Stroke And TIA: What’s The Difference

Strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are similar in that they deprive blood flow to the brain, causing temporary or permanent side effects depending on the situation. 

Because stroke and TIA risks increase significantly every year after 55, your risk of stroke doubles every ten years. Seniors and their caregivers should know the difference between the two as well as what to do if a loved one experiences a stroke or TIA in their presence.

Difference Between A Stroke And TIA

Strokes are divided into three different categories:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack

All strokes involve the blocking of blood flow to the brain, but the severity of a stroke or TIA depends on multiple factors. Because different areas of the brain control different processes, the side effects of a stroke are tied to which part of the brain is affected by the bleeding.

Hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes can be fatal and can have long-lasting effects – including:

  • Slurred speech or the inability to speak at all
  • Slower or uncoordinated movement
  • Partial or total paralysis (usually on one side of the body)
  • Amnesia (lack of memory)
  • And so on.

TIAs are different in that the effects at the time – and shortly after that – are like a stroke. However, the blockage clears up on its own and relatively quickly. Therefore, TIAs are not fatal and the side effects are usually only temporary. That said, repeat TIAs have a cumulative effect and adults who experience TIAs are at higher risk for having a more serious stroke.

Hemorrhagic stroke

When someone suffers a hemorrhagic stroke, there is a bleed in our around the brain. The hemorrhage can be small or large. When a blood vessel is hemorrhaging, the blood supply is cut off, damaging brain cells. Hemorrhagic strokes are the least common type of stroke, comprising about 13% of all strokes in the United States.

While hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes have the same symptoms (more on that below), even the most astute physicians can’t tell which type of stroke a person has without brain imaging. If the stroke is hemorrhagic, it’s treated using medications that control blood pressure and reduce swelling in the brain. Some brain bleeds are treated using surgical procedures.

Ischemic stroke

About 87% of all strokes are ischemic and involve a blood clot somewhere in the brain’s vascular system. The clot restricts and blocks blood flow, which compromises the body in the same ways as a hemorrhagic stroke. However, treatment is quite different.

In the case of an ischemic stroke, the goal is to thin the blood to break up the clot and restore blood flow to the brain. This is done with an IV medication medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). The sooner this or other anti-clotting medicines are given after initial symptoms, the better the potential outcome.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

TIAs are commonly referred to as “mini-strokes” because they operate in the same way as an ischemic stroke, but they clear up on their own. Sometimes they’re not even noticed, other times they present like a stroke, but symptoms fade once the temporary blockage clears. 

A single TIA is not fatal. However, having a TIA elevates your risk of having a stroke as well as another TIA. Repeat TIAs can create a cumulative effect and may cause more permanent damage than a single TIA, depending on how frequently and for how long they occur. This is why the American Stroke Association calls TIA a “major warning call.”

After a TIA episode, doctors typically prescribe medications knowns as anticoagulants (blood thinners) to minimize the risk of future TIAs or strokes. 

Also, anyone who has a TIA should look at making significant lifestyle changes to support healthy lifestyle changes since most of the risk factors are rooted in things like high blood pressure, type two diabetes, and heart disease.

The symptoms of a stroke and TIA and stroke are rooted in the disruption of blood flow to the brain.

Recognizing Stroke Symptoms Saves Quality Of Life

The better able you are to recognize the symptoms of a TIA or a stroke, the less severe the effects will be. Strokes can be fatal, but more often, they are debilitating and forever alter a stroke patient’s quality of life. And as you can imagine, the spouse and family caregivers of anyone affected by a stroke also experience a lifestyle change. 

Recognizing the signs of a stroke and immediately calling 911 is essential to restoring blood flow and minimizing long-term effects. 

Signs or symptoms of a TIA or stroke

The most common signs that a person is having a TIA or stroke are:

  • Weakness, numbness, or paralysis on one side of your body
  • Slurred speech or difficulty understanding others
  • Blindness in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache with no apparent cause

With a TIA, these symptoms may only last a few minutes and then disappear. Even so, an emergency room visit is essential to assessing the situation, confirming it was a TIA, and starting treatment to minimize the risk of another one.

