A Retirement From Driving Does Not HAVE to Equal House Arrest

~Matt Gurwell, Retired Highway Patrolman, founder of Keeping Us Safe

It goes without saying that for any of us, driving represents freedom, control, and of course, a degree of personal independence. But this is particularly true for the older driver. Here are five reasons a senior driver may not be willing to retire from driving, despite what may be obvious and quantifiable safety reasons:

1) For a senior driver, losing the ability to drive can be an obvious emotional set-back. In some cases, this set-back can be even more complicated when combined with recent losses such as the death of a spouse, a close friend, or a recent diagnosis of a serious health condition.

Imagine for a moment that only months ago your spouse of 50+ years died unexpectedly, and now your adult children are trying to take your car away from you. Or that just last week you were diagnosed with cancer, and today your family doctor compounded your anguish by suggesting that for safety reasons you stop driving, effective immediately. The recipient of all of this wonderful news would certainly feel like a tsunami of doom has just reached their beach.

2) A senior driver may believe that if he/she can no longer drive, they will become a burden to others. This may be the furthest thing from the truth, but it becomes very real in the eyes of the beholder. Imagine for just one minute that you can suddenly no longer drive…ever. Although completely unwarranted, it is human nature to feel at least somewhat burdensome asking others for help getting you to and from your doctor’s appointments? Taking you to get groceries? Driving you to the hairdresser or barber? Taking you to visit an old friend?

3) Many seniors see a surrender of their driver’s license as an acknowledgement that their physical wellness, agility, mental sharpness, reflexes, sight, hearing or memory are beginning to deteriorate. Or that an illness or pre-existing medical condition is “getting worse”.

4) Many older drivers believe that if they give up their driving, they will have fewer social opportunities than what they are accustomed to.

5) Despite everyone’s best efforts, driving cessation can sometimes trigger depression in elderly people which, in turn can cause a noticeable deterioration in your loved one’s physical health.

There are obviously many, many more examples of the emotional distress driving cessation can cause for an older driver. The good news is; a retirement from a long and successful driving career does not have to be all doom and gloom, and does not have to be the equal of “house arrest”.

The Beyond Driving With Dignity Program is offered in parts of North Carolina.  contact, lwatral@rgcmgmt.com of Raleigh Geriatric Care Management

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Five 10-Minute Pick-Me-ups for Caregiver Stress

~Paula Spencer Scott

Having one of those days? The best antidote to stress and fatigue is to treat yourself well — even if in small doses.

 

1. Read something funny.

Laughter has been shown to trigger the relaxation response, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and even boost the immune system and ease pain. It might seem corny to dive into a comic book collection, a joke book, or a few minutes of America’s Funniest Home Videos, but the effects are real.

Not finding the funnies very funny today? Try forcing a smile. The simple act of turning your facial muscles into a smile triggers the brain to initiate a relaxation response. Bonus: Smiling tends to inspire others to smile (not unlike yawns inspiring yawns). So your smile might make your loved one a little easier to live with.

2. Crank the volume.

Music therapy is often used to calm or stimulate dementia patients, but it can have similar effects on anyone. Playing music with a strong beat has an energizing effect. Melodic orchestral or acoustic tunes can improve thinking and focus.

To get the full pick-me-up effect, raise the volume so that the music fills the room. Really listen.Create a few special playlists that you label by mood so you can match the tunes to your needs: “Happy music,” “Energy kick-start,” “Dance favorites.”

3. Take a power nap.

Ten minutes of shut-eye might not sound like much, but it can be enough to feel restorative, especially if you’ve had a disrupted night’s sleep. Midafternoon rest, when the body clock is at a natural lull, is thought to be especially productive.

A longer, 30- to 60-minute nap allows you to fall into the deep stage of sleep that’s even more restorative, but it’s harder to wake from. If you only have a short break, set a timer or alarm clock, so you don’t oversleep.

