Arlington, VA

Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].

Some changes in our sleep patterns are perfectly normal as we grow older. Aging adults tend to go to sleep earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. Also, research shows that older adults may actually need less sleep than they did in their younger years.

However, not all sleep changes seniors experience is normal. Incontinence, pain from arthritis, digestive problems and mediation side effects can all affect sleep. To help spot some issues that may need to be addressed by a doctor, here are some common conditions that a sleep specialist could help identify and address:

Sleep Apnea in Seniors

This condition causes a sleeper to stop breathing for short periods — from a few seconds to even minutes and often repeatedly throughout the night. Sleep apnea may be accompanied by loud snoring, although not always. For seniors, this can not only disrupt sleep, but it could also cause a dangerous drop in oxygen levels. A sleep specialist can help prescribe a breathing support device (such as a CPAP), a special mouthpiece or, in extreme cases, recommend surgery.

Dementia and Sleep

The brain changes of Alzheimer’s and related disorders can greatly disrupt a senior’s sleep patterns. Some people with dementia may sleep too much, while others have issues sleeping much at all. The disease disrupts the body’s natural 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, sometimes leaving a seniors’ sense of day and night reversed or fragmented. Dementia care experts can offer suggestions to improve sleep, many often as easy as behavioral routine changes.

Secondhand Sleep Problems

When a person has a sleep disorder, this can not only affect them, but it can also affect others in the home. The sleep of family caregivers is often regularly disrupted from waking to support their loved one to the bathroom or handle other middle-of-the-night needs. This is particularly the case when caring for loved ones with dementia who may experience “sundown syndrome,” where those with dementia become restless and agitated in the late afternoon and early morning during a caregivers’ core time of rest. Studies show that sleep problems are actually the No. 1 contributing factor when families decide a person with dementia should be placed in a professional care setting.

Home care can help. Professional in-home care services promote good sleep and all-around health for older adults who live at home, and trained caregivers can provide supervision while family caregivers sleep.

Here at Right at Home, our care experts work with families to support the needs of seniors and loved ones alike. Contact me today if you’d like a care consultation or if I’m able to provide any other assistance to you and your family.

Your neighbor, and Owner/President of Right at Home of Northern Virginia,

Phillip Turner, CDP, CSA

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Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].

It’s not hard to notice, and the statistics confirm it: Women tend to live longer than men. U.S. Census data show that there are only half as many men over the age of 80 as women. Additionally, more than 80% of centenarians are women, and men in almost every country have a shorter life expectancy.

What explains this seeming paradox?

It is most likely a combination of factors. From a biology standpoint, gender-related differences in genes, hormones and the immune system make men more susceptible to inflammation, heart disease and high blood pressure. Behavioral differences exist as well. Men are more likely to smoke, consume more alcohol and take part in other risky behaviors. Attitudes toward health care is also a big contributing factor. Men are less likely than women to have regular doctor visits. Because men are more susceptible to health concerns, here are some key areas to address.

Talking to men about health matters.

If you have an older male family member or loved one, encourage them to make healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating well, giving up smoking, getting enough exercise and managing stress. It’s important to also talk about health care with them. Ask them how long it’s been since they saw a doctor. Research shows that many male patients underplay health problems during conversations with their doctor, but they may be more likely to be truthful and forthcoming with you. Help them stay on top of regular check-ups, including tests of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; screenings for prostate, colorectal and skin cancer; and vision and hearing tests. Discuss emotional health as well — health care includes mental health as well.

Care support at home for older men.

Most senior men prefer to age in place in their own homes, but health challenges may make that unsafe without assistance. They may avoid asking for help from family members — or they might require a lot of help and feel bad about it. Professional in-home caregivers provide assistance with personal care, prepare nutritious meals, and transport clients to medical appointments and exercise opportunities.

