Getting to Know Nursing Homes: Some Facts & Myths

When a loved one reaches a point in his or her life in which self-care becomes challenging, the next step may be a little overwhelming; particularly when trying to make the best choice for your loved one and your family. Some families struggle with guilt because it may not be financially, emotionally, or physically feasible for some individuals to become a caregiver. Often times a hired in-home caregiver is only a temporary solution until the aging or ill loved one requires more specialized care. Unfortunately, more often than not, many people are hesitant to choose the most common option of a nursing home facility due to the horror stories or bad reputations they can have.

Although a nursing home can be an intimidating next step, if you know what to look for and monitor closely, your elderly loved one can continue to live a healthy and safe life.

Myth #1: Nursing Homes Mark the “Final Days” of an Elderly Individual

While it is true that many elderly individuals may live their final years in a nursing home, it doesn’t automatically mean that an elder is living his or her last days. A nursing home is not a hospital, as it often mistaken for, but does have medically trained staff available 24 hours a day. Nursing home candidates do not need to be in a hospital, but are no longer to be cared for in their home or cannot take care of themselves. Although a majority of nursing home residents are older seniors, some younger seniors have short stays in a nursing home after a lengthy illness or after a surgery.

Myth #2: “If I move my elderly relative into a nursing home, he’ll lose all of his independence.”

When selecting a nursing home, many are fearful to move someone into a facility out of fear that he or she will have no independence. Many facilities respect and even encourage independence as much as possible. Even if one individual may have mobility issues, the staff will encourage other independent activities such as eating, grooming, and participating in activities. When deciding on whether or not to move your loved one into the appropriate care, keep in mind that the need for assistance is not the result of a loss of independence as we all require help sometimes.

Myth #3: “If my loved one moves into a nursing home, she will be mistreated by staff and there will be nothing I can do.”

We’ve all heard the terrible stories of nursing home abuse or elder abuse. Unfortunately, these stories of physical, emotional, and financial mistreatment are true, but they don’t apply to every nursing home facility across the country. First off, the best way to prevent elder abuse from occurring is by being active in your elder’s life. Before you choose a facility, take a tour, look around, and ask questions because this is the time in which you are interviewing facilities in search of the best possible care your loved one can receive. If anything feels or looks wrong, you don’t have to settle for that particular home. Be sure to educate yourself on how to recognize and respond to any sign mistreatment of your loved one.

Once you have found a suitable home for your elder, visit often, communicate regularly with staff, keep track of any changes to physical appearance and his or her emotional or mental state. Changes could be part of aging, but it could also indicate abuse. If you suspect any abuse, contact authorities immediately. This next chapter in your loved one’s life can be a positive transition and an opportunity to feel confident that they are being provided with the best care and surrounded by friends and family.

Elder Spring Cleaning

Many people take the beginning of spring as a time to clean, organize, and reset. With longer days on the way and warm weather on the rise, people feel a general increase in productivity during the spring.  Unfortunately, there are elderly folks living in senior care facilities are not always equipped to take on this kind of a task. Whether they are limited in mobility or just have too much cleaning and organizing to tackle on their own, your assistance might be necessary to complete spring cleaning. Below are some of the best ways for you and your loved one in a care facility to tackle spring cleaning this year.

Prioritize:  Before you even start your spring cleaning, it is best to begin by making a list of everything your elderly family member or friend would like to accomplish during their spring cleaning process. Once you have made your list, number  those tasks in order of importance. Tackle the biggest, most important projects first, like organizing medications or paperwork. As you complete those large tasks,  complete smaller, simpler projects in between. This will allow you to accomplish more!

Organize:  For the elderly, it’s especially important to keep items maintained and organized. Start by clearing out drawers and cabinets of their contents. Organize items by category. Everyday items should be kept in places where they are easily accessible, so keep that in mind when organizing closets, cabinets, and refrigerators. Also be sure to organize any relevant medical paper work, insurance information, or bills, and stow them away in a safe but easily accessible place. Organizing belongings makes it easier to find what you’re looking for, and will make it that much easier to find what they need when they need it.

