How to Keep Elderly Loved One Social

Being social is beneficial for everyone, but it’s especially important for seniors – especially those who live alone or who care for their aging or declining partner. Regular, positive social interactions are shown to improve health and wellbeing for the elderly population, and multiple studies correlate loneliness or feelings of isolation with increased morbidity and mortality rates in seniors.

From reducing indicators for loneliness and depression to slowing down the progression of age-related memory conditions - and just plain making life better - it’s important to keep the seniors in your life socially engaged with the world around them.

Learn More About Things That Block a Senior’s Sociability

Sometimes, a senior’s seeming “un-socialness” has nothing to do with their unwillingness and everything to do with items that need to be addressed first. This might include:

  • Helping them get control of incontinence issues that make public/social outings embarrassing

  • Vision/hearing loss that hasn’t been corrected enough to enjoy their surroundings

  • Mobility loss that makes them feel unsafe or afraid of falling

  • Unaddressed grief that makes it difficult to connect with others

  • Not eating well or taking care of general hygiene (a clear sign that outside support is required to keep them safe, healthy, and independent)

Check in and see if any of these are creating social barriers for your loved one.

1. Include him/her in your “routine” life more often

If you think about having to schedule “visits” with senior loved ones, it can seem like one more thing to fit into the calendar – and it rarely happens. Instead, think about including your senior loved one in the routine, day-to-day acts more often. 

The simple act of getting out and about, even if s/he opts to sit in the car, or on a shaded bench, and people watch while you do some errands is exponentially more stimulating than sitting alone at home.

Consider:

  • Skipping the gym one day a week and taking a walk with him/her around their neighborhood or complex.

  • Bringing them on  a picnic with your little or big one(s)

  • Taking them along to an evening event you’re attending (the library’s guest speaker, a book club meeting, music event, a poetry reading at the local bookstore, etc.)

  • Picking them up and heading to a movie theater in their neck of the woods

  • Picking up a to-go meal and eating at their house on the way home from work/kids’ extra-curricular activities

2. Use a Local Home Care Agency for Companion Services

If you live too far away to visit often, but feel your senior loved one is lonely, companion services are a step in the right direction. Home care agencies do their very best to pair senior clients with companions who share similar interests, tastes in music or food, hobbies, etc. A companion can visit once a week – or multiple times per week – depending on the client’s preference.

Another benefit of using a professional companion is that you have someone who’s (health/safety) checking in on a regular basis, and who can recommend additional services if/when they’re needed – such as light housekeeping, driving services, errand running, grocery services and meal preparation, etc.

3. Encourage Volunteer Opportunities in the Community

Retired adults have more time on their hands than almost any other sector of the population, and yet many sit at home feeling as if life has no real purpose anymore. Most non-profit organizations are in need of volunteers, so volunteerism is the perfect solution for any senior battling loneliness. 

There are volunteer opportunities for every personality type, interest, and ability – from petting and walking animals at a local shelter and participating in holiday-themed food drives to reading to elementary students or delivering meals to those who can’t shop/cook on their own.

The team here at Family First Senior Care has a seemingly infinite number of ideas for keeping elderly loved ones social and engaged in our local community. Contact us to schedule an in-home assessment or to learn more about how we can help. 


Questions To Ask A Potential Home Care Provider

The more time you have to search for a home care provider, the more likely you are to find the best fit for the client. The ideal is to recognize the signs an aging relative needs support to stay at home, and taking advantage of free, no-obligation, in-home assessments offered by most home care agencies. Even if you find yourself in a 9-1-1 situation, we still recommend taking time to interview multiple prospects. 

As with anything in life, you’re bound to feel more comfortable with one over another, so interviewing multiple agencies gives you and your senior loved one some agency in the process - and the ability to make a more informed selection.

Become a Pro at Interviewing Prospective Home Care Agencies

What then, does that selection process look like? And how should you move forward? First, visit our post titled, The How-To Guide For Hiring In-Home Help.

The best way to compare agencies is to make sure they’ve all answered the same questions. This gives you a more “apples-to-apples” comparison so you can hear various answers and approaches to the same things. 

Some of the questions pertain to the essential “must-haves” from a home care provider, such as, “are you licensed,” while others delve into more personal or more open-ended subjects that are more relevant to the client’s and household’s needs.

1. Are you licensed in the state of Washington?

You should never hire a home care agency that isn’t licensed by the state in which they work. These state-authorized licenses are reviewed regularly and require a basic standard of caregiver education, training, reviews of client complaints or lawsuits, etc. 

Feel free to use our website’s Find a Home Care Agency link, which connects you with home care agencies that current licenses from the state of Washington.

2. Are you certified by Medicare, meeting their health and safety requirements?

This is another layer of “vetting” worth having. Medicare covers some aspects of healthcare depending on the situation. So, even if your parent or spouse’s caregiving needs don’t qualify for Medicare reimbursement or coverage now, it’s worth thinking ahead and working with a Medicare-certified agency so you’ll have that option should you need it down the road.

3. Do you have a protocol for communicating with the family?

If you’re a child or family member of the client, rather than a spouse, you’ll want to have a clear communication path in place. You should be informed of the caregiver and client’s day, any red flags or changes noted by the caregiver, mood tracking, meal reports, updates from healthcare providers or the pharmacy, etc. 

4. What services do you offer? And, do you offer in-home care 24/7?

The services required now are bound to evolve, change, and increase as time goes on. Eventually, that may require overnight support, long-term respite care, or even live-in care. Working with an agency that offers care 24/7 is a smart way to ensure you won’t have to go through the caregiver search all over again if the client’s needs increase.

