Gardening and All its Wonderful Effects

gardening-and-all-its-wonderful-effectsIf you’re researching ways to keep senior loved ones healthy, you’ll read how important it is to get up and keep moving. A little bit of exercise goes a long way when it comes to senior well-being – mental, physical and emotional.

Gardening is a very simple way to get your senior loved one outdoors, exercising and doing something productive and enjoyable. In fact, the research around this exact topic is so clear that most assisted living and senior care facilities have some type of therapeutic garden on the premises in order to facilitate the healing and health of their residents.

Plant a small garden and reap tremendous rewards

Whether you’re the primary caretaker for a senior or you’ve hired an in-home care provider to help out from time to time, planting a garden is a wonderful way to connect with a senior loved one. If you choose to plant a vegetable garden, you’ll also be helping to provide a fresh, nutritious food source for their meals!

Here are some of the benefits of gardening for seniors:

Access to nature is a balm for many ailments

Research has shown over and over again that access to sunlight, nature and the outdoors helps to remedy depression and loneliness, elevates mood, promotes healing and can improve both appetite and sleeping habits. Since gardening takes place outdoors or in a sunlight-filled greenhouse, seniors reap all of these benefits in a single activity, close to home.

It encourages the use of muscles, bones and motor skills

The more sedentary we become, the more we lose muscle tone, bone strength, and our motor skills. This results in loss of strength, balance, the ability to move freely and can also impact cognitive function. Gardening requires just enough strength, motion and dexterity that it winds up providing a wonderful workout without the feeling that you have to “get to the gym” or make a conscious effort to leave the home. It can also help to prevent osteoporosis, balance blood sugar levels, and build endurance.

Gardening can support Alzheimer’s and memory care

Gardening is a universal skill and a passion shared by many. When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they can lose the ability to participate in groups, hobbies or activities they used to love. The simple, methodical actions required by gardening make it a creative, productive and successful environment for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It also provides a way for family members and loved ones to connect with a relative with Alzheimer’s in a shared setting.

Gardening is just plain fun

There is something fun and magical about planting seeds and watching them grown no matter how young or old you are. For elders who no longer have children, grandchildren or pets in close proximity to care for – the garden becomes like a nursery, offering a place for them to nurture living things. It’s not hard to imagine while gardening has been shown to reduce instances of elder depression and loneliness.

Make the garden safe, accessible and senior-friendly

There are some accommodations to be made so the garden is safe and senior friendly. These include things like:

  • Using raised beds or tables to minimize bending and to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility aids. Vertical gardening, trellises and retractable hanging baskets are also options.
  • Purchasing watering wands and tools with longer handles to improve a senior’s reach. Also, make sure that tools are light, which makes them easier to manipulate.
  • Adding foam or grip tape to handles to improve a senior’s grip
  • Providing plenty of shade and sun protection as well as hydration breaks.
  • Ensuring tables and chairs are completely stable to reduce the chance of tipping or falling as seniors get up and down.

Is your senior loved one spending too much time lying or sitting, feeling lonely or housebound? Perhaps it’s time to set up an outdoor garden. Whether you’re able to build raised garden beds or keep it simple using containers, any amount of physical activity and time spent outdoors will improve their daily life.

Need a little assistance? Contact HomeAide Home Care and schedule a consultation. Our dedicated staff can provide the companionship and assistance to help your senior get out and about, enjoying their favorite daily activities.

Difficult Topics with Elderly Family Members

difficult-topics-with-elderly-family-membersTransitions are never easy, and that is certainly true for elderly family members making the transition from independent to dependent. While a battle of wills about driving boundaries, mobility aids, hearing aids or moving to a more accessible living space inspires resistance, that resistance is further compounded by dementia behaviors and/or physical ailments that cause discomfort.

That resistance, anger, resentment and frustration is vented on those who are closest to the individual – typically spouses, family members, and immediate caregivers. First, we recommend reviewing this article on Coping with Everyday Challenges, which provide a good overview of typical jumping in points.

Compassionate communication with elderly family members

Here are some of the ways you can facilitate more effective communication with elders in your family, while still remaining a calm, compassionate demeanor.

