If there were one prevailing emotion carried in the human spirit, it would be the necessity for freedom. Humans crave independence and the choice to freely make decisions about how they want to live their lives, no matter their age. So why should this freedom be denied to us as we grow older? Yes, our minds and bodies may not be as young and capable, but the will is still alive and thriving.
Granted, there are scenarios where your independence as a senior is limited due to illness, frailty or cognitive ability, but the option of choice should still be available. This is the beauty of live in care, where independence is made a daily priority yet live-in support is always available.
Here’s why live in care offers the best of both worlds:
1. You’re provided with the best care on your own terms
Accepting help can be a struggle as we age, most especially when it comes to personal care. Many seniors have their own capabilities and needs, and this is why live in care is so beneficial as it focuses on these individual needs, on your own terms.
Live in carers understand the importance of respecting boundaries and personal space. They offer you the chance to make your own decisions based on daily activities, the food you eat, sleep and wake times, bathing schedules, social outings and more. All of these aspects of care are tailored to your specific needs and what you can do independently.
2. Live in care fits into your routine
Unlike many residential care homes, live in carers understand the importance of scheduling daily tasks and appointments around your routine. Your day is not pre-planned for you. Instead, you are offered flexibility and choice, centred on your routine and what you want to do each day. If you’d rather visit a friend for breakfast or take an afternoon stroll, live in carers offer you that freedom.
3. Your safety and independence are both a priority
The best thing about live in care is having the peace-of-mind that you have your daily freedom, but are always in the safest hands possible. Rest-assured your live in carer will be there for you when you need them. Your carer will always have your best interests at heart – reminding you what’s good for you and what’s not. At times seniors may not want to hear this, but this is the job of a live in carer, and this too should be respected.
4. You have everyday access to your support network
With live in care you have the opportunity to spend more time with friends and family as your caregiver understands how vital this is for your social and mental wellbeing. Living at home allows you to see friends and family as they pop in and out for visits while enjoying the space and privacy you deserve.
Ultimately, live in carers are trained to make you a number one priority. Both your care needs and independence are equally important, making for the best quality of life possible.
A video game featuring a friendly dolphin may appeal to the likes of toddlers and teens more so than adults, but according to research, it’s making waves in the world of cognitive stimulation.
The interactive video game known as Bandit was recently researched for its ability to stimulate and maintain both cognitive and physical health in the elderly- most especially those prone to or suffering from neurodegenerative disorders.
Professor in Mental Health, Michelle Carlson, is the head researcher behind the study. She believes the video game can be used as a tool to exercise neural networks that control complex mobility and cognition in the brain.
The project and development of this interactive video game has been funded by the Johns Hopkins Royal Center for Translational Research. The video game is an adaption of the original, created by Kata Design studio, and was formulated to offer cognitive stimulation at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology.
A smiling dolphin holds centre stage in the game of Bandit, where players are tasked with controlling movements of the dolphin through increasingly challenging game levels. Players are challenged with assisting the mammal in catching fish, carrying out dolphin acrobatics, fending off predator sharks and more. The game is played using a remote control in one hand and using the arm movements of the other to control Bandit and his tasks. As such, players need to continually make physical and cognitive adjustments to carry Bandit through difficult challenges.
Bandit has become a popular video game and has been purposefully developed to sustain interest in the game, unlike many other interactive brain games on the market today.
Long-term Hopes for Bandit
While research has gone on to prove that the game strengthens independent functioning of the brain in real-world environments, its accessibility to seniors is yet to be determined.
The aim is to set up this interactive game as a tool for brain stimulation in retirement communities, public spaces and in homes in order to maintain healthy age-in-place environments.
Ultimately, the long-term hope for the game of Bandit is to prevent age-related cognitive decline, all while enhancing a senior’s ability to navigate and live in the ‘real world’. The goal of the game has been to provide an environment that is enriching in a physical, cognitive and social way.
Did you know that there is a spin-off of the disease Parkinson’s, commonly known as Parkinsonism? The reason it’s called a ‘spin-off Parkinson’s’ is because essentially it’s the same disease. However, Parkinsonism is usually combined with symptoms related to an additional cognitive condition.
With advancing age comes a myriad of health problems for many seniors, this is just a fact of life. Along with this, seniors may also begin to experience joint pain, muscle stiffness and a lack of mobility due to a number of conditions, including arthritis.
To add to this, the onset of diseases such as osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or dementia increase the likeliness of cognition issues, dizziness and weakness as side-effects of chronic medications.
All of these conditions can lead to a heightened risk of trips, falls and general instability in seniors. This is why gentle, low-impact mobility exercises are an excellent way to keep balance, flexibility and strength in check to increase mobility.
Practise the following exercises in the comfort of your own home, on a daily basis. Just keep in mind that another person, a sturdy chair or handrail should be used for support if needed.
1. The Tightrope Walk
For this exercise, you will need a few metres of clear, unobstructed space. Stand with your arms held up, straight out from your sides, facing parallel to the floor. Keeping your arms up at your side, walk in a straight line, pausing every two steps to lift your leg off the ground, and balancing for 1-2 seconds at a time. Slowly lower your leg back to the ground, and repeat.
