Home care assistant putting sweater on a senior woman in Carmel, IN

Providing In Home Care for an Aging Loved One During a Slow Decline

Lending a helping hand to a parent or loved one who is aging slowly, is a challenge. There is a difference when providing in home care for someone who is slowly declining than for someone on a path of rapid decline.

Sadly, as much as you try to care for someone with a serious medical condition, more than likely there is an “end in sight.” When our senior loved ones are battling with raves of age, there is no set time of a decline. Their capability of being physical and mental will start to decline every year though.

Seniors who have been independent, active with successful careers and have lived fulfilling lives their whole life, will likely adjust with difficulty to their compromised or “reduced” condition and lifestyle. This can be frustrating and even be disempowering.

Strong personalities who have always felt invincible can develop physical and mental limitations. This can cause vulnerability and insecurity. They may be psychologically and physically distressed by their limitations. Although they used to very autonomous, lived alone and were able to take care of themselves, limitations can come into play. Maybe they are unable to drive anymore or play tennis once a week like they used to; perhaps taking out the garage is too difficult. At this point, seniors are likely frustrated by how slowly they function at this point in their life or how, at times, they can’t find something. Since they are “perfectly healthy” or “just old,” it is harder to grasp. Denial is an easy state to be in when you value self-sufficiency and independence; no one wants to admit they can’t do what they once did.

The Challenges of Caregiving

Seniors who have been independent can be very hesitant to accept help, especially from family members who must see them in their debilitated state. My father was a classic example of this. Although he was a widow who can no longer live alone, he refused to accept any help. His heart-breaking incident – a fall – he begrudgingly accepted in home care services. Although he was a lucky one (the fall wasn’t horrific, and he was okay) you don’t want to wait for an accident like this to trigger awareness. Sometimes it is not easy honoring a loved one’s autonomy while at the same time keeping them safe but planning and preparing before it’s critical or urgent will be beneficial in the end.

Parents who can slowly debilitate when they were smart and capable their whole life is not easy for families to experience. Most elders prefer staying in their own, even if their home is not suitable for aging. They may also refuse the help they need, even though it’s not ideal. While we want to respect our parents’ independence and wishes, we need to ensure they are safe as well. Although our goal is keeping them safe and not fail, we must find the balance and overcome the fear of them falling. failing.

Ultimately, my father’s caregiver, Marilyn, became his new best friend. This being said, we had to refer to Marilyn as his assistant, not his caregiver (because of course my father refused to accept “care” from him).

The same mother who balked at having a caregiver in her home for even a few hours a day, after six months was so spoiled having someone cook her meals and so enjoyed the company, that she complained when Marilyn couldn’t be there all day. And when it became time for 24/7 care, my mom was happy to have “her” spend the night.

Of course, the elderly would rather stay in their own home. And it makes sense. Familiarity is comforting when we are less stable on our feet and have trouble reasoning.

If your loved ones demand to age in place, ensure they are there physically and mentally before the aging debilitates. Change is more traumatic for us as we age; it’s harder to let go and start over. Anything new gets very scary for seniors. My father’s assistant was next to him the whole time from when we convinced him to sell the family house to the move of a smaller unit. Caregivers are an asset to easing the transition.

I cannot express the value of finding talented, caring in home care professionals. If you are a long distance caregiver to an aging loved one just like I was, you will find these professionals very beneficial. When you are away from your loved one in their time of need, it is easy to feel guilty, to worry incessantly, and to feel that you are not doing “enough” to ensure your loved one’s comfort, happiness, and safety. The challenge is less stressful when you have a trusted, helpful professional.

The benefit of having a caregiver, when I was away, was that I did not feel as though I was the “bad person” all the time. Marilyn supported me throughout the process. Of course, my father listened to a “third party professional” better than his own children.

During your loved one’s slow decline, another resource to consider is the Village to Village network, which many cities have established. This is a community-based care organization with volunteers who help seniors who are alone at home – they shop, drive, and visit, providing invaluable assistance on many levels.

As 75 million baby boomers in our country enter their 60s and 70s, we have hopefully learned something from caring for our aging parents and can better face the realities of our own “golden years.” We don’t want to be a burden to our own children, and if we don’t have children, we better have a plan in place!

While end of life scenarios involve a gradual decline, with proper planning in advance and professional in home care, as well as utilizing community resources, managing a loved one’s slow decline is possible so that it works for you as well as them.

