Whether you call it a random act of kindness or paying it forward, doing something unexpected for someone else feels good. If you know someone who gives their time taking care of a loved one or friend, you have an opportunity to give back to him or her. November is officially National Family Caregivers month and the perfect time to make a difference in the life of a caregiver.
Being a caregiver can start out as small as just raking leaves for an elderly neighbor or balancing your mother’s checkbook. But most times, and especially for those of us with aging parents or relatives, it comes at you unexpected, like an out of control train. Such was the case of my 75-year-old mother who never expected to be a caregiver for her two siblings, still living in the family home. My uncle was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. My aunt was healthy but always taken care of, and she was unable to deal with household chores, much less taking my uncle to chemo treatments. So my mother stepped in. As a former nurse, it was natural to her, but over time it took a toll on her physical, mental and emotional health.
Because we lived several hours away, my sisters and I looked for things we could do to alleviate anything extra our mother needed to do around her own house and ways to help her relax. As expected, the last person a caregiver takes care of is often himself or herself.
So what can you do? It’s the little things. Here are some ideas:
- Rake their yard or shovel snow from driveways and sidewalks
- Bake some cookies or a pie
- Buy her a certificate for a massage or day at a spa
- Cook a meal or stock up on groceries
- Be the driver for the caregiver to help run errands or take her client to doctor’s appointments
- Not using your sports tickets? Extend them to your friend for a night out
- Drop off a nice bottle of wine
- Send them a card just letting them know you are thinking of them
- Take their car to get an oil change or tires checked
- Fix things around their house: a leaky faucet, clogged drain or clean the carpets
- Buy him/her a Kindle and download the latest books or just buy several new paperbacks
- Put a care package in the mail
Pay attention to things that are unique and personal to the caregiver and extend those random acts of kindness to them. I guarantee that any gesture, no matter how small, will go a long way. Caregivers are extra-special people who may be doing something that takes the burden off of you and your family. Let’s show them we care.
Do you believe in the power of music? Is there a certain genre you like to listen to when you want to relax, and another when you want to have fun? I personally believe that music has a way of reaching deep within a person, and in some cases soothing the soul, relaxing the mind and often lifting one’s spirit. Research says that for Alzheimer’s patients, music can be good medicine. While research on the neurological effects of music therapy is in its infancy, what is known is that listening to music activates a number of regions in the brain. Scientists say the brain responds to music by creating new pathways around damaged areas.
Think about it, usually after about 20 minutes of listening to music, there are observable effects, such as singing, foot tapping, and clapping. The positive effects of music therapy sessions have been know to last for several hours after the session have ended. Its been said that music is to the mind what exercise is to the body. When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements. Most people associate music with important events and emotions, and the connection can be so strong that in hearing the song long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it.
If you’d like to use music to help a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, consider these tips:
- Think about your loved ones preferences. What kind of music does he or she enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in their life? If you’re unsure, involve family members by asking them to suggest songs.
- Set the mood. To calm a loved one during mealtime or the morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a song that’s soothing. Use more upbeat tunes to boost your loved one’s mood.
- Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Set the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability. Opt for music that is commercial free as the interruption can cause confusion.
- Encourage movement. Help you loved one to clap or tap his or her feet to the beat. Encourage dancing if possible.
- Sing along. Singing along to music together with your loved one can boost the mood and enhance your relationship.
- Pay attention to your loved one’s response. If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often.
Keep in mind that music might not affect your loved one’s cognitive status or quality of life, but it can’t hurt it either and if nothing else it provides time well spent bonding. Pay close attention to facial expressions to help with those who cannot verbally communicate. To be effective, music therapy must be tailored to the functional capacity of each individual patient. If you are unsure of how to get the most out of music therapy for your loved one, consult the health and wellness counselor at your community.
Does an apple a day keep the doctor away? While it will certainly take more than a daily apple to keep you healthy, it is a step in the right direction. Apples have many health benefits and are delicious, low in calories, fat free, sodium and cholesterol free and are still very inexpensive. Below are more reasons why eating an apple a day is a smart thing to do.
