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Nip Depression In The Bud: Warning Signs to Look For

By Mary Damiano

depressionWhile 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.

For a free 15 minute telephone consult addressing caregivers and their aging loved ones, call 919-803-8025.  Visit Raleigh Geriatric Care Management.

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Creating Fun for Caregivers and Frail Seniors

By Lynn Howe

_1571741_origYour confined-to-home (or assisted living or nursing home) parent, just wants to have fun! You are focused on their safety, finances, medical treatment, medications, privacy, nutrition and therapy. You busy yourself with monitoring their progress (or decline) and doing everything in your power to keep them comfortable. You worry about their reduced energy level, increasing fatigue, physical weakness and variable mental status. But do you know how important it is for them to just have fun? To laugh deeply, live in the moment, to briefly not be just old and frail, to forget pain?

OK, so what can you do? I know that you are thinking, well, they can’t do that much, but you might be surprised at all the options. Too often thoughtful families accommodate so much to their senior’s weakening state that they overlook how much they can do and enjoy! While it’s good to try to bring the world to them with visits, letters, phone calls and email, it’s also important and possible to keep bringing them out in the world. Of course, it may involve more work for you — transporting walker or wheelchair, assisting in/out of cars and doors, walking slowly, negotiating steps carefully, finding bathrooms, keeping him/her dry, warm (or cool) — so be prepared for a different pace and smaller goals. And some cajoling might be needed to just get going.

Mini-field trips

Seniors look forward to having a day out, but as they age, they don’t have the stamina or mobility for trips to fascinating museums, over-stimulating casinos, monster malls, giant sports stadiums, wooded parks, loud modern restaurants, etc. But they may be able to go out for an hour or two. My mom adored a simple trip to the supermarket — colorful flowers, fanciful balloons, acres of fresh, bright produce, bakery smells, energetic families with huge carts. She pushed her walker along, senses on overload, straying down enticing aisles. We didn’t buy a thing. But it was an hour that she talked about for days – a new topic of discussion with her nursing home buddies.
Another day we drove one short mile to a local antique shop. “I had those gold Fostoria glasses,” she pointed out. “Your dad and I would stop at the Fostoria factory store on trips to see my brother in Washington, DC.” Talk about the glassware led to reminiscing about her deceased brother, until she0interrupted herself; “Look at the quilts – just like Grandmother’s.” And so on, pushing her walker forward toward the next memory. After about an hour, she had had enough and home we went.

The first trip to a small local department store just before Christmas involved a little arm twisting. But once there, lights, perfume, soft velvety fashions and just ahead a decorated Christmas tree, worked their magic. She wheeled ahead, touching, smelling, exclaiming. Onward through silky lingerie, cute children’s clothes and glittering jewelry. At about the hour mark, like Cinderella, she was done. She relived it all week.

Recently she and I went to a small jewelry store 10 minutes from her home – she had favorite rings that needed resizing. Instead of just taking them for her, I invited her to come along. For the first time in a long time she became the customer, the center of attention. Soon she asked for a chair, her shopping done. But for her it was a big accomplishment, an errand, like in the old days she so misses.

My father-in-law loved an afternoon drive looking at properties we were considering purchasing. He was curious about these houses we described, their yards, their roofs, the neighborhoods. Since we didn’t even bring his wheelchair or get out of the car, it was like a guided tour. “I’ve been in that house” he’d say. “This was always a good neighborhood” he’d remember. “Let’s see what they are building on that hill.” Other mini trips for him were to the cemetery where his wife was buried, their first house in that area and a volunteer organization they founded. He remembered being a neighbor, a businessman, a father and a contributer to the community.
Other ideas might be a quilt shop for a former quilter, a hardware store for the ardent handyman, the library, bakery, family style restaurant, plant store or flower shop.

Fun at home

You don’t have to go out to have fun of course. Opportunities are right there in their home (or facility) to have fun and fight boredom.

  • Stage a sing-along to his/her favorite music. Play the music loud and clear.

  • Get all dressed up and take some photo portraits – use them for family gifts.

  • Rent/borrow movies for slow afternoons – old ones, funny ones, scary ones.

  • Have a deck of cards on hand and play the old familiar games – gin rummy, hearts, war.

  • Scrabble is great fun with grandkids.

  • Keep a puzzle going if you have a spare tabletop – people coming in always get engaged and stay to talk

  • Get out of the room – visit other residents, attend sing-alongs, presentations, craft sessions, chair exercises lunch groups.

