4 Tips on How to Discuss Quality of Life with the Older Adults in your Life

Guest Post Author: Chris Golen| thecommonsinlincoln.com

Discussing Quality of Life with Your Aging Parents

Living a long, happy and healthy life is something we desire, not only for ourselves but for our loved ones, as well. Indeed, as we grow older, quality of life issues become even more important. As executive director for a Boston-area senior living community, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of creating an environment for seniors where they can thrive as part of a community of neighbors, with the support they need.

What exactly is quality of life?  It’s a hard concept to describe, and answers differ from person to person. Understanding how your parents define quality of life is important to ensuring their long-term happiness and health. Maybe it is the opportunity to volunteer with a local non-profit, stay active in their church, participate in a much-beloved hobby, or spend time with family and friends on a regular basis.

Scientifically, quality of life has been defined by three key indicators: overall view of life, relationship to self, and relationship to partners or friends.

Here are some recommendations to help identify how your parent defines quality of life and areas for improvement.

Overall View of Life

Ensuring your parents maintain a positive view on life is crucial to their happiness. This extends to peace of mind in their finances and confidence they have the care they need in the event their health changes.

It’s important to note that while a senior living community can provide the support your parents’ need, these communities are not one size fits all. A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) model allows your parents to plan for the unexpected and enjoy life. CCRCs often offer a life care plan, allowing your parents to mitigate the risk of potential rising costs of health care and protect their assets.

Relationship to Self  

Opportunities to explore interests and focus on health will allow your parents to build self-confidence and enjoy life more fully. As your parent’s age, it can become difficult for them to motivate themselves to stay active, prepare healthy meals and value their physical health. Identifying a community of support may be the right environment. Senior living communities provide daily support, easy to follow fitness routines and delicious, healthy meals.

Health in mind, body, and spirit is the best way to ensure the greatest relationship to self. If your parent feels healthy and strong, they are better able to reach out to the ones they love, build new relationships, and continue to participate in life.

Relationship to Others

Interpersonal relationships will allow your parents to feel supported and part of a community. As we age, building new friendships can be difficult unless there are scheduled activities in place to create opportunities for social engagement.

Residents at senior living communities can become involved socially as they select from daily activities calendars to continue to enjoy the hobbies and experiences they love. Residents enjoy trips to local attractions, on-campus musical performances, opportunities to join or create a club for their hobbies, and lifelong learning with guest lectures.

Where Should You Begin?

It all starts with a conversation. Ask a series of questions to understand what aspects of your parent’s life they find most enjoyable. Questions could include:

  • What activities have you been participating in recently?
  • Are you able to participate in the activities purposeful to you?
  • What are the upsides and downsides of living alone?
  • Are you having any problems maintaining the house?

These questions will not only convey your interest in hearing about their lives, but it will allow you to pick up on major clues that their quality of life could improve with some changes.

If your parents seem lonely, removed, or have difficulty engaging in activities that give them purpose, transitioning to a new living situation, like a senior living community may be the right solution. With support from staff and daily opportunities to interact with others and participate in beloved activities, your parents may experience improvements in their overall view of life.

About the Author

Chris Golen, campus executive director at The Commons in Lincoln in Lincoln, Mass., has dedicated his career to improving the lives of seniors. Golen has made quality of life the top priority at The Commons by identifying a staff dedicated to making life more enjoyable for each resident. As a Continuing Care Retirement Community with a Five-Star Medicare rating in skilled nursing, The Commons offers the highest level of care available. Follow The Commons in Lincoln on Facebook or Twitter.

Take a Time-Out: Effective Coping Strategies to Combat Stress In-the-Moment as a Family Caregiver

Guest Post Author: Angela Stringfellow | Caregiver Homes

There’s tons of advice offering relaxation strategies to help caregivers cope with stress, but what about those moments when you feel like everything is going to fall apart — the moments when you feel like screaming? No one needs to tell you that self-care is important, but finding the time to focus on your own needs seems an impossible feat, let alone finding the money to pay for luxuries like a day at the spa or a massage.

As a caregiver, you need stress-beating self-care strategies that you can use, in the moment, without taking valuable time out of your caregiving duties or money that you simply don’t have to spare. Here are a few such coping strategies that are both cost-effective and easy to use – strategies that you can implement in minutes, with immediate results.

