Monthly Archives: September 2014

Heart Healthy: Tips for Maintaining a Strong Heart

Preventing heart disease in the elderly

Cardiovascular disease is the largest cause of death across the world, and on World Heart Day on September 29, many people around the world work to promote heart disease awareness, risks, prevention measures, and more. In honor of World Heart Day, here are tips for maintaining a healthy heart as you age:

  • Start with your grocery list. Preventing heart disease starts with a healthy diet that limits saturated fats, salt, and foods containing high cholesterol. To ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet, revamp your grocery list to include more colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, high-fiber foods, and frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Permanently cross off items like high fat dairy or meat and butter, and keep your alcohol intake low.
  • Be active. Although the days of running an easy five miles may be over, you can still be active as you age by taking regular walks, biking, hiking, swimming, or attending aerobics classes. Check with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease; to that end, eating well and staying active are essential to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk for heart disease.
  • Get regular check-ups. Go to the doctor regularly to monitor your health and anything that could affect your heart, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. If necessary, take medication to help control these issues.
  • Get enough sleep. Research shows a correlation between sleep and increased risk of coronary heart disease, especially when people are sleeping less than five hours per night. Try to sleep between 7-8 hours per night; to ensure that you can fall asleep easily, limit caffeine intake and stop consumption by 2pm. You should also keep a regular sleep schedule, exercise in the morning or mid-day, and avoid electronics within an hour of bedtime.
  • Minimize stress and keep your heart happy. Stress can exacerbate many heart disease risks. Find ways to relieve your stress, whether it’s going for a walk, socializing with family and friends, or attending church or volunteering regularly. In that same vein, research has shown that gratitude, laughter, and forging social connections can be healthy for your heart.

Heart disease may be widespread, but you can take measures to prevent heart disease in yourself and in your aging parents. By following these heart healthy guidelines, you and your parents can age comfortably at home for years to come.

Work-Life Balance: How to Care for Your Parents and Yourself

When people talk about balancing working and parents, they typically mean being working parents and balancing their home life with their family life. However, as American continues to age, the phrase “working parents” can also be twisted to apply to balancing a full-time job and caring for your aging parents at home. Although juggling the two can be stressful, there are ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance while caring for your elderly parents. In honor of Working Parents Day on September 16, here are some guidelines for balancing your job with caring for your parents.

Tips for working while caring for aging parents

First, talk to your boss. Although it may be an uncomfortable situation to let your boss know what issues you’re dealing with, it’s important to be clear and upfront about what’s going on. Now, this doesn’t mean spilling every last detail about your parents’ health, but a general overview while emphasizing your commitment to work will get the job done. In many cases, your boss may even be sympathetic from having dealt with the situation themselves. Your boss will be able to lay out your options for you regarding medical leave, flex time, or working from home.

Next, research programs and assistance that will help you care for your parents. For example, the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows covered employees up to three months of unpaid leave for care for a family member with a serious health condition. You may also be entitled to other assistance from other government programs and services; these can provide benefits to lessen your financial burden. The government-hosted benefits site has more information.

Also, make sure that you’re adjusting your budget and financial plans if you’re having to take unpaid time off of work. Plan ahead of time where you can make some sacrifices so that you’re not caught unaware when it’s time to pay bills. It’s also important to keep in mind that while quitting your job may seem like the best solution so that you can be fully present, you need to keep your own retirement in financial future a priority.

Finally, reach out to family and friends for support. Although it may fall on you to be the primary caretaker for your parents, friends and family can help fill in the gaps when you need a break, or can provide indirect support by running errands, assisting with paperwork, and more. You don’t have to take care of your parents all by yourself; there are plenty of people willing and able to help you out.

Caring for your aging parents is one of the most important things you’ll ever do, and although it can get overwhelming, you can balance caring for your parents with working at your job. By staying organized, communicating openly with your colleagues, and asking for help when you need it, you can help your parents age comfortably at home.