- Apples are a source of soluble fiber such as pectin which actually helps to prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, thus reducing atherosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber in apples provides bulk in the intestinal tract, holding water to cleanse and move food quickly through the digestive system.
- Apples consumed daily as part of a healthy diet can aid in weight loss and prevent potential for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Apple consumption helps achieve whiter teeth due to the stimulation of saliva and decreases tooth decay by lowering bacteria levels in the mouth.
- Apples provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that help to protect from chronic disease.
- Apples are very high in antioxidants and helps prevent oxidative stress and, therefore, may help prevent chronic disease and also slows the aging process.
There are hundreds of varieties of apples on the market today, although most people have only tasted one or two of the most popular, such as Red Delicious or Granny Smith. Apples can be sweet, tart, soft and smooth or crisp and crunchy. There is an apple out there to satisfy almost everyone’s taste, so why not plan a trip to a local apple orchard today to stock up on your favorite apple.
Fall is upon us and it’s a time for festivals, football and that other “f” word, flu. The flu virus changes every year with new strains and mutant strains. Did you know that 70-90% of people 65 years of age and younger who receive the vaccination do not get the flu? This is directly tied to the “match” between vaccine and when any circulating strains are close. Flu season is most common in fall and winter, but peaks in January and February.
What is the flu? The influenza virus, commonly called flu, is a contagious respiratory infection. Unlike the common cold, the flu causes severe illness and potential life-threatening complications in some (particularly the elderly or those with weakened immune systems). Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick.
Why do you need the flu vaccine? First and foremost, you can get the flu more than once in your lifetime, and secondly, a vaccine from the previous year may not protect against new viruses.
Who should get the flu vaccine? Everyone under the age of 6 months or older, but especially those age 50 and older should get the vaccine. Most susceptible are those who have chronic pulmonary issues (including asthma or COPD), cardiovascular problems, as well as renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic or metabolic disorders, including diabetes mellitus. In addition, many seniors may also be immune-suppressed. And as empty nesters and grandparents, you may be exposed to other germs if you are in contact with children younger than five. They are little petri dishes and germ carriers.
A common question is whether the flu shot will give me the flu? Answer: No. Injectable flu vaccines are made from influenza viruses that have been inactivated (killed). An inactivated flu virus cannot give you the flu.
About two weeks after you receive your vaccination, antibodies develop that protect you against the flu. However, flu vaccines will not protect you against the common cold or other respiratory illnesses. Plus, if you are afraid of the shot, many pharmacies and your doctor also offer a nasal spray option.
When should you get the vaccine? The sooner the better. People 65 years of age and older, those with chronic medical conditions (including asthma, emphysema, heart disease and diabetes), pregnant women and children 5 years of age and under are those at a higher risk for complications.
Be aware and informed. Talk to your personal physician. Many local pharmacies/drug stores offer the flu vaccine for a nominal cost and have dedicated days to flu shots. Check out your local Walgreens (www.Walgreens.com), CVS (www.CVS.com), RIte-Aid or your local grocery store pharmacies, such as Giant Eagle, Kroger, etc.
At some point in time adult children may be faced with the thought of who will take care of mom or dad and should your aging parents move in with you. Does it make financial sense? Will everyone be able to get along? How do you set boundaries for personal space between your spouse and children who may be living in your home?
These are ALL legitimate questions, but where do you begin? Sometimes the decision follows a crisis when you may not have the time to consider the impact on your family. Caring.com estimates that one in every four caregivers lives with an elderly or disabled relative. One of the first discussions should be with your spouse and children to see how they feel about this arrangement; however, there are many other topics to evaluate:
- Does your current home offer a safe living space or will you need some modifications in the bedroom or bathroom?
- Finances: Will your mom or dad contribute financially, or will you be paying for additional expenses for their personal and health care?
- Will supervision or other health care options need to be considered?
- Are there other family members or siblings who will be willing to help should you take on this change?
- Does your mom or dad have a social network available?
- What are the rules of the house? How can everyone still maintain personal space?
There are many topics to evaluate as you consider the options, and communication will be key with both your parents and your family before making such an important decision. Here are two websites with articles and resources to help guide you on caregivers and the benefits and drawbacks of moving someone in with you.