  • Pull out a family album – get them to identify the older ones you may have forgotten and take notes or audiotape the stories you hear. Family photos trigger floods of memories.

  • Pick a theme for the week or month. Decorate his/her room and door. It will bring people in to check it out and or conversation.

  • Rearrange furniture and pictures – just for stimulation.

  • Order in or pick up some favorite foods that aren’t on the regular menu – hot dogs for my mom, milkshakes for my husband’s dad.

  • Manicures and pedicures are a special treat too. Have candy for drop-in guests and gifts for visitors – order online; think about birthday and holiday gifts and ‘shop’ on line.

  • Make up a Christmas, holiday or birthday wish list from the web – send it to family members. So think about what your loved one has always enjoyed, listen to what they talk about, look around your neighborhood and give it a try!

Call Raleigh Geriatric Care Management at 919-803-8025 for a FREE 15 minutes phone consultation. lwatral@rgcmgmt.com       www.rgcmgmt.com

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A Caregiver’s Best Friend

cat-and-dog-ftr

by, Dave Singleton

Caregivers are going to the dogs. And cats. Even a few birds. Maybe a rabbit. Everyday is a good time to celebrate the positive impact our four-legged friends – and even finned and feathered friends – have on millions of caregivers.
If ever there’s a group of people in need of those benefits, those who help the aged and infirm are it. Caregiving is one of the noblest – and loneliest – jobs. Your days are devoted to taking care of someone, but just who exactly is taking care of you? My own experience has taught me how easy it is to focus solely on the caree and neglect yourself.
Whether it’s a happy dog greeting you at the end of a long day of tending to a parent, a warm cat perched in your lap while you take a few minutes to relax, or a beautifully lit aquarium full of fish taking you away for a few minutes, pets give caregivers a much-needed boost.

Benefits of Pet Ownership for Caregivers

The benefits of having a pet aren’t just a hunch. During the last decade, many studies have focused on how pet ownership improves human cardiovascular health, reduces stress, decreases loneliness and depression, and facilitates social interactions.

As Dr. Edward Creagan of the Mayo Clinic Medical School shared with Everyday Health, “If pet ownership was a medication, it would be patented tomorrow.” Creagan cited a study of patients who survived longer after heart attacks if they had pets.

A recent University of Buffalo Study found that a pet dog or cat controls blood pressure better than an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor used to treat hypertension. And in other research, Alzheimer’s patients still living at home with pets had fewer mood disorders and fewer episodes of aggression and anxiety than did non-pet owners – which is important to note for those caring for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

In addition to the clear physiological benefits, having a pet helps caregivers:

Stay on track. You may spend much of your time taking care of someone else’s world. But having a pet offers a way to stay connected to your world, and that can translate to a renewed sense of purpose and focus. “Having a pet keeps you on a schedule when you may have lost a sense of a regular schedule,” says Susan Kurowski, Executive Director of Pets for the Elderly, an organization that’s placed more than 64,000 animals with people 60 and over. “For example, people take better care of themselves when (a pet) is counting on them – they exercise, they eat right.”

Increase social interaction. Caregivers sometimes miss out on seeing friends regularly and attending social gatherings they might have frequented “B.C.” (Before Caregiving). Pets not only offer companionship directly to their owners, but also may lead to more social interaction with neighbors and acquaintances. If you’re tired and feel withdrawn and not talkative, sometimes a pet can bridge that gap and draw you out. In some cases, they might even get you a date. “A lonely widower walked into the shelter and bonded with a fluffy little poodle,” says Kurowski. “He grinned at staff as he walked out and said, ‘I’m going to be a real chick magnet now.’”

Come as you are. A warm, constant companion can be life-changing. Animals accept their owners “as is”– it doesn’t matter if you’re emotionally drained after dealing with caregiving challenges, sad, or angry. A pet is there for you regardless, and many people report how their pets – especially cats and dogs – have a sixth sense about when their owners are in pain. During lonely periods especially, a pet’s unconditional and nurturing love can be a lifesaver.

What Kind of Pet Suits a Caregiver Best? Caregiving can take up so much time that many wonder if they can manage a pet. It’s a fair question – one that caregivers should consider carefully before committing to a new companion. Since dogs require a lot of care, the good news is, your pet doesn’t have to be a pooch for you to reap the benefits of pet ownership. Cats, rabbits, birds, fish – all can bring similar therapeutic benefits and combat feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression, with considerably less care.

