Thursday, June 28, 2012

Be Sensitive to Parents Feelings

Most adult children of aging parents understand the importance of attending to a parent’s physical, medical and financial needs.  But we often overlook the psychological aspects of aging, according to geriatric nursing specialists.   It’s hard to grasp what it is like to be at a stage of life we haven’t reached yet, and aging isn’t a subject seniors talk about with ease.  But we need to try to understand what they are experiencing so we can be sensitive to their feelings as we take on even more responsibility for their care.

What would our parents tell us about aging if they could?  Here are 12 things that aging parents and those who care for them think it’s important for us to understand:

1.)                “It’s hard to admit that I need help.”  Adult children are often frustrated when parents who can no longer manage on their own still resist having someone come in to help.  To us, it’s the only way to ensure they’re being well cared for.  But to them, the introduction of help may mean something more distasteful – it reinforces feelings that they are losing their independence.  Accepting help can also constitute an invasion of privacy or disruption of routine.
2.)                “I need time to adjust to change.”  It takes time to admit they can no longer do everything themselves.  Some people accept help willingly as a means of staying in their homes.  Others are hesitant at first but slowly adjust as they see that assistance makes their lives easier. 
3.)                “Don’t talk down to me.”  Imagine living a long, rich, productive life only to be spoken to and treated condescendingly by someone decades younger.
4.)                “I’m not helpless.”  Just as offensive is the assumption many younger adults make that age equals incompetence. 
5.)                “My biggest fear is being a burden.”  Years of caring for her mother-in-law had taught Annette how much pride her mother-in-law took in living independently.  But Annette didn’t realize how sensitive her mother-in-law was to the amount of care she still needed until she developed a kidney infection.  As it came on, Annette spent 3 days and nights caring for her.  Annette didn’t give her caretaking much thought, but her mother-in-law did.  When she finally had to be hospitalized, she told the nurse how glad she was that Annette would finally get some rest.
6.)                “I need to feel useful.”  Everyone needs to feel a sense of competency, a sense of not being totally dependent on others.
7.)                “I still want to live my own life.”  Rather than live with adult children and fear becoming a burden, some people prefer moving to an assisted living facility.  Older adults want to be around people their own age and get involved in activities.
8.)                “I miss all of my old friends.”  Most seniors with loving family around them realize how blessed they are.  But friendships are also important.  When chances to share feelings, problems and memories with friends dwindle, the loss can be a major blow to a person’s sense of well being.
9.)                 “I don’t feel any different on the inside.”  It’s impossible for younger, healthier children to understand what it’s like to experience the physical losses, changes and deterioration that accompany aging – especially for individuals who remain mentally sharp and still feel whole in mind and spirit.  People tend to see themselves as the same continuous person regardless of how old they may be.
10.)                        “Walkers are for old people.”  Esther says, “When I’m out with a walker, people look at me like they feel sorry for me and I hate that.”    Though a walker or cane keeps older people safer and prevents them from falling, they see it differently.
11.)                        “It hurts to leave home.” Older people often miss their house, friends, and neighborhood that were such an important part of their live.  It can be traumatic to adjust to a new surrounding and signals that their lives have changed forever.   Even when elders decide on their own to give up their home, there is still the issue of what it signifies.
12.)                        “My memories are precious.”  Surround your parents with memories that include photographs of children, grandchildren, pictures of special occasions, chronicles of your life that are important. 

The more sensitive we can be about what our aging parents are going through, the more we can offer the kind of help they really need. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Route 66 Walking Challenge

Running approximately 2400 miles long from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 passes through the heart of the United States. It was one of our country’s first transcontinental highways. Though it is no longer a main route across the country, Route 66 has retained its mystique and is now designated Historic Route 66.   The romance of Route 66 continues to captivate people from all over.  It is also the inspiration for Route 66 Walking Challenge, locally.

Route 66 Walking Challenge” is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield and offered through The Dale Association with the hope that a group of 30 people will walk the equivalent of 2400 miles.   Fifteen teams of two people each will accumulate walking miles over six weeks towards the 2400 goal. Pedometers will be given out to keep track of the miles. 

Teams of two can sign up together or individual people can sign up and will be partnered with another individual.  Scheduled group walks will help maximize weekly steps or individuals and teams can walk on their own time.  Teams will compete against other teams for total distance walked. Recognition prizes will be given out at a celebration at the end of 6 weeks.

The walking challenge is free, fun, and healthy.  A walking seminar is being held on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 12:30pm at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport.  The walking challenge kickoff is Tuesday, July 17th and the celebration party is Tuesday, September 11th. Registration in advance is required; please call 433-1886 or stop at 33 Ontario Street to register.

Walking may be the single best — and easiest — exercise you can do to improve your health. Not only will going for a daily walk help you feel better now, it will help you maintain your independence and ability to do daily tasks as you age, according to a health professionals.

Research also has shown that walking regularly can help protect the aging brain against memory loss, dementia, help cut the risk of heart disease, reduce the chance of developing type 2 diabetes in high-risk adults by a whopping 60 percent.

And we're not talking marathon walking. The peak benefits come from 30 minutes of exercise several times a week, say experts.

Most of us do need to move more: Only 30 percent of people ages 45 to 64 say they engage in regular leisure-time physical activity, and that drops to 25 percent for those 65 to 74, according to the National Institute on Aging.

