The 21 Most Common Stress-Related Questions Caregivers are Desperately Asking

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You may be surprised what some caregivers consider to be challenging or difficult as they care for a loved one on a daily basis! Want to see if your day is anything like theirs? [Read more…]

How To Tell if Your Mom or Dad Have Alzheimer’s Disease

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Did you know that less than half (45%) of Seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregiver are aware they have it?

[Read more…]

Our Best Alzheimer’s and Dementia Articles Exclusively for Family Caregivers

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In commemoration of this month being Alzheimer’s awareness month, I’ve created a compilation of our best posts on the topic, so you can have them nicely stacked in one single place for easy access at your leisure.

[Read more…]

Noise Pollution: A Health Hazard in Elder Care

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Be aware of noise pollution when caring for the elderly.

In my last post, I wrote about music as a beneficial form of therapy for the elderly who suffer from memory disorders, which begs the question: what about the sounds of everyday life?

The Environmental Protection Agency explains the consequences of unwanted and disturbing sound, which is the basic definition of noise pollution — an environmental stressor we cannot taste, smell or see: “Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life.”

Noise pollution can lead to health problems, too. “Studies have shown that there are direct links between noise and health.  Problems related to noise include stress related illnesses, high blood pressure, speech interference, hearing loss, sleep disruption, and lost productivity.”

Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are particularly sensitive to stimuli that a healthy person can normally filter. In creating a safe and comfortable environment for my parents, I found myself thinking like a parent creating a healthy environment for her children: routines, which are so important for kids to feel stable, are just as important for the elderly. A typical day for my parents revolved around “quiet” time and “noisy” time.

As caregivers, we shouldn’t take any of the five senses for granted when developing strategies for care — including hearing. Patients will react differently to auditory input and so we should be keenly aware of sound “hazards” in the patient’s surroundings.

NOISE POLLUTION AS ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS

When I was caring for my mother, I noticed that some ordinary sounds – such as a loud TV — were particularly disturbing for her. She would grimace and want to retreat to what I can only describe as her “safe space” where she detached from the world.

To help her, I avoided over-stimulation without completely dulling surrounding noises. Agitation and discomfort might otherwise have affected her cardiovascular health and emotional well-being.

I knew my mother well and so I could gauge what I thought she would like or wouldn’t like based on how she reacted to the world before Alzheimer’s disease. Neurologists had no answer for me, but all I really needed to know was old-fashioned common sense. In short, just keep the patient comfortable.

Sound is energy and vibration. While an Alzheimer’s patient may not be able to cognitively understand a sound — a spoken word may be interpreted as just that, a sound with no meaning — they may certainly be able to “feel” it, which explains the positive effects of music.

CONVERSATION AS NOISE POLLUTION

Noise pollution isn’t just about unwanted sounds; it’s also about conversation. I would always ask our health aides to refrain from any conversation when standing within earshot of my father, who was then in the beginning stages of dementia and my mother, who had advanced Alzheimer’s.

Imagine being surrounded by negative conservation or even a pleasant chat that your brain can’t process for context. Eventually, the meaningless “sound” may become jarring. You’re powerless to make it go away if you’re “stuck” in your body.

In one instance, my father overheard one side of a stressful conversation an aide was having over her cellphone about money. Because he was confused at that moment, he couldn’t properly interpret what he had heard. Later, he spoke to me as if he had been involved in her dilemma, which was a needless source of stress and anxiety for him and for me as well, as I had to go to great lengths to clarify that no one was stealing his money. (This is a major stressor for the elderly who perceive they are “losing” their possessions as they gradually let go of what they once managed.)

It’s crucial, then, to watch one’s words when speaking in front of dementia patients who are still aware of surroundings.

In my mother’s case, it was impossible to tell in the advanced stages of the disease if and how her brain could interpret sound. I erred on the side of caution: even in a state of stupor in which she was completely unresponsive, I encouraged everyone who came near her to keep unpleasant sounds and conversations at bay.

While it may seem obvious that no patient or even a healthy individual would want to tolerate noise pollution, consider this: the elderly in many nursing homes who do not enjoy private rooms must endure an almost constant stream of distracting and unpleasant noises that interfere with peace and quiet: working staff, sick roommates and their visitors, loud television sets, beeping medical equipment and other sounds create a cacophony of noise.

This situation is yet another reason to consider in-home healthcare alternatives for the elderly where caregivers can control the environment.

Some Alzheimer’s and dementia patients tend to yell or wail loudly when they feel nervous, which is a whole other aspect of elder care. My parents were relatively quiet but in all cases, it’s imperative to be conscious of noise levels. (Read what worked or didn’t work for some caregivers at Caring.com’s support group.)