Sanitize:  A clean living environment is vital to anyone at any age. If your loved one’s living space is looking lackluster, used sanitizing cleansers to clean flooring, countertops, and bathroom surfaces. This will spruce up the space instantly, and give your loved one a fresh reset to start the spring season in a healthy manner. Throughout the rest of the season, explain the small chores they’ll need to do to maintain the cleanliness, but a deep spring cleaning is a good jumping off point.

Involve:  While your elderly family member will surely appreciate your help, they don’t want to be completely left out of the process. Depending on their physical ability, you can have your loved one help out with certain spring cleaning tasks. Have them organize paper work while you organize a hard-to-reach cabinet, or assign another task that allows them to remain stationary. Helping out even in the slightest will allow them to feel involved and accomplished when the day of cleaning is done.

Facilitate:  Proper health care is a top priority for the elderly. Checking expiration dates of food and pills should also be part of your spring cleaning process. Make sure the senior care facility your loved one is in is a safe home for them to inhabit, clearing the floor of any trip-and-fall hazards. If your family member uses any type of medical devices, ensure they are functioning properly and ready for use. A list of phone numbers should be programmed into their phone or placed next to a phone in case of emergencies.

If you feel like this is a lot to take on yourself, make a day of it with the family. Helping out your loved one living in a senior care facility with their spring cleaning is a great way to spend time with them. Plus, doing so will allow them more time to participate in activities and socialize.

About The Author

Ruth Folger Weiss loves writing for The Waterford On The Bay, a senior living community in Brooklyn, New York.

 

Tips for Assisting an Elder with Dental Care

If you are looking after a loved one, helping to maintain their dental health can be a difficult subject to broach. Tooth loss and dental disease, along with decreased finger dexterity and general mobility which makes it difficult to properly clean teeth, can all take a toll on an elderly person’s dignity.

Whether you are a family caregiver or a professional carer, you may encounter a bit of resistance initially. However, ensuring oral health is an essential part of caring for an elder’s overall health. Poor oral health has been linked to higher incidence of lung infections and can aggravate existing conditions like diabetes and heart conditions.

Here are a few practical guidelines to help ensure the oral care and support you provide is both effective and kind.

1. Look out for any existing oral conditions

Mouth or tooth pain can leave anyone feeling poorly. In addition, a host of medications can dry out the mouth, adding to the overall discomfort. On the other hand, a healthy mouth means tastier food, better appetite and usually also improved communication.

As you provide support with tooth brushing and dental hygiene, keep an eye on any changes in gum and tooth health. Any bumps, swellings or lesions that do not heal in two weeks, or bleeding and loose teeth are cause for a trip to the dentist or at least a call to your dentists’ practice to seek advice. Regularly ask your loved one if their teeth are sensitive and note any difficulty they may experience when chewing or swallowing.

2. How to help with teeth brushing

Though the level of support you may need to provide when brushing teeth will vary, it is important to make the experience as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

Your loved one might be able to brush their teeth at the sink. In that case, ensure you have a chair positioned in front of the sink and a towel and cup handy. Brushing teeth can easily be done simply sitting up in bed too and rinsing into a cup.

Brush: Using a soft bristled brush, use small round motions to clean each tooth. Also gently clean the tongue. Consider an electric toothbrush as they can be a good option for providing thorough care.

Floss: Floss each tooth, implant and dental bridge. Normal dental floss should work fine but you could also try spongy floss or floss picks to see which works best.

Rinse: Use an antibacterial mouthwash to finish. If the elder you are caring for is unable to rinse with mouthwash, just ask them to spit out any toothpaste into a cup. Don’t worry about remaining residue. If it’s fluoride toothpaste this will actually benefit the teeth.

Dentures: Dentures should be removed at night and cleaned thoroughly daily.

3. Cleanliness after meals and throughout the day

Having frequent sips of water during the day is a great way of keeping the mouth feeling fresh and moist. After meals ensure all food is wiped away and ask your loved one to rinse into a cup to remove any remaining food from their mouth. You could also offer xylitol gum for chewing in between meals.

4. Don’t forget about the dentist

Most dentist recommend that seniors pay their dentist a visit every six months for a checkup and thorough clean. This is a good time to raise any general dental health questions you may have, but don’t wait for the bi-annual visit to address any serious dental health issues.

5. A few notes on diet

Often foods that are easy to prepare, eat and chew are also high in sugars and refined carbohydrates. These can not only increase the chance of cavities but will also aggravate other conditions like having a dry mouth. Thankfully there are quite a lot of teeth-friendly and generally more healthy foods options out there.

