Archive for September, 2012

Caring for your elderly parents – how to give back their time and care

Our parents are people we remember as the ones who have done everything for us. Just being pregnant with us is tough on mum, as anyone with children will know. The birth is usually very painful, and then we are born. Mum and Dad then feed us up, dress us, change our dirty nappies when we make a mess, and take pride in teaching us about the world we live in. We play together, laugh together, and cry together.

As we get older, they continue this care, teaching us independence, taking us to school, and making our lives special, spoiling us at Christmas and for our birthdays. They take us on holidays, and give us everything we need to enjoy our early lives. Progressing into teenage years, they tolerate our hormones and mood swings, and guide us through our exams, pushing us just enough to try and encourage us to work hard for our future, and we moan and complain and tell them we hate them for being so bossy. They take it with a smile, and are patient with us. They ferry us from party to party without complaint or thanks, and we just expect it.

For most of our adult lives, they bail us out financially, help us to get our first home or our first car, help us pay for our wedding, and then look after our children when we start a family. 

As they get older, the tables begin to turn. Mum and Dad’s health often declines, as does mobility and independence. They become less able to do the things they have always enjoyed, like taking holidays, for fear they will not manage while they are away.

This does not have to be the case! Our parents have done so much for us, what can we do to ever repay them for everything? By visiting regularly, you will notice any changes as soon as they happen. Anxiety or nervousness is often a problem, as they begin to feel less confident, especially if they take a fall, or have a bad experience that exploits their increasing vulnerability. You can help them by reassuring them, or accompanying them out if they become concerned.

Taking a load off for them once in a while is an excellent way to support them. Offer to do their laundry, or make them a meal and take it over. Even doing a little bit of housework just reminds them that you care, and allows them to rest and enjoy their retirement.

If they become unable to leave the house, or prefer not to go out alone, take them shopping, or go out and get it in for them. A bit of fresh air is great for keeping the blues away, so take outings together, or even a holiday if they wish to go. There are plenty of fabulous places in the UK that can give a lovely holiday without the worry of being too far from home.

Keeping their independence will be a big issue for your elderly parents so try and help them find ways around doing the things they struggle with. There are many care home products, mobility aids, and household items that can be purchased to manage simple problems. For example, if they have trouble getting the lid off the lemonade, a bottle cap-gripping tool will take the struggle away. If bending or stretching is a problem, a stick with a grabbing mechanism might help them to reach things that are just that bit out of reach.

Our parents have loved and nurtured us since birth, and it is only right that we should do the same in order for them to retain their dignity, self-respect, and independence.

The Care Shop has produced this blog. Relative Matters does not endorse this or any other provider and merely seeks to make readers aware of the different options available.

Putting Older People at the Heart of Their Own Care – Part 4

You may not be aware that if an older person does not receive funding from Social Services or the NHS (Continuing Healthcare funding) no one reviews their care plan. “So what?” you might ask, but it is vital that someone ensures that the way care is arranged, continues to meet their needs, which may well have changed, remain arranged in a way they are happy with and that they are getting the care they are paying for. 

One of the simple ways that I have found helpful to review the care plan is by taking each goal and asking the older person, and whoever provides their care, ‘What is working?’ and ‘What is not working?’ after each one. This tells us what we need to do more of and what needs to stay the same. It is also important to ask ‘What else is working?’ and ‘What else is not working?’  Making sure these questions are asked in relation to medication. The issues identified as not working, then provide new goals to take forward in the revised care plan.

A care plan that is not reviewed and updated regularly (minimum every 12 months) fails to ensure that the right care and support is arranged to achieve the goals the older person wants to achieve and therefore takes them outside the heart of their own care.

I hope you find these practical tools helpful. You may like to read my earlier blog posts, Part  One Part Two and Part Three in this series.

Putting Older People at the Heart of Their Own Care – Part 3

We all have the right to dignified, person-centred and compassionate care, regardless of our age, disability or illness. When we need care and support, it needs to be planned with common sense, respect for our unique worth, dignity and compassion.

So continuing my series about putting older people at the heart of their own care, let’s look at the practicalities of putting the person at the heart of their own care.

Personal History

I cannot stress enough, the importance of recording an older person’s personal history, without which, their care cannot be personalised. What roles did the person have when they were younger? Where did they live? What achievements were they proud of? Did they travel? What were their hobbies and interests? It is also important to identify their strengths, personal attributes and the things people like and admire about them, to give a balance with their health and well being needs. 

One page profile

Now put together a one-page profile with the older person. It is important to involve older people in their care to maintain or restore their self worth (If this is not possible, advocate for them as best you can and involve other people who know them well and care about them) giving headlines from the above, which should include a photograph of the older person. Carers in the person’s home or in a care home can use this as a tool to quickly get to know them as an individual, beyond their needs, illness and disabilities.

Care plan

Finally make a plan for the care and support they need. I suggest you keep this simple, although not superficial, by separating:

1.  What is important TO the individual. What makes them feel happy, fulfilled and content? How would they like their care provided? and
2.  What is important FOR them. What help and support do they need to stay healthy, safe and well?

