Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Caregiver's Guide to Managing Sundowners Syndrome

The Caregiver’s Guide to Managing Sundowners Syndrome

While the east coast was recently hit with snowmaggedon 2016, if you were to step outside here on the west coast you would probably think that early spring has begun. It’s true we have had a fairly mild winter so far. We are crossing our fingers it stays that way. In fact, this week marks the winter half way point. We are getting so close to spring we can almost smell it.

Despite how mild of a winter it has been, for our elderly loved ones even a mild winter can pose significant risks to their health. Over the last several weeks we have explored the perils of winter for our elderly loved ones. We started by exploring topics such as hypothermia, fall prevention, social isolation, seasonal affective disorder and the flu. This week we will be wrapping up our series by exploring sundowners syndrome and how it affects the elderly.

According to Caring.com, the term Sundowners Syndrome describes “the onset of confusion and agitation that generally affects people with dementia or cognitive impairment and usually strikes around sunset.”

Research suggests that 1 in 5 elderly who suffer from a form of dementia also suffer from sundowners syndrome. However, sundowners syndrome can also affect elderly who do not suffer from dementia.

While the syndrome can happen during any time of the year, it can worsen during the winter time due to the seemingly longer nights and shorter days. Knowing the symptoms, what to expect and how to help your elderly loved one through this difficult time can greatly decrease the effects of sundowners syndrome.

What to Look For

As we mentioned, sundowners syndrome typically starts at sunset. The transition between light and dark can cause confusion for the sufferer. As the afternoon grows closer to sunset keep an eye out for the following behavior:

  • The three A’s (Anger, Agitation and Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Suspiciousness
  • Mood swings

At this time, doctors and scientists can’t pinpoint exactly why sundowning happens, but according to caring.com, many scientists believe people with dementia are more susceptible to it due to changes in the brain that can affect one’s “inner clock.” Furthermore, scientists believe that some common triggers include: too much activity at the end of a day, winter weather and SAD, low light, internal imbalances such as abnormal hormone levels and fatigue at the end of the day.

How to Prevent and/or lessen the Effects of Sundowners Syndrome

Since scientists can’t determine exactly why sundowning happens it can often prove to be a challenge for loved ones and caregivers to deal with. Knowing the aforementioned triggers and how to avoid/lessen their effects goes a long way in reducing your loved one’s risk of experiencing sundowners syndrome.

The following tips from the Mayo Clinic will also help decrease the effects of sundowners syndrome for your elderly loved one:

  • Maintain a predictable routine
  • Make sure your loved one gets plenty of time in light during the day
  • Try to limit daytime napping
  • If your loved one drinks caffeinated beverages, try to limit them to just the morning time
  • Keep a night light on to reduce agitation
  • Sometimes background noises and stimulation from television can be upsetting so try to avoid this during the night time

If you care for an elderly loved one and would like help developing a care plan to help prevent them from experiencing the side effects of sundowners sydrome please feel free to contact us. We can help your family establish a care plan to personally accommodate your loved one’s needs.

Five Flu Tips That Could Save Your Elderly Loved One's Life

Five Flu Tips That Could Save Your Elderly Loved One’s Life

Due to the fact that the cold and wet weather during winter forces people to be inside and often in close proximity of others, it is no surprise that the winter season has become synonymous with Flu Season.

This week we continue our series on the perils of winter for our elderly loved ones by exploring the dangers associated with the flu and how we can help our elderly loved ones lessen their chances of getting the flu.

Research suggests that the flu causes an astonishing “3.1 million hospitalization days, 34.1 million outpatient visits and an estimated direct medical cost of $10.4 billion.” Even though people of all ages and ranges of health are at risk of contracting the flu, the flu is particularly dangerous for the elderly. In fact, the risks associated with flu-related death and hospitalization increase exponentially for elderly loved ones over the age of 65.

Finally, according to statistics released by the Center for Disease Control, in 2009 nearly 20,000 Americans died as a result of the flu. An unbelievable 90% of those deaths were among people over the age of 65.

