Category Archives: Homewatch CareGivers News

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Every year the Alzheimer’s Association draws national attention to its cause to end Alzheimer’s disease with the national Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraiser. And Homewatch CareGivers is there every step of the way with a team of people to participate.

Carla Tressell, a software administrator who works at Homewatch International in Denver, did her third walk this year. Ms. Tressel’s own mother is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease so it is a very personal and moving experience for her to be part of the walk.

“It was a beautiful sunny day,” she said of the Saturday in September when the walk was held in Denver’s City Park. “We were each given a pinwheel flower, with the different colors representing our relationship to Alzheimer’s disease—if we are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, if we had lost someone to Alzheimer’s disease, and so on.”

Ms. Tressel said it was a special moment when an estimated 6,000 people simultaneously raised the purple, orange, blue and yellow pinwheel flowers. “As we were beginning the walk, the flower expressed how each were affected by Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Then when we all held up our flowers it was a beautiful garden of everybody supporting the fight against the disease.”

Despite dealing with her mother’s diagnosis of the disease (“She kept repeating the same phrases over and over again,” she said of her family’s realization of Alzheimer’s disease.), Ms. Tressel found the 3.1-mile walk to be a happy experience.

“I felt that the mood was really upbeat,” she said. “There were a lot of people who care who came out to show their support. Even if there is no cure, hopefully future generations will be able to detect it earlier and slow down the progression of the disease.”

Ms. Tressel has since put her pinwheel flower in her garden as a reminder of that walk. “I remember the purpose of it,” she said. “It makes me think of Alzheimer’s even more each time I see it.”

National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is just around the corner in November. The purpose of a month devoted to this disease, which is sixth leading cause of death in the nation, is to raise awareness and funding for research.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has created a National Memory Screening Day during November to coincide with National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. “On one day we collaborate with hundreds of sites across the country to create one concentrated day with extreme focus on raising awareness of memory problems,” said Carol Steinberg, executive vice president of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. “We have expanded it because of increased demand.”

Homewatch CareGivers participates in National Memory Screening Day and offers the free, non-invasive tests at various locations.

“The tests are for people who have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease,” Ms. Steinberg said. “They are modeled after diabetes or blood pressure screenings. Most of our audience is older adults, but unfortunately there are people in their 30s and 40s who can develop Alzheimer’s disease.”

Memory screenings and fundraising walks are just a couple examples of the many resources available to people whose lives are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association website provides everything from personal stories to the latest research news on the disease.

Recovering From Total Joint Replacement

Joints are vital for movement, whether that involves reaching, bending, walking or engaging in other activities – functions that are fundamental to everyday life.  As we get older rheumatoid arthritis, traumatic injury or osteoarthritis can affect joints which may lead to a need for joint replacement surgery.

Assistance Throughout Recovery
Normally, a smooth layer of cartilage, which allows frictionless and pain-free movement, covers a joint’s bone ends. However, when the cartilage is damaged or worn, movements become stiff and painful. When a joint is worn to the point where bone is rubbing on bone, even daily activities — walking, going up and down stairs and bending — become difficult. The pain and lack of mobility associated with joint problems can be debilitating.

When total joint replacement surgery is a viable solution, the goal is to relieve joint pain by replacing the damaged cartilage with metal and/or plastic surfaces. This replacement restores joint movement and function, and in turn, increases mobility. Patients undergoing joint replacement surgery improve their quality of life with greater independence and healthier, pain-free activity.

After surgery, a proactive home health routine, including rehabilitation and physical therapy, is required to ensure the best function of a new joint. Each person will vary in how quickly they recover and regain mobility, however, “All patients returning home from any joint replacement surgery can expect to need the help and support of family, friends, and/or an outside agency for a period of at least a few weeks,” Nan Davidson, clinical nurse specialist in surgery services at Porter Center for Joint Replacement in Denver, explains. If surgery is the best option for you, then knowing what to expect afterwards will help you prepare — and set you up for success!

Knee Replacement
According to the National Association of Orthopedic Nurses, each year, more than 581,000 Americans undergo knee replacement surgery. A successful knee replacement and recovery period can give you not only a new knee, but also a new lease on life!

