CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 4. Issue 5
Letter From the Editor:
July is right around the corner and both Canada and the United States plan to celebrate! Canada Day kicks off the month on July 1st with Independence Day three days later on the 4th. Also on the calendar is Alzheimer’s Awareness Week, observed from the 6th to the 12th. Alzheimer’s affects millions of Americans and Canadians, so please take the opportunity to show your support.
This month’s newsletter focuses on several signs that indicate a senior may need more day-to-day assistance, as well as some effective solutions to ensure that both you and your loved one have your needs met. Making the right adjustments to life’s changes are an important way to remain healthy and safe.
I will go over key tips to help better prepare you if you are faced with some of Mother Nature’s biggest hazards – hurricanes, earthquakes and tornados. You can never be too cautious when you and your loved ones are in danger.
Finally, I discuss some simple and straightforward ways to help you maintain your vision over the long-term. Believe it or not, eyes have muscles too, so be sure to give them a good workout now and then in order to keep 20/20 vision!
And last, but not least, this month’s Caregiver Spotlight features Shelly Lucas with Home Care Assistance of Oakville. She is also the recent winner of our 2011 Caregiver of the Year award!
Tell-Tall Signs Your Loved One Needs Help
For many of us, acknowledging that an aging parent or loved one needs help is a difficult process. As our parents age, they depend on us more and more and eventually will need additional help at home. Tell-tale signs that your parent or loved one could benefit from home care include the inability to comfortably perform routine tasks including bathing and dressing, neglect of housekeeping tasks, and the inability to run errands or drive.
In general, consider the following areas:
- Mobility Issues – Difficulty walking, unsteady when standing, falling down, stumbling.
- Disinterest in Personal Health – Changes in eating or cooking habits, spoiled or outdated food in the refrigerator, lack of nutritious food in the pantry or freezer.
- Disinterest in Personal Hygiene – Wearing the same clothes, wearing soiled or unkempt clothing, lack of bathing or oral care, unkempt hair or nails.
- Changes in Personal Habits – Loss of interest in hobbies, reluctance to socialize, unopened mail or unpaid bills, changes in housekeeping methods, lack of home or car maintenance.
- Loss of Mental Acuity – Memory loss, confusion, difficulty in concentration, poor judgment, forgets medication or has become confused about dosage, unusual purchases of goods or services, mood or other personality changes, increase or decrease in sleep, fatigue.
If you feel your aging loved one falls into one of the categories above, there are many different senior care options your family can look into. You can contact a local geriatric care manager to help assess your family’s needs and determine the best option. Some options include:
- Adult day care – A daily program, usually Mon-Fri from 9am-5pm, that offers participants the opportunity to socialize, enjoy peer support and receive health and social services in a safe, familiar environment.
- Senior/Retirement communities – An independent living option featuring apartments or single family homes in a small community setting for seniors who need little if any help with their daily activities.
- Assisted living facilities – A residential option for seniors who want or need help with some of the activities of daily living such as cooking meals, keeping the house clean and bathing.
- Home care – Non-medical home care services include companionship, light housekeeping, cooking and many other household activities and chores provided in the comfort of a senior’s own home. Home Care Assistance provides highly trained caregivers for your loved one in their home on an hourly or live-in basis.
With this knowledge, think about your loved one’s health and wellness and discuss options early.
Are you Ready for a Natural Disaster?
Already this year, major earthquakes and tornados have impacted communities around the world. As hurricane season approaches, it is important to learn about disaster preparedness. While no amount of preparedness can protect us from all the effects of a disaster, it is important to stay educated on what could happen and what we can do.
The following are several types of natural disasters that affect the United States and its respective regions:
- The Gulf Coast/Southeast – Vulnerable to hurricanes between June and November.
- Tornadoes – Occur in the Great Plains region or Tornado Alley, usually during the spring and summer months.
- Earthquakes – Can happen at any time. Although the big tremblers are likely to happen on the Pacific Coast, over a 30-year period, 42 states had at least one quake that was of a 3.5 magnitude or higher.
So what do you do to prepare for these natural disasters?
- 1. Refresh your first aid and CPR skills – First aid classes will help you evaluate, recognize and care for a variety injuries. If a large-scale disaster keeps emergency responders from getting to the scene, your training could help minimize the casualties. You can take first aid or CPR classes at your local Red Cross chapter, fire department or hospital.
- 2. Give a home checkup – Test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. For hurricanes or tornadoes, make sure that the house is equipped with storm shutters or have a stash of plywood sheets that can be nailed to windows in a hurry. To prepare for earthquakes, make sure heavy objects are secured to walls and water heaters, wood-burning stoves and other appliances are securely anchored.
- 3. Restock emergency supplies – It is recommended that you keep a three-day supply of food and water for each member of your household. A supply kit should include medications; sanitation and hygiene items; a list of places you can go; flashlights and radios.
- 4. Review financial, insurance and medical information – Arrange for direct deposit of all your income. Check all insurance policies that cover you, your home and your car. Put copies of vital documents and a list of emergency contacts in a waterproof pack in your emergency kit.
- 5. Prepare a household emergency plan – Begin by drawing a floor plan of your house with exit routes clearly marked, noting the locations of utility shutoff valves (water, power and natural gas). Once every member of your household is familiar with the plan, practice emergency drills.
All ages should practice emergency preparedness. And remember, seniors are more vulnerable during natural disasters, so make sure your adult parent or loved one has an emergency plan in place.
