Are you Confused by the Apparent Changes in your Aging Parent?
Addressing problems related to your aging parents’ physical mobility, indoor/outdoor safety, cleaning, and house maintenance are essential towards ensuring your aging parent has a sense of security while remaining within their home.
There are many health care safety concerns that deserve consideration when it comes to home care and caregiving. These including evaluating your loved ones ability to communicate and understand others, their ability to take their medications as instructed and their ability to prepare healthy meals and store food properly.
A Family caregiver who notices these problems in their elderly loved ones is often perplexed and confused as to why they are occurring. These problems may occur gradually or suddenly, dependent on your loved ones mental and physical health. These concerns can be quite scary to family members, as their loved one becomes increasingly unable to perform tasks that were once easy and commonplace for them. Part three of this article covers some of the reasons why these changes are occurring in your loved one and offers suggestions on how to deal with them.
Common Difficulties Seniors Have With Communication and the Related Health Care Concerns
“Come again? I don’t understand…. say that again”
As they age, a number of seniors are affected by health conditions and illnesses that can impede their ability to understand and/or communicate with others. They may not be able to understand language due to memory or hearing problems, or speak clearly with others due to physical problems with their throat, face or mouth. As well, a number of seniors are first generation immigrants to Canada and do not speak English as their first language. They too can be limited in their ability to communicate with people outside their immediate family.
Caring for Aging Parents
If you notice a decrease in your aging parent’s ability to communicate effectively with others, the following tips may prove useful:
- Have your loved one see their doctor to rule out any medical problems that can be contributing to their difficulty with communication.
- Have their hearing checked on a regular basis and have them fitted with hearing or audio devices if needed.
- If English is a second language or not spoken by your loved one, enlist a family member who is fluent in both English and your loved one’s language to serve as an advocate and interpreter.
- Contact your loved one’s hospital to see what language translation services are available. Many hospitals have language translators, that speak a variety of languages, and can offer you and your loved one their services during hospital visits/stays. Simply call the hospital you are attending to inquire more about these services.
- If your loved one has a speech impediment or heavy accent, it can be difficult for others to understand them. Having a family member that is fluent/proficient in English to serve as an advocate for them during clinic or doctor visits can help. This family member can help to voice any concerns directly to health care providers, preventing any miscommunication. As well, they can take notes of meetings so that you know what was covered in medical meetings and appointments.
- If your loved one has suffered a stroke or other health condition that is impacting their ability to communicate effectively then visiting a speech specialist or pathologist may be helpful to correct such language impediments. Speak to your doctor or healthcare professional to obtain a referral for such services.
- The use of speech boards or other modern technologies may also be handy to help seniors communicate more effectively. This can be a good option for seniors who have physical impediments to speech but are able to move their hands or fingers well. There are several aids to daily living that can be located and obtained by speaking to your doctor.
Finding information about other ways to communicate with your loved one can enhance and enrich their lives, as communication is a vital part of active, engaged living. If your loved one does not have someone to advocate on their behalf or assist in communication, you may consider retaining the assistance of a professional Caregiver.
Caregiver Duties and Responsibilities
Harmony’s professional Caregivers can visit your loved one regularly, assist with communication, and encourage outings or activities to enhance socialization. Moreover, they can help the family caregiver by taking your aging parent to medical appointments, advocating for them with other health care providers and documenting all medical information. This medical appointment and accompaniment service is particularly useful for persons who are unable to continually leave work to take their loved one to appointments, which often occur during business hours. Finally, seniors with communication deficits can benefit hugely from other ways of expressing their feelings. Harmony offers an art program and music care program that can help your loved one express their inner selves.
Medication Management, the Side Effects can be dizzying for a Caregiver!
A number of seniors develop health conditions and illnesses that require regular medications and routine monitoring including blood pressure, glucose, heart rate amongst other health checks. They may forget to check these health factors daily, properly maintain their medical equipment or take their medication at prescribed times thereby making their health concerns worse.
As well, as many seniors develop problems with eyesight, hearing, and memory, they may make mistakes when taking their medications. Mistakes include, but are not limited to:
- Misreading the name of the medication or proper dosage to take.
- Taking the medications on an empty stomach which can lead to digestive upset.
- Mixing medications with food or substances that are contra-indicated.
- Taking medication at the wrong time of day.
- Missing doses of medication.