Keep in mind that seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s can say hurtful things they don’t mean. If your relative is diagnosed with a condition that causes or is related to dementia, try to keep a healthy emotional distance if they are in an agitated state of mind, always remembering their words reflect their condition and not their actual feelings or thoughts. We recommend reading New Approaches for Difficult Behaviors for more specific information on communicating with difficult elderly family members diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Schedule an appointment to visit the doctor

Would you want your child or grandchild telling you that you shouldn’t drive anymore? That you should leave the home you’ve known and loved? That you need to bring a stranger into your home to help you out around the house or keep you company? None of these are easy or comfortable conversations, especially if you’re worried about the same things but don’t want to admit it.

Hearing it from a third-party, however, especially if that third-party is an authority of some kind, can ease the transition.

When it comes to a senior’s well-being – or the well-being of others – bringing it up in conversation with the doctor is a wise move. Email your loved one’s doctor ahead of time, addressing each of your concerns so that he or she is prepared at the next appointment. Then, ask your loved one if you can accompany him/her to their next appointment to discuss some of your concerns.

Sometimes, a simple eye test will be enough for a doctor to recommend revising driving privileges with the DMV. The doctor can also mention accessibility and safety issues, and so on. Often, elders feel less affronted when instructions are given by a medical professional.

Consider creating an accessible home

If your senior is resistant to moving out of the home they love, perhaps you can make the home they love more accessible. Studies show that seniors who are able to safely age-in-place remain independent longer. The family can make an agreement that if the senior allows you to make their home more senior-friendly, the topic of moving elsewhere will be tabled for a while, with an understanding that help will be brought in as needed.

Make it all about you

Rather than making the conversations about all of the things the senior can’t do anymore, or that aren’t safe anymore, make the conversation about your personal concerns. For example, you can state, “I notice the refrigerator seems emptier than usual, and that you aren’t getting out as much as you used to. I love you and I can’t help but worry a little bit. It would make me feel so much better if you would let us arrange someone to stop by once a week to take you out, so your grocery shopping, make a few meals, clean the house, etc.”

By making it about you, it gives the senior permission to relax into the idea. They are now doing you a favor, while – in reality – they know they need a little assistance and this is a good way to get it. That once-a-week helper can then be a tremendous resource – eventually, transition to increased care as needed. Read, “What’s Right For You, Home Care or Assisted Living,”to see which is best for your senior loved one.Unless there is serious cognitive impairment, it’s critical that you understand your senior family member has the right to choose what’s best for them, even when that isn’t what you feel is best. If necessary, you might want to enlist the help of a therapist in order to discuss your frustrations and concerns and to practice the art of letting your parent, grandparent or loved one make decisions with the knowledge that you bear zero responsibility if there is a negative outcome.

Unless there is serious cognitive impairment, it’s critical that you understand your senior family member has the right to choose what’s best for them, even when that isn’t what you feel is best. If necessary, you might want to enlist the help of a therapist in order to discuss your frustrations and concerns and to practice the art of letting your parent, grandparent or loved one make decisions with the knowledge that you bear zero responsibility if there is a negative outcome.

Hopefully, over time, and with some heart-to-heart conversations, your loved one will come around and make choices that support their safety, good health and well-being.

5 Reasons Dental Care Should Be A Top Priority For Seniors

5-reasons-dental-care-should-be-a-top-priority-for-seniorsLots of emphasis is placed on dental care for babies and young children, but it seems that attention to teeth and oral hygiene slips by the wayside as we age. Unfortunately, this has negative ramifications on seniors’ health and well-being.

In worse case scenarios, seniors lose their teeth, which makes it more difficult to speak and be understood clearly (isolation and difficulty communicating), losing teeth can also affect self-esteem. Then, of course, there is the nutrition factor; when seniors have sore, loose, decaying or missing teeth, it affects how they eat and that contributes to malnourishment.

What Does Dental Care Mean?

By definition, dental care is, “the practice of keeping the mouth and teeth clean in order to prevent dental disorders.” In daily practice, it means:

  • Brushing teeth at least twice a day (and after ever meal is even better)
  • Flossing after you brush (this helps to remove food that gets trapped between teeth and gums, and that becomes a stomping ground for bacteria).
  • Getting a dental checkup at least twice a year (some seniors need to go three or four times a year, depending on the state of their teeth and gums)
  • Observing denture cleaning and maintenance requirements to prevent gum soreness, inflammation or poor fit.

If financing is an option, note that Medi-Cal covers basic dental needs through their Denti-Cal program so you may find your dental care is free or very low-cost. You can also seek routine dental care through low-cost dental clinics in your area – many of which will accept payment plans.

