The Benefits Of Aromatherapy On The Elderly

the benefits of aromatherapy on the elderly

Sometimes we get so focused on the nuts-and-bolts of senior care, such as diet and meal support, or ensuring their home is safe and accessible – we forget about the peripheral ways to support elderly family members and clients. Aromatherapy offers multiple benefits for seniors, as well as their caregivers. 

Aromatherapy can be used for relaxation and sleep support, for pain relief or to relieve inflammation, to improve the mood, or to infuse our living spaces with favorite smells. 

Integrate Aromatherapy Into Your Senior Care Plan 

Here are some of the ways to integrate aromatherapy into your senior care plan.  

Start with an aromatherapy diffuser 

Perhaps one of the simplest and easiest ways to use aromatherapy is to diffuse appealing scents into a room. Diffusers are affordable, and our favorites are the ones that utilize a liquid humidifier to distribute the smell. Those are especially beneficial this time of year when the air tends to be drier. Moisture-based diffusers also aid in relieving chest congestion and dry sinus passages, another common ailment for seniors since they are easily dehydrated

Visit mindbodygreen.com’s post, Essential Oil Diffusion: Everything You Need to Know, for more information, and to decide which diffuser style is best for you.  

Mood elevation 

Finally, aromatherapy can support mood elevation, helping to relieve depression and anxiety. The diffuser is an ally hear as well since the continued inhalation of the oils typically has the most strong effect on mood-boosting. Read Medical News Daily’s post on Essential Oils for Depression, which includes evidence from clinical studies.  

Oils to consider to alleviate depression, and elevate the mood, are: 

  • Lavender 
  • Bergamot 
  • Yuzu 
  • Rose otto 
  • Roman chamomile geranium 
  • Sage 
  • Jasmine 
  • Rosemary 

Boost immunity 

Once you connect with a local health food store that carries essential oils or a qualified aromatherapy specialist, you’ll have access to a wealth of information about scents and their specific benefits. 

Essential oils come in various formats and types, used in diffusers, added to smoothies, rubbed onto the skin or ingested in pellet form (never consume an essential oil unless you’ve checked the product with your senior’s healthcare provider) to boost immunity. Diffused versions are making their way into schools, offices, and other public buildings in addition to homes. 

Some of the most common essential oils for immunity-boosting purposes are lavender, lemon, eucalyptus (helpful for stuffy/congestion), rosemary, tea tree, clove, and others. You can also look for immunity boosting-specific blends, such as On GuardThieves Blend, or Immunity

Relieve arthritis pain and inflammation 

There are different grades and types of essential oils, and some of them can be applied topically, mixed with a carrier oil (coconut, almond, olive, etc.), or blended into a salve. When applied topically, they relieve pain and inflammation without the use of harsh or synthetic chemicals. Plus, the scents are often less intrusive, and more appealing than many OTC products. 

Read this Eden Garden article, Should I Diffuse or Topically Apply Essential Oil, to review the difference. Again, it’s worthwhile to check into a local health food store or herbal apothecary when you are first starting out. Essential oils are distilled and very potent, so you only want to apply essential oils that are specifically intended for topical application, or it can lead to itching, a burning sensation, or an undesirable skin reaction

Aiding digestion 

The combination of aging and medication reactions/side-effects can negatively impact digestion. You can mix essential oils such as marjoram, ginger, chamomile, or digestion-specific blends into a carrier oil and gently massage it right onto the abdomen. This provides comfort and can relieve indigestion. 

Stress relief, relaxation, and sleep support 

Another popular benefit of aromatherapy for seniors and their caregivers is stress relief, relaxation, and sleep support. Typically, diffusers are the best ways to administer essential oils for relaxation, to reduce stress or to support sleep because inhaling them provides quick access to the nervous system. 

Some of the essential oils known for their relaxing and sleep-supportive properties are: 

  • Lavender 
  • Valerian 
  • Clary sage 
  • Sweet marjoram 
  • Roman Chamomile 
  • Bergamot 
  • Ylang Ylang 
  • Sleep- or relaxation-specific blends 

When mixed with a carrier oil, these can be gently rubbed and massaged into the feet, hands, shoulders, back, forehead, etc., which provides double the relaxing benefits. 

Improve mental alertness 

While essential oils can reverse dementia or Alzheimer’s, certain oils and their scents boost mental alertness. Some of these include lemon and lemongrass, rosemary, peppermint, basil, and clementine. As with other target-benefits, there are also blends available to promote mental alertness, focus, and concentration.  

Notice that the bulk of the oils associated with mental alertness are found in the garden? Consider adding aromatic herbs and citrus fruits into the garden plan. The leaves or flesh of the fruit can be pressed between the fingers and inhaled right from the garden. 

The good news is that aromatherapy for seniors also benefits their caregivers too, many of whom suffer from similar ailments due to the hard work and energy demands associated with caregiving. 

Call Us For A Free Assessment

Are you interested in working with a senior home care agency that provides the full-spectrum of senior-centered support? Contact the team here at HomeAide Home Care. We provide licensed caregivers and personalized care in homes, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.

Arthritis Diet: What To Eat And What To Avoid

arthritis diet what to eat and what to avoid

Did you know the foods you eat can worsen your arthritis pain and inflammation? Adhering to an arthritis diet – nearly identical to an anti-inflammatory diet – can make a substantial difference in the swelling, stiffness, and pain commonly associated with arthritis. 

