Are Supplements safe for the Elderly?

There is a lot of mixed messages in the medical field in regards to supplements.  I know I, personally, have heard doctors say many different things.  When it comes to vitamin supplements, some doctors believe in them and some think spending money on them is a waste.

We are bombarded daily on TV with many medical drug ads.  In this onslaught, vitamin supplements are right in there pitching with the rest of them.  I’m neither pro or con.  I do use some supplements such as calcium.  I take a multivitamin every day.  I take vitamin C when I feel a cold coming on.  I’ve even been known to take zinc when a cold or flu is trying to rear it’s ugly head and take over my great health.

What I do feel strongly about is, there are too many supplements being taken by our senior citizen population.  When an older person starts to realize the Grim Reaper may only be a few years away, or they are watching their peers dealing with life threatening health issues, the proclamations made by the vitamin supplement industry can have a siren call.  Take this and you will have better joint health, heart health, better memory, save yourself from the raves of free radicals, etc.  You know the drill.

I am the “doctor person” for my mother-in-law. Meaning, I go with her to every doctor’s appointment.  I have had years of experience in elder care and doctor visits under my belt.  Like a responsible person, she always has an updated list of her current medications and her vitamin supplements.  The vitamin supplement list is longer than the prescription list!

When the doctor asks her why she takes a certain supplement, she says she heard it was good for her.  In this long list of supplements, only the calcium and vitamin D3 were prescribed by one of her doctors.

There is a danger to supplements.  They can react with the prescription medications.  They can enhance them or render a prescription dosage null and void. They can even cause life threatening chemical imbalances.  Did you know, fish oil taken by an elderly person can leach the potassium out of their systems?  If they are taking a diuretic which, also, does the same thing, this can be a threat to their lives.

This past February, she began to fall down, several times a day.  Not small crashes and burns, but life threatening ones!  She broke her nose, gashed her head, received a fist sized bone bruise on her hip, along with other smaller contusions.  Any one of the spills could have cost her her life due the Coumadin she was taking for heart fibrillation.

In all of the drugs and supplements she was taking, she had several which were working against each other.  They were making her blood pressure drop, reeking havoc with her blood sugars, causing dizziness, and making her head a magnet for the carpet!

Supplements can be dangerous if the person taking them isn’t completely educated on what they can do.  It is, also, an industry not supervised by the Federal Drug Administration.

I know I sound as though I am contradicting myself when I say, there are a lot of supplements which could replace many pharmacy drugs.  The problem is, are we really sure they are pure?  Do we know how they will react in our Senior’s drug regiment?

I believe, many elderly people have several different doctors treating them at all times.  It is difficult to keep all of their Rx’s straight.  The down side of all this, they become over medicated.  Then, we add the triple whammy of the unknown effects of the supplements.  A true recipe for disaster!

It took 2 weeks in the hospital to get my mother-in-law back to standing on her feet again.  Four different prescription were removed from her daily regiment.  Several more supplements were put on the “do not take” list.

If your beloved senior is having a lot of health challenge such as mine, it may be time to careful look over the drug regiment with their doctors.  You might find, as we did, they are over medicated.  You may find, in addition to that, their Rx’s and the supplements are conducting a non supervised war with each other at your loved ones expense.  In any case, it doesn’t hurt to check it out.

In the case of my mother-in-law, I am happy to report, since she has been weened off 4 of her medications and some of the supplements, she hasn’t felt this good in a long time.  She has pep in her step again!

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A Pearl of Wisdom for a Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is coming this Sunday.  It’s a great celebration of life!  It doesn’t matter how we came to our relationship we call “Mom”.  We could have been born to our Moms, or adopted, or someone who nurtured us through out our lives.  Our relationships with these special ladies has helped form us into the people we are today.

Most of you who are coming to this website, are involved in elder care, or you are an elderly person.  One thing we all have in common is, we’ve have a Mom.

When we care for our elderly Moms we often move into a role reversal situation.  The mothers who nurtured and cared for us have switched places with us.  Now we are nurturing and caring for them in the winter season of their lives.

