CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 2. Issue 9
Home Care Assistance Updates!
Home Care Assistance is excited to announce our newest opening in Ontario, Canada. We will continue to expand our services throughout Canada in the coming months!
We also recently published our latest Balanced Care Method™ workbook, a comprehensive document with specific lifestyle tips to promote healthy longevity for adults and seniors alike. These include healthy diet recipes, effective exercises and stretches, mentally engaging activities, and ways to promote calmness and a sense of purpose. All Home Care Assistance caregivers have been trained on the Balanced Care Method™ principles and are currently using the workbook in their daily care!
Gift-Giving Ideas for Seniors
Gift-giving season is either the best time of the year (if you love shopping and always have tons of ideas for everyone on your list) or the thing you dread most about winter (if, once again, you can't think of a thing for anyone on your list). The challenges of gift giving are often increased when shopping for seniors. While some seniors still delight in receiving gifts, others are in a stage of getting rid of, rather than acquiring, things.
We've pulled together some ideas for from-the-heart, non-space-taking, useful gifts for both seniors who still love opening presents and seniors who beg you not to get them anything at all. For more ideas, including some specific life-enhancing items and games, please visit our Home Care Blog on our company website.
Gifts that can be eaten or used (and don't need to be stored) are often a great bet for seniors. Some ideas that keep the principles of healthy diet found in the Balanced Care Method™ in mind are:
- Filet of smoked salmon (with rye or pumpernickel bread and whipped cream cheese for the full effect)
- Selection of green and herbal teas, with a few tea biscuits and whole-grain cookies
- Membership to a CSA (community supported agriculture) or produce delivery service for regular supplies of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables
- Basket with an assortment of whole grain pastas, canned tomatoes, jarred anchovies, high quality olive oil, flavored vinegars, marinated artichokes, olives, capers, or dried porcini mushrooms
Gift certificates for special items that a senior wouldn't normally treat himself to can be a great present. While gift certificates to places or for services they normally use can be useful, and may be more appropriate for some people, bumping it up just a notch can add an element of fun for the giver and the receiver.
- Gift certificate to a specialty store, deli, or take-out counter
- Credit to spend at the hairdresser's or a nail salon. Homebound seniors appreciate a traveling professional – many salons offer home treatments.
- Spa services such as massage or facials. Again, many spas offer home service for an additional fee.
- Membership to a museum, which provides a year's worth of free visits and outings
- Tickets or subscriptions to the theater or symphony (along with a ride there and back!)
- Movie passes
- Subscription to audio books or credit on an iTunes account
Special outings, household chores, favorite meals – they all make great "gifts" when written down as a personalized gift certificate someone can redeem later in the year. Try to think of things that really are special, that either you don't usually do or that you know the person wishes you would do significantly more often. Some examples:
- Major yard work like trimming hedges or mulching gardens
- Major housework tasks such as painting a room, cleaning gutters, or organizing a closet
- Chauffeur services, either a 10-pack for short trips or one big journey, perhaps to visit a friend or family member the person doesn't get to see very often
- A visit to a favorite restaurant together or a home-cooked meal of the person's choice
Taming the "Holiday Blues"
The holidays are supposed to be a time of good will and great cheer. Yet the very pressure to be happy and share good times with family and friends can cause stress and disappointment, especially among seniors. As the holidays unfold, the stress and unrealized expectations can make people feel increasingly disappointed and sad.
Several things lead to what are commonly called the "holiday blues.” Here's what you can do to help alleviate those blues for seniors in your life:
Missing Loved Ones.
Many seniors have outlived dear friends and family. The holidays can highlight that loss. Talking about the people the senior misses, acknowledging the loss and sadness, and sharing memories can help. Helping a senior visit a cherished friend or family member who shares memories of the person or people they miss most can be a wonderful holiday treat, if possible.
Missing Old Times.
Memories of "the good old days" can make a senior's current holiday season difficult to enjoy. Whether the memories of holidays past are completely accurate or not, the idea that things used to be better can detract from how things are. Again, discussing these memories and talking about the old times with the senior can be a great help. This is not necessarily the time to "correct" memories and make them less golden – let the holidays be a time you just talk about the good memories. Finding an element of those good old days that can be repeated is a lovely gesture – a favorite family tradition or special dish is a way to acknowledge the importance of the senior's memories while adding some present-day focus. Looking through photo albums, watching home movies, or sharing favorite holiday memories can also provide links to family history for younger generations. Making new memories by attending community events or starting new traditions can be mood-enhancing. Make sure to focus some attention on not just the present, but the future, too.