Your aging parent may not be able to read the information that comes with the medicine. This information may include proper dosage and timing instructions. Mistakes concerning medication management can have far-reaching and devastating effects. Medicine mismanagement can lead to physical, mental, emotional changes in your loved one. This can alter their personality or ability to carry out daily living functions. If your loved one has difficulty taking and tracking their medication and/or health conditions, then there are steps you can take to assist them.
Tips to Help Your Parent with Medication and Medical Equipment Management
These tips will help you become a better caregiver and provide better assistance with elderly parents:
- Have medications bubble packed/ blister packed. Sort medications using a day and time pill box.
- Alert your loved one when to take the medicine, how much to take, and how to take the medicine.
- Personally dispense the medication to your loved one as required.
- Remove foods or contra-indicated substances from the home.
- Store medications in a safe, cool, dry place.
- Pick-up your loved one’s medications, talk with the pharmacist about medication directions and possible contraindications or side effects.
- Monitor medication usage and side effects in your loved one.
- Regularly monitor your loved ones conditions by learning to use and interpret the findings of their medical equipment (i.e., blood pressure cuffs, heart rate monitors, oxygen tanks, blood monitor devices, hearing aids, etc.,).
- Have your loved ones medical equipment checked, maintained and/or refitted by professionals on a regular basis or as needed.
It is advisable to choose one pharmacy to supply your loved one’s medicines and medical supplies. This way you can develop a relationship with the pharmacists who work there, and they can track and update all your aging parent’s medications using their computer system. When receiving information about medications or medical supplies, record it and keep it in an area that is easily accessible to you and other family members.
You can also place information and records concerning medications and dosages in your senior loved one’s green sleeve. The green sleeve program is a new health care initiative that is currently being used throughout Alberta. Simply stated, you can get a green sleeve for any member of your family, including your elderly loved ones. You can get the Green Sleeve from hospitals, clinics, and family doctors.
As a Caregiver, Are You Responsible for Your Aging Parent’s Green Sleeve?
The green sleeve is a green coloured plastic envelope in which you place a person’s medical information and documents including but not limited to, a will, a personal directive, goals of care designation, medication lists, doctor contact information and anything else related to the person’s health. The person then takes this information with them whenever they go for a medical appointment or have to go to the hospital. When at home the green sleeve is to remain on or near the main household fridge. In the case of emergency, AHS staff will look by the fridge to see if there is a green sleeve. This green sleeve and the documents therein can inform them about your loved one’s medical history, conditions and what their health care wishes are under various circumstances. A green sleeve is similar to having a health care passport to ensure medical services are received more efficiently. This can help to prevent any miscommunication between the person and medical staff, particularly in cases when the person is unable to speak for themselves.
Regularly attending to and monitoring your aging parent’s medication regimen and equipment can become a confusing task for a family caregiver to take on without any outside supports. If you are unable to assist your loved one due to work, family, long distance or other commitments it may be beneficial to hire a professional home Caregiver / Certified Health Care Aide from Harmony. The professional caregiver can provide these daily services for your aging parent or loved one. Your loved one’s overall health and home care services are frequently monitored by our nursing management team.
Solutions for Healthy Meal Preparation, Cooking, and Storage for Your Aging Parent
“I’m not that hungry now… I’ll eat later”
A number of seniors have difficulty with daily cooking and eating healthily. Unfortunately, the reasons behind this are plentiful. Your aging parents may have decreased ability to move hands and fingers thus finding it hard to open jars or use kitchen appliances. They may have physical limitations such as breathing challenges, pain in joints, back pain and difficulty with balance impacting their ability to stand for prolonged periods of time. The process of cooking and cleaning may now be too tiring. A number of seniors experience difficulty with their hearing or sight, preventing them from easily moving around while preparing meals. Many seniors can experience decreased appetite brought on by medication side effects or health conditions. Finally, it’s important to consider that seniors may have difficulty moving about outside and access to other modes of transport may be limited.
Tips and Solutions to Help Your Aging Parents Eat Better
- If your senior loved one has a reduced appetite, it may be a good idea to have them see their family doctor to rule out any changes in physical or mental health.
- Family members can pitch in by cooking extras at each meal and packing them for your loved one to eat.
- You can pick up extra groceries whenever shopping and deliver them to your elderly loved one.
- Providing your loved one with a table and chair in the kitchen can be helpful. This can be used for meal prep, to reduce the amount of standing.