When I was thrust into the care giving role, many times I felt overwhelmed.  I didn’t have any training in this area.  It was difficult.

My Mom has always been a difficult person because of her self professed “in your face kinda gal”.  Please don’t misunderstand, she has a very loving side to her, in spite of the drastic mood swings.  Her moods would cycle about every two weeks, even though, she could go from loving to hateful in 1.6 seconds!

When she started with her dementia, her mood swings happened much faster.  It made caring for her more difficult as her dementia progressed.  There were many days when every thing I did wasn’t enough.  I spent many hours angry, sad, guilty, and confused.  On those days, I felt my elder care responsibilities would never end.

My relationship with Mom became very toxic.  It took a toll on my health.  Both of my parents developed dementia.  Their dementia became so pervasive it was soon impossible for Mom and Dad to stay in their home.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to take them into my home.  My health and my relationship with my husband would suffer too much.

I was blessed with an opportunity to move them into a wonderful facility.  The only draw back is, it’s an hour away.  Did I feel guilty?  Yes, in the beginning I felt like I had failed them.  They’d wanted to stay in their home until they died.  I was taking them out of the home they’d loved for over 46 years.

Mom was always a home body.  She had been mostly home bound for the past 5 years.  She enjoyed raising her plants, and she had her little dog.  Socially, she had become almost agoraphobic, only leaving the house for doctor’s appointments.

I was concerned about moving her to a care facility.  I thought she would hate it.  Was I ever surprised!  She loves it.  She calls her half of the room she lives in her “apartment”.  It is decorated with her two most favorite pictures on the wall.  She has some of her plants around the window.  It is small, but cozy.  The only thing missing is her dog.

She loves the people who work there.  She calls them her “secretaries”.  They have been taking very good care of her and I am relieved to see it every time I visit.

Recently, she had a gallbladder attack and had to be moved to the hospital for its removal.  My daughter, my husband, and I went up to be with her.  Her dementia has progressed to the point she didn’t recognize my daughter right away.

I was able to help her take sips of her water, and eat some jello.  I held her hand and answered her same questions over and over again.  The past difficulties seemed to fade away.  There in the hospital bed lay the woman I love so much.  Sweet and loving.  I knew right then, I’ll miss her so much when she gone.

I enjoy going to see her.  She is, now, rarely critical.  She is happy to see me.  She can’t remember when I was last there.  It could have been months, or yesterday.  It’s all the same to her.  She always enjoys the flowers I bring and our talks.  Those talks are peppered with the same questions over and over.  Even that has a comfort to it.  I have found peace in my relationship with her.

I haven’t any great pointers for you today.  I only have one pearl of wisdom. Whether you have a loving relationship with your Mom or an adversarial one.  It doesn’t matter if she is still here on earth or she has passed on, try to find your peace with her.

If she is still living, someday, she won’t be.  I heard a wise quote once, and I can’t locate it to give it to you accurately, but it says, “no matter what your relationship is with your mother, you’ll miss her when she is gone.”  Let go of the past transgressions.  Replace it with the loving moments.  We are the ones who chose the memories we remember.

Enjoy her this Sunday….and every time you can.  When she is gone, make sure all you have is memories of her love.

Mother’s Day was invented to be a celebration of love, for the ladies who nurture us.  Time is a river that will not stop.  We’re unable to hinder it’s process.  We should make the most of it!

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Why is the Power of Attorney Document Important for the Elderly?

Most of us value our privacy.  When we grow older and need more help, our desire for privacy doesn’t go away.  It can be very uncomfortable for many senior citizens to hand the reins of their life over to junior to make life and death decisions for them with a Power of Attorney document.  If you’re the senior or if you’re junior, what is the best way to pass the torch?

Many elderly people realize as they grow older they might, some day, need help.  They’re open to moving forward to set up their affairs and allow a loved one to become a potential power of attorney for their health care and finances.  The first step in this direction is choosing someone they trust.

In my parents situation, I had to encourage them to make preparations.  Dad drug his feet.  He believed, making a will and setting up a potential power of attorney was admitting he would have to meet the grim reaper some day.