5 Reasons Seniors Need to Prioritize Dental Care

Making dental care a priority as we age ensures seniors have strong, healthy teeth, healthy gums and confident smiles for as long as possible. Or, in cases where teeth are pulled, routine dental care means bridges instead of dentures, or more common fittings and adjustments, which increase daily comfort.

Here are 5 reasons why it’s time to make dental care and oral health a priority for seniors:

  1. Gum disease. Here’s where it all gets started. Gum disease sets in when latent bacteria – much of which can’t be reached by the average daily brushing routine – builds up and begins infecting the gums. Inflamed gums, gingivitis, are the beginning of a long and winding dental road that ends with seniors having their teeth pulled. Gum disease is also linked to…
  2. Heart disease. What do gums/teeth and the heart have in common? Plenty, it turns out. Adults with gum disease are significantly more likely to have heart disease, heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, strokes and other medical conditions. In fact, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, routine dental care is associated with fewer hospital admissions and reduced medical care costs for people with similar health conditions.
  3. Diabetes. Those who are pre-diabetic or have diabetes must be especially diligent about observing good oral hygiene and visiting their dentist on a regular basis. Firstly, high blood sugar levels lead to gum infection; secondly, severe gum disease hinders the body’s ability to use insulin. It’s a double whammy.
  4. Dentures. At some point, dentures and aging became associated with one another. NO! Get that association out of your heads. While dentures are better than no teeth, they are not ideal. Once your teeth are pulled out by the roots, the jaw bone begins to diminish and recede, affecting the set of the jaw, bite and the way you look and sound. Those with dentures also struggle with getting a comfortable fit and painful gum inflammation (denture-induced stomatitis). Keeping your own teeth should always be Plan A. Plan B, if you can afford it, is to get dental implants, rather than dentures, for key teeth. Implants help the jaw maintain its natural structure and strength. If dentures are the only option, get the best set your budget can accommodate so you can eat and speak more comfortably.
  5. Dry mouth. Dry mouth is a common side effect of many common medications – both over the counter and prescription. This includes certain allergy medicines and diuretics, as well as medications for meds for high blood pressure, urinary incontinence, and depression. Saliva is nature’s first defense against bacteria, keeping the mouth wet so it can soften, dislodge and wash away food particles and other remnants that attract bacteria so they don’t contribute to gum disease and tooth/root decay.

If you or a beloved senior are no longer able to drive to routine dental appointments, contact a local home healthcare provider or companion service. They’ll be happy to pair you up with a safe, friendly, and responsible driver who can drive you to and from appointments.

Palliative Care vs Hospice Care

palliative-care-vs-hospice-careThe terms palliative care and hospice care are often used interchangeably to describe end-of-life comfort care. This is a mistake. While there are similarities between the two, they are slightly different. Both describe a style of “whole patient” care, that uses a team of specialists that can extend beyond their physicians and specialists, to provide comfort in the face of a serious diagnosis.

The difference is that palliative care can also end up curing or significantly extending the life of the patient – and can be seen as a potential treatment. While, on the flip side, hospice is only provided when a patient has decided to stop actively treating the disease, preferring to accept an end-of-life diagnosis and receive hospice care to enjoy the highest level of comfort and quality of life as possible until the patients dies.

Palliative and hospice care don’t provide full-time caregivers

Here is an important thing to note: neither palliative care or hospice care provide full-time care providers. These services include regular check-ins from licensed nurses and specialty care providers, advice and recommendations, 24-hour support lines, access to certain prescriptions and refills as needed, etc. However, neither is a substitute for personal, part- or full-time caregivers.

Caregiver support is expected to come from partners, family members and/or professional in-home caregivers. Otherwise, the patient may require admission to an assisted living community or some other type of residential care. Contact a local in-home care provider to learn more about the way licensed care providers can be put in place to facilitate in-home palliative or hospice care.

What is palliative care?

First, let’s examine a precise definition of palliative care, courtesy of

The goal of palliative care is to help people with serious illnesses feel better. It prevents or treats symptoms and side effects of disease and treatment. Palliative care also treats emotional, social, practical, and spiritual problems that illnesses can bring up. When the person feels better in these areas, they have an improved quality of life.

Palliative care can be given at the same time as treatments meant to cure or treat the disease. Palliative care may be given when the illness is diagnosed, throughout treatment, during follow-up, and at the end of life.

