Elder Care Insights-Blog

November is National Family Caregivers Month

In 2011, President Obama proclaimed November as National Family Caregivers month to “pay tribute to the individuals throughout America who ensure the health and well-being of their relatives and loved ones.”  The proclamation honors “the tireless compassion of Americans who heal, comfort, and support our injured, our elders, and people with disabilities.  This month and throughout the year, let the quiet perseverance of our family caregivers remind us of the decency and kindness to which we can all aspire.”

As a society, it’s easy to pay lip-service to the folks in the trenches of caregiving.  Why wouldn’t the nation honor the 40 million family caregivers in the U.S. who, in 2013, provided an estimated 37 billion hours of assistance to an adult with activities of daily living?  According to the AARP, the estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $470 billion in 2013.

But even the words “tireless” and “quiet perseverance” connote martyrdom, sacrifice and isolation. These attributes don’t always make the best caregivers and they devalue the all-important first rule of caregiving, which is to ask for help.  This year’s theme is, Take Care to Give Care, acknowledging the fact that caregiving, while rewarding, is physically and emotionally demanding.  By virtue of a caregiver’s role, the caregiver is at a higher risk of health issues.

Caregivers, celebrate yourself this month by recognizing the need to Take Care to Give Care, in whatever way makes sense to you.  In the words of a fellow caregiver, “I’ve become very good at asking for help, in putting necessity first and pride last.”  Successful caregiving takes a team.  Know your capabilities.  Spend time putting a network of support in place, to have people you can call on in an emergency.  People around you likely want to help, but they need to be told specifically what type of help you need and when you need it.

Some additional reminders from the Caregiver Action Network:

  • Caregiving can be a stressful job. Most family caregivers say they feel stressed providing care for a loved one. With all of their caregiving responsibilities – from managing medications to arranging doctor appointments to planning meals – caregivers too often put themselves last.
  • The stress of caregiving impacts your own health. One out of five caregivers admit they have sacrificed their own physical health while caring for a loved one. Due to stress, family caregivers have a disproportionate number of health and emotional problems. They are twice as likely to suffer depression and are at increased risk for many other chronic conditions.
  • Proper nutrition helps promote good health. Ensuring that you are getting proper nutrition is key to help maintain your strength, energy and stamina, as well as strengthening your immune system. Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most powerful things you can do to take care of yourself and keep a positive attitude overall.
  • Ensuring good nutrition for your loved one helps make care easier. As many as half of all older adults are at risk for malnutrition. Good nutrition can help maintain muscle health, support recovery, and reduce risk for re-hospitalization – which may help make your care of a loved one easier.
  • Remember: “Rest. Recharge. Respite.” People think of respite as a luxury, but considering caregivers’ higher risk for health issues from chronic stress, those risks can be a lot costlier than some time away to recharge. The chance to take a breather, the opportunity to re-energize, is vital in order for you to be as good a caregiver tomorrow as you were today.

Home for the Holidays?

Visiting your aging parents for the holidays can elicit many intense feelings, made all the more difficult if you notice changes in your parents that you aren’t sure what to do about. If you live a distance from your aging parents, the holidays may be the first time you’ve had the opportunity to recently assess your parents and their health. Really take the time to look at your parents with fresh eyes and observe if anything about them seems downright different. Really ask about how they are doing, and observe if they seem mentally and physically healthy to you.
Listen carefully during your conversations for signs of things they may be struggling with at home. While this is a time for joy and celebration, you can make note of things to discuss with them later. Below is a list of things to look for:
• If a loved one has had obvious weight loss or gain, they may have a medical condition that needs to be addressed.
• Changes in physical grooming habits, such as unkempt hair, dirty clothes, or body odor could be a sign of physical ailment or memory loss.
• A quick glance at a stack of mail can produce some telling clues. For example, unopened bills can be a sign of financial trouble or memory loss, as can statements of overdue balances. If you see an unusual amount of solicitations or thank you letters from charities, you might want to discuss with your parents how much they are donating, how often, and if it is financially prudent for them. Unfortunately, there are fake charities that target senior citizens with financial scams.
• Take a quick assessment of driving skills by asking one of your parents to drive you to the store. Note if he or she seems tense or easily distracted behind the wheel, as well as if he or she is wearing his or her seat-belt and obeying traffic laws. This is also an opportunity to check the gas level and dashboard warning lights to see if your parents are properly maintaining their vehicles.
• Check out all of the appliances in the home to make sure they are in good working order. This goes double for smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and medical alert systems.
• Look around your parents’ home and see if their standard of living seems to have changed. If you find clutter and cobwebs in what was once a spotlessly clean home, it could be a sign of depression or the onset of physical limitations.
• Ask your parent if he or she continues to attend social activities that he or she used to enjoy. Limiting activities may be a sign of depression or the beginnings of cognitive impairment.
If you find that your parent is having difficulty managing at home without help, start the conversation by contracting with An Aging Life Care Professional, also known as a geriatric care manager, who can act as a guide and advocate for families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults.