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with elder nutrition guidelines and where relevant to work with the care facility.

About the Author

Emma Harris lives in Cuffley, Hertfordshire, where she writes for her local dentist, Cuffley Village Dental Practice who have extensive experience providing dental care to elderly patients.

Using Home Health Care to Facilitate Independent Living

When faced with the choice between living in an elderly care facility or aging as independently as possible at home, home health care is almost always the more desirable choice. Still, it’s not always easy to build a feasible support system for aging seniors who wish to retain as much independence and dignity as possible by continuing to live in their own homes.

Understanding the unique needs of an individual patient and the level of care required to help them stay in their own homes doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right assistance in place and a plan of action, it’s very possible to help your loved ones retain some semblance of an independent, healthy lifestyle well into their golden years.

Realistic Evaluation of Need

To create a plan for an extended aging-in-place arrangement, it’s imperative to objectively take stock of your loved one’s needs and requirements. Some seniors will require little more than a few hours a day of supervision, which includes assistance with housekeeping and management of medication or physical therapy. Others may require more intensive services and direct medical care, transportation to and from appointments with physicians or daily living task assistance like bathing and dressing, which will typically require several hours or even round-the-clock care. Whether your loved one falls at one end of the spectrum or the other, or somewhere in between, enabling them to maintain as normal a routine as possible will require you to have a clear understanding of their needs and the necessary level of care.

Benefits of Home Health Care

Data from current research indicates that seniors who are encouraged to maintain a high level of independence through home health care also show higher levels of mobility, bladder control and emotional well-being. These patients are also less likely to require urgent, unplanned care as a result of injuries, falls or accidental medication mismanagement. Transitioning to a residential care facility may often leave your loved one with less independence and less freedom, which has been linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety. In the vast majority of situations, aging in place with home assistance is the most effective and comfortable solution for all involved parties.

Facilitating a successful home health care plan will allow your aging loved one to retain more control over their daily activities, while helping to prevent injuries, medication mishaps and even problems like malnutrition. Living at home, even with a chronic illness, a disability or an age-related reduction in mobility, is often the best possible option for both the physical and emotional health of a senior citizen. Home health care also helps to stave off feelings of loneliness and social isolation, which are relatively common among seniors.

Creating a Feasible Alternative to Facility Living

Families committed to helping their aging loved ones to live out their remaining years in dignity and the best possible health may know how important aging in place is to their family member’s emotional and physical health, but not how to execute a feasible plan for facilitating such an arrangement.

After assessing your loved one’s level of need, it’s time to determine the best way of building a support system to meet those needs. Family care can be a far less expensive alternative in some situations, but isn’t always feasible. Unless someone is able to dedicate some time each day to the management of medication and nutrition, along with basic daily needs, it may become necessary to work with a professional care provider. For some families, an ideal arrangement may consist of primarily family-driven care, with supplemental assistance from a professional caregiver or home health care provider. Because every situation is unique, your plan for enabling your loved one to age in place must also be customized to fit the existing level of need. Maintaining an open line of communication with your loved one’s primary care physicians and other medical care providers is one of the best ways to determine the most effective course of action, especially when aging in place is the preferred option.

About the Author

Selwyn St. Louis is the Director and CEO of Better Living Senior Services, located in Tampa Bay, Florida. Since 2009, Selwyn has been on a mission to help those in need with home health care options for the elderly.

Making the Transition: Hospital to Home Health Care

For aging adults and their families, a lengthy hospital stay can be a frightening and confusing time. At the end of this particular long road lies another; the transition from extended hospital care to home health care. Making this transition can be a challenging experience, but it’s also one which can be handled deftly with the proper preparation and reasonable expectations.

When home health care is the preferred solution for an aging patient, having a transitional plan in place before hospital discharge is essential. Medicare data indicates up to one in five patients will be readmitted to a hospital within thirty days of discharge, and almost half of those cases can be directly attributed to lack of access to community services or social interaction. Keeping your loved one healthy and comfortable at home will require that they’re able to remember and attend all follow-up appointments with a primary care physician, maintain the appropriate medication schedule and have access to a reasonable level of in-home assistance.