I kept encouraging them without trying to be pushy.  I explained, if they didn’t do something, I would be in a mess to try to deal with the important things in their lives, such as health care and financial decisions.  If they should become seriously ill, and unable to take care of their bills, without a power of attorney which could be enacted, we’d have to go through the court system.  Anyone who has been involved in the legal system knows it isn’t a quick easy endeavor, or cheap.  If they weren’t able to take care of themselves, they would need someone to step in, right away, to pay their bills and make health care decisions for them.

Mom, being a woman of action, took the reins and made the appointment with the lawyer.  Before they went, we talked it over.  I wasn’t excited about being the power of attorney.  I’d have been the logical one, since I’m the only one of their children in town.  They, also, had concerns about putting me in the position because of sibling rivalry which might flare up.  We decided, it was a logical step to put my husband in charge.  They trust him completely.  He is a very fair minded, loving, compassionate, decision making man.  He’s, also, not a sibling and wouldn’t buckle under pressure.

Even though it was uncomfortable for Dad to make these decisions about their future, I believe it was also a relief to get it taken care of.  It is comforting to have our lives in order….just in case.

15 years later, Mom and Dad’s health failed about the same time.  They had set up their Power of Attorneys for the one who was well to take care of the other one who was sick.  If they were unable to do so, my husband was next in line.  As it turned out, he needed to step into those shoes within a month of each other.  Without this valuable decision already made, I know it wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as it did.  Both of my parents’ health declined rapidly and they both suffer from dementia.  They are presently living in a care facility.  They were able to stay in their home, with help, until Dad was 88 and Mom was 83.

It doesn’t matter what age we are.  Our crystal ball will never tell us when disaster, failing health, or mental conditions might make it impossible for us to take care of ourselves or our spouse.  It is comforting to know, when we are unable to do so, a smooth transition of responsibility can happen. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to give up a bit of our privacy to our responsible loved one to have this peace of mind?

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How to Handle the Stress and Depression of Elder Care

Stress happens to everyone.  For someone who is involved in elder care giving, it can be magnified a hundred fold.  There are many studies which show the care giver has a higher chance of experience stress related illness.  Chronic depression, often, plagues care givers.  Is is possible to alleviate some of this crushing stress?

First of all, one must assess what is stressing us out.  Are you caring for a dementia patient, and constantly having to watch them so they don’t get out and wander?  Is our elder’s health declining rapidly and nothing seems to help them back to a better place?  Have you taken on too much with no one to back you up?

After your assessment of your stresses, can you cut any of them out of alleviate any of them?  Maybe you have spread yourself a little thin with an extra added activity.  Is there anyone who can take some of this additional burden off your shoulders?

One area which can cause stress is not having any time for yourself.  I know elder care can be a 24/7/365 experience, especially if they are living with you.  Taking time for yourself can seem as elusive as the horn on a unicorn.  I know they need you.  But, if you are all used up, what good will you be to them?

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

There are services out there through Medicare or the Veterans Administration which can provide bathing, light house keeping, etc.  Take those times when someone else is with them to take time away for your special time.  Go for a walk, visit a friend, read a book in the park, go for a walk, anything to release your mind from your worries and stresses.

It is not being selfish to carve out time for yourself.  One of the things that helps me when I’m under stress from elder care is to find a way to break away and meditate for half and hour.  If you are new to meditation, this is site where I learned to meditate.

Sometimes, I put on a relaxing piece of music, close my eyes and really listen to it as if I could hear every note and each individual instrument.  It is amazing how spending a little time away can be so completely refreshing!

A good way to get some time for yourself is to enroll your elder in Adult Day Care.  Check with your elder’s doctor for a referral to an
Adult Day Care near you.  A good Adult Day Care will have activities of interest to your loved one.  Enrolling your loved one into Day Care gives you a break and gives them some outside stimulus which can help them stay engaged in life.

DEVELOP A NETWORK OF FRIENDS

It is important to not feel isolated.  Care giving can be isolating because of the intensity of time and care involved.  Friends can be cultivated in your community, church, online, or any place people gather.  It can be relationships of people who are going through the same thing, or it could be a hobby you’re interested in.

