Welcome to “Caregiver to Caregiver”

Welcome to “Caregiver to Caregiver!” And say hello to our team of Caregiver Consultants, Merry McGowen, Carol Soma and Mary Kay Laabs, who are eager to support caregivers and their senior loved ones in Faribault County. We work individually and in small groups to provide education and information that will be useful to you now. We have different backgrounds and skills, but we unite in recognizing and meeting the unique needs of caregivers, wherever you are in your caregiving journey. 

Feel free to visit this blog often, or sign up to follow us below. And look for us on our brand new “Caregiver to Caregiver” facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/caregivertocaregiver

Holidays and Caregiving

The Holidays are upon us, and even in a good year, the Holidays can be incredibly stressful. If we take the time to think about the pressure that we put upon ourselves to make sure everyone has a “perfect” holiday, we will come to realize that we are putting too much stress on ourselves. 

There are cookies to bake, cards to write, gift shopping to do, meals to prepare, traveling to do, the list can feel overwhelming! I think we all need to reflect on those lists and see what is most important to us. I have discovered as I have gotten older, the thing that seems to be the most important is to spend time with family & friends. If you are a caregiver, especially of someone with Dementia, even the joy of seeing family can be extremely exhausting. Making sure your friends and family know what the current situation you and your care receiver are dealing with can make an enormous difference. Offer suggestions to people on how to communicate best with the person suffering with dementia, appropriate gift ideas, and some reminders that the person with dementia (or whatever the diagnosis may be), is still the same person they were before they received their diagnosis. That way everyone can enjoy the time together, no surprises.  

In addition to these regular holiday stress inducers, we are still dealing with Covid-19 and trying to keep our loved ones safe from this virus that can be so devastating for the elderly.  

Whatever happened to the “Reason for the Season?”  If we put our Savior Jesus Christ at the heart of our holidays, the stress will surely be reduced. You will feel the Peace that comes with a relationship with God. The attached article has some wonderful suggestions to help you enjoy this beautiful season. 

May you have a very Blessed Christmas! 

Caregiving During the Holidays: Have a Realistic, Positive Approach

Medicare Open Enrollment

If you have turned on a TV lately you already know that it is Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period from October 15th thru December 7th. Most people try to ignore or avoid this time completely, but truly that is not in your best interest. Now is the time to look ahead to 2022 and think about any medical things that may be coming up. Are you on track to get a knee or hip replacement? Do you have some medication changes coming? Is there a new risk to your overall health? Are you moving and need to find a new Doctor? All these questions should be kept in mind when you are thinking about Medicare Open Enrollment and deciding on what is best for you. 

There are so many plans out there. There is Original Medicare which has no networks to worry about. Medicare Part A covers inpatient stays like hospital and some nursing home coverage. Medicare B covers your doctor appointments, therapy, things that you are not admitted inpatient for. Medicare pays a certain amount and then you are responsible for the copays and coinsurance. There are Medigap (Medicare Supplement) policies available to cover these out-of-pocket costs. The premiums on these policies tend to be a little higher, but if you shop carefully, the coverage is usually quite good. 

Medicare Advantage Plans are another option. The plans that are available are based on where you live. These plans are usually less expensive and often include the Inpatient Coverage along with your doctor visits, therapy etc.  These plans often include some prescription drug, eye, dental coverage. You would need to shop the plans to see what is covered. They often have a network, so you will want to be sure that your doctor is in their network. They also have out of pocket costs. They have copays and co-insurance also, so depending on your situation and what you have coming, you will need to decide what is best for you. 

When you are thinking about the costs you should look at the monthly premium, and the out-of-pocket costs, to get a yearly total of what you may have to pay. The plan that is right for one person may not be right for the next one.  

The best decision is an informed decision. The Senior Linkage Line of Minnesota, is a great place to start. They are extremely helpful and non-biased. Call 1-800-333-2433. Then you can talk to your Insurance Professional. 

Senior LinkAge Link – Medicare

Medicare 101 Booklet

Alcoholism and the Elderly

Alcohol is part of many people’s lives, and that includes seniors. For most, it is something to be used in moderation, but for some it becomes a problem that can threaten their health, family relationships, and quality of life. While abuse can occur at any age, it is especially a problem as people age, and with other factors, can combine to cause serious concerns.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 20-30% of people ages 75 to 85 have had drinking problems. Use of illicit drugs, like marijuana and heroin, or overuse of prescription medications can also lead to abuse but are not as common is seniors.

With all those factors, though, it’s easy for medical providers, caregivers, and family members to be confused by symptoms of abuse in seniors. Could it be dementia? diabetes? A team approach is helpful to see how alcoholism could be part of an overall decline in health.

Overlooking this concern, though, is not a good idea. In addition to the alcoholism, it can create more problems such as drug interactions, falls or social isolation. Alcoholics of any age are often very good at hiding their addictions, using little lies that even they believe. “It’s only a few glasses of wine,” or “I can quit anytime.”

