: Caretakers

Helping demented folks feel worthwhile

Hello everyone:

I was talking with a caregiver today about how demented folks sometimes feel depressed by their lack of contribution to life. She told me about a gal who gave her demented father some sheets of packing material and told him that the company needed him to test their product by popping all of the bubbles. He spends two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon popping the sheets. As a result of his work, he feels like someone needs him. He believes that he is being paid for his work, and recently asked for a raise.

My friend told me how she is looking for a typewriter so that her mother can type up copies of various documents. It is not a matter of my friend needing to have this done, but her mother enjoyed typing as a younger woman and can relate to this activity in spite of her dementia. Her mother also liked to paint, so she is looking for some small project for this elderly woman to work on.

The point here is to find something that your loved one liked to do when he or she was in full possession of his or her faculties and give the individual the chance to keep doing it. This can make a huge difference in how the person feels about life.

What tips do you have for helping demented individuals feel valued?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Dealing with hurricanes

Hello everyone:

The people of Florida are dealing with the leftover issues of Hurricane Irma this week. As of yesterday, 7 million people did not have power or water in their homes. This can be very difficult in the midst of trying times  for folks who are dealing with elderly relatives.

Here are some quick tips:

Make sure that your elderly relative (and you personally, for that matter) remains hydrated. I hope you purchased extra supplies of water before the storm. If you have lost your power and have no means of ventilation in your home, they will “dry out” faster and have a greater need for fluids.

Try to have some movement of air in the house. If possible, open windows across from each other, so that you get some cross-ventilation going on there. If that doesn’t work so well, try to get your relative outside for some fresh air.  That was a bit difficult yesterday, since the outside temperature was in the 90s but today it is a little better, so do get him or her outside.  Fresh air, especially if it is accompanied by a breeze, can be rejuvenating.

If you also lost your water, then perhaps you cannot flush the toilets (hopefully, you collected some water in your bathtub before the storm and have a bucket handy. If not, please plan better next time). The rule of thumb would be to “not flush for number one” more than a couple of times a day. If you are a lady and need toilet paper, put your used paper in a Ziploc baggie and start a new baggie when the old one gets full. That way, when your water does come back, you won’t clog up your toilet with a lot of paper, but you can still use the normal amount when you visit the bathroom.

If you have a pool that has not been dirtied up by the storm, you can use that for bathing….sort of. The question becomes: Do I want to smell of sweat or chlorine? Your call on that one- I wouldn’t begin to tell you which one to choose!

The good news is that one of your neighbors might get power and water back before you do. How good of a friend are you? They may invite you over to bathe, which would be incredibly kind of them. If they do, please clean up after yourself and bring your own towels, if possible. Yes, you won’t be able to wash your towels afterwards but at least you will be showing yourself to be a good neighbor.

If you have some tips to share, I would love to hear your ideas!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

Veteran Hurricane Survivor

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Hurricane Shutters can be a shuttering experience

Hello everyone:

In honor of the hurricanes that have been ripping through the States these days, I would like to share some hurricane shutter maintenance ideas with you today.

These lovely items are used mostly in the south. Fortunate folks have the electric kind that go up and down with a flick of a switch. Others have the manual kind, where it is necessary to use brutal force (or a big stick) to get them up and down. While we are on the topic, we will go over both kinds, but here is one tip for both kinds of owners: at least once a month, open and close them, to make sure that they have not frozen either open or closed. Can you get them all the way open or all the way closed? With electric shutters, the main problem is that they can freeze in place if you don’t open and close them regularly. Even though you won’t need them except in case of emergency, take the time to open and close them about once a month. This is especially important, since chances are excellent that you live in an area where the moisture in the air corrodes things.

Most electric shutters come with a back-up battery. Keep it plugged in and fully charged so that you can still get your shutters up and down in case of power loss. Please note that the information on lubricating shutters in the next paragraph also applies to electric shutters; they need to be lubricated on a regular basis, just like their manual counterparts.

With manual shutters, they can be very stubborn when you are trying to open or close them. Make sure you have used a silicone spray lubricant sparingly on the lock, the rolls, and the tracks on the side of the shutters, if they do not want to open when they are closed. (The lubricant will stain whatever it lands on, including concrete if you are outside when you use it and rugs if you are inside, so don’t use a lot of it. Have a rag handy and wipe up any excessive lubricant that is dripping.) Slip the key into the lock and turn it carefully. Do not force it, or you may end up breaking the little key that you get with these kinds of shutters.

