The makers of smartwatches are now designing products for older
adults. And they just may have come up with an acceptable alternative to the
standard “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” pendant. Perhaps you’ve
tried to get your loved one to wear a personal emergency response system (PERS)
pendant—only to hear, “No. I don’t like it.” Many older adults consider
the pendants ugly and stigmatizing.
The new smartwatches offer advantages:
emergency response systems, they work anywhere there is a cell signal.
They are easy and
natural to wear.
GPS features enable
using the watch as a locator device for persons with dementia.
They can do dual
duty as fitness trackers, measuring heart rate, number of steps, etc.
They send and
receive text messages. Some even handle phone calls.
Apps are available
for things like setting a timer for pill reminders, or scheduling appointments.
Soon even EKGs for heart monitoring.
They tell time!
On the downside:
Will your loved one
use all these features? Or will the apps just be confusing? The options are
likely too much for those with memory problems.
How useful is the
watch in an emergency? Screens are small and several steps may be required.
Practice may be necessary ahead of time.
So far, the
automatic fall detection apps still have a few bugs to work out.
Not all smartwatches
offer a companion service for 24/7 connection to a trained professional who can
triage the need for help.
Those with hearing
loss may have difficulty hearing a respondent if the device isn’t held close to
are definitely more stylish, they are still big. They seem to appeal more to
men than to women.
These devices need
to be regularly charged.
Meeting resistance to a PERS device? Many family members find their loved one simply won’t wear the device. A smartwatch may be the solution, but they aren’t for everyone. As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice can help you determine the best ways to protect your relative in the case of a fall. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free.
For those facing a
serious—or even incurable—condition, the Internet can seem to be the last
refuge of hope. But how can you distinguish a trustworthy website from that of
a huckster? “Follow the money” is an important key for deciding if a
website is truly unbiased. Start by asking yourself who, what, and why.
Who: Whose site is it? Websites cost money to create. Who is paying? Check the “About Us” page. If the source of money is not obvious, use “Contact Us” to ask, “Who are you and how do you get your funding?” Keep that funding in mind as a possible source of bias.
What: What kind of
information is provided?
a research-based news article? Does it cite research done in university or
government studies? Is there mention of “randomized clinical trials”?
These are the gold standard of science.
a blog? Is
it one person’s opinion, or are other sources included? What are the author’s
credentials? Are they reliable?
a forum (or “chat room”)? Anyone can speak in a forum. Chat rooms offer a
wealth of practical tips for day-to-day coping with side effects. But they are
not reliable sources for evaluating the success rate of treatments.
really just a sales piece? Does
it make claims about a treatment sold by the sponsor? If so, review multiple
sources and look for promises that are backed by credible research as described
Why: Does the website identify its purpose? Government and university websites typically have a mission to educate. The websites of nonprofit organizations usually weave education with advocacy. A for-profit company is not automatically suspect. Many generously share their expertise through educational articles. Simply use caution if they ask for your personal information or if the talk turns to specific treatments that they themselves sell.
Confused about where to turn? As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice can help you determine your confidence level in the various options you are considering. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free.
Aging creates so many “new normals.” Even routine
activities such as cooking may become challenging for your loved one. Balance
issues can make reaching, bending, or lifting a problem. Arthritis often makes
it difficult to maneuver pans and tools, turn on a faucet, or twist off lids.
Extreme fatigue may sap overall motivation. And problems with memory increase
the risk of a kitchen fire.
Consider these revisions to create an age-friendly kitchen.
Stoves. Choose a stove with continuous grates
(for gas) or a flat surface so that pots can be moved off the burner without
lifting. And look for stove controls that face the front so your loved one is
not reaching over hot pots to change settings. If memory is a concern, add an
automatic stove shut-off sensor. (If there is no movement around the stove for
15 minutes or so, the device shuts off all burners.)
Microwaves. Countertop rather than overhead
placement makes access safe and easy.
Sinks and faucets. Install a single-handle faucet to make
it easier for those with arthritis. You might even consider a faucet with
sensors at its base to turn the water on and off. If possible, position a sink
with a hose sprayer near the cooking area so a pot can be filled in place on
the stove with no need for lifting.
frequently used items and heavy items within comfortable reach to reduce
bending. Install lazy susans and pullout shelving for easier access. Use
“loop” pulls or long “D-shaped” handles rather than knobs
for cabinet doors.
lighting under cabinets to compensate for shadows cast by overhead fixtures.
Create countertops at several heights with knee space underneath to permit use
as a seated workstation if need be.