If the episode was caused by a TIA, your physician will refer you to a neurologist for follow-up and to assess future stroke risk. 

Healthy Lifestyle Choices Prevent TIA Risk 

Again, while genetics play a role, lifestyle choices are the biggest contributing factor to whether or not someone has a stroke. The risk factors for stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Smoking

Committing to a healthy diet and daily exercise go a long way toward preventing a TIA or stroke. If a senior loved one lives alone, consider hiring a part-time caregiver to support their well-being via grocery shopping, meal preparation, and companionship – all of which help seniors with a health and happiness-first lifestyle.

HomeAide Home Care Helps Seniors Make Healthy Choices

Are you worried your senior loved one isn’t taking good care of themselves? Are you a spouse or family caregiver who could benefit from time off or support with the daily household chores? Contact HomeAide Home Care to schedule a free, in-home assessment.

Managing Diabetes

managing diabetes

The Endocrine Society estimates that roughly 33% of adults 65 and older have type 2 diabetes. The good news is that with the right proactive care and management, many adults can reverse their diabetes. 

When that isn’t possible, commitment to managing diabetes through healthy lifestyle choices – particularly with diet and exercise – can significantly lower the medication doses required to keep blood sugar levels in check.

Managing Diabetes For A Long & Healthy Life

Diabetes management is a multi-faceted process. Here are five steps to helping your parent or loved one manage diabetes so they can enjoy a long, active, and satisfying senior lifestyle.

Connect with your loved one’s healthcare team

If your parent or grandparent has diabetes, we recommend going with them for a visit – or scheduling a telehealth consult – so you can connect with their physician or diabetes management team. It’s important that you have all of the information as your loved one does so that you can create a consistent and supportive care plan.

Speak to their doctor about whether reversing or lowering medications is possible. In many cases, the answer is yes, but it requires a clear plan that must be adhered to without fail. 

A diabetes-specific diet is essential

Diet is one of the essential players when managing diabetes. The internet is an incredible resource for learning about and implementing a diabetes diet. In most cases, these diets look like modified Adkins or South Beach diets. They prioritize healthy proteins, fats, and high-fiber foods while minimizing and eliminating processed starches and sugars. 

There is no need to feel disappointed about a diabetes diet. With the right planning and access to fresh foods, ingredients, herbs, and spices, your loved one can eat delicious, nutritious, and satisfying foods – including sugar-free treats replicating their favorite snacks, sweets, and desserts.

Your conversation with their doctor should include lots of diabetes diet information. We recommend learning about antiinflammatory diets and modifying them for diabetes management. In addition to supporting senior nutrition and health, antiinflammatory diets reduce or eliminate side effects from other common senior ailments, like heart disease and arthritis

If your senior loved one isn’t likely to adhere to a diet on their own, enlist the help of a senior caregiving agency that offers grocery shopping, meal planning, and meal prep. We can prepare healthy easy-to-reheat meals and snacks that keep their diabetes plan on track.

Most people with type 2 diabetes fare best when they migrate away from the “three square meals a day” model. Blood sugar levels stay more consistent – and people tend to feel better – when they eat six to seven smaller meals and snacks throughout the day and evening.

Exercise at least once per day

Physical activity is another essential step in balancing blood sugar. There’s no need to go crazy here. The goal is to get the body moving as regularly and comfortably as possible. There are so many ways for seniors to get the exercise they need, even when they’re averse to joining a gym or taking an exercise class.

  • Taking a morning and/or evening walk
  • Going on an accessible hike once or twice a week
  • Gardening
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Swimming at the local pool
  • Following along with an exercise or yoga video on YouTube

Is your loved one chair- or bed-bound? That’s okay. There are plenty of ways to move their body in the chair or bed that support weight management and blood sugar balance.

