5 Signs A Loved One Needs Hospice Care

5 signs a loved one needs hospice care

Our culture suffers from common “hospice care myths” that block loved ones and families from getting the well-rounded support and comfort care they need. Studies published in the Journal of The American Geriatric Society found that most people wait far too long to start hospice care, prolonging the pain and suffering of their loved ones and blocking their ability to enjoy a higher quality of life. 

These findings agree with other hospice studies that enlisting palliative and hospice care sooner rather than later extends and improves the quality of life for patients, caregivers, and families. As professional in-home caregivers, we see over and over again how much clients benefit when they have access to the full spectrum of hospice support services as soon as they can receive them.

Hospice Services Improve Quality Of Life For Patients & Families

If your loved one is diagnosed with a terminal or chronic prognosis, or age-related declines make them increasingly frail, it’s time to connect with hospice services in your area to learn more about them, their services, and how they can support you.

Hospice Care 101

For a more comprehensive description of palliative care vs. hospice care, Click Here. The quick version is that palliative care is comfort care provided for patients pursuing curative treatments. It may be partially or fully covered by insurance but typically requires out-of-pocket payment. Hospice care is 100% free to all, but patients must cease curative treatments (medications to support and manage existing health conditions are fine). 

Once you begin hospice care, clients and families have access to:

  • Regular visits from hospice nurses
  • Aides that come to help with bathing and hygiene care once a week
  • Free delivery of all necessary durable medical equipment and medications
  • Social worker visits
  • Spiritual advisors
  • Support creating comprehensive end-of-life plans
  • Grief counselors
  • Education and information about what happens when we die
  • Volunteers provide a range of services, from weekly respite care and grocery shopping trips to gardening and pet care.

The combination of family caregivers (if available), in-home caregivers for longer-term shifts, and hospice care providers support daily life for those who require increasing levels of physical care. 

So, while hospice is certainly considered an essential component of heart-centered end-of-life care, it by no means equates with giving up or dying. It’s about acknowledging “what is” and creating the most supportive, comfortable, and high-quality environment to support patients and families.

You’re Ready For Hospice Care When…

Here are five of the biggest signs you’re ready for hospice. Or, at the very least, these signs should inspire you to connect with hospice care providers in your area to learn more about what they offer.

Treatments are no longer working, or treatment/appointment rigor diminishes quality of life

The modern medical system isn’t very good at telling patients, “we can’t do anything to fix you.” When you have a terminal diagnosis, there are rare cases where a “complete cure” is possible. Most of the time, you’re offered treatment regimes that extend life and help you live with the disease or condition, but at what expense? In many cases, the treatments cause side effects that make it difficult or impossible to enjoy life. Financial costs often override any physical/emotional benefits, and they become exhausting. If this is the case, it’s time to consider hospice.

Then, there is the normal ebbing of life due to old age. In that case, there might not be an ‘official’ diagnosis, but a loved one’s appetite wanes, daily life becomes more challenging, and they begin to turn more inward and lose interest in the outside world (entirely unrelated to depression).

Both of these scenarios are a cue to look at sooner-rather-than-later end-of-life plans – and hospice helps with that. 

Symptoms are more difficult to manage

In the beginning of a loved one’s diagnosis or decline, appointments, treatments, and medication for symptom management may have been straightforward. Then, there is a tipping point. Suddenly, symptoms increase, your loved one is almost perpetually unhappy or uncomfortable, and family or hired caregivers are being run ragged trying to hold it all together. 

This is a major red flag that something needs to give. Contacting hospice is a wise next step.

A loved one needs hospice care when they can no longer manage daily tasks

There is a certain point in almost every aging adult’s life when they need help with day-to-day living in order to retain vibrancy, energy, a healthy diet, social engagement, etc. As long as they are generally healthy and content, and their health issues are manageable, in-home care support is all that’s needed.

However, if your loved one is ailing as the result of a chronic or terminal medical condition or is in mid-stage dementia, the combination of hospice care and family or professional caregivers helps them with all the daily tasks that they’re no longer capable of, like:

  • Mobility transfers
  • Bathing, changing, and other hygiene needs
  • Toileting and incontinence care
  • Meal planning and preparation (hospice volunteers often do grocery shopping, but family or hired caregivers need to provide meal prep and feeding)

This level of decline requires the comprehensive support provided by hospice.

They are showing signs of consistent decline

Those with a terminal diagnosis should remain relatively healthy, alert, and able to enjoy daily life and the things that bring them joy. By the time they’re showing the following signs of decline, patients typically need hospice because their current plan isn’t serving the business of “living life to its fullest:”

  • A physician acknowledges they probably have around six months or less to live if the disease follows its general course OR that they feel the patient’s quality of life is not worth the invasive or exhausting treatment protocols. 
  • Palliative (comfort care) is more of a focus on getting through the day than “living”
  • Loss of 10% or more body weight in the past four to six months
  • Three or more ER or urgent care visits in the last few months
  • Mental alertness is waning
  • They’re spending more time resting or sleeping than actively interacting
  • Daily tasks are impossible to maintain without help

Slow declines are difficult to see from the inside because you’re witnessing the progression. An objective hospice team or caregiver is often the best judge of when it’s time to contact hospice.

You Suspect they’re “hanging on” for others’ sake OR you’re waiting for “the miracle”

Many people know they’re dying and want to talk about the fact they’re dying, but they can’t because spouses and loved ones don’t let them. These individuals suffer for months and years to make others happy. However, in the end, the outcome is the same, and life can be much richer when everyone is honest and present with what’s happening.

If you suspect your loved one is dying, but everyone’s waiting for “the miracle,” it’s time to contact hospice. Miracles happen, but why not take advantage of all that hospice has to offer in the meantime, prioritizing the care and comfort of your loved one? They’ll provide all of the support and resources you need to have real conversations. Yes, it’s very sad and may even feel unthinkable. But the last thing you want is for someone you love to suffer unnecessarily when they’re ready – and needing – to make their way forward into the inevitable.

We Can Support The Transition When A Loved One Needs Hospice Care

The team at HomeAide Home Care works collaboratively with hospice teams throughout the bay area to support the well-being of clients and their families. Our caregivers can fill the gaps between family care and hospice support, including everything from companionship, overnight stays, and meal preparation to respite care and errand running. Contact us to schedule a FREE assessment and learn more about how we can help.

Help! My Aging Loved One Won’t Eat

help my aging loved one won't eat

Has your aging parent or grandparent shown signs of a waning appetite or refused to eat altogether? The waning of appetite is a natural part of aging and – eventually – dying. However, lack of appetite, changes in taste, or food resistance may signal an undiagnosed or unmanaged health issue. 

Is It Normal For A Senior To Stop Eating?

There are multiple reasons a parent or grandparent won’t eat. This could be physical discomfort, medication side effects, or an undiagnosed medical issue. Inactivity or depression can also play a part. Finally, less energy spent during the day means fewer calories required, so inactive or minimally active seniors may also experience a naturally diminished appetite.