 

Daughter holding mother's hand on a pink couch at home in Carmel, IN

How Women Can Fight Mental Decline As They Get Older

Close to 13 million women in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease or are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association states that every 66 seconds someone within the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of which are women with Alzheimer’s disease. Women are more likely to experience early signs of Alzheimer’s sooner then males and research illustrate that the cognitive decline linked with the disease is two times faster in women than men.

The cause of the gender disparity is unidentified. The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement lead by Maria Shriver and other organizations are continually searching for why Alzheimer’s has an impact on women more than men and in different measurements. This movement was first launched because of the lack of information focusing on how to combat mental decline in women and their linked risks of cognitive impairment.

While evidence behind why women are more likely to decline in mental health is found between organizations and scientists health, there are some ways to reduce the risk of mental decline in your life to promote a healthy brain and reduce your risk of cognitive decline.

Beverage Choice

A study in March of 2017 found a cup of tea of a day is linked to a 50 percent reduction of cognitive impairment risk of age 65 and older. An astronomical 86 percent of women who drink tea reduce their genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists at the National University of Singapore believe bioactive compounds in tea brewed from any tea leaves contain anti-inflammatory properties that protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration which may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dance the Night Away

Researchers at the University of Illinois conducted a study in 2017 found that learning how to dance reduces the degeneration of white matter in the brain associated with aging. They found that dancing entails the practice of learning and mastering new choreography, which sequentially engages the memory and focuses functions of the brain. Since dancing serves as another social activity, it can positively boost brain health.

Raise a Glass

One alcoholic beverage a day correlates to the decreased risk of mental decline in women, The New England Journal of Medicine study says.

Why it is unknown that a daily drink can reduce the risk of mental decline, the scientists speculate the cardiovascular benefits known to relate to moderate drinking may transfer to cognitive function.

Train Your Brain

A study conducted in 2018 found that cognitive actions may reduce the risk of mental decline, promoting a healthy brain. The study sampled training exercises, one includes using visual imagery to activate the memory function in the brain to remember names of new people and using relations to remember shopping lists.

Swap Oils

Foods consumed and cooked with canola oil, conducted on mice, links to worsened memory, learning ability and weight gain, which are symptoms found in Alzheimer’s. They found that canola oil increased the formation of plaques in the brain, which can increase the risk of cognitive decline.

On the other hand, the separate research found consuming foods cooked with extra-virgin olive oil preserves memory and helps protects the brain against Alzheimer’s.

Make music

Scientists at Baycrest Health Sciences discovered positive associations between music and brain health. Improved listening and hearing skills are found by learning to create musical sounds, which alters the brain positively. Revamping of the brain is supposed to help us ward off age-related cognitive decline.

Go nuts

A 2017 study from Loma Linda University Health found including nuts to your day on a regular basis strengthens brainwave frequencies linked with cognition, healing, learning, memory, and other key brain functions.

The beneficial recipe for promoting a healthy brain is consuming a variety of nuts.

Pistachios produced the greatest gamma wave response, a function critical for improving cognitive processing, information retention, learning, perception and rapid eye movement during sleep.

Peanuts, a legume-not a nut, were included in the study and found to produce the highest delta response, which is associated with healthy immunity, natural healing, and deep sleep.

Beet it

Drinking beet juice discovered an increase blood flow to the brain. Increased blood flow is thought to be a beneficial way to fight the progression of dementia as well as maintain a healthy brain in those without symptoms of cognitive decline. Beet juice has also been proven to help lower blood pressure, a factor that contributes to heart disease which is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

A mother and her daughter, who is providing long term care for her loved one as she continues to live at home in Carmel, IN

Long Term Care: Providing Home Care for a Loved One Over Time

Aging brings on a whole new set of experiences, joys, and challenges. Many seniors enjoy seeing their children have children of their own. Seniors often have more time for hobbies they enjoy, including spending time with friends and loved ones. However, aging does bring about hardships for many seniors, especially in regards to their health. This difficulty is faced by family caregivers as well.

Providing home care for an aging parent over the long-term can be a challenge. Your parent may not be terminally ill or near the end of their life, but rather they are in a slow decline of health. Their care needs become increasingly advanced and they may not be as physically or mentally strong as they once were.

While caring for a senior loved one with an illness that causes rapid decline is certainly difficult, this situation is different from caring for a loved one who is slowly declining. Caregivers often struggle watching their parent or other loved one lose their independence, personalities, and abilities. For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, dementia, or Parkinson’s, this type of slow deterioration can be heartbreaking.

