Caregivers and Snowflakes

I was reading one of the Caregiver Blogs we follow and I came across an excerpt that I had to share.

Tonight, Patti and I sat sipping hot chocolate while snow flurries danced around us. While Patti’s memory of the moment melted with the snow, I couldn’t help but reflect perhaps we caregivers / carers are like snowflakes and no two are the same.

Read more at CaregivinglyYours.com

Creamy Ensure® Eggnog Pudding

This delicious holiday treat is healthy too! Packed with nutritional value from Ensure® products, this take on traditional eggnog pudding not only tastes good, it’s good for you.

Creamy Ensure® Eggnog Pudding

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1-ounce package instant vanilla sugar-free, fat-free pudding mix (can be substituted with one 3.5-ounce package regular instant vanilla pudding mix, if desired)
  • 1-1/2 cups COLD Ensure® Homemade Vanilla Shake*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus a dash for the top
  • 1/2 teaspoon artificial rum flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fat-free whipped topping, divided

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the pudding mix, Ensure Homemade Vanilla Shake, nutmeg, rum flavoring, and vanilla extract.
  2. Whisk vigorously for 2 minutes until thick.
  3. Fold in 1/2 cup whipped topping.
  4. Divide the pudding into 4 serving dishes.
  5. Chill for 1 hour.
  6. When ready to serve, top each with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and a dash of nutmeg.
  7. Serve chilled.

Nutrition Facts (if prepared with Ensure®)
Serv. Size: 1/2 cup (106g)
Calories: 140
Calories From Fat: 40

Amount Per Serving % DV

Total Fat 4g 6%

Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Trans Fat 0g 0%

Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 160mg 7%
Potassium 155mg 7%
Total Carb. 20g 7%

Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 12g

Protein 4g 8%

Vitamin A 10% Vitamin C 20% Calcium 15% Iron 10%

*This recipe can be prepared with Ensure® Nutrition Shake or Ensure Plus®. Nutrition information will vary with product used.
†Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 Calorie diet.

Is it time to “take the keys” to the liquor cabinet?

It’s a happy time. The whole family has come together for a holiday meal together and now, it’s time for a toast. On break from College, this is the first time that Junior is able to join in. It’s now that it occurs to you… Should Pop be drinking with all his medication? He’s already got a wine glass in hand and is having a laugh with Junior. You have to make a choice, do you cause a scene or do you risk his health by letting him drink?

Family toasting over holiday meal, should Seniors be included?It’s a question that often comes up at the last minute, when the bottle’s uncorked and you’re about to pour. Should you serve alcohol to a Senior? There isn’t one answer, but with the right information a Caregiver can make the right judgment call.

The importance of Drinking.

Drinking alcohol, like driving, is often seen as a rite of passage, something that separates children from adults. Caregivers should be aware that restricting a Senior’s use of alcohol may be received as attacking their adulthood.

Reasons to “Take the Keys” to the liquor cabinet.

Unlike driving, there are few guides that help Caregivers decide if a Senior should “turn in the keys” to the liquor cabinet. Here are some reasons to think about restricting a Senior’s access to alcohol.

  • Dangerous Alcohol and Medication Interactions: Many medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol that lead to increased risk of illness, injury, or even death. The elderly are especially at risk due to the large amounts of medication they often take.
  • Increased Effect of Alcohol: Several studies have shown that Alcohol has an increased effect on most Seniors, reducing their ability to function to a greater extent and for a longer period of time. This can be especially dangerous for Seniors suffering from cognitive impairment.
  • Worsen Medical Conditions: Alcohol can worsen certain medical conditions, such as High Blood Pressure and Ulcers.
  • Increased Risk of Injury: Drinking alcohol can greatly increase a Senior’s risk of injury from falls.
  • Late Onset Alcoholism: Depression, social isolation, and physical pain can lead to Seniors abusing Alcohol later in life. This is a growing problem in the United States and one that often goes overlooked.
  • Malnutrition: Drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can flood a Senior’s system with empty calories, quenching appetite and causing malnutrition without weight loss.

The Checklist

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the items on the following check list, it may be time to take control of your elderly loved one’s access to alcohol.

  1. Is there a risk of dangerous interaction between Alcohol and the Senior’s Medication? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this risk?
  2. Does the Senior have a medical condition that is exacerbated by alcohol consumption? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this condition?
  3. Does even a small amount of alcohol have an exaggerated effect on the Senior? Is the Senior no longer able to drink responsibly?
  4. Are there signs that the Senior is at higher risk of incidental injuries such as falls when they drink alcohol? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this danger?
  5. Is the Senior showing a signs of Alcohol abuse? Do those signs merit an intervention?

