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.

Tips for Family Caregivers: Three Benefits of Family Therapy

With a serious look on her face, the teen girl looks at her grandmother during group therapy.There are certain milestones we might encounter in our lives that, while not fundamentally negative, are known stressors. Losing a job. Starting a new job. Getting married. Getting divorced. And one that individuals in the home care industry are particularly mindful of: the mental and physical impact on family members who are caring for aging parents.

A number of conflicting emotions crop up for people in the role of family caregiver, and these are increased when trying to share commitments with siblings or other members of the family. There are past resentments and hurts that may resurface, disputes pertaining to decision-making, in addition to the stress of trying to navigate what feels like a role reversal with a parent who once took care of us.

For these reasons and more, family counseling tends to be a great addition to a family caregiver’s toolbox to ensure the absolute best possible care for aging parents, as well as his/her own physical and mental wellbeing. Listed below are just a few benefits of family therapy as parents age:

  • It provides care for the caregiver. Agreeing to the role of family care provider may be daunting in and of itself, but factor in additional responsibilities, for example, managing a home and caring for children while maintaining a career, and you’ve got a recipe for stress. Family therapy helps caregivers work through challenging emotions and reach resolutions.
  • It offers support through grief. Grief comes in many forms, and quite often begins in the early stages of being a caregiver for aging parents, as family members work through the inherent changes happening now and also to come. When an elderly parent is identified as having Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia, the decrease in cognitive functioning results in yet another degree of grief. A family counselor can assist all members of the family to work through their grief together.
  • It helps the family as a unit. A family therapist is focused on achieving what is most beneficial for the whole family as well as its cohesiveness, through challenges for example, issues connected to inheritance and other financial considerations, medical decisions, and any challenging family dynamics.

If in-person counseling sessions for your family are not practical because of geographic restraints, continued COVID-19 distancing concerns, or any other reason, phone or Zoom sessions can be every bit as beneficial. One of the keys is for involvement to be a top priority for all family members involved, and to make therapy sessions a consistent, routine obligation.

If you need a partner to provide trusted respite care services while you devote the time necessary for family therapy, call us at 727-940-3414. With both a reliable family therapist in addition to the aging care professionals at Generations at Home on your side, your family can deal with caregiving obstacles and enjoy high quality time together.

How to Help Elderly Parents Maintain Dignity and Independence at Home

portrait of senior manIt is simple to get caught up in the day-to-day caregiving tasks required to help elderly parents at home. There’s a great deal to be done, and often it’s just easier and more efficient to do it all on your own, letting the seniors relax. After all, our elders have taken care of everything for a lifetime; don’t they deserve a break?

The truth, however, is that retaining dignity and independence through our later years is particularly necessary to our wellbeing, something that originates from a desire for meaning and purpose in life. Even though ensuring safety is, of course, a primary concern, there are ways to help elderly parents feel empowered and still in control while in your care. For instance:

  • Work together on chores. While standing at the sink and scouring pots and pans might be unsafe or difficult for a senior loved one, perhaps she or he can sit at the table and dry them. The senior might not be in a position to bake a meal from start to finish but can mix ingredients while you reminisce about recipes made over the years. It could take a little consideration; nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to determine methods to alter tasks to incorporate the older adult’s assistance as much as possible.
  • Permit decision-making. Seek out opportunities to ask for the older adult’s wisdom, allowing her or him to remain in control. As opposed to assuming he or she will want a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, ask. Before automatically accompanying a loved one to the doctor’s office for an exam, ask if she or he would like you there. Having a say in even the smallest of decisions can make a major difference in self-esteem.
  • Ensure safety with respect. Safety is, certainly, paramount, but there are ways to make sure a senior loved one stays safe without overstepping boundaries. Medical alert systems, for instance, are a great way to encourage independence in older adults while providing them with the means to call easily for help when needed.
  • Hire professional in-home caregivers. Some older adults resist the thought of their adult children helping them with personal care needs, such as using the toilet or taking a bath. A professional agency caregiver, who is trained and experienced in helping seniors maintain dignity while staying safe, is often a more agreeable solution.

Reach out to our aging care team at Generations at Home to learn more about our trusted home care services and other care tips on how to help elderly parents age at home, always provided with the respect and attention to the dignity older adults deserve. We are available for as little as a few hours each week up through and including 24/7 care. Call us at 727-940-3414 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about our home care in Indian Shores and other surrounding areas in Florida.