If you or your loved one is looking for support, at home senior care providers, such as Right at Home, will carefully match caregivers with clients. Having professional support can be of benefit in a variety of ways — from companionship that wards off loneliness to an extra focus in senior health. Right at Home care experts work with families to support the needs of senior loved ones and family caregivers alike. Contact me today and ask for a care consultation or let me know if I’m able to provide any other assistance to you and your family.

Your neighbor, and Owner/President of Right at Home of Northern Virginia,
Phillip Turner, CDP, CSA

Each month readers can submit questions to Phillip Turner (CSA, CDP), the Owner and Executive Director of Right At Home Northern Virginia, one of the area’s largest and longest-serving providers of in-home senior care.

As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Phillip is passionate about providing individualized care, enthusiastic management services and collaborating with other health care providers. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].  

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Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].

Medications play an important role in improving the health and preserving the independence of aging adults by helping control many health conditions, such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and chronic pain, among others.

This medication can help restore daily life for many seniors, but often medication management becomes a major challenge for older patients. Medications, or combinations of medications, can cause side effects, such as dizziness, depression, digestive problems and even confusion that might be mistaken for dementia. It could also increase the risk of falls and other injuries.

Managing medications in our later years can be challenging for several reasons. However, the top challenge is that seniors take a lot of medications. Experts from the University of Michigan looked at the data of people on Medicare Part D (prescription drug plans) and found that these seniors take an average of 4.5 drugs — and sometimes upward of 10. Doctors and pharmacists have deemed this situation “polypharmacy.”

To limit the negative effects of polypharmacy, older patients should be partners in their own care. If you are a family caregiver to an aging adult, here are ways you can provide support:

  • Get a medication review. Today’s seniors are likely to have a number of health care providers, which could lead to an issue where one doctor prescribes a drug and other providers don’t know about it. Having a single doctor or pharmacist evaluate all medications can limit this risk. (Also, people on Medicare Part D should know their plan may offer a free, in-depth review for enrollees.)
  • Use a single pharmacy if possible. This way the pharmacist has a record of all the medications you take, which makes it easier to spot any possible “red flag combinations” that could cause a bad interaction.
  • Don’t hesitate to bring up the cost. Today, the high price of many prescription drugs leads some seniors to split pills, skip doses or fail to fill a prescription. If a drug is costly or is not covered by your insurance, ask the doctor if there is a generic or less expensive alternative.
  • Talk to the doctor about alternatives to medications. For certain conditions, lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and improved diet, or physical treatments such as physical therapy, can be beneficial and can reduce the need for medications.

Home care can also help. Professional in-home care can be a valuable resource for successful medication management. Non-medical home care professionals can provide transportation to the pharmacy or pick up prescriptions, while skilled nursing services could also be provided in the home. If you are thinking of receiving home care for a loved one, Right at Home care experts work with families to support the needs of senior loved ones and family caregivers alike. Contact me today with any questions you may have or for a personalized care consultation.

Your neighbor, and Owner/President of Right at Home of Northern Virginia,
Phillip Turner, CDP, CSA

Each month readers can submit questions to Phillip Turner (CSA, CDP), the Owner and Executive Director of Right At Home Northern Virginia, one of the area’s largest and longest-serving providers of in-home senior care.

As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Phillip is passionate about providing individualized care, enthusiastic management services and collaborating with other health care providers. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].  

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Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].

Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders are, unfortunately, quite common among the older population. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that one in four older adults will experience a mental disorder. This is a growing concern not just for older adults, but also for the families and loved ones who help provide care. Having cared for many local aging seniors at Right At Home, one of Northern Virginia’s largest and longest running in-home care service providers, I wanted to provide answers to many of the frequent questions we hear from our clients:

Q: Are changes in my loved one’s personality and behavior just a normal part of aging?

A: Health problems, the loss of a spouse, disability and even one’s changing role after retirement can lead to personality changes. However, as a caregiver, family or friend, it’s important to recognize the differences between normal changes of aging and early signs of mental health disorders. The NCOA reports that, when left untreated, these disorders can lead to more serious issues.