Take 15-20 steps for the entire exercise, remembering to keep your head up and eyes fixed on an object in front of you. Use a spotter, someone to walk beside you, if needs be.
2. Rock the Boat
Place your feet hip-width apart and make sure that each foot is properly pressed into the ground for stability, evenly distributing your weight across both legs. Keep your shoulders back and head lifted, with your eyesight focused on an object in front of you. Now, slowly transfer your weight onto one leg and lift the other off the ground, holding it in the air for a maximum of 30 seconds. Lower your leg and repeat on the other side.
Complete each repetition 5 times on each side, building up to more as strength and balance improves.
3. The Heel-Toe Shuffle
While this exercise is more a walk than a shuffle, you will need to place one foot directly in front of the other to improve flexibility. Aim to place the heel of your front foot as close to the toes of your back foot as possible. If you can’t manage this, just try to get your two feet as close to each other as you can.
Take 15-20 steps this way while keeping your shoulders back, head up and eyesight fixed on an object in front of you.
4. The Flamingo Stand
For this simple exercise, you’ll basically be mimicking the stance of a flamingo. Stand with both feet firmly placed on the ground, hip-width apart. Use the back of a chair for balance if needs be, then slowly raise one leg off the ground, bent at a 90-degree angle, and hold it there for a few seconds. Then repeat this process on the other leg. You may find this exercise easier on one side than the other, but this is 100% normal. Keep your shoulders back, head up and eyesight focused on an object in front of you.
Growing older doesn’t always have to be uncomfortable- taking a few minutes out of your day to focus on your strength, mobility and flexibility is just as important as any doctor’s check-up!
Why carer flu jobs are so important?
If you are caring for someone you may be concerned about how being ill will affect you as a carer and the person you care for. If you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person who may be put at risk if you fall ill, and/or if you are in receipt of Carer's Allowance, you should be offered a free flu jab, according to government policy. Other categories of people are also eligible for a free flu jab, including those aged 65+, those who are pregnant, and those with certain health conditions.
Further information on flu jabs in England can be seen on the NHS website.
Shingles is the close cousin of the highly common childhood rash, chickenpox. They are both caused by the same virus, known as varicella-zoster. However, the difference between these two conditions is that one tends to affect young children, while the other tends to affect the elderly.
So, why is shingles so prevalent in the elderly?
Essentially, shingles is a virus that lingers in the body after someone has had chickenpox. The virus can lay dormant for decades in the body’s nerve cells, and for reasons still not fully understood, can be reactivated to produce shingles in later life.
When the virus is activated, it travels along nerve endings throughout the body to produce a skin rash on the surface of the skin, characterised by small, painful blisters. While not many seniors get shingles in later life, approximately 1 in 5 people who’ve had chickenpox are at risk of developing shingles over the age of 50.
It’s worth noting that shingles is not contagious, so as an adult caregiver or a loved one, you cannot contract shingles from someone you’re caring for. However, if you’ve never had chickenpox, you are at risk of contracting chickenpox from someone with shingles!
Increased risk of developing shingles
As mentioned, if you previously suffered from chickenpox as a child, there is always the risk of developing shingles in later life. But the odds are generally quite low of this happening unless you have a severely compromised immune system caused by a number of factors. In seniors, this tends to be illnesses related to HIV, cancer, chemotherapy treatments, radiation treatment and extreme amounts of stress which can take its toll on the body.
The symptoms of shingles
Shingles develop in a very obvious, clear pattern. The first sign is a tingling or burning sensation across a specific area of the skin, generally on one side of the body only. After this, the skin will break out in a red rash which then develop into fluid-filled blisters.
These blisters can be both itchy and painful, depending on the severity of the shingles and the location. The blisters can take between 3-5 weeks to completely clear up. Along with this rash, you may also experience chills, fever, headache or an upset stomach.
How to treat shingles
While there is no immediate cure for shingles, there is much that can be done to minimise symptoms and shorten the duration of the virus.
You’ll need to see a doctor immediately after the skin rash has developed and they will usually prescribe an anti-viral medication to reduce its spread and shorten recovery time. You may also be prescribed an analgesic or anticonvulsant medication for pain relief. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible is important to lowering the risk of developing complications down the line!
If you believe a senior loved one is at high risk of developing shingles, you can ask your doctor for a vaccination to keep it at bay. This is highly recommended for anyone over 60 who is suffering from chronic illness or extreme amounts of stress.
A recent study, conducted by the Buffalo School of Nursing, based in the United States, has found that over 91% of caregivers suffer from poor sleep patterns and don’t get enough sleep. The study also found that caregivers of those with dementia tend to suffer the most, with quality of sleep varying considerably from one night to the next.
A lack of sleep amongst caregivers, especially those that are direct family members, has been closely linked to increased instances of depression, anxiety, obesity and heart disease. This is why it’s so important to understand the interrelationship between caregiver sleep patterns and caregiving duties, and how these two can be best combined to make for a better sleep environment.