Planning Ahead

For the greatest chances of a successful transition to home health care after a hospital stay, it’s wise to begin making plans for this transition as soon as possible. Depending upon existing medical conditions and the advice of an attending physician, you may need to make arrangements for the procurement of specific equipment and supplies. Hospital beds, oxygen supplies, assistive showering and toileting devices and even disposable items like adult diapers and gloves are commonly suggested. Adjustments to make room for these tools should be handled as early as possible, to ensure a smooth transition from hospital care to home. Having all the necessary supplies in place on the day of discharge can alleviate much of the stress of the transition, making it more manageable for everyone involved.

More often than not, an aging patient will be prescribed new medication in order to more readily address the condition being treated during a hospital stay. Medication management becomes another important aspect of the transition to home health care from hospital care. It can be confusing for a senior recovering from an illness or procedure to integrate new treatment into their medication schedule. It’s crucial for a home health care professional or knowledgeable family caregiver to understand the intricacies of medication management, especially if new medications are contraindicated with older ones or there are overlapping prescriptions.

Understanding Care Requirements

After being discharged from a hospital stay, regardless of the length, most seniors will require at least some assistance at home. Working with attending physicians and primary care physicians to determine the required level of home assistance is advised. Some patients may require as little as a few hours of maintenance and medication  management each day, while others require 24-hour assistance with necessary activities like toileting and routine hygiene. Recent studies suggest more than half of patients over the age of eight-five will require some level of assistance with basic daily activities after leaving the hospital, though the duration of this assistance will vary from one individual to another.

In order to create an environment which will facilitate successful transition, it is crucial for family members to have a realistic understanding of home health care requirements. Because there may also be as much as a full day’s gap between discharge from the hospital and the beginning of covered home health services, it’s also important to have a plan in place for the day of release.

With the right level of preparation and a clear line of communication between patients, family members and medical care providers, it’s entirely possible to facilitate a smooth and successful transition from a hospital stay to home health care. Properly executed home health plans can also reduce the likelihood of repeat hospitalizations, improve quality of life and help your loved one enjoy their golden years to the fullest.

About the Author

Selwyn St. Louis is the Director and CEO of Better Living Senior Services, located in Tampa Bay, Florida. Since 2009, Selwyn has been on a mission to help those in need with home health care options for the elderly.

4 Ways to Spend Time Together

Recent studies suggest that an excess of sleep can be harmful, leading to thyroid disease, kidney and liver disease, depression and even dementia. People who sleep too much or too little are more likely to die at an earlier age, also. Somewhat disappointing news for those of us who enjoy a few extra zzzs on our days off, but news that should, in so many ways, wake us up. For patients in all stages of dementia, these hours can be difficult to fill, especially for the new caregiver, who may be overwhelmed by their new responsibilities.

It’s long been known that engagement of the mind and body are crucial to memory care, but finding ways to keep seniors active (especially in winter) can be difficult—for ideas, go here. Finding activities that a caregiver, senior, and grandchild can enjoy together present an even greater challenge. Sometimes though, it isn’t as difficult as you might think. Things that you find enjoyable may also be enjoyable to the senior in your life.

Volunteer

The experience of helping others is rewarding for people of all ages. Fortunately, volunteering (especially around the holidays) happens across a variety of platforms, which means that children and seniors with physical handicaps, memory loss, etc. will still be able to participate. Volunteer work might consist of filing paperwork for a local food bank, petting cats at an animal shelter, or helping serve children lunch at a nearby elementary school.

For seniors that have been active, the transition to an assisted living facility can be difficult, since many do not facilitate activities. Outside volunteer work helps the senior, the family, and the community.

Play Chess

The game of chess can be enjoyed by many and requires little mobility—perfect for older folks and children who tire easily. If you or your loved one doesn’t know how to play the game, make a day of learning it. It can take as much or as little time as you have, and actively engages the brain.

Bonus points if you can find boards in a park (like this) or bring your own. Playing in a park gives everyone some great access to fresh air and allows for a bit of exercise before, after, or between games!

Wii Fit

We’re so fortunate to have access to various kinds of technology these days—why not take advantage of it! The Nintendo Wii Fit offers a variety of simple (and more complex) exercises for you, your children, and your senior. There are yoga and step aerobics programs, bowling, and a variety of other games. Video games have proven their effectiveness as a form of memory care, and the Wii Fit adds the benefit of exercise.

