Allowing yourself permission to have a good cry can act like pressing the reset button. Caregiving is emotionally taxing and asks that you hold space for another human being. Sometimes this means putting another’s needs ahead of your own. But it’s imperative you care just as much for yourself for your own mental health, and for the quality of care you can give. Human beings are the only animals that cry as an emotional response, and there’s a reason we’ve evolved to do that. It’s because crying is incredibly beneficial to us, and here’s why.
Crying Removes Toxins
William H. Frey II, Ph.D conducted the first, and still most prominent research on tears in the 1980’s. His study revealed that crying relieves stress because it “rids the body of potentially harmful chemicals.” The protein level is much higher in emotionally induced tears in comparison to the ones you might shed hitting your funny bone. Crying in an exocrine process like urination, sweating and exhaling. Our bodies, and thereby our minds feel better after being rid of chemicals it doesn’t need.
Crying Alleviates Stress
Charles Darwin, the father of evolution thought that crying alleviated suffering. However, he thought that emotional crying might be purposeless. Dr. Frey does not agree with this notion, stating that Darwin himself showed that evolution “doesn’t favour purposeless processes.” A study conducted at the University of South Florida found that crying is an effective self-soother. Actually, it can elevate your mood as effectively as any anti-depressant. The study found that 90% of criers felt better after an average of a six-minute cry.
Tears Help Communication
Crying can often express what words cannot, making them a key tool for better understanding one another. When we cry in the presence of someone else, we become very vulnerable, but also very emotionally connected. In an article for Science Digest, writer Ashley Montagu explains that crying has the power to foster community. They can often include very happy and emotionally stable people who are prepared to hold space and provide support. It doesn’t have to be a community exclusive to people suffering.
Deciding to hire an in-home caregiver can be both relieving and stressful. Wanting the absolute best for your aging parent or grandparent doesn’t mean you have to take on all of the responsibilities yourself. Thankfully, there are a variety of options for getting you some extra support in caring for your loved one. Making the decision to share the varied duties of care and companionship gives you the time to also care for yourself.
In-Home Placement Agencies
Taking an advice from people you know you have used a care agency is a good starting point. You can also use a website like Care to find the best agency near you to best suit your loved one’s needs. References from whatever agency you find can be provided to you by request. Testimonials can also often be found online. These agencies screen applicants, provide training and handle all necessary paperwork. The risk of allowing someone to provide care that lacks experience using this route is low. Most agencies have a very strict set of standards and qualifications all their caregivers must meet. They can also provide you with care back up’s if your requested caregiver is for any reason unavailable. However, you should consider that the cost for these services is higher than opting for a private-hire.
In-Home Private Care
If you have more time available to you in your search for a caregiver, you can manage the hiring yourself. Hiring directly with a private caregiver allows you to make a personal connection with possible candidates to make an informed decision. It’s imperative that you review the qualifications and qualities of all candidates during a personal interview. This research will need to done yourself. You’ll want to run background checks, ask for references and explore devising a clear contract. When choosing to hire privately, you should always have a list of potential backups screened and ready to replace your primary caregiver.
Learning how to talk to your loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship. While the task is by no means easy, it is possible through practice and can be extremely rewarding. As these diseases progress from forgetfulness to radical changes in personality and functionality, a commitment to patience and listening becomes key. As dementias gradually reduce the effectiveness of a person’s ability to communicate, it is important to always remember your loved one is somewhere in there. With this guide of communication strategies, it becomes possible to to strengthen communication with your aging parent or grandparent.
Communicating in the early stages
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, an individual can still engage in conversation and be present in a social context. However, they may begin repeating stories, struggle to find the right word and feel overwhelmed by social activity. It is important to remember that these diseases affect each individual differently. It is best not to make assumptions about their communication at this stage.
Be sure to give your loved one lots of time to respond to your questions and to engage with you. Avoid finishing their sentences or interrupting.
Speak to this person directly if you are curious to know what they are doing or how they are feeling. Avoid asking about them or speaking about them to a caregiver or family member if they can hear you.
Communicating in the middle stage
This stage of the disease is generally the longest, and can last up to many years. Your loved one will now have a more difficult time communicating.
Try to stick to a topic. Avoid having complicated conversations that follow multiple trains of thought.