Which type of pet is right for you? Consider the pros and cons:

Dogs

Pros: They wag their tails every time you’re near, you can pet and hug them, and they boost your activity levels. After a long day helping a loved one, your energy may be renewed when you walk in the door, only to be met by a wagging tale and eager eyes. If your exercise routine has evaporated in the wake of your caregiving schedule, walking a dog for even a few minutes a day can provide cardiovascular benefits as well as foster social interaction.

Cons: They require a lot of maintenance. If your caregiving work load is extensive, a dog might actually add to the stress, rather than ease it, when it gets older or sick. Caregivers may find it difficult to balance the needs of the caree with the care of an aging and infirm dog.

Cats

Pros: For a busy caregiver, cats won’t tie you down. “Dogs require more care, but they get the older people out and circulating,” says Kurowski. “Cats require less care, but have an ability to sit in a lap and provide physical contact.” Cats provide stress reduction, too – cat owners have lower risk of heart attack than non-cat owners, according to University of Minnesota research. And cats are also able to entertain themselves during times when you need stillness and space.

Cons: They likely won’t help with your exercise needs, since they require no walking. And as a species, they tend to act on their own timelines, not yours, so you may not get your needs for immediate affection met. One friend of mine described her grandmother’s cat as “friendly sometimes, but definitely not on call.” So if you’re the kind of caregiver who wants a pet to “lean in” for petting and snuggle time rather than keep its distance, a cat may not be ideal.

Fish

Pros: Every caregiver needs their down time. Whether it’s watching mindless television or staring into space or disappearing into a magazine, you need an activity that will help you decompress and regroup. Watching fish colorfully and gracefully glide around a bowl or aquarium can reduce stress. “There is something to fish in an aquarium being soothing,” says Kurowski. “So much of what’s on TV is jarring.” And other than feeding and cleaning their bowl or aquarium, they’re very low-maintenance.

Cons: Unfortunately, you can’t pet a fish or hold it close when you need comfort. And their life spans can be shorter than other pets.

Birds

Pros: If they’re small enough to manage in a cage, birds provide companionship and a bit of chatter if you want a chirpy companion to take your mind off of your challenges. Bird noises can be especially important for caregivers who spend so much time cloistered inside, since they provide a sense of being outdoors. Many birds can be trained to sit on an owner’s hand or finger, and provide the comfort of touch. In one study, older adults experienced a reduction in depression and improvement in quality of life when caring for a canary for a period of three?months.

Cons: Chances are you won’t spend a lot of time cuddled up with your bird on the sofa, like you might with a dog or cat. Not all birds talk, and they can be messy.

Whatever type of pet you choose to bring you companionship and comfort – whether four-legged, finned and fine-feathered – the pros will almost definitely outweigh the cons.

For a free 15 minute telephone consult with a Certified Geriatric Care Manager, call: 919-803-8025 and go to www.rgcmgmt.com.  Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, Raleigh, NC

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MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

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  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  3. Challenges with planning and problem solving
  4. Confusion with time and place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  7. Decreased or poor judgment
  8. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  9. Changes in mood or personality
  10. Problems with speaking and writing

To learn more about reducing stress as a family caregiver, contact Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, http://www.rgcmgmt.com, or call 919-803-8025.  Call for your free 15 minute consultation. 

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OCD in Elderly for Caregivers

By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer @ caregiver.com

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is defined in part by the Merck Manual as “anxiety provoking thoughts and urges.” While the publication (a staple in the medical field for years) notes that symptoms are not often prominent in the elderly, caregivers may disagree.

Early stage Alzheimer’s patients may obsess about minor issues, such as the garbage being taken out. In some cases, it may become a “chicken or the egg” question as to which came first, the OCD or Alzheimer’s.
Since part of OCD involves performing repetitive tasks that balance the anxiety (using hand sanitizer repeatedly to avoid germs), it may not be immediately visible that there is an obsessive component to the elder’s thought process. Grandma may spend twenty minutes wiping out the bathroom sink after she has gone to the bathroom. Part of her extended cleaning out of the sink may be due to poor vision, or remembering something from a past not known by current family.

