Viernes, 20 Agosto 2021 12:07

Five Steps for Preventing Caregiver Stress

Being a caregiver is a rewarding experience, but anyone who has served in this capacity will tell you that it is also extremely stressful at times. We recently explored the risk factors for and signs of caregiver stress. If you are a caregiver, we urge you to be aware and to take steps to protect yourself against the damaging effects of caregiver stress. Failure to do so can lead to increased difficulty with relationships, emotional distress, problems at work and serious health concerns.

Do not wait until you are in distress to take these preventative measures:

  • Become educated. There are many reasons that an individual may require care: dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, physical illness, etc. A caregiver who is aware of what to expect is better prepared. The frustrating behaviors that come with certain illnesses are more manageable when they are understood to be common symptoms. Take the time to read up on the subject, take a workshop, contact local support organizations or speak to a medical provider.
  • Get organized. Even in the best situations, when a loved one needs additional care, it will take time and effort. Make lists, use a planner or calendar, use pill reminders, etc. Think about where you require organization, and ask the question “Is there an app for that?” The answer is almost always yes.
  • Get help. No matter how educated, organized and prepared a caregiver is, this is a job that cannot be done alone. Find support from family, friends, professionals or local support organizations. Ask questions. Ask for support. Ask for help when needed.
  • Talk about it. Schedule regular times to sit down and talk with someone you trust about the daily struggles; someone who is willing to be a sounding board for you can go a long way. On the other hand, consider the benefits of engaging a professional to help with emotional and mental balance.
  • Engage in self-care regularly. No doubt that everyone has heard that you cannot fill someone else’s cup when your pitcher is empty. Take the time to “fill your pitcher” by getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising and seeing your doctor regularly. Carve out a bit of time for enjoying a social activity or a hobby (even if it involves asking for help during that time). Do things that are relaxing and contribute to your wellbeing.

Caregivers often believe that they must take on this responsibility alone and that they are the only ones who can or should contribute to the loved one’s needs. This is neither true nor healthy for the caregiver, as well as for the loved one in care. Your loved one will enjoy the benefits of your being healthy physically and emotionally. Take the steps to improve that health today.

Viernes, 20 Agosto 2021 11:59

How to Spot the Signs of Caregiver Stress

In the United States, more than 40 million people serve as unpaid caregivers of adults over the age of 65. Sixty percent of these individuals are also employed in the workforce. Most have other household responsibilities, including maintaining a home and raising children. Most who provide unpaid caregiving are doing so for family members.

Caregiving can be extremely rewarding, but it is undoubtedly a very stressful experience. The grief involved in watching a loved one’s health or abilities fade away can be overwhelming. As roles change and independence is lost, there can be frustration, depression and even anger. The following circumstances tend to be linked with higher caregiver stress levels, and it is wise to be aware of your risk level if any of these apply to you.

  • Feeling forced into the caregiver role
  • Feeling confused by the transition to caregiver (from spouse, adult child, friend, etc.)
  • Expecting to “save” the person or to have a highly positive effect on the progression of the illness
  • Having complicated, unresolved problems within the relationship
  • Lacking the resources needed (financial, skills, time, etc.) to effectively manage the situation
  • Holding yourself to unrealistic standards or expectations, such as navigating the situation without help or always being positive

If these apply to you as a caregiver, be extra vigilant about monitoring stress levels. Even those without these factors, however, are at risk for caregiver stress. Be aware of these signs of stress.

  • Increased or decreased eating or sleeping
  • Feelings of worry, sadness, isolation and loneliness
  • Becoming easily overwhelmed, irritated or angry
  • Fatigue and pain such as body aches or headaches
  • Frequent or severe mood changes
  • Using alcohol, tobacco, etc. to cope with stress
  • Poor concentration
  • Emotional Exhaustion

While it is common and not harmful to experience most of these signs for a short period of time, if you find that symptoms are prolonged or interfere with your ability to function in your roles, it is a good idea to speak with your physician. If you experience thoughts of harming yourself or others or begin to use substances excessively for coping, it is vital to get immediate help.