Whether you’re a senior, or you’re caregiving for a senior loved one in your life, it’s almost inevitable that arthritis will become a factor in your life at some point. According to USpharmacist.com, “OA is the leading cause of disability in individuals older than 65 years and affects 70% to 90% of those older than 75 years.” 

Knowing that it makes sense that any adults, 50 years and older, begin focusing on foods that reduce arthritis symptoms and flare-ups as a proactive self-care option. 

What Is An Arthritis Diet? 

The good news is that while an arthritis diet includes the dreaded word, “diet,” it is quite expansive and has far more to do with what you should be eating, than what you shouldn’t. Similarly, the foods and beverages known to increase inflammation, which exacerbates arthritis, are also triggers for a range of senior-related health conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.  

When you follow the dietary guidelines outlined by The Arthritis Foundation, you benefit your body in exponential ways. 

In a nutshell 

In a nutshell, the arthritis diet operates on the premise that “following a diet low in processed foods and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans is great for your body.” 

In that way, the diet shares the same principles of the Mediterranean Diet, or the anti-inflammatory diet listed above. And, the great news is that while you may have to cut down on some of those sweet treats, there are plenty of delicious food products that are yours for the eating. 

Foods To Avoid (because they “feed” inflammation) 

The foods to avoid are pretty straightforward. They are the foods or beverages that “feed” inflammation, which leads to increase swelling, redness, stiffness, and joint pain. Chronic inflammation also compromises the immune system. 

The 9 food or beverage items most likely to trigger inflammation are: 

  • Sugar (this includes high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, fructose, sucrose, anything with an –ose suffix). Instead, switch to stevia, agave, or other sweeteners rated lower on the glycemic index
  • Saturated fats 
  • Trans fats 
  • Omega 6 Fatty Acids. While Omega 6s are essential in moderation, they’re toxic in large quantities or when out of balance with their Omega 3 companions. Omega 6s are found in most vegetable oils (so stick with olive oil) as well as mayonnaise and most salad dressings. 
  • White flour products (refined carbohydrates). 
  • MSG 
  • Gluten and casein (found in wheat and other grain products)  
  • Aspartame (the sweetener found in most sugar-free or diet products) 
  • Alcohol. Swapping out your favorite happy hour drink with one of our Mocktail Recipes can help you reduce your alcohol intake. 

While you don’t need to eliminate any of these items completely (unless your physician(s) states otherwise), taking stock and minimizing their intake can provide an immediate reduction in arthritis-related symptoms. 

Foods To Focus On 

Now, let’s move to the positive – the foods that taste great and are known to reduce inflammation (anti-inflammatory).  

Ultimately, it’s about consuming lots and lots of fresh fruits and veggies – preferably those grown locally and in season, so you benefit from maximum nutrients and flavor.  

The 12 best foods for arthritis, are: 

  • Fish. Particularly those high in Omega 3s, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring. 
  • Soy. Also high in Omega 3s, it’s best to use fresh soybeans, edamame or tofu. 
  • Healthy oils. Especially those high in Omega 3s, including extra-virgin olive, avocado, safflower, and walnut oils. 
  • Cherries 
  • Low-fat dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt) 
  • Broccoli 
  • Green tea 
  • Citrus Fruits 
  • Whole grain. As we mentioned above, swap whole grains and whole-wheat flour for processed white flours anywhere you can 
  • Beans 
  • Garlic 
  • Nuts. Lightly salted nuts are a healthier alternative to chips or crackers and they’re good for you, too. 

Visit arthritis.org’s post on these 12 Best Foods for Arthritis for more specifics about the ways these food items interact positively with your body to reduce inflammation. 

Need help with arthritis-specific meal support? 

There’s no denying that eating well, and regularly, is more challenging for seniors. From mobility issues to the energy and work required to shop for – and cook – meals, bare cupboards and an excess of processed snacks is one of the most common signs that seniors need more support to remain independently at home

Feeling Overwhelmed?

HomeAide Home Care provides meal support, grocery shopping and errand running, companionship services and other key home care services that help senior loved ones adhere to an arthritis diet. Contact us to learn more or to schedule a free, in-home assessment. 

Senior Health And Wellbeing Depends On Social Interaction

senior health and wellbeing depends on social interaction

Social spheres shrink rapidly for seniors who don’t remain engaged in the world around them. Living alone, losing the ability to drive, decreased mobility, and inevitable side effects of aging – such as vision and hearing loss – make it more difficult for seniors to remain social.

However, research continues to correlate that senior health, quality of life, and longevity are directly proportional to social interaction and community engagement.

Social seniors are healthier seniors – and they live longer, too!

An article by Harvard.edu titled, Social Engagement and Healthy Aging, begins, “A rich web of human relationships enhances your health and stimulates your mind and memory.”

That’s a succinct way to express the myriad of correlations researchers are learning about senior health and its dependence on social interaction and engagement.