Look for a side-by-side model rather than top-and-bottom. Include
pullout drawers and shelves to minimize reaching and bending.
Does a remodel seem in order? If the person you care for wants to continue living independently, a kitchen remodel might be a wise choice. As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice have seen that sometimes even simple changes or rearrangements can make a world of difference. If you follow principles of “universal design,” the layout will be easier for everyone, not just a person with physical challenges. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free to discuss a home assessment.
Many of us were raised to believe that the only polite or
kind answer is “yes.” But as Dr. Christine Carter, a UC Berkeley
researcher, notes, “If you find yourself saying ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no,’
it’s a recipe for overwhelm and exhaustion.” Not to mention resentment,
burnout, and ill health!
Ironically, research shows that the busier we are, the more
we tend to say “yes.” Saying “yes” makes us feel generous.
The consequences—becoming stressed and overburdened by the commitment—are down
the road. We’d rather overlook those realities than feel stingy or selfish
right now by setting limits and saying “no.”
According to Dr. Carter, there are three steps to saying “no” gracefully:
Rehearse saying “no.”
There is a process. First, avoid comparing your need to the other person’s.
Then, train yourself to think through how you will feel when the day of
reckoning comes. Recall the last time you overextended yourself and ended up
sick. Or ended up too tired to do something you were looking forward to.
Finally, practice a few phrases that you can readily use, no extra thinking
Be truthful, but vague.
Having a response you feel confident in makes it more likely that you will use
it. You don’t have to justify yourself. (Too much detail and the requester will
start problem solving to help you find the time!) A simple “I wish I
could, but that doesn’t work for me at this time” is an effective standby.
Or if you would genuinely like to help, “I can’t do ‘X’ next Thursday, but
I could do ‘Y’ the week after that.”
Make your decision final.
If the person pushes you, repeat the same phrase. This way you signal that you
aren’t going to change your mind. If they insist, then be honest about how
their pressure makes you feel: uncomfortable, perhaps even hurt or angry.
Do you have trouble saying “no”? We can help! As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice see many well-meaning family members burn out because they don’t know how to set limits and ask for help, especially with their loved one. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free. We can help you say “yes” to those things you truly want to do and give you options for those things you’d rather not.
People with congestive heart failure (CHF) often tire
easily, especially if they exert themselves. In CHF, the heart is swollen with
fluids and cannot beat efficiently. The body’s cells then become hungry for
oxygen. If your loved one has CHF, you witness this in his or her fatigue,
shortness of breath, and frequent naps.
Even with CHF, however, your relative needs to be physically
active. Physical activity helps the heart muscle gain strength. It improves
circulation. It helps with weight control, and, oddly, with reducing fatigue.
Exercise also helps with depression, which is common in CHF.
Pacing is the key Talk with the doctor about optimal forms of physical activity. Initially, walking, swimming, or biking may be recommended. As CHF progresses, simple tasks, such as taking a shower or cooking a meal, may qualify as exercise. Ask the doctor for a prescription to work with a cardiac rehab team to create an activity plan tailored to your loved one’s needs.
Conserving energy Think of personal energy as a tank of gas. With CHF, your relative has a small tank and needs to be “fuel efficient.” Conserving energy when doing chores leaves more “in the tank” for doing things that bring joy and meaning.
Alternate periods of
activity with periods of rest. Divide large chores into smaller tasks
throughout the day or across the week.
Avoid rushing. It wastes
Work smarter. Minimize
trips up or down stairs. Cook large quantities of food and freeze for heating
later. Instead of towel drying, slip on a terry cloth bathrobe after bathing.
Get help for mundane tasks.
Have groceries and prescriptions delivered.
Create workstations that
permit cooking, grooming, dressing, bathing while seated.
Use a cart or walker with a
basket for carrying things from place to place.
Avoid bending or reaching.
Looking for ways to ease fatigue? Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free. As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in aging well, we at Iowa City Hospice understand that quality of life is based on how much time your loved one can spend doing things he or she truly enjoys. Let us help you identify ways to conserve on chores so your relative can go full throttle on pleasant activities.
What do you do when sweet Mom starts cursing angrily?
When straitlaced Dad makes off-color remarks?
In persons with dementia,
these behaviors are not on purpose. They are caused by
the brain changes of the disease. If you can’t find humor in the situation,
draw on your patience. Believe it or not, your relative is doing his or her
Consider these strategies to reduce or discourage outbursts:
Stay calm. Your relative is likely frightened or
uncomfortable. Try to respond with curiosity. See if you can figure out why
they are behaving as they are.