After noticing an aging loved one won’t eat, the first step is to assess the underlying cause. Here are places to start:

An aging loved one won’t eat if they need dentures or dental work

Sometimes, seniors are reluctant to acknowledge painful or sore teeth. They may worry about inconveniencing you or have financial concerns and fret about how much serious dental work or new dentures will cost. However, malnutrition affects seniors quickly, so time is of the essence.

It may be time to schedule an appointment with your loved one’s dentist to get a professional opinion about whether dental issues may be part (or all) of the problem. 

When was their last physical?

Sometimes, seniors have so many routine appointments on the calendar for things like optometry, podiatry, or specialists, that they don’t realize how long it’s been since they visited their general physician. A noticeable decrease in appetite is worth scheduling an appointment.

Sometimes medication side effects or a new/exacerbated health condition affects energy and appetite levels. Medications or their side effects may also affect how food tastes. Cover all the bases to see if something physical is going on. If your parent is reluctant to share time in the physician’s office with you, speak to them and the physician about the best way for you to remain in the health/wellness communication loop without violating your loved one’s privacy.

What is the status of their mood, social engagement, or daily activity levels?

Physical, mental, and social engagement are all essential for senior health and well-being. If your parent or grandparent lacks movement in these areas, appetites may wane. Make sure your senior loved one has regular access to the following:

  • Physical movement
  • Companionship/social engagement
  • Transportation to their favorite places, activities, or events
  • Fresh, healthy meals and snacks
  • Connection with friends and social networks (use senior-friendly technology if friends have moved away or transitioned into senior housing). 

This might be a good time to look into in-home support options, which can help with the above.

Is It The Beginning (Or Middle) Of The End?

It’s hard to accept when the end of someone’s life is on the horizon. However, waning appetite – and then food refusal – is a natural part of the dying process. If your loved one has a terminal or chronic diagnosis, their lack of appetite or food resistance might signal their life force is waning. Similarly, seniors who are winding down – even without an evident health problem – often eat less and less.

Their physician may shed some insight. This might also be a good time to speak to various hospice care providers in your area. Their staff can help to assess whether your loved one has six months or less to live, in which case loss of appetite is very common. If your parent or grandparent meets hospice qualifications, you’ll benefit from an incredible support network and expert information on what to expect from month to month, week to week, and day to day.

Do They Have Access To Fresh, Healthy Meals And Snacks?

Sometimes, the very act of shopping, planning, preparing, and cleaning up around meals is too much for seniors to handle. Their refusal to eat or waning appetite may have something to do with their diminished energy levels or interest in preparing food for themselves. In this case, we recommend using a home care agency that provides meal planning, shopping, and preparation services – along with other in-home services. 

This gives seniors a break from the rigors of daily chores, refills their energy coffers, and ensures they have delicious and ready-made meals and snacks on hand.

Tips To Support Senior Nutrition When An Aging Loved One Won’t Eat

First and foremost, we advocate honoring your loved one’s feelings and intuitions. We know it’s not easy, especially when food is such a large part of nurturing the ones we love. However, if internal systems aren’t working as they should, a lack of appetite supports a senior’s well-being. 

Forcing aging adults to eat can result in severe abdominal discomfort or serious constipation, leading to painful and embarrassing treatments. Sometimes, as hard as it is, offering food but respecting their “no thank you” is the kindest way forward.

Here are ways to support senior nutrition when loved ones don’t want to eat:

  • More small, less large. Instead of three meals per day, make up healthy, balanced snacks, and small meal portions served five to six times per day.
  • Make every calorie count. Skip processed and refined foods, opting for nutrient-rich foods instead. Smoothies, homemade popsicles (made from leftover healthy smoothie ingredients), soups/stews, rice or beans with added veggies, or small salads of various kinds, avocados with lime juice/salt/pepper, cheese and whole-grain crackers, and mixed nuts with fruit are all ways to do that. Use the foundations of an anti-inflammatory diet, which can reduce symptoms associated with certain health conditions.
  • Get seniors active and moving. The more seniors are out and about, moving their bodies, and interacting with the world at large, the better their appetites tend to be. Spending more time outdoors is another way to spark the appetite, and you can pack a picnic while you’re at it.
  • Provide company during meals. Studies show that seniors who eat with companions tend to eat more than those who dine alone. So do what you can to ensure your loved one has company for at least one meal per day. If that’s not possible in person, how about during a FaceTime or video chat with you or their grandchildren?

Let HomeAide Home Care Support Your Loved One’s Healthy Diet

If your aging loved one won’t eat then let the licensed home care aides at HomeAide Home Care work our magic. We’ll ensure your loved one has regular access to delicious and healthy snacks and meals while providing companionship, transportation, or light housekeeping duties. We’re here to support aging seniors’ quality of life however we can.

Contact us to schedule your free, in-home assessment and to discuss how our sporadic, part-time, or full-time services can support you.

Here’s What Happens To The Body When We Die

here's what happens to the body when we die

Most people die a slow death. By slow, we mean that there is no sudden heart attack or stroke, nor is there a traumatic accident. Instead, most of us die of a terminal or chronic medical condition or from old age, and the body’s inevitable fade into death. Understanding that death is a longer-term experience and what each stage of the dying process entails helps families and caregivers provide a more attuned and personalized care plan whether the age-in-place at home or in a facility.

When We Die: Months, Weeks, And Days Before

For this post, we’ll describe the most common things your loved one may experience as they get closer to their death date. Many of these may even start one or two years before when they die, but in most cases, families and caregivers notice these signs months and weeks ahead of time.

Again, we want to emphasize that this post describes what happens to the body when we die from natural causes – or slow death. This is not the same as it is for someone who has an acute health episode or fatal accident.

The Months (Or Years) Before

There are two things you’ll notice in a person who is a year – or months – away from death. The first is that they will have less and less interest in the outside world; the other is a decline in their appetite or interest in food.

The movement from outward to inward

In the months and weeks before death, most people go through their own life review and emotional processing – whether they vocalize it or not. This process is an inward experience, so it’s natural that seniors or those declining from diagnosed medical conditions begin to retreat from the outside world. While they may still be interested in family traditions and holidays, or major milestones, they may show declining interest in attending meetings or social groups. 

It’s true that social engagement is essential to senior health and well-being. However, we also want to consider the reasons behind any social “retreat.” If you suspect depression is part of the picture, that’s worth addressing with your loved one and their healthcare providers. However, the retreat may actually be a sign that your loved one is turning inward and participating in a natural retreat from the world at large. 

This may be a perfect opportunity to begin reviewing boxed photos and listening to the stories your loved one has to tell. Children, siblings, and grandchildren may appreciate helping your loved one to officially preserve these memories that, in turn, support their life accounting process.

A waning appetite

This is challenging for those of us who feel very much alive because food is associated with health, well-being, and comfort. However, it is not uncommon for a person’s appetite to wane significantly in the year and months preceding their death. For one, most aren’t expending as much energy as they used to, and their body requires fewer calories.