For example, the National Institute on Aging shares that seniors who are more socially connected:

  • Have more positive health biomarkers
  • have lower decreased levels of an inflammatory factor associated with Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, arthritis, and other age-related conditions)
  • Have healthier appetites and report leading happier, more active lifestyles
  • Are less likely to suffer from loneliness, depression, and anxiety
  • Have longer lifespans, with a higher quality of life

The bottom line is that our senior loved ones need to be brought back into the fold, front-and-center, so they can feel loved, needed, wanted, and essential to the “village” as a whole.

Ideas for Keeping Seniors Socially Connected

There is a myriad of ways to keep senior loved ones socially connected and active within and around their communities. The following are just the tip of the iceberg. We also recommend consulting with your local senior center or an experienced senior home care agency to learn more about the opportunities that abound in your area.

Keep them mobile – on foot or by wheels

Mobility is key to seniors feeling independent, which allows them to be active.

There are a few tenets to ensuring seniors can get around independently:

The ability to get where you need to go means the world when it comes to remaining social, particularly when seniors live alone. Dependable transportation means seniors can keep saying, “Yes!,” to the things they’ve always done – church, self-care appointments, meals with friends, community events, etc.

Connect them with local volunteer opportunities

It’s harder to feel needed, productive, and like your life has meaning when you spend most of your time alone in your home. However, community volunteer opportunities are everywhere. Most schools, non-profits, libraries, homeless shelters, pet shelters, etc., are hungry for people who have the time and reliable interest to help out.

Visit our post, Volunteer Opportunities for Seniors are a Win-Win for Everyone, to learn more about how seniors, family members, and/or caregivers can get involved.

Join a senior exercise class for social interaction

Talk about a twofer; joining a senior exercise class, be it yoga, dance class, water aerobics, spinning – or whatever activities they’re drawn to – gets seniors moving and connected with local peers. This often creates opportunities for further socializing via tea or lunch before/after class, invitations to other gatherings or events, or a good conversation and laugh before heading back home.

Involve them in family activities, holidays, and outings

So, your grandma used to be the hostess for the holidays, but now she’s relegated to a corner of the room to visit with others? If this is what she wants to do, fine. However, there may be other roles for the seniors in your life over the course of holidays and family activities – you just need to check-in and see what they’d like to do.

Being a seated sous-chef, prepping the veggies may be a better fit. Maybe you need to have some photos labeled or organized? Could they teach the grandkids a dance from their era? Finally – don’t forget to ask if they’d like to come along to school plays, movies, occasional family meals (or pack food up and bring it to their house) – all of which keep them feeling included and getting more social interaction.

Companion services

Do you live far away from your senior loved ones? Does a busy work and family schedule make it difficult to include your parents or grandparents the way you’d like to? Companion services may be just the thing. In addition to weekly or more frequent visits from a professional caregiver and companion, you gain peace of mind knowing they’ll stay on top of any signs your loved one needs more support. Caregivers also provide transportation, meal support, and help come up with ideas to keep their clients engaged.

We Can Help With Social Interaction

Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care to learn more about optimizing social interaction and community engagement for the beloved senior(s) in your life.

Combatting Depression In The Elderly

combatting depression in the elderly

While it’s true that depression and feelings of loneliness are common in the senior population, there is much we can do to minimize or prevent these feelings. The first step is taking care of primary care needs, ensuring there aren’t physical factors at work such as an undiagnosed medical condition, negative side-effects from medication(s), or that something as simple as dehydration or malnutrition isn’t at work.

Then you can move on to other, proactive ideas to promote positive thoughts and emotions, regular human contact, social interactions, and participation in activities your loved one enjoys.

A Step-By-Step On Combatting Depression

Depression can affect anyone at any age. So, here are 5 steps to take when you think the elderly person in your life has depression.

Step 1: Find a physician who specializes in geriatric medicine

If your senior loved one has a true connection with his/her current physician that’s fine. However, that may not be the case. If the relationship isn’t positive, or feels more like “business as usual,” than true “healthcare” – shop around.

The baby boomer generation’s progression into the golden years has created a more significant number of physicians specializing in geriatric care. Check-in with the insurance carrier, ask friends and family or have a conversation with the local senior center to see if they have any referrals or recommendations. You can also search online.

Then, schedule an appointment for a general physical, to express any concerns you may have, and to run through the patient’s current medical history and prescriptions. See if anything shows up as a potential contributor to your loved one’s depression or anxiety.

Read, Communicating with Your Elderly Parent’s Doctor, for tips and strategies on how to stay in touch and engaged with your parent’s healthcare provider(s).

Step 2: Ensure basic needs are met

If you aren’t physically able to visit an aging parent or grandparent, they may be “shining you on” when you speak to them on the phone. If you live far away, we highly recommend scheduling a visit or having someone you know in the area perform a “wellness check.” Read, 7 Signs Your Senior Loved One Needs Help, to learn more about the “red flags” indicating support needs to be brought in.

You may determine it’s time to enlist the help of a licensed caregiving agency to send someone in once or more a week to check-in, offer companionship, run errands or for grocery and meal planning services. Ultimately, these services are tailored to the senior’s needs, and services can be augmented or shifted as time goes on.

Step 3: Honor their sadness and grief

We want to be clear that combatting depression or feelings of sadness doesn’t mean “just hoping they’ll go away.” Seniors are processing decades of life grief, trauma, and loss. The loss of a spouse and members their close friend groups or peers creates more loss and grief. It’s important for them to find ways to express those feelings – whether that is with you, a support group, a caregiver, a therapist, or all-of-the-above.