4. Pump a little iron.

Lifting free weights tones your arms and strengthens your bones — but those are long-term extras on top of the energy boost this simple (and not too sweaty) workout provides. If you’ve never used a handheld weight, start with two- or three-pound dumbbells, sold at sporting goods stores or large variety stores such as Wal-Mart or Target. Lift the weights in sets of 8 to 10 slow repetitions, increasing the amount of the weight over time.

Any quick exercise can have the same effect: running through a few yoga poses, stretching, walking around the block if you can get out of the house, going up and down the stairs a few times.

5. Write a letter.

Simmering resentment, anger, or frustration can sap energy. Psychologists sometimes use this tool to help people let go of energy-blocking ruminations: Write a letter to yourself or your loved one. Put in everything you’re feeling. Describe specific incidents. Imagine what you wish had happened instead, or what you wish for in general. (More “thank-you’s” and appreciation? More free time? Your old pre-caregiving life back?)

The act of putting your true emotions down on paper (or in an e-mail you don’t send) helps your body release them, just the way you feel better after confiding in a friend. Then, when you’re done, rip up the pages or delete that e-mail.

 

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management www.rgcmgmt.com 

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Nip Depression in the Bud: Warning Signs to Look For

By Mary Damiano

While caregivers are defined as the people taking care of those needing help, they sometimes overlook the fact that caregiving responsibilities can take a toll on their own health.

In addition to physical ailments, caregivers are at risk for depression. Depression can strike anyone, at any age. Caregivers need to be especially aware of depression because of the great load they carry. Many caregivers work at a full-time job and take care of a family in addition to their caregiving responsibilities. They often sacrifice their own health, well-being and social life in order to do everything that needs to be done.

One common denominator among caregivers is the desire and the belief that they must do everything themselves. Often, caregivers do not ask for help, opting instead to inadvertently play the part of the martyr. This leads the caregiver to become overwhelmed and an overwhelmed person is fertile ground for depression to dig in and take root.

The great strain caregivers face on a daily basis can lead to depression. One way to stop depression before it strikes is to be aware of the warning signs. According to the Administration on Aging, here are some red flags that depression might be creeping in:

  • Sad, discouraged mood
  • Persistent pessimism about the present, future and the past
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies, social life and sex
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Lack of energy and feeling slowed down
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Loss of appetite and loss of weight
  • Disturbed sleep, especially early morning waking
  • Depressive, gloomy or desolate dreams
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you feel yourself exhibiting these behaviors, do not discount them. They should be taken as seriously as you might treat a fever that won’t go away or a persistent cough.

Below are some expert tips on what caregivers in particular can do to stop depression before it gets out of control:

Talk regularly with family, friends, or mental health professionals— it is very important that you do not isolate yourself. Join a local support group, or find one online. Share your feelings so they don’t build up and escalate into problems.

Set limits— this can be hard for caregivers, because they are used to taking on everything that needs to be done. It’s okay to say no to taking on more than you can handle.

Eat nutritiously, exercise regularly and get enough sleep— this can be difficult because of the irregular schedules caregivers must keep. But think of it this way: your body and mind are machines, and they must be properly maintained in order to function at their best. Nutritious food, exercise and sleep are the things that fuel these machines. Just as you would not let your car run out of gas, don’t let your body run out of its fuel.

Let go of unrealistic expectations— caregivers often have unrealistic expectations of themselves, and therefore push themselves to meet these goals. Accept the fact that you can’t do everything. Ask for and accept help, from friends, family and local agencies. Whatever you do, don’t be a martyr.

Keep a sense of humor— we all know that laughter is the best medicine, so go ahead and take a few spoonfuls daily. Relax with a funny movie or TV show. Put on a comedy tape to listen to while you do your chores. Find the humor in everyday things.

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management offers an Adult Children of Aging Parents Support Group.  contact: lwatral@rgcmgmt.com

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Geriatric Care Managers Explained

Geriatric care managers (GCMs) are usually social workers, psychologists, nurses, gerontologists, or others with both training and experience in a number of aspects of elder care. They can assess needs, handle crises (such as an emergency hospitalization), help place an older adult in a long-term care facility, help solve family disputes, locate community resources, or simply fill in for family caregivers at doctor appointments and assist with other daily care.