The other reason appetite wanes, and dramatically so in the weeks and days before death, is that the digestive system slows down. It doesn’t process food like it used to and so instinctually, those who are dying have less appetite and typically only want to eat foods that are easy to digest, like broths, soups, softer foods, smoothies, and hot soothing beverages. Eventually, even the ability to swallow and process liquids fade, at which point we provide moist sponges to wet the mouth without risking choking or digestive upsets.

Work with healthcare providers to determine if lack of appetite is something to be concerned about or whether it’s just a normal part of the death process. If it’s the latter, support your loved one by honoring their food refusals. If they eat to make others happy, they can wind up in extreme discomfort or even experience a medical event that diminishes their quality of life. Offer food but respectfully honor their wishes if they’d rather not eat.

Support loved ones in creating end-of-life plans

If they haven’t done so already, now is the time to gently support your loved one as they begin to make end-of-life plans. This includes things like:

  • Creating an estate plan, will, and/or trust.
  • Enlisting support from a local hospice care agency gives you access to all of the FREE benefits that come along with those services.
  • Asking if there are any last requests regarding people they need to speak with or visit, places they’d like to go, etc. – all of which support the emotional and spiritual “life accounting” process we’ve mentioned above.
  • Verifying their after-death wishes (what to do with the body, funeral/celebration of life plans, etc.)

Our culture is death phobic, and it doesn’t serve the dying well. They need people who can help them look at death head-on so they can speak about it, work with it, and process what they need to process without feeling responsible for others’ feelings. If that is challenging for you, contact home care services providers, spiritual counselors/ministers, or hospice/palliative care professionals who can fill that role.

The Weeks Before Death

In the weeks before death, people spend more time asleep than they are awake. If they aren’t already home- or bedbound, they will be around this time. It’s essential that primary spouse and family caregivers take advantage of respite care if they haven’t already, as caregiving is likely to be an around-the-clock event at this point. 

The goal at this point is to keep your loved one as comfortable as possible. Make sure they:

  • Are being turned regularly to avoid bedsores
  • Are kept clean and in fresh clothes each day
  • Have access to fluids and easy-to-digest foods that appeal to them (if there are any)
  • Have plenty of time to sleep or be alone in between the stream of visitors that tend to arrive during this point in the dying process.
  • Are in soft ambient light.
  • Aren’t in an environment that is overstimulating or too loud (pay attention to their body language and cues).
  • Have the ability to sit in comfortable silence with the ones they love, resisting the urge to fill the silence with talk or activity. 
  • Are supported if they begin speaking in metaphors, saying they see or hear their ancestors/loved ones who’ve passed or seem to see or interact with things you can’t see. Resist the urge to blame it on medication and open yourself to the mystery of the death and dying experience.

Never underestimate the power of “being there,” without any need to do or fix anything. This is one of the best gifts you can give to someone who is dying.

The Last Days And Hours

In the last days and hours before death, the body’s organs and systems begin to shut down. This has several marked effects on the body’s physical appearance and processes. Dying is not painful. 

The only physical discomfort associated with death is the physical discomfort caused by any medical diagnosis leading to death. Use pain medications as a means of monitoring medical condition-related pain. However, the goal here should be to keep your loved one as lucid as possible so they are awake to their own process.

  • They sleep far more than they are awake.
  • Speech or interaction may stop completely as they become non-responsive.
  • Eating and drinking may stop altogether, which is fine (just keep the lips moist using stick sponges in freshwater or a favorite lip balm).
  • Breathing may be erratic, very slow, or very fast. They may not take breaths for a minute or more and then start breathing normally again for a bit. 
  • They may develop a “death rattle,” which is a very congested sound but is completely normal and doesn’t make them uncomfortable.
  • Heart rate may also be erratic, and there is no need to take the pulse or blood pressure at this point.
  • Disorientation is common, and there’s no need to be alarmed. The goal is to ensure they feel safe and as comfortable as possible.
  • Skin color may change to very pale or grey in color as circulation slows down.
  • Extremities may be cooler to the touch.

When they die, all movement and sound stop. There will be no pulse and no more breaths. Their eyes may be open, or they may be partially closed. They will not stay shut as they do in the movies unless they die with their eyes shut. Don’t let that alarm you. You are welcome to gently cover the eyes with a cloth if it’s hard for you to witness. 

Take as much time as you need to sit quietly and be present with the sacred act that has happened. There is no need to rush around or do anything for a while. If there is a hospice nurse or other caregiver present, they can support whatever “needs to happen” so you can have the chance to be present with your loved one.

HomeAide Home Care Offers End-Of-Life Care Support

Is your aging loved one showing signs that the end may be near? HomeAide Home Care offers licensed, experienced respite and home care services to families around the Bay Area. 

Contact us to schedule an in-home assessment, and let us know if you could benefit from extra support, allowing you to focus on more quality time with your loved one who is dying. In addition to providing respite care or companionship, our caregivers also support families with light housekeeping, meal planning and preparations, grocery shopping and errand running, laundry and linen changes, and more.

Understanding An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

understanding an alzheimer's diagnosis

Adults receiving an official Alzheimer’s diagnosis experience a wide range of emotions. Anger, sadness, and grief are certainly in the mix. However, we’ve also heard clients (or their loved ones) experience a surprising sense of relief because the diagnosis is the final answer to all of the signs and symptoms indicating “something was wrong.” 

In many cases, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis explains why a person was experiencing one or more of what healthcare providers and caregivers call the Four A’s of Alzheimer’s.

Four A’s Of Alzheimer’s Diagnosis: Amnesia, Aphasia, Apraxia & Agnosia

Here is a summary of the four A’s of Alzheimer’s (and dementia), all of which can show up at any point along the disease’s progression.

Amnesia (memory loss)

In almost all cases, bouts of regular or worsening amnesia brought you to the physician or neurologist in the first place. Amnesia refers to memory loss, which becomes worse over time. It’s important to note that while some level of memory loss is considered a normal part of the aging process, Alzheimer’s and dementia are not normal or inevitable. Both are neurologic disorders that cause brain cells to shrink and die over time.

Most people with Alzheimer’s struggle with short-term memory loss far more than long-term. This is why they forget to turn off the stove, can’t remember friends’ names, or don’t remember what they did yesterday – but can remember detailed stories from their past.

Aphasia (loss of words)

Aphasia, the inability to recall words, is linked hand in hand with amnesia. In the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals can become lost mid-sentence. It can take them upwards of a minute or more to recall common words or immediate thoughts. This first phase is called expressive aphasia. 

Over time, aphasia increasingly worsens. By the later stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, a person may talk completely nonsensically and will eventually lose the ability to speak altogether. They are also unable to follow or participate in conversations, which is referred to as receptive aphasia.

Apraxia (loss of motor skills)

The culture tends to think of Alzheimer’s as a loss of memory, but the decline progresses to all of the body’s systems and functions. The more brain cells die, the more signs and symptoms emerge, including those affecting the physical body. One of the tell-tale signs of dementia’s progression is when it moves from amnesia and aphasia to a decline in voluntary motor control. 