5. Do you place caregivers based on the personality of the client?

Caregivers are as varied in personality as their clients, and clients fare best when paired with someone they feel comfortable with. This can include things like a love of the same hobbies or activities, similar energy levels, pet lovers, etc. Just as you want to feel good about the home care agency you use, your loved one should connect with the caregiver(s) they spend time with. Meeting a few ahead of time, or ensuring the agency works hard to “match” caregivers and clients by personality types and lifestyle preferences, eases the transition.

The Washington Home Care Association was explicitly established to guarantee seniors choosing to age-in-place have access to high-quality, personalized in-home care. Contact us to learn more about selecting the best potential home care provider for your loved one.

Make the Holidays Brighter for Senior Loved Ones Near and Far

The holiday season can be a difficult time for senior citizens. It can range from sadness over the loss of loved ones and friends to anxiety over not being able to purchase gifts for their families. Senior citizens in a nursing home or even in their own homes may not be able to leave and are saddened to miss out on traditions. Whatever your situation is, this guide will provide you and your family with tips on how you can celebrate the holidays together.

For many senior citizens, the holidays are not about receiving gifts, bur rather, being able to spend time with their family and friends. Schedule time with your family and friends for activities like attending church, getting together for a party, or simply going out to eat. For families with loved ones in a nursing home, talk to their healthcare provider to see if they can leave the facility. If not, plan a visit that could include decorating their room or exchanging gifts.

If you are not able to see your loved ones this holiday season, take advantage of technology if you are able to. Applications like FaceTime or Skype allow you to video chat with your family and friends. Email and texting are also great ways to stay connected with them. Family members can ensure their loved ones feel remembered during the season by sending them gifts or a catered meal on the holiday.

DailyCaring, LLC, a caregiver website, offers some excellent tips on how senior citizens can celebrate the holidays. Some suggestions include Christmas crafts like wreath making, board and card games, baking cookies, and sending holiday cards. Senior citizens interested in more physical activities may enjoy going to see holiday decorations or lights displays, as well as attending productions like A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker.

A Place for Mom, a senior care website, also offers excellent tips on how senior citizens can enjoy the holidays with loved ones. They coined CHEER, a helpful acronym, to help families engage with their older relatives during the holiday season:

C stands for check on their well-being: Be sure to visit your loved one or check in often by phone. 

H stands for help them stay engaged: Invite your loved one to holiday parties and assist them with activities such as shopping or decorating.

E stands for empower them to live independently: Many senior citizens still crave independence even if they require assistance with certain things. You can help them in obtaining a home health aide, meal delivery services, or a medical alert system.

E stands for enjoy your time together: Above all, make sure your loved one is having fun when you visit with them.

R stands for reminiscing with your loved one: Many senior citizens enjoy telling tales about the old days. Allow them to share fond memories of their favorite holiday traditions. If possible, pull out old family photo albums they can share with younger relatives.

Remember that the holidays bring out many emotions among all of us. Seniors have a lifetime full of memories and experiences that they reflect upon during the holiday season –  it’s not too late to help them create new meaningful memories.

 

How to Communicate With Your Relative’s Home Care Agency

So, you’ve decided to enlist an in-home care agency to help your relative manage day-to-day tasks. If your loved one has been struggling, this is a great decision. But as the gatekeeper between the agency and your relative, it’s your job to make the transition easier and set the home care agency and their managed caregiver up for success. This generally boils down to effective communication.

Begin By Setting Clear Expectations

Sit down with the agency and discuss the type of care that’s needed from the agency caregiver. Will the caregiver be expected to be on call overnight? How many errands and outside tasks does your relative need done each week? And what type of medical considerations does your relative have that may affect the caregiver’s ability to complete these tasks? Line out each of these issues ahead of time so there are no surprises.

Create a “Personality Diagnosis”

Nobody knows your relative better than you. If your loved one is struggling with common issues like dementia or other types of mental degeneration, you’ll be well aware of how erratic their moods can be. Let the in-home care agency know about these issues ahead of time by creating a personality diagnosis for them:

·       Pertinent medical issues;

·       Day-to-day moods;

·       History of depression, aggression, or confusion;

·       Common problems that may trigger mood swings.

You won’t be able to predict everything, but this type of rundown can be a great way to prepare the agency and agency caregiver on what to expect.

Keep Information Readily Available

Naturally, you’ll want to keep all necessary information available to the agency so that they can communicate with the managed caregiver:

·       List and schedule for medications;

·       Standard and emergency contact numbers;

·       List of food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances;

·       Medical providers and nearby clinics;

·       Preferences for food or activities;

·       Unique challenges or issues affecting your loved one.

Particularly in the early stages of your in-home agency and caregiver relationship, these resources will help get the agency and managed caregiver familiar with your relative and ease the transition for both sides.

Be Up Front About Your Concerns

You’re having some trouble caring for your relative, and that’s okay. It’s the whole reason you’re hiring in-home help, after all. But make sure you let the in-home care agency know about these concerns ahead of time—even if the concerns are about the caregiver him/herself!

Your goal is to make the transition as easy as possible for both your relative and the in-home care agency, a process that goes down much more smoothly when everyone is direct and asks questions as needed.

Document Everything

When working with in-home care agencies, it’s important to document everything that happens. Of course, this means documenting records of medication intake and schedules for when your agency caregiver is on call, but it also means documenting episodes of confusion, daily food intake, medical concerns from day-to-day, and any other information that’s out of the ordinary.

Above All, Listen!

Don’t forget to listen to the feedback your in-home care agency caregiver provides! This relationship should be a two-way street where you both feel comfortable sharing issues. After some time, you’ll likely find your agency caregiver has identified particular problems or day-to-day challenges that you didn’t anticipate.

Work with the agency and caregiver on these problems and try to improve your relationship every day. This is the best way to improve the quality of care for your loved one—and to ensure that you, your relative, and the in-home care agency and caregiver are all happy with your new arrangement.