Many seniors will spend at least part of the holiday alone – grown children live far away or have in-laws with whom they spend at least part of the holidays. Talk to the senior in your family – is it more important to them that all the kids get together at once or that people visit at different times to extend the holidays? Find out what would mean the most to them, and then try to work as a family to make the most of your schedules. Be clear about your plans with your senior. Remember, too, that it's not just the actual holidays that can be difficult, but the whole time of year. Try getting together for shorter or smaller times together throughout the season. Help send holiday cards, visit a holiday display, or do some other holiday activity together. Help the senior in your family connect with other family and friends this holiday season, as well.
A senior's declining health or limited abilities may always bother them, but the holidays can highlight their inability to join in favorite tasks and activities they used to enjoy – whether it's ice skating, putting up the tree, or cooking a dinner feast. Talking about and acknowledging the difficulties and their feelings is a great first step. Then finding activities they can still do is wonderful. Coming along to see the kids skate, hanging a few ornaments, deciding where a cherished ornament is hung, helping plan the menu – keep the senior as involved in the family's holiday as they can be.
This is related to missing old times, but is a bit less specific and, in fact, can affect everyone at the holidays. If we expect everything to be perfect, we are bound to be disappointed. Remember, the holidays are stressful even when all goes well. People will be late, trees will be crooked, roasts will be overcooked – you just don't know which part of your holiday plan will go awry. Try to limit predictable sources of stress for yourself and the senior(s) in your life – limit the activities you commit to if you tend to get overwhelmed, try smaller gatherings if those work better for your family, talk with other adults on your gift list about not exchanging gifts this year if you feel financial strain or shopping fatigue.
Whether in food or drink, the excess eating and drinking at the holidays can put a real damper on everyone's moods, and seniors are especially susceptible. If people are already feeling the "holiday blues" they may be more likely to try and feel better by drinking. Remember that despite the momentary elation alcohol can bring, it is a depressant and, overall, will more often then not worsen a bad mood. Along with keeping a healthy diet and limiting alcohol intake, getting regular exercise this time of year can also help keep spirits bright.
People hit particularly hard by the "holiday blues" may want to seek counseling. Talking to a supportive, confidential therapist can help people of any age deal more productively with their memories and feelings.
Sometimes the "holiday blues" are actually signs of depression. For people who are already stressed or emotionally stretched thin, the addition of holiday pressure can be too much to bear. The difference between "the blues" and depression is, in the end, the degree and duration of the symptoms. If you notice the senior(s) in your life exhibited any of the following symptoms persistently for two weeks or more, or they seem particularly entrenched even when help is offered, consult a mental health professional.
- Sad mood or general emotional lack of engagement
- Loss of pleasure or interest in things they usually enjoy
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping constantly
- Lack of appetite or sudden weight gain
- Anxious, agitated, or nervous behavior
- Social withdrawal
- New and persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment (headaches and stomach aches are the most common)
- New and persistent lack of concentration
- Thoughts, discussion, or mention of suicide (no need to wait two weeks, seek help immediately)
You will notice than many of these are things we commonly associate with aging. While some of that is true, persistent sadness, guilt, anxiety, or lack of emotional engagement is not "normal" for anyone. New and persistent sleep, appetite, and physical problems in anyone should be addressed by a physician in any case. Depression is often very treatable and it is important that seniors get the mental health treatment they need. Depression distorts people's view of the world, worsens physical ailments, and gets worse when left untreated.
Caregiver of The Month: Barbara Wilson
Ms. Wilson lives in Rahway, New Jersey. She is certified by the State of New York and holds a CNA license (Certified Health Care facility nurse aide) and has been involved in this profession for over 26 years. Barbara has experience with Dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cancer care, hospice, incontinence, medication reminders, light housekeeping and meal preparation. Barbara can also assist with physical therapy, keep to a schedule, and communicate very well. She is highly regarded by both past and present employers and has strong references. She is personable, kind, and caring. Barbara puts forth great effort and pride into her work.
She has been with the Home Care Assistance of Red Bank office for approximately 3 years and has been staffed as a live-in caregiver. We are very pleased with her continued show of respect and dedication to our staff and our clients. We are so glad to have Barbara as part of our wonderful team.