Preventing Broken Heart Syndrome and Ways to Help Seniors Who Are Grieving

senior lady looking at old photoIn his documentary about grief, George Shelley uses the analogy of glitter. Toss a handful of glitter into the air, and it is going to settle into most of the cracks and crevices of the room, impossible to fully sweep up and remove. Individuals who have lost a loved one can relate. Yet in some instances, grief may be so overwhelming that it can result in a serious and aptly-named condition: broken heart syndrome.

Broken heart syndrome is a very real physical condition due to the intense stress experienced in some forms of grief (such as one spouse losing the other after decades of marriage). The medical term is takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a temporary enlargement of the heart that prevents it from pumping blood effectively.

And, it’s more prevalent than you may know. A number of high-visibility examples include George H.W. Bush, who became ill following the loss of his wife of 73 years, and Johnny Cash, who passed on just four months following the loss of his wife.

Researchers have been studying the impact of grief on an individual’s physical health for years. In 1995, for example, the term “widowhood effect” was coined to describe the 30% rise in mortality rate faced by individuals who lost a longtime partner. Other scientists determined a connection between grief and the immune system. Some surviving spouses simply lose the will to live.

Help prevent this condition and ease the pain of grief for someone you love with these tips.

  • Help the senior stay involved with comforting, enjoyable activities whenever possible.
  • Provide a listening ear and encourage the senior to convey their grief in a healthy way.
  • Talk about the lost loved one, allowing the opportunity for shared stories and memories.
  • Recommend the person speak with a therapist to effectively work through overwhelming emotions.
  • Look for a grief support group for the senior to attend, either in person or virtually.
  • Make sure the person is staying hydrated, eating well balanced meals, and getting lots of sleep.
  • Emphasize to the senior everything they have to live for, and that doing so is the best way to honor the lost loved one’s legacy.

A trained caregiving companion from Generations at Home is also a great way to help a loved one who is grieving. We offer socialization and lots of opportunities for conversations and reminiscing, as well as engaging activities, transportation wherever an older adult would like to go, and much more. Reach out to us at 727-940-3414 for a complimentary in-home consultation to find out more.

How to Take a Break from Caregiving (And Why You Need to)

break from caregiving“You can make it, but it’s easier if you don’t have to do it alone.” – Betty Ford

We all know that no individual can function as an island, something that especially holds true when caring for a parent with dementia. Yet many family caregivers stumble when it comes to asking for or accepting the help they need. As a result, stress is intensified as there’s little, if any, time for self-care – a necessity for anyone in a caregiving role.

Why are we frequently so determined to address such an extraordinary undertaking independently? The following are several common reasons for this behavior and some insight on why we must rethink:

  1. It is too complicated to try and find a caregiver I am able to trust. At Generations At Home, we background check and fully train all of our caregivers, ensuring key character traits such as flexibility, reliability, kindness, and more. Generations At Home is bonded and insured for your additional peace of mind. We also artfully match each client with the ideal caregiver who will be most compatible. Additionally, if a primary caregiver is on vacation or ill, we are equipped to provide an equally qualified replacement caregiver.
  2. Mom would never want someone else caring for her. Many of us would resist if we were told that someone was coming over to give us a bath; that is a very common sentiment. But having someone come and assist with housework and meals is a good approach to introducing a new caregiver, working your way up to additional necessary services after the caregiver becomes a trusted friend and accepted. The wording you utilize will make a big difference as well. Having a “salon day” sounds significantly more inviting, for example.
  3. I’m doing just fine on my own; I don’t need a break. Simply put, science disagrees! A research study shared in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry revealed that a particular stress hormone was depleted in caregivers whose stress was prolonged and chronic – such as in providing dementia care independently – while those who engaged just 2 days each week of respite care realized an increase in the hormone, as well as a brighter outlook and elevated mood.
  4. No one else could care for Mom like I do. While you are most certainly not replaceable, the objective of enlisting help is certainly not replacement, but respite. A loved one with dementia will benefit from the socialization provided by someone besides yourself, while you gain the benefit of a much-needed break – ultimately allowing you to provide better care to the senior when you return.

If you would like to explore in-home respite care for a person you love with Alzheimer’ or other chronic conditions, reach out to Generations At Home to begin the discussion. Our fully trained, experienced, and compassionate caregivers are here to help you reduce stress, improve life for an older adult you love, and provide you with the opportunity to take a brief break from caregiving. Call us at 727-940-3414 to learn more about options for respite care in Largo, St. Petersburg, and surrounding areas!

