Wednesday, January 22, 2014

3 Steps to Help you Prepare for a Medical Visit

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

Medical visits can be very stressful for a person with dementia as well as for the caregiver.  I believe there are some things that can be done to lower the stress.   With limited time with the doctor and a growing list of questions needing answers, the caregiver can take specific steps to make the most of the time allotted.

1. When making the appointment try to schedule the visit for the person’s best time to be morning or early afternoon. Avoid late in the day appointments if at all possible as this is the time that confusion tends to grow. 

2. Plan the visit carefully making a list of the concerns and questions.  Are there new or changing behaviours? It is important to prioritize the concerns with the most critical ones addressed at the beginning of the visit.  It probably would be a good idea to bring along present medications so they can be reviewed as well.

3. The doctor will ask about changes in behaviour.  Try to be specific citing examples of bothersome behaviours or changes noted since the last change in medication.  What precedes a change in mood?  What activities are most enjoyed?  Is the level of hands on care needed increasing?

These three steps could make a big difference in the quality of the visit and the comfort experienced by both the caregiver and the loved one.   Does anyone have other suggestions?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Reaching Out

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

Studies show that positive relationships can extend our lives, reduce blood pressure, reduce frequency of migraine headaches, speed up recovery from a stroke and relieve the chronic pain of arthritis.

Who is there for you - no matter what? Who loves you unconditionally, under all circumstances? Who wonders where you are if unable to reach you by phone for an extended period? Who cares about your latest cholesterol test result?

Loneliness is truly the worst disease in the world! If social connectedness increases our resistance to disease and extends our lives, perhaps we should invest time and energy in developing relationships.

The first step in doing this is identifying all the people who are a part of our social circle - this includes casual friends and church acquaintances, neighbors, and close loved ones. Which people would you like to know better? Do it! Invite them over for a morning or afternoon break, for lunch, or for an evening. Another idea is to include a family member or close friend in discussions with your doctor if you have been diagnosed with an illness. This allows that person to encourage you and remind you that he/she believes in your
ability to manage the situation.

As a society we have placed so much importance on individuality and independence that often we become lonely, isolated individuals cut off from the very elements that can make us feel good.

We can extend our lives and the lives of others just by reaching out!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

To my Caregiver: “All I Have Are My Yesterdays…..”

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

You want me to stop talking about the past. I know by the look on your face that it bothers you, but that is all I know.

I cannot remember what I did this morning. I cannot remember how to make my tea. I don’t remember the names of my grandchildren and sometimes I don’t know who you are although you tell me you are my son. But I do remember the school I attended as a child and I still remember my grade one teacher. The pain of saying goodbye to my father at the train station when he went to war is still vivid in my mind. I was 12 years old. He never came back. You assure me when you leave me that you will return, but how can I be sure?

I remember the day our town burned. It all started from a spark from the foundry. Mama kept us safe by taking us to a big hill on the other side of the town and wrapping us in wet blankets in case a burning shingle came our way. I think I was 5 years old then. You scold me when I am afraid when you put a fire in the fireplace. How do I know it will not burn me? You don’t understand why I always go and get a wet towel to hold. I think often of the train trips Papa and I took to visit Mama when she was so sick. It took us a whole day to travel there. You correct me when I ask if we are going to see Mama when you take me for a drive. You tell me Mama died a long time ago.

You have heard the stories so many times you tell me. You turn away. You do not want to listen. Sometimes you even become angry. But these are my stories. These are my memories. They are my yesterdays. And yesterdays are all I have now. They are my present. Please understand.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Six Principles of Care

By Sharon A. O'Brien
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
Senior Watch 

The tests have been done. The tentative diagnosis has been made. Your loved one has Alzheimer Disease. You are devastated. You now must face the reality of your fears.

Each day will bring new realities and new challenges. You accept the challenge. This is the person you have known and loved for 25-40-55 years. The love is deep and the commitment goes well beyond any difficulties encountered over the years.

There are six principles of care that need to be considered as you accept the challenge to provide appropriate care. 

1. As difficult as it may be sometimes, remember how the person behaves is a direct reflection of the disease. The person has no control over behaviour. It is not a deliberate attempt to shock you nor is it “stubbornness” or “childishness”.

2. The person with Alzheimer Disease deserves the same dignity and respect as before the disease struck. As the caregiver, you must protect the person from disrespect. Remind family, visitors, and professionals of the life journey and the accomplishments of your loved one. 

3. Stress the positive. Build on abilities. The person with Alzheimer Disease needs to be encouraged to continue with favourite activities as long as possible. Included may be playing cards, golfing, curling, and family gatherings. 

