Easing the Process for Disabled Seniors

It was something so surreal that we could never imagine it when we were younger, but our parents, grandparents, and loved ones grow old. None of us remain strong forever and the day will come that you need help making it from point A to point B, but we’ll leave that alone for another day. When giving seniors care it is a touchy issue when it comes to aiding them. Like everyone, seniors want to remain thriving members of society but it is physically impossible for them to do so. Here are some ways that you can ease the transition from ability to disability with seniors.

Encouraging Independence

One of the essentials of elderly care is to remember each member of society wants to be healthy and functioning. When an elder realizes he or she is unable to continue caring for oneself like they were able to in the past it is devastating to their self-image. Upholding as many independent activities an elder can accomplish is crucial. Feeling helpless and unable to complete basic life activities without help is something no person wants to experience.  Encourage an elder’s independence. Challenge them to complete tasks which require independence. Go for a 3 15-minute walks per week (gentleman with a walker shown above), come down the stairs at least once per day, play a game of chess (online or offline), or any of these other activities.

Never Call Attention to Deficiencies

Humiliating a senior for a mistake or miscue should never happen. When a senior forgets where something was placed, bumps into a table, knocks something over, or has a restroom accident, do not call it to attention. Assure them that the problem will be taken care of. Then you can help to clean up the mess, reorganize, and assist in restoring the situation. Drawing attention to the senior for making a mistake only worsens the situation.

Home Care or a New Home?

When it comes to the point in which a decision must be made in regards to a senior living at home and receiving care or moving into a retirement center, the most favorable choice for the senior will be to stay in their own home. You’ll find that many major changes to a senior’s lifestyle are met with resistance and this shouldn’t be a surprise. When there are no feasible options besides moving into a senior care center or retirement community, you’re essentially telling the senior they need to evacuate their home and completely turn their life upside down. The “right” answer will depend on the needs of the aging senior and the level of care necessary for the senior to function in a healthy manner. Be sure to remind the senior that there are plenty of great things when it comes to retirement communities, including a community full of other great people and fun activities via life enrichment. If the senior makes the decision to move into a retirement community, be sure you do the research and help them decide which assisted living facility is the best.

The process of losing independence and the ability to care for oneself is never easy so do not expect it to be a seamless transition. It will be difficult, there will be miscommunication at times, and mistakes will be made. Just remember to encourage seniors when mistakes are made, don’t call them out, and challenge them to do things on their own. Put yourself in their shoes and treat them as if you’d like to be treated when you come to their age.

About the Author

Cheryl Swanson worked as the life enrichment coordinator of a retirement community for 17 years. Now she finds herself taking care of her mother, Lena, making sure she gets the most out of life in old age. A writer by heart Cheryl writes for www.justwalkers.com, providing walkers for movement assistance.

Mobility Aids to Help the Elderly Get In and Out of Bed

If getting in and out of bed is becoming unsafe for you or a relative due to functional decline, then installing a transfer mobility aid in the bedroom can help to improve your comfort and safety, for a youthful mind and body. This can allow you to remain independent and safe by reducing the risk of falls. If you decide that a transfer aid would improve your ability to get in and out of bed then the following helpful guide on grab handles, lifting poles and leg lifters will prove useful.

Grab handles

  • What are they? These are handles which can be firmly fixed under a mattress or onto a bed base or by the side of the bed to improve stability when getting in and out of bed. Grab handles can be fixed to beds, walls or floors; certain models can be fixed into different positions to suit the person’s specific needs.
  • Is a grab handle the best option for you? As long as you are able to maintain a certain level of strength in your arms, this may be the simplest solution. Otherwise, other options would need to be explored.
  • Is available space an issue? Grab handles take up little room and can prove a useful addition to many elderly people’s bedrooms.
  • What else do I need to consider? Fixed grab handles may obstruct parts of the bedside and make, for example, reaching for items on a bedside table potentially hazardous; you should make sure that the handle is properly secured. Certain models are tucked under the mattress and kept in place by the person’s weight. In this case, the user will need to distribute their mass evenly to ensure the rail remains in place.