Like hospice care, palliative care provides comfort care for those diagnosed with a serious illness or progressive disease. If, at some point down the line, the patient’s treatment is unsuccessful and/or the condition progresses, palliative care can continue until the end of their life.

The palliative care team will typically consist of the patient’s main healthcare providers and specialists, along with additional palliative care team members, like clergy, social workers, therapists, masseuses, etc.

What is hospice care?

For a detailed description, read our post titled, What is Hospice Care? to learn more about your options, payment, etc. defines hospice care as:

Hospice care is end-of-life care. A team of health care professionals and volunteers provides it. They give medical, psychological, and spiritual support. The goal of the care is to help people who are dying have peace, comfort, and dignity. The caregivers try to control pain and other symptoms so a person can remain as alert and comfortable as possible. Hospice programs also provide services to support a patient’s family. Usually, a hospice patient is expected to live 6 months or less.

So, while comfort and quality of life are goals of both palliative and hospice care, the former is administered even amidst a patients treatment and curative prescriptions, while hospice care is only administered when a person ceases curative treatments and is at the end of their life.

Like palliative care, hospice provides support and resources for the family and caregiving team in addition to the patient, and these resources include spiritual counselors, therapists, and masseuses as well as musical and other therapeutic options.

How do I know which one is best for myself, a senior or a loved one?

Most simply put, if you, a senior or a loved one in your life is facing a serious medical diagnosis, and plan to pursue treatment for that condition, a palliative care team will be set in place. If the patient has a diagnosis that is so serious there is no cure, the treatment side-effects are more debilitating than the condition itself and/or a patient simply decides they’re not interested in treatment options, hospice is the best route to go.

If you are in doubt, your primary care provider or the medical facility’s social worker can assist you in figuring out which quality care plan is right for your particular situation. The good news is that both are covered by most health insurance plans as well as MediCal and MediCare.

Craft Projects Fun for the Elderly

You are never too old to enjoy arts and crafts, and this activity can be very beneficial to seniors. The creativity stimulates their minds, improves their concentration and prevents depression. Working on crafts is also a great way to improve their cognitive skills and hand-eye coordination. You can plan a fun afternoon with your loved one by checking out the following craft projects for the elderly.

  • Create a Photo Collage: Putting together a photo collage is the perfect way to get their creative juices flowing. You are going to need magazines, glue sticks and construction paper or cardboard for this project. Your loved one may want to use a theme for their collage, such as their favorite animals or holidays. You can also provide copies of personal photographs to make a collage of their favorite memories.
  • Wooden Clothespin Snowman Ornament: You are going to need supplies such as wooden doll pins, acrylic paint, felt, ribbon and a Sharpie for this project. The first step is to paint the peg white. Once it dries, you can decorate it with more paint, the Sharpie and felt. You are going use a thin ribbon to tie on the hat, and you can use thicker ribbon or string to hang it up.
  • Painted Clay Flower Pots: This is a great project for seniors who enjoy gardening or want to dress their room up. Your loved one can start by painting the flower pot in their favorite color. Once the paint is dry, they can add their name, favorite pattern or quote to the pot. Paint pens are perfect for seniors who are only looking to paint certain areas of their pot.
  • Popsicle Stick Tree Ornament: Your loved one is going to start by painting three Popsicle sticks green. Once they are dry, they can use hot glue to create a triangle. Your loved one can use buttons as ornaments, yellow textured cardstock as the star and brown cardstock and chipboard as the trunk. Use a glue stick or hot glue to attach the pieces to the Popsicle stick tree. Your loved one can hang it up by hot gluing a hook to the back of the ornament.
  • Decorative Tin Cans: Tin cans are great for storing small items such as writing utensils, buttons, and spare change. Your loved one can start by wrapping the tin can in colorful yarn and using a bit of glue to hold the yarn in place. They can also glue colorful buttons to the yarn to create a fun vibe. Another option is to paint the tin can just as they would paint the clay flower pot.
  • Glass Gem Suncatchers: Your loved one can use glass gems, plastic lids, and clear glue to create their own beautiful suncatchers. The best part is they can come up with their own pattern using their favorite colors. Use fishing wire to hang the suncatchers in their window.
  • Tea Light Candle Holder: You are going to need empty, clean baby food jars or small jars for this project. Seniors can use glass paint or glass paint markers to decorate the jar with a fun design. Place a flameless tea light candle inside the finished product, and your loved one can decorate with a homemade candle holder.