For many families, senior care planning and coordination can be overwhelming. In some cases, a loved one’s health needs are at a crisis point and there are too many decisions to make all at once. Or you may live too far from your loved one to check on her regularly. Some aging seniors are resistant to receiving care. In other situations, family conflict can be a major issue.

GCMs are like a quarterback, coordinating all the different moving parts of senior care — from logistics and scheduling to emotional support and family mediation. Their experience can guide you through the challenges you face.

 

What Geriatric Care Managers Can Do:

Assessment. When you first hire a geriatric care manager, he’ll meet with your loved one (and family members, if appropriate) to evaluate the current situation. He’ll assess your loved one’s physical environment and mental, social, and emotional functioning and independence. Based on this assessment and conversations with family members, the GCM will identify your loved one’s care needs.

Plan of care. Once the assessment is complete, the GCM will make recommendations about the types of care your loved one needs. He’ll meet with you to review these recommendations in detail and get your feedback. He’ll note recommendations in a written plan of care. As care progresses or as care needs change, the care manager will note progress in the plan of care and make updates as needed.

Coordination of services. A geriatric care manager can be as actively involved in the care of your loved one as you need him to be; be sure to clarify expectations at the outset. Most GCMs know all the senior care providers in your area and are well prepared to help you find the best match for your loved one. You can expect him to help you find agencies to provide in-home care, hospice, or skilled nursing care, as well as to coordinate the comings and goings of the caregivers. If your loved one needs residential care, the GCM will help you find the best assisted living or nursing home that meets your loved one’s needs and fits within your budget. Some GCMs will also help with day-to-day care for your loved one — picking up prescriptions, taking your loved one to doctor appointments, or visiting for regular check-ins.

Family support. GCMs also provide invaluable support to family members as they cope with a loved one’s decline or illness. They can help smooth communication and mediate disagreements.

Ideas, products, and innovations. GCMs are always on the lookout for new types of services and tools to make caregiving easier and to help keep your loved one safe. Many will be able to tell you about new technologies, tools, or aids that help your loved one maintain independence and mobility for as long as possible.

caring.com

In Raleigh , NC, contact: Raleigh Geriatric Care Management. www.rgcmgmt.com lwatral@rgcmgmt.com

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Driving Retirement Does Not Have to Equal House Arrest

 

It goes without saying that for any of us, driving represents freedom, control, and of course, a degree of personal independence. But this is particularly true for the older driver. Here are five reasons a senior driver may not be willing to retire from driving, despite what may be obvious and quantifiable safety reasons:

1) For a senior driver, losing the ability to drive can be an obvious emotional set-back. In some cases, this set-back can be even more complicated when combined with recent losses such as the death of a spouse, a close friend, or a recent diagnosis of a serious health condition.

Imagine for a moment that only months ago your spouse of 50+ years died unexpectedly, and now your adult children are trying to take your car away from you. Or that just last week you were diagnosed with cancer, and today your family doctor compounded your anguish by suggesting that for safety reasons you stop driving, effective immediately. The recipient of all of this wonderful news would certainly feel like a tsunami of doom has just reached their beach.

2)  A senior driver may believe that if he/she can no longer drive, they will become a burden to others. This may be the furthest thing from the truth, but it becomes very real in the eyes of the beholder. Imagine for just one minute that you can suddenly no longer drive…ever. Although completely unwarranted, it is human nature to feel at least somewhat burdensome asking others for help getting you to and from your doctor’s appointments? Taking you to get groceries? Driving you to the hairdresser or barber? Taking you to visit an old friend?

3) Many seniors see a surrender of their driver’s license as an acknowledgement that their physical wellness, agility, mental sharpness, reflexes, sight, hearing or memory are beginning to deteriorate. Or that an illness or pre-existing medical condition is “getting worse”.

4) Many older drivers believe that if they give up their driving, they will have fewer social opportunities than what they are accustomed to.

5) Despite everyone’s best efforts, driving cessation can sometimes trigger depression in elderly people which, in turn can cause a noticeable deterioration in your loved one’s physical health.