Identify (and avoid) common triggers. Angry lashing out is often
a sign of too much to handle. Look for patterns. Do they occur when you are in
a rush? When there is a lot to do? Try slowing down. And keep instructions
simple, one step at a time.
Simplify the situation. If Mom is acting out,
perhaps it’s the environment. Lots of people? Too much noise or stimulation? Do
what you can to go to a place that is quiet, calm, and uncluttered.
Go along when you can. If Mom thinks her babies
need her at home or Dad wants to go to work, it’s harmless. No need to argue.
Trying to persuade your loved one that he or she is wrong will only result in
anger and mistrust of you.
Redirect attention. When embarrassing behaviors occur, try focusing
your relative’s attention on something else: “Dad, look! They’ve got chocolate
cream pie today.” Or, “Mom, I almost forgot to tell you….”
Check with the doctor If these behaviors are new, perhaps dementia is at the source, or there is a problem with hearing or vision. Unexpected outbursts in people known to have dementia can also be caused by pain. An undiagnosed bladder infection is a common culprit.
Problem behaviors draining your energy? It’s hard to care for a person with dementia! Especially when they behave in ways that are embarrassing. We at Iowa City Hospice have a lot of experience with this uncomfortable side of memory loss conditions. As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we can help you identify triggers and develop distraction techniques to reduce these problem behaviors. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free.
Bathing brings many discomforts. Bathrooms can feel cold and
drafty when a person is wet. And running water can be noisy. Nudity makes bathing
very intimate, which can be distressing when a modest person needs help and may
not recognize the helper.
Plus, bathing is a complicated process with many steps in a
specific order. People with dementia may become confused and frustrated. They
also may forget about the purpose of cleanliness.
Here are some tips to ease
Guard the senses. Sometimes people with dementia are
hypersensitive. Heat the bathroom ahead of time. Be gentle and avoid scrubbing.
Check the water for temperature—too hot?—and the water pressure from the shower—too
Promote independence. Encourage your loved one to do things
themselves. If you do need to take over, tell them what you are going to do
before you do it. And give them a role so they can participate, such as holding
Preserve modesty. Even if you are helping a spouse,
have a towel at the ready for undressing and dressing.
Maintain a routine. Most families notice that certain
times of day are better than others. Bathing at the same time each day may make
Sponge baths work just as well. In terms of hygiene, all that’s needed is a twice a week wash, and even that can be just the highlights: armpits, folds of skin (under the breast, on the belly), groin, genitals, feet. Remember to keep the rest of the body covered with warm towels to minimize any chill.
Try singing together. Or play music or old radio shows for
Consider using bath
wipes. Warm by putting an open package in the microwave for 10 seconds.
Call it “spa time.”
Use no-rinse soap on moist, warm midsize towels and massage in gently. Wipe off
with warm, moist washcloths.
Tired of the bathroom battlefield? As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospicehave developed many strategies and insights that can help you make bath time more pleasant. Make a vote for peace in the household and give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free.
Iowa City Hospice is a community-based organization. We were
founded about 40 years ago by neighbors and community members who saw a need
for local services to bring dignity and comfort to end of life care. By 1983,
we had a board of directors and trained volunteers, all community members
working together toward a heartfelt goal.
Since our founding, our community has expanded to include
all of Johnson County and the counties that touch it. Our
staff live in the community they serve. We are your neighbors and friends. This
is our home: We know these places, we know these facilities, and we know these
people. This is a wonderful place to be, and a wonderful place to serve.
Our formation, our foundation, and our success would not be
possible without the support of our community. We have been sustained for four decades
through generous donations of time, of expertise, of money, and of spirit.
We strive to repay that generosity by keeping our community
foremost in all of our goals:
We answer to local, volunteer board members who
give freely of their time and talent – not a compensated corporate board in distant
Our mission is “to provide compassionate care
for anyone in our community affected by serious advanced illness and end of
life conditions.” That’s anyone in our
community, whether or not they can pay for services.
Since Iowa City Hospice is a 501(c)3
not-for-profit organization, every dollar we receive goes back into our
community, through compassionate patient care, enhanced services, staff salaries, volunteer
training and more.
Iowa City Hospice is homegrown, brought forth from the community
to serve the community. Some of our original volunteers are with us still, and
we cherish their continued support. We cherish your continued support.
If you’re new to the Iowa City area, or new to hospice
services, welcome to our community. If you’ve been around awhile, thank you for