What is Long-Distance Caregiving?

Every day, people are faced with the task of caring for a sick, disabled or aging loved one. Statistics indicate 44 million adults in the U.S. provide care for someone over the age of 50. It’s a common misconception that caregiving can only happen when everyone resides within close proximity. Actually, a large percentage of family caregivers are also long-distance caregivers.

Long-distance caregiving is a unique and challenging situation where the caregiver lives long distance–typically an hour or more away–from the family member who needs their help and support. This occurs more than you might think, and takes a great deal of planning and organization. Research from AARP suggests that nearly 1/4 of people caring for elderly relatives do so from a distance.

Tips for Long-Distance Caregiving

Create a caregiving team. This includes individuals local to the relative; people who can check in on them when you’re not in town. Neighbors, friends, church members, and when necessary in-home health care, are all important components to a caregiving team. Don’t forget about yourself…Arrange for family and trusted friends to help you maintain things at home while you’re away.

Consider hiring an elderly care manager. This is an individual experienced in managing all aspects of senior in-home care, including arranging qualified help, supervising health care services, assessing financials and deciding on housing options. An elderly care manager helps evaluate your loved one’s situation and guides you through important decisions.

Take advantage of technology.  Even if your older loved one isn’t comfortable using a smartphone or tablet, it doesn’t mean you can’t utilize apps for your own organization and planning purposes. Many apps are free, or cost a small one-time fee. They can log pertinent information, invite friends to help, create shareable lists, give medication refill reminders, etc.

Related: Introducing seniors to technology 

Don’t forget about yourself. It’s easy to become stressed especially when you are far away. Make time for what’s important to you whether it’s reading, volunteering, exercising, socializing or simply relaxing. Don’t neglect your own health and keep regularly scheduled doctor visits. Look into caregiver support groups. It’s also possible your place of employment offers caregiver benefits like flextime or job sharing to free some hours for caregiving duties.

Long-distance caregiving is a team effort—not one person can possibly do it all. For assistance in creating a caregiving team, contact AT Home Care today at (804) 359-3400.

Eyesight and Hearing: How Sensory Processing is Affected by Age

The five senses—sight, sound, smell, taste and touch—tell us all about what’s happening in our surroundings. However, as we age, it’s common to notice changes in sensory processing. In order to process sensations and gain information from them, we need full capacity of our senses. Take for example the aromatic smell of food in the kitchen, the sound of the telephone ringing or feeling a wet floor or sharp utensil. These are all experienced through a person’s sensory processing skills.

It’s natural for the strength of the senses to deteriorate with age—generally this starts happening around the time a person reaches 50. As time goes on, family members, friends and caregivers may notice a loved one starts wearing bifocals, increasing light bulb wattage, adding extra seasoning to food or turning up the volume on the TV or radio. Although many of these symptoms are entirely normal and no cause for worry, they oftentimes impede on a senior’s ability to carry out daily activities with enjoyment, confidence and independence.

Sight and sound are two of the most important senses to interpreting the world around us—unfortunately, these are the first affected by age. 

Sight

Decline in eyesight can have a huge impact on quality of life, as well as jeopardize a person’s ability to live independently. Cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma are very common eye conditions that affect one’s ability to see things closely, to notice what’s in the distance and to pick up small details. Whether you’re diagnosed with an eye condition or simply notice changes, it’s important to acknowledge, accept and learn ways to cope.

Related: Tips for improving eye health 

If you’re the caregiver or loved one to a person with poor vision, there are several things you can do…

  • During conversation, sit or stand where the person can see you and give them plenty of time to focus
  • Provide good lighting and control glare
  • Assess the home for safety risks, throw rugs, cords and other fall hazards
  • Use skid-resistant mats in the bathroom
  • Accompany the senior to doctor visits to learn more about their challenges and how to provide support

Sound

Hearing loss gradually occurs with age. Oftentimes, it’s not until someone reaches their 50’s or 60’s that they begin to notice changes in their ability to hear high frequency sounds. This makes it difficult to not only hear the pitch of sounds, but distinguish one similar sounding word from another. Central nerve loss, or hearing deafness, is a permanent type of hearing loss typically caused by excessive noise, chronic conditions or the natural process of aging.