Visualization and Guided Imagery

This stress-busting tactic is free to use, and for some, it’s an effective coping technique when you desperately need an escape. MentalHelp.net describes the technique as a “systematic practice of creating a detailed mental image of an attractive and peaceful setting or environment.” It’s really as simple as that:

  • Find a calm, quiet space.
  • Take a few deep breaths to calm your mind and body.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Devote all your attention to imagining your ideal escape – a beach, the woods, a boat on the middle of a glistening lake, or whatever setting makes you feel calm and relaxed.
  • Spend time focusing on your senses and imagining the sensations you’d experience in your visual escape. For instance, you might imagine the feeling of warmth on your skin from the sun or the smell of the ocean.
  • Imagine yourself feeling calm and relaxed, happy and smiling.
  • Once you feel relaxed, you can end the visualization, open your eyes, and rejoin the real world.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique often used in conjunction with guided imagery, but it works as a stand-alone stress-busting tactic as well. This stress-busting strategy is also sometimes called “tense and release,” as it involves systematically tensing up muscle groups, from your head to your toes, and then relaxing while focusing on the way your muscles relax as the tension flows from your body.

Because it requires your full attention, progressive muscle relaxation can take your mind off of those in-the-moment stressors for a few quick minutes, and once you’ve worked through each muscle group, you might just be surprised by how much calmer and more relaxed you feel.

scent-sticks-fragrance-aromatic-161599

Aromatherapy

Essential oils can be useful for a variety of circumstances, but there are several essential oils that are particularly beneficial for stress relief, such as lavender, bergamot, chamomile, fennel, and Ylang Ylang, among others.

There are a few ways you can use aromatherapy to combat stress. The simplest way is to open a bottle of stress-relieving oil and gently breathe in the aroma. If you have the time for a quick shower, you can drop a few drops of essential oil into the shower for a whole-body aromatherapy experience, complete with the relaxing sensation of hot water and steam.

5-Minute Cardio Break

Exercise releases endorphins – those feel-good chemicals in the brain that make us feel happy and content. That’s why a quick, 5-minute cardio break can be such an effective stress-beating strategy for caregivers. Put some basic exercise equipment to use if you have it available, or you can do something as simple as a set of jumping jacks to reap the benefits of physical activity for combating stress. According to Harvard Medical School professor John Ratey, MD, just two minutes of exercise is enough to boost your mood – as long as the activity increases your heart rate.

10-Minute Yoga/Stretching Break

While it won’t raise your heart rate like cardiovascular activity, taking a 10-minute stretching or yoga break can also do wonders for beating acute stress and anxiety. Whether you simply take a few minutes to yourself to stretch your aching shoulders, arms, and legs or want to follow a formal, instructor-led yoga series, this is an activity you can do for free in just a few minutes for some immediate relief.

There are many yoga tutorials and guided stretching videos available online, free of charge. You can even choose videos that demonstrate the best stretches to target certain muscle groups, such as your upper body, or those that can help to alleviate a stiff neck or lower back pain.

Taking time out for self-care as a caregiver may seem like a mountain you just can’t climb. Thanks to these creative, cost-effective, stress-beating tactics, you can finally combat stress and find a welcoming escape to get through those moments when you feel like you’ve met your breaking point – all without breaking the budget or spending hours of time away from your loved one.

About author:

profile

Angela Stringfellow is a freelance writer based in central PA. She writes about aging, senior living, and issues facing older adults and senior caregivers for Caregiver Homes and a variety of caregiver-focused publications.

 

 

What to Do When an Aging Parent Forgets Who You Are

A well-known and yet hurtful reality of dementia or Alzheimer’s is the forgetfulness and memory loss that can occur.  Memory loss is particularly difficult for family members to cope with when their parent or loved one forgets who they are.

Forgetting the names of their children, forgetting that they have children, or mistaking their child for another person or family member is not uncommon for individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  And while this new reality may be shocking, to remind them that they’ve forgotten such an intimate detail about their life can be quite upsetting to them.

When I worked in the nursing home, my training prepared for these types of interactions.  I would say hi to some residents who I’d been working with for years and knew that while I may look familiar to them, they sometimes had no idea who I was. Although not being recognized did have an emotional impact on me this is nothing when compared to caregivers who are also daughters, sons, husbands, and wives. This is sometimes the most difficult for family members, and I want to offer tips on how to work through and cope with this specific aspect of dementia care.

Let them be who they are, no questions asked.

Correcting and quizzing are two common responses to loss of recognition that I’ve witnessed both professional and family caregivers use over the years. At times these types of approaches do work, however, in my experience the intent of asking the question is to offer the caregiver reassurance or validation rather than the person living with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The most common orientation questions are, “Mom, who am I?”, “Who is this?”, “Do you know where you are?”, “Do you know where you live?”.  The directness of the question can be confusing for someone living with dementia. Their memory recall is not as fast as ours, so undoubtedly when faced with these types of questions the easiest answer is a sheepish laugh followed by an “I don’t know.”