As the song says, “Get your kicks on route 66” and get up and walk.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Safety and Fall Prevention

June is National Safety Month and includes Fall Prevention Week.

Did you know?
  • Falls are the number one cause of injury, hospital visits, and death from an injury among people age 65 and older.
  • Each year 1 out of 3 older adults will experience a fall.
  • Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.
  • Of those who fall, 20 - 30 percent suffer moderate to severe injuries that reduce mobility and independence and increase the risk of premature death.
  • 20% of older people who break a hip from falling die within a year of their injury.
  • Falls are not inevitable.
According to the National Safety Council, most falls are preventable.  Older adults are more prone to become the victim of falls and the resulting injuries can diminish the ability to lead active, independent lives. Risk factors include physical hazards in the environment, age-related issues and health conditions. Reduce your risk and find fall hazards in your workplace and home to prevent injuries and keep others safe round the clock.

Falls are by far the leading unintentional injury accounting for more than 8.7 million emergency room visits each year in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following tips can greatly help older adults prevent falls, but are beneficial to those of all ages.

• Stay active: Chances of falling can be reduced by improving strength and balance. Examples of activities include brisk walking, tai chi and yoga. .  Research has shown that falls reduction programs that include exercise are most effective for reducing falls risk. It is often assumed that these programs are effective because they improve physical performance, such as greater muscle strength and balance. A team of researchers at the University of British Columbia propose a different explanation for the effectiveness of exercise for falls reduction.  They hypothesize that the improved cognitive function that can result from exercise has a greater role in falls prevention than do balance and strength.

• Fall-proof your home: This includes removing all tripping hazards.

• Review your medications: Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medications you take both prescription and over-the-counter. Some medications or combination of medicines can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can potentially lead to a fall.

• Check your vision: It's best to have your vision checked at least once a year to make sure you have the best prescription for your glasses. Poor vision greatly increases your risk of falling.
The growth in the aging population, the desire of mature adults to remain independent, and the rising cost of health care and long term care make preventing and reducing falls a paramount importance in promoting healthy aging.   

My hope in providing this information is that older adults will have fewer falls and fall related injuries - thus maximizing their independence and quality of life.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dementia, Caregiving and Music

If you're a family caregiver do you wish you and your ailing spouse, parent, or relative could do something fun together outside your “roles”?  A group of people in New York City feel the same way.  Half the group has early to mid stage dementia, the other half are their family caregivers. So, they are belting out tunes side by side as part of a New York City first-ever chorus known as The Unforgettables. The chorale conductor is a music therapist and musician.

It seems to be more than just a feel-good get together. The founder of the group monitored the group before they started rehearsing (two hours a week), midway through, and after the group’s first concert last September.

The results after 13 rehearsals and the concert? Better quality of life, self-esteem and mood, including less depression, for both groups, and a way to forgot about being the caregiver and just be husband/wife and parent/child again.   There’s thought that music can activate parts of the brain not impacted by dementia until the late stage of the disease.

The isolation a caregiver for someone with dementia feels can be profound. Here, caregivers socialize during the break and find support in one another. No one has dropped out of the group. In fact, when one of the care recipients died, her daughter asked to remain part of the group.  Participants and spectators are singing the program’s praises, and there’s interest from other parts of the country.

But, you don’t have to be in a chorus or have Alzheimer’s to enjoy time with your loved one. How about sharing something you both like to do? Cook, garden, paint or take yoga together  to change the emphasis from being the caregiver of a sick person to the two of you being together.

Don’t forget what the Unforgettables teach us: “They are not just ill people, they are people.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

Improving Your Mood

For reasons that are not always apparent, you may sometimes feel a little down or fatigued.  The cause, or combination of causes, may be anything from a recent emotional upset or a major change in your life to a stressful period of time in your life.  To keep a positive flow of energy in your life, try these simple strategies.
Improving your mood need not be time consuming or expensive – learn to appreciate simple pleasures, such as a matinee movie or a long chat with a friend can do wonders to brighten your day.
Make sure you are well rested.  According to the National Institute on Aging, an estimated 30 percent of middle aged Americans don’t get enough sleep. 
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.  Moderate exercise is an activity that leaves you feeling warm, but still able to talk.  And don’t forget routine activities like mopping the floor and raking leaves are considered moderate exercise. Although no amount of physical activity can stop the biological aging process, there is evidence that regular exercise can minimize the physiological effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle and increase active life expectancy by limiting the development and progression of chronic disease and disabling conditions.
Music has the ability to alter your mood.  If you want to relax, listen to slow, soothing classical music.  To energize yourself, pick something that is faster such as jazz or pop.  Or consider making your own music by playing a musical instrument. 
Taking up a new hobby provides you with feelings, which can improve your sense of well being.  Bringing a little creativity into your life can mean something as simple as trying a new recipe or a more involved project like woodworking or landscaping.  The important thing is to develop a new interest. 
By making a difference in the lives of others and becoming active, you generate positive feelings in your own life.  Volunteering will fill your heart and let goodness shine in your life.  Studies show that people who volunteer as little as two hours per week improve their own health.  Worries drift away when you focus on others.
Try one of these strategies to distract your attention from the hectic pace of life around you and restore the energy you need to live a full life.