Hold eye contact as best as you can. It shows that you care about what is being said and that you are actively listening.
If you are having a conversation in person, it’s important to find a quiet, well lit place free of many distractions that might make focusing more difficult.
Avoid open ended questions, and try “yes” or “no” answer questions instead and only ask one question at a time.
Communicating in the late stages
At this point, the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s may be relying on nonverbal communication. This includes facial expressions, sounds and hand gestures.
Always approach them from the front so they can see you and aren’t startled. Be sure to identify yourself with a smile and a gentle voice.
Encourage them to use nonverbal communication if you see they are more comfortable this way. Notice how sometimes the emotion behind the actions are often more important than what is actually being said.
Combatting loneliness in seniors is a huge caregiving hurdle. Since their families are often uninvolved and limitations in mobility make it difficult to maintain a social life, an older adult is especially prone to isolation. Apart from the drastically lowered quality of life, these individuals are at high risk of depression and a deterioration in overall health.
There are conventional ways of dealing with the problem, such as making a therapist or therapy available to residents and organizing group activities certainly have their place. But, there also exists an inexpensive, highly effective alternative: animal therapy.
The Principles of Animal Therapy
Research suggests that early humans had a symbiotic relationship with certain animals. Apparently, humans developed an ability to loosely yet innately interpret animal body language. For example, if we see a dog or cat relaxing nearby, we subconsciously associate their posture with the absence of danger, thereby relaxing ourselves. Others point out that animals possess certain characteristics that trigger natural emphatic responses, such as cats’ baby-like size and eyes. Whatever the actual mechanism, it’s clear that people of all ages are often willing to form emotional bonds with animals — even when they’re hesitant to do so with other humans!
The Benefits of Animals in an Assisted Living Environment
Naturally, patients with periodic access to animals report an improvement in mood. Equally unsurprisingly, symptoms such as anxiety and depression are also greatly alleviated. Dogs can also be a useful adjunct to physical exercise.
Taking care of a being that’s more helpless than themselves contributes to a senior’s feelings of independence and self-sufficiency. Nursing homes that have embraced animal therapy frequently report a marked decrease in residents’ undesirable behavior. They also see a greater level of active engagement with their environment — even in patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, the scientific literature remains divided on its effectiveness, since many different forms of animal assisted therapy exist and comparing them with more traditional methods is difficult.
Implementing Pet Therapy
Clearly, in a managed care environment, hygiene issues and allergies are major concerns when it comes to allowing animals on the premises. It may be necessary to restrict such activities to the outdoors or a particular room.
There are no special skills needed to start a pet therapy program, since much of the activity can be freeform in nature. However, the animals’ temperament is very important. Some hospitals and care centers maintain a “staff” of trained emotional support dogs and cats, but an appeal to the community may yield a number of suitable volunteer animals.
Written by Marie Miguel
About Marie Miguel, Guest Blogger
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
Medication, despite their ability to create relief for senior patients, may cause a caregiver some trouble if they refuse to take it. Especially if the older adult suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, the struggle’s repetitiveness can get quite frustrating.
There are many reasons people neglect to take their prescribed medicines. The key to handling resistance to medication is to truly understand the dimensions of the problem. Find out why your loved one is refusing to cooperate, then take the necessary steps to smooth out the process.
Why do seniors refuse medicine?
Here are some common reasons elderly patients avoid taking their prescription drugs.
Confusion: Perhaps due to their health condition(s), your aging parent or grandparent cannot process the concept of taking medication. Dementia or Alzheimer’s patients in particular may not understand what is going on at all.
Forgetfulness: If he or she independently manages their medication or lives alone, your loved one may simply forget to do it. It is understandable to lose track of drug intake on occasion, but frequent occurrences can pose a huge problem.
Side Effects: There are side effects with every drug. Do the medications cause your elderly loved one a discomfort you’re not aware of? Communicating certain side effects may be kept from you due to embarrassment or fear.
Taste or difficulty swallowing: Many pills and other oral medicines have a bitter taste. Sometimes, they may be difficult to swallow due to a previous stroke or dental issues. It is not uncommon for seniors to be finicky about what goes in their mouths.
Tips for Getting Someone to Take Their Medication
Try these suggestions for helping seniors take medicine. You will find that all of these make it easier to manage prescription drug consumption.