Studies show that reminiscence therapy alleviates depression and angst in seniors with dementia, and it’s just as helpful for seniors without it.

Step 4: Keep seniors active and engaged in their community

When you consider the list of things that happen when we age (vision/hearing loss, mobility loss, inability to do the things we love without help, etc.), it’s no wonder seniors get depressed. The key is to ensure that they remain active and engaged, doing the things they love to the best of their ability.

Do all you can to ensure your senior has access to:

Step 5: Help them feel wanted, needed and productive

Seniors living alone often feel as if their life has little to no value, and that’s a depressing thought for anyone. There are plenty of ways to combat that mentality, and it involves some action on your part or that of a caregiver. First, try to involve seniors in your household’s seasonal rhythm and activities so they are more than just a guest. Second, all that extra time on their hands can be put to good use in the community via volunteer hours. Read, Volunteer Opportunities for Seniors are a Win-Win for Everyone, for tips on how to get your senior involved.

Combatting Depression Is Something We Can Help With

Does it feel like companionship or professional caregiver support would help to combat depression for your senior loved one? Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care to schedule an in-home assessment and consultation. These meetings are always free, no-strings-attached, and are a valuable way to learn more about how to create longterm care plans for seniors desiring to age-in-place as independently – and contentedly – as possible.

How COPD Affects Aging And What Caregivers Can Do

how copd affects aging and what caregivers can do

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects roughly 11 million people in the United States and is now the third-leading cause of death by disease in this country. In a recent AJMC post (March, 2019), researchers stated, “It could be strongly argued that, due to the production of constant stresses that induce cell damage and eventual senescence, COPD might be directly responsible for accelerating aging, with all in untoward effects, rather than being a consequence of aging.”

This is important information for both patients with COPD and their caregivers to know, allowing care for those with COPD to follow a trajectory that is more closely in alignment with someone older than themselves, in order to provide the best quality of healthcare – and improved quality of life.

In addition to following medical recommendations for respiratory therapy, medication support, routine checkups, and various treatments, attention to diet, exercise, sleep habits, and social-emotional wellbeing can help combat the accelerated aging process associated with COPD.

A Shift From Hospital Care to Homecare Seems Inevitable for Those with COPD

In another study, targeting how to support home care for those with COPD, authors write:

Healthcare systems should support patients with COPD in achieving an optimal quality of life while limiting the costs of care. As a consequence, a shift from hospital care to home care seems inevitable. Therefore, patients will have to rely to a greater extent on informal caregivers. Patients with COPD as well as their informal caregivers are confronted with multiple limitations in activities of daily living. The presence of an informal caregiver is important to provide practical help and emotional support. However, caregivers can be overprotective, which can make patients more dependent. Informal caregiving may lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression, social isolation and a changed relationship with the patient. The caregivers’ subjective burden is a major determinant of the impact of caregiving. Therefore, the caregiver’s perception of the patient’s health is an important factor.

In most cases, informal caregivers (spouse, partner, child, grandchild) are the primary supports for those with COPD, and this dynamic relationship requires a thoughtful and diligent long-term health plan to optimize health and quality of life for the patient, while simultaneously supporting and facilitating strong, healthy relationships between patient and caregiver(s).

Improving Quality of Life and Health

Of course, the primary tenet in caring for someone with COPD is to ensure s/he observes:

  • Routine doctors’ appointments
  • Occupational or physical therapy appointments (including respiratory clinics and exercise classes offered by your local healthcare agencies to support respiratory health)
  • Taking prescription medications as prescribed

However, there are plenty of things you can do at home to promote better physiologic wellbeing, which directly translates to better mental and emotional wellbeing

Focus on an anti-inflammatory diet

Systemic inflammation is a byproduct of COPD, the result of respiratory tract agitation as well as declined respiratory function. Susceptibility to respiratory illnesses takes its toll on the immune system, which can further activate chronic inflammation.

Multiple studies have shown a correlation between specific diets and improved lung function in those with COPD. Diets that seem to have the best impact on preventing COPD, or improving lung/respiratory after a COPD diagnosis are those that emphasize:

  • Lean proteins
  • Lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Potassium-rich foods
  • Healthy fats
  • Minimal intake or elimination of processed foods and sugars

Researchers found anti-inflammatory diet models have multi-fold benefits for those with COPD and their caregivers.

Prevent dehydration (and focus on water)

Dehydration thickens mucus, which taxes the respiratory system. The Lung Institute states, “…drinking enough water can thin mucus and make mucus easier to clear out from the lungs.”By making water the hydration beverage of choice, those with COPD help to wash excess or thickened mucous through the system, rather than having to cough it up and get it out. And, it thins the mucus produced in the lungs and sinuses, making it easier to drain.

Read, Encourage Fluids to Keep Hydrated, for more information.

Keep moving – even if you’re house- or chair-bound

It’s hard to be motivated to exercise when shortness of breath or coughing are attached to physical exertion. Homebound patients with COPD can find ways to keep moving, even when more standard modes of exercise are no longer possible. Visit, Exercises For Homebound Seniors, for ideas on how less mobile seniors can safely exercise.