In upcoming blogs, we will explore steps that caregivers can take to reduce stress and increase self care.

For students and teachers all over our area, August means back to school. As we age, this time of year may seem less relevant, but it’s a good reminder that learning is good for you no matter your age. In fact, research indicates that those who continue to learn as they age are less affected by the cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s Disease.

Whether you or your aging loved one wants to earn a degree at an advanced age or simply sharpen a skill, there are many opportunities for learning at any age.

  • Consider community college. College classes are not just for those seeking a degree. In the community college setting, adult learning opportunities with small class sizes and affordable costs are the norm. While many still employ traditional classroom learning models, there are also countless classes that offer hands-on learning. From art to zoology, the possibilities are endless.
  • Look to your local library or community center. Check your local organizations’ calendars for workshops, seminars and regular classes.
  • Develop a new skill and gain valuable information by offering your time to an organization in need. Choose an area that interests you and use the opportunity to learn.
  • Play a little. A new game or physical activity involves learning new rules and skills. Consider gathering with friends to learn a new game. Enjoy it together for a while, then try something new the next month.
  • There’s nothing like a good book to expand your world. Whether discussing fiction with a group of friends or taking in the knowledge of nonfiction, reading is good for learners of all ages. Plus, reading has been shown to reduce stress levels. For those with limited eyesight or reading ability, audiobooks are widely available.
  • Take up a hobby. As people age, they often find that there is time to take up that hobby they dreamed about during their working years. Whether cooking or golf, crocheting or hiking, every hobby is an opportunity to learn new things. Learning to play a new instrument is believed to offset cognitive decline.
  • Go online. The online world offers more opportunity than there ever was before. You could learn and explore new things all day long. You can learn anything from coding to origami on YouTube, or explore one of these wonderful learning websites to find a topic of interest.

We encourage you to head “back to school” this year. Becoming a lifelong learner will benefit you in so many ways!

Viernes, 20 Agosto 2021 11:54

Five Hot Summer Tips for Seniors

As we age, many of us enjoy wonderful summertime memories. What fun it is to remember swimming with friends, camping or fishing trips with family, warm nights on the front porch, homemade ice cream, fireworks, and all the carefree fun that summer brings.

However, summer temperatures present unique challenges for aging individuals and their caregivers. The St. Louis area has already experienced many hot summer days. Area meteorologists expect it to remain this way. With this in mind, we rounded up our best tips to help you enjoy summer with your loved ones. 

  • Beat the heat. Because it is more difficult for the aging body to regulate temperature, you must be aware and take extra precautions during hot weather.
  • Keep summer fun. This season often involves many celebrations and gatherings. While this can be challenging for aging persons, participating in summer activities is not only possible, but it can be enjoyable.
  • Continue healthy habits. Don’t let the heat keep you from continuing the healthy changes you made this spring. Simply make needed adjustments, such as exercising indoors or enjoying time in nature in the early morning before it gets too hot.
  • Eat well. Warmer temperatures often lead to a decrease in appetite. Be certain to pay attention to nutritional needs, and especially water intake.
  • Take a break. Recently, we explored the many benefits of taking a vacation. We simply cannot emphasize this enough – taking time off is not just a luxury; it is a necessity, especially for those in a caregiving role. Whether you are taking your loved one with you or vacationing while they remain at home, you NEED a vacation.

We wish you a very happy and healthy summer!

We’ve been telling you for weeks now – summertime is vacation time. A staggering number of American workers do not take their vacation time, leading to burnout, stress and other negative consequences on their physical and emotional health. This is a well-recognized problem in the healthcare industry, as well as among employers and workers.

Meanwhile, around 44 million American adults carry the job responsibilities of unpaid caregiver for aging or disabled loved ones. Often, these caregivers have other significant responsibilities, such as children in the home or careers. They are thrust into the caregiving role, sometimes without training or preparation. The responsibilities are overwhelming and never ending. Caregivers are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety, increased health problems, lower levels of self-care, and ultimately higher mortality.

