness.

Preparing for Mum’s demise

At Christmas my son and I became so concerned about her rapidly deteriorating condition we decided  to let the family know we thought Mum was dying, to prepare them for how bad she looked when visiting her at Christmas.  It was a heartbreaking time for us.

Diagnostic intervention

After Christmas I asked for her own GP to attend and she contacted me to discuss Mum’s situation and possible courses of action.  As one of the considerations was that Mum may have had a stroke I asked that she could have a brain scan to confirm this.  I also requested a psychiatric assessment.

The brain scan identified that Mum had not had a stroke.

The psychiatric assessment identified a serious deterioration in her mental state and a detailed review of her medication was undertaken, with the result that the two powerful medications prescribed for her dementia, the one she took for depression and one for sleeping were discontinued. 91 years of life

Dramatic improvement

Following the withdrawal of these drugs, there was a dramatic improvement in Mum.  She became coherrent, more lucid, stopped being sick and regained control of her body again.  She was able to eat and drink independently, without the need for being fed.

Although my Mother obviously still suffers from dementia, with periods of confusion and forgetfulness, I could finally hold a conversation with my my Mum again, like I could before she was prescribed the drugs.

My family and I feel angry that despite seeing several doctors Mum had to experience sickness and other unpleasant side effects over a number of months before the matter was resolved.  Had her drugs been reviewed properly earlier on, the dramatic deterioration in her health could have been avoided.

I wonder how many other older people living with dementia are suffering unnecessarily.?

I want to make sure you are all aware of the danger of neglecting to ask for your elderly loved one’s medication to be reviewed regularly (not just given a once over at by a GP and hope you find the following tips helpful.

Top tips for reviewing medication

  • Make sure medication is reviewed regularly for your elderly loved ones. I believe GPs are too busy to review psychiatric medication thoroughly enough and pharmacists and community psychiatric nurses are better placed to carry out the review and make recommendations to the person’s GP.
  • Find out what each medication has been prescribed for
  • Are there any contra indications you/ the care home should be aware of?
  • What are the likely side-effects (if only we had known that a common side effect of Aricept (Donepezil) is sickness
  • Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
  • Does the dose need to be adjusted (people need less as they become older and often eat less and lose weight, as was the case with my mother

In addition to the human cost of failing to keep medication up to date for older people living with dementia, it also wastes valuable NHS money!

6 Top Tips To Help Your Elderly Parents Keep Warm This Winter

In days when we are all facing higher gas and electricity bills, it makes sense to many people to start looking at ways to keep warm and at the same time save on those winter heating bills.

Apart from the obvious solution of putting more clothes on, which can work ok for the top half of the body, it often leaves the legs and feet feeling the chill and can lead to potential circulation problems as the blood tends to thicken in the colder air. Heating

1. Switch suppliers

Looking at bills firstly, as this is a concern for many, the UK Government has suggested switching supplier, many people simply don’t want the hassle of this, with the potential for it not going to plan putting many off, and the expectation that savings may not be actually worth it another reason.

Switching supplier may be right for some people, particularly if you are on the standard tariff and you have been a customer a while, it takes some research and it’s a good idea to ask friends and family deals they have found. If switching is not for you then there are other ways.

2. Only heat the rooms they need

Another idea is to assess the rooms you are actually using and heat these as they are being used. Traditional central heating will heat the whole house, and there will be rooms that are not used for days and nights that you are effectively paying to heat! So as an alternative, you may use a small portable heater and use it in the rooms you are actually using.

3. Turn down radiators

The other obvious solution is to turn down radiators in rooms you are not using, therefore saving money on the boiler not having to circulate to as many rooms.

4. Wear clothing in layers

Clothing can be effective, try to wear more layers of thin fabrics, a good use for summer T-shirts to build up a base Layer of insulation. As mentioned before, it is the legs and feet that are important as this is where circulation problems can occur. So go for another pair of socks and if you do have the opportunity, try raising the legs to further aid your circulation. The act of doing this in the day will increase your circulation and with that will come more warmth.

5. Boost circulation

An electric circulation enhancer is a great device for additional circulation benefits as it can boost the circulation and get blood flowing faster in the veins and muscles promoting a feeling of warmth and reducing aches and pains, search on Google for further information.

6. Keep moving

General movement can also help to fend off the cold, this does not necessarily mean going to the gym, but just getting up and walking every 3o minutes can warm and stir up the internal body heat that will last for up to an hour after, free and well worth it.