Dementia Caregiver Tips: How to Handle Shadowing

Granddaughter giving a surprise gift to grandmotherPrimary caregivers for those with dementia are frequently all too familiar with the complications experienced in trying to take a quiet moment or two alone – to use the bathroom, get a quick shower, and even step into another room. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can experience enhanced fear when a family member is out of sight – a condition known as shadowing. And the ensuing behaviors can be extremely challenging to manage: crying, meanness and anger, or continuously asking where you are.

It can help to understand the reasoning behind shadowing. You are the older adult’s safe place, the main one who helps make sense of a disorienting and confusing world, so when you’re gone, life can feel frightening and uncertain. And keep in mind that shadowing isn’t a result of anything you have done; it is simply a natural part of the progression of dementia.

Generations at Home offers the following dementia caregiver tips that can help:

  • Expand the senior’s circle of trust. Having another person or two with you while you go through the senior’s daily routines might help him/her begin to trust someone aside from yourself. Slowly, once that trust is in place, the senior will become more at ease when you need to step away, knowing there’s still a lifeline readily available.
  • Record yourself. Make a video of yourself doing laundry or taking care of other day-to-day chores, reading aloud, singing, etc. and try playing it for the senior. This digital substitution may be all that’s needed to provide a feeling of comfort while he or she is apart from you.
  • Take advantage of distractions. Finding a soothing activity for the senior to engage in could be enough of a distraction to permit you a brief time period of respite. Try repetitive tasks, such as sorting silverware or nuts and bolts, folding napkins, filing papers, or anything else that is safe and of interest to the senior.
  • Avoid conflict. Your senior loved one may become combative or angry as a way to express his or her fear of being alone. No matter what he or she may say, it is imperative that you keep from quarreling with or correcting the senior. An appropriate response is to validate the person’s feelings (“I can see you’re feeling upset,”) and redirect the conversation to a more pleasing topic (“Would you like to try a piece of the cake we made earlier?”)
  • Clarify the separation period. Because the sense of time can be lost in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, telling a senior loved one you’ll just be away for a minute may not mean very much. Try using a common wind-up kitchen timer for brief separations. Set the timer for the amount of time you’ll be away and ask the senior to hold onto it, explaining that when it rings, you’ll be back.

Engaging the services of a highly trained dementia caregiver who understands the nuances of dementia and can put into practice creative techniques such as these can help restore peace to both you and the senior you love. The dementia care professionals at Generations at Home are fully trained and available to fill in whenever you need a helping hand. Give us a call at 727-940-3414 or fill out our online contact form for a free in-home consultation and learn more about how our customized dementia care in Kenneth City and other surrounding areas can help with your particular challenges.

How Creating a Memory Book Can Help a Senior with Dementia

memory book

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss

Memories are the glue that binds together our past with who we are today; and for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease, confusion around these memories may have a deep impact. One of our goals in caring for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is to help them store and share memories in order to make sense of daily life.

Creating a memory book can help a senior with dementia, with photos and short descriptions to refer back to when the older adult has questions relating to his or her identity, loved ones, etc. Memory books are great for responding to repetitive questions and for helping to clear any muddied waters. For instance, if an older adult asks who his brother is, whether she’s married (and to whom), where he used to live, etc., an easy response of, “Let’s go through the memory book,” can be extremely effective – and, can help with redirection as well for a senior experiencing difficult behaviors or emotions.

The book can (and should) be basic and straightforward. Simply pick out a sturdy binder, scrapbook, or photo album and place 1 to 2 photos on each page, with a short description underneath. Include such details as:

  • Close family and friends, including those from the senior’s childhood, if possible
  • The senior’s place of work
  • Milestones and special events
  • Hobbies/interests
  • Pets
  • Previous homes
  • And more

You may also create individual sections for every category, so it will be easier to find a certain image when wanted. For a more elaborate or extensive book, you can make use of the template, identifying which pages you wish to include that’ll be most helpful for your loved one.

For additional creative dementia care tips and resources, call Clearwater home care provider Generations at Home at 727-940-3414. We are also pleased to offer a free in-home assessment to share how we can help with the particular challenges your loved one is facing. Our highly trained, compassionate dementia caregivers can:

  • Encourage socialization
  • Offer creative approaches to manage challenging behaviors
  • Ensure safety in bathing/showering, dressing, etc. in addition to reducing fall risk
  • Provide trusted respite care for family caregivers to take some time for self-care
  • Engage seniors in enjoyable, meaningful activities
  • Assist with preparing meals and clean-up
  • Run errands, such as picking up prescriptions and groceries
  • And so much more

Reach out to our Alzheimer’s care specialists today to discover a higher quality of life for a senior you love.