In my experience, I simply tried to imagine how I would feel if I were sick and bewildered, not just for the sake of empathy, but also to gauge what would be an appropriate level of noise for my parents.

If you found this post of interest and value, kindly click your favorite social button below and share.

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

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ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

Support Groups Help Deal with Caregiver Burnout

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Support groups are invaluable for caregivers who feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Make them a priority in routine caregiver self-care.

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ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

The number one rule of caregiving is take care of yourself first. This rule is easy to overlook when we’re caught up in the daily routine of caregiving. The elderly, like children, often require constant attention and at the end of the day, it’s easy to overlook one’s own needs.

As a caregiver to my dearly departed mother and my father, who is still alive, I learned the hard way about the rule, which I would prefer to a call a survival strategy. The drive to care for a loved one eclipses the instinct for self-preservation in a counterproductive, vicious cycle: you can’t take good care of others if your own health isn’t optimal.

(For the purpose of this article, caregiver will refer to “family” or “informal” caregiver — one who provides unpaid assistance in daily living and medical needs — as opposed to “formal” caregiver — one who provides paid labor and who is available for hire through companies like Angel Home Care Services.)

While I don’t regret a minute spent caring for my parents, I can look back now and share what I would have done differently to alleviate caregiver burnout.

LESSONS LEARNED

For one, I would have benefited from being part of a support group; however, it never even dawned on me that one would be available to the estimated 43.5 million number of adult family caregivers who care for someone 50 years of age or older. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association via Caregiver.org). I was too busy to even think about adding another task to my plate. The last thing I wanted to do during my time off from caregiving was to talk about caregiving.

But I think it’s really important to talk as much as you can with people who are also experiencing the challenges of being a caregiver, which in my case, was being a single mom to my parents — a mother with Alzheimer’s, a father with dementia.

I was not alone! According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 14.9 family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association via Caregiver.org).

Because we couldn’t always afford a sitter, the number of event invitations I declined kept climbing, which left me disconnected from my social network. My friends were sympathetic, but I couldn’t blame them if they got tired of hearing the same old story; I was the only one in my circle of friends caring for elderly parents. Their lives were flowing. Mine was at a standstill.

Even if I had hired services from companies such as Angel Home Care Services, I still would have found solace in making new friends facing similar challenges in their social and professional lives. My sense of isolation and loneliness would have been mitigated had I reached out to support groups.

NEVER TOO LATE TO SEEK CAREGIVER SUPPORT

Luckily, earlier this year, I found a local Miami bereavement support group through Jewish Community Services, which provides numerous services to the community at large, regardless of religious affiliation. Although I attend this group to honor the memory of my mother, it has helped me tremendously in what I call the “pre-grieving” stage for my father. Having experienced the death of a beloved parent is one thing; knowing that the death of the other parent is imminent is wholly another.

I know now that it would have made a world of difference to make “me time” and gather with other caregivers.

At the group, there is no judgment. Some members are still grieving family or friends who passed years ago. For others, the pain is fresh. Some have lost children, while others have lost spouses. Like me, many have been caregivers. Two facilitators lead the group, but we are all co-creators in the talk.

I’m glad that I found this group, which meets twice a month. Although I can’t turn back the clock for how I dealt with the stresses of caregiving while my mother was still alive, it’s helping me tremendously now that I still advocate for my father. It’s time well spent and a respite I look forward to every month.

It’s not too late for me to reap the benefits of a support group. The sense of friendship in the group and the patience with which we all listen to each other brings me peace and comfort. I feel relaxed — the perfect antidote from burnout.

If you’re caregiving for a parent, I strongly encourage you to seek out a support group in your area. If you’re not able to attend one in person, there are online resources. I’ll share more about available resources in a follow-up post.

In the meantime, don’t forget to take of yourself.

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

17 Not-So-Obvious But Unmistakable Warning Signs Your Parent Is Declining in Function and Will Soon Need Help at Home

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Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. ~Mark Twain, Following the Equator

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ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

You know instinctively this day is coming. The day when the next call you’ll get could be from a neighbor, a police officer, or just a total stranger who is trying to help your wandering and disoriented parent. The day when they can no longer shop, bathe, or eat by themselves. They day when they call you by a different name.

Any one scenario above can be pre-planned or even avoided. The key is to know what signs to look for!

It’s amazing how much pain and frustration a little bit of planing can save you when the time comes to face a parent’s inevitable decline into a state of permanent convalescence.

The question is, when that day comes  —Will they have the foundation OF care YOU planned and created for them?

Now remember, these are not signs that they need help URGENTLY …but rather not-so-obvious warning signs that NOW it’s the time to start planning some sort of Home Care or personalized caregiver program.

