Long Distance Caregiving Tips: Assessing an Aging Parent’s Mental Health

Senior couple on a video calling using a digital tablet at homeThe isolation and fear caused by COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of older adults, with nearly half of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their amount of stress and worry was negatively impacting their health. And while it still may be unsafe to visit in person with older adults, it’s crucial to stay in regular and frequent contact, and to watch out for any changes or signs which might indicate a mental health concern.

As stated by psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”

Other symptoms and signs of depression to watch for include sleeping issues, reduced appetite, sluggishness, and complaints about pain, which interestingly, can often be one of the key symptoms of depression in older adults. Take note of anything that is out of normal for a senior’s personality and character.

It is crucial to understand that depression is not just an unavoidable element of growing older, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.

Here are a few further guidelines to help thoroughly assess an older adult’s mental health:

  • Make sure the conversation is natural and organic, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what has been happening in your life this week,” will motivate a senior to open up a lot more than, “Tell me what your doctor mentioned at your last scheduled appointment.” The goal is to be caring however, not condescending, being careful never to try to parent your mother and father.
  • While talking with and seeing the grandchildren on Zoom is an easy way to boost a senior’s mood, make sure to plan for some one-on-one time to talk, sans children.
  • Take notice of what is going on in the background of your video chats for any additional clues, such as whether or not the home looks clean and well maintained, including personal hygiene – unkempt, disheveled hair, for example.
  • Take into consideration whether substance abuse might be a factor. An increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is happening in individuals of all ages, and can be very harmful if there are potential interactions with medications a senior loved one is taking.

If you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in your senior loved one, be sure to get in touch with the doctor right away. Because you are most familiar with the senior, you may be in a position to pick up on signs that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s vital to help make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, connect with the St. Petersburg home care experts, Generations at Home, for additional assistance. We’re able to serve as your eyes and ears when you are unable to be there in person, and offer a wide selection of customized services to boost socialization and quality of life at home. Reach out to us at 727-940-3414 to find out more.

Advice for Becoming a Caregiver for a Family Member

elderly lady having tea with her daughterIt may have come totally without warning: an unexpected fall that led to a fractured hip and the requirement for Dad to have assistance to stay at home. Or, it may have been building up over the years, such as through the slow and incremental progression of Alzheimer’s disease. No matter the circumstances, you have now found yourself becoming a caregiver for a family member, and maybe are wondering what exactly that means and how to navigate these uncharted waters.

First of all, take a deep breath, and a moment to appreciate the selflessness of your decision. Caregiving is an incredibly rewarding undertaking, yet not without its struggles. A bit of proactive planning will go a long way towards an easier transition to care, both for yourself and your loved one. A great starting point is to consider the way you would both like each day to look and to make a simple timeline to record the daily activities and tasks that will need your attention. For instance:

  • 7 a.m.: Help Dad get out of bed, showered, dressed, and ready for the day
  • 8 a.m.: Make breakfast and tidy up
  • 9 a.m.: Take Dad to exercise class and/or physical therapy
  • 11 a.m.: Run errands with (or for) Dad
  • 1 p.m.: Prepare lunch and clean up
  • 2 p.m.: Help Dad get settled set for afternoon activities: a film, reading, puzzles, nap, participating in a well-loved hobby or pastime, etc.
  • 6 p.m.: Make dinner and clean up
  • 8 p.m.: Help Dad with bedtime tasks – a bath, changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, etc.
  • 10 p.m.: Help Dad get into bed

Your list will be different for each day, of course, but this offers a helpful overview to let you know when you could have just a little downtime to yourself, and when you will need to provide hands-on help.

This is also an appropriate time to establish boundaries together – and also to pledge to adhere to them. Again, these will be different for each person as well as on different days, but decide what is essential to each of you: having a specified time every day for self-care and personal time, when family and friends may come to visit, whether or not you want to maintain a job outside of the home, etc.

Recognize that Generations at Home is always here to help while you adjust to your caregiving role with the respite care needed to make certain you are able to take care of yourself, as well – something which is extremely important to both you and the senior in your care. Reach out to us at 727-940-3414 for more information about our senior care in St. Petersburg and other nearby 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 to Safely Enjoy Celebrating the Holidays with Seniors During COVID-19

senior man on video call

Think about the most ideal holiday season you are able to imagine. While that image will vary slightly for every one of us, it could include gifts, good food, lights, and traditions passed down through the generations. Yet what most certainly rings true for everyone is the happiness in spending time with the people we love.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to rethink how to safely enjoy celebrating the holidays with seniors. With a little bit of ingenuity and creativity, however, it’s quite possible to bridge the gap while making new memories with the seniors you love, even if you can’t be with them in person this season.