People with Alzheimer’s often develop a shuffling gait and are more prone to tripping and falling. As time moves on, fine motor skills diminish. By the latest stages, a person is typically char or bed-bound, and most of the body’s movements are involuntary (breathing, digesting, blinking, etc.)

Agnosia (failure of the five senses)

Agnosia is the final stage of Alzheimer’s. At this point, the brain no longer processes or accurately interprets information available to the five senses. By this stage of the game, patients require 24/7 care. People with Agnosia are typically 100% bedbound and are often on hospice to increase comfort care while providing support to the client’s spouse or family caregivers.

What To Do After An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Once the shock of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis wears off, it’s time to have meaningful conversations about long-term care plans. We all have the right to explore and create end-of-life plans that align with our values and preferences. Because the initial stages of Alzheimer’s include the first two A’s – amnesia and aphasia – time is of the essence.

Start conversations around long-term care planning

These conversations aren’t always easy, but getting things down on paper about a person’s preferences and requests provides invaluable peace of mind. A thoughtful long-term care plan allows spouse and family caregivers to be proactive and eliminate stressful or emotionally challenging complications that take place when there isn’t a plan, and everyone is in crisis mode/

Things to think about include:

The financial plan: paying for Alzheimer’s care

If you don’t have a financial planner, now’s the time to schedule a consultation with a fee-based financial expert who can assess your current financial situation and help you plan for the costs of progressive caregiving needs. Our post, The Cost of Senior Care… is a good place to anchor as you and your loved ones create a long-term plan. 

Most people draw from multiple wells of financial and community-based resources, so there is no “one way fits all” answer to questions about how to pay for Alzheimer’s care. A consultation with a financial planner provides a comprehensive look at your options so you can begin preparing for the months and years ahead. 

Also, did you know spouses and immediate family members can get paid for taking care of family members with Alzheimer’s? A meeting is the local social security office can establish whether or not you qualify.

Focus on healthy lifestyle habits after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis

There is absolutely no doubt that healthy nutrition, lifestyle habits, sleep patterns, and early treatment are vital for slowing down the Four As of Alzheimer’s and its progression. Immediately focus on the lifestyle habits that nourish the body and spirit. 

Begin researching senior care resources in your community

The more senior care resources you have at your disposal, the higher quality of life you and your aging loved one can enjoy. We touched on the need to begin planning for long-term care (in-home, assisted living, memory care, etc.) in #1. Within two to three months after receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, begin meeting with home care agencies and assisted living communities to determine which makes the most sense when Alzheimer’s progresses beyond what you can manage on your own.

Even if you feel you aren’t ready for in-home care services (yet), making connections and getting a feel for what’s available makes a big difference when caregiving needs progress. Plus, even in the early stages, spouse and family caregivers should have a professional respite care plan to get the breaks required to support their mental and emotional well-being.

HomeAide Home Care Is Fluent In The Four A’s

As a longtime Bay Area home care agency, HomeAide Home Care specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. We provide everything from respite and part-time care to overnight and live-in care options. We also work to provide attentive caregiving services to clients who live in assisted living or nursing home facilities.

Contact us to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can support you and your loved ones.

Does Your Loved One Have A Will?

does your loved one have a will

Creating a will or estate is one of the most important steps you can take to proactively plan for your future and the future of your heirs and beneficiaries. Unfortunately, “The Will” often ends up as a perpetually unchecked box. When loved ones die without a will, their estate moves through probate. 

If your loved one doesn’t have a will, now’s the time to open the channels of communication to create a will, trust, or complete estate plan that protects their interests and the interests of their heirs and beneficiaries.

Have A Will With These Tips

In addition to being a laborious, costly, confusing, and emotionally intensive process, probate is dictated by the court and follows very stringent guidelines for inheritance succession, with no variation. In other words, if your mom wants a favorite painting to go to her artist nephew, that’s not going to happen because that painting automatically becomes the possession of her surviving spouse or child(ren). 

Read Nolo.com’s article, Avoiding Probate in California, to learn more about why probate should be everyone’s last resort.

Meet with an estate attorney (online appointments work, too!)

Estate plans can be quite complex, but creating a will is very simple. We recommend scheduling a meeting with a local, experienced estate attorney to get started. These appointments are fee-based, and the small investment made now is well worth the peace of mind provided by having a will, trust, or full estate plan in place. We repeatedly hear from clients that they sleep better at night and have more peace of mind once they finally get their will and final affairs in order.

The estate planning attorney will let you know what to prepare ahead of time for the meeting. Unless the estate is extensive, odds are the will or trust can be finalized in three sessions or less. 

Update payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) info on financial accounts

Most financial institutions offer the ability to name Payable on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) beneficiaries. You can do this online and/or complete relevant forms provided by the financial institution. Often referred to as “a poor man’s trust,” POD and TOD instructions offer a simple and streamlined way for remaining funds to go directly to the individuals named by the deceased.

Your loved one can choose one or more individuals, along with specific percentages, in accordance with their wishes. So, let’s say they want a savings account to be split between their two children. In that case, they’d list both children and allot each of them 50%. They may decide you want a specific investment account to be split evenly between two siblings and two grandchildren, in which case they’d name each of them and allow them each 25%. 

Make sure to review and update POD and TOD information annually in case changing life events (marriages, births, divorces, deaths, etc.) alter how assets and finances should be divided.

Don’t forget about advanced medical directives

Leaving a last will and testament is a great help to family members and loved ones because it takes the guessing out of who gets what after a parent or grandparent dies. However, even more, important may be establishing an advanced medical directive.

These forms outline the variety of topics that come up when end-of-life decisions must be made, such as:

  • Who do they want to make decisions if they aren’t able to do so (called a “healthcare proxy?)? It’s critical that you ask prospective proxies ahead of time and make sure they feel comfortable supporting any and all of the decisions outlined in your loved one’s advanced medical directive. 
  • Do they want to be resuscitated? If so, is there a maximum number of times, or is there a scenario in which they want resuscitation to stop?
  • What measures do they want to sustain life? What measures are they averse to? 
  • What do they want to happen to their body after they die? 
  • And so on

You can read more about creating medical directives from our post All You Need to Know About Advanced Directives

Use affordable online will documents

If you’ve opted to create a will without the help of an estate attorney, we recommend using high-quality online estate forms. 

If you can afford to spend a little, we recommend using California Will & Testament documents from Legalzoom, which cost $100 or less. You can also take advantage of free forms offered by the California State Bar or Willforms.org.

Having an objective witness (someone who doesn’t benefit from or have any invested interest in the outcome) sign a DIY will is a wise idea. Examples include a neighbor, a hospice nurse/chaplain/social worker, or a longtime family friend. Their signature supports the will’s intentions if a family member contests the will in court after you die. Video testimony of a loved one reading their written/signed intentions is also a powerful statement, assuming they are of obvious sound mind. 

