Dear Maryellen Blog | Q&A

Medication Management: Tips for Seniors & Caregivers

Posted by: Maryellen McKeon, Senior Vice President of Operations

Medication Management Tips

Managing Medications

Dear Maryellen,

My father is my mom’s caregiver. Due to a variety of health issues my mother takes several different medications daily. My father manages all the meds. He calls in the prescriptions, fills the pill organizer and administers. With so many medications it can be very confusing. Can you offer some advice on how to better manage all these meds?

-Cynthia, Massapequa Park, NY

Dear Cynthia,

Medication Management is a big responsibility and can be overwhelming especially when there’s more than one prescription. Medication errors are far too common among the elderly. There’s no surprise when you consider the number of drugs an individual takes. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 76 percent of adults over age 60 take at least two prescription drugs, and 37 percent use five or more. As your mother’s caregiver, your dad is juggling quite a bit. Reigning in this area will be a tremendous help to both of your parents.

The FDA suggests these five tips to avoid mistakes:

1. Know the names of the drugs.

2. Ask questions about how to use them.

3. Know what the drugs are treating.

4. Read labels & follow all directions.

5. Keep a list of all the medications.

For a more in-depth look at these tips go to U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Cynthia, you’re making a wise choice to get involved. I’m sure your parents appreciate it.

Regards,
Maryellen McKeon

 

Image courtesy of tungphoto /FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Senior Care
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Tips for Senior Caregivers

Posted by: Maryellen McKeon, Senior Vice President of Operations

Dear Maryellen,

Tips for Caregivers

Tips for Caregivers

I need help. My 85 year old father resides with me and my family. He has early signs of dementia and often times gets frustrated and lashes out at my family. I’m Dad’s full-time caregiver, I manage the house and tend to my kids. My siblings are out of state so Dad’s daily needs are dropped in my lap. I love my dad dearly but I am exhausted and need help. -Sue, Westbury, NY

Dear Sue,

I’m so glad you are reaching out. Caring for an elderly parent is difficult and very demanding. First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself. You’re no good to your dad and your family if you’re running yourself ragged. I hope this helps.

Tips for Senior Caregivers:

1. Maintain your physical health by eating a well balanced diet and exercising daily. For some great tips take a look at 25 Vitamin-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating and The Best 15 Minute Workout Without a Gym.

2. Attend a support group for caregivers. The Family Service League is just one of the many organizations that provide group or individual counseling to help caregivers manage their stress.

3. Encourage your mom’s independence. Find responsibilities that are in line with Dad’s capabilities whether it’s watering plants, reading to the kids or doing laundry. This will not only ease your burden but also improve your father’s state of mind.

4. Ask for help…it’s more than OK. Delegate chores to family members & request siblings to relieve you on occasion.

5. Give everyone a break in the house. Senior day care is available at some assisted living communities. Dad can spend a few hours, the day or a week while you get some free time.

6. Finally, schedule me time once a week. See a movie with the family, go out to lunch with a friend or relax under the skilled hands of a masseuse. It doesn’t matter what you do, just get out and recharge your battery.

I hope these tips help ease your stress and allow you to enjoy time with your dad. You are fortunate to have each other.

Regards,
Maryellen McKeon

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Senior Care
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Warning Signs an Older Family Member Needs Help

Posted by: Maryellen McKeon, Senior Vice President of Operations

Warning Signs an Aging Loved One Needs Help

Is more help needed?

Dear Maryellen,

My 90-year old father lives 7 hours away from me. The kids and I went to visit him after the end of a busy school year. We hadn’t been able to visit him since the holidays. I know it was hectic for him with three very active kids in his house, but something just didn’t seem right. He says he is “fine.” But I think he is struggling to keep up with the house and with preparing meals. I’m worried. How do I know if he needs help and just isn’t willing to admit it?  -Alyssa G.