Our aging care professionals have compiled several tips to allow you to get started:

  • Adjust traditions. Consider the traditions that mean the most to you and your family, and how you can alter them to keep everyone safe. For instance, if everyone usually gets together each year to bake cookies, try using Zoom or a comparable platform to stay connected while making cookies from home. Choose a favorite recipe, have everyone log on at a specific time, and bake away while visiting and listening to some holiday music.
  • Don’t forego decorating. Seniors who live alone often look forward to having loved ones, especially grandchildren, visit to help with holiday decorating. Without in-person visits, older adults may not be motivated to bother with decorations. Again, using a software app like Zoom, plan a time for everyone to get together online and share the stories behind favorite decorations.
  • Enjoy the wonderful outdoors. If weather allows, plan short visits with seniors outside, safely socially distant and with face coverings. String lights on trees around the yard and decorate the front porch.
  • Send smiles. Pictures, cards, letters, telephone calls, small gifts, etc. will all mean a great deal to older adults who are missing time with loved ones. Coordinate with members of the family to take turns reaching out as much as possible in ways similar to this so that your older senior loved ones are flooded with expressions of love.
  • Share your feelings. There is nothing quite as heartwarming as hearing from someone you love about the impact you’ve made on his or her life. Take this time to convey your thankfulness towards the older adults you love for the difference they’ve made in your daily life, and be specific: “Grandma, your patience with me when I was a teenager taught me what unconditional love looks like, and thanks to you, I’m a more patient person with my own kids.”

Generations at Home’s St Petersburg home care providers are experienced and fully trained in improving wellbeing for seniors at home and follow stringent safety protocols for every person’s protection. Contact us at 727-940-3414 to learn how we can help make this holiday season the very best it can be for a senior you love.

Elderly Care Tips: How Humidifiers Can Improve Quality of Life

smart home, humidifierFor seniors and those with lung conditions such as COPD, maintaining the best possible air quality in the house is a must. Air that is too dry, for instance, might cause or exacerbate health problems such as:

  • Itchy, dry, or chapped skin
  • Nose bleeds
  • Sore throat
  • Dry eyes
  • Aggravated allergy, asthma, and flu/cold symptoms such as congestion
  • And more

Yet air that is too humid can cause mold and mildew to grow, which can lead to a variety of health issues along with causing damage to the home.

Humidifiers, when used correctly, can help maintain an ideal level of moisture in the air (between 30 – 50%), and particularly for anyone with a chronic lung disease, can foster eased breathing, reduced irritation of nasal passages, and the ability to more effectively expel phlegm in coughing.

Also, using a humidifier during the night can ease congestion and snoring, help reduce the level of any allergens, viruses and bacteria in the air, even relieve an itchy scalp. Again, use caution to be sure the amount of humidity doesn’t surpass the optimal range, which can bring about disrupted sleep patterns.

There are many different types of humidifiers to choose from:

  • Central humidifiers, which are built into the house’s central heating/air conditioning unit; the most costly option, but one that will benefit the entire house rather than only one room
  • Impeller humidifiers, utilizing a cool mist, which is a safer option because it cannot cause burns; it may, however, trigger allergic or asthmatic problems if overused
  • Evaporators, blowing air through a dampened filter; a budget friendly choice, but can be problematic if allowed to add too much moisture into the air
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers, using vibrations to produce mist in either a warm or cool option; offered in an assortment of sizes
  • Steam vaporizers, which are typically the least expensive and most portable option; water is heated and then cooled before being discharged into the air

Speak to a physician about the benefits of a humidifier in your loved one’s particular circumstances, and which type is preferred.

Generations at Home is here to assist those diagnosed with chronic medical conditions like COPD, or simply just the challenges inherent in normal aging, through a variety of home care services. Call us at 727-940-3414 to discover how we can help you breathe easier with reliable in-home support.

Differentiating “Senior Moments” from Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

handsome senior man looking thoughtful while sitting in his homeYou altogether forgot about the physician’s appointment scheduled for last Wednesday, misplaced your sunglasses for the umpteenth time, and cannot remember the name of the new neighbor for the life of you. Is all of this simply a regular part of aging, or could it be the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia?

The fear of developing dementia is not unusual; and increasing, as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have gained increasing awareness, resulting in worries about our own possible decrease of independence and functionality, along with memory difficulties. In addition, it raises questions regarding future care and living arrangements, if the time should come that assistance is necessary to stay safe and to take care of everyday needs.

Nonetheless, it’s important to know there are a number of reasons behind forgetfulness which are entirely unrelated to dementia, and some amount of memory impairment is merely part and parcel of aging. Recent statistics show that only 5% of seniors ages 71 – 79 actually have dementia, though that number increases to 37% for those aged 90 and over.