Not knowing these NOT-SO-OBVIOUS warning signs is why almost everyone gets caught unprepared and tool-less.

The result is they are now forced to rush decisions at the worse possible time.

So here they are, 17 warning signs that if you are paying attention and like a detective, uncover the right clues, you will save yourself and your parent a mountain of pain and suffering!

Why?

Because you now know what to look for, and if you know what to look for you can plan ahead.

So be on the look out for:
  1. Frequent falls, visible cuts and bruises.
  2. Need the help of walker to get around house.
  3. When normal conversation stops or takes a depressing tone.
  4. Change in appearance and mood.
  5. No longer interested in activities and fun events.
  6. Excessive arguing and fly-off-the-handle type temper.
  7. Unopened meds and unfilled prescriptions.
  8. Lack of personal hygiene and bathing, strange odor.
  9. Noticeable weigh loss, not eating regularly.
  10. Unopened bills and personal mail.
  11. Frequent fender benders. Look for dents and scratches in car.
  12. Lack of housekeeping signs.
  13. Worsening of existing chronic conditions.
  14. Stale and expired food and drinks.
  15. Broken down house appliances and other items.
  16. Cancelling doctor visits.
  17. Excessive forgetfulness and absent mindedness.

You can complement this list with our very popular Elder Care Guide – and learn how to create a personalized Elderly Care custom plan.

This guide will show you how to build a basic support system at home for your elderly parents with limited coverage and without going broke in the process?

You’ll learn things like:

  • How to leverage the four types of Long Term Care payment sources for maximum value and minimum costs.
  • How to use our 3-Step-Process and 5-Point-Checklist and get the services you need started!
  • How to negotiate bottom line rates with caregivers and home care agencies.
  • How to quickly assess your parent’s finances for Long Term Care and other chronic health conditions …and a half a dozen other hacks and caregiving strategies!

So there you go, you now know more than 90% of everyone out there who may be facing an inevitable care giving scenario this week, but they are not armed with the tools you now have.

But let’s not keep this information all to ourselves!

If you found this post of interest and value, kindly click your favorite social button below and share.

Take care :-)

320x320_crop_claudiopicClaudio Alegre is the Chief Content Writer for Angel Home Care Services on the Web and Patient and Family Relations Advocate off the Web. He lives in Miami with his wife and 3 boys.

 

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

Why Music Therapy for Seniors With Alzheimer’s and Dementia Totally Rocks!

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Did you know that music therapy can alleviate pain, enhance memory and improve communication?

As a caregiver for my senior mom, I know first hand how emotionally painful it is to observe the decline of an Alzheimer’s patient.

During the early stages of the disease, long before she became bed-bound and unresponsive, I experimented with music therapy.

We would sing together as a way of socializing. This also exercised her long-term memory and mental function.

My mom had a background in music and while she could no longer play the piano, she would enjoy listening to songs that reminded her of her youth in Cuba and her 50-year marriage to my father.

She also loved the songs I composed for her on the quarto, a small, 4-stringed guitar.

My mom loved to dance when she was younger and so in spite of her aging body, she could feel rhythm and music “in her bones” even when she was barely capable of carrying a conversation.

I encouraged her to stand up while she still could and perform small, gentle hand and foot movements. Dance became part of our music therapy routine and it exercised her motor-coordination.

Sometimes, she would hum along. No matter what, her face would always LIGHT UP!

MUSIC THERAPY AS A STRATEGY FOR SUNDOWNING RELIEF

My father suffers from dementia and he too benefited from our music therapy. At night, I sang to my parents before I tucked them into bed and we enjoyed the same lullabies they sang to me when I was a child.

Although the bedtime ritual was bittersweet for me, it meant we could bond when short-term memory was fuzzy. My singing would help both my “babies” fall asleep with a sense of security and comfort.

Routine is especially important for the elderly with memory disorders, as they tend to become agitated at night in a state of confusion and restlessness called “sundowning.”

Singing softly at bedtime was not only crucial for my parents’ palliative care but it also soothed me before “me” time. Bedtime music therapy meant that my caregiver work day was over and that I could now take care of my own needs.

Music gave me a respite from the constant worry that resulted from being a parent to my parents. Although I would, of course, have preferred to sing to my parents under happier circumstances, using music as a therapeutic tool brought me a sense of peace and acceptance.

Caught up in the stress of caregiving, I often forgot these simple joys in life.

WHY MUSIC THERAPY IS INCREDIBLY EFFECTIVE

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a more scientific description of what I believe most of us already know intuitively:

This happens because rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. A person’s ability to engage in music, particularly rhythm playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease process because, again, these activities do not mandate cognitive functioning for success.

In short, music really does soothe the soul and the mind!