Provide independent access to activities, outings and social engagement

If COPD forces your spouse, parent or family member into early retirement, or requires a retirement from formerly-favorite activities, do all you can to support independence on your end. From creating more accessible living spaces that optimize safe mobility to setting up driving services or transportation options so your loved one can get around – the more engaged and active the person is in their own right, the better mental and emotional outlook they’ll have.

Respite Care is Key For Spouse and Family Caregivers

Finally, it’s essential that you create a respite care plan so your relationship as a caregiver doesn’t negatively impact your personal relationship. Get friends and family involved as much as possible. Don’t forget that respite care is also available from professional home care agencies, allowing you a day or two off per week – or a few hours off each day – so everyone gets the much-needed breaks they deserve.

HomeAide Home Care, Inc. is a licensed and experienced home care provider here in Alameda and the greater Bay Area. We have decades of experience supporting a positive and sustainable homecare plan for clients with COPD and their families. Contact Us to learn more.

Reducing Anger In Those With Dementia

reducing anger in those with dementia

Reducing anger can quickly become the number one issue for caregivers because while some individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia remain content and amiable for the rest of their lives, others can seem as if they’ve experienced a personality transplant. After short-term memory loss, excessive anger, frustration, and even violence may be some of the most notable signs or symptoms of dementia. And, emotional outbursts may exacerbate over time. This is heartbreaking for spouses, family members and loved ones, as well as their immediate caregivers.

5 Tips For Reducing Anger & Aggression In Those With Dementia

Reducing anger and aggressive episode in those with dementia improves quality of life for the patient, as well as those who love them and are involved in their care plan. In cases where anger results in more serious aggression or violence, it is essential for the safety and wellbeing of all involved that you find a way to provide safe, 24-hour care.

Try to identify the root cause

Sometimes, it’s not dementia that causes the anger, but the inability to verbalize other triggers or factors. Knowing some of the most common triggers can help identify them – or avoid them –reducing anger as well as the frequency and intensity of angry episodes.

Some of the most common triggers leading to an angry outburst include:

  • Hunger or thirst
  • Lack of sleep or poor sleep habits
  • Physical pain or discomfort
  • Not taking medication as prescribed (or suffering from medication side-effects)
  • Sensory overload (is the environment too loud, chaotic, confusing, too bright, etc.)
  • It is their “worst time of day,” (perhaps they need soothing/coping mechanisms)
  • Confusion (maybe you’re speaking too fast or instructions/sentences aren’t making sense)
  • Heightened emotional states in others (those with Alzheimer’s and dementia can have heightened sensitivity to the emotions of those around them)

Identifying and addressing these issues can go a long way towards soothing your loved one.

Remain as calm and compassionate as possible

Not easy to do, this tip is one of the most important. Your calm, slow and reassuring voice, gestures and actions (moving them to a quieter space, turning down loud volume controls, dimming the lights, etc.) de-escalate the situation. If you are unable to do this, take some deep slow breaths, or a time out (assuming the patient is safe/secure where s/she’s at), and see if someone else can relieve you for a bit.

Re-think your relationship

Often, caregivers do a great job of soothing – or not triggering – their clients. This is because they meet the individual where they are, and form a relationship accordingly. This is quite different from the experience of a spouse, child, grandchild, etc. In your case, you knew your loved one as they were, and the person you knew may no longer be actively present as often (or ever).

One of the best things you can do for yourself and a loved one with your loved one is to meet him/her where s/he’s at at the moment. This frees them from the stress of “do you remember…” or your own hurt/anger if you aren’t recognized – even as that may vacillate from one day to the next.

Read our post, Connecting With and Caring For a Loved One With Dementia for heartfelt recommendations on how to create new pathways of acceptance and connection.

Seek support when reducing anger is a necessity

For some, this may involve the help of a professional therapist who can listen to you vent in a neutral space, and who can provide tailored recommendations to “arm your toolkit,” as you learn how to manage both the one who is venting their anger, along with your own complex web of emotions – including stress, frustration, anger, and even grief.

We also recommend joining an Alzheimer’s/dementia support group. In addition to commiserating (as well as laughing, crying and celebrating) with those who can personally identify with your experience, these groups offer invaluable advice and recommendations.

Prioritize Safety

It’s easy to prioritize your loved one’s wellbeing and ability to remain at home at the expense of everyone’s safety. However, this doesn’t do anyone any favors. Safety for the one you love or care for – as well as your own safety – must always come first.

Have a list at the ready of “first-responders,” who are willing to come at a moment’s notice if needed. If physical safety is at risk, call 9-1-1, and let the dispatcher(s) know that the individual has dementia and is acting aggressively. They will alert the professional first-responders, who are trained in how to de-escalate these situations with the least amount of threat or harm.

We Can Help You With Reducing Anger

Are you having a hard time managing the care required for your loved one with dementia as a result of his/her anger, aggression or violence? Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care online, or give us a call at 510-247-1200. We have decades of experience providing compassionate care for memory care patients.

Reminiscence Therapy And Dementia

reminiscence therapy and dementia

There are no words to describe the grief, the worry, the frustration and – yes – even anger as loved ones seem to fade away into the land of dementia. The increasing success of reminiscence therapy, however, may help to ease the way as you navigate smoother ground for more connected relationships with your spouse, parents, grandparents and other senior loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Finding them good care to ensure their day-to-day needs are taken care of helps to alleviate much of the worry, but it’s nearly impossible for loved ones to avoid feelings of loss and sadness as dementia takes a stronger hold. Fortunately, reminiscence therapy introduces a way to keep their personal spark alive.