4. The family is an integral part of the Circle of Care. Encourage family members to learn all they can about the disease. The Internet, the Alzheimer Society, and local education programs are available. 

5. It is important to build partnerships with other members of the care team; e.g., caregivers, the family physician, the pharmacist, the spiritual adviser, friends offering respite care, etc.

6. The sixth principle should probably be the first principle. Look after yourself. Schedule breaks. Accept support. You are one member of the care team. Allow others to help you provide appropriate care. This experience will change you. You have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the life of a vulnerable loved one.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Aging is a Family Affair

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 
Are we ready for the unexpected? There is not one of us who can say with certainty that we know what is "around the corner" or as some say, "what is coming down the tube". For years we have heard the Boy Scouts proudly declare, "Be prepared". How prepared are we, whether we are at 28 or 82, for the curves life may throw our way?

How many of us have wondered who would take charge if something happened to us or how we would respond if we were suddenly required to provide care to a loved one? Again the question needs to be asked by the person who is 28 as well as the person who is 82 or older. Many caregivers today, both men and women, are well into their 80's. Who will be in control of the care received? What practical steps can be taken now to prepare? 

What is a person saying to us when they drop hints such as "there is an envelope in the desk drawer I want you to read if I become ill"? What could we do now to prepare ourselves for the moment we have to fulfill the wishes of that envelope and we become the caregiver for a loved one? 

There are three main tasks for all of us to undertake: 
  1. We must come face to face with the reality of our mortality. Life just does not go on forever. We need to know what to expect and what we can do now to help make our older adult years enjoyable and comfortable.
  2. We must communicate our hopes and our dreams, our wishes and our fears to those who care about us. Whether it be a daughter, a son, or a spouse who assumes the responsibility of caring, we must be fair and provide the road map we have chosen.
  3. We must begin now to prepare for the challenging times ahead. How can we do this? Where can we turn? 

Senior Watch Inc. has developed sessions to assist both family caregivers and those requiring care to prepare for what can be a very rewarding experience. These sessions focus on the changes and challenges of aging and the steps that can be taken now to reduce the risk of later problems. Opportunities are given to identify community resources. Caregivers are challenged to acknowledge the impact of caregiving on various family members, and to develop practical ways of providing appropriate care, while the issue of "self-care" is kept in the forefront.

What is around the corner? None of us knows. However, we do know we can have some degree of control in what happens. It really does pay to be prepared! Want to deal with the issues? Give us a call...506.634.8906 or Toll Free: 1.800.561.2463

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mending Fences

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

Family rifts are nothing new!  Remember Cain and Abel? Few families escape unscathed, and unfortunately, there seems to be no easy solution. One thing for sure, years do not necessarily mend breaks in family fences.

If we find ourselves in this situation, perhaps a new insight can help us take a new look at our fences!

Often, as we get along in years, we feel a need to make things better. If there are any doubts as to the benefits of taking the risk, be assured that even if we are rebuffed, we will know we at least tried.

The real key is to FORGIVE! Contrary to popular thinking, we do this for ourselves and not for the other person! This involves letting go of grudges that we’ve carried around for too long! It also may involve forgiving ourselves for some dumb remark made 30 years ago!

Remember the line in a Robert Frost poem: “good fences make good neighbours”? They make good families as well!

Mending and maintaining good family fences makes good sense at any age. Simple steps like making sure our wills are current, explaining decisions to appropriate family members, preparing a list of items to be left to specific people, informing relatives of preferred funeral arrangements and involving those concerned in decision making are all important.

Do you have some family fences that need to be mended or maintained?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

AD Strikes Next Door!

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

Alzheimer Disease affects an estimated 200,000 Canadians.  Perhaps a neighbour is one of its victims.

All too often families struggle to cope on their own.  They juggle work schedules, place their own mental and physical health at risk, or become isolated.  What can you do to help?

First, you can become aware of the challenges of caring for a person with Alzheimer Disease.  Information is available from a local Alzheimer office.  Talk to the caregiver about his or her situation and together identify the specific ways you could offer support.

The next step requires courage and commitment.  Let your neighbour's family know you are serious about your offer of support.  A phone call or a visit to encourage the caregiver will mean more than you can ever imagine.  Offer to stay with the family member while the caregiver runs errands, keep appointments or have lunch with a friend.

If you are making cookies, biscuits or a meal, prepare a little extra and offer it to the caregiver.  You could offer to look after a car maintenance appointment, to pick up items needed or even to plan a special time for the caregiver away from the home.  A little creativity can go a long way!

Until you have been “the caregiver” you cannot imagine how much even the smallest gesture of support can mean.