Tag Archives: eldercare

When Disaster Strikes – Are you Prepared to Care for Your Loved One?

The devastation we are witnessing in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is a reminder that we must all be prepared to care for a loved one, elderly or  disabled neighbor or friend when disaster strikes. Here is a list of 6 basic yet vital precautions that everyone should have in place, especially in the event of a natural or manmade disaster:

Communications Plan

How will you communicate with immediate and extended family members in the event of an emergency?  These discussions should include how to get in touch with neighbors, friends, a loved one’s church or other support systems that are in place.

If your loved one lives in a community setting,  discuss what response and evacuation plans they have in place, including their designated emergency shelters.

Prepare a comprehensive Healthcare and Medication Record that includes but is not limited to:

A healthcare record lists chronic illness, allergies, immunizations, disabilities, doctors and hospitals and emergency contact information (names, relationship and cell phone numbers of family members and/or primary caregivers).

Families can maintain this list on a spreadsheet and share electronically with family members, but also know that a hard copy should be accessible to first responders in  the elderly person’s home.  Placing a decal on the refrigerator door is advisable with all information kept in a baggie or vial inside the refrigerator.  Vialoflife.com is an excellent project and their website has valuable forms, tips and resources.

Have an emergency/escape plan in place

Talk with your loved one about what to do in case of emergency.  Write out simple, clear instructions where it is can easily be read.  If your loved one has any level of cognitive impairment and lives independently, a disaster can cause immediate confusion and anxiety.  In this case,  plans should immediately include receiving aid from someone else.

Emergency supply kits

Three days of food and non perishable food items are advisable to include in case of disaster.  Other items recommended include but are not limited to portable, battery powered radio, flashlight, sanitation and hygiene items, clothing, blankets, cell phone and charger, whistle and photocopies of identification, emergency contacts and healthcare/medication records.   If your loved one has any level of cognitive impairment, make sure food items are easy to open, kits are well marked and simple instructions included.

Plan for pets

Find out what veterinarians and pet services are available to shelter animals in emergencies.  Include in personal information phone and contact information of pet services in the area.

Learn CPR and train on using an automated external defibrillator (AED).  These classes are free and can save someone’s life.  Go to www.redcross.org for training information.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them.  








Montessori methods – beyond child’s play for dementia care

automobile di latta a molla - setteMontessori’s education method for childhood learning was launched in the early 1900s by Maria Montessori.  It calls for free activity within a “prepared environment”, meaning an educational environment tailored to basic human characteristics, to the specific characteristics of children at different ages, and to the individual personalities of each child. The function of the environment is to help and allow the child to develop independence in all areas according to his or her inner psychological directives. In addition to offering access to the Montessori materials appropriate to the age of the children, the environment should exhibit the following characteristics:

  • An arrangement that facilitates movement and activity
  • Beauty and harmony
  • Cleanliness of environment
  • Construction in proportion to the child and her/his needs
  • Limitation of materials, so that only material that supports the child’s development is included
  • Nature in the classroom and outside of the classroom
  • Order

Thankfully, advances in the field of elder caregiving have moved activities beyond the three Bs (bingo, birthdays and Bible) to more resident centered engagement activities.  Culture change initiatives have definitely helped to push the creative buttons of activity, memory care and  resident engagement leaders to foster the understanding that every person has individual needs and capabilities and a one-size fits all approach simply doesn’t work.

Montessori is NOT a program but a philosophy  based on individualism.  Translating this to eldercare, the Montessori philosophy is neither difficult to understand and certainly not complicated or expensive to integrate.  A few key points to get started is to take time to:

  • Understand the elder’s interests and needs
  • Learn their current physical, social and emotional needs
  • Create opportunities for them to develop their capabilities
  • Encourage positive learning by keeping it simple
  • Develop positive communication skills (slow down, use eye contact, use skilled touch to engage)
  • Use humor and always smile – it will help relieve frustration and build trust between care partners

And lastly remember basic eldercare protocol:

  • Don’t use materials that are childish
  • Limit other stimuli while trying to engage in an activity.  ex: tv off is almost always going to lead to more successful engagement
  • Avoid at all costs, correcting someone but instead guide them gently as they attempt to accomplish a task.
  • Remember there is never a “right” or “wrong” way to do something


Comparing Apples and Oranges… A Personal Perspective

apples and orangesComparing apples to oranges is a phrase to describe something which is both the same and different simultaneously depending on your point of view. When someone says “you’re comparing apples to oranges” they’re really saying “Why are you trying to compare those things? You can’t compare apples to oranges, they’re just not the same thing.”