Speak to Their Doctor: Their M.D. may have a solution for you based on the patient’s particular needs. Perhaps there is a way to minimize the number of pills they must take, change certain dosages, switch to a different formula, etc.
Create a calm environment: A less stressful environment may help an older adult relax enough to do something uncomfortable but necessary.
Crush pills into food: Crushing medication into applesauce, yogurt, or other foods may make it more pleasant to consume. Make sure to ask a pharmacist before doing this, since certain pills become less effective when crushed.
Do it together: Taking your own vitamins or medicine at the same time can make the entire experience more enjoyable, as if you two are “buddies”.
Set up medication management devices: If your loved one is independent, help them set up alarms, pill organizers or dispensers, daily checklists, etc.
Remain calm: Don’t force it. If it’s not happening, try again in 10 minutes. Sometimes, they just need to breathe, calm down, and/or be in a different mind state.
Stick to a Routine: This can do wonders for getting a senior to cooperate, especially one struggling with dementia. Eventually, a regular schedule may make it so there is no resistance to medication at all.
Offer a Reward: Consider offering a treat as a reward for taking their medicines, such as chocolate. This may help them associate medicine with something positive, instead of something uncomfortable.
Have you struggled with an elderly loved one who refuses to take their medication? We’d love to hear what you did to cope. Let us know in the comments section below!
Senior prescription drug abuse is a growing issue in the U.S. There are older adults that have had a drug problem which continued into the 65+ age group or individuals who developed a problematic relationship with medicine later on in life. Nevertheless, here’s what we know about prescription drug abuse, how to spot it, and what to do to get help.
What classifies as prescription drug abuse?
Prescription drug abuse is the repetitive and willful use of a medication in a way that was not intended by the prescribing doctor. This includes using somebody else’s medication, using unorthodox methods to consume substances, taking more than is advised by a doctor, mixing with other substances, and more. The most commonly misused prescription drugs are opioids, benzodiazepines, or stimulants.
Causes of addiction in the elderly
Around 17% of elderly people in the U.S. have a drug problem. Unfortunately, like alcoholism, senior substance abuse can occur due to depression and isolation. However, most older people misuse prescription medication by accident, since they often have to take so many. Aging also slows down the body’s ability to filter medicines. Regardless, abuse or addiction should be treated right away.
Substance abuse warning signs
Here are some signs and situations to look out for if you suspect your elderly parent or grandparent has a drug problem:
Requesting early refills
Claiming their medications have been lost or stolen
Appearing disoriented or impaired
Mood swings or major personality changes
Shopping around for new or additional doctors and/or pharmacies
What to do when your loved one has a drug problem
If you suspect that an older adult is abusing substances, immediately contact their doctor with your concerns. Have them contact the senior or their caregiver to make an appointment, so the doctor can evaluate the problem and determine treatment.
Treatment for prescription drug abuse is different for everyone. Depending on the substance abused, degree of addiction, and other factors, counselling, medication, group therapy, or other methods may be recommended. It is best to speak to an M.D. to find out more.
Choosing an Assisted Living Facility for your aging loved one
It can be challenging to decide which assisted living home suits a senior. Of course, the proper care is necessary, but finding an establishment that ensures an active and well-balanced life for your loved one is just as important. Even though going through this process seems overwhelming, there are many resources to help you out. Below are topics and questions you should consider when choosing the right community. Take your time when looking at the benefits, qualities, and management of these facilities to determine if registration is in the cards.
Area to Consider
When you enter the residence, what is the general feel of the place? Do you like the location? How about the way the building looks? Also important is receiving a greeting from the staff. This tells you that the place will be warm and friendly — not closed off to the visitors. If residents are socializing with each other, that will tell you a lot about their lives in this community. Talking to current residents about their perspective of the staff and other considerations can assist with deciding if they’re appropriate housemates for your loved one.
Another important thing to consider is the staff; how they’re dressed, how they act around residents, if they’re outgoing, and act professional. Determine if the staff calls the residents by name—the relationship that the staff has with the residents can tell you a lot about the feel of this place. Additionally, if the staff is friendly and welcoming to you while on your tour, that’s key in determining if they are personable. Visitors should be made to feel welcome at any time, and your loved one shouldn’t feel scared about inviting anyone over or having any repeat visitors.
