CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 6. Issue 6
Letter From the Editor:
Create Your Own Bucket List with These Four Easy Steps
A movement to become more mindful of how we want to spend our time has prompted a resurgence of “the bucket list.” By definition, a bucket list is a record of experiences that an individual hopes to have in his or her lifetime. Items on a bucket list can range from big and aspirational to tiny and even comical; from paying for a child’s cleft lip surgery to visiting the White House, to going grape stomping, to shaving a coconut, to hiking Kiliminjaro, the possibilities are truly endless. The beauty of a bucket list is that anyone, no matter what age, level of physical or mental ability or economic means can start a bucket list
Elsa Bailey, aptly nicknamed the “100-year-old whippersnapper”, was recently able to check off one of the items on her bucket list: seeing polar bears in their natural habitat. Bailey thought her celebratory ski down the beautiful slopes of Keystone, Colorado, was the extent of her 100th birthday celebration, but boy, was she wrong. An employee of Natural Habitat Adventures, a company that specializes in polar bear tours, heard that Bailey still had not crossed this lifelong wild encounter off her bucket list and decided to orchestrate an incredible surprise trip to Manitoba. With this wish fulfilled, Bailey already has eyes set on her next bucket list experience: a trip to view the geysers at Yellowstone.
Need help getting started on your own bucket list? Consider these tips:
- Get it all down..somewhere! We all have had the experience of hearing about a friend or acquaintance that accomplished something and thinking, “Wow. I would really love to do that.”—write it down! Invest in a notebook dedicated to your bucket list, keep an updated document on your computer or smart phone, or sign up on one of the many sites like bucketlist.org. Doing so will help you keep track of everything you want to accomplish—even when an idea strikes you on a whim!
- Write a first draft: The thought of the list having to be an epic, perfect litany that is symbolic of your life’s purpose can deter you from ever actually putting your thoughts into writing. Think of a bucket list as more of a to-do list with no time limit—finishing that book you started weeks ago or jogging a mile a day are suitable additions. Give yourself an afternoon over a nice cup of tea or cocoa to sit down and reflect on what things you hope to accomplish in your lifetime. Think of a prompt like, “Someday, I will…” and go from there. Let your creative juices flow!
- Allow your list to evolve: Don’t feel tied to your first list; think of it as a starting point and keep in mind that you will likely replace items that no longer interest you or that you don’t think are worthwhile. This is the beauty of your bucket list: it’s yours to create and revise until you come up with a list you think captures a good set of life experiences you hope to have.
- Be inspired, not daunted! Seeing the full list of all of your life aspirations may prove both inspirational and incredibly daunting. Remember that this is about personal growth and fulfillment and not a menacing challenge—as you cross smaller things off your list, you will gain momentum to start doing more and get into the habit of looking everywhere for inspiration for new ideas.
Do you have a bucket list? What is one thing on your list you could check off today? Share with us in the comments box below or on Changing the Way the World Ages Facebook Page!
Beyond Words: Communicating with a Loved One with Dementia
One of the biggest emotional challenges of witnessing progressive decline in a loved one with a form of dementia is the communicative gap that arises when language is lost. At this point, caregivers can feel as though they’ve lost all ability to connect with their loved ones. Occupational therapist and acclaimed author Elaine C. Pereira explains that while many family members will desperately hold on to verbal language as the only way to communicate with their loved ones, there are a number of other ways to do so.
Specifically, she advocates using the five senses.
- Sound: While deficits in the ability to comprehend language can prevent successful verbal communication, people with dementia are still able to hear and process sound. Familiar sounds, such as a favorite song or wind chimes in the backyard, can be quite comforting and an effective means of connecting with the person, as evidenced by this powerful video.
- Touch: Touch is one of the most powerful senses. Whether it’s a hug, shoulder squeeze or brush of the hand, physical touch stimulates the release of endorphins, which reduce stress and blood pressure, and enhance calm. A person with dementia can still “communicate” to you with a reciprocated hand squeeze or other manifestation of the sense of touch.
- Smell: While losing the sense of smell can be an early indication of dementia, there may be certain familiar scents, such as pumpkin or ginger baked goods that characteristic of holiday baking, they can still perceive. Often these fragrances trigger positive feelings. Some caregivers have reported success using mindfulness exercises in combination with scents, such as the popular tea mindfulness exercise.
