Monday, September 25, 2017

Powerful Tools for Caregivers

Millions of Americans are providing care and support to a parent, spouse, friend, or neighbor – who need help because of a limitation in their physical, mental, or cognitive functioning. Not enough attention is given to family caregivers who provide 85% of all care to the frail and disabled. At least 17.7 million individuals in the United States are family caregivers of someone age 65 and older who has a significant impairment. Are you one of them? The circumstances of individual caregivers are extremely varied – they may live nearby or far away from their loved one; they may provide care occasionally, daily, or for a long duration; they may help with household tasks or self-care activities, or they may provide care for complex medical conditions; or they may be responsible for all of these activities. The impact of caregiving on families cannot be ignored. Current research is finding that taking care of tired caregivers could be as important as providing care for their loved ones. Caregivers often completely change their lifestyle to take care of those they love. It is well known that caring for a family member with a chronic illness such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or other diseases is stressful and can take an enormous physical and emotional toll on caregivers. Are you feeling stretched caring for a loved one? Did you know that over a six week period you can take part in a training program designed with you, the caregiver in mind? Powerful Tools for Caregivers is an educational series designed to provide you with the tools you need to take care of yourself. You will learn to: Reduce stress Improve self-confidence Better communicate your feelings Balance your life Increase your ability to make tough decisions Locate helpful resources. The classes are offered on Wednesdays beginning October 4th and running through November 8th from 1:00 pm – 3:30pm. Sessions will be held at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport, NY 14094. Two experienced class leaders will conduct each session. Interactive lessons, discussions and brainstorming will help you take the “tools” you choose and put them into action for your life. The cost for the six-week program is $25 and includes a copy of The Caregiver Help book, but is covered in full for members of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of WNY and Independent Health. Pre-Registration is required - Call Erie County Senior Services at (716) 858-2177 or email for more information and to register. Additional classes are also being scheduled; additional classes can be found at Powerful Tools for Caregivers is co-sponsored by The University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions and the Erie County Caregiver Coalition.

Suicide Awareness and Prevention

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Every 15 minutes someone in the United States takes his or her own life. And for every one suicide, there are 25 attempts. Suicide takes life without regard to age, income, education, social standing, race, or gender. Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans. The legacy of suicide continues long after the death, impacting bereaved loved ones and communities. Fortunately, there is strong evidence that a comprehensive public health approach is effective in reducing suicide rates. In fact, suicide rates have been declining among both American youth and elders for well over a decade, two groups on which the nation has focused most. It’s important to know the warning signs that help identify an individual who may be at immediate risk of taking their own life. For example, an individual may reveal the following information: • Talk of wanting to hurt or kill oneself • Unusual contemplation of death, dying, or suicide • Feelings of being trapped—like there’s no way out • Feelings of hopelessness or that there is no purpose in life • Withdrawal from friends, family, and society People at risk of suicide may also present with: • Increased alcohol or substance use • Anxiety/agitation • Rage/uncontrolled anger • Trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time • Dramatic mood changes, including sudden elevation in mood Half the population reports they have been touched by suicide. And, one out of three people say it has had a high impact on their lives. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 free confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved one, and resources for professionals. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline # is 1-

Devices for Wandering Residents

Six in 10 people with dementia will wander. A person with Alzheimer's may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places. Wandering among people with dementia is dangerous, but there are strategies and services to help prevent it. Anyone who has memory problems and is able to walk is at risk for wandering. Even in the early stages of dementia, a person can become disoriented or confused for a period of time. It's important to plan ahead for this type of situation. Be on the lookout for the following warning signs: Returns from a regular walk or drive later than usual Forgets how to get to familiar places. Talks about fulfilling former obligations, such as going to work Tries or wants to "go home," even when at home Is restless, paces or makes repetitive movements Has difficulty locating familiar places like the bathroom, bedroom or dining room Asks the whereabouts of past friends and family Acts as if doing a hobby or chore, but nothing gets done (e.g., moves around pots and dirt without actually planting anything) Acts nervous or anxious in crowded areas, such as shopping malls or restaurants. Wandering can happen, even if you are the most diligent of caregivers. Use the following strategies to help lower the chances: Having a routine can provide structure. Identify the most likely times of day that wandering may occur for your loved one and plan activities at that time. Activities and exercise can reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness. If the person with dementia wants to leave to "go home" or "go to work," use communication that reassures them; refrain from correcting the person. For example, "We are staying here tonight. We are safe and I'll be with you. We can go home in the morning after a good night's rest." Has your loved one gone to the bathroom? Is he or she thirsty or hungry? Make sure all their basic needs are met. Avoid busy places that are confusing and can cause disorientation. This could be a shopping malls, grocery stores or other busy venues. Consider a “Wandering Prevention Device”. Locally, Niagara County Office for the Aging and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department are partnering to provide a free device and monitoring for wandering prevention. According to Maggie Hempel, Case Manager/ Senior Services at Niagara County Office for the Aging, “I wish more people would take advantage of it. It keeps your loved one safe and gives you, the caregiver, peace of mind. It prevents the crisis from happening.” The first call is to Maggie Hempel at the Office for the Aging. She can be reached at 438-4036 or via email at During a care consultation meeting, the risk of wandering is assessed. Maggie meets with caregivers of all ages who are caring for people with a memory deficiency – which can be caused by dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or other conditions. Then, arrangements are made with the Sheriff’s department for the device, which attaches to the wrist similar to a watch. It is easy to put on by the caregiver, but difficult to remove. Niagara County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at 438-3331. Ongoing monitoring is also provided. The Office for the Aging will assist the caregiver with set up, programming the monitoring range and setting up the phone alerts. The monitoring range establishes safety zones; when a loved one wanders beyond the safety zone, the designated caregiver receives a transmission on their phone that alerts them that their loved one is wandering. This is a great example of a partnership that is keeping the at-risk residents of the community safe. I agree with Maggie Hempel that it has the potential to prevent a crisis from happening. I hope that if you are a caregiver and your loved one is showing signs that he or she is at risk of wandering that you will call about the wandering prevention device and other caregiver services available.