Decide whether this community will meet all of your physical needs. Is it clean? Comfortable in terms of temperature, lighting, furniture, etc? The floor plan should be easy to follow, and the doorways should be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. A difficult thing with aging residents is the memory to take the necessary pills at their required times. To make that easier, there should be qualified staff nearby at all times. Also important is non-slip floor material—if present, this can positively affirm if there are safe surfaces to walk on. Is there good lighting? How about handrails? Are there elevators in order to avoid the stairs? If these exist, your loved one can get around safely and comfortably.
Needs, Costs, and Finances
By looking at the services and fees associated with putting your loved one into an assisted living home, you can determine if their needs for care will be met. The staff should assess a resident’s needs periodically in order to determine if they need to add or remove some assistance. You’ll also need to decide if would like a written plan for your seniors’ care. Find out is if there are any government or general public plans to help cover the cost of these services provided.
The staff should be ready to meet any needs, whether scheduled or not. They should be “on-call” 24 hours to meet the needs of their residents. Also, every ADL, or activities of daily living, should be provided. This includes bathing, dressing, hygiene and grooming, toileting, shopping, and laundry. Some communities even have a barber or hairdresser, a pharmacy, and physical therapy offered onsite.
Examining carefully if all these needs are met is one of the most important steps when deciding on the proper assisted living community. If the community does check some of the boxes, it might be worth scheduling visit to check the remaining boxes. You want to ensure a positive experience for your loved one, and selecting a beneficial assisted living community is the first step.
There is no question about the importance of being social, especially elderly people who are prone to isolation and thus depression. Physical and mental health can be greatly improved with some good ol’ company or community-based activity. However, some solitude can also do wonders for the mind and body. In between social interactions, an older adult with a strong self of self can be alone — but not lonely. Meditation and mindfulness are two activities anyone can enjoy to nurture themselves, regardless of physical ability.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a relaxation technique that develops concentration, clarity, and a healthy sense of perspective. It may include a mantra, silence, closing the eyes, and/or rhythmic breathing. The goal is to focus inwards for mental and physical stillness. With practice, it literally transforms the brain.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of focusing on the present moment; noticing current thoughts, emotions, and surroundings. It’s almost like meditating at every given moment. Mindfulness helps people connect with the world and the way they understand it emotionally, thereby calming the mind. Rather than avoiding feelings, mindfulness acknowledges and helps one grow through them.
Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness for Seniors
There have been extensive studies on the value of consistent meditation. They have proven that meditation and meditative techniques such as mindfulness have vast physical and mental benefits.
Here are some benefits an older person may experience with regular meditation and mindfulness practices.
Enhances Mood: Depression is common in the elderly. Meditation and mindfulness is shown to help people manage negative emotions and amplify positive ones.
Improves Circulation, Blood Pressure, and Digestion: Deep breathing is a huge component of meditation. This action, when practiced regularly, improves circulation, boosts blood oxygen levels, and improves digestive function. Seniors with digestive issues will find almost immediate relief once meditative breathing becomes part of their daily practice.
Slows the Progression of Alzheimer’s:A recent study has shown that breathing exercises and meditation combined slows the progression of dementia.
Increases Alertness: Frequent meditation causes the brain’s physical structure to change, thereby improving many functions such as focus, creativity, and cognitive skills.
Improves Memory: Meditation and mindfulness exercises and enlarges the parts of the brain responsible for memory.
Promotes Calmness: Aside from literally taking a second to breathe, organizing one’s thoughts during meditation helps you gain a clear perspective on life’s happenings.
As adults age, it’s common for their social connections to decrease due to lack of mobility, retirement, and other reasons. No matter the cause of senior isolation, it is crucial for caregivers to take extra measures to promote socialization. The consequences of feeling lonely for long periods of time can be quite harmful.
Whether you are a full time, part time, or long distance caregiver, you may want to consider the following tips for preventing senior isolation.
Promote a Sense of Purpose
The harmful effects of isolation are less likely to impact older adults who actively pursue their interests or contribute to a community. Having a sense of purpose is essential to mental health at any age. Besides this, many hobbies are social in nature. Figure out what your loved one likes to do and find a group that relates. For example, if your loved one enjoys reading, introduce them to a local book club. Always be supportive of their chosen endeavours.