- Sight: A smile is a powerful form of nonverbal communication and a way to continue to strengthen the bond between you and your loved one. Looking through family albums or creating scrapbooks can also be a great way to connect. A scrapbook can serve as a wonderful keepsake for family members.
- Taste: While preferences may vary, many caregivers report that their loved ones become calmer when savoring a favorite treat, particularly sweets. Of course, caregivers should keep dietary restrictions and daily allowances of sugar in mind, but sharing a sweet treat can be a great way to share a moment of meaningful connection.
Work with your loved one to learn which senses may provide the most meaningful modes of connection, —touch him or her in comforting ways; enjoy favorite foods together; surround him or her with fragrances that hold meaning; play familiar music; bring in familiar objects like photo albums.
Are you caring for a loved one who has lost the ability to communicate verbally? What other means of communication have you found effective?
Rules for a Financially Secure Retirement…Do They Exist?
The general increase in life expectancy over the past decade has resulted in a burgeoning interest in retirement planning. While many of us may have an idea of where and when we want to retire, the general consensus is that aging adults simply are not saving enough to ensure a comfortable retirement. Why? Well, for one thing there is no magic, one-size-fits-all number—your nest egg depends on your current age, your expected retirement age, life expectancy, current income, risk tolerance and inflation, among other variables.
Still, there are rough guidelines you can follow to prepare for a happy, healthy retirement:
- Your savings target should be around 80-90% of your pre-retirement income
- Your annual withdrawal from your retirement savings should be 6% or less
- Know your assets. Take inventory of your 401(k), IRA assets, potential inheritance income, insurance policies, investments, real estate value etc.
- Don’t take Social Security benefits (if in the U.S.) into account, as these are better conceptualized as a supplemental source of revenue rather than a main retirement funder
- Start early! Experts recommend planning as early as in your 20s. While many of us may be getting later starts, this is a valuable piece of knowledge that can be passed down to children and grandchildren
- Use a retirement calculator to assess your financial security based on various variables including tax rate, life expectancy and rate of return on savings. The AARP has a great retirement calculator that you can access by clicking here
Many financial advisors recommend creating multiple plans to account for various situations, such as needing long-term medical care for yourself or a partner or needing to make a major purchase such as a new car or roof. Further, financial plans should be viewed as dynamic—they should be reassessed every few years and updated to reflect any changes.
On a related note, it is important to increase awareness around fraud as seniors are one of the highest risk groups for financial abuse. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards’ Financial Self-defense for Seniors provides a wonderful overview of “financial self-defense” with specific information on how to identify and avoid scams.
Do you have any retirement saving tips?
Caregiver of the Month Spotlight: Bryan Perry
December’s Caregiver of the Month is Bryan Perry from Home Care Assistance of St. Louis! Bryan has worked for Home Care Assistance for one and a half years and is a favorite among all of his clients. He is very perceptive and adapts his behavior to suit each client’s needs so that he or she immediately feels comfortable with him. Because Bryan has traveled a considerable amount over the years and has held a variety of positions in varying fields, he is always able to find something in common with the client forming meaningful connections right away.
In addition to Bryan’s ability to build meaningful relationships, he is also very knowledgeable about senior care, aging and chronic illness, and has become a great resource for clients and their loved ones. For example, Bryan recently started caring for a client who was diagnosed with cancer. He couldn’t keep food down and frequently felt light-headed. He was going to start chemotherapy soon, so he started feeling anxious about his current state. Bryan was able to relieve his anxiety by explaining that he was simply adjusting to the changes going on within his body. To help smooth the transition from being diagnosed with cancer to undergoing chemotherapy, Bryan showed his client’s wife how to purée some of her husband’s favorite foods and also told her to remove highly acidic foods from his diet.
Bryan’s commitment and excellence in person-centered care sets him apart not only among the Home Care Assistance caregivers, but also among the greater St. Louis caregiver community. He was recently recognized at the 19th Annual Caregiver VOYCE Awards Luncheon in St. Louis for his passion and competence as a caregiver.
Thank you, Bryan, for all that you do for Home Care Assistance and our clients! To learn more about Bryan and how he is making a difference in the lives of his clients, watch this video.