Effective Strategies to Advocate for Aging Parents

Advocate for Aging ParentsTrusting someone you love to be cared for by someone else is never easy, especially for a senior family member. Whether at home or in a facility, you’ll have questions that need to be answered. You’ll also want to be prepared to advocate for your loved one to proactively manage any potential problems and also to immediately resolve issues that come up.

For example, review the following common situations and how to most effectively advocate for aging parents and loved ones:

  • You live far away. Thanks to technology, it is easier than ever to stay close to a long-distance relative and to keep a finger on the pulse of how things are going. Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype with the senior regularly to check in. If a family portal is available for the care provider and family members to share notes and comments, make the most of this communication tool. And in case you are unable to visit in person, ask a friend or other member of the family who lives close by to drop in routinely.
  • Your loved one has dementia. A loved one with dementia might not be able to effectively communicate their wishes and needs. For example, a new caregiver may not realize that Dad wears inserts in his shoes and she may put his shoes on each morning without them. Dad may not know how to express this need or could have forgotten about this need and start to become uncomfortable that day. Or he might act out because he is experiencing related discomfort, which may result in other issues. As the older adult’s voice, make certain to share even the seemingly small details about the person’s preferences with the care provider to ensure transitions are a smooth experience for all.
  • You’re concerned about challenging behaviors. In the event the older adult is susceptible to wandering, aggression, angry outbursts, hoarding, or any one of a variety of other difficult behaviors, you might feel embarrassed or ashamed. Though some may prefer not to discuss the issue, it is better to share this openly with the care provider. More likely than not, they have knowledge about effectively working with an array of personalities and personal nuances, and will be able to incorporate strategies that will work most effectively together with your loved one.

Generations at Home partners with families, working together to ensure the highest quality of care and independent living for seniors, through customized services such as:

  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Companionship for enjoyable activities and conversations
  • Running errands
  • Light housekeeping and laundry
  • Personal care for safe baths/showers, getting dressed, etc.
  • Transportation and accompaniment
  • And much more

Contact us at 727-940-3414 for a complimentary in-home consultation and learn more about options for senior care in St. Petersburg and surrounding areas. Please allow us to get to know one another and to develop a care plan to best meet the needs of a senior you love.

How to Handle the Effects of Chemo Brain

Elder man holding his head in discomfortShort-term memory problems. Confusion. Inability to concentrate. Could it be Alzheimer’s?

Perhaps; but if you’re a cancer survivor, there’s another common culprit that could be at play: chemotherapy. Known as chemotherapy induced cognitive impairment (CICI) or “chemo brain,” effects such as these can last for months or even years post-treatment.

Chemo brain can occur in anyone receiving chemotherapy as well as radiation, surgery, or hormonal treatments, even without chemo. Additionally, the cancer itself can cause cognitive problems as well, compounding the difficulty with effectively treating the condition.

Dr. Kevin Liou of the Bendhaim Integrative Medicine Center of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center explains, “Cancer-related cognitive impairment is now understood to be a complex, multi-factorial problem with various contributory factors.”

As a result, chemo brain can occur any time during or after cancer treatment, presenting with symptoms such as difficulty with:

  • Multitasking
  • Reading comprehension
  • Finding the right word (i.e., remembering the name of a person or familiar object)
  • Completing sentences
  • Processing information
  • Attention span

A general feeling of fuzziness has also been reported. Taking these steps can help maximize cognitive functioning if chemo brain is impacting you or someone you love:

  • Prioritize getting 6 – 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Exercise each day for at least 20 – 30 minutes. This can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, choosing a parking space farther away from your destination, or taking a daily walk around the block.
  • Manage stress by incorporating time every day for calming activities.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Get plenty of fresh air, avoiding exposure to any airborne toxins.
  • Make a realistic list of to-dos, and prioritize them.
  • Use memory-assisting tools such as notifications and alerts on your phone.
  • Create and stick to a routine to help with your particular concerns; for instance, if you’re struggling with misplacing items, make a habit of always placing your keys, wallet, etc. in the same place every single day.

Generations at Home’s caregivers are skilled in caring for those diagnosed with cancer, before, during, and after treatment. We develop a personalized plan of care that addresses any challenges being faced and outlining solutions to help overcome them, through services such as:

  • Planning and preparing healthy meals that are palatable to those receiving chemotherapy
  • Grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and running other errands as needed
  • Providing friendly companionship to engage in conversations and fun activities to brighten each day
  • Light housekeeping and laundry
  • Assistance with personal care needs
  • And more

Call us at 727-940-3414 and let us know how we can help.