There are plenty of easy and fun craft projects for the elderly. Your loved one may need help with one or two steps, but it is important to let them do as much as possible. Working on crafts is good for their mental and physical health, and it is sure to put a smile on their face!

Getting Your Beloved Senior Involved in Holiday Activities

getting-your-beloved-senior-involved-in-holiday-activitiesThe holidays are a joyous time, but they are also a nostalgic time. For seniors, this nostalgia can be tinged with a bit of loneliness, sadness and even grief for the ones they have lost. Even changes in the weather – clouds, cold and rain that may prevent them from their daily walk or outdoor activities, or that deprive them of much-needed sunshine, can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

We know this time of year is busy – or downright hectic – for the average household, but we recommend taking a little extra timeout to including your beloved senior(s) in holiday activities.

Tips For Involving Senior Loved Ones in Holiday Events

Here are some suggestions for how you can involve senior loved ones in holiday events. It can make all the difference in the way they feel this holiday season.

Have them over. A simple pick up and drop off is all that’s required to involve a senior in your holiday happenings. From sorting through ornament boxes and decorating the tree and house, to wrapping gifts or simply watching the hubbub from a quiet corner, the feeling of being included is often just enough to keep seniors feeling wanted and loved. And, don’t forget to head to their place to help with decorating there too. Managing holiday trees and decorations can be more than many seniors can handle on their own. They’ll appreciate your efforts to put up their favorite decorations – and then your willingness to take them back down again after New Year’s – so they can enjoy soaking up the season in all its glory.

Invite them to lead a cooking class. It’s inevitable that older holiday traditions will be phased out as new ones take their place, especially as families grow up or blend together in new family units. Some of these lost traditions, disappear by way of new recipe items. This holiday season, why not invite a grandparent over to share their favorite holiday recipes from when they were children. They can provide the ingredient list, you can do the shopping and then they can sit and watch as they teach you how to make the dish. It’s a special way to make memories, it honors the traditions of the past, and you all get to enjoy a delicious new menu item when all is said and done.

Have a gift-wrapping party. There’s nothing that robs us of our holiday cheer like pulling all-nighters wrapping gifts as the holiday’s approach. Instead, why not get a group together and have a gift-wrapping party? Or, bring some of your gifts and wrapping supplies to the senior’s home and wrap them together as you enjoy a little bonding time. While ribbons and bows may be difficult for arthritic hands, wrapping paper and tape will be easier to manage. Seniors can write the name of the recipient on the bottom of the wrapped gift and you can tie them up and label them as time permits when you return home.

Go caroling together. One of the most popular holiday “volunteer events” is to go caroling at nursing homes, hospitals, rehab centers and assisted living communities. Rather than have your favorite senior caroled to, why not bring them along on your own caroling party? If the senior is currently wheelchair bound, decorate it festively and wrap them up warm and cozy. If they don’t use mobility aids but might appreciate a little support, choose a preferred mobility aid for when they need a little help. If your loved one is beyond being able to carol, that’s okay too. They’ll still appreciate going along for the ride.

Make homemade gifts this year. Remember we talked about holiday traditions that have disappeared in the past? Only recently has the availability of credit made it possible for our culture to go gift shopping crazy. Not so long ago, presents were much more precious and were often made by hand especially for you. If you’d like to reign it in a bit this year, talk to your senior loved ones about the homemade and upcycled gifts of holiday’s past. Perhaps they’ll be able to teach you a new hobby, art or craft that will add heartfelt homemade gifts for the ones you love. It will be time well-spent.

Getting your senior loved ones involved in holiday activities is a win-win scenario for everyone. We’d love to hear how your family helps to keep seniors filled with holiday cheer. Leave us your ideas in the HomeAide Homecare comment box below.

The Benefits of Aging in Place

the-benefits-of-aging-in-placeWhen parents and/or grandparents begin to show signs of aging, it’s smart to evaluate which changes – if any –need to take place so they can age as safely and gracefully as possible. While retirement community brochures may depict the post-retirement years as a “dream come true,” many seniors find that this era brings the most physically and emotionally challenging years of their lives.

These include physical changes, like diminishing eyesight and hearing or increased difficulty getting around. It can include mental changes, like the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s’. Sometimes aging is harder on one partner than another, which turns a former life mate into a full-time caregiver. Seniors are more prone to experiencing the death of their life partner as well as the passing on of their peers, which can make them feel isolated and lonely.

