All posts in Articles related to caring for older people

Keeping the older population protected during the colder months

wintermittensmugWith autumn here and winter creeping ever so closer, there is certainly a nip in the air. With this weather comes certain obstacles, especially for elderly people. As a younger person, there are plenty of things you can do to make these chilly seasons a lot more enjoyable for them.

Avoiding Slips and Falls

The first thing you can do to help your elderly friend or relative is to find a good, sturdy walking stick or mobility aid. This will not only reduce the strain on the legs and the knees, but it will also provide that extra bit of stability for a whole host of outdoor activities.

Many people believe it is only the height of the user that determines the walking stick height. But in reality, people come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and proportions. The secret to measuring your walking stick is by following this method:

walkingstickmeasure

Walking Stick Measure

Once you have helped them choose the perfect walking stick, make sure you accompany them on a couple of walks as they get used to the conditions. If you notice they are struggling, perhaps invest in a sturdy ferrule to put at the bottom of the stick.

If they have a garden or driveway, make sure it is gritted each week, as the bags can be too heavy for an elderly person to lift. You could also buy them a handrail if they have slippy steps at the front door.

The Right Clothes

Having the correct indoor and outdoor clothing is essential. Make sure they are a wearing at least a couple of layers as this is more effective than just one thick layer. Thick shoes for outside and nice warm slippers for indoors will keep their toes from freezing. Thick socks, gloves, a hat, and a scarf will ensure their face avoids a chill, as well as protection from illnesses.

Indoors

Try and keep the temperature inside their home above 18 degrees, as being alone in a cold house can cause many problems, including hypothermia. Help out your elderly friend or relative by providing them with a talking thermometer. This will help them keep on top of the temperature in their home when you are not around.

Also, try and organise it so their heating is serviced each year by a professional. This will make sure everything is safe and cost effective to keep their home warm throughout the cold months.

Perhaps treat them to a lovely home cooked meal like a hot bowl of soup or some shepherd’s pie. This will give you peace of mind that you are doing all you can to ensure they are eating enough.

If you need more information on looking after elderly people in cold weather, check out the NHS guide on winter health.

This guest post was provided by Rachel Campbell, a Digital PR Executive for Ability Superstore (https://www.abilitysuperstore.com/)

How to Manage Incontinence When Travelling

Incontinence affects some older people (although it is not an inevitable part of ageing) If someone you know is challenged by continence, try these tips from Harman Direct will be helpful.

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Planning End of Life Care

As its Dying Matters Awareness Week I would like to talk to you about the importance of getting your elderly loved ones to make plans for their end of life care. I have seen what happens when people don’t plan for having an accident, a stroke or an illness such as dementia, which leaves them unable to make decisions such as whether they want life prolonging treatment and how and where they would like to be treated.

This issue is very important to me and although I will be unable to control what happens to me if I find myself in this situation, I want to choose how I live the end of my life and how my funeral is conducted. I have therefore taken out a Lasting Power of Attorney for both my property and affairs and my health and well-being. I am also  one of the 3 in 10 people who have made a will. Why on earth would I want to leave my hard earned dosh to the Government?

Holy spirit dove flies in blue sky, bright light shines from heaven, christian symbol, holy bible story

I would much rather address these matters while I am relatively young and have no intention of dying, although  like everyone else I have no control over that whatsoever. If I leave it too late and am no longer able to make my own decisions, I will not be able to make these plans myself.  Now I can relax, forget about the Lasting Powers of Attorney which will only be able to be used if I am unfortunate enough to loose my marbles so there is no danger of my sons (who are my attorneys)  selling  my home and emigrating with my loot.

Although it is possible to download the LPA forms and will template  from the Internet  and do it yourself I chose not to do this as unintentional mistakes can be made by not considering all eventualities. If you have made your own will and LPAs this only comes to light when it is too late to do anything about it. So find yourself a good solicitor. You will be glad you did.

Here is an example of a situation  I remember from my days of working on night duty at the local hospital. that illustrates my point nicely. I have made up their names for anonymity. To be honest I can’t remember them anyway!

Example of  how failing to plan can cause conflict in a family

Steve lived near his father and they had an especially close relationship. When his father had a stroke Steve was asked whether or not he wanted his father to be resuscitated if his condition deteriorated. Steve told me that his father valued his quality of life and felt that if it was seriously compromised, he would not want his life to be prolonged. However, his brother disagreed and as you can imagine, the situation could have caused a serious conflict within the family. Luckily his father’s condition improved and a decision did not have to be made.

Another example is a personal one. When my father became terminally ill, I knew exactly what his wishes were and had power of attorney to back up decisions I made on his behalf. He died peacefully at home listening to his favourite music, being assured it was OK to let go and reassured that my brother, sister and I would look after our Mother. I cannot stress enough the comfort it gave me to know I was carrying out his wishes just as he would have wanted.

A letter of wishes

I have one last thing to do to ensure my choices are taken into account, I am writing a letter of wishes to be go with my papers, so that my sons know exactly what I want to happen if I have an accident become seriously ill or lose the ability to make decisions for any other reason. Also where and how I want to live if I am unable to make my own choices, how I would like my body disposed of at the end of my life and what I want to happen afterwards.