Knee Replacement Recovery Basics
Most people can stand and move around the day of, or shortly after knee replacement surgery. “It is a wonderful boost in patient confidence to actually stand on the new knee the evening of surgery, or very soon after. It sets the stage for a strong recovery,” explains Davidson. Temporary use of walking devices, such as crutches, a walker or a cane, will most likely be necessary to support full body weight, with the duration depending completely on the surgery and individual home health recovery progress.

Most patients return to home from the hospital and begin a home health regime just a few days after surgery. Once home, physical therapy and rehabilitation will continue for six to eight weeks to restore strength and motion of the new knee and the muscles that support it. Upon completion, patients can return to enjoying most activities.

Many patients return to work soon after surgery, and can resume home duties and low impact activities seven to 12 weeks after surgery. When recovering from knee replacement, it’s important to be realistic and remember that you’ll progress at your own pace, as your body is ready to!

Recommended Lifestyle Adjustments for Knee Replacements
Although on the road to recovery, patients still need to take care of their new knee. Setting practical goals with your doctor or physical therapist for bending and straightening the affected knee, climbing stairs, and walking certain distances can help you push for recovery without over-doing it.

Upon returning home, keep the space safe and accessible by removing loose rugs, clutter and furniture that’s difficult to move around. An elevated toilet seat or toilet safety rails, a shower bench or chair, grab bars, and other assistive equipment, such as long-handled reaching tools and sponges may be helpful.

After full rehabilitation, patients can return to normal household and work routines. Participation in low-impact activities, such as walking, dancing, golfing, hiking, swimming, bowling and gardening are encouraged. It’s important to avoid high-impact activities, such as running and basketball, as these can cause undue stress on the knee.

Hip Replacement
According to the National Association of Orthopedic Nurses, each year, more than 193,000 Americans undergo hip replacement surgery. A successful hip replacement and home health recovery period can not only repair the hip and minimize pain, but also creates a path of healthier being!

Hip Replacement Recovery Basics
The first step to recovery from a hip replacement is putting weight on the leg. Depending on the type of replacement you’ve received, this can take anywhere from four to eight weeks. Leading up to this, mobility will require an assistive device, such as a walker or cane, that will enable mobility to build strength and encourage healing.

Physical therapy is essential to a full recovery from hip replacement surgery. Most people are able to return directly to their own home after surgery, and can therefore continue exercises at home or in an outpatient rehabilitation setting. Light housework can be resumed within two weeks post-surgery — however, heavier home duties, like shoveling snow or moving furniture, should wait until seven to 12 weeks, or as suggested by your doctor. Depending on the speed of recovery, as well as the type of work a patient does, it may be six weeks until returning to work is advised.

Recommended Lifestyle Adjustments for Hip Replacement
During the recovery period, certain precautions should be taken to ensure a new hip heals properly. Although exercise is an important piece to the recovery process, consult a doctor, home health nurse or physical therapist for specific instructions on bending, crossing your legs, and lifting or twisting the affected leg.

It’s also important to make necessary changes to your home to ensure a safe recovery environment. “Just as with knee replacement surgery, patients need to make sure their home environment is clear of anything that they may trip on or fall over,” says Davidson. “Preparing for the return home after hip replacement surgery will entail getting an assistive device for walking, and other equipment to ensure safety, like a shower chair and/or grab bars.” Your doctor and physical therapist will provide specialized suggestions based on your unique situation.

As the rehabilitation process continues, patients will be able to resume most daily activities, work and exercise. However, high-impact activities, such as running, jumping rope and jogging should be avoided. Substitute physical activities like swimming, cycling, walking, dancing and golfing. These are safe for a new hip.

Shoulder Replacement
Although far less common than hip and knee replacements, shoulder joint replacement surgery is becoming more prevalent. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons cites that each year, 23,000 Americans have this surgery. Approaching recovery and rehabilitation with information and realistic expectations will ensure that it’s a successful process.

Shoulder Replacement Recovery Basics
After shoulder replacement surgery, most patients are able to complete limited basic personal care tasks in two weeks, with more complex tasks taking up to six weeks to resume. Patients typically have to wear an arm sling to support the shoulder during this time after surgery. “Again, arranging support for the temporary limitation in your arm can limit or avoid frustrations. Prepare your home, plan meals ahead of time — having things in order makes for a smoother rehabilitation period,” notes Davidson. Talk with a doctor, home health nurse or physical therapist to ensure that you’ll have what’s needed upon arrival at home.