If the lock is stubborn, wiggle the whole shutter a bit, to loosen things up. I keep a 1×2 stick with me when opening or closing my Florida condo’s hurricane shutters. The stick can help you get some torque as you open the shutter, but the stick can also be slipped onto the bottom rung of the shutter when you are trying with all your strength to close it. Try to move quickly and with force as you pull down the shutter. Put the stick in the bottom rung after you have the shutter about ¾ of the way closed and put your weight behind the force as you push the shutter completely down. It should click when it is locked.

You may notice that the outside of your shutters gets dirty. I suggest using Windex and paper towels on the outside of the shutters on a monthly basis. If you don’t clean them, your hands will get very dirty as you open and close them. They clean very easily and offer you the opportunity to meet and greet your neighbors.

I hope that this helps guide you with the use of your shutters. Otherwise, the experience of dealing with them could make you….well, shudder.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

 

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A friend in need might not have her financial house in order

Hello everyone:

A friend of mine is a fellow with a real heart for older folks. He took care of an elderly neighbor for many years because she had no family. It came as a real shock when, following her death, her lawyer informed him that the woman had left everything to him. This included a small bank account and her house, which was in dire need of repair. He is a contractor by trade, so he immediately set to work to get it ready to sell.

He was not prepared for the next shock: she had gotten a reverse mortgage several years prior to her death. She had been living on the money from the mortgage and had left him a house whose equity was almost totally eaten up by the mortgage.

By the time everything was over, he barely made enough money to pay for the expenses he had incurred while fixing up the house. It was only the search by the title company that revealed that there was a mortgage on the property; she had no paperwork in the house that indicated it was anything but paid for and he assumed that it was free and clear of encumbrances.

Oops. Perhaps he should have checked things out more carefully. He would have still taken the house most likely, but he would have watched his expenses more carefully when getting ready to sell the house. By doing so, he would have probably eked out a small profit or would have at least had a more comfortable expense-versus-money-received margin at the end of the day.

Do you have a similar tale of woe to share with my readers? I would love to hear from you and to include your story (without names being mentioned) in my next book.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Water Blog

Hello everyone:

Yes, this is a blog about water.  Why in the world should we waste time on that topic?

Well, it isn’t a waste if it helps an elderly person keep his or her sanity for one more day. You see, if an elderly person gets dehydrated, it can lead to mental confusion or dizziness (which could lead to a fall which could lead to broken bones which could result in being put in a nursing home).

The problem is that older folks don’t like to have to get out of their chairs to take a potty break. It can be embarrassing to get in the car to go somewhere and have to ask for a pit stop.  It can be troublesome to be at the grocery store and barely make it to the toilet. It can be bothersome to have to leave a meal in the middle of your dinner in order to go to the bathroom.

But, the opposite end of the spectrum (not drinking fluids to avoid the bathroom) can result in mental confusion, dizziness, and fainting. If you are responsible for paying your bills, mental confusion can lead to over- or under-payment. If you become dizzy, you can pass out cold and come to, only to discover that you have major injuries. If you live alone and faint, it can be hours or days before someone finds you.

Please make a point of being  cognizant of the need to drink water, even if it means multiple trips to the bathroom. It’s better to run through a lot of toilet paper than to to find your obituary in the newspaper.

What stories of dehydrated folks would you like to share, to help others avoid this pitfall?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Understanding Limits: Caring for the Elderly

Hello everyone:

When you are taking care of an elderly person, it is vital to know the limits to their energy. I have a dear friend who has cared for her mother for several years and she is wise enough to know how her mother’s abilities have faded. She has learned to make adjustments for them. Her mother’s world is getting smaller and smaller as time goes on.

I have had to learn the same lesson, as I visit with my father on a monthly basis. We no longer make 5 or 4 or 3 or 2 or even one walking  lap of the mall anymore. Walking across the parking lot to get to the mall in the first place has not been a reality for several years (even if it hadn’t been 106 degrees, effectively, yesterday!). His walker has sometimes turned into a wheelchair when we have underestimated his stamina (turn the walker around, have the person sit down, tell him or her to lift his or her feet, and push the walker from behind. Your back will get sore but you will make it back to the car).

How do you know when the limit has been reached? Careful observation is key. Does your loved one seem to struggle at even the most simple of tasks? Maybe you need to get help for that person. Does the individual tire more easily than he or she did in the past? Pay attention to the nonverbal signs.