We are all going to die

As a society we tend to avoid talking about these matters. However, death is a part of life and if they are faced, discussed and planned for we can forget about them, know our wishes will be heeded and acted upon and that we have saved the person or people we have left behind the responsibility of guessing our choices. Don’t leave it too late

Millions leave it too late to discuss end of life wishes. Don’t let an older person you care about be one of them.! The following website offers lots of good information to help you. Dying Matters.Org

Dehydration and Our Need for Water

How do you feel when you’re dehydrated? Some people will immediately notice the tell-tale signs – headaches, dry lips, a dry mouth, tiredness – but others, for any number of reasons, will not. It could be that you’re so used to being dehydrated that you no longer pay attention to the signals, or it could be that you have so much else going on that you don’t have time to think about how thirsty you’re feeling.

Hydration as we age

As we get older, hydration is just as important as ever but is often harder to achieve. Our bodies aren’t always as adaptable as they once were, and we’re even less likely to notice the signals that they’re sending us.

On top of that, it’s often physically more difficult for older people to drink and stay hydrated. For some, getting to the kitchen to prepare a drink is a difficult and time-consuming task. For others, even lifting a cup can be a challenge.

We also have to remember that many older people don’t like water, which has become more popular in the last couple of decades. In this case cordial or sliced fruit can be added to make it more appealing.  water

How to stay hydrated

As a very rough guide, aim to drink approximately two litres of water per day. Each individual has different needs, so this figure might be a little high or a little low for you. What you’ll probably find, however, is that you’ll feel thirstier as you begin to drink more. This is because your previously dehydrated body is now getting used to being properly hydrated.

You can buy specialist equipment to help you or a loved one to stay hydrated, such as the Hydrant Drinking System which features a long and flexible straw, an easy to hold handle and clips for fixing the bottle to a bed or chair and the straw to your clothes.

Reminding yourself to drink

Being physically able to drink, whether you need specialist equipment or not, is only part of the battle. The other issue is that you need to actually remember to drink, which is often much harder than it sounds and made worse by the increasing number of people living with dementia.

Cues are important, whether they come in the form of regular alarms set on a mobile phone or in the form of post-it notes that are stuck around the house. You can remind yourself or a loved one to drink by putting a cup of fresh water/cordial in each room, if you have the energy to do so at the start of the day. Sometimes older people find a water bottle near where they sit a useful reminder. The important thing is finding a way that works for you, so that you or your elderly loved one can be reminded to drink as you go about your day.

The health benefits

Dehydration can lead to a wide range of issues from minor ones such as memory problems and concentration problems to more serious conditions such as kidney stones, joint pain, muscle damage and cholesterol problems.

By drinking enough to stay properly hydrated, you’re providing your body with the important water that it needs to stay healthy, active and as pain-free as possible throughout your retirement years.

If you or someone you know is struggling to drink enough for whatever reason then a visit to the GP might help you to find a solution. Before this, see if tools such as the Hydrant Drinking System or a simple pack of post-it notes could be all that you need to get your drinking habits back on track.

Mobility Smart an online store stocking products to make life easier for those with mobility difficulties and for the older generation requiring living aids and specialist equipment.

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.

MedMinder

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

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.

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.

Conclusion

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 Consequences of Reviewing Medication

In my previous post, The Cost of Failing to Review Medication I talked about the dangers and consequences of not reviewing medication for older people living with dementia. In this post I want to highlight the consequences of withdrawing long term medication for depression, Alzheimer’s and behavioural challenges without a proper plan in place to manage withdrawal. Medical Drugs for Pharmacy Health Shop of Medicine

The effects of withdrawing my mother’s medication

Following the review of Mum’s medication the drugs were withdrawn and have finally left her system. Before long her behavioural challenges returned with a vengeance and she has become distressed. Mum has suffered from depression and severe anxiety for most of her adult life and her dementia which began over 30 years ago became more complex a few years ago. She therefore been taking a cocktail of strong and powerful medication, some for many years. Since the withdrawal of medication that was making her feel sick, confused, disconnected, unable to speak and floppy, Mum has become very anxious and presenting angry outbursts, paranoia, hallucinations. This causes her immense frustration and sadness which is typical of older people living with dementia in residential care homes who have experienced so much loss and change.

Loss and lack of insight

Older people people living with dementia moving into care homes have lost their homes which have been condensed into one room, often their partners, local community connections, control over many aspects of their life, and to their families and close friends, their personalities. Mum also remains convinced that there is nothing wrong with her mentally, constantly reminding us that she is still an intelligent woman. Like most people living with dementia, she has no insight into her own abilities.

Getting it right

Getting the medication right for a person with Dementia is a complex issue that requires trial and error and a lot of time. In the meantime staff at the residential home are having to manage my mother with all her behavioural difficulties and withdrawal symptoms from the years that she has been on, what are very powerful drugs. Unfortunately, whereas people addicted to heroine would have a structured programme of support and carefully monitored medication to manage their withdrawal, older people like Mum are often left to go ‘cold turkey’!

Time is needed

It becomes very difficult to watch someone you love needing urgent medical attention, as health professionals are vastly overstretched and arranging appointments for them to see Mum takes time. Advocacy, kindness and compassion

Unfortunately the situation will not be resolved immediately and there are likely to be many hurdles to overcome before the dose of Mum’s medication has been adjusted correctly. Unfortunately older people living with dementia just aren’t treated with the same priority as younger adults. We can only support our elderly loved ones, advocate on their behalf and support them with the kindness and compassion they deserve. I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced similar problems with medication for an older person living with dementia.

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!