Lifting poles

  • What are they? These are metal gantries which can be free standing or fixed to a wall. They should also come with a strap and grab handle that can be positioned to suit the user’s needs. Once in place, the user is able to pull themselves into a sitting position which can help with getting in or out of bed.
  • Is a lifting pole the best option for you? This may not be a suitable option for elderly persons who have painful arms and shoulders or a limited range of movement. It also requires the user to have good abdominal control.
  • Is available space an issue? The lifting pole can slide under the bed and the hand grip be accessed when in bed, so space is not really an issue. However, you may wish to choose a model that fits in with the décor of your bedroom.
  • What else do I need to consider? You should make sure that any freestanding lifting pole is properly secured or it may tip over. Choose a model with a moulded handgrip for comfort and consider one that can be dismantled and moved, as this can prove useful for going on holiday or moving house.

Leg lifters

  • What are they? This is a type of transfer aid that helps elderly people get their legs in or out of bed when they are finding the act of lifting their legs difficult.
  • Is a leg lifter the best option for you? A leg lifter is a helpful mobility aid for people who have decreased strength in their legs. It is simple to use and can promote independence and safety standards in the bedroom.
  • Should I opt for a manual or powered leg lifter? A manual leg lifter consists of a reinforced strap with a loop at the end. This can be looped around the foot and lifted by the user’s arms. It requires that the person has the strength and dexterity to perform the action. If this is not possible powered leg lifters can prove a more suitable option, as these can be fitted to the side of a bed and controlled by a remote. Powered leg lifters often employ a compressor to fill an air sack which, as it expands, raises the platform and the person’s legs.
  • What else do I need to consider? Manual leg lifters may not be the easiest mobility aid to use if the user has minimal strength and dexterity, in which case a powered leg lifter can be a more suitable option. They can be handy to use after hip or knee replacement surgery.

These mobility aids for transferring in and out of bed require that the user have a certain level of strength and dexterity – which can be improved via tai chi for seniors as there are many misconceptions about the elderly and exercise that can be overcome. However, if this is not possible other options such as hoists may prove a better option.

If unsure, please seek the advice of an occupational therapist who will be able to fully assess the most suitable option to meet your needs.

If you have any questions then please let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Carol Robinson works with Manage at Home mobility aids and cares for her husband at home. She has seen it and done it, as it were, and hopes to pass on some of her knowledge to the readers of Inside Elder Care.

Make Your Elderly Parent More Secure At Home

While your elderly relative still has what it takes to live independently, they might be lacking the skills and functions it takes to deal with unusual or even emergency circumstances.  For these special cases, it’s a good idea to take preventative measures to make sure he or she will have the support they need—no matter what.

From the everyday to the rainy-day, here are some measures everyone with a live-at-home senior loved one should think about:

High-tech sensors

There’s a stereotype that older people don’t like to fuss with electronic gadgetry and, in some cases, it’s confirmed in reality; however, today’s technology is so consumer oriented, so they don’t even need to deal with the logistics of the many devices that can attend to their needs.

  • Fall detectors.  If your relative is having problems with balance or has particularly fragile bones, fall detectors are a must.  While the older “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” variety of home alerts needed the victim to push a button, the latest technology provides gyroscopes that can sense dramatic changes in position and alert backup, even if the person is not conscious.
  • Medical monitors.  One of the most recurring reasons for resorting to outpatient care for the elderly is the battery of ongoing physical testing they may require. With a number of home detection systems, many of these tests can be performed easily at home.  Health-e-Chair, for example, is equipped with an array of   biosensors that keeps track of every vital sign you can think of (and some—such as blood oxygen saturation—that you might not).
  • Smart appliances. In addition to being easier to use than conventional electronic fare, special appliances designed for seniors come equipped with fail safe switches that will shut off automatically and prevent fires or other mishaps.

Simple handyman maintenance

You don’t need state-of-the art technology to make sure mom or dad is safe.  A few literal nuts and bolts may do the trick after you’ve given their house the once-over for any high-risk areas.