For all of these reasons and more, aging-in-place can bring a tremendous amount of comfort and stability at a time when changes are entirely outside of an individual’s control.

The NIH Says There’s No Place Like Home…For Growing Old

The NIH’s National Institute on Aging has an entire PDF with strategies aimed at helping seniors age in place. From serious cost savings to the comfort and security of a familiar environment, remaining in place by providing loving and experienced caregivers into the home is often the most beneficial plan for seniors and their families.

Here are some of the reasons why it makes sense to accommodate aging in place for yourself or senior loved ones.

Greater Financial Security

Financial stability is key as seniors age, providing the resources they need to pay for additional services like shopping, meal preparation, bathing and dressing, memory care, medical care, driving and so on. What many people don’t realize is that the costs of in-home care services are typically much cheaper than the monthly cost of living in a retirement community. According to, “From 2004 to 2007, in 2009 dollars, the median monthly payment for non-institutional long-term care was $928 compared with $5,243 for nursing homes.” That’s a huge difference. Especially when you consider that those cost savings are paired with other benefits, like familiarity, security, comfort and greater independence.

Even so, the same website observes that, “…examining how to reduce costs are focusing on the wrong area; instead, they should be emphasizing the emotional, social, and health benefits of HCBS and aging in place.” We agree. The care providers at HomeAide Home Care witness over and over again how seniors with adequate in-home care fare significantly better in terms of emotional well-being than their facility-bound counterparts.


Seniors who age in place have an easier time maintaining their independence. The familiarity and comforts of home can help to minimize the impacts of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. By making the home senior-friendly, seniors have the ability to get around easier, access their own belongings and possessions, and they enjoy the luxury of maintaining ownership of their pets. Seniors can remain an active part of their neighborhood and community, and they still exercise control over household decisions to the best of their ability.

Preserving valuable multi-generational relationships

There is a certain romance and novelty to going to grandma and grandpa’s house. Even if one of the grandparents is no longer alive, their memories live longer and stronger in their home furnished with their furniture, photos and signature belongings. The fact of the matter is that visiting a room at a nursing home or retirement facility simply isn’t as comfortable and doesn’t have the same, homey feel as the traditional home environment. By allowing seniors to age in place, they retain a sense of elevated family status. They experience the joy of having family, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren – visit, stay over or participate with them in favorite past times such as gardening or taking daily walks, not to mention holidays and other traditional family occasions.

Are you in the process of determining whether a residential or in-home plan is best for yourself or a loved one? Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care. We provide free, in-home consultations to create the best plan of action for today as well as the future. (510) 247-1200.

7 Reasons Seniors Benefit from Pet Adoption

7-reasons-seniors-benefit-from-pet-adoptionSeniors face an array of challenges they may never have encountered before; perfectly healthy bodies can refuse to cooperate, vision and hearing dim, partners and peers may fade from their day-to-day lives as the result of moving into a retirement community or death. All of these challenges can begin to suck the joy out of living.

In many cases, during our consultations with seniors and their families, we have an unexpected recommendation: adopt a pet.

7 Ways Adopting a Pet Can Improve Life for Seniors

The following are 7 ways that adopting a pet can improve daily life for your senior loved ones, adding a little more love and light in their life.