The Keys to Happy & Healthy Aging

It has taken nearly 80 years and a variety of research studies to produce the result: a good genetic makeup and wealth really have very little to do with our degree of joy. The Harvard Study of Adult Development launched in 1938, looking into the lives of high-profile participants such as Ben Bradlee and John F. Kennedy. Over the years, it has been expanded to add inner-city residents along with offspring from the original Harvard elite, and the outcomes were unexpected, to say the least.

It was established that the most effective predictors of a long and happy life were not genetics, IQ, finances, fame, or social class but quite simply close relationships. Robert Waldinger, director of the research study and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, shares, “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” 

Psychiatrist George Vaillant, who spearheaded the study from 1972 until 2004, shared in his book “Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development,” the factors that forecast healthy aging:

  •     The absence of smoking and alcohol abuse
  •     Physical activity
  •     Mature mechanisms in place to manage difficulties in life
  •     Sustaining a healthy weight
  •     Having a stable marriage

In a nutshell, self-care is crucial for senior health – both mentally and physically – and devoting time and effort to making your relationships the best they can be most certainly falls under that umbrella as well. As a matter of fact, subsequent scientific studies have uncovered that the satisfaction level men and women experience in their relationships is an even better determinant of what their physical health is likely to be later in life than physical factors like cholesterol levels. 

The research also upended prior thinking that our personalities are set in stone by age 30. Many people who encountered difficulties in their early adult years enjoyed fulfilling later years, while others excelled early in life but ran into challenges in later years because of mental health issues and alcoholism. 

The research study is ongoing, looking into its third and fourth generations, as researchers believe there is still more to understand, such as how to better regulate stress and whether a hard childhood makes a difference in middle age and later years.

Let Generations at Home’s compassionate caregivers help instill joy in an older adult’s life; reach out to us today! Our caregivers serve as friendly companions to engage in exercise, conversations, and enjoyable activities together, cultivating socialization and additional relational connections. You can reach us 24/7 at 727-940-3414 to arrange a complimentary in-home consultation to learn more.

Six Ways to Boost Senior Health and Wellness

Many individuals have left their New Year’s resolutions by the wayside by the end of January, but who says resolutions should only be made in the beginning of the year? There’s no time like the present to start a new goal or habit, particularly for seniors hoping to improve overall health. 

We have six tips you can implement today. Select one to begin, or jump right into all of them to attain the greatest benefit:

  1.     Make an appointment for a physical. As opposed to waiting for an injury or illness to contact the physician, a yearly check-up is a perfect way for older adults to stay on top of their own health and potentially prevent problems before they occur.
  2.     Get physical. With the doctor’s approval and recommendations at hand, kick off a new exercise routine – together! Working out with a senior you love allows you to motivate one another and function as accountability partners. Agree to sticking with it for a minimum of 21 days, after which it ought to be an ingrained, pleasurable habit you will wish to continue.
  3.     Stay connected. Help the older adult maintain friendships and contact with friends and family to ward off isolation and loneliness – something we have all become too familiar with throughout the pandemic. Offer transportation if needed for dinner dates, or with setting up technology to stay virtually connected.
  4.     Update vaccinations. Along with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, flu, pneumonia, and shingles vaccines must be up to date. With age comes an elevated risk for severe effects from these illnesses, so vaccinations become much more important.
  5.     Don’t forget mental health. A mental health provider can help determine if anxiety, depression, or other concerns should be addressed, offering both therapeutic tools and medication if needed. Staying mentally sharp through brain enrichment activities can also help with the natural cognitive decline that occurs in aging.
  6.     Monitor what you eat. If the fridge and pantry are full of empty-calorie or fatty foods, replace them with proteins, whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, and low-fat dairy products. An extreme change in diet can be overwhelming and hard to stick to, so start simple with one replacement at first – carrot sticks instead of potato chips, for example – and work up to an overall healthier diet.

Generations at Home is here to help older adults in achieving these and any other goals with personalized in-home care and companionship. From transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and fitness classes to grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals, all while giving socialization a much-needed boost, we’re empowering seniors to live their best lives every day. Email or call us to learn more about how we can help an older adult you love!