Arrange for Transportation
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle of getting from point A to point B is the physical travel! Especially for an elderly person with no driver’s license, the most convenient transportation option isn’t always possible. Get creative with safe transportation options for all of your senior loved one’s social activities. Organize a carpool with others at these events, create a network of family and friends who are available to chauffeur at different times of the day, or help them learn the ins and outs of public transportation.
Get them a Pet
Pet therapy is increasingly popular with older adults. Having an animal companion not only deters loneliness, it also presents health benefits like lowered cholesterol levels, which in turn prevents heart attacks and strokes.
Going back to having a sense of purpose, volunteering is a great way to participate in community initiatives and contribute to a cause greater than oneself. Depending on their health, suggest that your loved one volunteer at local libraries, animal shelters, homeless shelters, hospitals, or places of worship. If they have a particular skill set, like accounting, connect them with groups or individuals who need help in these areas.
Encourage Exercise Groups or Classes
Physical activity is often a social activity. When a social aspect is combined with all the benefits of exercise, it’s a no-brainer to have your senior participate. Low-impact exercises like tai chi and yoga can easily be accessed by finding a local class and sticking to its schedule. Walking groups would also be a terrific light exercise; many shopping centres have groups dedicated to mall walking, or you can find a club that walks outdoors.
Encourage Visits to Places of Worship
While this may only apply to religious older adults, it’s a healthy practice that many people partake in. Because most places of worship have a repeating weekly schedule, they’re a wonderfully consistent and positive way to experience social interaction. Churches, mosques, and synagogues often have community programming as well; get to know which ones your loved one would enjoy.
Did we miss something? Let us know how you prevent senior isolation in the comments section below.
After retirement and especially after physical capability begins to deteriorate, caregivers of senior loved ones have to get creative keeping them busy! When the winter comes around, finding stimulating activities for the elderly can be even more of a challenge. But don’t let something like the weather get in the way of fun. There are tons of things to do with aging parents or grandparents that doesn’t involve being out in the cold!
Here are our top winter activities for seniors.
Gardening is beneficial for people of all ages. The activity stimulates all of the senses and awakens our fundamental connection with nature. For seniors, it’s especially rewarding when the activity is done in pairs or groups, since it can reduce social isolation.
In the wintertime, it’s significantly harder to spend long periods of time outdoors, tending the outdoor garden —- let alone actually growing and harvesting anything! Caring for houseplants is a great activity for older adults. Plus, air purifying leaves will fill their home, enhancing the environment where they spend most of the colder months! If physical activity isn’t possible for your aging parent or grandparent, simply being around plants is therapeutic.
Sit by a fire
Gathering around a fireplace – or a facsimile of a fireplace, such as a television playing a loop of a fire burning – is a soothing activity especially in the colder months. Converse or sit in silence; it is a great time to self-reflect or share stories. Bonus points if you have hot chocolate!
The cold shouldn’t cause a decrease in physical activity. It’s one of the most important ways to maintain overall health. A mall provides a great space to walk around in with an elderly loved one. Some malls even have facilitated ‘mall walking’ clubs or programs. Other low-impact exercises that can be done indoors are tai chi, yoga, stretches, and chair exercises.
Arts & crafts
Art-based therapy is a great way to ward off the winter blues. Depending on your aging parent or grandparent’s physical ability and dexterity, they may enjoy dabbling in some arts and crafts. Painting, pottery, and clay sculpting are classics. Our pick? The new trend in adult colouring books!
Cooking or Baking
Cooking or baking is not just a simple activity to ease boredom; it’s a crucial event that feeds the households’ mouths! Spending time together making a meal or a baked treat is a social activity that contributes to the community — thereby also giving them a sense of purpose.
Stimulating all year ‘round, reading does wonders for mental wellbeing. Depending on their cognitive ability, you can read to your loved ones one-on-one, in a group, or have them do it on their own. Reading the news can become an insightful daily activity,; reading fiction or poetry can be relaxing.
It is proven that pet companions presents many health benefits to seniors. More and more often pets are being utilized at senior facilities for therapy. They lower cholesterol levels which can prevent heart attacks and strokes! They also lessen the symptoms of depression, since caring for living beings gives elderly adults a sense of purpose. Many facilities have organized for kittens to be brought in for feeding by patients.
Did we miss something? Let us know what your favorite senior activities are in the comments section below.