NOTE: If your parent or grandparent were recently diagnosed with dementia, time is of the essence. If they are still sound enough to make decisions, begin creating the will ASAP to ensure you know what they intended before the progressive disease makes it more difficult for them to make decisions or keep family members and close friends straight.

Have a will to make a list of sentimental items

Are there works of art, collectibles, a particular item of clothing, or heirlooms your loved one wants to go to specific people – perhaps even someone outside of the family? If so, a will is critical because anyone outside of the typical inheritance succession (parents, children, grandchildren) is not taken into account if an estate moves through probate without a will. 

A close second is using a sharpie or masking tape and labeling objects on their underneath or back sides with any relevant details. This might look like, “Great-grandma Jane’s wedding china. C. 1925. Tabitha.” Then the family knows who things should be passed to, and Tabitha receives the china intended for her.

Work With Senior Caregivers Who Take A Comprehensive Approach

Here at HomeAide Home Care, we take a comprehensive approach to caregiving. In addition to providing helpful tips on how to age at home safely and with dignity, we also help clients and their families take action around things like establishing wills, creating long-term health plans, and other processes that are harder to do without expert guidance. Contact us to schedule a free in-home assessment and to learn more about our services.

Bedsores 101

bedsores 101

Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers, are created when continuous pressure in one or more body areas restricts healthy blood flow and tissue function. It’s most common in individuals who spend most of their time in chairs or beds, particularly if they are left in one or two primary positions for most of the day. 

In addition to being painful and requiring wound care, bedsores can cause long-term and irreparable damage. They also leave the individual at risk for infection and illness. If you care for a loved one or client who is bed- or chairbound, Bedsores 101 is an essential guide to protect the wellbeing of the one you care for.

If your loved one lives alone and you notice any bedsore warning signs, it’s time to get them outside support to ensure they can continue aging safely in place.

Bedsore Prevention, Warning Signs, and Treatment

Bedsore prevention and management is a primary topic in the healthcare arena when discussing patient care and risk management. The evolution of bedsores can begin a downward spiral, so bedsore prevention is the first and most critical step. However, for some patients, bedsores may be inevitable, requiring expert attention and care to prevent them from worsening.

STEP ONE: Bedsore Prevention

Bedsores are most common in areas of the body that experience constant pressure from stagnant positions. These are typically the areas on the skin where the bones are closest, without fat or muscle tissue to act as a cushion. We call these areas “bony prominences.” 

As a result, bedsores typically develop on:

  • Buttocks/tailbone
  • Ankles
  • Hips
  • Knees (for those who spend their time on their sides)
  • Knobs of the spine

While continuous pressure is the primary cause of bedsores, there are secondary factors as well. These include poor health, malnutrition, and dehydration. A holistic approach to bedsore prevention is the best way forward. 

Healthy diet

Maintaining a healthy diet is essential for us all and is certainly the first line of defense from developing bedsores. A well-nourished body is better able to heal itself, which can help reduce the risk of bedsores and help them heal faster. Also, don’t forget that hydration is a part of nutrition.

EXCEPTION: There is one exception to this rule: when a person is dying. A decline in appetite is completely normal and should be respected in patients who are in the last months of their life. When a person begins declining food, it’s typically a sign their body cannot process food in a healthy way. If you don’t have a supportive hospice team on board, this is a good time to connect with hospice agencies in your area to learn more about the natural dying process. Watch Babara Karnes’s (hospice R.N. and end-of-life expert), video on how not eating is a normal part of the dying process.

Exercise and regular movement

Just because you spend the majority of the day in a chair or bed doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. If your loved one can move, implement relevant movement into their day. Speak to their healthcare provider about exercises for homebound seniors and see if any work for you. If not, your physician can recommend a physical or occupational therapy session to teach you ways to manipulate limbs in healthy ways to promote healthy circulation.

Regular position changes

Position changes are essential to prevent that continuous, extended pressure that causes bedsores in the first place. You can do this manually, supporting loved ones as they move from side to side or from elevated torso to lying with elevated legs, etc. It’s also wise to invest in pressure mattresses or pads that use airflow or fluid flow to change the bed’s pressure points. If you can’t afford them, speak to the healthcare provider to find free or low-cost resources.

Provide extra (clean) padding in key locations

You can also provide extra padding, using pillows or thin memory foam sections, to cushion areas that are at risk or showing the first stages of bedsores. For example, ensure the shoulders and the areas between the knees are padded and protected for those sleeping or lying on their sides.

STEP TWO: Recognizing The Warning Signs: Stages Of Bedsores

Bedsores do not develop overnight. There are clear warning signs, so paying attention and recognizing when they’re erupting is essential to preventing more severe occurrences. 

IF YOUR LOVED ONE LIVES IN A FACILITY: If your bed- or chairbound loved one lives in a facility and you aren’t able to check in at least once per week, we highly recommend hiring a caregiver to become their companion and wellness checker. The CDC cites that at least 10% of nursing home residents have bedsores. Personal caregivers are the best way to ensure your loved one isn’t overlooked or neglected.

Stage 1: Warm, firm, and/or red skin at key pressure points

Keep a constant and vigilant eye on the areas most likely to develop bedsores. These checks should be done daily. If you are caring for a spouse or family member, consider enlisting the help of a licensed caregiver who can support you with personal tasks, especially those that involve heavy lifting, position changes, incontinence care, and bedsore checks.

During the first stage, irritated tissue at key pressure points becomes red, warm, more firm, or softer to the touch than the surrounding skin. During the first stage, the skin is not broken. Taking action now is key to stopping ulcers from growing worse.

Stage 2: Open sore (broken skin)

During Stage 2, the affected deep tissue is so damaged that it erodes away, causing the exterior skin layers to break open. These wounds need immediate care and are also a red flag that other areas may soon be affected. Let your healthcare provider know ASAP to receive proper instructions for care and treatment.

Stage 3: Full-thickness skin loss and deep wounds

At this point, the breakdown of tissue and fat/muscle tissue is so great that you can see deeper into the ulcer.

Stage 4: Full-thickness skin and tissue loss

At this final stage, the wounds are so deep that connective and bone tissue are also involved. You can see exposed muscles, tendons, ligaments, or bones.

STEP THREE: Wound Care For Bedsores

Again, bedsores that are in stages 2, 3, or 4 should be assessed by a professional healthcare provider. In most cases, treatment involves routine cleaning and dressing of the wounds with simultaneous attention to regular position changes and proper cushioning. 

In some cases, the removal of damaged tissue is required. Your physician can prescribe a wound care team to provide regular support until the bedsores are improved enough that you can continue with wound care management and prevention strategies.

Can We Be Of Service?

HomeAide Home Care provides licensed home care to our client’s homes and senior facilities throughout the Bay Area. Our caregivers are here to provide support as you work to prevent and manage bedsores. Contact us to schedule a free, in-home assessment.

