CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 2. Issue 8
The Balanced Care Method™ – Social Ties, Calmness & Sense of Purpose
Good nutrition, physical activity, and sharp minds are all central to the Balanced Care Method™. So is maintaining social ties, seeking calmness, and having a sense of purpose in life. This is our final installment about the Balanced Care Method™ in the Home Care Assistance Newsletter. Drawn from the habits and lifestyle of the elders of Okinawa, who enjoy both long life spans and extraordinary good health during their many years, the Balanced Care Method™ includes the social needs of seniors as well as their physical and mental needs. The remarkable life spans and health of Okinawan elders has been partially explained by the extent to which their lives are also low stress, socially rich, purposeful, and spiritual.
The islands of Okinawa traditionally follow a relaxed pace, with slower rhythms and fewer "on the clock" commitments than are common in so many other modern societies. Being hurried, being constantly worried, or being in a state of constant stress are not part of the Okinawan elders' lifestyle, which protects them from the negative physiological consequences of psychological stress: rapid heartbeat, frequent contraction and dilation of blood vessels, digestive problems, and overworked glands. Since their immune systems aren't constantly being asked to fight stress created from being late or over-worked, they can focus on their real job: fighting disease. Of course, their healthful diet and regular exercise also help keep excess stress at bay.
Spirituality infuses all aspects of the Okinawan lifestyle. The dominant spirituality in Okinawa combines the nature-revering aspects of Taoism with the communal respect emphasized by Confucianism, and a native spirituality that celebrates women as connectors between present and past and reveres elders. It is a point of view that sees all people as good and emphasizes the importance of responsibility to and of individuals and groups.
It is also a worldview that easily unites past values with present realities, ancient Eastern healing philosophies with Western-style medicine. Their spirituality offers Okinawan elders stress relief – well, actual protection from experiencing stress in the first place, which is even better – as well as a sense of social connection, better life satisfaction and sense of purpose, not to mention a respected, important role in their community.
Within this worldview of mutual support – helping your neighbor, caring for family, watching out for friends – are all part of daily life. Social networks on Okinawa help elders there live independently because help is nearby for everyone and social support is part of every stage of life. Hobbies, social visits, and group activities are similarly facilitated.
The individual attention of the Balanced Care Method™ also makes it possible to have clients enjoy the outdoors on a regular basis. Fresh air, time in nature, sitting and enjoying a pretty view: These are all extraordinarily calming and stress-relieving for people of all ages and are particularly effective as people get older and lose their physical and mental ability to relieve stress in other ways.
Individual attention also makes it possible for seniors to continue to attend places of worship, clubs, and other groups if they are physical able. This benefit echoes the social and connecting communal practices of the Okinawan elders.
The Balanced Care Method™ is as much a way of seeing aging and understanding it as a part of a whole life, rich and meaningful at every stage, as it is a particular set of practices. Each element – fostering independence, encouraging the maintenance of social ties, remaining active – supports and reinforces the others.
10 Tips for Happy Senior Holidays
The excitement of the holidays can bring out the best ¬ and worst in everyone, seniors included. The extra physical, mental, and emotional stress that holidays can bring can be especially taxing on seniors, especially those with health issues. Staying connected to family and friends is especially important during the holidays when so much attention is paid in the media and in society at large to the importance of family and family gatherings. From fighting the "holiday blues" to making the most of family celebrations, these tips will help make your holidays – from Thanksgiving through New Years – the best they can be for everyone involved.
1. Cherish Old Memories. Taking a stroll down memory lane, looking at photo albums, watching home movies – these are all wonderful things to do at the holidays and can have several benefits for seniors and the family as a whole. First, seniors with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia can often recall older memories with great accuracy. They tend to enjoy talking about them, and that discussion can be quite calming as well. Second, sharing these memories across generations create deeper family bonds and allow younger members of the family to hear about family history (and lore!). Finally, many older people have strong and often intensely fond memories of holidays past and may miss the people with whom they used to spend time with, particularly deeply around the holidays. Talking about these memories and people and having friends and family acknowledge their sense of loss and can help alleviate the "holiday blues" as well as allow them to enjoy what the present holiday has to offer. Try neither to dismiss nor to dwell on such melancholy feelings.
2. Create New Memories. Make sure that, along with talking about the old times, there is an activity or event that the whole family can look forward to at this holiday. A special dessert – either a family favorite or a new recipe, a group game, a family photo, a short walk or drive to look at holiday decorations are all possible activities that seniors can look forward to when anticipating their holiday celebration.