  • Emergency exits.  If your relative is in a wheelchair or uses a walker, the house should surely be equipped with a ramp anyway; however, even if mobility is not that obvious of a problem, make sure that all entrances are easy to get to and easy to open.  Investing in a new set of power-hinges could make the difference between life and death.
  • Remove clutter.  For similar reasons, having too much stuff in the house can be dangerous.  Consider a storage facility or for the especially nostalgic, space-smart storage solutions.
  • Grab bars.  For high-risk areas, such as stairs and shower, grab-bars are highly recommended.  For these, spending some time with your relative might be a good idea to look for target areas as well as the heights to install the bars.

Social support

While mom or dad may not need to go to a home, there are some areas in which other humans can’t be substituted.

  • Social interaction technologyIt’s essential that older people have plenty of mental stimulation and the best way to get it is from other people. New programs, such as Seniorama-Pointer, allow for seniors to easily Skype, use email and even play interactive games with little fuss.
  • In-house care.  Especially if you’re debating whether or not to resort to care outside the home, a visiting or even live-in caregiver is truly worth considering. Hiring a company to screen caregivers for background checks, licenses and the like can give seniors confidence in the care they’re receiving, while allowing them the benefit of staying at home, and feeling more connected to the life they’ve grown used to.

Finally, because older people can be sensitive about being given “special treatment,” be certain to administer to their special needs in an open, caring, and rational way.

If mom or dad’s reflexes or senses are not what they used to be, it’s no cause for shame; patronizing will only make matters worse; however, with some foresight and tact, you’ll give your loved one the security network they deserve—and the peace of mind that goes with it.

About the Author

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area whose writing covers several different industries, including health, technology and marketing. In order to make her parents feel as comfortable as possible, she keeps these tips in mind to make them feel more secure.

Suzanne Andrews Shares the Preventative Powers of Functional Fitness for Seniors (Podcast)

Suzanne Andrews is an occupational therapy practitioner and host of PBS TV’s Functional Fitness.  Suzanne specializes in increasing peoples functional ability through medically engineered fitness techniques for the over 40 population.

Functional Fitness doctor-recommended DVD’s are the only medically engineered programs that offer you the opportunity to increase your functional ability and focus on real-life fitness for real-life challenges.

Whether you need to decrease stiffness and pain caused from arthritis, lose weight, improve your balance, increase your flexibility, get thicker, stronger bones because of osteoporosis, or improve the health of your neck and back, Suzanne Andrews vast therapeutic exercise knowledge will increase your health with special consideration on safety and injury prevention.

In addition to overall strength and well-being, Functional Fitness is customized to address many common elder care medical issues, including:

  • Arthritis relief
  • Pain-free neck & back
  • Bone building
  • Brain power
  • Diabetes
  • Fat-burning
  • COPD/asthma

Review: A Good Vibe From San Clemente Villas By The Sea

I recently had the pleasure to speak at San Clemente Villas by the Sea.  I’ve spoken at many senior communities across four states now, so I was excited to speak in what was essentially my backyard.  I like to share my experiences at each community; many of your are considering senior living communities, and exposure to different places is useful for everyone.

San Clemente Villas by the Sea is a community located in San Clemente, California.  San Clemente is a beach town between Los Angeles and San Diego, and is the last town south before you have 30 miles of beautiful beach views en route to San Diego.

The first thing that struck me when I walked in was the positive energy I got from the community.  So often you walk into a senior living community, and it has a hotel feel. Even though residents are engaged, the front desk often seems like “check-in”, and you really have to get into the community to get a flavor for its personality.  The management offices are separated from the residents and it just feels, well, separate.

With The Villas, it was different.  Owner Aileen Brazeau has done a great job there.  It seems more like a party–music, chatter, people laughing in the sitting areas and a staff that was completely engaged in the residents.  This was a big differentiator for me.  Whereas many communities have staff know their residents and interact with them, the staff at The Villas knew the residents.  They were engaged, joking around and everyone was smiling.  I rarely get such a positive vibe, so I was really looking forward to the tour.