It stands to reason that if paid workers benefit from using vacation time, unpaid caregivers also benefit from time away as well. If paid employees who take vacation time do better work with less frustration, then unpaid caregivers who take vacation not only benefit themselves, but also those in their care.

How to get away when you’re a caregiver?

  • Plan well. Begin making plans, allowing plenty of time to make arrangements for a loved one’s care, ensure work affairs are in order and accomplish all the many other items folks planning a vacation must do.
  • Communicate well. Communicate clearly with a loved one about the trip, depending upon his or her ability to remember and understand. While communication is key, keep in mind that timing is everything. Don’t wait until the last minute, but also avoid communicating plans too far in advance or it may increase anxiety, find that perfect midway point to communicate information about the trip. Also, communicate clearly the time of return.
  • Ask for help. When planning vacation, and every day before and after, there is no shame in asking for help. Maybe a family member can lend a hand or hire help for specific jobs. No one person can or should be responsible for everything.
  • Consider professional help. Every caregiver faces the knowledge that they may need professional assistance with their loved one. Whether it be for a brief respite period or for skilled round-the-clock care, make the decision with confidence by contacting AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis. We are proud to meet each of our patients’ unique needs.

Caregiver, it is time to seriously consider the need for relaxation and refreshment. AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis would be pleased to meet with you and evaluate your needs. Together, we can create a plan to provide high-quality care for your loved one, while you get a well-deserved break.

Even though taking vacation time is proven to improve physical health, mental health, relationship and work performance, more than half of Americans fail to take their vacation time. Because of this, we recently urged you to go on vacation.

Even if you find it easy to leave the office behind, it is not so simple to leave behind an aging loved one. There are many concerns – safety, emotional distress, medication regimens – that may make the caregiver wonder if they will ever be able to get away. Today, we’re going to consider the possibility of vacationing with your loved one. Alternately, in our next blog we will share with you how it is possible to take a vacation while your loved one is cared for at home (but feel free to call us if you cannot wait for that answer).

If your aging loved one is coming along on vacation, here are a few things to remember:

  • Carefully consider their abilities and comfort. Discuss your loved one’s physical, cognitive, and emotional condition with them, the family and their healthcare team. Are they able to travel the distance, stay comfortably in the accommodations, keep up the pace and adjust to the change in routine?
  • Plan for needed medication. Check to ensure there is enough medication on hand, including “as needed” medication such as inhalers or pain medications. Obtain refills if needed. While it may be tempting to use pill organizers, it may be wise to prevent mistakes by leaving pills in their original bottles. It is sometimes possible to acquire smaller bottles for travel. Ask the doctor or pharmacist.
  • Plan for their comfort and ease. Compression socks help with the prevention of swelling and blood clots. Consider what else they may need to stay comfortable and mobile. Think about special seating, bedding, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask in advance for special accomodations. For example, hotels offer ADA rooms with wheel-in showers.
  • Prevent vacation blunders. Little things can spoil the trip. All travelers should remember to wear sunscreen and a hat/sunglasses, drink lots of water, take plenty of stretching breaks and eat regularly. These simple things can ward off many aches, pains and unwanted issues.
  • Plan for small emergencies. Remember the old adage, “if something can possibly go wrong, it will.” This applies to lost luggage, broken glasses and motion sickness. Always be prepared.
  • Plan for larger emergencies. It’s also wise to be ready for the unlikely accident or medical emergency. Bring along insurance and Medicare cards, as well as a list of medications, medical procedures and conditions, and emergency information.
  • Plan to relax. Everyone on the trip should get adequate amounts of rest. Consider how much more quickly an aging loved one becomes tired, even at home. No one can afford to burn the candle at both ends and expect to return home refreshed. Take time for everyone to relax.

Now is the time to start planning a vacation!

Viernes, 20 Agosto 2021 11:51

Why You Need a Vacation

Memorial Day is upon us! Often dubbed the official beginning of the summer vacation season, the holiday weekend will commence with over 41.5 million Americans getting away for a bit of rest and relaxation. According to AAA, that number of travelers is the highest it has been in 12 years, and is a full five percent higher than in 2017.