How to Help Your Aging Parent Recover from Surgery

Use these tips to help your aging parent recover from surgery

In the event that your aging parent has to undergo surgery, planning for recovery will help you feel in control and help your parent transition smoothly from the hospital to being back at home. After following a pre-surgery checklist, help your parent recover from surgery by following these tips:

  • Ask your parent’s doctor questions about the surgery. Make sure you know the procedure, what kind of anesthesia will be used, how long your parent will need to recover in the hospital, how much pain he’ll be in and whether he needs pain meds, what the recovery timeline looks like, and anything else you think you need to know.
  • Follow the doctor’s directions once your parent is home. This includes making sure all medications are taken on time and in correct dosages, helping your parent follow any special dietary needs or restrictions, and ensuring that they follow all directions related to bed rest and moving around the house.
  • Accompany your parent to post-operative checkups and follow-up appointments. Many times, a patient may forget what the doctor says or what questions to ask. By going to appointments with your parent, you can take notes, ask questions, and act on behalf of your parent. The more you understand about your parent’s medical state, the more you can help.
  • Make sure that your parent’s home has been modified for post-surgery recovery. Although you should modify your parent’s home before the surgery, you may need to make adjustments after the surgery as you know more about your parent’s condition and abilities. For example, if your parent is getting a hip replacement surgery and won’t be able to move easily, you may need to install home access products like a stair lift or a bathtub lift, or help them choose a power scooter to get around easily.
  • Rally friends and family to help. Even if you’re the primary caretaker of your parent, you’ll need help from friends and family so that you don’t feel overburdened by caring for your parent around the clock. Reach out to your community of support for extra help so that you can take a break every now and then and make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as well.
  • Be patient and keep an open line of communication. After a difficult surgery, your parent may have a hard time sleeping, eating, and taking care of himself- all things that may make your parents irritable, stressed, anxious, and/or emotional in general. Be patient, ask how you can help, and if they seem depressed for a prolonged amount of time, encourage them to talk to a therapist.

Helping your parent recover from surgery can be a difficult time, but with patience and empathy, you can help your parent on the road to recovery and health.

It Takes a Village: Building a Community to Help Aging Parents

How to get help from family and a supportive community when helping your parents age at home

As an adult caring for your aging parents, it’s inevitable that you’ll get worn out and will need help caring for your parents. Caregiving can be emotionally and physically exhausting, and as the saying goes, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. To avoid burnout, build a community of support to help care for your parents by reaching out to the following people and groups:

  • Siblings and family members: Even if you’re the primary caregiver for your parents, your siblings can help out by caring for your parents on evenings or weekends. If they don’t live in the same area, siblings can provide indirect support by helping manage paperwork and finances. Keep your siblings in the loop by maintaining open lines of communication about what you need and what would help you.
  • Long time friends and neighbors: These community members may be able to notice when something is off with your parents’ attitude, behavior, or routine, and they can act as unofficial watchdogs and caretakers when you can’t be everywhere.
  • Medical personnel: Your parents’ primary physician, a physical therapist, nurses, social workers, hospital patient advocates, or hospice caregivers can all supplement your hard work with their years of experience and wise advice they can offer.
  • Other caregivers: Sometimes, it’s helpful just to talk to other people in similar situations as you. To that end, reaching out to other caregivers for advice and venting sessions can do wonders for your mental state. You can find fellow caregivers in support meetings, hospitals, or even in online care forums.

If you ever need a respite for caring for your aging parents, you can use a variety of services to get a brief break. Some senior living centers offer temporary stays for if you’re going out of town or if your loved one is recovering from a hospitalization or illness. There are also adult day cares, home care services, senior centers, and sitter-companion services. Finally, you can get help from a variety of web and government resources, such as Children of Aging Parents, the Health and Human Services Department, Public Health Department, Social Security Administration, and more.

You may feel as if the responsibility of caring for your aging parents falls sorely on your shoulders, but there’s no need for you to take on this difficult task all by yourself. By reaching out to trusted friends and helpful community groups and resources, you can help your parents age comfortably at home while still taking care of yourself as well.