These types of questions also force the person to suddenly take back control of their situation and surroundings, which can be quite alarming. They’ve had to entrust that the caregiver will provide for them and it’s our job to maintain that sense of safety at all times.

Watch the video below from the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland as they work through questioning and frustrations that can occur for someone living with Alzheimer’s.

Staying in the moment  

Our relationships are built on years of memories, and when someone forgets who you are to them, it can be hurtful and confusing. Spending quality time together will help them feel more secure. Try holding their hand and listening to their favorite song.  Spending time on things they enjoy doing or that you shared together in the past is a beautiful experience for both of you.  Not only do you get a piece of your relationship back you also provide them with a sense of self.

Unsure of where to start?  Check out 4 meaningful ways to spend time with a loved one living with dementia.

Reminisce

Reminiscing is a good tool for stirring up memories for your loved one. Asking broader questions can be a great way to start the reminiscing process. Through conversation and dialog, you may find that your loved one begins to remember so much more.

Many people living with dementia-related to Alzheimer’s remember their childhood through their young adult lives quite vividly. Looking at old photos or discussing old family recipes or family vacations will prompt and orient their memory.

We Remember Their Love When They Can No Longer Remember

Comprehending a life without memories is difficult. Memories mean so much to us. They provide us with a sense of self and stand as a reminder of the journey we have taken in this life. And the memories we share with the people closest to us become an intricate piece of our identity. Alzheimer’s may take these memories away from us, but the inability to remember does not mean that it has to redefine who we are nor does it diminish the importance of the many moments that we have collected over the years.

 

Why Quality Time is the Best Gift You Can Give to Your Aging Parents

Guest Post Author: Kristen Heller

As we grow older, we realize that our parents need our attention now more than ever before. Forget about your teenage years when everything they did seemed to annoy you, and you couldn’t wait to finish high school and move out on your own. As it turns out, you also got to grow up and with it came some wisdom. You realize just how important it is to have a relationship with your parents.

What our aging parents need most from us is our time. It does not matter how many expensive gifts you have delivered to your parent’s doorstep or how many cards you send to their mailbox; what they need most is your presence. Sending a card on a birthday or mother`s day is great, but it would lighten up their hearts more if you were there to celebrate with them.

Not all family members have maintained a relationship throughout life. The idea of starting a relationship with your parents now that they are in need of care may feel overwhelming and maybe even impossible. But, it is never too late to begin forming a bond. Here are a few reasons why spending quality time with your folks is an incredible experience and fun ideas to get you started.

Make up for Lost Time

If either of your parents weren’t around much when you were growing up, there’s no better way to make up for lost time than being there for them as they get older.

Spending time together now allows you to get to know each other more, and you start seeing them in a different light. There is still a lot that you can learn from your parents even once you are an adult, vital life skills that only a parent can share with their child.

By now they also know that there is no better time to pass on some of the things they have learned while growing up; some wisdom gained from their parents and others from experience. They went through tough times, and the wisdom they will share with you is to ensure you don’t have to go through it.

Mend Broken Relationships

Maybe you missed out on a lot of the parent-child relationship because you were hard-headed during your teens, and because you were always causing trouble your parents showed you some tough love. In return, you moved out from home early and what followed were years of little communication with your folks. Of course, there are times they would try to reach out, but your pride would often get the best of you. At times you would be overcome with guilt and wish things were much easier with your parents, but you didn’t even know where to start. In truth, there’s no better time to mend your relationship than now.

Reach out to them; don’t miss out on spending the last few years with your folks because of pride. Past mistakes cannot be undone, but you can patch things up. The time you spend with them will always be priceless, and your folks will get to spend their time knowing their child was there for them when they needed you most.

How to spend quality time with your aging parents

The first step is learning how to create time to spend with them, no matter how busy your schedule is. You do not have to turn up every day, but make an effort to see them every so often. If your parents have medical challenges, becoming their caregiver can ensure they are comfortable.

Below are a few fun things you can do while spending time with your aging parents:

– Start digging for long lost oldies that your parents loved listening to when you were young. It may take a lot of digging, but it will be worth it. Music speaks to the soul and helps us to reminisce certain periods of our life and what we were going through at that time, bringing feelings of nostalgia.

– Cooking- Show up at their place with ingredients and a recipe, ready to prepare them their favorite meal. Ask your mum or dad to join you in the kitchen and bond as you cook together.

– Hunting- If your dad has a thing for hunting, plan a weekend getaway out in the woods. Hunting is a great way to spend some quality time together.