We also recommend reading, Connecting With and Caring For Those With Dementia, for more tips on how to emotionally connect with individuals in the mid- to later stages of the disease.

Keeping the past alive helps loved ones in the present

It becomes clear very quickly that as dementia and dementia-related diseases (Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body dementia, advanced Parkinson’s, a stroke or repeat TIAs, etc.) that the present and recent past fade away – while past memories and recollections can remain quite strongly anchored in the mind.

This is the foundation that reminiscence therapy is built upon; encouraging seniors to look at photographs, tells stories, listen to music, watch movies from their past and spark recollections from their history supports cognitive and emotional well-being in the present.

What is Reminiscence Therapy (RT)

Reminiscence therapy (RT) is often used in memory care centers or in group home settings specializing in memory care. In a therapy setting, this type of work usually takes place in chronological order, helping a senior with dementia piece together their life from the start to the present – using sensory stimulating cues. Activities, such as special movie nights or dances with period music may be utilized. Often, visual and/or textile arts and crafts, recorded narratives or voice-to-text apps can be implemented to document a senior’s history and create some type of “Life Book” or a memoir of sorts.

However, varying versions of RT can also take place right at home, used individually with the ones you love, or in family settings. In fact, family settings are some of the best mediums for this type of activity because it helps those with dementia remain part of the event in a more positive and connected way – making them feel important, needed and loved.

Typically, RT starts with a physical, visual or sensory-specific stimulus, such as photographs (pull out those old albums!), a verbal prompt (What’s one of your favorite stories from your childhood?) or even a piece of music (invest in CDs or MP3 files of their favorite music). Perhaps it involves a stroll through your own garden, or a local botanical garden, smelling the roses and enjoying the scenery – seeing if it sparks memories of past events or situations.

Ultimately, the idea is to use small prompts that engage the historical memory archives of the mind, helping the individual with dementia feel more confident and secure. However, there are multiple benefits to making RT a part of your life with your loved one.

There Are Numerous Benefits of RT

In addition to feeling more confident in themselves, and connected to the ones they love, RT can also:

  • Improve their ability to communicate
  • Help to slow down or improve signs of aphasia, giving seniors their voice back
  • Stimulate brain pathways, stirring up more memories that may not have been shared otherwise
  • Give seniors the time and space to talk about things that are meaningful to them
  • Alleviate symptoms of depression, loneliness and/or social withdrawal
  • Make spending time with loved ones more comfortable and pleasurable for everyone present
  • Preserve priceless and unique stories and memories for future generations

While reminiscence therapy may be designed largely for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, you can feel how beneficial these same strategies are for cultivating deeper and more satisfying connections with any of the seniors in your life.

Simple Prompts to Begin Using Reminiscence Therapy at Home

Here are ideas for using simple prompts or sensory stimulation to use elements of RT at home or when you visit your loved one in an assisted living or memory care center.

BONUS TIP: Be aware of your own discomfort with silence. Do you tend to feel anxious or nervous and rush your loved one along? Instead, take deep breaths and give him/her time to recollect, put their thoughts together and then give words to those thoughts. Patience is, truly, a virtue when connecting with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

  • Get out the photo albums or boxes of old photos and start looking through them together
  • Ask about a favorite movie and then stream/watch them together and then discuss them
  • Talk about the cost of items now compared to “then,” “I bought a gallon of mild today for $X.00. How much was milk when you were growing up…?” and you’ll be delighted to hear stories of fresh cold milk from the milkman…and other surprising tidbits.
  • Find a knick-knack or two from the shelves and ask about it (the longer you’ve seen it around their home, the more likely they are to remember where it came from)
  • Ask, “Where were you when….” (Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? When Kennedy gave his Cuban Missile Crisis speech? When you got your first TV? When Kennedy was assassinated? When you learned to drive a car? When you had your first kiss?)
  • Ask about past travels or places s/he wishes s/he’d traveled

Verbal memory prompts can also be helpful when you live far away from your senior loved one and can only connect via phone or Skype. In these cases, licensed home care aides help you by providing knick-knacks or images to support your long-distance connection.

Ready to enlist the support of experienced, licensed and compassionate caregivers who believe firmly in utilizing the latest dementia research to enhance their clients’ quality of life? Schedule a consultation with HomeAide Home Care, or give us a call at 510-247-1200.

Guns And Dementia: Keeping Seniors Safe

guns and dementia keeping seniors safe

Typically, senior safety concerns around dementia include things like taking away the keys, making a home safer and more accessible and ensuring qualified adults are keeping a caring watch 24/7.

However, a recent NPR feature reminds us there’s another safety issue to consider – guns and dementia.

Does your senior loved one own a gun?

According to NPR, researchers estimate that more than half of seniors 65-years and older either own a gun, or live in a home with a gun. Over the next 20 years, the Alzheimer’s Association expects about 14 million of those seniors to have a dementia diagnosis.