You will need a balance between the two and also to ask the question ‘ Is there anything else people need to know or find out?’

Now you need to use the information you have gained already to set some goals, results or changes that the older person wants to achieve. Goals can be important life changing events, such as moving into a care home or could be something smaller such as attending a tea and chat club. Goals can also be about keeping something unchanged, such as maintaining a daily exercise routine.

Finally you need to discuss and record how care and support will be arranged to achieve the goals the older person wants and voila, you have a care plan.

I hope you find these practical tools helpful. You may like to read my earlier blog posts Part  One and Part Two in this series.



Putting Older People at the Heart of Their Own Care – Part 2

Have you ever heard ofpersonalisation?’ It’s one of those jargon words that get banded about in Government rhetoric or by the NHS and Social Services, but do you know what it means?

Here is my definition. Personalisation means removing age, illness, disability and any other labels, seeing only the person and putting them at the centre of every decision you make. It means giving the care and attention to individuality that mirrors how we are with family and friends, behaving like someone who cares, rather than a robot that has been programmed to do things a certain way.

When working with an individual, I find out how their illness, disability or impairment affects their daily life and together we work out how we will overcome these challenges. In my next post I will show you how I do it.

Read my earlier blog post in this series.

Putting Older People at the Heart of Their Own Care – Part 1

Have you ever thought about how you would like to be treated and cared for when you are old? Maybe you consider that you are already old, if so are you confident you will be cared for in the way you would wish should you need care and support?

I have worked with older people for most of my working life and see good and bad practice. Unfortunately I see more bad than good and believe that as a society we should be ashamed of the way we treat our older people in this country. Having been involved with managing care for my elderly parents, I am very aware how it feels to be on the other side of the care system as a carer and in my current role as a specialist in care management for older people who fund their own care, I have seen how older people who are not eligible for support from Social Services, are left to flounder without any help.

My conclusion is that no matter whether you rely on the  state to provide your care or fund it yourself, care services for older people leave a lot to be desired and I plan to write a series of short blogs over the coming week to show some practical things we can do to put older people at the centre of their own care and support.

In addition to my passion for making a difference to the lives of older people (yes I know it sounds corny, but it is true) I am growing older myself, so I have the biggest imperative of all to influence the status quo. We all have a vested interest in the matter and I would appreciate your comments and ideas along the way.

Understanding And Caring For An Elderly Loved One With Dementia

Ageing is not easy for any of us. For an older person with dementia it is even harder because they lose a part of themselves.

What is Dementia?

Dementia involves the loss of memory over time. It may seem to the person that they are slowly forgetting simple things, things that are confusing and frustrating at the same time.

According to Age UK there are over a hundred types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. In this case, the loss of memory is only the beginning. Sufferers also lose their sense of judgment, their ability to function unimpaired and eventually, their ability to do even the simplest tasks for themselves. It is a slow and painfully debilitating disease for the sufferer as well as the people caring for and about them.

There are many ways that you can help the person with dementia get through their days as comfortably and stress-free as possible.  Here are five tips I hope will help you: 

1. Look at things from their perspective

Knowing that your memories are slipping away can bring fear and anger. For a person with dementia, this can manifest as a challenging attitude towards their loved ones and carers. They may become argumentative when you question them about where they have been or what they were doing. It is similar to being treated like a child in the midst of feeling like an invalid so try and imagine how you would feel in this situation and try and look at things from their perspective.

2. Learn about the condition

What can you expect as the condition progresses? If you aren’t aware that the person may get argumentative, you won’t be ready to handle the situation. The Alzheimer’s Society offers comprehensive information and support about all forms of dementia so do check them out. Talking on-line or in person with other people who have looked after someone with dementia can also be helpful. Make sure you keep yourself up to date with new research and information.

3. Come up with a script

Let’s say that your mother gets in the habit of asking you when she can have breakfast, even if it is five in the afternoon. Politely answer her question the way you did the other three or four times that she asked. While she is pondering the response, ask her to help you with a task or tell you a story from the past. This distracts her and prevents you from getting frustrated with her for repeating herself.

4. Resist the urge to argue

The fact is that the person has a problem with their memory and no amount of urging will help your loved one remember something they do not. Your patience is required to deal with the same scenarios over and over again. Take a deep breath, smile, and give yourself time to relax before answering the question again. Diverting their attention can be helpful in this situation too.

5. Use music to change their mood

 I have found that music can really help someone with dementia and recent research supports my view. Try an MP3 player with their favourite music to uplift or calm them down. This can be especially helpful if they are hard of hearing or live in a care home.

6. Help the person produce a Life Diary

Involve all the family in putting together narrative, photos and memorabilia to chronicle their life. We found this a particularly useful diversion when our mother becomes confused or upset. It is also invaluable for enabling paid carers to see beyond the person’s dementia.

Dementia is a progressive illness. It can be scary for both the sufferer and the person watching them experience it. I hope these tips will help you to cope with caring for your loved one and to maintain their dignity. It’s not easy I know, but it can be incredibly rewarding as well.