Elder folks who can identify “habits” begin to disassemble the cycle of worry that accompanies OCD. Dorothy, who is well into her seventies and a former nurse, mentions that she has several “habits” that have cropped up since her husband passed away. “I’ll just go right to the refrigerator in the middle of the night, not turning on the light. That’s a HABIT.” She’s noted others, such as waking up several times in the middle of the night. During family visits, she wakes hardly at all, and concludes she’s conditioned herself to associating being alone with needing to wake up.

A bright woman who applied much rational thought and association in her nursing career, she is still able to do so today. Dorothy emphasizes that recognizing a habit is one thing. “Doing something about it, well that’s another!”
It’s evident that the key to her dealing with these habits is making a connection; but more importantly, she has removed the anxiety component. Acceptance of these behaviors and the knowledge that she will break them when she chooses give her a sense of autonomy.

Caregivers can work toward helping their older family members retain a sense of self-control by remaining calm when “habit” strikes. When Grandma spends 20 minutes cleaning the sink, she can be asked “What makes you do such a good job?” This will open the door for her to make her own connection as to why. The caregiver may learn about the past (“My grandfather was in the military and we had to make sure it was clean and sparkling”). Or they may learn about a contemporary occurrence (“I heard my son say the place is a mess. I don’t want him to think I’m a burden”).

In either case, an artful question combined with a compliment may draw out information. It also allows caregivers to begin the process of reassurance which can decrease anxiety.

OCD is designated as an anxiety disorder, and any type of stress reduction technique that is agreeable to the person and caregiver can help tremendously. Aromatherapy, guided meditation, relaxing music and changes in diet (like reducing caffeine) are alternative methods of stress reduction that may have some impact.

Howard Hughes, famous eccentric billionaire, suffered from OCD. Those who have seen the movie “The Aviator” or who remember accounts from decades before have an idea of how bizarre this individual became. While most people live undocumented lives, we can look at the experiences of individuals in public power to relate to.

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (http://www.adaa.org/) has a great deal of information to educate the layperson on anxiety in OCD, as well as other types of anxiety. Caregivers may find themselves developing a generalized anxiety disorder in response to the OCD disorder for those they are caring for.

Remember that when elders switch locations (moving in with a child, or to assisted living), they are going “out of the box” and stress factors increase. This increase in stress may turn Mom’s “habit” of cleaning when she is a little nervous into a full blown obsession over time. Work on the root cause, always.

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Compulsive hoarding or collecting may have developed from not having enough basic supplies during younger years. The cliché “salad days” may literally have meant that there were only vegetables from the garden to eat. A parent who always made sure there was plenty of food in the house may now not only have 65 cans of green beans (bought at scratch and dent warehouses), but stacks of newspaper coupons that are beyond the expiration date.

Instead of cleaning house in one fell swoop, try getting the elder to focus on the abundant stores they have, and how they can help others who are less fortunate. Some caregivers may have tremendous stress when it comes to dealing with the situation. At that point, calling in the “cavalry” of friends and associates who offer vague help is in order.

“I need you to help by going through Dad’s canned goods to find out which ones are expired or near expiration. Can you go with us to donate them to the local shelter?”

Any problems with compulsive hoarding require help. The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation has a website (http://www.ocfoundation.org/hoarding/) designed to guide caregivers. Support groups and other information can be found there. From that point, work on recruiting friends and family to help you with this issue. In the case of animal hoarding, the local Humane Society may be of help. Never, ever give any pet (hoarded or just a small excess) to anyone you do not know, or to any shelter that you do not know.

Even caregivers can have some obsessive compulsive traits develop with the day-to-day caregiving of an OCD elder. Look through information to see where you may have borderline events, too. By working through your own, smaller issues, you may silently be helping your loved one.

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, http://www.rgcmgmt.com

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Careful In The Kitchen

By  Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

The best place to be as a child was in Grandma’s kitchen, especially when she’s taking a fresh tray of cookies out of the oven.  Sneaking a bite of cookie dough was a must for any youngster. Grandma may have thought nothing of it then, but today, the risks of eating raw eggs are well known.  For seniors, these stakes are even higher.  A caregiver may be today’s gateway to good health for their loved one, starting at the basic knowledge of food safety.

My, how times have changed

It’s safe to say that the way the world “goes round” in 2010 is much more advanced than it was 10 years ago, at the turn of the century. A decade can make a big difference. In 2000, the Internet was just taking shape. Today, it’s a necessity for almost all people’s daily lives. So, if a decade can change things, what about four, or five, even more? Some loved ones may be reaching into their 80s or 90s, and in the 1950s or 60s, when they were raising their families, doing most of their own baking and cooking, life was a lot different.