Here are two good articles that can help caregivers and family members whose loved ones demonstrate problems with alcohol:

The Hazards of Alcoholism in the Elderly

Substance Abuse and Seniors: What All Caregivers Need to Know

Parkinson’s Outcomes Research

The Parkinson’s Foundation is always a wealth of information. One recent article is a fascinating summary of many key findings of their ongoing research on differences in care. Since 2009 this clinical study followed over 12,000 PD patients, and many results are summarized on their website.

For example, there is an interesting correlation of PD and falls. Researchers found that people with more severe cases of PD, especially those with a more rapid rate of progression, were most at risk of an injury from a fall, regardless of age. Those with the highest fall risk were those with that rapid rate of progression plus at least one other health complication.

In addition, researchers followed the use of common PD medications and found that some medication patterns were more efficient at preventing falls. That is something that those with PD and their caregivers might want to discuss with their medical team. Teaming with your neurologist is one of the best ways to have more positive outcomes.

Not surprisingly, exercise is also related to a slower decline in quality of life in PD. Their research suggests that 2.5 hours per week is enough to make a clear difference.

 To take a look at several other areas of research from this report, such as recommendations regarding PD and mental health, the influence of an additional diagnosis of diabetes, or costs of caregiving in the family, check out the link below. You’ll be glad you did.

Key Findings

Let’s Make Every Week Falls Prevention Week

It’s never a good time to fall, and for many seniors, the fear of falling is something that weighs on their minds daily. According to the CDC, approximately one-fourth of Americans 65 and older fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and most common reason for hospital admissions among seniors.

The National Council on Aging has designated September 20 through 24 this year as Falls Prevention Week. Their website listed below has several great articles, videos and even a self-quiz to see your own risks. Please check it out and share with others! Falls Prevention for Older Adults

6 Helpful Steps to Prevent a Fall
describes common risks for falling and shows steps to make sure you’re as prepared as possible

Fall Prevention for Caregivers

If you’re a caregiver, this provides ideas to check out with and for your loved one:
6 Falls Prevention Steps to Help Your Older Loved Ones

How to Get Up from a Fall
if you do fall, this link shows how you can get up if you’re not seriously hurt:

Fall Prevention Awareness Videos (all on youtube) from National Council on Aging

Here’s the 12 Question Quiz to check your personal risks:

Falls Free CheckUp

Problems getting dressed? Here are solutions

Getting dressed in the morning is one of those automatic chores we all do. Some people set out clothes the night before, others check the heap on the chair for the least smelly shirt, and some spend some time matching, ironing, etc. to look just right when stepping out for the day.

But there are many reasons why that daily activity can become a problem. Anyone who’s had an injury or surgery has probably dealt with this: a broken wrist, a cast on a leg, or a frozen shoulder means that what was an ordinary movement becomes painful or impossible.

Other long-term chronic issues, like arthritis or Parkinson’s Disease, means that certain movements or stretches are difficult. And because those diseases progress, changes are on the horizon all the time.

Dementia adds another wrinkle. Especially in later stages, some people have difficulty deciding what to wear, or they wear the same items for days at a time. Some no longer recognize how to actually put on a particular item, or they forget they already have underwear on so they put on another layer. Or they dress inappropriately for weather conditions, and wear winter clothes in the summer or vice versa.

Whatever the issue relating to dressing, though, there are a number of solutions. Make sure that the clothing you or your loved one wear is easy to put on and take off. There are a number of companies that sell adaptive clothing, such as shirts with velcro instead of button closures, or pants that have zippers down the side. People who use wheelchairs can find clothing that easily slips on the front with a back closure.

Occupational and physical therapists are great sources for help on this. If you are a caregiver, this is an issue that needs empathy, respect, and continual monitoring. In some cases, a home health aide may be needed to deal with this. If your loved one is bigger than you or has physical limitations that make dressing a major operation, this is when you need some help. Don’t put your own well-being on the line to make this happen every day.

The article below from AgingCare describes many helpful dressing techniques for anyone, not just those with PD. Buck & Buck is one company of many that has a very helpful online catalog you can search by specific clothing items or by health issues, such as for those with incontinence or who’ve had a stroke. And don’t forget to check with health care providers for recommendations in your situation.

Tips for Dressing Someone with Parkinson’s

Buck & Buck online catalog

Seniors learn new tech skills when that tech has value to them

Like many Americans, including most of a certain age, the first thing I do in the morning is reach for my glasses and put them on. Without them I certainly could not do most of what I do every day. They are so helpful that I can’t imagine life without them.

Yet long ago eyeglasses were a new technology. By now have proven their worth to generations of wearers.

Similarly, many seniors today find much technology very useful in their lives: they communicate using smartphones and tablets, they buy cars with reminder tones to take the keys or check before changing lanes, and they have figured out how to watch their favorite TV shows by navigating through countless streaming or satellite options.