San Clemente Villas by the Sea offers independent living, assisted living and dementia care, all laid out in Hawaian themes.  I spoke to a few residents; they were happy about living there and felt it was a good social outlet for them with good care.  The community itself had modern decor and the rooms were no different.  Since The Villas is located on a hill, many of the rooms have a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.

In terms of amenities, they had it all and took the extra step to provide residents some comforts of home.  For example, rather than just a fitness class, they had a pretty nice gym (coming from a gym nut like myself).  Instead of just an activity room for bingo, they had a professional bingo board where the numbers light up.  Instead of just a restaurant with hours for snacks, they had a coffee shop area with snacks. They also had a pool and a jacuzzi, which lent itself to several activity classes not normally senior in senior living communities.

All in all, I was very impressed with the community and the vibe. The owners clearly hire people that were not just qualified, but enjoyed interacting with the residents.  Often that makes the difference between just good care and a good experience!

To learn more about San Clemente Villas by the Sea, visit their website.

Top Brain Fitness Programs for Sustaining Mental Acuity

In aging seniors, healthy brain function is about more than just memory and coordination; everyday tasks, relationships, hobbies and quality of life are all affected.  It stands to reason that the more aware and capable you are of cognitive reasoning and performing independent living activities the higher your self confidence and emotional health.

The nation’s largest study on brain fitness was performed in 2002 by the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) and their results showed that a large percentage of participants over the age of 65 improved memory, reasoning and information-processing speed when they participated in training for five days per week.  In addition, the study showed a 47% lower risk of dementia in participants who worked crossword puzzles four days a week than those who only worked the puzzles once a week.  These results play into the notion of “Use it or Lose it” when it comes to cognitive aging.

Furthermore, an Australian study consisting of 30 peer-reviewed papers in controlled trials found that, as people experienced these lifestyle benefits they were also able to live longer and therefore reduce health care expenses.

Along with these studies, it is widely known that many seniors regularly engage in crossword puzzles, Sudoku and similar brain training games to slow dementia and aging.  Many software companies have tapped into this need by creating games and exercises that aid in sustaining mental acuity.  It has been reported that the brain fitness software market grew from $225 Million in 2007 to $265 Million in 2008.  Here are the top three systems that claim to reduce dementia rates in seniors.

Posit Science

Posit Science claims that their products will help the user “think faster, focus better, and remember more.”  Their software programs are designed for either a PC or a Mac. Each priced at $395.00

  1. Brain Fitness Program: Six programs that allow you to “Remember more & Feel Sharper” by practicing matching items, distinguishing objects, memory recall and story telling.
  2. InSight: Five programs designed for “Better Focus & Learn More” focusing on visual precision.
  3. DriveSharp: Two programs that deal with divided attention and increased processing times so that you will “Drive Carefully & React Faster”

Dakim BrainFitness

Dakim offers two brain training concepts for seniors.

  1. A complete self-contained console that only needs a high-speed internet connection but does not require a keyboard, mouse or software program installation.  It is marketed to both the individual senior and the senior living provider.  After the initial purchase of $2,299 for the touch-screen console, more than 150 games are available for a $19.95 per month subscription.
  2. 2. New brain fitness software to be released this April for $349.99, which includes a one-year subscription.

CogniFit

CogniFit is a web-based system that does not require you to install software or purchase a console.  Instead you access the programs through their website.  Both programs described below are priced based on the following subscription terms: $19.95 per month, $99.50 for 6 months, or $170 annually.

  1. CogniFit Personal Coach:  This program addresses overall cognitive skills and claims to improve memory and focus, and increase processing time.
  2. CogniFit Senior Driver: Similar to other driving programs, this system is designed to improve reaction time, handle multiple driving tasks and focus on potential road threat recognition.

About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder and managing editor of Inside Elder Care and the author of the By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living.  He can be reach on Twitter at @RyanMalone.