Dear Alyssa,

It sounds like you are a devoted daughter and you probably know your father well. You should trust your instincts. Can you try to plan another visit without the children? At that point you can better assess if the suspicions you have were caused by having his normally quiet life disrupted or if there is something more to worry about. It’s important to recognize the warning signs an older family member needs help.

We usually advise families to look for:

  • Weight loss – Does he seem to be losing weight without trying?
  • Bills piling up – Did you find unopened bills on his desk or counter or even in the mailbox?
  • Change in behavior – Has your father stopped participating in activities he has always enjoyed? Does he still attend services at his church or synagogue as he always has?
  • Untidy home – What was the condition of his house like? Was it different than usual? Is the refrigerator full of out-of-date food?
  • Change in appearance – Has he always been someone who is well groomed and fastidious with his appearance? Does that seem to have changed?
  • Confusion – Does he seem to have moments of confusion even if they are short?
  • Vehicle damage – Is his car showing a little more than road wear? Do you find dings, dents and scrapes when you inspect it?
  • Bruises and bumps – Does your father have any on his head, hands, arms or legs? Is he keeping the fact that he’s been falling from you because he doesn’t want you to worry?

If you found the answer to more than one or two of these questions was yes, it is probably time to schedule a visit to your loved one’s primary care physician. Sometimes the changes in a loved one are so subtle you barely notice them. Then overnight, it feels like you are caught in a crisis and need to find help fast. It is better to play it safe when it comes to the health and well-being of an aging parent.

Best Regards,
Maryellen

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Senior Care
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Making the Move to Assisted Living: When to Sell Your Elderly Loved One’s House

Posted by: Maryellen McKeon, Senior Vice President of Operations

Dear Maryellen,

After more than a little persuading, my 94 year old father agreed to move to an assisted living community near his home in Sayville, New York. Our next step is to try to figure out the timeline for him making this move. He has a very large home to sell. We aren’t sure if we should sell it before he moves or after. Can you offer any advice on making this move to assisted living?

Monica

Dear Monica,

Figuring out what to take, sell, and what to donate can be a long process.

When sorting, focus on one room at a time.

It is usually easiest on the older adult if you can help your father move first and then sell the home. It will make the transition a little easier on your father. He won’t have to leave his home during realtor showings which aren’t always scheduled for the most convenient times. It will also let you pack and move around your schedule and not around one dictated by the potential buyers. If he has lived in his home for a long time, sorting through his belongings and figuring out what to take with him, what to sell, and what to donate can be a long process. For some tips read Downsizing & Selling Your House.

If he doesn’t have enough liquid assets to make selling his home after the move a comfortable decision, there are financial organizations and banks that offer short-term home equity loans exclusively for those moving to senior living. These programs are designed to bridge the gap between when someone moves to a senior living community and the time their home is sold. The loan allows them to finance the move using the equity in their home.

Good luck with this transition! I hope everything goes well for your father.

Regards,
Maryellen

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Senior Care
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How do I Evaluate an Assisted Living Facility?

Posted by: The Bristal

Dear Maryellen,

My brother and I are searching for an assisted living community for our parents to move to this summer. We are in the process of scheduling visits. My question is this: how do we really get a true picture of what these communities are like beyond the promotional literature? How do I evaluate an assisted living facility?

Denise in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey

Dear Denise,

You are already on the right track! A personal visit is one of the best ways to gain insight about an assisted living community. You can talk with residents, staff and other families during your visits and see what they have to say. We also recommend to families that they visit a few times, including on the weekend. That will give you a more complete picture of what goes on in the community.

There are several other ways you can gain a better understanding of an assisted living community.

Take a tour of the community.

There are several other ways you can gain a better understanding of an assisted living community. Here are a few suggestions:

• Visit the community’s social media sites, especially Facebook. You can see from the photos and activity on the site how engaged the community is with residents, families and staff.

• Ask your peers and colleagues if they have been through this with a loved one or know someone who has. Positive word of mouth is a strong recommendation.