  1. They know they’ve made a difference. One of the most frustrating things about life after retirement, especially as the body begins to slow down or is compromised by progressive health conditions, is that seniors begin to feel their lives have no purpose. Adopting a pet provides a loving, safe and nourishing environment for a pet – often saving their life – and this makes seniors feel as if they have been able to make a difference in the life of another being.
  2. They feel wanted, needed and loved. Most families do their best to visit and touch in with parents, grandparents and other aging elders. However, as seniors watch and listen to the ways everyone’s lives are moving on around them, they can begin to feel as if they are a burden to the ones who love them most. When there is a happy four-legged critter to care for, that feeling does a 180°. All of a sudden the senior feels wanted, needed and loved – and that makes it more satisfying to get out of bed each morning.
  3. It inspires daily movement and recreation. Most pets need some kind of exercise or movement to stay healthy and entertained. This can get an otherwise homebound senior inspired to take daily walks again, to go outside and sit in the sunshine while throwing a ball, or moving the upper body to inspire their new kitty to get the toy mouse. Any amount of movement is good for physical and mental health.
  4. It can save their life. If you have a senior who has a serious medical condition, who is blind, or has mobility issues – they may be a candidate for a service dog. These dogs provide a tremendous amount of value, including the ability to alert a senior before a epileptic seizure or when their blood sugar levels are out of whack. They can also be used to help the blind and deaf, as well as therapy dogs for seniors who’ve developed anxiety or depression.
  5. It eliminates loneliness. What a terrible feeling it is to be lonely. Even seniors who live in senior communities can feel isolated, especially if they aren’t able to get out and about without help, or if they have recently lost their spouse, partner or closest friends. A pet is a built-in, unconditionally loving family member or friend who can transform a lonely and depressed senior into a more outgoing, positive and active member of their community.
  6. Pets lower blood pressure and improve health. Studies have shown over and over that pet owners report feeling less stressed and have measurably lower blood pressure than their non-petted counterparts. In fact, pets are known to provide multiple health benefits to their owners, and some of these wind up reducing the risk of heart attack, strokes, and other debilitating or fatal conditions linked to heart disease and high blood pressure.
  7. They increase social interactions. There are two things in life that will draw strangers right towards you to engage in conversation – dogs and babies. Many seniors are amazed at the amount of attention they get while out walking their dogs or taking them out to dog parks. Even immobile seniors can enjoy these activities with their companion or home healthcare provider to accompany them along the way. Those daily chats and personal interactions stimulate the production of endorphins – “feel good hormones” – and that is a win-win for all.

Have you noticed a dampening of a senior loved one’s inner-light or connectedness to the world around them? Consider adopting a pet from one of the many Bay Area shelters. That once simple step can make a tremendous difference in the lives of both the pet and the owner.

Aging & Aphasia

aging-aphasiaYou know the feeling, when you’re in the middle of a sentence and you just can’t think of the right word? It’s there somewhere; in fact, you may even make the comment that “it’s right at the tip of your tongue…” This is a very mild form of what some seniors experience on a regular basis.

When the loss of words, or the inability to retrieve words, begins to hinder a person’s conversations and daily routines on a regular basis, it is called aphasia.

Aphasia is Often a Symptom of Aging and Age-Related Conditions

Aphasia is a common symptom, and often a “primary” symptom of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related conditions. In addition to word loss, your aging relative or friend may notice they are more prone to getting lost, feeling confused, forgetting to pay bills or neglecting to recognize birthdays and special days that were once priorities on their calendar. These may indicate something more serious is at work.

There are several situations or conditions that can cause aphasia. These include:

  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Medications or changes in medication doses
  • Dehydration
  • Strokes
  • Hearing loss
  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease (medically referred to as “amytrophic lateral sclerosis” (ALS))
  • Parkinson’s disease

In many cases, the ability to speak disappears long before the ability to understand. As a result, the onset of aphasia can be extremely frustrating and frightening for seniors. This is especially true if they are treated like they have dementia or Alzheimer’s, when in fact they still have many of their mental faculties intact.

For this reason, it’s important to schedule an appointment with the senior’s primary healthcare provider as soon as you notice aphasia has become an issue.

Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment ASAP if Seniors Have Difficulty Communicating.

Note: if the onset of aphasia seems extremely sudden, it could be that your loved one or client is having a stroke. In this case, it’s always better to call 9-1-1 or take the individual immediately to an ER. Often, a stroke caught early can be stopped in its tracks, before it causes more debilitating side effects. Please read, Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke, for more information about that topic.

Otherwise, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with the senior’s caregiver to identify the cause of the issue. In some cases, something as simple as drinking more water or taking an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection (UTI) may be the solution. Seniors are extremely vulnerable to dehydration as well as asymptomatic UTIs, both of which can cause dementia-like symptoms.

Other times, a new medication, combination of medications or a change in dosage can be enough to trigger mild or more moderate aphasia. Once the right prescription balance is restored, the aphasia may begin to resolve and normal language function will be restored.

If a more serious medication condition, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease is the cause, early detection is important in prolonging the progression of the disease. We are learning a great deal about how diet, lifestyle and activity levels help or harm a person’s long-term prognosis. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, certain medications work best at the disease’s onset rather than later on.

In the case of Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s, there are non-verbal therapies – like art or music therapy – that can help the individual find their community as well as involve other parts of the brain to help them become more functional when areas in charge of language or cognition become more faulty. Learning about adult day care options, community gardening opportunities and other outlets can help to keep the senior more involved in the community so they don’t feel so isolated.