Summertime Mocktail Recipes For Seniors & Caregivers

summertime mocktail recipes for seniors caregivers

Restricted alcohol intake is common for seniors with certain medical conditions, medication prescriptions, or memory loss issues. However, there are plenty of ways to use non-alcoholic drink options to honor the ritual of happy hour or poolside summertime (or any time!) cocktails. In this case, we use “mocktail” recipes, many of which offer nutritional benefits as well as non-alcoholic fun.

7 Mocktail Recipes For Senior Happy Hour

Mocktails like these aren’t just for summer or to honor a celebration. They can be a colorful way to create a daily ritual that provides cheerful, positive energy during the late afternoon lull. 

For example, we forget that seniors often struggle to complete everyday tasks. Instead of successfully making it through a day with a completed to-do list, aging loved ones often feel exhausted and diminished because of all they weren’t able to do. Once you’ve got the right level of support in place, these mocktails can become non-alcoholic drinks for seniors to look forward to, honoring the end of a day well spent.

Tonic and lime (the virgin gin/vodka & tonic)

Gin and tonic or vodka and tonic are one of the most classic of all cocktails. The great news is that the tonic itself adds the bulk of the flavor punch. Feel free to find 0-alcohol gin or vodka at your supermarket, but it’s not necessary.

If your loved one was a G&T lover, look for a food-grade Juniper essential oil. Add 1 to 3 drops to the iced tonic water to get that classic juniper flavor Gin is famous for. You may also buy good ol’ fashioned Agnostura or artisanal bitters to add extra aromatic flair. And of course, a squeeze of fresh lime finishes it off.

Mock gimlet

The gimlet is another favorite cocktail classic. In this recipe from Televeda, you mix two parts tonic water and one part regular sparkling water. Again, this gives the essence of that aromatic gin flavor. You may opt to use a drop or two of the food-grade Juniper essential oils if you have them. Add some freshly squeezed lime juice to taste (gimlets are known to be pretty citrusy, so don’t be shy.

Virgin mojito

Mojitos are a Cuban staple, and there is nothing that tastes more refreshing on a hot summer day. The flavorful combination of simple syrup, sparkling water, and muddled fresh lime and mint means the rum can disappear without anyone missing it. The Mindful Mocktail has a basic Virgin Mojito recipe, along with fun variations – including alternative sweeteners for the simple syrup, like monk fruit or stevia.

Non-alcoholic sangria

Sangria is a colorful party in a pitcher. The delicious fresh-cut fruit packs a powerful vitamin and antioxidant kick, and the right balance of tart and sweet keeps people coming back. It’s also a fun drink to serve at family get-togethers or reunions because Grandkids love them too.

Our favorite recipe so far is This One, from lovebakesgoodcakes.com. Shopping ingredients include:

  • Lemons, oranges, and limes
  • Cranberries
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grape juice
  • Orange juice
  • Lemon juice
  • Your sparkling mineral water OR lemon-lime soda of choice

Once those are mixed together, you have a drink worth toasting to.

Virgin strawberry daiquiris

As this article goes to press, the Bay Area is at the peak of strawberry season. Fresh ripe strawberries are unbeatable, so start there if you are able. Otherwise, frozen strawberries work just fine. Leave it to the mother-daughter duo at Savor The Flavour to come up with The Best Virgin Daiquiri You’ll Ever Taste, which is certainly one of our favorite drinks.

The beauty here is that a little bit of rum flavoring (typically used in baking) makes this the non-alcoholic drink for seniors they’ll ask for again and again.

Virgin mimosa

Mimosas are a brunch classic and are a great way to liven up a weekend morning. Because basic sparkling water or soda water doesn’t have the tang or kick of sparkling wine, we like Simple Joy’s use of a few ounces of  Perrier L’Orange Flavor Slim Can. It adds what’s “missing” from the lack of alcoholic bubbly options.

Mocktail recipes for cocktail shrubs

Shrubs are increasingly popular as a non-alcoholic for seniors and their families. They are tart and sweet, feature fun combinations of seasonal fruits and fresh herbs,  and use a simple syrup made with vinegar. Our in-home senior caregivers make shrubs for clients using real, fermented apple cider, red wine, or balsamic vinegar that have “the mother” in the bottle because they provide a good dose of probiotics, which can help to prevent UTIs and improve digestive and immune system health.

Check out this loveandoliveoil.com article on Fruit & Vinegar Shrubs for a detailed explanation and several fun mocktail recipes and combinations, including Strawberry & Elderflower, Strawberry Balsamic, Raspberry Rose, and Ginger pomegranate. Get creative and make shrub syrups using your favorite combinations of fresh ripe fruits and herbs. Then use the syrup to flavor iced sparkling water. 

Celebrate Happy Hour With A New Senior Caregiver & Companion

Do you think it’s time to add a little sparkle and cheer into your senior loved one’s daily or weekly routine? Connect with HomeAide Home Care, (510) 247-1200, and schedule a free, no-obligation assessment. We prioritize improving quality of life and social engagement while allowing seniors to age safely and independently in their homes or assisted living communities.

Everyday Tasks Pose Challenges For Seniors

everyday tasks pose challenges for seniors

It’s easy to take the completion of everyday tasks for granted. For example, getting up out of bed, making a cup of coffee and breakfast, light housekeeping, running the errands, etc. – and all while being safely mobile all become challenges for seniors. 

As we age, however, these everyday tasks pose challenges. So regardless of whether or not a senior seems perfectly capable and independent, we recommend taking an objective and attuned assessment of how they’re really doing.

7 Everyday Tasks That Become Challenges For Seniors

Don’t assume your mom, dad, or grandparent is “doing just fine!” because they sound great on the phone. It’s a rare senior who lives alone or wants to age in place who doesn’t need some assistance with daily tasks – and the need for support increases with every passing year or the diagnosis of chronic health conditions or memory loss. Seniors frequently tell us they didn’t want to admit they needed help or, most often, they didn’t want to burden their families. 

Your proactive attention and preparation are essential to keeping ahead of the curve. Take an honest look at your aging loved one’s life and see if they could use help with the following daily activities.

Everyday accessibility around the home (age-in-place safely)

Balance, strength, endurance, and mobility depend on overall health and attention to diet and exercise. Even so, age-related weakness, stairways, curbs, or uneven ground make seniors more prone to tripping and falling – a leading cause of senior hospital admissions. 

Proactively creating an accessible household before a near-accident or bonafide injury occurs is a must. You can read our post on how to age in place safely with accessible home designs for details. However, the most critical points are:

  • Declutter
  • Invest in ramps if stairs are required to access the home
  • Install grab bars near toilet and shower areas (towel racks are NOT stable)
  • Relocate main bedroom/bath to downstairs if possible
  • Install an electric rise chair if stairs are a necessity in the home
  • Minimize slip/trip hazards
  • Provide adequate exterior/interior lighting using motion-sensitive sensors
  • Reorganize most-used items, so they’re accessible without the need for a stepladder or bending over

Creating an environment where seniors age in place safely conserves their energy and minimizes injury risk.

