CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 4. Issue 7
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Letter From the Editor:
September 23rd marked the first day of fall and the end of summer. Poolside barbeques and beach trips have quickly been replaced with school functions and fall socials. Before we know it, the holidays (my favorite time of the year) will be here and families will gather from near and far to visit one another, exchange stories and wish each other well.
In this month’s newsletter, we discuss several different topics of concern that affect baby boomers and seniors alike, no matter the season or time of year. We explore caregiver stress and the impact it has on middle-aged women, tips on how to broach the topic of “downsizing” with your parent or loved one and very exciting, cutting-edge research showing a correlation between music therapy and reductions in anxiety and pain and improvements in overall quality of life among cancer survivors.
And last, but certainly not least, we are honored to feature Sonia Amahagwu, of Home Care Assistance of Ontario, in this month’s Caregiver Spotlight. Sonia’s story is an inspirational reminder for anyone caring for a loved one that patience, perseverance and compassion are essential qualities in helping a loved one overcome adversity and improve quality of life.
Caregiver Stress Impacts Middle Aged Women
An article published in a recent issue of USA Today explored the declining physical and emotional health of middle-aged women. In America, there is steady rise in depression, obesity and chronic disease found in middle-aged women. Middle-aged women are described as having the lowest levels of well-being compared with other age groups. According to researchers, a key contributor to this dramatic decline in well-being is the stress that results from being the primary caregiver of an aging family member.
Today there are 61 million family caregivers in the United States alone and many tens of millions more globally. The majority of caregivers are middle-aged women who are juggling career and parenting roles in addition to caring for an aging loved one. Exhaustion and symptoms of depression are prevalent in this group, with the AARP reporting depression symptoms in as high as 40-70% of family caregivers. It is evident that many women in this age bracket find themselves overwhelmed and overstretched, but there are a number of steps women who fall into this category can take to improve their quality of life.
Family caregivers need to make their own health a priority. They can be proactive about ensuring their own well-being by taking steps such as setting aside time to rest, seeking help in the form of respite care or joining a support group. As the aging population continues to grow, the demands placed on family caregivers will also continue to rise. Family caregivers need to maintain their own physical, mental and emotional health and, in so doing, will also be able to better support their loved ones.
Of course, there will come a time when the family caregiver is burned out or finds that support is needed to adequately care for an aging parent or loved one because of geography or time limitations. In these instances, hiring a caregiver from a reputable home care agency can be an effective solution. This alternative ensures the parent companionship and safety in his or her own home.
How to Approach “Downsizing” With Your Loved One
There comes a time for many seniors when downsizing their home becomes a necessity. Reasons for downsizing can include safety concerns, a desire to move or organizational issues. Regardless, finding a solution with which seniors feel comfortable can be a challenge. This is a sensitive subject to broach, but being mindful and considerate can help the situation.
Below are three effective tips to effectively help downsize a loved one’s home:
1) Be respectful. It’s important to recognize that no matter how unimportant or trivial someone’s belongs may seem to you, there is a reason the individual has held on to them. Each object, article of clothing or seemingly unnecessary trinket can hold a wealth of memories and sentiment for the individual. This is why it is important that the downsizing process be a collaborative one. Your aging loved one will feel better about the change in knowing that they voice is valued and respected throughout the process.
2) Identify goal and set a schedule. Before you begin, determine what you are trying to accomplish. For example, what percentage of “stuff” must go? Setting measurable goals and deadlines can help you and your loved one work in an efficient manner. Start the downsizing process by sorting through one or two small rooms each week. Then, set larger targets and milestones until your objective is reached.
3) Communicate. Consult with your loved before disposing of anything. If they are reluctant to part with an item, ask them to explain to you why they feel it is important to hold on to it. Engage your parent in an honest discussion to help them feel heard and involved in the process of deciding what items should stay and what items need to go.
At the end of the day, the most important consideration is that your loved one is safe in her or his own home. If your loved one has an overwhelming amount of belongings that are beginning to clutter their personal space, it may be time to evaluate working together to develop a strategy to organize. Donating belongings to a charitable group, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, can be a great solution.
Music Helps Cancer Patients with Pain and Anxiety
The adage that music soothes the soul has proven to hold true. Over the years, frequently listening to music has been linked to a number of health benefits such as stress reduction. A recent review of 30 studies published in the Cochrane Library found that music therapy contributed to reductions in anxiety and pain and improvements in overall quality of life in cancer survivors.
Joke Bradt, PhD an associate professor of creative arts therapies at Drexel University, and her colleagues, reviewed studies looking at 1,891 cancer patients who underwent different forms of music therapy. In all of the studies, participants frequently listened to music, and in some cases, also played instruments, sang or created rhymes. The control group did not receive any type of music therapy. Cancer patients who had been involved in different music therapies showed improvements in the following areas: anxiety, pain, blood pressure, heart rate and overall quality of life.
Bradt concluded that more extensive research and tests need to be conducted to determine which type of music therapy is most effective. She believes that the therapy programs need to be tailored to individual preferences and skills, as she explains, “It’s not like when you go to a doctor with a headache, and he prescribes a specific type of medicine that will help me with my headache and also help you with your headache.”
While the impact of music therapy in health is a relatively new area of oncology research, the initial results promising. Robert Zatorre, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist at McGill University captures the promise of these studies in explaining, “the cost involved with music is very small compared to other kinds of interventions. How well it works – say, compared to drugs – is another question, but the side effects are very minimal as well. The worst thing that can happen [when] someone doesn’t like music is that they can turn it off.”
Caregiver of the Month Spotlight: Sonia Amahagwu
This month’s Caregiver Spotlight features Sonia Amahagwu of Home Care Assistance of Richmond Hill in Ontario. One year ago this month, Sonia was HCA Ontario’s first hire and has since been a wonderful asset to HCA. Born in Jamaica, Sonia immigrated to Canada in 2000. Through caring for her grandfather, who had suffered a stroke, for a number of years, Sonia found her calling in caregiving, a job she not only enjoyed but in which she also excelled. After receiving her Personal Support Worker (PSW) certification, Sonia pursued jobs that helped her expand upon her knowledge of care related services. She gained a wealth of experience throughout this tenure. Sonia utilizes the skills and experiences she has acquired over the years to increase her effectiveness as a caregiver for HCA.
Sonia exudes warmth and compassion and this evident in her interactions with clients. Her passion for life and enthusiasm for others shines through in her work and demeanor. This positive attitude impacts her clients in meaningful ways.
For the past eight months, Sonia has been working on a quite complicated, and inspirational, case. She has a client who has gone from being almost completely bedridden to being able to walk around the house with the help of a walker. In this time, Sonia and the client’s family saw the client improve from a state of constant depression to a much happier state. The client became much more social and began to look forward to family visits. The client has also regained her witty sense of humor, much to the delight of the Home Care Assistance team who visits the client.
The improvement of the client’s physical, psychological and emotional state is largely due to Sonia’s patience and determination to help the client not only improve, but thrive.
Sonia: thank you for all your hard work, perseverance and contagious enthusiasm. You are an inspiration to all of us at Home Care Assistance!