The first step is to consult with your primary care physician about any cognitive impairment you’re experiencing, so that you can receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Before your appointment, make a note of details such as:

  • When the impairment began
  • Whether it was a sudden or gradual decline
  • If it is impacting day to day life: eating, getting dressed, taking care of personal hygiene needs, etc.

The doctor will want to eliminate issues that can mimic dementia – such as delirium and depression – as well as see whether the issue might stem from treatment side effects. Dementia progresses slowly, and in addition to memory deficits, may affect the ability to:

  • Communicate
  • Reason, judge, and problem-solve
  • Focus and pay attention

For anyone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, or any other condition that affects the capacity to manage day to day life independently, Generations at Home is always here to provide just as much or as little help as needed by thoroughly trained and experienced care professionals. A few of the numerous ways we can enable seniors with dementia or any other challenges to remain safe, comfortable, and independent at home include:

  • Assistance with personal care needs, like showering and dressing
  • Transportation to medical appointments and enjoyable outings
  • Running errands
  • Planning and preparing meals
  • Household chores
  • Engaging activities and socialization
  • And a lot more

Give us a call at 727-940-3414 or fill out our contact form for a free-of-charge in-home consultation for more information on how we can help.

Which Home Care Options for Elderly Parents Are Safe Right Now?

Elderly disabled man with mask sitting in wheelchair, assisted by young female caregiver outdoorsFor the past several months, family caregivers have had to handle seemingly unsurmountable challenges in connection with the care of the older adults they love. With COVID-19’s particular dangers to senior citizens and people with underlying health conditions, such as COPD, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and others that are common in older adults, families have struggled with just how to best protect and keep their older loved ones safe.

To that end, some families made the very difficult choice to temporarily stop home care services in order to prevent having anyone outside of the family come into the home – meaning the family members were unexpectedly responsible for full-time senior care. Without a care partner, this alone is often incredibly stressful, but add to this the various other new responsibilities and concerns set off by the pandemic, such as shifting to working virtually, taking care of kids who could no longer attend school or daycare, and much more.

To say it is been a stressful time is an understatement, but now, with many different new safety protocols established, is it safe to once again bring in a professional in-home care company to help?

Generations at Home has continued to deliver safe, trustworthy caregiving services for seniors throughout the pandemic, in accordance with all recommended guidelines. When you are prepared to look into in-home care options for elderly parents, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Work with an experienced home care company, like Generations at Home, that has a well-thought-out COVID-19 plan in place – and ask for information regarding that plan.
  • Plan to be there once the caregiver arrives the first time to ease any concerns you may possibly have, such as making certain he/she is wearing a face covering, washing hands often, sanitizing surfaces, etc.
  • Speak to the older adult’s doctor about any concerning health problems and also to get suggestions for any extra safety measures that should be taken during caregiving visits.

The experts in senior care in St. Petersburg and surrounding areas at Generations at Home are always here to answer any questions you might have as well as share details about the steps we’re taking to safeguard the older adults in our care, such as:

  • Wearing face coverings and other personal protective equipment as appropriate
  • Properly sanitizing and disinfecting any items brought into the seniors’ homes
  • Making sure all care staff are healthy through wellness assessments and routine temperature checks
  • Engaging in safe social distancing protocol
  • And much more

Contact us at 727-940-3414 any time for more information on the countless benefits of professional in-home care, and how we can assist an older adult you love live life to the fullest – safely and comfortably within the familiarity of home.

With the Pandemic, How Do You Keep Seniors Safe When Venturing Out?

senior woman outside with male caregiverAfter months of isolating, quarantining, and distancing from friends and family, many people are venturing out. Nevertheless, for seniors in particular, is it safe to think about going out?

Regrettably, there is no cut-and-dry answer, and a number of criteria must be considered to come to the very best decision for every individual. For example:

  • What health conditions is the older adult experiencing?
  • How difficult has it been for him or her to be separated from loved ones?
  • Is the incidence rate for the virus subsiding or spiking in your community?

As a family caregiver, the best place to get started is sitting down and having a one-on-one discussion with the older adult. If your senior loved one is unwaveringly and strongly set on a particular activity, such as seeing the grandchildren or going for a walk in the local park, make certain he or she thoroughly understands the possible risks involved.

Make sure you are up to date as well on the current news from trusted sources on any new precautions and/or recommendations. Look at this information as only one piece of your decision-making process, however, rather than an end-all perspective.

Secondly, broach the subject with the older adult’s medical doctor for a professional opinion and for advice about weighing potential risk factors against the benefits associated with increased socialization and engagement in the community. You might also wish to seek advice from other close relatives and carefully consider their input as well ahead of making the final plan on exactly how to proceed.