Learn How to Respond Safely to Aggression Caused by Dementia

adult-son-talking-to-senior-father-with-dementiaOf the many challenging behaviors typical in Alzheimer’s, possibly the most challenging to manage is aggression. An older adult who may have always been mild-mannered can unexpectedly lash out in outbursts which are truly intimidating: hitting, cursing, kicking, yelling, biting, or throwing things. How can you, as a family care provider, safely diffuse aggression caused by dementia and help reestablish a feeling of calm?

To begin with, remind yourself that the aggression is caused by the disease. It’s not something the individual can control, and it is not intentional. With that being said, it needs to be diffused to keep both you and the senior loved one protected from harm.

The 6 R’s of Managing Difficult Behavior,” developed by Dr. Peter Rabins and Nancy Mace in their book The 36-Hour Day, could be an effective way to help. Read through and refer back to them so you are equipped for the next burst of aggression.

The 6 R’s

  • Restrict. Maintain a calm demeanor and tone of voice as you strive to help the individual disengage from the behavior.
  • Reassess. Consider what could have provoked the incident. Causes may include physical pain, an excessive amount of noise or other distractions in the room, hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc. Keeping a journal of what was occurring before and during each incident can help provide clues.
  • Reconsider. Empathize with the senior loved one by picturing yourself dealing with a disease that impedes your ability to clearly convey your wishes and needs, to accomplish tasks independently which were once very easy, to feel disoriented and confused, etc.
  • Rechannel. Redirect the older adult to an activity the senior enjoys, or relocate to an alternative environment, such as stepping out onto the front porch or going into the dining area together for a snack.
  • Reassure. Let the senior know that everything is ok and that you are there. In the event that the person responds favorably to touch, place your hand on their shoulder, offer a pat on the back or hug, or take their hand in yours.
  • Review. Make note in your journal what went well – or what didn’t – to assist in utilizing the most effective response when the aggression arises again.

Understanding that aggression may occur at any time in someone with dementia, it’s helpful to assess the home environment and make a plan to make certain it really is as comfortable and calming as possible, such as:

  • Playing relaxing music the older adult enjoys in the background.
  • Placing familiar, comforting objects within quick access.
  • Staying clear of movies that may display violence or other disturbing images.
  • Opening the blinds in the day to allow an abundance of natural light to stream in.

Generations at Home is here for you as well with specially trained dementia caregivers who understand the nuances associated with the disease and how to most effectively manage the related challenges. Contact us to learn more about our in-home Alzheimer’s care in St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas.

Your Guide to Starting Family Caregiving: How to Best Care for Someone with a New Diagnosis

family-caregiver-talking-with-senior-womanIt may have been suspected, or maybe broadsided you out of the blue. Mom has just received the official diagnosis for a progressive disease that is going to make independent life difficult. While there are a number of unknowns, one thing is for sure: she’s adamant about remaining at home – meaning you will have some decisions to make on how to provide for the care she’ll need and what starting family caregiving looks like.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with what to expect next, these tips can certainly help.

  • Learn as much as you’re able in regards to the disease. The older adult’s physician can provide you with resources and educational materials to help you know what to anticipate and also to increase confidence in your family caregiving role.
  • Prioritize organization. Create a folder to keep important paperwork: prescription details, test results, contact information for doctors’ offices together with the pharmacy, and any other pertinent medical information. Start a journal to help monitor any changes in condition or concerns that arise, as well as the details surrounding those changes.
  • Put aside past hurts. A new diagnosis could cause old family dynamics to resurface. If unsettled issues are interfering with your ability to provide the best care, turn to the support of a professional therapist to work through them.
  • Establish boundaries together. Talk to the senior about how much and what sort of assistance would be beneficial. It is normal to want to step in and take control, nevertheless, it’s vital for the senior to maintain as much independence and control as possible.
  • Take proper care of yourself, too. Your personal health and wellness are incredibly important. And, the level of care you provide can be compromised if for example, your own needs are not being met. Prioritize and designate time each day for self-care by seeking out and accepting help from others.

It is vital to know about the risk for depression and caregiver burnout, and to take the appropriate steps immediately if you begin to experience red flags including:

  • Increased anxiety, agitation, and irritability
  • Retreating from social interactions
  • Lack of interest in once-enjoyed pastimes
  • Resentment
  • Lack of appetite
  • Issues with falling or staying asleep
  • Challenges with focus and concentration
  • Fatigue

Locating a dependable care partner provides time to see the doctor for a checkup to rule out any other potential health issues, to talk with a therapist to effectively work through the numerous emotions involved in caregiving, and to relax and recharge.