There are obviously many, many more examples of the emotional distress driving cessation can cause for an older driver. The good news is; a retirement from a long and successful driving career does not have to be all doom and gloom, and does not have to be the equal of “house arrest”.

Keeping Us Safe provides services to both older drivers and their families across the United States. You can visit them online at www.keepingussafe.org or call toll-free at (877) 907-8841 for more information.  In the greater Raleigh area, contact Lauren Watral, MSW from Raleigh Geriatric Care Management at 919-803-8025.

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Filed under adult children of aging parents, Alzheimer's Disease, care giving, dementia, driving retirement, elder care raleigh nc, Geriatric Care Management, Having a conversation, long term care planning, NC, Raleigh, senior care, senior driving, Seniors and driving

How to Tell Your Loved One It Is Alzheimer’s Disease

Daniel Paris, MSW

There are a number of takes on telling the person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) the truth. I would propose a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. Ask yourself how much your loved one will understand of the explanation. Sometimes they can understand and retain a lot of the information (you have a disease of the brain, etc…); sometimes all they can understand is that they have “some memory loss;” sometimes they are unable to get any of it. Remember, the cognitive impairments of AD affect not only their ability to comprehend information, but also their ability to communicate.
  2. Often someone with Alzheimer’s knows something is wrong, they just can’t figure out what. Are they stupid or going crazy, they may wonder. Finding out there is something wrong that is a legitimate disease beyond their control can actually be comforting at times in this light.
  3. There are some people who will never accept what you tell them due to denial, resistance, the disease, etc. Complicating this can be a host of personality or cultural traits pre-AD. There are times when telling the person can do more harm than good. Because of this, you can’t force them to understand if they are unable or unwilling.
  4. This is an individual decision; you should think about the type of person your loved one is, and how the Alzheimer’s disease has impaired them. You can always try beginning the conversation and see how it goes. If they become very upset and if it doesn’t work, there is a good chance they will not remember the conversation.
  5. Finally, if you are certain your loved one should know, be ready to repeat yourself numerous times as they will probably not remember what you said.

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Caregiver Tips for travel

Traveling long distances with a person in the early stage of dementia may still be quite enjoyable. As dementia advances, however, traveling becomes unpredictable as the person becomes more confusing. Plan ahead for a trip by gathering important documents: insurance cards, passports, your physician’s phone number, refills on medications and a copy of medical records in case the person with dementia needs to see a physician while away. Make sure you keep track of all the documents and medications. Packing them in carry-on bags so they will not get lost en route is a good idea. Remember to bring sufficient funds or a credit card with you in case you must change your plans suddenly and return home. Also, you may want to bring along a brief letter from your physician to the airline or hotel to expedite a change in plans.

When traveling, try to follow the routine that is followed at home. Even minor changes in routine can be distressing to your loved one, and may cause unexpected delays in the delivery of care. So, be sure to allow plenty of time for everything. Plan for rest periods throughout the day. For example, if you are taking a tour by bus, you may want to remain in the bus so the person can take a nap instead of visiting all the sights.

Remember the person who is at risk of wandering when at home, may also do so in an unfamiliar place. If this is the case with your loved one, try using an identity bracelet or necklace that clearly explains that she has a dementia illness. Put a card with the name and address of the hotel where you are staying in the person’s pocket. You may want to carry a recent photo of the person in case she gets lost.

Traveling may also make the person more anxious. Bring along an anti-anxiety medicine just in case. Toileting is an issue that requires some forethought when you are traveling. If you are driving, stop at the rest-area toilets every couple of hours. If the person needs assistance in the bathroom and you may be in there for a while, bring along an “OCCUPIED” sign for the washroom door. Have on hand a full change of clothing. Be sure to keep the way to the toilet well lighted in hotel rooms, and keep a light turned at night in the bathroom.

A few more travel tips to keep in mind: If you are traveling by car, never leave your loved one with dementia alone in the car. Try to bring along a relative or friend to share in the driving. And if you are traveling by plane, you may want to notify the airline ahead of time, so you can ask for any assistance.

Manual of Caregivers by Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center

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