General mobility

Is a parent or grandparent looking more unsteady than before? Are they apt to hold onto rails or use the walls to steady themselves? Are they having difficulty getting into or out of chairs without lurching or using chair/couch arms or nearby tables for stability? These are all signs a senior is ready for the right type of mobility aid.

Driving and running errands

When’s the last time you returned from running errands – including grocery shopping – and felt energized and refreshed? Those must-haves are exhausting, and fatigue increases as stamina decrease. Then, the reality is that the ability to drive safely diminishes with age – especially after 75 to 80. 

Diminishing eyesight, hearing, and slower reflexes are partially to blame when it comes to challenges for seniors. Then there are the potential side effects of health issues or medications that make the brain fuzzy. Finally, Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related memory loss make it easier to become confused. The first step is convincing seniors to restrict driving to daylight hours or short, familiar routes. After that, transportation services that include support with driving and running errands are essential.

Healthy meal and snack preparation

The same decreases in energy that make it difficult for seniors to keep up on daily tasks, errands, and grocery shopping make it hard to prepare healthy meals and snacks. As a result, most seniors rely on very simple processed foods that aren’t good for them or go directly opposite to their physician-recommend dietary restrictions. In fact, seniors are at one of the highest risks for malnourishment in our nation, regardless of their socio-demographic.

Noticing that a senior loved one’s cupboards are bare is one of the first signs they need support to remain at home. There are plenty of options to support this cause, including part-time in-home caregivers who do the shopping and create delicious and nutritious snacks that are easy to reheat or tasty eaten cold. Our caregivers also make sure expired or rotting foods are discarded, so everything is fresh.

Keeping the house clean and tidy

Decreased energy and vision loss makes it harder to keep a clean and organized home. Most seniors 70 years or older benefit from professional weekly housecleaning, including laundry and linen changes. If you work with a senior home care agency, weekly cleans are a great place to start – especially if your loved one resists the idea of professional caregiving.

Instead of hiring a professional cleaner, hire a licensed home care agency. Our caregivers can come once or multiple times per week to perform light housekeeping duties. As clients adjust, we can add grocery/errand running or meal prep. These services also provide a barometer for you as they notice other “red flags” indicating that more support is needed.

Getting out of the house for social and physical activity

Getting out of the house is trickier when seniors are chair- or homebound. Every study supports senior social engagement, which is proven to benefit mood and physical health and slow down the decline of memory loss.

Finding a way to get your senior back into their social groove – including attending community events, their regularly scheduled club/organization meetings, hobby groups, etc., is essential for their wellbeing. Start with your local community resources for seniors. If they aren’t the right fit, look into companion services, which provide a regular source of social connection and transportation services to get seniors where they want to go.

Personal care (including medication) can be added to the list of challenges for seniors

Seniors with memory loss, physical discomfort, or lower energy resources begin to let go of personal care and hygiene. They stay in pajamas all day – often the same set for days in a row. They don’t bathe/shower as often, eat at regular meal times, or take a daily walk. As a result, they stagnate, which is often the sign of a rapid downward spiral in terms of their well-being.

Professional senior caregivers ensure your loved one is clean, fresh, and ready to start each day. We provide important medication reminders and ensure their medication dispensers are organized correctly. Just a shift or two a week is a great way to help seniors remain motivated and engaged in the world around them. This also creates an opening to add more services when they see the improvement in their quality of life. And, many seniors report that the increased activity levels and social stimulation help them to sleep better at night – which has a cumulatively positive effect.

Schedule A Free Assessment To Identify Current Challenges For Your Loved One

HomeAide Home Care provides free, no-obligation assessments to identify the current or immediate challenges for seniors throughout the Bay Area. Contact us to schedule a consultation at (510) 247-1200. Our experienced, compassionate, and objective observations help seniors, and their families create long-term care plans to support aging-in-place safely and with a high quality of life.

How Hiring A Caregiving Agency Can Improve A Seniors Life In A Facility

how hiring a caregiving agency can improve a seniors life in a facility

When it comes to hiring a caregiving agency or having a loved one transition into a facility, most people consider it an either-or proposition. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Spouses or family members frequently hire a caregiving agency to improve the quality of life and general wellbeing when their loved ones are in a facility.

Considering Hiring A Caregiving Agency For An Elderly Loved One Living In A Facility?

Regardless of the quality of a facility, there is no way that they can attend to each individual on a personal level the way they advertise. In our experience, most facilities – be they skilled nursing facilities or assisted living communities – do their very best. However, nothing compares with the personalized and attentive care provided by professional home care aides. 

Whether your loved one will be staying in a part-time skilled nursing care facility to recover from a surgery, hospital stay, or extended illness – or your loved one has recently transitioned from living at home to a facility – we recommend hiring a caregiver to ensure the client receives the best care possible.

5 Reasons A Caregiver Benefits A Senior Living In A Facility

Here are five benefits your loved one receives when paired with a caregiver of their own while living in an assisted living facility or residential care situation:

Companionship that’s all about your loved one

Did you know companionship services are the foundation of most caregiver/client relationships? Hiring a caregiver as a companion means your loved one has a person wholly dedicated to keeping them company. Based on your loved one’s interests, our companions spend one-on-one time doing all kinds of things:

  • Reading together
  • Watching shows
  • Playing games/cards
  • Listening to music
  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Taking walks
  • Eating meals
  • Looking at photo albums, family movies, and memorabilia – and listening to the stories that go along with them
  • Going on outings
  • And more

Knowing their companion is coming on specific days can means your loved one has something to look forward to beyond the normal day-to-day activities geared to the median.

Food beyond the institution

One of the biggest complaints we hear from clients living in facilities is the lack of food variety. Even if the food is good, the variation and availability of choice are limited. This can become frustrating. The good news is that our meal preparation and planning services can be used to support your loved one living elsewhere. We can bring them homecooked meals, based on their dietary guidelines. Best of all, they can choose the menu, which means they’ll eat with more enthusiasm.

And, of course, as long as they are physically able our caregivers can also take them to their favorite restaurants or bring meals in from their favorite places. 

Get out and about in the community

If your loved one is able, our caregivers can take them out into the community. As mentioned above, this can be something as simple as enjoying a meal together at a favorite restaurant. However, we can also take them to the park, to a movie, or to attend their regularly scheduled religious services or social engagements. 

If your loved one is bedbound, we can use their computer, tablet, or television to connect them with religious services that are broadcast online. This may seem like a small thing, but you’d be amazed at how much joy our clients get when they are able to remain connected and engaged with their communities, despite the fact they no longer live at home. In many cases, our services and ability to keep seniors connected with their sense of self is the difference between sinking into a depression and finding meaning and purpose in life.

Eliminate the risk of elder abuse

Again, we want to say that most facilities we’ve worked in do their best to care for their residents. However, there is no doubt that the less connected a senior is to his/her family or network, the higher the risk of elder abuse. Predatory employees look for residents who don’t have visitors or whose families largely ignore them. 