• Read what other families have to say on senior care review sites. They will give you insight as to what other families think about a community and to how the community reacts if a problem is brought to their attention in a bad review.

I hope these tips help you on your search!

Regards,
Maryellen

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Senior Care
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Making an Elder Care Decision: How will I Get Over the Guilt?

Posted by: The Bristal

Dear Maryellen, 

Join a Support Group

Talk with others

My wife and I recently moved my 83 year old mother to a memory care assisted living program. It’s been tough. When Dad was dying, I promised him I would take care of Mom. She was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s less than a year after his death. My wife and I have tried to keep her safe at home, but we just couldn’t do it anymore. We both work full-time and have teenagers living at home. Mom wandered away multiple times. The last time she was gone for over 5 hours in the frigid winter before we found her on a bench at a local park. We knew we couldn’t keep her safe any longer.

We chose an assisted living community with a memory care program that got high reviews on state surveys and on review websites. We visited the community on multiple occasions at different times of day and night like we were advised. It seems as if they are doing a good job with her, but is so hard to visit her there and have her tell us each time that she wants to go home with us. How will I Get Over the Guilt?

- Bob in Lake Grove, NY

Dear Bob,

Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult journey for families. It is often referred to as “the long goodbye.” Guilt is a very common emotion for loved ones to feel during this time.

Many adult children make promises like the one you made to your father. You promised your father that you would take care of your mother and you are. When you recognized you couldn’t keep her safe, you found a community with a memory care program that can. You made an informed decision.

Wandering is a common and dangerous behavior for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. You were lucky in finding your mother after 5 hours. Statistics on wandering are frightening. According to the Alzheimer’s Association if someone who wanders isn’t found in the first 24 hours, they only have a 50% chance of survival.

What might help you during this transition is to join a family support group. It will give you the opportunity to talk with others who have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease. If you can’t find time in your schedule for an in-person meeting, there are many available online. The Alzheimer’s Association Online Support page can help you connect with a group in your area.

I hope this helps you and your family, Bob.

Best Regards,
Maryellen

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Senior Care
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Activities At Assisted Living: Not Just Bingo

Posted by: Maryellen McKeon, Senior Vice President of Operations

Dear Maryellen,

Tips to Find an Active Assisted Living Community

Tips to Find an Active Assisted Living Community

Over the last year, it has become obvious to me that my mother needs the support of a senior living community. She is isolated and alone a lot of the time. While it hasn’t been easy to accept, I really believe selling her home and helping her move is the right decision. The problem is my brother. He is opposed to even discussing the idea with her. My brother thinks she will be even more depressed around “old people” who don’t do much more than play Bingo and watch television in the lobby all day. His attitude is so frustrating to me. How can I help him understand that socialization with others at an assisted living will help our mother overcome her loneliness?   -Megan A

 

Dear Megan,

First, you should know that conflict among siblings is very common when it comes to caring for an aging parent. Adult children often struggle to come to an agreement on this decision. But you are right in believing that life enrichment is one of the benefits of an assisted living community. Having neighbors of a similar age to talk with each day, as well as activities and outings to enjoy can definitely help overcome the loneliness many seniors feel. Just being free from the burdens of maintaining a home may help to lift your mother’s spirits.

It sounds like your brother hasn’t been to an assisted living before and is relying on old-fashioned stereotypes. Those out-of-date ideas can be frightening. My first suggestion would be to request a few months of activity calendars and newsletters from the assisted living communities near your mother. Sharing those with your brother might help to paint a different picture for him.

Then I would recommend you try to schedule a visit to an assisted living community or two with your brother. It will give him the opportunity to see how vibrant senior living really is. You are just as likely to see art classes, current event discussions and a writing club meeting on your visit as you are to see Bingo!

I hope these suggestions help you and your brother find a senior care solution that meets your mother’s needs. Best of luck to your family.