If you’re the caregiver or loved one to a person with poor hearing, there are several things you can do…

  • During an interaction, get their attention before beginning to speak
  • Use a normal tone of voice, speak clearly and distinctly
  • Turn off any background noise
  • Sit still—many seniors with hearing loss depend on the movement of your lips to aide in comprehension
  • Attend doctor visits to better understand their condition; learn the benefits of auditory assistance devices

For more information on helping loved ones deal with declining sensory processing, particularly changes in eyesight and hearing, contact AT Home Care today at (804) 359-3400.

Maintaining Bone Health

It’s a common misconception that bone loss and susceptibility to fractures are a natural part of aging.  Many people assume that when they reach a certain age, low bone mass and tissue loss are inevitable.  But, that isn’t necessarily the case.  There are a number of precautions you can take to slow or reverse bone and tissue loss, as well as prevent bone fractures.

Here are the key factors that impact bone health…

Nutrition plays a huge role in bone health.  The right diet can impact how strong bones are as we age.  The most important food group for maintaining healthy bones is protein—eggs, fish, poultry, meat, beans, etc.  It just so happens that most seniors don’t get enough protein in their daily diet.  Dairy products and leafy greens are important as well.  Some of the nutrients and food groups associated with bone health can also be taken as supplements if diet alone doesn’t provide required daily intake.  Talk with your doctor about a well-balanced diet and find out how to get these nutrients into your daily routine.

Vitamins and supplements are also important components.  Calcium and vitamin D are two essential nutrients for keeping bones strong and healthy.  The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium daily.  Exact recommendations vary based on age and gender.  Both men and women age 50 and above require 800-1,000 IU daily of vitamin D.  Vitamin C is also known to maintain bone mass and minimize the risk of hip fractures.

Regular exercise is directly linked to preserving bone mass.  This includes not only physical activity, but strength and weight-bearing exercises as well.  A person’s age and health lays the foundation for what’s a suitable type and amount of daily exercise.  Fortunately, regular exercise doesn’t have to take place in a gym.  Activities such as walking, gardening and dancing are all ways to stay active.   Of course, it’s always recommended to talk with your doctor before starting any new activity or exercise routine.

RELATED: Stay active even during the winter using our activity tips

Home safety is an underrated element to bone health.  According to the CDC, each year one in three adults 65 and older falls.  Doctors and organizations involved in bone health have the motto “home safety is bone safety”.   Using common sense precautions in the home is an easy way to help prevent falls and injuries.  Things like establishing clear pathways, eliminating hazards–like throw rugs and cords, using non-slip bathroom products and enhanced lighting are all ways to ensure home safety.

For more information on how diet, exercise and home safety impact bone health, contact AT Home Care today at 804-359-3400!

How to Help Seniors through the Holiday Season

Many people look forward to the holiday season.  It’s an opportunity to engage in traditions and spend quality time with family and friends.  However, for the elderly, the holidays can trigger memories of people and times passed.  This can bring feelings of uncertainty, sadness and isolation.  It’s very common for these factors to result in holiday depression, or the holiday blues.

Research indicates that about two million seniors suffer from depression, and although studies don’t show a direct correlation in the holidays and depression, there’s no doubting that holidays present unique challenges.

But, it’s not the holiday alone that causes the blues. It’s the time of year, because it serves as a reminder of both happier times and sad times–like the loss of loved ones, independence, financial stability, etc. This is also compounded by the fact that many seniors suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—a type of depression related to changes in season occurring mostly in fall and winter.

There are a number of factors that can lead to holiday blues and seasonal sadness:

  • loss of loved one
  • declining health
  • distance from family
  • moving from home to assisted living
  • changes in routine
  • loneliness and social isolation
  • financial problems
  • drops in serotonin and melatonin levels (oftentimes associated with SAD)

So what can we do to support older loved ones this upcoming holiday season?  Here are some tips to help them stay happy, comfortable and involved…

Participate in activities together. Anything from church festivities to volunteering, decorating to baking.  These activities bring seniors a stronger sense of purpose, and it’s also a special time to connect.

Crafting and gift making. Whether it’s a holiday wreath or handmade gifts for family and friends, this is a great way to introduce a new activity that could possibly turn into a hobby.

Planning holiday gatherings. Give them control of something as simple as what time dinner starts or what holiday music you’ll play.  Allowing older loved ones to make decisions gives them a specific role and helps them feel included.

Tell stories and share memories. Storytelling is a favorite pastime for many seniors.  Share part of a favorite book or flip through photo albums.  Listen carefully as they describe their feelings. This provides a great opportunity to make new memories while reliving old ones.

AT Home Care provides companionship services to seniors who need support this holiday season.  To learn more about our services, contact us today at 804-359-3400.