How have you handled the changes in your loved one’s life? I would love to hear your ideas for how you have adjusted to this new time of life.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Throw Rugs Can Throw You

Hello everyone:

I was with an elderly gentleman this week and noticed that the throw rugs he had scattered around his home were getting stuck on his walker. He pushed his way through, but I wondered what these rubber-backed rugs would do if he had not been able to dislodge them from his walker and make them lay flat.

The answer? They could land him on his backside. Talking to an older fellow at dinner last night, he shared how throw rugs could really, well, throw you if you weren’t very careful. He recommended throwing out the throw rugs of an elderly person, saying that they could be a tripping hazard.

A dear friend of mine has tile throughout her home and had used throw rugs to prevent leg pain. That worked fine, until her elderly mother came to live with them and started stumbling her way around. Her shoes got stuck on the rugs and threw her for a loop.

So, from my research here, it seems that the best thing to do with an elderly individual’s throw rug is to pitch them out. What is your experience with this? Do you know a way around this?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

 

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Encouraging the caregiver individual

Hello everyone:

Sometimes caregivers can get pretty discouraged by the sameness of their lives. They know that each day will bring……well, they really don’t know what the day will bring. They have difficulty planning for anything because everything is up for grabs.

Will Mom or Dad or Spouse need special care today? Will you be rushing to the ER for the fifth time this month? Will the person you are caring for require special care today? Will the person even know who you are this morning?

If you know someone who is a caregiver, it would be great to give that person something to look forward to. Maybe you could suggest a lunch or dinner out at a special restaurant, a walk in the park, or a shopping expedition to his or her favorite store. Maybe you can encourage that individual with a note or card or a meal.

I have a friend whose hubby died this past week. She has been caring for him for over 50 years. She now faces the need to re-invent who she is because she has always been his caregiver. I suggest writing this individual a kind card, to let her know that you noticed her sacrifices and to tell her how special she is to you. Now that her life has changed, maybe you could spend some time with her, after the funeral is over and done.

How do you encourage the caregivers in your sphere of influence? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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The Danger In Falling For An Elderly Person

Hello everyone:

When I was visiting my dad recently, we noticed that a storm was moving into the area as he and I returned from lunch . We tried to get him back to his condo before it hit. We felt a sense of snug happiness when we got him home before the first raindrops fell. I dropped him off, expecting him to get on the elevator to his floor, where he would walk down the exposed-to-the-elements hallway and enter his unit.

Well, the first part of that plan went just fine, but the second part, not so much. He got off of the elevator on the right floor and headed towards his doorway. Just as he opened the screen door, the wind whipped the door out of his hand, the door hit him in the shin, and this action left a 6 inch gaping hole in his leg as it knocked him to the ground. He laid there on the ground for 30 minutes in a now-torrential rainstorm, getting soaking wet and crying out for help.

I was on my way back to my condo and was completely obvious to the disaster that had befallen him. About 45 minutes after I dropped him off, he called and told me about his fall. A neighbor had finally heard and responded to his cries and had helped him into his unit. Once inside, Dad had changed his clothes. His leg was bleeding but at least he was safe.

I called my brother to meet me at Dad’s place; we both dropped everything and went to check on him. Long story short, we patched him up and took him to the doctor. Later that week, he developed an infection in the leg and is now on antibiotics.

Here’s the point of this story: elderly people need some type of emergency contact button to carry with them, and be careful when elderly people get a cut. Dad had a phone in his pocket but he couldn’t reach it because of the way that he landed. His leg appeared to have a minor wound but he wasn’t able to take proper care of it and it became infected in just a few days.

What ideas do you have to share on this topic?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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Encouragement through rocks

Hi Everyone:

It is my understanding that folks in Florida have a new craze- painting rocks and leaving them for others to find.

While this might not sound very exciting, a dear friend of mine told me about a friend of hers who recently had to go to the hospital because an elderly relative’s life support was being turned off. She was feeling very blue when she suddenly spotted a small rock next to the sidewalk. It was painted with a cute little smiley face.

Something as seemingly-silly as a painted rock somehow lifted her spirits. The gal was able to carry on and say “goodbye” to her family member. Usually, it is the custom to re-plant the rock you find so that someone else can find it someplace else. This gal was so affected by the rock that she said she doesn’t plan on giving it away.

Because she will keep the rock, my friend decided to have a rock-painting craft day at her house, painting (and planting) more rocks for others to find. She and her mother and granddaughter spent an afternoon painting, hoping that their efforts will help brighten someone’s day.

What ideas do you have for encouraging others? Let’s start a movement of encouragement to total strangers, like some of the folks in Florida have done!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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