Those with dementia are more prone to firing a gun because:

  • They become angry, violent or more agitated quickly
  • They can mistake loved ones as strangers and “defend” the house
  • They may not really be aware of what they’re doing an accidentally fire a gun they’re cleaning, holding or trying to handle responsibly
  • They may use a gun as a toy and accidentally fire it

Guns and dementia safety tips

It’s critical that families and caregivers prioritize gun safety and the safety of everyone involved.

Consider removing guns completely

The best and most guaranteed method for preventing gun violence is to remove the guns from the home completely. Have a conversation with the family first. If it feels like your senior loved one will notice the absence of the gun/s and be upset, then you’ll need to have a conversation with him/her as well.

If the family supports removing the gun, or a trusted authority feels clear it’s a safety issue, but your loved one is completely opposed, you may need to remove the firearms against his/her will. Experts recommend this is done when s/he is out of the home to make it as easy and safe as possible.

Understand that locking or disabling a gun(s) may not work

According to the Alzheimer’s Association:

“People living with dementia sometimes misperceive danger and may do whatever seems necessary to protect themselves, even if no threat exists. These actions can include breaking into gun cabinets, finding ammunition and loading guns. Preventing a gun from firing may not prevent the person living with the disease or others from being harmed.”

You must take notable safety measures if you choose to live in a home where there are guns and dementia, Alzheimer’s or other conditions causing cognitive decline.

Use a high-quality combination lock on cabinet or safe

If getting rid of the guns isn’t an option, use a gun cabinet or safe that requires a combination lock. If one is already in use, change the combination and only give it to those who understand the risk, are familiar with guns and gun safety and who promise they will not ever allow the individual with dementia to access the cabinet or the guns.

Speak about who inherits what now – and pass them on

If the guns weren’t included specifically in a will or trust, this can be a good opportunity to determine who will inherit what from the gun/firearms collection and pass them on now. If your loved one is still doing well, this can be a very special way to honor the collection and those who receive it, and it can make the transition easier on your loved one.

Enlist the help of law enforcement

If your loved one was the gun expert, and nobody else is familiar with guns and gun safety, enlist the help of local safety officers to unload the cabinet, ensure the guns aren’t loaded, to lock/disarm them, dispose of ammunition, etc., so nobody is harmed in the process.

Familiarize yourself with local/state gun laws

If nobody wants the guns, enlist help from a hunting friend or someone knowledgeable about guns and firearms before selling or giving them away to ensure you do so in compliance with the law.

Honor their feelings about having to say goodbye

For someone who values their guns and the role they’ve played in the person’s life, getting rid of them is another major loss of self and independence. These are valid feelings and they deserve to be honored and spoken to. It’s important to address this understandable anger or grief, and then work to re-direct the feelings in a positive and productive way because ultimately guns and dementia don’t mix.

HomeAide Home Care has provided licensed and expert care for seniors since 1998. In the past two decades, we have provided compassionate assistance to individuals, couples and families around the Bay Area. Our companion and in-home services can help keep your senior loved one safe and sound in the comfort of his/her home. Contact us to learn more.

Pets For Seniors: How About A Low-Maintenance Fish?

pets for seniors how about a low maintenance fish

Multiple studies show that seniors benefit from pet ownership. However, owning a pet isn’t always that easy – and it can even be dangerous.

The most common pets for seniors – dogs and cats – require daily brushing and feeding, not to mention regular exercise, and senior pet owners may not be able to accommodate those needs. Plus, dogs and cats also pose trip and fall hazards for their senior owners, meaning the pet winds up doing more home than good.

The solution? Consider getting a pet fish!

Fish that can live in a bowl or very small tank

There are a range of fish that do quite well living in a fish bowl or very small tank. These include:

  • Bettas. Bettas (also called Japanese fighting fish) are beautiful, small and have flowing tails. They’re available in variety of colors but remember to keep them solo as they will fight their bowl companion to the death. Bettas are very clean so water changes and bowl cleaning is required less often.
  • Goldfish. These are America’s most common pet fish – and fancy tailed goldfish are the most attractive variety. They can live in groups but you want to make sure the bowl is large enough for the number of fish you’ve purchased. Be aware that goldfish are messy eaters and their water gets cloudy quickly so these aren’t a great option unless the senior, a family member or a caregiver clean the bowl regularly.
  • Guppies. Wild-type guppies are about as hearty as it gets – being known to thrive in minimal amounts of water (although a full bowl is optimal). They come in diverse color varieties – including metallic colors – and are happiest with company. Just make sure you purchase the same sex or else you’ll have guppy babies before too long.

Other fish that do well in bowls or small aquariums include:

  • Regal white cloud minnows
  • Blind cave tetras
  • Salt and Pepper Corydoras
  • Zebra danios

Taking your senior loved one to the pet store is a fun outing, and you’ll enjoy looking at the array of freshwater fish available – as well as the store employees’ professional opinions and input.

Fish are low-maintenance pets for seniors

Often overlooked, and undervalued, fish make wonderful pets. The average, bowl- or tank-housed fish never needs to be exercised and only requires feeding once a day (in most cases). They often come right up to the bowl or tank sides when an owner approaches or talks to them (more on that later) and fish are less likely to argue or disobey their owners than most furry critters.