Medication management

For most seniors, oral or injectible medicine is required to keep blood sugar levels in check. This requires regular blood sugar monitoring and administering the right amount of insulin accordingly. There is little room for error here, as severe reactions occur when blood sugar levels get too high – or too low – for any length of time.

If your loved one has trouble managing blood sugar levels, or they have dementia, caregivers are essential to the medication management part of the diabetes equation.

Proactively preventing – or noticing – diabetes complications

A type 2 diabetes diagnosis automatically elevates a person’s risk of additional health complications. For example, people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop:

  • Vision loss as a result of diabetic retinopathy and faster cataract growth
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Vascular (circulation) complications
  • High blood pressure
  • Gum disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • And the list continues

That last one is worth emphasizing because in addition to increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, adults with Alzheimer’s and diabetes experience a faster progression of the disease without proper diabetes care.

Caregivers Provide Senior Diabetes Management & Care

Does your aging loved one with diabetes want to remain at home, aging independently in place? Are you afraid they aren’t able to manage diabetes at home on their own? In-home caregivers are an ideal solution.

There are several ways we can support your loved one’s healthy lifestyle requirements:

Meal planning and preparation

As we mentioned in the section on diabetes-specific diets, access to fresh ingredients and meal planning/preparation is critical for adults with diabetes. If your loved one is unable to keep up with this task, caregivers can do that for you. Depending on the client and family’s needs, caregivers can come once a week – or multiple times per week – to make sure fresh diabetes-friendly foods and snacks available at all times.

Encouragement and companionship during exercise time

Caregivers can also provide encouragement and companionship during exercise time. Whether that means driving clients to/from senior-specific exercise classes, accompanying them on walks or outings that get them moving, or gardening in the backyard – we’ll make sure physical movement is incorporated into every shift. 

We’re happy to work with your occupational therapists or physician to create a specific exercise routine to focus on balance, strength training, or whatever is needed to optimize physical fitness, stamina, and weight management.

Managing diabetes medication

In-home caregivers can ensure your parents take their medicines as prescribed and on time. We can also help clients chart blood sugar levels and doses (we cannot legally administer the medications but provide them to the client at the right time and in the correct dose). 

Respite care

If a spouse or family caregivers are already at the helm, caregiver agencies can provide invaluable respite care services. This gives primary caregivers much-deserved breaks on a regular basis. We can also step in for longer shifts so that family caregivers can take a decent vacation.

We’re Here To Help

Schedule an in-home assessment with HomeAide Home Care. Our caregivers are available for respite care, part-time or full-time shifts, and are educated and trained in diabetes management for seniors and those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We’ll help you create a plan that honors your loved one’s independence, safety, and well-being.

5 Things Everyone Should Know About Glaucoma

5 things everyone should know about glaucoma

Vision loss is a natural part of aging; by the time most adults reach 65, they wear corrective lenses. However, there is a difference between age-related vision loss and blindness associated with eye diseases like glaucoma.

Glaucoma describes a group of conditions rooted in fluid build-up inside the eye (the aqueous humor). Over time, accumulated pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss and – potentially – blindness. There are several different types of glaucoma, but the most common type is called open-angle glaucoma. 

Glaucoma Is A Leading Cause Of Senior Blindness

Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness in seniors. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) states, “An estimated 1 million Americans over 65 years of age have experienced loss of vision associated with glaucoma, and approximately 75 percent of persons who are legally blind because of glaucoma are over the age of 65.”

Here is what seniors and their caregivers need to know about glaucoma and the importance of vision care as we age.

Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly

Glaucoma is commonly referred to as a “sneak thief of sight” because it develops over time. Also, very few people experience symptoms of glaucoma until it is far into its development. As a result, vision loss may seem to occur rather suddenly when, in fact, it’s diminished little by little, proportional to optic nerve damage.

This doesn’t mean that glaucoma diagnosis means you’re going blind, but it means you’ve already lost some of your vision, and treatment is essential to slow down future progressive vision loss.