Above all, take ample time to make sure you are doing what is most beneficial for your loved one’s all around health and wellbeing, rather than making a snap decision that you might later regret. If you are still uncertain about what to do, it might be wise to refrain from heading out with the senior for the present time and revisit the matter at a later date. And keep in mind that you always have the opportunity to change your thinking if for any reason you are uncomfortable with your first decision.

Whether you and your family member are comfortable with the choice to go out and about, or make the decision to continue staying at home, you can count on Generations at Home to help with accompanied transportation, companionship, running errands including shopping for groceries, and a variety of other types of help and support, always in compliance with proper safety protocols. Contact us at 727-940-3414 any time for additional information, or to schedule a free in-home assessment.

A New Disease That Mimics Alzheimer’s: LATE

An individual who exhibits memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, repetition, and challenges with performing daily activities has the telltale symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, right? As a matter of fact, what seems to be an obvious case of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a recently discovered dementia.

Known as LATE, or limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, this condition presents with almost the same symptoms, but the root cause is another story. Rather than the buildup of amyloid plaques and tangles inherent in Alzheimer’s, LATE is distinguished by deposits of TDP-43 protein, as reported by Dr. Julie Schneider, associate director for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

And TDP-43 protein troubles are in fact quite common in elderly people, with as many as one out of four older people over age 85 affected enough to cause obvious cognitive and/or memory problems. Nevertheless, it remains an under-diagnosed condition, which could lead to misdiagnoses, and consequently, inappropriate treatment plans.

The most up-to-date recommendations call for those who have been diagnosed with LATE to be removed from Alzheimer’s medication research, focusing research alternatively on establishing biomarkers to better detect LATE, to locate therapeutic intervention methods, and to increase testing to include a broader array of diverse populations, in an effort to increase both prevention and treatment.

Understanding the differences between both types of dementia is paramount to the best treatment, and per Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, “This evidence may also go some way to help us understand why some recent clinical trials testing for Alzheimer’s disease have failed – participants may have had slightly different brain diseases.”

Key aspects of LATE include:

  • Generally affecting older adults over age 80
  • A slower progression than Alzheimer’s
  • Typically only affects memory
  • May be accompanied by Alzheimer’s disease, which leads to a far more rapid decline

Whether Alzheimer’s disease, LATE, or some other form of dementia, Generations at Home offers the highly customized, skilled and creative caregiving that can help seniors live the highest possible quality of life where it is most comfortable: at home. Our care aides are thoroughly trained and experienced in helping those with dementia, along with helping family caregivers, to more fully manage the varying challenges experienced in each stage.

Call us any time at 727-940-3414 to inquire about further dementia care resources, find answers to the questions you have, or to schedule an in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help a family member you love with dementia.

How One Woman Uses Her Sense of Smell to Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease

You may not recognize her by name, but you’ve probably heard her story. Joy Milne has an exceptionally unique talent: recognizing Parkinson’s disease by using her nose. Her gift came to light when she detected what she details as an “overpowering sort of nasty yeast smell” in her husband of ten years. Subsequently observing other differences in her husband, in particular personality and mood shifts, he ultimately went to the doctor for medical help, and was given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

Upon walking into a Parkinson’s support group meeting, that identical scent permeated the room – although evidently only Joy was able to notice it. Actually, she was even able to pick up on varying levels of the odor – some whose odor was faint, while for other people, it was much stronger. With both her own and her husband’s medical backgrounds (she a nurse and he a physician), this finding was definitely meaningful and required further action.

Her story led her to assist Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s disease researcher at the University of Edinburgh, with the aim of developing a tool to offer earlier detection – and ultimately, treatment – of Parkinson’s.

While initially skeptical of the probability of Parkinson’s being found through odor, he was open to additional exploration after finding out about the success dogs were having in identifying the odor of cancer in individuals. He then designed a way to assess her skills, by giving her a random assortment of t-shirts – half which had been worn by someone clinically determined to have Parkinson’s, and the other half by those without the disease – and, her accuracy rate was astonishing. As a matter of fact, she missed the mark on only one of the t-shirts, worn by someone without Parkinson’s, but who in fact was later identified as having the disease as well.

Kunath explains, “Imagine a society where you could detect such a devastating condition before it’s causing problems and then prevent the problems from even occurring.” Dr. Thomas Hummel of the Technical University of Dresden’s Smell & Taste Clinic, said that while the idea is interesting, there are still an assortment of questions to first sort out.

Parkinson’s disease, in addition to a variety of other chronic health issues, can be more effectively managed with the help of an in-home care provider like Generations at Home. Call us at 727-940-3414 for additional information.