Seniors are becoming increasingly involved in technological pursuits, so why not utilize equipment you have to create a fun and accessible workout plan for the whole family?

Sunday Drive

This Sunday, do more than just curse those slow Sunday drivers—become one! Drives are great because they’re easy for everyone, simple to prepare for, and fun for the whole family. When you’re driving, consider listening to a special mix tape that can bring back feelings of nostalgia. Try an audio book or podcast. Turn the radio off all together and enjoy the company of your family in a quiet space.

You may also find that you discover new activities together as you are driving around. Stop and try new things—grab some ice cream at that new shop, rent a paddle boat, or explore the nearby mountains. Either way, a Sunday drive can provide a great setting in which to discuss your lives—a true bonding experience.

Remember, being a caregiver can mean a lot of different things, and it can also be stressful. With some work, you can make the experience (whether your senior is living at home, in an assisted living facility, or senior living community) rewarding for everyone. This is your chance to bring your family closer together with some quality time spent doing some things you’ll all love!

About the Author

Madison Hill could bake her way out of a paper bag, but she hopes she never has to. She lives in Seattle where she cares for her mother and drinks ungodly amounts of coffee every morning, noon, and night. In her spare time, she writes about trends in senior care for Care Compare.

Do Your Due Diligence When Selecting an Assisted Living Facility

Choosing an assisted-living or long-term care facility for your family member can seem like a daunting task. The decision to move into a nursing home is seldom an easy one, and relatives have every right to be concerned and anxious about the level of care their loved one will receive. This can be especially true for those with special needs, or those who haven’t spent an extensive part of their life away from a home with a nuclear family.

News reports and first-hand accounts of nursing home abuse may only heighten your concerns. However, there are many well-run residential care facilities, and selecting one of these nursing homes will significantly decrease the likelihood that your family member becomes an abuse victim.

But how do you know which long-term care facilities are well run and which are prone to problems? There are a number of resources that can help you vet facilities before making a selection. When researching long-term care facilities for your family member, there are a few sources of information you should consider:

  • A state agency (often the Department of Health and Human Services, or its equivalent) is responsible for licensing each nursing homes operating in the state, conducting periodic inspections, and investigating complaints of elder abuse and other problems at assisted living facilities. You should be able to visit the agency’s website to confirm that a facility’s license is in good standing, view inspection reports, and learn more about the nature of complaints and how they were resolved.
  • It’s important to consider the context when reviewing this information. For example, spot check the complaints that have been filed for several facilities in the area, including those with the best reputations, to gauge how many complaints is a typical, above-average and below-average number. In addition, reviews can also be a valuable resource.
  • The state, county or city Agency on Aging can normally provide you with a list of residential care facilities in the area. In talking to an agency representative, you may be able to get informal feedback about a particular facility’s reputation in the community.
  • Each state also has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman, whose job is to advocate on behalf of assisted-living facility residents, and educate residents and their families. Your state’s ombudsman can help you learn more about long-term care facilities and regulations in your area.
  • It’s critical to talk to people with first-hand knowledge of local nursing home facilities, including people who have relatives in assisted living facilities, as well as residents of the nursing home you’re considering. Ask a lot of questions. What did families learn during the facility selection process and what would they do differently? What do residents like and dislike about a particular assisted-living facility? Would the resident recommend the facility to others?
  • If you know any nursing home abuse attorneys in your area, consider asking them for feedback on the resident care facilities you’re considering. Because nursing home abuse attorneys represent the abuse victims, they’ll be well aware of which facilities have a chronic history of problems and which are well-run. And if you are friends with people who work in the assisted living industry, ask them for their impressions and feedback about specific facilities.
  • The Assisted Living Federation of American, which is the trade group for assisted living facilities, maintains a list of links to regulations and assisted living regulatory agencies on a state-by-state basis.
  • The National Center for Assisted Living, which is run by another industry trade group, publishes an annual review that summarizes assisted-living regulations on a state-by-state basis. If you are considering residential care facilities in more than one state, this document can help you learn more about each state’s regulatory standards and requirements.
About the Author

Alan Brady is a single father, a part-time care provider for his grandmother, and an advocate for reducing caregiver abuse and neglect. He recommends seeking the services of a nursing home abuse attorney if you or a loved one experiences either while in the care of a nursing home.