Regards,
Maryellen

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Lifestyle Blog, Senior Care
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Medication Management: Service Offered in Assisted Living

Posted by: Maryellen McKeon, Senior Vice President of Operations

Medication Management in AL

Medication Management in AL

Dear Maryellen,

Mom takes a variety of medicines and has mixed them up on several occasions. The last one ended with a trip to the Emergency Room. She gave us quite a scare! My sister and I know she isn’t safe living alone any more. I believe an assisted living community might be the best thing for her, but my sister thinks she won’t get help with her medicines anywhere except a nursing home. Is that true?  -Angela

Dear Angela,

I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s trip to the ER. It must have been so frightening for you, your sister and your mother. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for seniors to end up in the emergency room because of medication mismanagement. According to American Nurse Today it happens to an average of 26% of seniors each year in the US.

It sounds like it would surprise your sister to learn that medication management is one of the most common services provided in an assisted living community. According to the National Center for Assisted Living almost 80% of all residents need medication assistance of some kind. It can include everything from a reminder to take their medicine to administering it.

So the answer to your question is…No. A nursing home isn’t the only option for a senior who needs help with medications.

Regards,
Maryellen

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Lifestyle Blog, Senior Care
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Stress Free Holiday For Your Senior

Posted by: Maryellen McKeon, Senior Vice President of Operations

Peaceful Family Gatherings For Seniors

Stress-Free Family Gatherings

Dear Readers,

The holiday season is a time for families and friends to get together and enjoy each other’s company. However, for some senior citizens holiday gathering can be stressful, confusing and depressing if their physical, mental and emotional needs are not taken into consideration. CareLink.org offers the following tips to make holiday gatherings easier for you and your senior loved one:

  1. Keep family events short. Sometimes it takes a great deal of energy for some senior citizens to get dressed for a family event. By the time they get there, they are already exhausted.
  2. Don’t give your senior too many options at mealtime especially if they have dementia. This could cause them to get very confused and uneasy. Simply fill their plate with three or four dishes you think they will like most.
  3. Do not ask questions like “Do you know who I am?” Older adults with dementia often don’t know who you are, so don’t put them on the spot and embarrass them.
  4. If you senior has difficulty walking or has balance problems remove slippery throw rugs and items that could present barriers.
  5. Help them reflect on their past with simple activities like looking at old picture albums, singing a song, or recounting a family story.

Take the time to enjoy the senior in your life. They have so much to offer. I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season.

Regards,
Maryellen McKeon

Posted in: Dear Maryellen, Senior Care
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Common Symptoms Of Depression

Posted by: Maryellen McKeon, Senior Vice President of Operations

Identifying Depression In Senior Citizens

Identifying Depression In Senior Citizens

Dear Maryellen,

I’ve been worried about my Mom more than usual these days. My dad died 18 months ago and she lives alone. They were married for 54 years and were rarely apart. I know she is still grieving, but I’m afraid it is more than that. How do I know if this is normal grief or depression?  -Susan B.

Dear Susan,

My condolences on the loss of your father. I’m sure these are still difficult days for your family, especially if you are concerned about your mother too. Distinguishing between grief and depression can be challenging. Grieving follows no timetable, especially after 54 years of marriage. What might help you is to know that grief typically creates emotional ups and downs. It is often described as a rollercoaster. You think you are starting to emerge from your overwhelming sense of loss and sadness after you’ve had a few good days. You may even make it to a few good weeks. Then, without warning, the bad days return.

By contrast, when someone is suffering from clinical depression, the feelings of sadness and despair are constant. They don’t go away. It can interfere with a person’s ability to function. Common symptoms of depression to look for include:

If your mother is exhibiting one or more of the symptoms I outlined above, it is probably time to schedule a visit with her primary care physician. They will be able to make the determination and then decide how to best treat the condition if it is depression.

Best Regards,
Maryellen

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