- The use of memory foam mats, well secured to the floor to prevent slipping, can also help a senior stand more comfortably when cooking on the stove or rinsing dishes at the sink.
- Your loved one may also benefit from the use of kitchen gadgets such as jar openers, electric can openers, and vegetable cutters as their ability to use their hands and fingers decreases.
Eating nutritious meals frequently is vital towards keeping your loved one in good health. For those requiring further assistance, Harmony Caregiving provides professional caregiving that will grocery shop,, prepare, and pack healthy meals for your loved one if needed. A number of seniors have special dietary needs due to various health conditions. After consulting with you and your senior loved one, Harmony’s Registered Dietician can implement a dietary plan. Our at-home Caregivers can then be instructed to prepare healthy dishes that meet your senior loved ones medical requirements and suit their taste. Having tasty, well prepared healthy food close at hand can encourage your senior loved one to eat more frequently. As well, a Harmony Caregiver can assist with feeding for seniors who have problems with manual dexterity or other health issues that impede them from eating independently. Finally, a Harmony caregiver can provide companionship during meals to further encourage your loved ones to eat on a regular basis, and increase their level of socialization. This can be a particularly helpful option for those suffering from dementia and or hand/mouth coordination.
Cleaning Out the Fridge and Pantries of Expired Foods and Other Health Care Concerns with Food Safety
“Hey, don’t throw that away….there’s nothing wrong with it….”
Another concern many family caregivers have is whether or not their loved one is eating safe, healthy food. As seniors age their ability to read food labels and smell produce for freshness can decrease. As such they may eat food that has gone bad and experience digestion problems.
Eating good food is essential to maintaining one’s health. Family members can do the following to ensure their loved one is eating healthily.
Tips to Improve Food Quality and Safety for Your Aging Parent
Provide help for aging parents with these tips for home safety:
- Routinely monitor what your elderly loved one is consuming. Look through the fridge, the freezer, the cabinets and the pantry to see if the food is still safe to consume.
- Check expiry dates on products to ensure the quality of the food.
- Make certain your loved one always has access to clean drinking water.
- When preparing meals, make extra, pack it in containers and take it over to your loved ones home. It would also be helpful to include the date the food was prepared and proposed expiry date.
- Family members may come over to cook meals and prepare snacks for your loved ones.
If your loved one is alone for extended periods of time, it may be of benefit to hiring a professional Caregiver to assist you and your senior loved one when dealing with issues related to food safety and quality. A Harmony Caregiver can provide the following services:
- A Home Caregiver can thoroughly clean out and reorganize your loved one’s fridges, freezers, and pantries.
- A Professional Caregiver can shop for groceries and stock the fridge on a regular basis
- After preparing healthy meals and snacks, our professional Caregiver can specially pack these meals and label them according to date prepared.
- A Caregiver can sort and organize foods to that your aging parents have easy access to the produce available. They can also routinely check the expiry dates on perishables, and ensure that your loved one has easy access to clean water, milk and other healthy foods.
- For seniors who do not eat well, our caring staff can monitor when and what your loved one is eating or drinking and let you know if there are any concerns.
Additional Health Care Services Offered by Our Caregivers For Your Aging Parent
In addition to providing health care services, Harmony also has a gardener on staff who can help your senior loved one plant and maintain a garden with items that can be used in their meals. Having a small garden to tend to can be a source of pride for your elderly loved one, and can provide them with fresh herbs and vegetables throughout the summer and fall. Harmony has a variety of options for both outdoor and indoor gardens. For more information about our gardening program and other health care and caregiver initiatives, please call Harmony Caregiving at (780) 328-3917.
A vast majority of seniors wish to live out their retirement years in the comfort of their homes. Taking steps to ensure they are taking their medications correctly, using their medical equipment properly, and eating healthily on a regular basis can do much to enhance their health and overall quality of life. Making healthy choices and attending to safety today can allow them the opportunity to remain at home tomorrow and for many years thereafter.
Need More Information About Aging Parents?
Please stay tuned for our next article where we will cover additional transportation and animal care safety concerns that affect a number of seniors, and how our Caregivers can help to eliminate the risks for your aging parents. Contact us directly to get more home safety tips for seniors. Our home care specialists will be glad to answer your questions and help you with aging parent issues. Our team can give you peace of mind and even help you if your aging parents don’t want help. Contact Harmony Caregiving for more information.