So if you’re wondering why your spouse refuses to try Facetime or Skype for family visits, or why your parent insists on sending a check through the mail rather than setting up online banking, take a breath. Could it be that he or she just hasn’t found a good reason to do so?

A few recent articles discuss how determining factors to encourage seniors to embrace technology is often a matter of making sure that the benefits and ease of use are clear. Perhaps in a few cases, the reluctance may be fear of the unknown – or scammers – but many other factors may be in play as well.

For example, the ability to exchange photos of grandchildren is often a driver for a grandparent to choose a smartphone with a good camera or sign up for a social media account to check the latest videos of Junior’s last soccer game or piano recital.

And their reluctance to pull out that smartphone to browse the Internet while in the car or a restaurant? To many seniors, they see younger people doing that in a gathering and find it rude to ignore others in their presence. Are they right?

One new technology frontier for seniors has become health care, and the benefits of that are many, especially in rural areas. So it may be worth our while as family members or caregivers to encourage and support their seniors as they learn new tech ways to keep themselves healthy.

For a fresh look at encouraging seniors to use technology well, check out the articles below. And I’ll let you know when I trade in my glasses for some high-tech eye surgery!

Designing better tech for seniors means simplifying tech for everyone

Why Older People Really Eschew Technology

Resilience: How to handle those “Curve Balls” life throws your way.

Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events.  Being resilient doesn’t mean you don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval and suffering, it’s about how you handle it.  Resiliency can be learned or acquired over time, here are some helpful tips for honing your resiliency as a Caregiver.

Communicating and Coping with Hearing Loss

It’s hard to come to terms with hearing loss. Because it is usually a long, gradual process, many people don’t realize they aren’t hearing normally until someone else points it out. The TV volume goes up, the conversations change, especially with someone whose voice may be in a missing range, or sometimes it’s easier to skip an activity in a loud environment, like a family party, rather than become frustrated.

The best thing to do for hearing loss is to use hearing aids or some other assistive device, but those don’t work in all situations. Some conditions require other solutions, and for some, it’s a lengthy process to find the best solution. We probably all know someone who has hearing aids home in a drawer but won’t use them for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a different problem, like dementia, makes using or simply keeping track of hearing aids an insurmountable task.

In the meantime, though, caregivers, family members and friends can help out with some simple communication guidelines. This article from AgingCare outlines several techniques people can use with their loved ones, such as first getting their attention, using good lighting, and facing them directly to maintain attention. Patience is always helpful for everyone.

Losing the ability to hear well usually leads to isolation, social withdrawal, and eventually cognitive decline, so it’s important to maintain communication with your seniors as much as possible. This is a case where a team effort can make a big difference.

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I can’t smell! Is it Covid? Aging? or something more?

One of my favorite childhood memories was the smell of Mom’s cinnamon rolls when I walked into our house after school, knowing there was probably a batch coming out of the oven at that moment. And working in the Flogstad Bakery for a few years had the same effect on me, as well as most of our customers. Who doesn’t love some favorite smell to bring you back to a pleasant memory or experience?

That ability to smell and taste is something we take for granted – until it fades away or suddenly disappears. Then it can change our appetites, possibly resulting in poor nutrition, lead to excessive salt or sugar use, and even cause depression. There are instances of people ingesting dangerous substances or not recognizing a gas leak because they can’t smell or taste.

If you were like many people over the years, you may have had a cold or two every winter and thought little about it. Sneezing, stuffy head, runny nose and a cough were part of the typical scenario. It’s also possible that with that cold, or a sinus infection that may have followed, you temporarily lost your ability to smell, which was accompanied by a loss of taste or even an interest in food. But those symptoms were gone with the cold.

Covid-19 changed everything in the past year, and one of its most common symptoms was an accompanying loss of smell and taste. In fact, for some people that was often the first and sometimes the only symptom of the disease. Many regained their ability to smell after a few weeks to a month. Research is ongoing in this area.

But the loss of smell and taste has been a hallmark of several other health conditions, and as we age, it’s important to recognize this symptom.

It’s not unusual to have a minor loss of taste and smell with aging, according to the Mayo Clinic. That loss can also be a result of several issues over the years, like chronic sinus problems, allergies, some medications, dental problems, smoking, or some types of head or facial injury. Some of those can be treated with lifestyle changes or medical treatments.

Yet more seriously, the loss of smell and taste are common symptoms of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. In fact, it may appear years before other changes occur. Unlike with a cold, this inability may be a signal that one area of the brain, the olfactory bulb, is already being damaged. Research into these connections have been going on for some time, and many experts are looking into using this to evaluate patients as part of diagnosis and testing.

For general information on taste, smell and aging: Is loss of taste and smell normal with aging?

For information about smell and Alzheimer’s: Can a Smell Test Sniff Out Alzheimer’s Disease?

For information about smell and PD: Loss of Smell