Best Winter Activities for Seniors

Senior citizens and the winter season do not often get along very well. During these cold months, they are supposed to stay inside; otherwise, extreme weather may cause illness or injury. However, this does not mean that seniors should only eat, sleep and just watch TV all throughout the winter season. There are actually a number of winter activities that are not only enjoyable but are also beneficial to the grandmas and grandpas out there.

Playing Bingo

Bingo may not be the best game for staying fit while remaining indoors, but this is actually a great game that encourages mental stimulation. It is also a great way to make new friends. This game is not only played at home, but can also be found in local halls and senior clubs and. Although bingo normally involves some money or prizes, it can also be played for the fun of it. Plus, there are different types of the game so that each round can seem unique.

Using the Treadmill

Treadmills are actually good friends of senior citizens while they remain indoors. Walking on a treadmill daily is just like walking outside except that there are no worries about tripping into or falling down the snowy path. Similarly, senior citizens who enjoy biking leisurely can still do what they usually do by using the stationary bike. It is just as beneficial to the body as riding outdoors. Additionally, they are much safer especially during the harsh winter seasons. Using these machines can definitely keep seniors fit and healthy even while staying inside.

Go Bowling

Bowling is a classic social activity said to be about 4,000 years old. It is fun and is one of the best ways to meet new people. Even those who do not like games will surely be interested in playing bowling with other seniors. Aside from being enjoyable, bowling offers great benefits physically. It helps the player get into shape especially when done regularly. It also tones the muscle and even works as a strength exercise.

Video Games

Although seniors are not generally seen as techy people, they can truly benefit from video games. A combination of exercise and gaming, there are now a variety of high-tech games that boost fitness in adults and keep them mentally active. There are boxing, tennis, and even dance games. Of course, they cannot be compared with the health benefits offered by doing the real activity, but they are strongly advised to seniors nowadays particularly during the cold winter season. They are an excellent way to keep being active instead of sleeping all day as the snow or rain pours down. It is important though that the senior or the caretaker or nurse knows the limits of the senior since some of the video games can be too demanding for their age as sometimes learning about things that are online or computer based can frustrate both the carer and the senior.

Walk Up and Down the Stairs

Winter activities do not have to be fancy. Simply walking up and down the stairs can actually keep senior citizens healthy. Sure, it is not as pleasant and fun as the other activities mentioned above, but this is one sure way to remain healthy throughout the winter. It burns more calories and keeps them away from heart diseases.

Take a Class

Cooking, sewing, and other kinds of classes can make the senior citizen busy and happy during the cold months. Enrolling in a class is a brilliant method to meet new people or gain new friends. In addition, this improves memory, keeps their minds sharp and even boosts their self-confidence. Learning anything is the best way to have a healthy mind and body for a long time. If your elderly relative is at home with a career most of the time, then there is the added benefit of having some independence in getting out of the house.

The activities in this list are definitely entertaining and beneficial for seniors. However, before starting an activity, make sure to consult with the doctor first to avoid health risks.

About the Author

Erin Warbrook is a freelance writer from Perth, Western Australia who loves spending time with her elderly grandmother who lives in a residential care facility with Brightwater Care Group.

Will Your Loved One’s Senior Care Community Perform CPR?

When our parents move to an independent, assisted living and dementia care community, we often assume we’re paying for their entire care.  I mean, we’ve done our homework, right?  We’ve checked that they have nurses on staff.  We’ve check that the med room is safe, and we made sure that the community has a good safety record and adequate staff.

But what actually happens when there is an emergency?  What happens in the event the staff needs to intervene to potentially save your loved one’s life?  The answers aren’t always clear. And there is no real way to see it in action.

Below is a sad and eye opening story from Bakersfield, California.  In this story, an elderly resident was denied CPR from the nurse on duty because it was not the policy of the community to engage in such activities.  Despite the pleas of the 911 operator, the nurse would not perform CPR and would not find anyone who would.

So this begs the question: do you know what the policies of your loved one’s community is? Would they step in during an emergency? If you don’t know the answer, you should find out and make sure you are comfortable with it.