Friday, November 10, 2017

Caring for the Elderly

Dear Friends,

It's been some time since I've written, and you might recall it wasn't my intention to write a lot of posts but concentrate on bringing you some useful websites.

I've found that addressing things that are popping up in our lives is one way to help illustrate what happens as we age and as we care for elderly family members.

Here are a few observations and I hope they help you. I should tell you I'm very pragmatic and wouldn't deny myself glasses when I need them or hearing aids or a cane or any other help I eventually need.

Physical Health

There are many changes we hear about and others that are new and strange to us. It could be vision problems, maybe you've been pumping up the volume on the TV a bit too much. Are you having UTI's? (Urinary tract infections: see this link to the Mayo Clinic for information.) Do you feel lightheaded or dizzy? Those ads about "I've fallen and I can't get up" are out there for a reason. There are other changes that lead us to need adult diapers. I took my relative to the urologist who said most women will eventually need these diapers and pads so if you notice changes, confirm with your doctor and go shopping.

As we age our bodies and various parts outside and inside change and you have to be attuned to your body to know when something is changing, and if you note something different, act right away. We don't bounce back as we did while in our 20's or 30's and the ramifications of waiting too long can be costly.

Mental Health

I have a terrible memory and have joked that it'll be hard to know when my memory starts going! Observing my family member mentioned in early posts, we can see some changes such as searching for words, substituting other words, confusion over details, scheduling challenges, and feeling upset, angry, confused or upset about these challenges.

I read that distraction is helpful when your loved one is upset and my family member's experience is that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I was taking someone to the doctor and she was upset about the appointment, so I asked about her family members and what color eyes and hair they had when they were young. In that case, distraction worked and we passed the time talking about those early memories.

Some people make photo albums with large pictures of family and friends and labels in large font, useful for reviewing prior to visits and nice to just reminisce.

I think that when we start to become more uncertain of recent memories and tasks, it's helpful and soothing to talk about things we know well such as childhood experiences. The person is on steadier ground than trying to remember everything a doctor says in a long appointment or any of the other demanding tasks one faces.

Social Isolation

Each doctor, nurse, caretaker, social worker and other experts we met talked about the studies indicating how important being social is, especially as we age. 

It isn't enough to greet another, we must join activities and make friendships with other people. It helps exercise your brain and keeps you in touch with other people. How many friends do you have? Do you get together often? Is it activity oriented or do you have real time to talk? We humans seem to decline when we don't have this stimulation and friendship. I should add that in one article, a house-bound gentleman said he learned how to use Facebook and now chats with people, enjoys learning about their opinions and activities and feels less lonely.

I hope these short tips are helpful and encourage you to go to relevant websites and read more about specific conditions. I have links on the Health and Safety page and that's a start. You can ask your doctor for other tips and information, and I encourage you to add your own tips in the comments section.

Take care,