There are some loving communities of people online in elder care forums who’s expertise can benefit you, or your expertise can benefit them.  It helps to know there are others experience the same stresses as you, and what they have done about it.

DON’T TRY TO BE A SUPER HERO!

It’s okay to ask for help from other family members, friends, or agencies.  If you flame out and your cape gets burnt, how will you fly tomorrow?  It’s perfectly fine to fold your cape and put it away for a few hours, days, or what ever it takes for you to feel refreshed.  I, personally, know how it feels to be the one and only who cares for them.   You are not alone!

If you cultivate help from others, especially other family members, they become more invested in the care giving process.  This can lead to a stronger network of loving support for you.

Care giving can be a stressful thing.  It can, also, be a very rewarding endeavor.  It is important not to use up all your reserves.  Reach out for others.  Take time for yourself.  Realize you’re only human.  Your care giving responsibilities won’t last forever.  When it’s all over, it’s comforting to know you did the best you could and the experience enriched your life forever!

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Can the Villian Sleep Apnea Cause Dementia?

There seems to be a large number of the aging population in this country who seem to be spending their “golden years” locked into the isolating condition of dementia.  I understand, there are more people living to a ripe old age.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every person who lived long enough to reach retirement and beyond could enjoy a productive and blissful years surrounded by loving families and friends.

Both of my parents are currently living in a care facility.  Dad will be 90 this summer and Mom is will be 85 shortly after.  They both suffer from dementia.  Mom’s dementia could be a product of her genetics and a severely damaged heart.  Dad’s could have been prevented.

Ever since I was a small child, I would watch Dad sleep on the couch.  He worked nights and he was always sleepy during the day. His sleep was punctuated by loud snoring.  Snoring wasn’t as disturbing as the long periods of not breathing accompanied by twitching feet and then a startling jerk of his body.  His sleep behaviors were so unpleasant that Mom had moved into her own bedroom.

By the time I had become an adult, I had heard of sleep apnea.  When I first started my care giving years, I would take Dad to his doctor’s appointments.  I would point out to the doctor how Dad would stop breathing, jerk, and startle to start breathing again.  The doctor didn’t pay any attention to my concerns and prescribed Prozac for him.  Hello…..did I say he was depressed?

As the years rolled by, Dad was hospitalized for a stroke.  The same doctor came into his room when I was there and said, “Didn’t you bring his CPAP machine?”  I told him he had never prescribed one.  During this particular hospital visit, the doctor behaved so badly, Mom pulled a perfect Donald Trump and said, “Your fired!” (this juicy story is found in my book, located on the home page).

After the doctor’s dismissal, Dad started seeing another doctor who sent him immediately to a sleep clinic.  Dad was diagnosed as having obstructed apnea.  In the sleep clinic, he stopped breathing 59 times an hour!  Poor Dad wasn’t getting any quality sleep.

It would have been a fairy tale ending if Dad could have used his CPAP machine and lived a long and enjoyable old age.  This wasn’t going to be the case.  He had already started developing dementia.  He had intense plaque building up in the capillaries of his brain.  As the plaque filled the capillaries, they would shut down the blood supply, and that portion of his brain would die….causing the dementia.

Dad has always been very involved in physical fitness.  He had made himself a goal when he retired at 65, he was going to walk 10,000 miles.  He had completed his goal before he turned 70.  He walked across Iowa on the abundant bike paths which we are so fortunate to have.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “why didn’t he use his CPAP machine?”  He would get up many times in the night to go to the bathroom.  He couldn’t remember to put it back on.  He, eventually, got to the place where he couldn’t remember how to put it on.  The damage was done.  There isn’t any going back.

He has a numerous strokes and several heart attacks.  His neurologist told him the apnea had caused his health issues.  Starving his brain for oxygen every night had ravaged his brain and damaged his heart.  She encouraged him to wear his mask at night for as long as he could.  Mom sleeping in another room made it impossible to force the issue.

It wasn’t my point to bore you with this story.  It was my intention to express my heart felt opinion.  If you suspect anyone in your family of having sleep apnea, get it taken care of immediately.  If someone you know is showing early signs of dementia, get them checked for sleep apnea.

