Authors Posts by Rick Lauber

Rick Lauber

Rick Lauber
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Rick Lauber is the author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and an established local freelance writer with contributions in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas!, Canadian Living, The Caregiver Space and The Edmonton Journal, Edmontonians and The Edmonton Senior. For more info visit caregiversguideforcanadians.com

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Don’t Overlook Details When Seeking Seniors’ Long-Term Care

Senior woman with caregiver

Is it time for Mom or Dad to move into a long-term care facility? Even if the day has not come, preparing is important for caregivers. Start with “window-shopping” possible senior’s facilities. Comparing these and deciding on the best new home for parent(s) can be daunting for caregivers as many options exist. Touring each property can be time-consuming, but will give you the best “feel” for what is offered. Keep your eyes open when on-site and evaluate the following:

Location:

Ask yourself, is this a suitable location for you to visit? Will it be convenient for you to take your parent on regular outings? Is the property close to your parent’s doctor’s office, a hospital, a grocery store, a pharmacy, and/or a bank? Is there a passenger loading and unloading zone located in front of the property’s front door (bonus marks if that loading zone is covered to protect you and your parent from bad weather!)? Carefully evaluate the parking – what I perceived to be a large parking lot at my father’s long-term care home filled up quickly as both visiting family members and care staff parking there. For caregivers who may not drive, is the property available by public transit?

Cost:

Care home rates in Alberta begin at $49.60/day (source: Alberta Health, 2014), but can be more expensive and rates are going up, so the price tag of housing Mom or Dad can get very steep! Find out if this cost can be subsidized (based on your parent’s income) or partially covered by insurance. While many long-term senior’s homes do offer additional programs and/or services (e.g. hair or nail care, outings, further meals/snacks), be aware these “extras” often come at an “extra” price which is added to your parent’s monthly bill.

He checks up on his patients regularly

Resident’s Rooms:

Consider the size, shape, and location of this room within the building. Will the room be shared with another resident or can your parent be independent? Don’t expect a sprawling amount of total square footage; room storage is often limited. As my Dad’s room was quite small, we got the approval for building maintenance staff to attach a shelf to his room wall to provide extra storage. We also brought in a small bookshelf and installed small wheels in its base. This way, cleaning staff could easily push the bookshelf aside to easily sweep and mop underneath it. Look out the windows—what do you see – the afternoon sun or a parking lot? Check all the windows to ensure they can be opened to allow for a fresh breeze. Glance around the room to inspect for cleanliness. Don’t just stop at the most visible areas; peer underneath resident’s beds and in closets. Smell the room air also so see if there are any foul odours.

Meals:

If possible, tour senior’s long-term care homes around the residents’ mealtimes. These can be hectic times, but you can observe what is being offered for meals and how the food is prepared and served. Is the menu varied and appealing? If Mom or Dad has any menu preferences, food allergies, or diet requirements, can the facility’s kitchen accommodate these? Can you pre-sample some of the food for yourself to gauge for taste and appeal?

Number of Staff and Level of Experience:

Ideally, Mom and/or Dad’s long-term care facility should have a Registered Nurse/Licensed Practical Nurse on-duty at all times and enough care staff to handle all the residents. You will want sufficient staff to allow for an appropriate and reasonable staff to resident ratio and to ensure that your parent’s needs are not quickly skimmed over as a staffer rushes from room to room. Care staff numbers typically drop overnight but are fewer workers best for your own parent? You don’t want to see one care worker responsible for 30 residents (during the day or overnight).

Safety:

Carefully consider the emergency evacuation procedure. How will residents be removed from the building, if need be? My father and other residents were on the third floor of a long-term care centre and I was assured they could be ushered down the back stairs. As the residents here were cognitively impaired (with many confined to wheelchairs), I now wonder how effectively this plan could have been carried out. On a related note, confirm the building has emergency lighting in case of a power outage and it’s always good for a facility to have fire sprinklers. Multi-level long-term care homes will often feature an elevator for the convenience of both residents and visiting caregivers. Was the elevator serviced recently and how often do these service calls occur?

As you’ll likely be touring a good number of possible long-term care homes, jot down thoughts and comments on a notepad or snap a few photos of each building (inside and outside) with your cell phone camera. When relying on your own memory, small points may be overlooked. Remember that you are representing your parents and you will need to look before leaping to avoid making a wrong decision and a potentially costly mistake.

For the names, addresses, and phone numbers of senior’s long-term care centres located throughout Alberta, please review this list supplied by Alberta Health Services: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/facilities.asp?pid=ftype&type=6

 

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Avoid these added pressures as a caregiver during the festive season

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Family, friends, food and fun? Or tension, anxiety, dread and even depression? The upcoming holidays will have very different meanings for different people. Family caregivers (or those supporting aging parents) can face many negative emotions at this time of year. Why? Busy caregivers can become even more overloaded and overwhelmed with seasonal demands as well as societal expectations to feel festive – understandably difficult when one is faced with a loved one’s physical and/or mental decline. After caring for both of my own aging parents, I readily admit that this time of year is not always smooth; however, there are proven methods to manage, cope and survive.

SHARE THE WORK: Why should you host the family holiday meal? Suggest potluck instead where everybody will bring a dish to serve. Remember also that many hands make for quicker cleanup after the meal is done.

LEARN TO SAY NO: Numerous invitations will be extended to celebrate at numerous social gatherings. If you are not ready to join in the fun, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely decline. Conversely, however, a party with family and/or friends could be just the ticket for caregivers to enjoy themselves.