Recommended Lifestyle Adjustments for Shoulder Replacement
Short-term, patients recovering from shoulder replacement cannot use the affected arm to lift their body weight in bed or up from a chair. Patients in recovery should always avoid placing the affected arm in extreme positions, and ask for assistance when needed. It’s important not to overdo it — lifting anything heavier than a glass of water isn’t recommended. However, it is essential that patients engage in exercises during therapy sessions and at home, as advised by a physical therapist.

The only long-term limitations resulting from shoulder joint replacement are that recovered patients refrain from heavy lifting and participation in contact sports.

Grieving Alzheimer’s Disease

When a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is received the impact for family members and loved ones is immense, however it is all too often overlooked. The thought of losing a loved one to the progressive disease has damaging effects on caregivers, family and friends.  This can manifest in sleeplessness, loss of appetite or overeating, low energy, tension and exhaustion.  Emotional responses can also manifest, such as loneliness, guilt, anger, isolation and depression. The extent of these symptoms can vary and the experience of caregiving is different and unique for everyone.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

Often, family caregivers feel they shouldn’t burden others with their feelings; however, this thinking keeps us from healing. However, giving yourself and others permission to process and grieve is the best way to heal. Find support through family, friends, members of your faith-based community, or a counselor. Support Groups can also be very helpful. If you’re not ready to talk about your feelings quite yet, journal or write about them. This is a great first step towards venting, rather than keeping your feelings bottled up. Find time for yourself each day, whether it’s to cry, relax, or to let go of the day’s stress, anxiety and the responsibilities of care giving.

Give Yourself Time

When working to overcome grief, give yourself time. It’s easy to think that just because we can be logical about our grief and pain, we can overcome it quickly. After you’ve begun to talk about your grief, time will help you to accept and cope with it — which can slowly lead you to move forward. The memories will remain, but painful feelings will lessen in intensity. Give yourself time to pass through each stage of grief, and understand that grief very personal, and will be experienced differently.

The stages of grief include: denial, turmoil, anger/fear, depression, anticipation and acceptance. You may or may not experience each of these stages fully, and not necessarily in this order, so be flexible with yourself. You may also bounce between the stages or return to some. If you feel stuck in any of the stages, seek a counselor. Oftentimes, grief leads to depression, which can be especially difficult to recognize and recover from without outside help. Grieving is a normal process, but should be temporary.

More About Homewatch CareGivers

Homewatch CareGivers is a premier caregiver agency, providing home care for all ages. We invite you to visit www.homewatchcaregivers.com, where you can read articles related to home health, Dementia Care Tips and home care news; or download PDF home care resources. From health care coordination and hospital discharge planning to home care transportation and daily living assistance, let our family of caregivers care for yours.

 

Does Your Parent Need Nutritional Help? Simple Tips for Identifying and Solving Nutritional Issues

As an in home caregiver to your mother or other loved one, it can be hard to notice when your parent is getting enough to eat.

Dr. Miriam Rodin, MD and PhD and associate professor of geriatrics at the University of St. Louis, said that the first clue is weight loss.

“Mostly I find patients who have depression or dementia who have lost their appetite,” she said. “If they have depression they have no appetite and if they have dementia they forget to eat or don’t recognize that they are hungry—that’s why they wander at night a lot.”

She suggests eating meals together and making it a social occasion.

Dr. Rodin said that someone taking numerous medications might also eat less. “The more pills you take, the more likely it is that something is killing your appetite,” she said. She recommends that patients, with the help of medical professionals, minimize the number of drugs they consume to improve their appetite.

For people in their 80s and older, Dr. Rodin said that restrictive diets can be harmful to their health and actually deprive them of nutritional benefits. “Give people what they want to eat,” she said, adding that she often recommends patients eat ice cream before bed. “The issue is to get the calories in, so eat what tastes good. They should have a lot of protein like hard-boiled eggs and cheese cubes.”

Often people cannot safely move around in their own kitchen anymore, and that can prevent them from eating enough. The Homewatch CareGivers’ Guide to In-Home Senior Safety covers home care and safety for every room of the house—including the kitchen.