Let’s relate this analogy to  senior care  – with  another story that  hits close to home. Last August, my 91 year-old mother-in-law suffered a massive stroke. Initially, there was little hope of survival let alone any quality of life, as the stroke left her paralyzed on one side, speech was significantly altered and cognitive abilities impaired.  For months her quality of life looked bleak.

The first skilled nursing facility to which she was admitted was lovely with all the latest interior design features, a valet to greet us at the front door. Had I not been far too familiar with what to look for in “quality care”, it would impress anyone.

Unfortunately my first indication that the culture was less than adequate was when my husband and I signed in. We asked politely if we needed a badge and was told by the receptionist that she couldn’t find where they were and “I don’t really care if you have a badge.”

Halls were devoid of any activity (though they were “lovely”), staff was hard to find and I noticed most people lying in bed with TVs blaring. When we entered my mother-in-law’s room she was alone and slumped over in her wheelchair, facing a wall with her food tray nearby. Her “meal” was cold soup and grilled cheese. At the time it was delivered, I’m sure it was warm. Everything was exactly where it was when it was delivered. Why? Because the person who delivered her food did not stay to help her get utensils out of the plastic bag (really?), put sugar in her ice tea, or take the lids off her food. She had a stroke with only one side of her body able to move (and it was not her dominant side). SHE NEEDED HELP! I’m pretty sure this is in the “Caregiving 101” manual of any facility, but now I’m wondering?!?

Weeks went by with my amazing sister-in-law by her side constantly to monitor each and every detail. And at each every turn there were challenges. Weight loss, swelling, bed sores, an apparent lack of trained staff at every juncture. It was clear that this community had problems, the core being there was no culture of care. Nothing was getting better, so things HAD to change.

Being a veteran, she was able to get into the Tennessee State Veterans Home  skilled nursing facility. She was greeted with a warm welcome by a team of healthcare professionals ready to get her better – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Today, she is thriving. She has caregivers that truly care for  her, activities that engage her mind and body, and an atmosphere of teamwork among staff. She is taken to community events, shopping, and other recreational activities. She has engaged with staff and residents and knows practically everyone by name. It is truly a culture that exhibits person-centered values above all else. It would probably not win an award for interior design, but in fact has won awards for the level of care and commitment they have for their residents.

As with so many things in life – It’s not in the packaging.. it’s what’s inside. Comparing apples and oranges when it comes to senior care. You have to look beyond the packaging.

Memory Care – Do You Have What It Takes?

memory careIt’s no secret that memory care is one of the fastest growing senior care service, providing healthcare professionals increasing opportunities. But, if you are new to dementia care, I suggest you ask: “Am I really prepared?” and “Do I have what it takes?” Serving people with dementia requires a unique combination of knowledge, skills and personal awareness.

Be Informed
Knowledge gives you a foundation to act from. When informed, you can offer your care with confidence and ease. It’s essential to be informed about the characteristics and needs of people with dementia, such as:

  • Age related changes. It is important to understand the “normal” physical and functional changes of aging versus changes that are manifestations of a disease resulting in symptoms of dementia.
  • Common conditions found in eldercare settings. If you work in long term care, you will encounter people living with the effects of stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, hip fracture, cancer, among others. A basic understanding of these conditions will ensure that you provide safe, effective and meaningful service.
  • Special needs of elders in facility care. Those who live in care settings are often dealing with loss, grief, feelings of helplessness, lack of control, boredom, touch deprivation and feelings of isolation. Your awareness and compassionate acknowledgement of these sensitive issues will deepen your therapeutic relationship with each individual.

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