The Importance of Respite Care

 

Caring for aging loved ones is a noble endeavor, but it can come with tremendous challenges. Family caregivers can sometimes endure an enormous amount of physical, emotional, and financial strain. It’s difficult to provide optimal care for your loved one if you are unwell. This is where respite care enters the picture, offering caregivers a much-needed break.

 

What is respite care?

It is simply temporary care from someone other than the primary caregiver. It could be a professional, a friend, a relative, or even a volunteer. First, the primary caregiver must understand their own needs. How much time do you need away from your duties? How frequently do you need breaks? Then, you must determine the needs of the senior, and select a caregiver who can meet those needs adequately. For example, if you need three hours on Saturday to do some shopping and your loved one just needs some companionship during that time perhaps a teenage relative could fill that gap. Alternatively, if you need a three-day break, you may need to hire a professional who can handle more intense tasks.

Benefits of respite care

The positive results of respite care are not only useful for the caregiver, but also for the person receiving care. When the caregiver is well, her or she is able to provide the best care.

  • Relaxation – Dedicating a little time to yourself is calming and can improve your mood. Do not underestimate the power of relaxation.
  • Re-energize – A vehicle cannot run on an empty tank of gas. Similarly, the human body needs fuel and energy to function properly. You must feed the body, mind, and soul to rejuvenate.
  • Surroundings – It’s important to spend some quality time away from the care-giving environment to avoid burnout. Simply hanging out in a different space can be tremendously helpful.
  • Changing perspective – Stepping outside of your care-giving duties allows you to look at things from a fresh perspective. You can see the bigger picture and possibly find better solutions and new ways of handling things.
  • Maintaining identity – Your role as a caregiver is important, but it should not consume your identity. You are a complete person and getting frequent breaks helps you remember that you are more than a caregiver.
  • Socialize – Isolation can be a serious problem for caregivers. Allow time for social engagement and interaction. Do things that you enjoy with people you like.

It may be difficult to find respite care. However, if you tap into all your resources, you will likely find assistance. If you do not have friends or relatives to help, check with local organizations. Many communities have volunteer respite programs. The ARCH National Respite Network is a great online source for more information.

 

How the Net Neutrality Repeal Impacts Seniors

Net Neutrality rules were put in place to protect the Internet and those who use it. These directives prohibited Internet service providers from throttling internet speeds or blocking access to particular websites. Under these guidelines, Internet access was treated as a utility. This means everyone had equal access to services. The growth and freedom experienced through the Internet are largely due to the protections of net neutrality. Unfortunately, Net Neutrality has been repealed, and it is likely to have a significant negative impact on everyone. Many seniors, especially those living on a fixed income, will be affected. Even senior living communities will suffer some consequences. So, how exactly will the Net Neutrality repeal impact senior citizens?

Two Separate Paths  

The most likely outcome of the repeal involves Internet service providers creating two distinct pathways to the Internet. In other words, there will be a “fast lane” and a “slow lane.” In order to access the web at reasonable speeds, individuals will need to pay more money to use the “fast lane.” Furthermore, companies who receive high amounts of traffic to their websites will pay additional “tolls” in the form of fees likely passed on to consumers. People who are unwilling or unable to pay will simply have to deal with slower Internet speeds. Some websites and services may even be completely blocked for users who cannot pay for service upgrades. This would clearly have a negative impact on low-income people, including seniors living on a fixed income. Internet access could be limited or even nonexistent for many people. Seniors use the web, just like younger people. They communicate with friends and family, pay bills, watch videos and acquire information. All the amazing things the Internet has to offer could be restricted unless one can afford to pay the extra fees. Currently, 20% of Americans cannot afford Internet service. This number is expected to increase substantially under the new Net Neutrality repeal, as discussed in The Guardian..

Mobile Plans

Most mobile plans already have data caps. Plan prices will likely increase, and consumers may need to pay extra in order to access certain websites and services via their portable devices. Some older adults are already struggling to pay for cell phone service. Increased pricing may force them out entirely or cause them to switch to a less reliable mobile carrier. This could be dangerous as seniors need to be able to make emergency calls and communicate with important contacts.

The Impact on Senior Living Communities

For communities to conduct business and provide quality services, operators will need to purchase “fast lane” Internet packages. The increased pricing will be an inconvenience, but most senior living communities can afford the additional cost. Specific websites or programs may require special subscriptions. In this case, communities may have to drop some features to stay within budget.

80% of Americans are in favor of keeping Net Neutrality regulations. It is impossible to predict the exact impact of the repeal. In the meantime, some government entities and public organizations are fighting to reinstate Net Neutrality rules. For now, anything is possible and the fate of the Internet is in the hands of the Internet service providers. We can only hope that they will wield their power with grace rather than greed.

 

Preparing Seniors for Hazardous Winter Weather

 With winter in full swing, many areas throughout the country are experiencing dangerous weather conditions. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable during these situations, as caregivers or emergency call responders may be unable to travel and reach the individual in need. There are some things you can do to help your aged loved one prepare for hazardous winter weather.