Dad had a passion for physical fitness and exercise, Mom had a passion for nutrition.  This should have been the formula for a long, health, and productive old age. Sadly, it was stolen by something so treatable as sleep apnea.

I have included a link for further information about sleep apnea and its relationship to dementia.  Click here for the article.

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The 7 Signs to Watch for in a Deadly Stroke

Strokes can happen to anyone in any age group.  It is most prevalent in senior citizens due to many age related health issues.  A stroke can be life threatening.  We must stay vigilant for any signs of stroke in our loved ones and ourselves.

A stroke can happen very quickly or can be preceded by small TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attacks) or mini strokes.  With a TIA, the symptoms may appear similar to a stroke, but pass quickly.  Usually disappearing within  a half hour.  They don’t leave outward signs of damage.  Having said that, it is important to understand, a TIA can be a precursor to a major stroke.  It is vital not to ignore the symptoms.  A TIA should be reason to get to a doctor quickly.

The most common cause of stroke is high blood pressure.  High blood pressure should not be taken lightly.  It is important to see a doctor and control our blood pressure with weight loss and medications.

Another cause of strokes is Atrial Fibrillation.  This is a condition where the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of producing a strong muscular contraction of the upper part of the heart.  The heart suffering from “afib” isn’t pumping the blood around the body correctly, leaving an opportunity for the blood to pool causing a clot.  This clot can become dislodge and flow with the blood stream until it lodges in the brain causing a stroke.  A person experiencing AF has 7 times the chance of stroke.  A person with chronic AF can be given blood thinning drugs such as Coumadin or Plavix.

It is important when suffering a stroke, the patient should immediately be transported to an emergency room of a hospital.  This person should never try to drive themselves to the hospital.  If a person suffers a stroke, it is imperative for them to be treated within the first 3 hours of onset.  Most strokes can be reversed if treated within this time period.

Since this is such a life threatening situation, what are the stroke indicators we should be watching for?  How will we know if a stroke is happening?

1.  Ask them to smile.  Watch to see if their smile droops on one side.  Sometimes, Bell’s Palsy, which is not a stroke can cause paralysis in facial muscles.  It’s not a stroke, but only a doctor can tell for certain.  Don’t risk it….seek an emergency room stat!

2.  It can come dress as a speech problem.  All of a sudden they aren’t making any sense, or they can find the words for common everyday things.  Ask the person to say a simple sentence, such as “it’s raining outside”.  If this simple sentence isn’t spoken coherently, time for transport to an ER.

3.  You may notice a change in their face.  Their eye or lip may, suddenly, droop on one side of their body. Be watchful for sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially if it happens on one side of the body.  Ask your loved one to raise both arms, at the same time.  Since a stroke can cause weakness or paralysis on either side, one arm may not want to raise with the other.

4.  Ask them to stick our their tongue.  If the tongue is crooked or goes to one side or the other, it could indicate stroke.

5.  Your loved one may experience a sudden onset or complain about feeling dizzy.  They may have a loss of balance or coordination.  Many times, a stroke can be cloaked in the guise of a fall or a near fall.  The person can have a small stroke and loses their balance.  Most often, they don’t know why they fell.    Dad’s strokes were always preceded with bouts of dizziness.

6.  Watch for a sudden change in vision.  Complaints of blurriness and/or difficulty seeing out of either or both eyes.

7.  A loved one may complain about a severe headache for no known reason.  Don’t give your loved one an aspirin.  If the stroke is from a hemorrhage instead of a clot, giving an aspirin will only make the bleed in the brain worse and can cause permanent damage.  Only an MRI can determine the cause and location of a stroke.

Strokes can effect people differently.  When Dad had one of his strokes, he lost bladder control.  Before we noticed any of the other symptoms, we noticed he had wet the chair.

I know emergency room visits aren’t any fun.  I have sat for many, many hours in the ER with each one of my beloved aging senior citizens. It can take hours to receive the results of test.  ER visits seem to be unavoidable as our loved ones age.