As with any sickness, taking simple health precautions, participating in preventative medicine and catching the flu symptoms early goes a long way in keeping your elderly loved one safe, healthy and could ultimately save their life. To help you protect your elderly loved one this flu season we have compiled a list of tips and flu symptoms to be aware of:

  • First and foremost, make sure your elderly loved ones gets their flu vaccination. For those over the age of 65, the annual flu vaccination is available in two options: the normal dose or a higher dose specifically created for the elderly.
  • Make sure your elderly loved one and most people who come in regular contact with them practice good hygiene including frequent hand-washing, covering mouth when coughing and sneezing and avoiding other sick people.
  • Seek immediate medical intervention at the earliest sign of flu symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue).
  • Build their immune system by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and making sure they get a healthy amount of sleep.
  • Be wary of kids- For many, a great part of aging is having grandchildren. However, kids can often be walking germ factories. During flu season be extra careful to limit grandchildren visits if they are sick, are showing possible symptoms of being sick or recently getting over a cold.

If you care for an elderly loved one and would like help developing a care plan to help prevent them from contracting the flu please feel free to contact us. We can help your family establish a care plan to personally accommodate your loved one’s needs.

The Seniors Guide to Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Senior’s Guide to Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder

The weather this week has certainly been interesting to say the least. One day it is blue skies and mildly warm then the next it is cloudy and cold. In fact, over the course of a couple minutes the weather changed from blue skies to pouring down rain.

You may be thinking, “hey, it is winter, that’s just the way the weather is,” and you are correct. Unfortunately, the average day during winter brings gloomy gray skies, precipitation and little daylight, which is why the winter season can often put people in a blue, saddened mood. This phenomenon is often referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short.

This week we continue our series on the perils of winter for our elderly loved ones by exploring SAD and how we can help our elderly loved ones lessen the effects of the gloominess of winter.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is linked to the seasons throughout the year. Even though SAD can take place in any season, it is by far the most prevalent during the winter time. It is estimated that nearly 10 million Americans suffer from full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder each year, and an additional 10-20% of Americans mildly feel the affects of SAD. Additionally, SAD is more common the further north one lives, which makes it even more of a concern for elderly loved ones who live in the Pacific Northwest.

Furthermore, statistics suggest that late-life depression affects as many as 6 million people over the age of 65. As you may know, depression is known to increase the risk of attaining a multitude of illnesses for our elderly loved ones. Considering the fact that our elderly loved ones are already susceptible to late-life depression it is important to be aware of the signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder and how to prevent it.

The Signs

While the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder vary by the season and person, the following are the most common signs an elderly loved one may be suffering from winter Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Loss of energy
  • Increased appetite
  • Sleeping longer than normal
  • A hard time focusing
  • Aches or pains that don’t go away with treatment
  • A feeling of hopelessness
  • Being irritable

How to Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder

Now that you have an idea of what to be wary of these tips will help you prevent and lower the risk of your elderly loved one from experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Install daylight simulation bulbs. Often the lack of daylight can increase one’s risk of depression. Take advantage of sunny days and take a trip outside to soak in the sun.
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine to keep the blood flowing and increase healthy endorphins.
  • Plan fun activities throughout the winter for your elderly loved one to look forward to.
  • Increase your vitamin D intake. Some foods that are good for this include Salmon, beef, egg yolks, fortified cereals and juices

If you care for an elderly loved one and would like help developing a care plan to help prevent your elderly loved one from experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder please feel free to contact us. We can help your family establish a care plan to personally accommodate your loved one’s needs.

6 Ways to Beat Social Isolation This Winter

6 Ways to Beat Social Isolation This Winter

The holidays are long gone and people are starting to settle into the busyness a new year brings. For many, this means new year’s resolutions routines, deadlines for wrapping up 2015 business and planning the year ahead. While these things are necessary, they often come at the expense of putting things on the back-burner.

Visiting elderly loved ones is unfortunately one of those things that often gets put on the back-burner in the dead of winter and bustle of the new year. The lack of company coupled with being stuck indoors due to poor weather increases your loved one’s risk of experiencing social isolation and a poor quality of life.

In fact, studies have found that as many as 43% of seniors who live in senior communities suffer from social isolation, and this number increases for seniors who live on their own. Not only is senior isolation dangerous and lonely, it also exponentially increases your loved one’s risk of experiencing additional health issues including increased risk for all-cause mortality, hospitalization and falls.

This week we continue our series regarding the perils of winter for our elderly loved ones by exploring senior social isolation and how to prevent it.

What Is Social Isolation?

It is important to not that social isolation is neither a physical or mental disease. According to AARP, people are a social species and the urge for social interaction is a basic survival instinct. While, social isolation is not a disease, as we mentioned earlier, it can and will lead to detrimental health issues including depression, increased fall risk and potentially death.