Family Caregiver Challenges

For seniors who have been very independent, proud, or active throughout their lives, the slow deterioration of their health can be hard to accept. Many seniors are resistant to accept or ask for help, even when they begin to notice changes in their health. Although it is challenging, it is the responsibility of family caregivers to make sure seniors get the assistance and professional care they need.

When senior loved ones resist or refuse help, you may be tempted to give in to their demands. This can be detrimental to your loved one’s health, especially if they live alone. Don’t wait until an accident, like a fall, or a medical event like a stroke, to start the discussion about home care services. You may want to respect their wishes and independence, but in the end, finding a realistic senior care solution is best for you both.

Benefits of Home Care Services

As your senior loved one age, it is likely that their care needs will become more advanced. Finding a professional in-home caregiver while your loved one is still well enough will help them form a trusting relationship with their caregiver. A major benefit of home care services is that seniors get to remain in the familiar surroundings of their home. Even if your loved one moves into your family home, they still have the benefits of maintaining independence, seeing friends and family as often as they would like, stick to a routine. Avoiding major changes is the best thing for a senior’s overall health and happiness.

A professional home caregiver allows families to spend quality time with one another while Mom or Dad receives the assistance they need. This can help helpful for adult children who have careers and families of their own. Help from an outside caregiver encourages family caregivers to find balance and reduce stress.

Aging is unavoidable and something we will all face. All end of life scenarios involve this gradual decline but planning for the future, working together to make decisions, and knowing when to go for help can make the aging process more manageable and even enjoyable for seniors and their families.

Elderly woman from Carmel, IN painting a picture

Five Ways to Make Your Brain More Resilient to the Early Signs of Dementia

Dementia is a slowly progressing disease, and it can be distressing to witness a loved one experience the different stages of dementia. During the onset of this disease, it can actually be difficult to separate natural memory loss due to aging and early signs of dementia. However, just as we can resist the physical signs of aging through taking vitamins and exercising, there are measures we can take to keep our brains strong and resist the early stages of dementia.

Five Ways to Keep your Brain Resilient

  • Learn a New Language: Studies show that bilingual brains are actually more resistant to dementia – and can delay symptoms of dementia in a person by an average of 5 years while functioning with a greater level of brain dysfunction. The theory behind this phenomenon is that learning multiple languages prompts the human brain to grow new brain cells.
  • Maintain your Social Life: As long as our brains remain active, they will continue growing new cells even as they age. One of the best ways to keep our brains active is through social interaction. Remaining social throughout your life helps you learn new things, exchange information, and reduce anxiety and depression – all of which keeps your brain active and strong.
  • Learn New Skills: When our brains are challenged, they grow new cells to accumulate the new knowledge and changes the way connections are made to keep it active. Every new challenge helps – from small challenges like doing a task with your non-dominant hand to big challenges like learning a new hobby.
  • Exercise & Eat Healthy: Maintaining your overall health through exercise and nutrition will help your brain be more resilient to the early signs of dementia. Your brain will continue to grow new cells if you keep your body healthy through eating nutritious foods, remaining physically active, and getting enough sleep, along with staying mentally healthy through social activities.
  • Be Curious: Asking questions, learning new things and finding new activities to do will keep your brain constantly taking in new information, which will help it grow new brain cells and make new connections. Being curious will help your brain resist the early signs of dementia, so be on the lookout for new things to do in your community. Some ideas are learning to play an instrument, volunteering, joining a book club, and taking a class.

All of these things and more will promote brain health throughout your life but are especially important in the senior years to fight dementia.

 

Caregivers of the Month

Congratulations to our Caregivers of the Month Michelle Spies-Chapman (left) and Sandra Milton! (right) They have shown exemplary punctuality and care for us in these past few months. Thank you both and keep up the good work!                                                                                                                      img_1276img_1271

Senior care provider with older woman outside in Carmel, IN

Evaluating Your Home Care Options

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Best of Home Care Provider of Choice 2016 digital seal

Home Care Assistance Receives 2016 Best of Home Care® Provider and Employer of Choice

Home Care Assistance of Indianapolis, a leading provider of in-home care for seniors, has again been recognized as both a 2016 Best of Home Care Provider and Employer of Choice for its second consecutive year. This also marks the organization’s third consecutive year as Employer of Choice, sweeping all 11 categories. Home Care Assistance is also one of only two companies in Indianapolis to earn both of these honors. Read more

Home Care Assistance health recipe in Carmel, IN

Crustless Spinach Pie

It’s a brand new year and you, like everyone else, you make resolutions to be healthy. If you’re short on ideas that are good for you and taste good, we’re sharing an easy take on a crowd favorite – pie! Read more