The way food is produced, harvested, distributed and prepared has evolved hand-in-hand with technology. Scientific advances have shown that new and dangerous bacteria and viruses can be found in foods; these microorganisms were not even known years ago.  Food modification, mass production and mass distribution have led people away from homegrown, fresh vegetables and meat, leading almost all to rely on others, even those long distances away, to provide for their daily nutritional needs.

Science has identified illnesses that can come from food, as well as ways people in the later years of life are more susceptible to contracting foodborne health issues. A caregiver has the responsibility to know and respect the way a loved one used to live, while teaching and helping them understand the way they must live to be healthy today.

Special Risks for Seniors

Foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, can be serious, even fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year 76 million people fall ill, 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die from food-related infections and illness in the United States. Many of these victims are very young, very old, or have weakened immune systems, unable to fight infection normally.

Seniors have always been grouped with the “women and children” crowd. This has been for good reason; they are able to catch germs easier and also hold onto them longer. Age causes changes in a body, slowing the food digestion process. The stomach and intestinal tract process foods slower, and a loved one’s liver and kidneys are slower to rid their body of toxins. This even alters a person’s sense of taste and smell.  Added to the natural effects of aging, all chronic illnesses, and medications, and the unwelcome addition of food poisoning can become very serious very fast. Vigilance when handling, preparing and consuming foods is important for a loved one to have. For caregivers, awareness and education are crucial.

Are You Sick?

Teaching a loved one when to recognize they are experiencing a negative reaction to food will help identify the problem after the fact. First, caregivers must understand that there is a wide range of time that can pass between eating food with harmful bacteria and the onset of symptoms.

Usually, foodborne illness takes one to three days to develop. The common assumption is that it’s caused by a person’s last meal. This may be true, but not necessarily. There are many factors to consider, including the type of bacteria which was in the affected food. The range of time could be from 20 minutes to 6 weeks, at extreme circumstances. Even then, it’s possibly a different illness. Some common symptoms of food poisoning are feeling sick to the stomach, vomiting or diarrhea. Others could be flu-like, including a fever as well as head and body aches. Professionals suggest a caregiver check with their loved one’s doctor if they suspect food is to blame for an illness.

Eating In

It used to be all foods were grown at home. Today’s younger generations are trying to return to a semblance of that lifestyle; but for most, climate and convenience will never leave them completely independent for all food. Many elderly loved ones will remember the days gone by when they ate the same potato they dug the hole in the ground for and planted months prior. There was no need to worry about exactly where food came from. Because of this, a loved one may have a greater trust for food than the rest of society, or greater distrust.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers some guidelines for proper food prep at home. First, “clean.” Wash hands and surfaces often and well. Bacteria can be found throughout a kitchen, including on utensils, cutting boards, sponges and countertops. Use warm water and soap for all washing of hands and cooking supplies. When cutting boards develop worn and hard to clean surfaces, they should be replaced. A loved one may consider paper towels just extra waste, but they are very good at preventing bacteria buildup.

Next, “separate.” Cross-contamination is how bacteria is spread, especially when handling raw meat, poultry and seafood.  Separate these foods from other foods in a shopping cart and also in the refrigerator. Use different cutting boards for them as well. Wash utensils and other dishes after coming in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and unwashed fresh produce. A big
“no-no” is putting cooked food on the same plate the raw was on previously. Bacterial residue on the plate could contaminate the cooked food.

After separating, “cook” foods to proper temperatures. The FDA explains that foods are cooked safely when heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria. There are many guidelines available for temperatures to watch for when cooking a variety of foods. Visitwww.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/Seniors/ucm182679.htm for more information.

Finally, the FDA advises seniors to “chill,” and not in the way a teenager would mean! While stored at room temperature, bacteria in food may double every 20 minutes. Caregivers should teach a loved one to refrigerate foods quickly to keep bacteria at bay. Many people believe it’s not good to put hot food in a refrigerator, but the FDA says it keeps a person safe to do so.

With some simple guidelines, a caregiver can show their loved one how to eat safely at home and avoid problems down the road.