The kitchen is a high-risk area of the home since appliances and stovetop burners can be left on; your mother may not feel steady enough to use a cutting knife; vision problems might prevent your mother from being able to see expiration dates; foods out of reach in a high cupboard might keep your loved one from being able to reach everything they need.

“They are pretty much like children,” Dr. Rodin said of very elderly people.

For caregivers who do not live with their mother or loved one, Dr. Rodin said that she often hears people wonder why they have delivered the groceries and still see weight loss in their parent. “You have to ask yourself where the food is going,” she said. “If you buy things that require a lot of cooking and she is not eating it, then you have to make changes.”

The in home caregiver may need to have an honest talk with their loved one about their comfort level in the kitchen. Suggest grocery shopping together, the option of a service such as Meals on Wheels deliver nutritional food regularly and make sure that they are involved in the process of rearranging the kitchen and selecting new foods.

More About Homewatch CareGivers

Homewatch CareGivers is a premier caregiver agency, providing home care for all ages. We invite you to visit www.homewatchcaregivers.com, where you can read articles related to home health, Dementia Care Tips and home care news; or download PDF home care resources. From health care coordination and hospital discharge planning to home care transportation and daily living assistance, let our family of caregivers care for yours.

Mealtime Planning and Proper Nutrition for Elderly Diabetics

23.1% of Americans (12.2 million people) age 60 and older are diabetic, and therefore require a therapeutic diet low in high glycemic carbohydrates, or carbohydrates that metabolize quickly and cause a drastic spike in blood sugar. If you’re considering the needs of a diabetic in mealtime planning, you’re not alone.

Meeting the Diabetic Challenge

Food is an important part of everyday life, and having diabetes shouldn’t mean that you have to compromise mealtime satisfaction or enjoyment. The good news is that planning a meal around proteins and low-glycemic foods is good for all of us. Creating a home health strategy that includes good nutrition is of high importance. To keep it simple, “make portion control your mantra,” says Caitlin Hosmer, Senior Nutritionist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Hosmer also recommends high nutrient, low glycemic food choices.

“Finding your stride with a new diet can be especially challenging if medications, dental problems, decreased exercise, illness or sensory changes are contributing to a loss of appetite. Limited food preferences and the sheer difficulty of changing behaviors contribute to every version of this challenge,” says Hosmer. “It is much easier to ignore what’s going on if you don’t have the information in front of you. With diabetes, the long-term cost of lacking knowledge can be tragically high.”

Tips for Preparing Low-Glycemic Foods

  1. Cook up a fresh omelet or begin the day with a hearty bowl of steel cut oatmeal, cream of wheat, muesli or bran flakes. Serve with yogurt or skim milk.
  2. Pack your favorite sandwich items into a tortilla wrap, or serve up a homemade bowl of chili or bean soup from the Crockpot for lunch. Kidney beans, split peas, lima beans and lentils are all low GI beans and peas. If you’re making a sandwich, choose canned salmon over canned tuna.
  3. Replace pasta and pizza with protein-rich whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet) and simple steamed vegetables. Broccoli, beets, carrots and corn are all low GI vegetables.
  4. The best way to satisfy a sweet tooth is with a piece of fresh, ripe fruit. Low glycemic fruits include: cherries, strawberries, bananas, peaches and pears.
  5. Check out the Mayo Clinic for healthy and tasty diabetic-friendly recipes.

 Tips for Mealtime Success

Environmental and social factors can influence our feelings about mealtime and affect our food intake. To ease the transition from customary foods to more healthy choices and encourage healthy eating habits among seniors with diabetes, Homewatch CareGivers recommends the following mealtime tips:

  1. Are your surroundings clean, comfortable and uncluttered?
  2. Is the table height appropriate (at the table or in bed)?
  3. Is food being served at the proper temperature?
  4. Are hearing aids, glasses and dentures properly in place?
  5. Who is eating with you — no one should eat alone.
  6. Tell your family enthusiastically what is being served.
  7. Create a warm atmosphere with music, conversation and/or lighting
  8. Most importantly, take your time. Do not rush!

Homewatch CareGivers Can Help

Whether your loved one is perfectly capable of preparing meals on their own or needs someone to prepare meals for them, Homewatch CareGivers can provide customized oversight, support and/or quality companion time with meal preparation and planning.