Easy Exercises to Protect Your Eyesight
As we age, our vision generally deteriorates. The muscles in our eyes change shape from decades of strain and become less flexible. As a result, we suffer from decreased sharpness of vision and an inability to focus. Doing daily eye exercises can help you maintain your eyes and slow the rate of eye muscle deterioration.
Here are four simple exercises for improving eyesight:
- 1. Tracing – Trace the outlines of the objects around you with your eyes. Practice following the contours of the objects at various speeds. Doing this exercise for a few minutes each day can help strengthen eye muscles and increase their flexibility.
- 2. Blinking – Blinking exercises are extremely easy to do and can help lubricate and relax the eyes. Close your eyes for a few moments, relax and then blink 15 times. Blink lightly, yet rapidly. If you feel like you are straining the muscles around your eyes or your eyelids, you should slow down.
- 3. Near/Far Focusing – This exercise helps to restore your eyes’ ability to rapidly shift focus between objects that are at various distances. Start by focusing on something situated very close to you. Allow your eyes to linger on this object long enough for them to clearly focus before focusing on an object 30 feet away. Upon completion, try focusing on an object 500 feet away and then even further. Repeat.
- 4. Zooming – Stretch your arm out in front of you with your hand in the “thumbs up” position. Focus on your thumb as your arm is extended out in front of you. Follow it with your eyes as you bring your thumb closer to your face. Stop when your thumb is about 3 inches away from your face. Then, maintaining focus on your thumb, slowly begin extending your arm out in front of you again. This exercise will increase your sharpness of vision and ability to focus.
Caregiver of the Year – Shelly Lucas
This month’s caregiver spotlight features Shelly Lucas from Home Care Assistance of Oakville. Just last week, Shelly was presented with the Caregiver of the Year Award at the Home Care Assistance Franchise Convention in Vancouver. Shelly was recognized for the compassion, devotion and the inspirational care she provided to Harold Connor, a 97-year-old senior receiving palliative care.
Shelly has been with Home Care Assistance since November of 2010. When Shelly came in the office, it was apparent she was different than most. She became certified as a Personal Support Worker in April of 2009 and had been working in a facility. During her interview, Shelly expressed her frustration for the lack of personal attention she was able to provide her clients at her present job.
Harold Conner was her first assignment with Home Care Assistance. Harold had Advanced Senile Dementia along with severe vision problems. Shelly was able to make an instant connection with Harold by fixing him a hot breakfast and helping take care of his beloved dog. After only one day of service, the owner of Home Care Assistance of Oakville received this email from the client’s granddaughter:
“Good afternoon, Judy. Thank you for sending Shelly to our family. My grandfather seems to have taken to her and I like her already! My dog loves her! I think this relationship will be a good fit and I hope she will be happy with us”.
Shelly continuously demonstrated her ability to give total care to the client on a daily basis. Here’s what Harold’s granddaughter said in another email:
“His dementia has caused him to require more care than we can give him presently, since we both have to work. However, having Shelly with him each weekday has eased the stress on us more than you know! We now know that he eats a nutritious breakfast, lunch and has snacks (not just cookies, which he is very fond of!) In fact, Shelly and I both noticed he’s gaining a few pounds! She assists him with showering, shaving and walks outside, allowing him to do as much as he can on his own. Our dog has also grown very fond of Shelly, since she also benefits from their daily outings”.
To Shelly, a person is not just a client in need of supervision. While she understands their limitations, she does not allow it to hold them back. By focusing on the positives, she is able to greatly enhance the individual’s quality of life. For example, with her client, Harold, she would plan daily outings and adventures for him. She would think of places to go that would make him feel special. Like the day they spent at the local fire and training station. Harold got to meet the crew and hold the hydraulic rescue tool, the Jaws of Life, in his hands. Shelly often took pictures of the places they visited, placed them in frames and gave them to the family.
Here are a few more words from Harold’s family:
“Shelly goes above and beyond, doing Christmas crafts with him, decorating the tree, frequent outings for coffee or tea…I believe she treats him as a family member, not just someone who needs supervision. Although by the end of the day he doesn’t remember who she is or that she has been with him half the day, I know he enjoys his time with her”.
What is inspirational about Shelly is her highly perceptive and responsive nature as a caregiver. For example, as time went on with Harold, she began to sense that each day was a blessing and that she had to make the most of their time together. She got to work on making a memorable craft for Harold’s granddaughter. Shelly purchased some plaster and together they made an imprint of Harold’s hand. She then had it made into a plaque which read:
You will always be able to hold my hand
Just know I am always with you
I love you for taking such great care of me
So if the day ever comes that I cannot be with you,
Just remember I’m in your heart
and you will always be able to hold my hand
Shelly was not only a caregiver to Harold, but an immense source of support for his family during what would become a most difficult time. Shortly thereafter, Harold was admitted into hospital where the doctors advised he was palliative. Again, Shelly went above and beyond what was expected of her as a caregiver and helped the family prepare to bring Harold home. At the very end, Harold suffered a stroke. He was taken back to the hospital where Home Care Assistance provided overnight care. On one of Shelly’s nights off, she called the office to say that she thought Harold may pass. She wanted to be by his side. She was placed back on the schedule. It was on that very night that Harold took a turn for the worse. With only hours left, Shelly graciously notified the family so they could be there for the passing.
Shelly is an amazing caregiver who makes it a priority to connect with her clients. She focuses on bringing meaning to their lives no matter their age or the circumstances.
Home Care Assistance recognizes Shelly Lucas for the undivided devotion she has shown her clients and their families. We are truly blessed to have you as a caregiver and member of our team!