The senior’s healthcare provider will be able to provide a full physical assessment, and may also schedule more tests to determine the aphasia’s cause and to provide options and suggestions regarding treatment, therapy and/or lifestyle changes.

If it turns out that the aphasia is, indeed, caused by a progressive condition, this is the time to begin discussing long-term care options and what those options look like. Please feel free to contact us here at HomeAide Home Care to learn more about in-home and independent living options, or to schedule a free in-home consultation. There is never any obligation.

Common Skin Conditions that Affect the Elderly

common-skin-conditions-that-affect-the-elderlyTaking care of skin is a lifelong endeavor, but it should be a particular focus for seniors and their caregivers. As we age, the collagen in our skin is diminished, as is our protective layer of fat. This leads to thinner and less durable skin. Years of sun exposure takes its toll, as can the side effects of certain medications or dehydration. Even the sheer act of laying down or sitting too much in one position can cause serious skin discomfort and even open wounds.

Here are some of the most common skin conditions that affect the elderly, as well as how you can help to prevent them, treat them and/or provide some relief:

Dry and/or Itchy Skin

Not only will the skin feel dry and itchy for the senior, caregivers may notice patches of white, scaly or rougher skin – most notably on the arms and legs. Dry skin can be caused by a range of triggers, including dehydration, a dry interior climate, drinking and/or smoking, excess sun exposure, using soaps and body care products with fragrance.

  • You can relieve dry skin by:
  • Applying a fragrance-free lotion, targeted for dry or extra-dry skin
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day
  • Minimizing sun exposure
  • Using a humidifier indoors
  • Taking cooler baths/showers (hot water contributes to dry skin)
  • Using mild soaps, shampoos and body washes

If dry skin becomes a problem, it’s worth having a conversation with the senior’s doctor to determine if there is something more going on, like a skin allergy or a reaction to a particular medication.


Thin skin means greater vulnerability to bruising. Ouch! Even a simple knock against a table edge or counter corner can leave a frightening bruise behind. Also, older people take longer to heal, so bruises can seem to last an inordinately long time. While there isn’t anything that can be done, shy of keeping vulnerable areas clothed as an extra layer of padding, it is worth checking in with the doctor if bruising seems excessive or if the senior can’t remember how the bruises were formed.

Age Spots

Age spots, also called “liver spots” are larger than freckles, and appear as large, flat brown spots on the skin’s surface. Since they are actually caused by sun exposure, age spots are typically found on the head, face, hands/arms and legs. They can’t be treated, and shouldn’t cause any pain or discomfort, but the use of a gently sunscreen can prevent more age spots from developing

Skin Tags

Skin tags are a type of raised, flesh-colored mole that can sometimes grow quite pendulous. Women are more prone to developing skin tags than men, due to hormone differences, but anyone can get them. Skin tags are typically found on the eyelids and neck, as well as the folds of the body – the armpits, underneath the breasts, in the groin, etc. While usually painless, the tags can become irritated – especially if they are raised and get caught by clothing, nails or jewelry. If particular skin tags cause discomfort, they can be easily removed by a doctor or dermatologist.

Skin Cancer

One of the most common types of cancer, skin cancer is usually nothing to worry about – as long as it is caught soon enough. It’s a good idea to check the entire body once a month so you get used to the various moles and freckle formations found on the skin’s surface.

By performing a visual inspection each month, you’ll be more likely to notice if any of the moles change. You should also schedule an annual appointment with a doctor or dermatologist for a professional once-over.

Use your ABCDE’s when evaluating moles:

  1. Asymmetrical borders – one half of the mole looks different than the other half.
  2. Borders that seem irregular.
  3. Color changes or more than one color, make a note if a mole seems to be darkening or changing colors from the last time you checked it.
  4. Diameter – the diameter of moles should be no bigger than a pencil eraser.
  5. Evolving – if the mole seems to be changing in terms of shape, color, size, pain or tenderness, from flat to raised, etc., it should be examined

If you notice any of these ABCDEs, schedule an appointment with the doctor.

Does your senior loved one live alone? Is your parent or grandparent unable to take care of themselves the way they used to? Consider taking advantage of in-home senior healthcare. Even a visit or two a week can be enough to ensure that your loved one is safe, healthy and happy.

Contact HomeAide Homecare to learn more about our services or to schedule an in-home consultation.