Q: What are the signs that my loved one might have a mental health condition that should be addressed?

A: This question is tough, because often changes can be gradual and subtle. If you have concerns, have an initial consultation with their doctor. If your loved one is feeling unusually confused or on edge, showing low or no energy, losing interest in things they once enjoyed, or showing other signs of helpless or hopeless, a doctor can help with an initial diagnosis.

Q: Can mental health disorders be treated?

A: The good news is, in many cases, there are treatments that can help. Your loved one’s doctor might recommend cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy. A geriatric mental health professional may also prescribe medications while taking into account a patient’s ability to manage medications, other current medications and how their age affects the way their body processes substances.

Q: Can professional in-home caregivers support the health of older clients?

A: Yes! Receiving care in the familiar environment of a senior’s home is conducive to good mental health. Professional in-home caregivers not only provide companionship, which is of particular importance, but also help reduce stress for the client and their families.

Professional in-home caregivers also provide assistance with a variety of tasks, from accompanying clients to the doctor and pharmacy, bathing, dressing, meal preparation, and housekeeping. For my caregivers at Right at Home, we’ll work specifically with families to support the needs of senior loved ones and family caregivers alike. Feel free to reach out for a consultation or if I can answer any questions during your search for care.

Your neighbor, and Owner/President of Right at Home of Northern Virginia,
Phillip Turner, CDP, CSA

Each month readers can submit questions to Phillip Turner (CSA, CDP), the Owner and Executive Director of Right At Home Northern Virginia, one of the area’s largest and longest-serving providers of in-home senior care.

As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Phillip is passionate about providing individualized care, enthusiastic management services and collaborating with other health care providers. If you have a question, please submit to [email protected].  

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Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].

Going into 2021, a record 53 million people in the U.S. are providing care for older loved ones. That is a lot of people, all of whom are likely under a tremendous amount of stress.

And unfortunately, data shows the pandemic of 2020 will continue to increase family caregivers’ workload considerably…

  • An October 2020 poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that “family caregivers are now providing 36% more care than a year ago.”
  • A recent AARP study also shows that “more family caregivers (26%) are having difficulty coordinating care, up from 19% in 2015.”

If you will be a family caregiver in 2021, I am here for you if you have questions or need support. Throughout 2020, professional in-home care became an even more attractive solution for supporting the well-being of seniors. Professional in-home caregivers can help with and/or take over many of the typical tasks of family caregivers, such as hygiene care, managing healthcare appointments, light housekeeping and laundry, meal preparation… whatever tasks need doing.

If you do plan to remain the primary family caregiver next year, please make caring for yourself a top goal of 2021. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be a less effective caregiver for your loved one. Here are my suggested resolutions for family health caregivers to keep you and your loved ones healthy, safe and happy

  • Build some ‘me time’ into your schedule.
  • Get enough exercise and eat a healthy diet.
  • Learn more about your loved one’s health condition and what you can expect in the future.
  • Find a support group, and connect with others who understand.
  • Set boundaries… and if needed, seek assistance.

In the event you’re thinking about seeking assistance, please do your research and ask about what precautions the agency is taking in response to COVID-19. For example, all Right at Home caregivers were trained in 2020 to reduce the risk of illness, and they follow all local and national guidelines on curtailing the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, Right at Home has a task force devoted to keeping owners and caregivers up to date with the latest recommendations during this rapidly changing situation.

As families work hard to keep the most vulnerable family members safe at this time, having trained professionals on the team is a tremendous stress-buster. If you have questions about providing your own care, or if you’d like to discuss options for assistance, please feel free to reach out to me directly. I wish you a very happy new year and a healthy 2021.

Your neighbor, and Owner/President of Right at Home of Northern Virginia,
Phillip Turner, CDP, CSA

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Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected].  