Here are some of the reason why low-maintenance fish make great pets for seniors:

They’re affordable pets for seniors

The total set-up costs for a bowl or very small tank, some rocks, the food and a fish or two is less than $50. A single container of fish food lasts for months, and the rocks and bowl never need to be replaced. Thus, fish are the cheapest pets around, making them affordable for seniors no matter how small their fixed income may be.

Fish don’t trip you or cause you to fall

Fall-related accidents are devastating for seniors – often leading to broken bones, hip replacements, costly hospital stays and traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, dogs and cats (particularly small dogs) pose a significant tripping risks because they can get underfoot and cause seniors to lose their balance.

If you’re concerned about fall hazards and are working to create a senior-friendly home, pet fish are the perfect pets for seniors and will fit right into your plan.

Feeding requirements are basic (even for those with dementia)

Even seniors with memory issues can enjoy the company of a fish because most pet stores have “vacation feeding” options available. If the senior isn’t able to feed the fish once a day on their own – and there’s no in-home care provider available – vacation feeding tablets can be placed in the tank once a week, bi-monthly or once per month.

Fish are smarter than they get credit for

Odds are your senior loved one will be surprised how much pleasure s/he derives from the new pet fish. Fish are smarter than humans give them credit for. As this article on PetMD points out, “…fish actually have very good memories. Even the most basic fish tank inhabitants will start to show anticipation of meals on a regular basis.” Studies also show that pet fish can learn to complete mazes for food and can be trained to respond to a bell or a signal.

Other animals that can live in a small bowl or tank include certain species of freshwater snails, shrimp and African dwarf frogs.

Does your senior loved one need assistance with pet care or basic daily activities? Contact HomeAide Home Care and schedule a free, in-home assessment. We’ve provided high-quality, part- and full-time senior care services for hundreds of families around the Bay Area.

Medication Reminders Are Lifesavers For Seniors With Dementia

medication reminders are lifesavers for seniors with dementia

Worrying about a loved one with dementia often revolves around some of the bigger picture items; are they safe to live at home alone? Should they be driving? Are they eating, bathing and sleeping well? However, medications are one of the first things to fall by the wayside when seniors begin experiencing memory loss.

Even very competent seniors struggle to remember what to take when/if there are more than two or three medications needed per day, so you can imagine what it’s like for a senior required to take all that or more in the wake of a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Medication Reminders For Seniors With Dementia

Here are some creative ways to ensure seniors take their medications as prescribed each and every day.

Set up clear lines of communication with their doctor

Unless you live close by, it isn’t easy to assess how well your loved ones are managing daily life or how much help they may actually need (Read, 7 Signs Your Loved One Requires Additional Help). That’s why it’s so important to develop a rapport with their primary caregiver and specialists (if possible) before their memory loss progresses. Online healthcare portals and messaging make this easy – even from a distance.

Being in touch with the doctor will give you a better idea of which level of medication reminder is required from one month to the next.

Provide visual cues and reminders

In the beginning, seniors with dementia may be highly-functional with a little extra support. Organize pills in trays, cups, mediset or whatever makes sense and then leave notes in obvious places or set alarms on their smartphone or gadgets.

This method isn’t permanent, but it will work in the beginning stages of memory loss as you and other family members work with them to provide a long-term care plan. You’ll also need to enlist someone else to check in regularly and make sure the system is working – whether that be a trusted neighbor, friend or weekly home care aide.

Set up a phone tree (Skype and Facetime are helpful too)

When you’re afraid that visual cues and reminders may not be enough, set up a phone tree. Each day, a different member of the family can check in and chat on the phone while the senior takes his/her meds. Spread out over the web of caring family and friends – people may find they’re only “on call” a few days each month. Using Skype, Facetime or other video call software can be better than the phone since you can see that they’re taking their right meds. Plus, they make for more personal connections and allow you to gain more visual cues about how the senior is going in terms of physical and mental well-being.

Eliminate unnecessary medications and/or supplements

This is a good time to schedule an appointment with your loved one’s primary physician and review all the meds and supplements taken each day. With progressive memory loss on the horizon, the doctor may feel comfortable eliminating some or decreasing doses for others to make it easier for the senior to take fewer pills, only once or twice a day.

Meal services or homecare-based meal preparation, focusing on nutritious ingredients, diminishes the need for nutritional supplements.

Use a physical wall calendar

Short-term memory is tricky so seniors may have a hard time remembering if they took their pills in the morning or only in the evening. Create a calendar system located right where the medications are stored/sorted and have seniors check off the calendar with a pen as they take their meds (divide days in half if there are two separate doses). This makes it easier for seniors to keep track of whether they took a particular dose or not.

Enlist the help of a home care provider

Homecare providers specialize in medication reminders. Having a licensed caregiver check in each day yields multiple benefits. While medication reminders may be the initial need, establishing a caring and trusting relationship between two or three aides means it’s easier to augment your loved one’s memory care as needed down the road when housekeeping, driving, and errand running, meal preparation, basic grooming, and hygiene needs, need to be addressed.

Are you worried your loved one isn’t taking his or her medications as needed? Schedule a free, in-home assessment with the experienced homecare team at HomeAide Home Care. We have decades of experience taking care of senior loved ones in and around the Bay Area. In addition to providing medication reminders and regular wellness checks, we can also help you establish a long-term care plan.