Strokes can happen quickly.    Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if your loved one has experienced a stroke.  It’s always best to keep in mind, as the old quote says, “it is better to be safe than sorry!”  A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t know, then go.

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Danger! Prescription Medications and Our Elderly

There is a danger lurking behind every smiling face of our aging elder’s professional caregivers. I believe it is a subject that kills and damages many of our senior citizens every year.  This danger is drug reactions and over medicating the elderly.

This isn’t something any professional caregiver would ever, consciously, attempt to do.  Let’s look at the situation from a different light.

The United States, at this present moment, has exceptional health care.  Many elderly people have more than one doctor.  They may see their cardiologist for their heart condition, the pulmonary doctor for their lungs, and they see their internist for their diabetes.  Each doctor prescribes a different medication for each illness.  Unless the elder person or their caregiver is extremely vigilant, over medication or conflicting medication can happen easily.

This is the age of the 24 hour pharmacy.  This is a fantastic concept, except when it replaces the individual care a pharmacist can give.  Our elderly, when placed in a large drugstore situation, can be lost in the crowd of customers.

My husband’s grandfather was a pharmacist.  He lived in a small town in Minnesota.  At that time, there weren’t many “miracle” drugs.  He could spot a problem with a patients medication before it reached the patient’s hand.  Today, there’s so many new drugs introduced every day and pharmacists have their hands full with many patients.

What can we do about this?  We, the informal caregiver, has to be ever vigilant when it comes to their medications.  We are the last line of defense when it comes to our aging loved one.  Each senior patient should always have a current list of their medications on them at all times.  It needs to be updated as medications are added and removed.  This includes supplements.

Speaking of supplements, this is a gray area.  I say gray, because some people believe in them and some don’t.  Most supplements are not tested by the FDA.  They live in a world unto their own.  The problem with supplements is, they can react with a RX and cause serious damage to an already compromised physical condition.

I’m one of the caregivers for my mother-in-law.  I’m the doctor person.  I’m the logical choice in my husband’s family because I have spent the last 15 years being the only child in town with my parents and so I became their sole informal caregiver.

I call my mother-in-law Mom2.  She is a big believer in supplements, which I have no problem with.  When she developed “Afib” the cardiologist put her on Coumadin.  He carefully looked over her medications and supplements she was taking.  He took away her green tea, cranberry pills, and flax seed oil.  They are natural blood thinners and taking them would compromise the regulation of the Coumadin.

It is easy for our senior citizens to get over medicated.  New wonder drugs emerge every day.  Drug reps are introducing the doctors to them in droves.  Do we always know the reactions of these drugs?

Every night on television there are drug commercials.  The first 1/3 of the commercial is dedicated to the benefits of the drug and the last 2/3 is telling you the terrible side effects.  Take those particular side effects and add them to several other drugs……could that be a recipe for disaster?

Mom2 was diagnosed with diabetes and congestive heart failure.  She is on many medications to control these two conditions.  For the past 8 years she has been experience occasional dizzy spells.  The doctors always put it off on lower blood pressure which is something she experiences due to the medications to keep the pressure down inside her heart.

Quite suddenly, she started falling down every day, a couple of times a day.  She blacked both eyes, broke her nose, bone bruise on her hip, among other smaller injuries.  Falling down is not a good thing for a Coumadin patient.   Long story short….after numerous tests, they took her off 6 different medications and the problem is now less sever.

I don’t know about you, but I live a very busy life.  I don’t have time to research every drug.  Does that exonerate me from research and being in the “know” on her medications.  Absolutely not!  Thank God for the Internet.  Here are a couple of websites to use when researching medications.

The Beers list, from Duke University,  is a great place to find out how the drug should be used and what the drug does and what the side effects are.  It isn’t the total nirvana of drug sites, but it is a good start for you.

Another great site is “The Family Practice notebook.com”.  This site has information on medications and also different geriatric issues.

When dealing with our much loved old people, as with anyone else, remember never, ever, ever, ever discontinue a medication without consulting their doctor, to receive their approval and direction.  Always keep their doctor informed of any changes you notice in your elder.  Be ever vigilant to changes in behavior.

