Caregiving Advice: Improving Communications

April 2nd, 2014

Before you make your decision about whether or not companionship, home health care, or senior care is right for you or your loved one, it’s important to discuss the present and future needs with your family. The discussions on health, finances, and living arrangements are often difficult to begin, but they are crucial to properly preparing for the future.

However, the difficulty in starting these important conversations have led to communications gaps between family caregivers and loved ones. In fact, according to a seniorjournal.com study, the major communications gaps between parents and children when discussing important issues are almost overwhelming; with only 32% of seniors reporting their children have discussed their current and future health issues with them.

But since these discussions are so important to your home health care and caregiving decisions, and since an AARP study found that seniors felt more at ease when these discussions were had when they were still in good health, it’s vital, as the family caregiver, to tackle these issues head-on as soon as possible.

Below are some tips in starting and effectively communicating, and what topics to discuss:

Where do they want to live as they get older?

Almost 90% of seniors want to stay in their home for as long as possible, but doing so requires effectively planning seniors’ current and future needs, and discussing whether living at home is a viable option. Ask your friend or loved one where they want to live, and if they say at home, then tackle the issues one-by-one. For instance, who will help take you to doctor’s appointments, or pick up medications? Will you need help in performing chores around the house; such as cooking, cleaning, dressing, and toilet help? If so, can a family member be there to help, or should you explore other forms of help, like home health or personal home care assistants?

Driving:

For most of us, driving is not only something we need to do every day to take care of errands, but it also provides us with a sense of freedom and independence. The latter reason is what makes the decision to give up driving one of the most difficult, but it’s also one of the most important discussions to have, for safety’s sake.

Vision, hearing loss, decreased mobility, and even medication usage can impair driving. If you are concerned about your friend or loved one’s driving, try to experience it first-hand, and look for warning signs like abrupt lane changes, slow driving, and increased frustration.

If you notice that it’s time to have the discussion, be open, honest, and respectful. Remember, this is a very, very difficult decisions for your friend or loved one, so be understanding when they react to your requests and suggest alternatives that can lessen the sting. For instance, suggest grouping all their chores into one trip to avoid constant driving, or if they are still adamant they can drive, suggest that they compromise and forego driving in the evening.

However, if you feel your friend or loved one is completely unsafe while driving, do what is best for them and consider making the tough choice to take the keys or car away. In the end, it’s all about keeping your friend or loved one healthy and safe.

Remember, it’s a conversation, not a lecture:

Besides having a friend or loved one with a dementia-related illness that impairs their judgement, their future choices are ultimately theirs. Telling your friend or loved one what they’re going to do or where they’re going to live can quickly be a conversation killer. Instead, remember that the conversation about their future needs is exactly that: a conversation.

You may be the “child”, per se, but remember that when you’re speaking with your parents that the conversation is adult-to-adult. Approach them with respect, restrain judgement, and be open and honest in your discussions with them. Don’t beat around the bush when it comes to their health and safety. And always remember to listen to their wants and desires, and address them directly. Don’t put discussing them off, no matter if they seem unattainable or not. If their wants can’t be met, whether it’s because of health or other reasons, tell them why and discuss reasonable alternatives.

Opening up lanes of communication, and discussing long-term needs with your friend or loved one before they’re needed are important to a happy and healthier future. If you want more information before beginning your discussions, or have decided that you should discover more about your home health care, senior care, or personal/companionship care options, feel free to talk to one of our Care Advisors at 317-581-1100.

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Tips For Staying Active and Involved With Dementia

March 28th, 2014

Dementia can have an impact on your friend or loved one’s ability to perform certain activities, but keeping your friend or loved one mentally engaged is important to their happiness and sense of purpose. The benefits to staying active with dementia are many, and include: keeping the mind active and engaged, encouraging independence, and engagement that stimulates communication.

Below are some unique and creative ways to keep seniors mentally active, via Alzheimers.org.uk:

Finding the right activities:

Before you begin any new activities, talk to your friends or loved ones about what interests them, and remember what their passions were when they were younger.

For example, were they an Engineer when they were working? If so, maybe hands-on activities and building may be the most stimulating activity for them. If their past job may be out of what they’re able to perform now, what hobbies or pastimes did they have? For instance, was your friend or loved one a fan of music? If so, listen to some popular music from their generation and talk to them about it.

Our Nostalgia Program at Alliance Home Health Care is a program designed to stimulate the minds of those with dementia, and it’s built upon the fact that people’s passions still live within them, even with dementia, and tapping into these passions and loves can help conjure up memories of good times and help bring a sense of purpose and happiness to their lives. Additionally, people with dementia can often remember past events better than more current events, so reminiscing about their past passions is a great way to get a conversation started.

But success in getting your friend or loved one actively engaged depends on you taking the time to find the right activities for them and their current abilities.

Light Exercise:

Exercise is great for our minds and our bodies, but oftentimes we neglect exercise for a number of reasons. Most often, we just don’t think there is enough time in the day. But even light exercise, walking for twenty minutes a day, can help keep the mind active.

Tip: Walking with a group of people can help stimulate the mind, not only via getting the blood pumping to the brain, but also through conversation along the way. Organize a time to walk with your friend or loved one and strike up a casual conversation. You’ll find it will be beneficial for all.

Always remember, work within their abilities:

Puzzles, music, exercise etc. are all great ways to stimulate the minds of those with dementia, but remember to be patient and work within what they can do. Overstimulation, failure, and negative reactions to activities can frustrate those with dementia easier than others, so remember to take it slow and watch their reactions to certain activities carefully. If you see a negative reaction, stop and take a rest, do not try to force your friend or loved one to engage.

Remember, dementia-related illnesses have an effect on your friend or loved one’s memory, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop being mentally engaged. In fact, mental activity is essential to sustaining memory and happiness in your friend or loved one. Be calm, work with your friend or loved one, and focus on what seems to make them happy.

If you need more assistance, you can always call one of our Care Advisors at 317-581-1100.

For more ideas and activities, read the full article at Alzheimers.org.uk.

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