Caring for an older family member often requires teamwork. While one sibling might be local and take on most of the everyday caregiving responsibilities, a long-distance caregiver can also have an important role.
As a long-distance caregiver, you can provide important respite to the primary caregiver and support to the aging family member.
Talk About Caregiving Responsibilities
First, try to define the caregiving responsibilities. You could start by setting up a family meeting and, if it makes sense, include the care recipient in the discussion. This is best done when there is not an emergency. A calm conversation about what kind of care is wanted and needed now, and what might be needed in the future, can help avoid a lot of confusion.
Decide who will be responsible for which tasks. Many families find the best first step is to name a primary caregiver, even if one is not needed immediately. That way the primary caregiver can step in if there is a crisis.
Agree in advance how each of your efforts can complement one another so that you can be an effective team. Ideally, each of you will be able to take on tasks best suited to your skills or interests.
Consider Your Strengths When Sharing Caregiving Responsibilities
When thinking about who should be responsible for what, start with your strengths. Consider what you are particularly good at and how those skills might help in the current situation:
- Are you good at finding information, keeping people up-to-date on changing conditions, and offering cheer, whether on the phone or with a computer?
- Are you good at supervising and leading others?
- Are you comfortable speaking with medical staff and interpreting what they say to others?
- Is your strongest suit doing the numbers—paying bills, keeping track of bank statements, and reviewing insurance policies and reimbursement reports?
- Are you the one in the family who can fix anything, while no one else knows the difference between pliers and a wrench?
You have heard about building a better mousetrap. How about building a better thought-trap? The brain we are born with is not necessarily the brain you have all your life. If that sounds like someone has lost a few brain cells, read on to find out how you can fight cognitive decline.
“We’re having a brain-health revolution.” So says Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Chapman believes we have entered a new age of understanding brain health that is benefitting brain research and giving hope to those of us who are aging — which is all of us.
The brain we are born with is constantly developing neurons and neural connections, and that means it is possible to turn back the clock on aging, even for people with mild cognitive problems. With certain lifestyle modifications, people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) showed significant improvement on abilities that decline with age, such as planning, judgment, and processing speed. Studies show that people with MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, so reducing MCI can help prevent — or at least slow down the progression of — Alzheimer’s.
Since there is evidence that it is possible to delay or avoid “senior moments” and age-related memory loss, you are probably anxious to learn the strategies for building that better brain.
Dietary changes include drinking more water and eating healthier foods. The brain is composed of 80% water (Doesn’t it feel like it sometimes?). So dehydration is detrimental to brain health. Drink more water! Inflammation can affect those little gray cells, so eat more plant foods, healthy fats, and omega-3s, and less saturated fats and processed foods.
Take heart — and get it pumping with periods of heart-pumping activity, like a short walk or bike ride. This produces chemicals that help grow and protect brain cells. And, keep that blood pressure down!
After all that exercise, get plenty of sleep. While you rest, your system flushes toxins, so if you have sleep problems, consult your physician.
Mental exercise is valuable as well. Find a way to meditate and practice mindfulness. There are also programs that sharpen attention, reasoning, and creative thinking skills.
So, use the brain you were born with, and don’t forget to keep it growing and glowing with health!
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Are you a caregiver providing support for a spouse, friend, or relative? Even if your loved one is well cared for in memory care or assisted living facility, your responsibilities can take a toll on your health.
Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. Make sure you are making time for yourself, eating healthy foods, and being active. Finding some time for regular exercise can be very important to your overall physical and mental well-being.
Here are some ways for caregivers to be physically active:
- Take exercise breaks throughout the day. Try three 10-minute “mini-workouts” instead of 30 minutes all at once.
- Make an appointment with yourself to exercise. Set aside specific times and days of the week for physical activity.
- Exercise with a friend and get the added benefit of emotional support.
- Ask for help at home so you can exercise.
A new study has shown that because women normally score higher than men on tests of verbal memory, they may not be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment as early as men. This can give many women a later start than they need in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Even when they have the same levels of Alzheimer’s disease-related brain changes, such as the amount of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain or the amount of shrinkage in the hippocampus area of the brain, they are often not diagnosed accurately.
Using gender-specific scores on memory tests may change who gets diagnosed with "pre-dementia", or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI, a precursor to dementia, is when people have problems with memory and thinking skills. The difference may be as high as 20%, with possibly more women and fewer men being diagnosed, according to a study published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
A simple thing can change your life—like tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor. If you fall, you could break a bone, like thousands of older men and women do each year. For older people, a break can be the start of more serious problems, such as a trip to the hospital, injury, or even disability.
If you or an older person you know has fallen, you're not alone. More than one in three people age 65 years or older falls each year. The risk of falling—and fall-related problems—rises with age.
Many Older Adults Fear Falling
The fear of falling becomes more common as people age, even among those who haven't fallen. It may lead older people to avoid activities such as walking, shopping, or taking part in social activities.
But don't let a fear of falling keep you from being active. Overcoming this fear can help you stay active, maintain your physical health, and prevent future falls. Doing things like getting together with friends, gardening, walking, or going to the local senior center helps you stay healthy. The good news is, there are simple ways to prevent most falls.
Causes and Risk Factors for Falls
Many things can cause a fall. Your eyesight, hearing, and reflexes might not be as sharp as they were when you were younger. Diabetes, heart disease, or problems with your thyroid, nerves, feet, or blood vessels can affect your balance. Some medicines can cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy, making you more likely to fall. Other causes include safety hazards in the home or community environment.
Scientists have linked several personal risk factors to falling, including muscle weakness, problems with balance and gait, and blood pressure that drops too much when you get up from lying down or sitting (called postural hypotension). Foot problems that cause pain and unsafe footwear, like backless shoes or high heels, can also increase your risk of falling.
Confusion can sometimes lead to falls. For example, if you wake up in an unfamiliar environment, you might feel unsure of where you are. If you feel confused, wait for your mind to clear or until someone comes to help you before trying to get up and walk around.