WATCH YOUR BUDGET: Getting caught up in gift-shopping for family and friends can happen, but curtail your spending. Perhaps keep your credit card at home and shop with either cash or a bank debit card, to avoid receiving a massive credit card bill in the mail after the holidays. If you have a large family (or even if you don’t …), consider drawing names for a gift exchange. With this approach, you can better choose a more thoughtful gift for just one person, rather than a whole group of people.

TAKE CARE OF YOU: Granted, this advice pertains to caregivers year-round, but it is specifically important around the holidays. Prioritize your own health, eat well, and rest. Alternatively, arrange for either formal or informal respite care when someone else can watch Mom/Dad and allow you some time, find someone with a sympathetic ear who can just listen or buy yourself a present – you deserve it!

Handling the holidays also means caregivers must decide where to celebrate. Can Mom/Dad join you at a family member’s home or is she/he restricted to a long-term care centre? If an aging parent can come to your home all the better, but consider the following:

DECORATIONS: Excessive decorations may confuse a senior (as your home may seem foreign).

Clutter: Wrapping paper and ribbons strewn over the floor can become tripping hazards for an older person.

NUMBER OF GUESTS: Large crowds can complicate matters for a senior. More people in a room means more names to remember, more conversations to follow and more noise/activity to deal with. Keep your guest list to familiar faces only, rather than invite others who a senior may not know.

QUIET TIME: Provide Mom/Dad with some rest time in the guest bedroom. Alternatively, collect the excited kids and get them outside to go skating or tobogganing.

If a parent remains bed-bound, you can still celebrate the holidays at the care centre. Visit with them and share familiar photos of special times from the past. Recount your own memories and see what Mom/Dad can remember too (even if the facts are not quite correct). Wrap up a present to bring to Mom/Dad or simply gift your companionship. Decorate their room by placing cards on a bookshelf. Bring in a portable cd player (clear this with the care home staff first so to not disrupt the other residents) and listen to seasonal music. Ask young children to draw or paint a holiday picture to hang on the room wall.

Finally, traditions often play a major role in the holidays; however, doing things and celebrating the way you always have may not be possible. In this case, create new traditions that are both senior and family-friendly. Bundle up for a sleigh ride at Ft. Edmonton Park? View the lights at Candy Cane Lane? Take in a holiday movie at a theatre? Attend a holiday concert at the Winspear Centre? Go out for dinner at a nice restaurant? Work on a jigsaw puzzle together? And new traditions can remain personal … I have begun personally donating a frozen turkey to a local food bank and often volunteer as a delivery driver for Santa’s Anonymous.

The holidays can be a trying time; however, by handling them rather than them handling you, you can better enjoy them.

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Forward planning is key to a difficult situation

With our country’s rapidly aging population, the day will come for many when you must provide (or help to provide) care for an aging parent/friend/partner. Regrettably, many potential caregivers completely disregard this fact and are caught unaware. I speak from personal experience as I once thought that both my parents were the pictures of good health. Maybe so at one time; however, getting older is a fact of life and as we age, our health can decline. 

caregiving

The road from maintaining good health to requiring complete medical care and placement in a long-term care facility isn’t easy for either a senior or a family caregiver. Family members must take on new responsibilities as caregivers, balance their own lives and watch as mom/dad mentally and physically weakens. If remaining cognitively aware, mom/dad may realize that they are losing their prized independence and must hand over much of that control to their children. Whether it is his/her own car keys or complete decision-making ability, nobody, young or old, likes to give up something they know and love. You can make this process easier for all parties involved with getting ready.

PREPARE YOURSELF EMOTIONALLY

As a caregiver, your emotions will run the gamut. When my dad was in his care home, there were days I laughed, cried, felt frustrated and didn’t even know what to feel. Often, there is nothing a caregiver can do but stand by and helplessly watch. 

Whether the process is slow or quick, losing a loved one (or even the thought of losing this special person) can be immensely challenging and rightly so – you are losing someone you love and care for deeply. To better manage, build yourself a strong support circle; these will be the people you know and trust the most. Most importantly, they will be empathetic to your situation. 

Support groups, offered through senior’s organizations and health associations, can be another option. These will provide a safe environment where caregivers can share and learn from each other. Admitting to yourself, and others, that you need help — from whatever source — at this time is not a sign of personal weakness. 

EXAMINE YOUR OWN FAMILYíS MEDICAL HISTORY

Did a great-grandmother have cancer or did a great-grandfather suffer from heart disease? If the ailment is hereditary, another relative may be stricken with the same condition. Before mom/dad ends up requiring eldercare, take some time to learn about the specific condition. Search the Internet or read books (be wary of the source of information – what are the writer’s credentials?), visit your local library or, best of all, ask your family doctor what to expect.

READ THE WILL

Many of the most difficult decisions may have already been made by a senior when he/she was better able to do so. While acting on these requests can become intense, you and your siblings can find comfort in that you do not have to decide what might be best for a dependent adult who may not be able to decide what is best for him/her. Having a set route to take greatly reduces the anxiety and potential squabbling between family members who are trying to decide what may be most appropriate. 

Remember that, whatever you do, caregiving can be a difficult ride. There are many, many emotional buttons (for both you and your other family members) that can be pushed during this time. Thinking ahead and finding ways to deflect these buttons, to the best of your capabilities, will greatly help reduce your own anxiety and help you best prepare for these future challenges.

WellnessMag_Fall2014_Print_caregiving_10_tips

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