Some of the risk factors for elder abuse include:

  • Isolation from friends, family, or a support network;
  • Under-staffing, staff burnout, and stressful working conditions
  • Current and untreated mental illness – especially dementia

If you live out of town or across the country, using a caregiver for assisted living or other residential facilities protects your loved one. Anyone who would consider taking advantage of their vulnerability will give up the cause because they know the senior is being looked out for.

 Hiring a caregiving agency can help keep them physically active and fit

If you’ve visited your loved one recently, odds are you’ve seen lots of sedentary people. While many facilities offer exercise programs, they can’t make their residents take advantage of them. When you combine situations such as depression, lack of activities your loved one is interested in, lethargy from a poor diet (see #2), or general feelings of loneliness, you often see a sedentary lifestyle.

Our caregivers are there to get your loved one out of that rut. Have a bed/chair bound senior? That’s not a problem, our caregivers are happy to lead them and participate in exercises they can do in their rooms or outside in their wheelchair on a beautiful day. If they are physically able, our caregivers can pick them up and take them to their favorite senior yoga or water exercise class, not to mention walks in the park, accessible hikes, or “field trips” to places they love to go. All of this keeps loved ones far more mobile and physically active than they would be otherwise.

HomeAide Home Care Is For Seniors In Facilities

The dedicated staff at HomeAide Home Care provides companionship services both in the home and in a facility. We guarantee your loved one’s quality of life will exponentially improve when you hire us to provide companionship, inspiration, and fun. Contact us to schedule an assessment and learn more about how our services improve the lives of our clients.

What To Do After A Dementia Diagnosis

what to do after a dementia diagnosis

Receiving a dementia diagnosis can feel devastating, but odds are it also provides answers to concerns resulting from the disease’s first warning signs and symptoms. Once you’ve had time to come up for air and process your new future reality, long-term care planning is essential.

First and foremost, it’s important to honor and experience the range of emotions that are common after a diagnosis. These include anger, sadness, rage, deep grief, depression, relief (to finally know what’s wrong), hopelessness, and feelings of loss. It’s a good idea to seek support processing these feelings – for both the one who is diagnosed as well as their spouse, partner, children, etc. This may include spiritual counselors, professional therapists, a local dementia support group, or longtime friends or neighbors who have experience with the disease. 

This is the beginning of a journey for both the diagnosed and their loved ones, so it’s never too early to begin building a support network. Once you’ve had time to process, it’s critical that you begin making informed, long-term care plans. 

After The Diagnosis: Personalizing Long-Term Care Plans

Dementia is a progressive disease, but the speed at which the disease progresses is largely affected by the steps you take right now. Research shows that access to dementia medication as well as lifestyle changes can notably slow down the disease’s progression. Also, creating a tiered, long-term care plan means care is brought in as needed and in response to the client’s (and spouse/family) needs, which improves quality of life. 

Establish a relationship with a neurologist after a dementia diagnosis

Work with your primary care provider and insurance representatives to find a specialist. Booking an appointment with a neurologist specializing in dementia is a powerful first step. S/he’ll be your primary ally as you create a long-term care plan that keeps the disease’s progression in mind. The specialist is also on the frontline of treatments that reflect the latest research-based findings. 

Alz.org offers a list of questions to ask your doctor, and recording the session is a smart idea so you can play it back later when you are more relaxed. These include:

  • What test(s) or tools did you use to determine my diagnosis?
  • What are you measuring with the tests you performed?
  • How will the disease progress?
  • What can I expect in the future?
  • What treatment options are available?
  • Which symptoms are being targeted by each medication?
  • What clinical trials are available?
  • Where can I find published information about clinical treatment studies?
  • What care planning services do you provide?
  • What support services and resources are available to help me live well with the disease, for as long as possible?

Answers to these questions point you in the right direction and will help to guide your long-term care plans.

Start making positive lifestyle changes that support memory care

Perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that diet and lifestyle choices have a significant impact on how dementia progresses. The healthier you are and the more nourished the body is, the slower the disease progresses. 

Start researching things like “eating for dementia” or “foods that prevent memory loss.” Odds are you’ll come across recommendations for a MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH-Intervention-for Neurodegenerative Delay). The Mediterranean diet is respected for its attention to nutrient-rich foods that minimize inflammation. The DASH diet is geared to prevent and manage heart disease. Together, they form a dietary guideline that promotes healthy brain function and eliminates ingredients/toxins known to exacerbate inflammation, which increases dementia symptoms and progression.

Regular exercise is also a key part of dementia care. In addition to boosting moods, getting seniors outside as often as possible, and supporting overall health/weight management, daily exercise also helps to tire the body and mind, making it easier to sleep at night.

Focus on healthy sleep habits

Adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s have a higher risk of insomnia and sleep disorders. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can make the symptoms of dementia even worse. Establishing routine sleep habits that support natural circadian rhythm reduces daytime/evening agitation (sundowner’s syndrome) and supports healthy brain hygiene.

In our post, ...Tips For a Good Night’s Rest, we cover the basics of establishing a regular bedtime routine, including:

  • Going to bed/waking at set times each day
  • Minimizing or eliminating stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine (all of which are recommended to avoid with dementia anyway)
  • Getting adequate daylight during the day and dimming lights at least 30-minutes prior to bed
  • Staying off screens at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime
  • Establishing a relaxing wind-down time using a bath/shower, calming essential oils, relaxing music, reading or being read to, etc.

In the case of seniors with dementia, it’s a good idea to have locks installed above eye level and begin preparing the safety precautions necessary to prevent wandering.

Get estate plans, legal affairs, and medical directives in order

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to get all of your financial and legal affairs in order, which includes establishing your POA(s), preferred healthcare agent (the person in charge of making healthcare decisions when a person is no longer able to do so for themselves), and advanced medical directives. 

Share these plans with your closest family members and friends so that everyone is on the same page and any potential issues or concerns are addressed ahead of time.

Begin planning for memory-specific homecare

A recent comprehensive study from Johns Hopkins Medicine showed that remaining at home…helps adults with dementia stay healthier and happier and live longer. However, that is only true when the individual has access to high-quality, memory-specific care. 

Spouse and family caregivers can only do so much. Eventually, there will come a time when in-home care services are necessary to facilitate daily tasks and general life happenings. The sooner you begin consulting with local licensed home care agencies, the sooner you can begin forming a gradual relationship that evolves in sync with your progressive needs. Enlisting support from in-home caregivers can begin with weekly visits to provide respite care for primary caregivers, run errands or prepare meals, to daily, overnight, and live-in care services as needed over time.

Schedule Home Care Consultations After A Dementia Diagnosis

Ultimately, long-term care planning makes it possible for those with dementia and their loved ones to live longer healthier, and more meaningful lives. 

Did you or a loved one recently receive a dementia diagnosis? Contact HomeAide Home Care. Our caregivers provide at-home memory care for Bay Area clients and their families.