Care giving isn’t an easy, fall off the log, duty.  It is fraught with many obstacles and information.  But, having said that, it is, also, one of the most rewarding things a person can do.  You may have stumbled across this website doing your due diligence and research.  I applaud you!!!  My heart is with you.

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3 Tips on Elder Care Bathing

A hundred years ago, washing clothes was a time consuming all day affair, and baths were an infrequent luxury.  We have progressed over the years.  When we age, bathing can still fall into the infrequent category for many reasons.

When people age, they can become less steady on their feet and the job of getting into the shower or bath tub may seem like a page out of a horror novel.  They are so many scary obstacles to overcome; slick surfaces, stepping higher to get over the lip of the bath tub, weakness after they have gotten in, etc.

When Dad was still living at home, he treasured his “alone bath time”.  He enjoyed soaking in a warm tub and scrubbing away his troubles.  After he had finished soaking and scrubbing, he needed to get out.  That became the challenge.

The first time he was unable to get out, my husband was available to help him out of the tub.  On another occasion, the neighbor next door was enlisted to help.  I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “the third time is the charm”.  It didn’t hold true for a third charmed bath, Mom had to call the fire department to help get him out of his beloved tub.  It was time for a change.

Dad is a veteran.  He was able to qualify with the Veterans Administration to received help from them regarding his medications.  When he needed assistance with bathing and dressing, it was a logical step to find out what services they could provide for him.  We were pleased at what they had to offer.  Bathing for him, plus some light housekeeping for Mom.  They even provided for adult day care 2 days a week, which gave Mom some much needed time to herself.

As your elderly loved one becomes weaker and less steady, you may notice changes in their bathing habits.  With Mom, I noticed an increase in body odor and she seemed less clean than before.  When I asked, she was honest with me, and told me she felt insecure when it came to bathing.  She had begun to feel unsteady and unsafe stepping up and over the tub side to get in and out of the shower.  Fortunately, medicare provided those same services to her as Dad was receiving from the VA.

If your loved senior citizen comes to live with you, it will be easier to see the changes.  You, or your loved one, may not feel comfortable performing these bathing tasks for them.  When someone is dependent on help, it can be easy to develop a controlling attitude when helping with those tasks.

Here are a few tips I have picked up when helping with the bathing ritual.

1.  The use of bath chairs which fit over the side of the tub, and shower chairs which independently sits in the shower area are tremendous help to the elder and to the caregiver.

2.  Installing grab bars in locations such as; next to the toilet, in the bath tub and shower area and by the bathroom sink.  This helps them pull themselves up and they feel more steady.  It, also, helps the care giver get them in and out of the bath.

3.  Use bath products which are gentle and non drying.  Our elders skin becomes more fragile and thinner as they age.   Shaklee has a wonderful product called Basic H.  It is easy to use, squirt some in a basin of water to bath them.  It isn’t necessary to rinse it off.  It is mild and less drying on their skin than regular soap.   There are several “no rinse shampoos” available on the market.  This makes hair washing easier, in situations where they are bedridden and water can’t be used to rinse their hair.

After I had found the services to help them, I noticed Dad still had an odor about him.  He was incontinent and using the pull up Depends.  My investigations found that the aide was washing their clothes,  but the washer would only fill up and drain, it wasn’t agitating.  A change of washing machines fixed the problem.

If you notice odor on your loved ones clothes, try using a laundry boost product such as oxiclean or a germicide such as Shaklee’s Basic G.  Basic G is great to take urine odors out of carpets and furniture.

Cleaning their “special spots” daily is a must to keep from getting Urinary Track Infections (UTI) or bacterial skin infections. If these areas are cleaned every day, you may be wondering how many full baths or showers does your aging loved one need per week?  That question is a personal preference.  Both of my parents are now residing in the Iowa Veterans Home and they are bathed 2 – 3 times a week. I would say, if they aren’t breaking into  sweats, one or two times a week should do the trick.  But, everyone is different, you’ll have to decide what is right for your situation.

All of us who care for our elderly have our own special things which work for us.  Please feel free to share your helpful comments with all of us.

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