This guide is meant to educate and inform, it is not meant to be a substitute for a Medical Doctor’s advice. The best judge of whether a Senior should give up drinking is their Doctor and a Caregiver should always consult with a Doctor if they’re worried about a Senior drinking.

Preserving health, dignity, and relationship

Refusing to serve alcohol to an elderly loved one might leave them feeling embarrassed, excluded, and like you stripped them of their adulthood. It might result in a nasty scene and hurt feelings, ruining what had been a happy time together. With some forethought you can set up a compromise that preserves both a Senior’s dignity and their health.

  • Talk to the Senior’s Doctor about your concerns beforehand, don’t wait until the family toast to think about alcohol.
  • Talk to the Senior beforehand, tell them your concerns and ask them to compromise. Let them know that you want them to be part of the family traditions but that you’re worried about their health.
  • Serve Low-Alcohol Beverages like ‘Near Beer’ or a light ‘Mixed Drink’; lowering the alcohol content can go a long way, just be sure to always check with the Senior’s Doctor first.
  • Serve Non-Alcoholic Beer like O’Doul’s instead of alcoholic beer or Sparkling Grape Juice instead of Champagne.

These suggestions might not be enough to prevent hurt feelings or wounded pride, but in the end the important thing to remember is that you’re not stealing your loved one’s dignity – you’re trying to protect their health.

More Information

To help equip you to make an informed decision we’ve compiled some additional information that we hope proves helpful.

Some Medications that interact dangerously with Alcohol.

The following are some common medications that can interact dangerously with alcohol. This is by no means a definitive list and to be safe always check the medication warning labels and consult with the Senior’s Doctor.

  • Antibiotics are a common medication used to fight off infectious diseases.
  • Anticoagulants are prescribed to impede the blood’s ability to clot.
  • Antidepressants are an increasingly medication used to counter clinical depression.
  • Oral hypoglycemic drugs help lower blood sugar levels for some individuals suffering from diabetes.
  • Antihistamines are commonly taken to lessen allergic symptoms and to treat insomnia.
  • Antipsychotic drugs are prescribed to lessen psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
  • Antiseizure medications are primarily prescribed to treat epilepsy.
  • Cardiovascular medications are prescribed to treat heart and circulatory system ailments.
  • Narcotic pain relievers are prescribed to lessen moderate to severe pain.
  • Nonnarcotic pain relievers are the most common nonprescription pain relievers and are commonly used by the elderly.

Many other medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol so, again, to be safe always consult with the Senior’s Doctor. It’s a good idea to keep a list of all medications that the Senior is taking, including over the counter drugs and supplements, on hand to check with the Doctor.

Benefits of Drinking for Seniors?

Light to Moderate Drinking
No more than 14 drinks a week
No more than 2 drinks a day

Several studies have shown that Seniors who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol also have a lower risk of certain ailments. There are still a lot of unknowns in these studies but the message seems to be that ‘moderation may be best after all.‘ Let’s take a closer look at a handful of the studies.

The results of a study conducted by the David Geffen School of Medicine found that healthy Seniors who drank light or moderate amounts of alcohol were almost 25% less likely to suffer from incident disability or death as compared to non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Three Seniors in living room drinking champagne and smiling

Researchers from the Tulane University studied 35 studies and discovered that individuals who drink one to two alcoholic drinks a day were almost 30% less likely to have a stroke than non-drinkers. The same study also found the disturbing correlation that heavy drinkers were almost 70% more likely to have a stroke.

Several studies have shown that individuals who drank light to moderate alcoholic drinks were less likely to suffer from heart disease. The same studies also showed that heavy drinkers were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

The material of this blog is provided for informational purposes only. Elder Depot does not intend to provide medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please consult with a Medical Professional when deciding if a Senior should drink alcohol.

Computer Games that give a Good Mental Workout

More and more evidence keeps on cropping up showing that challenging mental activities, like playing certain computer games, can help slow cognitive decline due to the aging and “may” even improve the brain function of dementia sufferers. That’s great news but, here’s a true or false, now a days most computer games are intense slaughter-fests geared for young males high on testosterone.

You may be surprised to hear that the answer is False. Think how many people you know who play games like Bejeweled, Spider Solitaire, The Sims, Tetris, or the Myst series. There are a wealth of computer games out there that can exercise the mind without featuring distasteful content or overwhelming gameplay. We’re going to share a few of them here.