– Fishing- do your folks love fishing? Hire a boat and go out fishing on the lake.

– Try outdoor trips, especially to places that your parents have always wanted to visit.

– Reading your favorite books, especially to parents with dementia-related ailments.

– Going through old photo albums with your parents, as you listen to the stories and memories behind each photo.

– Showing them new technology- your parents will always be awed by how far technology has come. Every time you introduce them to some innovation in technology, you will get to hear stories of how great things were back in the good old days.

– Keep active- for instance, a game of hoops, tennis or table tennis with your dad, or yoga with your mom. Exercising together can be a great way for both of you to keep in shape.

It’s Never Too Late

Spending time with family that you don’t have a good relationship with is hard, but that doesn’t mean its impossible.  Many adult children will find themselves thrust back into their parents lives as they begin to require extra care.  While overwhelming, there are plenty of good reasons why you should attempt to form a relationship with them.  Using any of the fun activities above can be a great icebreaker for your developing relationships!

About the Author

kristenh

 

Kristen Heller is a passionate writer, teacher, and mother to a wonderful son. When free time presents itself, you can find her tackling her lifelong goal of learning the piano. Kristen also volunteers time with Freedom Care.

5 Things to Consider When Choosing Senior Care Options for Your Aging Parent: The Benefits of Live-in Carers

Guest Post Author: John Stuart | angelcarers.com

If your loved one requires round-the-clock care, but they’re reluctant to leave their lifelong home, then hiring a live-in carer could be the perfect alternative. Live-in carers provide specialist care to your loved one in the comfort of their own home, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience to provide full-time support. If you’re considering hiring care for an elderly friend or relative, you might be wondering what the benefits are when compared to residential nursing homes.

Avoids upheaval

Hiring a live-in carer allows your loved one to stay in safe and familiar surroundings. Even when they require care, many individuals prefer to stay in their own homes for as long as possible, with their personal belongings, memories, and pets.

Moving an elderly relative can cause major distress and can be a truly difficult time in their life. With the help of a live-in carer, you can rest assured that your loved one will be put through as little disruption as possible, allowing them to stay at home with their home comforts while receiving all of the care they require.

Better quality of life

At a time where your relative may feel like they’re losing their independence, remaining in their own home can make all of the difference in their quality of life.

By employing a live-in carer, you can ensure a better quality of life for your relative than if they were to move to a residential care home. By staying in their own home, your elderly relative is able to keep their pets and belongings, which hold a lot of memories and sentimental value. It also allows them to continue with their social activities by remaining in their local area, meaning that they’re able to stay in contact with neighbors, friends and continue to participate in their favorite hobbies.

Dedicated care

Live at home carers can provide bespoke round-the-clock, dedicated care to your elderly relative.  Not only will this give you peace of mind that your relative will care for 24 hours a day, but it also provides consistency. Having a small team of one to two carers means that your relative can build a relationship with their carer as well as ensuring they’re receiving the best possible care and can establish a solid routine.

Companionship

According to research by the Campaign To End Loneliness, over half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, so a live-in carer can provide the perfect companionship to improve their quality of life. Elderly people will often build close bonds with their live-in carers, helping to avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Statistically, many elderly people can go days without any social activity. A live-in carer can open up new opportunities to your elderly relative, helping them to engage in activities which may have become difficult, such as getting out to the shops or social clubs. Companionship is one of the most overlooked, but most important, benefits of a live-in carer for your elderly relative.

https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/loneliness-research/

Continuity

A small team of live-in carers provides continuity for your elderly relative and allows them to maintain their regular routine. This is especially important for dementia sufferers who can struggle to get used to having a multitude of carers and new surroundings in a residential home. By living at home, your loved one is able to sustain their schedule, meaning that they can dictate their meal times, social and leisure activities which would be difficult in a residential home.

Peace of mind for family members

Live-in carers don’t just benefit those receiving the care – they can also provide peace of mind for family members who can rest assured that their relative is receiving the best, dedicated care possible. Live in carers also alleviate the pressure on busy family members and can lessen the guilt they feel if they are unable to frequently visit their elderly relatives.  Unlike residential homes, family members are able to visit their elderly relative whenever is convenient for them, without having to worry about adhering to visiting hours.

Live-in carers provide many valuable benefits and are definitely an option worth considering if your elderly relative requires round-the-clock care. By employing a live-in carer for your relative, you’ll ensure that your loved one is receiving a dedicated care plan to help them to remain healthy, happy and positive throughout their senior years.