Lifestyle plays a part in glaucoma

There are several risk factors associated with glaucoma. The first is genetics, which is out of a person’s control. However, two of the major risk factors – high blood pressure and diabetes – are controllable via healthy lifestyle choices. 

Eating well, and focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet, are one of the best things adults and seniors can do to live a healthy, active, and independent life. Anti-inflammatory diets prevent, manage, and reverse some of the most common senior health issues – like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, and more. 

Other risk factors for developing glaucoma are:

  • Being African American or Latino
  • A history of eye trauma or thin corneas
  • Using corticosteroids (especially in eye drops)
  • Extreme near/farsightedness

Observing annual eye exams is one of the best ways to catch glaucoma early. Optometrists and their screening/diagnostic equipment notice changes in the field of vision faster than you will. The good news is that almost all healthcare insurance plans – including Medicare/Medical – cover glaucoma tests every 12 months for adults 50 years and older. 

Speak to your parent or loved one’s healthcare provider or optometrist to ensure they’re observing their annual or bi-annual wellness visits.

It causes changes in the field of vision

The most common causes of compromised vision cause general blurred vision (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or age-related presbyopia). Glaucoma is different. Seniors with glaucoma typically experience changes in certain areas of their field of vision – so they might lose peripheral vision first while retaining center vision. Others occasionally lose various spots throughout their field of vision or describe it as if they’re constantly looking through a very dirty pair of glasses.

If your loved one has glaucoma, know they need access to well-lit areas, so this is a good time to ensure their home has sufficient task and safety lighting. Depending on what they do and don’t see, it’s also time to speak to their optometrist and physician about driving restrictions and create an agreement about when it’s time to exchange the car keys for transportation services

Glaucoma can be treated but not reversed

There is no way to turn back time and restore glaucoma-related optic nerve damage or vision loss. Instead, optometrists refer patients to ophthalmologists who treat and manage the condition. Treating glaucoma focuses on relieving pressure inside the eye, which reduces damage to the optic nerve. 

This may involve one or a combination of the following:

  • Special eye drops 
  • Oral medication
  • Laser surgery
  • Optic surgery

In most cases, seniors with glaucoma visit their optometrist or ophthalmologist twice per year. Patients may get check-ups every three months in more serious cases or those that are more challenging to control.

Vision loss decreases senior independence

Over time, progressive vision loss impacts seniors’ ability to live at home independently. In best-case scenarios, glaucoma is caught early, and a combination of medication and glaucoma treatments maintains healthy vision for many years to come. However, late-stage glaucoma diagnosis or the diagnosis of glaucoma on top of existing vision loss may mean it’s time to bring in outside support.

The loss of one’s vision can mean the loss or diminishment of the ability to perform daily tasks. For example, seniors with notable vision loss, especially if combined with other medical diagnoses or age-related decline may find it harder to:

  • Drive safely – especially outside of daylight hours.
  • Shop for groceries.
  • Cook their favorite meals.
  • Maintain a clean home.
  • Read prescription labels and other fine print
  • Balance or navigate areas like stairs, elevation changes, or uneven walkways that require adequate depth perception.

If your senior loved one lives alone, it’s time to discuss a long-term care plan that increases care levels as glaucoma and vision-related changes make it harder to live safely on their own.

Is Glaucoma Or Vision Loss Affecting A Loved One’s Ability To Age-In-Place?

Is glaucoma or advanced vision loss negatively impacting a senior loved one’s daily life? Studies show that more than 90% of seniors prefer to age in their own homes whenever possible. In cases where healthy seniors with vision loss need extra support, that might look like once-a-week visits and errand running. Over time, our licensed caregivers increase care to meet the age- and ability-related needs of our clients. 

Contact HomeAide Home Care to schedule a free, in-home assessment and learn more about which of our services make it safer and easier for your loved one to remain safe, independent, and engaged in the community.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.