Author Bio.
This article was written by Andrew Atkinson managing director of UK online retailer of Mobility Products Mobility Smart; you can find information on the company at


How to make the home safe for mum and dad

One of the major problems for the elderly in the home is trips and falls. According to the CDC, one out of three adults aged 65 or over fall each year, resulting in injuries ranging from hip fractures and head trauma to grazes. To make the home safer for mum and dad, you should consider the following:

To begin with

  • Suitable footwear: Make sure non-skid, secure footwear is worn by the elderly in and out of the home. Also, have your feet measured when buying shoes as foot size can gradually change.
  • Sudden movements: Loss of balance can result from sudden, unsteady movements when getting out of a chair or bed, for example, which is why slow, steady movements should be promoted.
  • Hazards: Take time to look for any possible hazards, including clutter, loose carpets and spilled liquids.
  • Lighting: Access to a light switch should be available before entering a room.

Visit the doctor

Regular visits to the doctor are important for identifying potential problems and will generally include an examination of vision, hearing and mental status. Other health factors to consider include:

  • Mental health and mobility: Mental health problems such as dementia can lead to mobility difficulties affect decision making.
  • Medications: Lethargy or wooziness can result from some over-the-counter drugs. Be aware of this and consider moving away from medication to relevant exercise or nutritional changes.
  • Health issues: Arthritis, diabetes, low blood pressure and bone-weakening conditions such as osteoporosis can lead to falls in the house. Be aware of this and make sure safety guards are in place.
  • Occupational therapist: These are medical professionals who can help to improve the safety of daily living tasks for the elderly.

Safety tips for around the home

To improve safety for mum and dad in the home, you may wish to consider an emergency response system, using colours to indicate changes in surface levels or having a phone extension in each level of the home. Other rooms where you need to consider safety include:

The bedroom

  • Nightlight: Include a nightlight in the bedroom to ensure seniors can see what they are doing.
  • Clutter: Remove and store away clutter such as clothes and shoes.
  • Bedside rails: These provide a sturdy surface when transferring to and from a bed row when getting changed.
  • Adjustable bed: These are easily adjustable and will often improve comfort and safety in the bedroom.leg-lifters

The kitchen

  • Easy to reach: Keep safe to use kitchen items easily accessible.
  • Cords: Ensure any wires or cords are not likely to result in trips or falls.
  • Stool: Have a step stool at hand to aid the elderly when reaching for highly placed items.
  • Non-slip: Try not to use floor polish or wax which make the kitchen surface slippery.
  • Handy devices: Consider safer utensils for mum and dad such as kettle tippers, knob turners and thick-handled cutlery.

The bathroom

  • Non-slip surface: Because the bathroom can often be slippery, it will make a big difference if you install non-slip mats inside and outside of the tub.
  • Grab rails: These can provide support in the shower or when transferring from inside and outside of the tub. Placing one next to the toilet can also help when getting up.
  • Shower chair: These are ideal for stability in the bathtub and will also increase comfort.

Your parents are unique

No two elderly people are the same and the needs of one person will ultimately differ from another. It is therefore important that you consider the unique needs of your parents and implement home safety changes according to their needs. If you would like more information on home safety for the elderly, or if you have any further advice, please let us know in the comments.

This article was provided by Carol Robinson who works with Manage at Home, a leading provider of mobility aids for the elderly and disabled.

Top Tips For Keeping Older People Safe From Bogus Callers During Summer

Did you see ‘Married to the job?’ It’s a documentary series following high-ranking female police officers, and the interaction between their work and home life. In the first episode, Detective Inspector Kay Lancaster lead an investigation into a ruthless team of criminals who victimise old people living alone.

It reminded me how vulnerable older people who live alone are, especially during the summer. A pensioner who lives alone, which presents an opportunity for a certain kind of criminal, occupies 1 in 8 households. It’s called ‘distraction burglary’ and targets the most vulnerable people in our society, not just older people, but those who have poor health or are living with dementia.

Why criminals prey on older people in the summer? Summer

Aids and equipment such as wheelchairs and walking frames act as magnets for criminals, who use a bogus identity like being from the Water Board to gain entry. They typically work in pairs; while one distracts the older person the other carries out the theft.

During the summer months, windows are more likely to be open providing an open invitation to criminals.

Top tips to keep your elderly relatives and community elders safe from bogus callers

  •  Ensure they have a chain fixed to their front door
  • Don’t leave aids and equipment outside their property
  • Place a note in large print by their front door reminding them not to let anyone they don’t know into their home without asking for proof of identity. Include important phone numbers such as 999, their local water board, gas and electricity supplier. If the older person is not sure, tell them not to let the person in and call the organisation they are supposed to be representing.
  • If the older person has dementia and is very forgetful, tell them not to let anyone they don’t know in before contacting you, another relative, friend or a neighbour and write the note to reinforce it. Write this on a note in large print by their front door.
  • Make sure ground floor windows have a lock on so the window can only be opened so far.

Age Uk publish a helpful booklet  ‘Avoiding Scams’ giving more information you may find helpful