This is good news! You may remember our blog from last year that shared the shocking amount of vacation time that goes unused in the United States. The bad news is that those unused vacation days have a negative impact on the U.S. economy (to the tune of over $250 billion), and an even more drastic effect on the overworked employee. Workers experiencing burnout often manifest physical consequences of stress and engage in behaviors that cost them personally and professionally. Overworked employees are more likely to have a negative attitude, have interpersonal conflicts, practice poor coping mechanisms, and make mistakes in their work.

As Americans become more aware of this problem, they are changing their behavior. The year 2017 brought an increase in the number of vacation days used and a decrease in the number of workers who did not use their vacation time. Still, more than half of Americans are not using their vacation time.

Are you one of them? If over 50% of Americans are not taking their vacation days, the chance is good that many of our connections are leaving vacation time on the table. If so, let us urge you to plan your vacation time because of the personal cost to you and your family. Medical research is clear that failure to take a vacation is associated with increased stress-related illnesses, including heart disease and depression.

If so, plan now. Did you know that one of the keys to actually taking a much-needed vacation is planning that vacation? That may seem like a no-brainer, but many people fail to plan, and the years fly by without that needed break.

What do you do with your vacation? Just taking the time away from work is a good start, but it doesn’t bring all the benefits of an actual vacation. If possible, it’s wise to fully unplug, something that only 27% of employees do. Another great piece of advice? Travel! Those who travel with their days off are happier with their jobs and companies, and are at least 18% more likely to report having received a promotion in the past two years.

This leads to the clear conclusion that if you want to be healthier, happier and better at your job, go away on vacation!

And that conclusion may lead you to the following dilemma: I’m a caregiver for my loved one. I don’t get a vacation. An estimated 44 million Americans provide unpaid assistance and support to aging or disabled adults. These individuals run a high risk of burnout, stress, depression, decreased self-care and consequently, increased health problems and mortality. Even though these individuals are not included in the above conversations and research about vacation time, it is clear that no one is in need of a vacation more than the caregiver. If you or someone you love is a caregiver, do NOT write off the importance of time away. In future blogs, we will explore how to go on vacation when you are a caregiver.

Viernes, 20 Agosto 2021 11:50

May – National Stroke Awareness Month

Each year, nearly 800 thousand people in the United States experience a stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA). Of those, approximately 140,000 die, making stroke the third leading cause of death in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of serious disability. Though the incidence of stroke has decreased significantly over the past decade, it remains important to know the risk factors and the signs.

Risk factors for CVA include age, race and other health conditions. Nearly 75 percent of individuals who suffer from a stroke are over 65 years of age. African Americans are at higher risk, even at younger ages. Strokes are more likely in individuals who smoke, are overweight, have high blood pressure, and are diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation. Healthy lifestyle choices and managing chronic illness can reduce the risk of stroke.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off (ischemic) or when a blood vessel bursts (hemorrhagic). Brain cells begin to die when deprived of oxygen. For this reason, when a CVA occurs, time is of the utmost importance. Acting quickly can save your loved one’s life and improve their quality of life.

The FAST acronym will is an easy way to remember the signs of a stroke. Use these guidelines to quickly assess if a person is experiencing a CVA.

F:  Face – Ask the person to smile. If one side of their face droops, seek medical attention.

A: Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Watch for one arm drifting downward.

S: Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and listen for slurred, strange speech.

T: Time. If these signs are observed, don’t delay! Call 911 immediately.

Increased awareness can save lives as well as increase quality time with loved ones. Celebrate the month of May by helping others know about preventing and recognizing strokes.

Warmer weather is finally here, at least most of the time. The flowers are blooming, the trees are budding, and the grass is getting green. Along with the beauty of spring, comes seasonal allergies for more than 50 million people in the United States.