Classic Adventures: The Great Gatsby

This ‘hidden object’ game is based on the classic novel The Great Gatsby, the player experiences the story of the novel while collecting objects and solving puzzles. The game is challenging but not overwhelming, offering a mental workout rather than a frustrating exercise in failure. The controls should be familiar to anyone who uses a modern computer, just point and click.

FlightGear

For someone who loves the idea of flying, FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator that allows anyone to pilot a plane from the safety of their computer desk. As a simulator FlightGear exercises many of the mental skills needed by real pilots such as spatial reasoning, hand-eye coordination, and cognitive processing speed. It can be downloaded for free or purchased on CD.

SimCity Societies

SimCity Societies offers some excellent opportunities for mental exercise by giving players the task of creating unique cities and the challenge of keeping them growing through solid management. The latest in a long line of ‘city building’ simulators, SimCity Societies takes the traditional formula and simplifies it; building a city is as fun and challenging as ever but the complicated micro-management of previous titles has been cut back, resulting in streamlined and intuitive gameplay.

CogniFit Personal Coach

Unlike the other games we’re recommending, CogniFit Personal Coach is actually designed to act as a Brain Fitness Program. Scientifically designed, this software suite assesses the player’s cognitive abilities and then chooses appropriate exercises to help keep them up to par. CogniFit also offers a Senior Driver exercise program designed to help keep the driving skills of aging adults sharp.

In Closing…

We hope that this small sample of some solid mentally exercising computer games was helpful to you. For more suggestions, check out what the ‘Digital Gramma’ over at DigitalGrandparent.com has to say, for one she’s a big fan of Wizard101 which she plays with her grandkids.

That’s it, I’m done : The outburst of a Caregiver?

The news has been abuzz over the JetBlue air steward who dramatically quit his job earlier this week. Yesterday, I was reading an article on the topic by the Daily Record and they shared a bit of information that I hadn’t seen before.

Slater nursed his elderly father as he died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and is now going through a similar ordeal with his mother, who has lung cancer.

I don’t know the details but I take that as meaning that Steve Slater currently is caregiver to a terminally ill parent and is dealing with the grief of losing another parent. His frustration has resonated with service workers across the world, however most of those workers would only dream of quitting in the fashion that Steve Slater did. I wonder if it was the emotional strain of caregiving that pushed him beyond his breaking point, declaring “That’s it, I’m done.”

What’s the worth of a Smile

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

What is the Best Internet Browser for Seniors?

You might remember that in Step 7 of my 10 Steps to Better Protect Elderly Loved Ones Online I explained some of the dangers posed by using Internet Explorer 6. If that post left you wondering which Internet Browser would be the ‘best’ for your elderly loved ones then today is your lucky day because you’re finally going to find out.

The answer is that the best Internet Browser for Seniors is the Opera Browser. That may surprise many of you who have never heard of Opera before.

What makes Opera so great for Seniors?

  • Opera can be easily used without a Mouse: This is important because it is friendly for users with physical limitations like severe arthritis, it lessens repetitive strain, and it provides easier navigation for the visually impaired. Other Internet Browsers ‘can’ be used without a Mouse but not with the ease or to the same degree as Opera.
  • Opera can easily re-size webpages via Page Zooming: This feature allows everything on a webpage, including movies, to be easily and dynamically resized (20% to 1,000%) in order to assist users with impaired vision.
  • Opera can be controlled without a Keyboard or Mouse: The Voice Control feature, developed in cooperation with IBM, allows the Opera Browser to be controlled entirely by Voice Commands. This grants users with limited or no ability to use tactile controls access to the Internet.
  • Opera can read the Internet aloud: This is important because it allows users with vision impairment easier access to the Internet.
  • Opera comes with built-in Security Features: Out of the box Opera features strong secure website encryption and protection from common phishing and malware techniques.
  • Opera is highly customizable: This is important because it means that Opera can be configured to meet the needs of the user. For example, a user with vision impairment could configure Opera to use larger buttons and text.

On top of those features Opera is one of the fastest and most compatible Internet Browsers on the market. In fact, the Opera Browser was named the Best Major Desktop Browser by About.com’s 2010 Reader’s Choice Awards. Given all of that, you might wonder why, as of July 2010, only a little more than 2% of Internet users use Opera? I don’t have an answer to that question.

The Opera Browser is free for personal use and is available on virtually every major system including Windows, Macintosh, and Linux as well as the Nintendo Wii and many mobile phones. Give it a try, you should be surprised.

http://www.opera.com/

Guarding against Elder Neglect.

In our last post on Elder Abuse we shared that, “Laws vary from state to state but, by definition, Elder Abuse is any act, intentional or negligent, that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder.” Usually, in both ourselves and others, we can recognize the intentional immediately. The negligent is more insidious and often escapes notice until long after the harm has been done.