Cold Temperatures

Freezing temperatures can be quite dangerous for seniors. If a person’s body temperature falls too low, he or she may suffer from hypothermia or frostbite. These conditions can be fatal. In fact, people over age 65 account for approximately half of the annual deaths caused by hypothermia. The most obvious way to prepare for cold weather is to dress in warm layers. Ask your loved one to stay indoors whenever possible and wear a hat, gloves, and scarf when venturing outside. Warm socks and appropriate footwear are also essential. Indoor temperatures should be kept at a comfortable level. Additionally, it is advised to store extra blankets in case of emergency.

Power Outage

It’s important to prepare for a power outage: not only for cold-weather circumstances, but for any emergency or natural disaster. Ensure that your loved one has easy access to flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio, a first-aid kit, some bottled water and nonperishable food items. Most experts agree that about three days worth of supplies are sufficient to get through a minor incident. If a power outage occurs during freezing temperatures, and your older loved ones have no access to heat, it’s crucial that they dress warm indoors and move around frequently to raise core body temperature.

Isolation

Seniors often become isolated during the winter months because travel is more difficult. Loneliness may lead to depression, so it’s important to initiate frequent contact with the older people in your life. A brief, daily phone call may be enough to keep a person’s spirits up. You can also ask friends or neighbors to stop in and check on your loved one. Frequent contact is the key.

Carbon Monoxide

The use of a fireplace, gas or propane heater, or lantern can create dangerous carbon monoxide. It is crucial that you have properly working carbon monoxide detectors in the home if your loved one is heating with these methods. Overexposure to this particular gas can cause serious illness or even death.

Ice

Slipping on ice is dangerous for anyone, but seniors are especially prone to injury and complications from a serious fall. To help avoid accidents, ask your loved one to stay indoors until roads and sidewalks are clear. If they must go outdoors, shoes with excellent traction are necessary. Furthermore, remove shoes immediately upon returning indoors because ice and snow that have attached to the shoes will melt, creating slippery indoor conditions. Additionally, replace worn cane tips to help provide safer mobility. Emergency call alert systems are helpful for seniors who live alone.

If your loved one is in a senior living community, check with the community to determine what precautions they take to protect their residents. Confirm they have working Fall detection systems. Ask about how they ensure floors are kept dry, and what procedures are in place to ensure residents, particularly those with dementia, do not wander outside unmonitored.

Winter weather hazards should not be taken lightly. Following these simple precautions can prevent a catastrophe for your aging loved ones. Take the time to ensure that the seniors in your life are prepared for the winter season.

 

How Men and Women Age Differently

 It’s no surprise that men and women age differently. Not only do our physical bodies handle the aging process in varying ways, but our coping abilities are also starkly contrasted. Extensive research in this area shows exactly how men and women age differently.

  • Longevity – It’s a well-known statistic that women have a longer lifespan than men. In general, females live approximately five to six years more than males, as stated in this 2014 report by the World Health Organization.There are numerous theories as to why this is the case. Scientists have not yet pinpointed exact causes, although they have speculated stress and lifestyle as leading factors.
  • Happiness – Women are reportedly more content during their senior years. This is attributed to women having better communication skills and more empathy, and likely more intimate/personal relationships. Men are more likely to become lonely and depressed as they age because they have fewer emotional coping skills.
  • Weight gain – Both sexes begin to gain weight after the age of 30. Men typically stop gaining in their mid-50’s while women continue to put on weight until about age 65.
  • Skin – Men lose less collagen and have thicker skin, therefore showing fewer signs of aging.
  • Hair loss – Both men and women experience hair loss during the aging process. However, men are much more susceptible to pattern baldness.
  • Disease – Certain diseases affect men or women more prevalently. For example, men are more likely to have Parkinson’s disease while women are more prone to suffer from Alzheimer’s.

Gender Differences in Senior Care

Because of the longevity gap, assisted-living communities have seven female residents to every one male. Skilled nursing facilities have rates hovering closer to 10 to 1. You might think that men would like these odds. However, a lot of men feel that senior living communities are too feminine. This can create challenges when attempting to select the best community for your loved one. Senior men have different needs than women, and it’s important to find a community that has plenty to offer male residents.

Men have a significantly more difficult time coping with the aging process. Many men based their self-worth on their societal or professional role in life. Once they are no longer working, they may begin to feel useless. Without essential social interaction, they can become lonely and depressed. Here are some things you can do to help the older men in your life:

  • Give them “jobs” and responsibilities. This gives them a sense of value.
  • Allow them to teach younger people some useful skills. Intergenerational activities are highly beneficial to seniors and youngsters. This helps the older person feel important and useful.
  • Recognize the person’s history and identity.

Males tend to value independence and leadership. Anything you can do to reinforce these feelings will be immensely helpful to aging men. Take these factors into consideration when approaching delicate topics with the senior men in your life.

Aging is inevitable for both men and women. Although we experience the process differently, we are in many ways the same. All senior citizens need to feel valued and deserve the best care we can provide for them. Understanding the similarities and differences that men and women experience as they get older helps us provide optimal care.