The caregiving team at Generations at Home is here with additional resources for family caregivers, in addition to skilled, dependable respite care services that enable for a healthier life balance. Contact us for a free in-home consultation to find out more about home care in Tarpon Springs and the surrounding areas.

Tips to Help Manage Dysphagia in Elderly Parents

mature caregiver giving glass of water to senior womanThere’s nothing better than a tall, cold drink on a hot summer day, but for a person with dysphagia, this simple pleasure can be dangerous. Dysphagia – or difficulty with swallowing – impacts millions of seniors, because of weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS and stroke are typical causes as well.

Symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • Drooling
  • Coughing, choking or gagging when drinking, eating, or taking medication
  • A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after eating/drinking

Additionally, if you suspect dysphagia in an older family member, ask him or her the following questions – and check with the medical practitioner right away for additional guidance:

  • Have you been coughing or choking when trying to eat or drink?
  • Are you experiencing regular issues with food “going down the wrong pipe?”
  • Is food getting caught in your throat?
  • Is it taking you longer to eat than it used to?
  • Are you losing weight?

If you’re taking care of a senior loved one with dysphagia, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Pay attention to posture. Ensure that the older adult is sitting fully upright, at a 90-degree angle, before trying to drink or eat.
  • Bypass the straw. Straws speed up the rate at which the liquid goes into the mouth, which can cause choking or aspiration.
  • Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening gels or powders that should be added to all fluids for anyone with dysphagia. However, avoid serving ice cream and jello, which change from their thickened form to a liquid in the mouth.
  • Keep nutritional needs in mind. Good options for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed fruits, pureed veggies, pureed beans, and pureed lentils, avocado, soft cheese, and creamy nut butters. Discover some simple, dysphagia-friendly recipes.
  • Consider prescription drug administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be difficult. Speak with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if prescription drugs can be crushed and mixed with pudding or applesauce to help them go down easier.
  • Timing is everything. The tiredness that accompanies a chronic medical condition that creates dysphagia may make it tough to eat or drink for more than fifteen minutes at any given time. Try to plan meals around times when your loved one is least tired, and have thickened drinks available throughout the day to ensure hydration.

Generations at Home can help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened beverages for a loved one with dysphagia, and we’ll even pick up all of the ingredients, too! Learn more about our home care services by contacting us for a free consultation at 727-940-3414.

Tips to Help Overcome Family Caregiver Dread

caregiver in deep thoughtWhat are your first thoughts as soon as you wake up each morning? Are you looking forward to what the day holds, or would you like to crawl back underneath the covers and stay there? If you are feeling more dread than delight as you think through your family caregiver responsibilities for the day, you’re not the only one.

Distinctly different from anxiety, depression, or even burnout, caregiver dread is an exhausted, heavy feeling of obligation. It stems from feelings of overcommitment as well as the need to escape from obligations. While possible to push through and carry out necessary tasks in spite of these feelings, there are methods to conquer them instead – and regain the joy that comes from making life better for someone you love. For starters, try these techniques:

  • Release the guilt. Meeting the caregiving needs of someone can feel unimpactful, mundane, and simply downright tough. It takes selflessness, which can feel burdening. Yet dreading the daily tasks you’re requested to do by no means reflects the way you feel about your senior loved one. Acknowledge to yourself that your role is not easy, and it’s okay to wish you could be doing something different.
  • Intentionally search for joy. The tiny pleasures each day holds may be diminished by the difficulties. Make the effort every morning to identify five small things that make you smile. Keep a journal of each day’s finds and refer back to it at the end of each week. Engage all of your senses while you seek out the day’s joys: the smell of freshly baked cookies; the beauty of the sunset; the sound of your cat purring; the invigorating feeling of a hot shower.
  • Set boundaries. Designate time every day to spend on pursuits that you enjoy independent of the senior in your care. Plan and look forward to this time when your caregiving tasks start to weigh you down. A dependable care partner is vital to make sure nothing interferes with the important time of taking care of yourself.

Remind yourself that the work you’re doing in caring for your loved one is vitally important. Yet also keep in mind that nobody can do it all, and in order to provide the most effective care for the senior and for yourself, frequent breaks from care tasks are needed.

Connect with Generations at Home’s aging care experts at 727-940-3414 to arrange for regular Pinellas Park respite care services and release the burden of caregiving dread. We’re here for as much or as little assistance as you need to help you enjoy quality time along with an aging loved one and also to rediscover joy in your own life as well. Reach out to us today to find out if our expert respite care services are available in your community.