3. Involve Everyone. The Balanced Care Method™ stresses encouraging seniors to do daily tasks as they are able. Keep this in mind when planning preparations and chores for the holiday. A senior who can no longer put up the tree or bake the pies may still be able to cut out cookies or arrange flowers for the table. Losing the sense of "being in charge" can be difficult for many seniors. Be patient and allow them to give advice – even when it wasn't asked for. Some seniors may enjoy being able to finally take it easy and have people wait on them, but many have trouble with their new role of being cared for.
4. Avoid Over-Stimulation and Exhaustion. Many seniors tire easily, especially in the loud and active environment the holidays tend to foster. The over-stimulation of too many activities or too much noise or just too many people can overwhelm them and lead to exhaustion or plain old bad moods and crankiness. Set aside time for a nap if that is what they are used to. Even arranging a quiet room or corner where they aren't in the middle of every activity can help alleviate the irritability that often comes with over-stimulation.
5. Mealtime Savvy. Along with scheduling nap time if necessary, try to schedule meals – or at least opportunities for eating – to fit the senior's regular meal times. When planning holiday menus, remember to include healthful, vegetable-laden dishes and some whole grains along with any heavy family favorites that will grace the table. Offering fresh fruit as well as cakes and cookie and pies at dessert is good for the whole family, and citrus fruit (like tangerines and Clementine oranges) is at its very best this time of year.
6. Basic Household Respect. If the holiday gathering is happening in the senior's home, be extra attentive and respectful of how they have things arranged. Do not move furniture around, since it can be disorienting to those with dementia and annoying or disrespectful to anyone. Ask for permission to move objects out of the way of children, for example, or to use special dishes or equipment.
7. Fresh Air & Exercise. If physically able and weather permitting, remember that nothing alleviates tension, anxiety, and irritability in almost anyone of any age quite like a little movement outdoors. A short walk or simply going outside to watch the kids play can brighten many gatherings. Bonus: exposure to sunlight can help fight seasonal affective disorder which can play into the "holiday blues."
8. Avoid Accidents. If the gathering is away from home for the senior, check to see that throw rugs are either taped down or picked up for the day; make sure bathrooms, stairs, and hallways are well-lit; clean up any clutter on the floor in rooms where the senior will be.
9. Offer Alternatives to Alcohol. The holidays are festive in many ways, and nogs and spirits are often part of the fun. Some seniors shouldn't drink at all, others can drink moderately. Excessive drinking really isn't great for anyone, however, and can lead to less respect, more animosity, inappropriate behavior or comments, and general incivility in anyone. Make sure plenty of non-alcoholic beverages are available and as accessible as alcoholic ones. Have water glasses full at the table and offer soft drinks regularly.
10. Remember Other Seniors. Reach out to other seniors you know during the holiday season. A visit or a phone call or card lets them know someone is thinking of them and helps them stay connected to their social network. Loneliness can be especially painful during the holidays, when others may seem so busy and happy if one is not. Let senior family members and friends know they are not alone.
Caregiver of The Month: Marcia Kettinger
My name is Marcia. I was born in central Michigan. I got married right after high school and was blessed with two boys. I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and then decided to try out a few jobs to see if I could find the right fit.
My mother was a caregiver for years and I decided to try doing that myself. I discovered that I had a passion for geriatric care and I went on to work for Hospice and to become Hospice certified. Later I decided to open my own private home care business, called Your Heart’s Joy. After starting my own business I went on to receive my CNA and HIPPA certificates. Following this, I attended an accelerated LPN school in Ohio.
Caring for the geriatric generation is very rewarding. I feel like I am making it possible for my clients to stay in their own homes, in familiar and comfortable surroundings. The value of this job is evident whenever I know that I’ve put a smile on a client’s face and I am rewarded by the appreciation I receive from the families. I began working at Home Care Assistance of Southeast Michigan as a caregiver. I proved to be dependable, dedicated, and reliable in that role, so I was promoted to the position of Case Manager.
As a Case Manager, I am in contact with the clients, families, and caregivers on a daily basis. I find the involvement I have as a Case Manager rewarding in so many ways. Home care is a service that is offered to the public which provides people with the opportunity to remain in their own homes, enjoying the comfort of what they know best.