That may have been the case with Mary Madeleine Araujo, an eighty year old woman who according to police reports sat on a sofa recliner for over a month in her own urine and feces while developing infected bedsores. All of this in the home she shared with her daughter, son-in-law, and three adult grandchildren.

It is easy to write off Mary Madeleine Araujo’s family as monsters but there is an important lesson to be learned from them if we are willing to believe that they may have been ignorant of their crime. Being passive in caring for an elder can be a crime; it’s called neglect and even if the caregiver isn’t aware that they are causing the elder harm it is elder abuse.

How to guard against elder neglect as a family caregiver.

  • Don’t let the elder dictate terms of Caregiving: It is immensely difficult to take control of an elder’s life. Often it feels like stealing their competence, stripping them of their adulthood – that’s not true though, aging is stealing their competence, not the caregiver. It is the responsibility of caregivers to provide care to balance out lost competence. The daughter in the Araujo case claimed that her mother refused help bathing, that refusal should not have ended the discussion. Caregivers can’t accept the word of their elders alone, they need to judge for themselves if the elder needs them to step in. A good practice is to follow a threefold decision making policy; listen to the elder’s opinion, discuss the matter with the elder’s Doctor, and make the decision that is best for the elder.
  • Clearly define and share Caregiver Roles: In the Araujo case there were five adults living in the same home as the elder. Five adults but the grandmother ended up with festering bedsores, sitting in her own urine and feces. According to reports, the daughter admitted that her mother had trouble getting to the bathroom on her own for several weeks. The family should have established clearly defined caregiving roles and responsibilities; for example, the grandchildren could have been responsible for checking on her and getting her to the bathroom, the husband could have been responsible for feeding her, and the daughter could have been responsible for bathing her and monitoring her health. Without clearly defined roles, it’s possible that four of the adults in the house thought that someone else was responsible for caring for the elder and were too caught up in their own lives to realize what was happening.
  • Failing to provide healthcare is Elder Abuse: At the time of her admittance to the hospital, Mary Madeleine Araujo had not had medical care for four years. We don’t know why that was the case but whatever the reason it was criminal neglect. The result is the same regardless of whether the reason was that the family didn’t want to pay medical expenses, that the elder refused to go to the doctor, or that the family didn’t see anything that merited medical attention. The elder should have had regular medical checkups, especially after significant events such as when she stopped sleeping in bed, after she fell, and as her health declined. Not providing the elder with medical attention was abusive.
  • Empower the elder by equipping them: Technology can lighten the burden of caregiving and allow elders to retain a large measure of their competence. In the Araujo case, a few simple pieces of equipment might have made a world of difference; an alternating pressure mattress overlay to help prevent pressure sores, an assist rail to aid in getting in and out of bed, a cane or walker to increase mobility and help protect from falls, grab bars in the bathroom for added fall security, and a transfer bench or bath chair to enable the elder to bath herself.
  • Be proactive in assessing and addressing the Elder’s needs: Don’t wait for a unmet need to become a problem, regularly reevaluate the elder’s needs and how they are addressed. Monitor the elder’s condition in a journal and calendar, seek advice from experts, and join caregiver support groups. It is better to provide too much support rather than too little. If an elder begins to have trouble reaching the bathroom, immediately take action  – don’t wait to find your loved one sitting in their own urine and feces. Only respect an elder’s refusal to accept help up to the point where it risks causing harm – then, as a caregiver, you are responsible to step in and provide the care that is needed.

When it comes to neglect, ignorance of the crime is no excuse. It is essential for family to be proactive, if the burden is too great or the family is unwilling they should seek outside assistance through in-home care, assisted living, or a nursing facility. Leaving an elder to languish on a recliner in the living room is horrendous regardless of the motivations of the people involved.

Don’t take the Elderly for granted

It’s incredible to think that two-thirds of all the people in history who have lived to the age of 65 are alive today.

There are far more Senior Citizens alive today than at other point in history. This is an incredible time to live in; the last century has been filled with breathtaking medical advances that continue today giving us longer and longer lifespans with higher and higher quality of life. This immense positive progress has had some negative consequences; the shear number of elderly means that where they were once honored and respected, they are now taken for granted and sometimes even neglected and abused.

It may no longer be a feat to live beyond forty but each elder is still a remarkable treasure. Reach elder is unique treasurehold of wisdom, experience, and life knowledge. Each of them have seen our world undergo changes unlike anything else in history. Let’s cherish them while we have the chance.