For most of us, music is usually a source of joy and connection that’s grounded in our early perception of our surroundings. The first sound we hear is the mother’s heartbeat. Sound and movement are primal to our body’s instinctual relationship to the world.

Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s lose their sense of connectedness; the mental fog of short-term memory loss must be very bewildering.

Sounds that evoke positive, joyful feelings, including laughter, are all means of breaking the painful silence of Alzheimer’s when the patient is no longer capable of responding to other forms of stimuli. Tapping into the music my mother “remembered” was a form of communication for both of us when she could no longer hold a normal conversation.

In my experience as a caregiver for seniors, music therapy supported a sense of well-being once we identified what kind of music would help my parents focus on any task at hand — even the simple task of singing.

One compelling testimonial about the benefits of music therapy comes from Music and Memory, a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.

If you care for a loved one with a memory disorder, try going down memory lane with their favorite music. It’ll be good for both of you!

 

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

 

If you found this post of interest and value, kindly click your favorite social button below and share.

In the meantime GRAB Your FREE LONG TERM CARE REPORT – An elderly care guide for the times we live in! -And find out how to create a personalized Long Term Care custom plan that works for you!

“I consider Angel Home Care Services pretty much an extension of my family. They have brought order to the chaos in my life!” -E.O, Miami Florida

Alzheimer’s Battles Will Be Fought With Brains, But Winning The War Will Be All Heart

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The cost of Alzheimer’s care has been rising rapidly for the past 15 years… and it shows no sign of stopping.  Not only that, the percentage of seniors with Alzheimer’s is on a steep steady climb.

It is now considered an epidemic, between 2010 and 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to jump from 5.5 million to 14 million.

Alzheimer’s currently kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. It’s the only disease in the top ten that can’t be slowed, stopped or prevented.

[Read: When a Health Care Crisis Strikes, Where Do You Start?]

Here’s a figure I couldn’t believe when I first read it, where as cancer has a 90% disclosure rate, Alzheimer’s has only a 46% disclosure rate, meaning more than half of the people that are diagnosed are not being told. That includes caregivers as well. We are not doing a good job educating and having the tough conversations.

The financial toll is also staggering. This year it will cost this nation $226 Billion dollars to care for people with AD. By 2050 we could be topping $1 Trillion.

In a study by The Lewin Group, it was revealed that within 10 years, Medicare’s costs of treating Alzheimer’s patients will soar well above 49.3 billion dollars.

See our Family Long Term Care Custom Guide for tips on how to get the help you need even if your insurance won’t cover and you don’t have mega bucks to spare!

As of the time the study was released in 2004, Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s disease accounted for 34% of Medicare spending, even though they constitute only 12.8% of the population age 65 and older.

This is happening even though Medicare does not pay for the long-term care that people with Alzheimer’s disease need. It is happening because 95% of Medicare beneficiaries with dementia have other chronic conditions common in the elderly, which are exacerbated by their dementia.

The fact of the matter is, Medicare only cares about the rehab potential of your condition, and conditions such as AD and Parkinson’s have little if any rehab potential.

If someone suffers a heart attack or a stroke, and there’s potential for rehab, they’ll continue to pay… but only up to 100 days.  In reality, very few people know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.  Medicare simply doesn’t pay for long-term, chronic care.  If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, that means that they’ll have to rely on Medicaid if they are out of money to pay privately for care.

You can see the massive predicament you can find yourself in when the average per-person Medicare spending for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is three times higher than average per-person spending across all other seniors. Yet Medicare won’t cover the long term effects of AD.

Regarding Medicaid, the expenditures associated with Alzheimer’s disease are high because of the uninsured cost of long-term care.

Nearly half of Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia also qualify for Medicaid, because they have exhausted their own resources paying for long term care.

At least half of all nursing home residents have dementia. They are the residents with the longest stays and the ones most likely to spend down to Medicaid.

You have options, but you have to understand what the disease process, laws and healthcare regulations are and how you or a loved can leverage them to your needs and advantage.

[Read: 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures]

To beat Alzheimer’s we are going to have to work as a team, because Alzheimer’s wears you down, it’s not a single person affliction, it strikes all of us in one way or another, as a son, daughter, husband, wife, friend and caregiver.

Alzheimer’s Battles Will Be Fought With Brains, But Winning The War Will Be All Heart.”

For strategies on how to pay for Long Term Care you can’t afford and your insurance won’t cover, we’ve put together a Custom Guide that will show you the options you have to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia without going broke in the process.

So grab our FREE Long Term Care ReportAn elderly care guide for the times we live in! …and find out how you can start making sense of all this.

 

Oh! …and if you found this post of interest and value, please hit your favorite social button below and share :-)