The study, published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, analysed the sleep of 43 people serving as primary caregivers for a family member with dementia.
What this study uncovered at its core is that family caregivers suffer a far worse sleeping schedule than they let on. At first, these caregivers described their sleep patterns as ‘poor’. But after each participant in the study was given an actigraphy (a non-invasive measure of rest and activity) watch to wear to track their sleep, findings displayed a chronic issue with sleep.
Most participants were getting less than the recommended minimum of 6 hours’ sleep per night, accompanied by frequent awakenings - some as much as four disturbances in an hour. This makes for severely disrupted sleep, which really isn’t 6 hours of sleep at all.
The main contributing factors to these sleep disturbances are the burden of care, anxiety and wandering among the majority of care receivers, common symptoms associated with dementia.
To add to this, poor sleep hygiene and sleep latency were also common among the majority of study participants. Poor sleep hygiene includes day-time napping and over-stimulation before bedtime, which leads to sleep latency – an inability to fall asleep. Most participants were found to take an average of 40 minutes to fall asleep, cutting into their overall rest time.
What can be done to create better sleep patterns?
If this sounds all too familiar to you as a family caregiver, you might need to make some significant changes in the way you prioritise sleep and your caregiving duties.
Some simple changes you can implement to create better sleeping habits include:
- Establishing a regular sleep and wake schedule and sticking to it, i.e. going to bed at the same time each night, where possible.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual, which doesn’t involve overstimulating the brain, such as watching television or scrolling the internet.
- Limiting your daily naps – keep daytime napping to a minimum of just 20-minutes as longer naps could be disturbing your evening sleep pattern.
- Maintain a healthy workout regime – this should help your body to expel pent-up energy or anxiety and help you sleep more solidly.
- Share the load – if sleep disturbances are a common nightly occurrence, you may need to begin sharing your burden of care with another family member who is willing to help.
Taking care of yourself as a caregiver should be a number one priority, and this includes the management of your sleep. After all, only a well-rested caregiver will be able to provide the most attentive care possible.
While a little bit of minor swelling or what appears to be weight gain may not seem like much cause for concern, it’s especially important to take note of these changes in seniors. Many seniors may already suffer from health complications such as kidney disease, heart disease, chronic respiratory infections or arthritis – these are conditions which can often spur on the development of oedema.
At one time this condition was known as dropsy, but today, its most commonly referred to as oedema, characterised by an excess fluid build-up seen in the hands, feet, ankles, wrists and legs. The most important thing for caregivers is to be able to accurately recognise oedema and its symptoms.
What causes oedema?
This condition develops when excess fluid begins to leak out of small blood vessels, becoming trapped in surrounding tissues. Oedema can often be triggered when a senior sustains some form of injury, such as a fall, surgery, allergic reaction or chemical changes in the body due to new medications.
Different forms of oedema
The most common form of this condition is known as peripheral oedema and most likely to occur in the feet, ankles, legs, hands and arms.
Generalised oedema is a condition that affects the entire body which begins to hold onto fluid, although swelling in the extremities is also common.
Then there are more specific forms of oedema, classified according to the organ that is affected, such as pulmonary oedema which affects the lungs, lymphedema which affects the lymphatic system or corneal oedema which affects vision.
Symptoms of oedema
As mentioned, it’s vitally important for caregivers to know what to look for when it comes to the early development of oedema in seniors. Some of the most common symptoms to keep on your radar include:
- Unusual swelling or puffiness of the skin
- Skin that appears stretched, shiny or discoloured
- Persistent aching in a certain body part
- Stiff, rigid joints
- Changes in weight, i.e. weight gain or an overall appearance of weight gain
- Skin that tends to dimple for a while when pressed, not returning to its normal ‘smoothness.’
So, what are the treatment options?
Once you notice any of the above symptoms begin to appear, you must seek medical assistance right away. If oedema is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications down the line such as painful swelling, limited mobility, skin infections, poor blood circulation, skin ulcers and damage to arteries, veins and joints.
Make an appointment with your regular physician as soon as possible – they will do a thorough check-up and may need to make adjustments to certain medications.
Some of the most important things to do as a caregiver to help control bouts of oedema include serving healthy meals, and applying compression and massage therapy to the affected area. It’s important that the skin is regularly conditioned to keep it supple, and be sure to elevate your loved one’s feet and watch their fluid intake.
It’s no secret that many seniors who suffer from neurodegenerative disorders struggle to sleep solidly, without disturbance throughout the night. This is especially true for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who have a tendency to wander at all hours of the day, even when everyone else is asleep, and then sleep on and off during the day.
While deep brain stimulation has been used to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease for almost three decades now, there’s been little escape from the negative drawbacks and limitations. With this in mind, researchers have recently developed a new and improved implant which works off real-time feedback from the brain itself. This real-time feedback helps to fine-tune the signalling of this new and improved implant model.