Elder Care Insights: Supplements and the Elderly – a Bad Mix


From the Aging Life Care Consultants at Elder Care Consulting

Older people are not only taking more drugs, they are also taking more over the counter preparations.

Many over the counter supplements touted to improve health are in fact dangerous when mixed with some medications.

In a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, two- thirds of older adults were using dietary supplements which included vitamins and herbs.

Some of these products, even those that sound natural, may interact with medications.

In fact, a study of interactions in 2010 found that 15% of the individuals had a major drug reaction.

Some of the more common include:

  • Fish oil, vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10 when taken with Coumadin may increase bleeding risks.
  • Saw Palmetto, popular for benign prostate enlargement, should be used with caution with medications prescribed for prostate.
  • Melatonin, a natural hormone that helps to regulate sleep/wake cycles, should be avoided with antihistamines or muscle relaxers.

Tips for people taking medications:

  • Use the same pharmacy for all your medications and inform them of any over the counter medications you may be taking.
  • Take your list of medications, including supplements, to all your physician appointments.
  • Evaluate the benefit and risk of any medications or supplements taken together.
  • Do not use outdated medication or medications borrowed from your friends.

It is important to remember that the best way to reduce a possible drug interaction is to cross check your medication and supplements with a local pharmacy.  They have the ability to run the profile through a computer system for a medication interaction check.

Lori O’Connor, MSN, APRN, is a national certified Professional Geriatric Care Manager with Elder Care Consulting, LLC.

For more information contact us at www.eldercareconsultingllc.com 860-643-9500.

Elder Care Insights on Silver Alerts

Lost…a person with memory impairment.
A Silver Alert is a public notification system in the United States to broadcast information about missing persons – especially senior citizens with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other mental disabilities – in order to aid in their being found.
How often have we seen these posts on our local Patch, the news or other media?
Why do they happen?
Families often do not recognize that their loved ones are at risk for wandering. Many people with memory impairment are also directionally challenged. That’s not the same as the joke of “most men will never ask for directions”. This condition is related to how their brains perceive visual spatial differences.
What are the warning signs and how can you prevent this from happening without restricting freedom?
1. Always make sure the person has identification on them.
2. Consider a Safe Return alert bracelet from the Alzheimer’s Association. For information visithttps://www.alz.org/national/documents/topicsheet_safereturn.pdf
3. Enlist your neighbors to keep an eye out for the person on the move.
4. Keep the person active and engaged. Try introducing a walking buddy.
5. Tracking devices on most cell phones can also pin point the person’s location

Another great resource is

O’Connor receives award

Lori O'Connor, Elder Care Consulting

Lori O’Connor, President of Elder Care Consulting in Manchester and Senior Moments Day Center in Tolland has received a National Geriatric Care Manager certification and membership in the Aging Life Care Association. These professionals have expertise in the care of older adults and support of families and caregivers. Lori holds a Master’s Degree in nursing with a specialty in Gerontological nursing and owns three elder care companies serving central and Eastern CT.

Senior Moments to attend the Connecticut Association of Adult Day Center’s Expressive Art Exhibit


Senior Moments to attend the Connecticut Association of Adult Day Center’s Expressive Art Exhibit at the 2016 Alzheimer’s Conference Thursday, April 7.

Exhibits will be comprised of a variety of hand made arts and craft projects.
Some of the artists will be individuals who attend our Adult Day Center Senior Moments in Tolland. Follow us as we develop our artistic side. For information on the CT Alzheimer’s conference click here

Elder Care Insights Long Distance Caregiving

Today your mom is in the hospital and you live 1000 miles away.

Who will you call?
These are challenging times in all health care settings. In this day of hospitalists versus the family doctor, how can you be sure that the hospital has the correct information? What can you expect at discharge? What will happen to your elderly father when he is alone at home? These worries become compounded when the patient has memory loss, physical limitations or sensory issues as well.

May is National Professional Geriatric Care Managers month. These are the individuals who come to the rescue when you truly need an advocate, a coordinator or a health care professional that can bridge the health care divide. Professional Geriatric Care Managers assess, recommend, coordinate, advocate and support the entire family system. They work in conjunction with families, attorneys, financial planners, assisted livings and all health care agencies.

Professional Geriatric Care Managers are the only professionals that cross the continuum of care by following our elder in hospitals, to rehabilitative facilities and back home again.
Local resources to assist your family members include:
Area Agency on Aging
Senior Centers in your parent’s local area
Town Department of Social Services

Lori O’Connor, MSN, APRN is a national certified professional geriatric care manager and a certified dementia specialist with Elder Care Consulting, LLC