Eating Out

The McDonald’s trend hit the United States in the late 1950s, and has grown into a full-blown way of life since then. No longer is eating out a “treat” for a special occasion, such as a birthday, anniversary or first date. Sure, people may still dine at a fancier restaurant for those times, but grabbing a sandwich or salad is a regular habit.  Today, nearly 50 percent of the money spent on food goes toward meals that other people prepare.

It can be easy to simply trust that the food served at a restaurant is suitable for consumption. Each person should learn to be their own advocate and a senior loved one is no exception. They may be experiencing an age-related dulling of the senses, minimizing their ability to recognize an unsafe situation. As at home, don’t eat raw or undercooked food. Make sure hot meals are hot and if the food is not cooked properly, encourage a loved one to speak up and send it back. It’s better to be safe than worry about “hurting someone’s feelings.”

The trend in restaurants today is leaning toward large meal portions. Many seniors end up packing the leftovers to take home. The FDA advises that if the leftover food will not be refrigerated within two hours of leaving the restaurant, it’s safer to leave it there. Some senior centers across the country won’t even allow food to be taken home because they know of the dangers when food is left sitting out too long.

Foods to Avoid

The FDA offers a list of foods seniors are advised to avoid:

  • Raw fin fish and shellfish, including oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops;
  • Hot dogs and luncheon meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot;
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses (such as Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese) unless they are labeled as made with pasteurized milk;
  • Refrigerated pates or meat spreads; (Canned or shelf-stable pates and meat spreads may be eaten.)
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole; (Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.)
  • Raw or lightly cooked egg or egg products containing raw eggs such as salad dressings, cookie or cake batter, sauces, and beverages such as eggnog; (Foods made from commercially pasteurized eggs are safe to eat.)
  • Raw meat or poultry;
  • Raw sprouts (alfalfa, clover, and radish); and
  • Unpasteurized or untreated fruit or vegetable juice.

Be a Better Shopper

Reading labels is becoming more and more essential for all age groups. Many people have adverse affects from the ingredient MSG, especially those in the senior community. The other labels to look for are the open dates on raw foods such as meats, eggs and dairy products. Most important are the “sell by,” “best if used by,” and “use by” dates. Caregivers can teach their loved one how to read these labels and also check refrigerators to ensure food has not gone bad and poses a problem for bacteria growth.

Raw meat, poultry and seafood should also be placed in a separate plastic bag, so the juices do not leak onto other groceries. Buy only pasteurized milk, cheese and other dairy products. Teach a loved one to buy only eggs from the refrigerated section of the store, and check canned goods for dents, cracks or bulging lids.
With a few small tricks and tips, a caregiver can encourage a loved one to eat good, nutritious meals safely.

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, Raleigh, NC.  www.rgcmgmt.com

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What is an Aging Life Care Professional ™?

We are still the same, but our name has changed to better reflect what we do and who we are. Our national association, formerly known as National Association of Professional Care Managers (NAPGCM), is now  the Aging Life Care Association™ (ALCA) and care managers are now refered to as Aging Life Care Experts™.

Conflicting demands on your heart, time, and energy can make it hard to care for an aging relative. If this sounds familiar, you could benefit from the services of an aging life care expert.

An aging life care expert provides relief. They work with you and your family member to develop a realistic care plan. The goal of the plan is to maximize your loved one’s independence, safety, and quality of life. A solid care plan addresses family resources. This includes making sure you are not called upon to do more than you are able.

An aging life care expert is a guide and an advocate. These experts are typically trained in the health professions or social work. Many have specialties in elder care. They bring to their role an understanding of the

  • local healthcare system;
  • emotional and physical challenges of aging and/or disability;
  • difficulties of adult children juggling work and family;
  • common legal and financial issues that arise in later life;
  • local housing options and other senior or disabled services.

Aging life care experts use a holistic approach. They begin with a thorough assessment of needs and capabilities. They can often resolve uncertainties and dispel family disagreements. Their emotional support may help your loved one come to terms with this new phase of life.

An aging life care expert’s input may save you time and money. After looking at money and other family resources, they can recommend appropriate housing situations. They can identify veteran assistance and other benefits. They can avoid duplication of medical services and potentially catch problems before a crisis blooms. They can also monitor the quality of care.

An aging life care expert works independently as the client’s advocate.They are not paid through referral fees. Nor are they employees of hospitals or insurance companies. In some cases, their services can be reimbursed by long-term care insurance.

If you think you and your loved one could benefit from the services of an aging life care expert, give us a call at Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, 919-803-8025, http://www.rgcmgmt.com

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