The holiday season is upon us, and I have no doubt the way we celebrate and interact with loved ones this year will be unlike any other year.

On top of issues related to the pandemic, many families are dealing with new health concerns of a loved one.

Regardless of your religious beliefs or family traditions, if you find yourself in this situation, you are probably looking forward to the holidays and wondering, “What am I going to do this year?” Depending on the care and need of your loved one, here are some things to consider in preparation for the holiday season.

If Your Loved One is Living With Alzheimer’s or Other Dementias

Holiday plans should be modified to accommodate their specific needs, moods and behaviors. Consider who is hosting, where the event will be and if additional help is required leading up to or during the family gathering. Individuals with dementia can become nervous in new environments or paranoid around new people or those they may not recognize.

Host the event at a home they are familiar with and limit guests outside of the direct family. This is a smart idea given the current pandemic as well. Holiday decorations can be festive and fun, but for those with cognitive impairment, they could experience them differently so keep decorative items to a minimum.

If Your Loved One is Living With Hearing Impairments

Individuals with hearing impairments can suffer from isolation in a group setting. Cross table chatter, holiday music playing or holiday movies can cause those with hearing impairments to miss out on the conversation.

Try to limit this background noise as much as possible and identify opportunities to focus and consolidate the conversation. Rather than speaking to the group in general, speak directly to each person and make sure they are aware you are speaking to them by making direct eye contact.

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Aging Right @ Home is a monthly blog series, answering your questions on providing care for individuals with disabilities, loved ones with dementia and older adults aging in place. If you have a question, please submit to [email protected].  

As a Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Dementia Practitioner, I get asked a lot of questions from those seeking advice or care for their aging loved ones, especially those with dementia or other disabilities.

As the owner of one of the largest and longest operating in-home senior care service providers in the area, I witness first-hand the needs many of these families have in providing care.

November is National Family Caregivers Month and being a family caregiver is a labor of love and it can be extremely rewarding. While rewarding, I’ve heard from many that at times the role can also feel like an obligation that is emotionally draining. In addition to the physical and emotional challenges you face, being a family caregiver may create financial strain as well — as many caregivers tend to reduce their hours or take extended (or indefinite) leaves.

Based on these struggles, here are some tips on how to be a better resource for your family caregiver. And, as always, to submit a question, you can reach me at [email protected].

How Can I Help a Family Caregiver Reduce Stress?

Listen for cues of depression and small cries for help: Family caregivers spend many hours helping the person in need.  This can create a sense of self-isolation, loneliness or even depression. They often focus on the needs of others so much that they turn off their own feelings. A close family friend’s father was diagnosed with cancer and while her mother was the primary caregiver, she became distant and controlling.

Many years later, and after a full and successful recovery by her father, her mother was able to acknowledge she acted this way because of the feeling of isolation. Loved ones always asked how her husband was doing with treatment, but they never asked how she was coping with being his primary caregiver, or how she felt about the possibility of losing her husband. She had difficulty expressing these anxieties to others and over time she felt a sense of resentment, which in turn created feelings of guilt and self-doubt.

This situation could occur to anyone of us and while we never second guess the need to care for a loved one, each of us still has the need to express our emotions and feel supported. So, the next time you ask how the patient is doing, also ask how the family caregiver is doing. Realize they are both struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy, and both should be supported.

Show gratitude and ask about the caregivers needs and emotions: It is easy to use the primary family caregiver as a gateway into the patient’s life. This subconscious boundary may occur because you don’t want to intrude or you’re just not sure where you fit in to the overall care team.

That’s okay. However, make sure the conversations are not just about the patient. Ask questions about the family caregiver.

When was the last time you went for a walk? Are you able to maintain your regular work schedule? How are you emotionally handling the situation These questions will offer valuable insight into the well-being of the family caregiver and help them think of themselves for a change, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

This slight shift in emotional focus can be a welcomed reprieve for family caregivers who take on the difficult job of caring for a loved one.

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