Ten Smart Apps for Older People to Use on Their iPad – Part Two

In my previous posts Digital Technology, Social Media and Older PeopleTen Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older People, The Arrival of an iPad, Ten Smart Apps For Older People to Use on Their iPad – Part One I outlined the benefits an iPad can offer in connecting older people to the digital world and how its appeal is enhanced by the clever and useful soft ware applications, universally known as ‘apps’

My 85 year old mother’s iPad has proved to be a source of pleasure and entertainment for her, as well as providing a very effective communication tool. Of course it isn’t always plain sailing because of her dementia and she sometimes forgets what to do next and becomes anxious. I have also had to remind staff in her care home, to put her iPad on charge when they put her to bed and remind her to check for messages when they get her up in the morning. Mum’s biggest challenge has been the fear that she will break her iPad and we continue to reassure her that it’s very tough she is unlikely to break it. Notwithstanding these issues, she is generally making good progress and even sends me the occasional email.

I have found the best way to get an older person comfortable with using the keyboard and switching apps, is to use games. There are loads to choose from as well as crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Think about the hobbies and interests your elderly loved one had and search for the word/s in the App Store search bar to find apps related to that topic. Here are some of my favourites for older people.

1. Newspapers for iPad  (Free)

A lot of older people enjoy reading a newspaper. This app offers a comprehensive and easy to use directory of thousands of local newspapers with free on-line content. The Daily Mirror, The Times, Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday Crossword also offer free apps. It is also possible to subscribe to any newspaper if there is a particular one your loved one enjoys.

2. Pillboxie (£0.69)

This app reminds people to take their medication. Enter the name of their pill, dosage and frequency and what times of the day and they will be reminded to take it. It was designed and developed by a registered nurse, is easy to use and enables the person to ‘visually’ manage their medication.

3. Google Earth (Free)

This app is fantastic for engaging older people as it can show them in great detail anywhere they choose in the world. They will love seeing where they went to school, used to live and work as well as places they visited while on holiday. With the iPad’s GPS capabilities they can always know where they are, although they will probably need help with this function.

4. SingFit  (Free)

This app makes it easy for older people, who enjoy singing, to instantly sing and record their favourite songs. Developed by a music therapist, SingFit software was created to help increase health & wellness by enabling successful singing experiences for everyone, including those with dementia, special needs and low/no vision.

5. WhereToGo (Free)

Points of interest finder helps find the closest pharmacy, hospital, taxi firm, restaurant, dentist, clinic and many more, to wherever your elderly loved happens to be.

I wish you the very best of luck if you decide to get your elderly loved one an iPad and would love to hear about the apps you find that are likely to be of interest to older people. There are literally thousands to choose from and more are being developed all the time.

Ten Smart Apps for Older People to Use on Their iPad – Part One

Would you like to be able to send regular text messages and photos to your elderly parents to keep them engaged with family life? Perhaps you live a long way from them or lead a busy life with multiple demands on your time?

In my previous posts Digital Technology, Social Media and Older PeopleTen Reasons Why iPads are Magic for Older People, The Arrival of an iPad, I outlined the benefits an iPad can offer in connecting older people to the digital world and how its appeal is enhanced by the clever and useful soft ware applications, universally known as ‘apps’ These help older people customise the iPad to their specific needs. I explained how, by getting my 86-year-old mother who has dementia an iPad, I have been able to enhance her quality of life by enabling her to keep in touch with her family on a day-to-day basis.

Here are five of my favourite top ten apps for older people.

1. Healthful Apps (£1.69)

This app is basically a catalogue of apps to help you quickly identify great quality-of-life apps for older people without having to download and pay for many to find a few. Current categories include:

• Mood Lifters

• Relaxing Apps

• Memory & Focus

• Alzheimer’s Apps

• Communication/Autism Apps

• Health Tracker
• Caregiver Apps

• Diabetes Apps

2. Days Until (Free)

This enables you to input special events for the older person such as, birthdays, Christmas, outings, etc. to show them a countdown of the number of days left until the event. 

3. IMutt (Free)

Animals provide great companionship for older people but they are also expensive and need an owner who is fit to take them for walks. This app has been developed for The Dogs Trust and allows users to feed walk and play with their virtual pooch without the need to pay a vet’s bill or have to take them for a walk in the rain.

4. Red Panic Button (£1.99)

When an older person is in trouble, they just have to press the Red Panic Button and it will send a message to a pre determined phone number or email address which contains the older person’s address and location. Neat eh!

 5. iBooks (Free)

This is Apple’s version of the Kindle. (You can also get the Kindle App for free) Use it’s controls to change type size and lighting to see if online reading is something your elderly loved one might enjoy. Look for free iBooks that you can download from the iTunes store.

There is lots of on-line help available from Apple and I have also found staff in their shops very helpful. When I bought Mum’s iPad and told the assistant it was for an 86 year old who has dementia, she told me that they are receiving an increasing number of enquiries on behalf of older people.  If you decide to buy an older person you care about an iPad I wish you and them, the very best of luck.