Fortunately, even with busy schedules, with planning, organization and prioritization, social isolation can be easily combatted. The following are several ways you can help prevent your elderly loved one from experiencing social isolation this winter and beyond.

  • First and foremost, it is important to make transportation easily acceptable, whether you drive them or provide a shuttle/taxi service or utilize public transportation. If they do use public transportation, make sure they know how the system works and which stops they need to take. Always have a back up plan.
  • Encourage your elderly loved one to have at least one weekly standing day out with friends. Senior centers and churches usually have weekly gatherings and events which give your loved one something to do and people to spend time with.
  • If your elderly loved one can handle a pet, then invest in a furry companion for them to spend time with. Having something to take care of can help minimize the effects of social isolation. If your elderly loved one is not a pet person, then invest in a plant for them to take care of.
  • Plan a weekly meal date so that your elderly loved one doesn’t have to dine alone. Dining alone is dangerous and lonely.
  • If they live alone, speak with their neighbors and ask if they can keep an eye on them and maybe drop in to give them company if at all possible.
  • Invest in a companion caregiver.

Wiser Home Care Services’ Companion care caregivers provide the interaction seniors need to help make them feel connected. Wiser Home Care Services has wonderful companion care caregivers that are there for conversation, able to take seniors to social outings, run errands, and participate in activities as well as do light house duties. Companion care can provide the support needed for seniors to live safely at home.

Our standard companionship services include:

  • Companionship
  • General transportation needs
  • Monitoring diet and meal planning, cooking, clean up
  • Preparing grocery lists
  • Grocery shopping
  • Checking for food expirations
  • Scheduling foot care appointments
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Light housekeeping
  • Travel companion
  • Pet and plant care and house sitting
  • Ordering medications and pick-up
  • Communicating with all professionals involved in your care
  • Dry cleaning and laundry: pick-up and delivery
  • Special projects
  • Mailings
  • Booking medical appointments, date reminders, and transportation

If you care for an elderly loved one and would like help developing a care plan to help prevent your elderly loved one from experiencing social isolation please feel free to contact us. We can help your family establish a care plan to personally accommodate your loved one’s needs.

8 Winter Fall Prevention Tips That Could Save Your Life

8 Winter Fall Prevention Tips That Could Save Your Life

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it seems like the winter weather has gone from 0-100 in the matter of a couple days. One day it is raining then the next it is cold, snowing and icy. This kind of weather not only wreaks havoc for drivers and students, but also for elderly loved ones and loved ones with limited mobility.

Several weeks ago we started a new blog series discussing the perils of winter weather for our elderly loved ones. We started off exploring the dangers and warning signs of hypothermia. (You can find it here) This week we continue our trek through the perils of winter by covering perhaps one of the most popular and weather fitting subjects of winter slips, trips and falls.

The statistics regarding falls among the elderly in general are alarming. Throughout the year, in good weather and bad, it is estimated that falling seriously injures up to 300,000 people over the age of 65 each week. That number increases greatly when conditions are cold and slippery. Even scarier is that falls are the leading cause of death for those over the age of 75.

As alarming as these fall rates are, it may come as no surprise that elderly falls prevention is a hot topic. These simple tips may seem like no big deal, but if they prevent even one fall it could ultimately save a life.

It is important to note that if your loved one suffers from arthritis, diabetes, complications from a stroke or poor circulation, it would be best to keep them out of cold weather. These diseases often cause sufferers to have diminished feeling in their feet which impairs balance.

  • If your loved one is taking medicine, make sure that they don’t suffer a side effect of dizziness or light-headedness, as these will cause balance issues.
  • Before walking outside, make sure your loved one is comfortable walking inside. Keeping them active and their muscles limber will help reduce the chances of them falling.
  • Choose the right shoes – Make sure your loved ones shoes fit correctly and have the appropriate amount of grip to prevent slips.
  • Don’t Trust the Surface – Black ice can form fast and can be undetectable to even young eyes. Take every step with caution. Baby steps will help.
  • Use handrails if at all possible.
  • Use the buddy system. If possible, never let your elderly loved one venture outside on their own. Walking in groups is safer. If they must go alone, make sure they have a cell phone in case that fall.
  • Plan ahead- Planning ahead will allow your loved one to minimize their trips outside which will minimize their risk of experiencing a fall.

If you are worried about a loved one this winter or would like help ensuring their safety, don’t hesitate to contact us. Wiser Home Care Services can help your family establish a care plan to personally accommodate your loved one’s needs and help prevent falls or any other wintry risks.