There’s a common misperception that people from older generations do not experience allergies. While there is evidence that the prevalence of allergy issues has increased over the years, seasonal allergies do not discriminate by age. In fact, adult onset allergies are common. Unfortunately, the condition often remains untreated in aging persons. This makes it essential for caregivers to know the basic facts about allergies in the elderly, as well as what to do about them.

  • Know the signs. A runny nose, itchy and watering eyes, congestion, and sneezing are the traditional symptoms associated with allergies. In more severe cases, allergic people may also experience fever, dark circles under the eyes, aches and pains, fatigue, and trouble with sleep. Sinus, ear and upper respiratory infections may develop when initial symptoms are left untreated.
  • Be aware of complicating issues. Because doctors are often focused on managing chronic diseases, they may miss the signs of seasonal allergies. It may also be more difficult to treat because of allergy medications interfering with those that manage chronic conditions; traditional antihistamines are typically avoided in the elderly due to side effects. Further, pre-existing heart or lung issues can be complicated and worsened by allergy symptoms.
  • Try controlling the environment. There are steps that can reduce allergens and symptoms.
    • Watch the weather forecast for pollen counts. Avoid outdoor time and keep windows closed when pollen counts are high.
    • When going outdoors, wear sunglasses to keep pollen away from eyes.
    • Wash hands, shower and/or change clothes when returning indoors.
    • Keep the air conditioning unit serviced and change the HEPA filter regularly. In addition, consider an air purifier.
    • Eat foods known to fight inflammation, like apples, greens, and ginger.
    • Track triggers and attempt to avoid the things that worsen symptoms. Common culprits are mowing grass and raking leaves.
  • Talk to the doctor about preventative treatment, as well as treatment of symptoms. Allergy shots, which are similar to vaccinations, may be a viable option. Natural treatments, such as saline rinses, may also be helpful under a doctor’s guidance.

Knowing more about allergies will help you be better equipped to help your aging loved one cope with the season. Fortunately, most of these tips hold true for allergy sufferers of all ages. We wish you a happy, healthy, sneeze-free spring.

Viernes, 20 Agosto 2021 11:47

Healthy Habits to Begin this Spring

Spring is here; and though it may not feel like it every day, we’ll soon be basking in the glow of warmer weather and more sunshine. With the arrival of spring comes all things new – flowers blooming, trees budding, and a fresh new feeling in the air; a perfect time for older adults to start a new habit for health, happiness and an improved quality of life. Why not discover the benefits of one of these healthy habits?

  • Take a walk. Walking boasts many health benefits, including weight maintenance, improved muscle tone and strength, and a more positive mood. For older adults, of course, discuss any changes in exercise routine with a physician. After doing so, begin slowly, in small increments on flat ground. Mall walking is an option on rainy days or days with extreme temperatures.
  • Getting outside in nature. Even if mobility is limited, getting outside is good for mood and health. Step out and get a bit of fresh air each day, even if you’re lounging on the porch.
  • Eat more veggies and fruits. Confused by all the different advice on diet and nutrition? Who isn’t? Most agree, however, that more vegetables and fruits are needed in everyone’s diets, especially older adults. As long as health conditions and medication regimen do not interfere, aim to increase intake of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Do something new. The decline of cognitive ability is a large concern for aging individuals. Taking up a new hobby or activity has been recognized as beneficial for the brain. Whether it’s reading about a new subject, learning to knit, or working on puzzles or word searches – the brain will reap many positive effects.
  • Be social. To many aging adults, the world seems like a much more disconnected place. For them technology may be challenging, and they find it difficult to keep up with the world around them. Isolation can lead to or increase depression, which compounds all health issues. It is important to ensure that older adults stay connected with family, friends, and new people. Help them set up video chats (Facetime, Google hangouts, etc.), and set a goal to do one each week, if not daily. Find a group or club where they can be around new people and make new connections.
  • Be in the moment. Help them focus on all with a sense of gratitude. Breathe. Be thankful for food, people and the beauty of the world.

While this list of healthy habits is a great idea for people of any age, aging individuals can certainly reap the benefits of making small, positive changes. Choose one and give it a try. We wish you a very happy, healthy spring!

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