About the author: Angel Carers provide a bespoke domiciliary care service as well as live-in care throughout the South of England. They suit all of their services to each of their clients, offering a truly bespoke care service. Discover more on their website – http://www.angelcarers.com/

The Perks of Getting Older, ​There are so Many!

Guest Post Author: Toby Dean | UKsMobility

 

Growing older means different things to different individuals. While some associate aging with wisdom, grace, and satisfaction, others keep clinging on to the past and not seeing the upside of growing old. Growing old is not optional but mandatory, and once you know the perks associated with it, you might start enjoying it.

Since birth, you have been learning and now is the time to impart all that knowledge and wisdom to others. You might not see it if you crib about your age but being wise, knowledgeable and confidence makes you a more attractive person.

Now that you do not have to work anymore, you have all the time to indulge in your hobbies, passions, and start crossing off things from that bucket list. Take that Caribbean Cruise now or was it backpacking across Europe that you always wanted to do? Are you intrigued? Check out other perks of growing old in a fun and informative infographic from UKsMobility, and make the most of this stage of your life.

Growing-Old-RS
About the Author
Toby dean works on behalf of UKsMobility in content creation and marketing. He creates engaging graphics and content that help businesses stand out from the crowd. Over the past 7 years has worked with dozens of SME’s in both an agency and freelance capacity.

A New Generation: Is ‘Family Caregiver’ a New Life Milestone for Millenials?​

The Millenial Caregiver

I am a Millenial. Born in 1987, I am right on the cusp of the generation shift, and over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a distinct change in the types of conversations I have with others in my cohort.  While we discuss near future decisions like careers, homes, and starting a family the question of how close to home we should stay becomes a critical factor in the decision-making process. Why wouldn’t it?  The comforts of home are attractive to many of us especially as we get a bit older and feel somewhat inclined to carry on family traditions. Being closer to home also helps if and when close family members start to need additional care or support.

The National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute report on the Millenial Caregivers cites that the average age of this cohorts caregiver is 27 years old. They are working full-time, half of these caregivers live with a spouse or partner, and on average they have graduated high school and have taken some college courses.  All live with or live close to the care recipient.

For those who aren’t yet a caregiver, the chances of becoming one are extremely high due to the projection of older adults in need of care over the next twenty years. An increased generational focus on higher education and career means that many in the millennial cohort will start a family and buy a home much later than their parents did. A later start also means they will be in full-blown parenting and career mode when their parents begin to need additional care. Many of them are already privy to the realities of the family caregiver role. Their parents are baby boomers who have had the wild experience of raising a new generation while caring for the one that came before them and now is left with the question, who’s going to take care of me?

A Generational Shift

And who will? A shift in preferences has led many older adults to want to age in their own homes and communities, but planning beyond this choice is rare and is not often discussed with, family. No one ever really wants to talk about a loss of independence especially when it is with someone they love. Even though it is a hard conversation to have it is still a conversation that needs to be had. Without a plan in place, many adult children will make healthcare and caregiving decisions based on what they think their parents would want rather than their actual wishes.

In the article, Do Parents Really Want to Live with Their Adult Children? Author Carol Bradley Bursack suggests that there is an increase in interest in parents wanting to live with their adult children.  Citing this option as an economically savvy way to live out our retirement years.  She cautions parents, however, to be thoughtful of the decision.  Making a decision based off of economics may not always mean that there will be harmony in the household and it may be difficult to get out of the arrangement once they’ve already moved in.

So how can families start these types of planning conversations?  The best thing to do is to start early and talk about it often.  Start with the big picture, if you begin the planning process early enough there is plenty of time to sort out all of the details. Have a general conversation about the definite no’s to care options, is a continuing care retirement home out of the question? Or would they rather live in their own house and receive care?  Plans will change, but conversations about preferences and financial ability will help paint a better picture of what options there are and will make everyone in the conversation feel more comfortable broaching the subject.

In need of some ideas to get you started, check out my Sixty and Me article on 5 Senior Living Alternatives: Finding a Home that Fits Your Lifestyle.

 

images

Having these types of conversations is understandably hard, and it may not always go as smoothly as planned.  However, to start a discussion about how your family member wants to spend their later years is the best way to ensure they continue to have control in the decision even if they are no longer able to make one at the time. Talking about big picture scenarios is an easy way to start the conversations and gives everyone a better sense of what to expect or plan for in the future.  Not all plans are set in stone, but checking back in often with one another on the topic will ensure everyone remains up-to-date on preferences. Plus the more you talk about aging, the easier it gets to discuss!

Further reading: Do you Have a Plan for Your Future Health Care Needs?