For Caregivers

Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others

Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others

2014-12-12 16.56.59When you are taking care of a loved one it is easy to focus on them so much that you lose sight of your own needs, Or perhaps you are well aware you’re not taking care of yourself but feel you can’t take the time and effort away from those in your care. Keep in mind that your ability to care for someone else is eroded by poor health and emotional outlook.

Staying informed is always a best practice so that you can provide the optimum care to your loved ones. We hope that these caregiver tips can aid you by helping you to care for yourself so that you will have the time and energy to care for those you love.

Caregiver Tips:

  1. Make sure to manage your stress levels
  • AARP notes that increased stress levels deprive people of energy and focus. If you are unable to manage your own stress level, not only may you have difficulty recognizing issues with those under your care, you will also have less emotional energy to empathize with them. Your mental well being is important both to yourself and to those around you, and giving yourself even 5 minutes to leave a stressful situation may give you the needed boost to strategize on how to finish your day.
  • Studies show that stress can also negatively affect patient care. Healthcare professionals such as nurses who have little control over their environment tend to make more mistakes. Although adequate training and assisted care ); procedures can help to lower risks of patient care and medical errors, striking at the root issue of chronic stress in the workplace was highlighted by researchers.
  • Chronic stress can take many forms, but implementation of stress management techniques such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, praying, and taking a positive attitude can assist you in dealing with the stress of patient care in a positive manner.
  1. Know your personal risks and limitations.
  • Life is full of unexpected challenges. You may have unexpectedly become a caregiver, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to take care of yourself. As noted in our blog, seniors are at greater risk than younger individuals. ( Knowing your personal limits, such as if you tend to get ill during the winter, or that you burn out when giving care for too long while being unassisted, can support your care giving as well as your personal health.
  • Know your own limitations. If you lack knowledge as a family or professional caregiver, organizations like the Caregiver Action Network can give you support that can improve your knowledge and coping skills. Networking with others will help you gain knowledge of best practices, as well as find help if you are overwhelmed.
  • Know when to ask for professional help. Some people do not have the time or skill set to care for their family members, even those they greatly love. Opting for assisted living may be the best decision possible when time, distance, or knowledge limit your ability to provide the best possible care.

These caregiver tips are only a starting point; every individual and care giving environment is different. Best practices and provided skill sets will adapt and change with time. Feel free to contact us at Colten Adult Care with your own caregiver tips, or to give us any comments or input on your own experience in patient and assisted living care. We would be happy to meet you and your loved one’s particular care needs.

 by Peter Colten

Senior Caregivers at Greater Risk than their Younger Counterparts

Happy old couple Ian MacKenzie Flickr CC

Photo credit: Ian MacKenzie via Flickr CC

Sailing into the golden years alongside our loved ones is a dream for most of us. We want to see those special people live into their later years of life happy and healthy. The reality, though, is that most of us experience failing health as we age and eventually need someone to help us. We may shudder at the thought of relinquishing control of a loved one’s care to some kind of stranger.

“What if they’re too young, or unqualified?” “But they’re not family!” These are common concerns and many seniors take on the care of a loved one, particularly a spouse, because they feel it is their responsibility.

Yet other questions that are just as important can, at times, go unasked. Is there anyone inquiring about your own needs? Who is the advocate for the caregiver, who is also a senior? These kinds of questions are often ignored — thus leaving the older caregiver’s needs neglected.

Stress is an important factor to consider when deciding to be the primary caregiver for another senior. A recent Pennsylvania State University study showed profound positive effects in the lives of caregivers of elderly who participated in an Adult Day Health Care program. Caregiver participants in the Penn State study had their saliva measured on days where their care recipient was in the day care program and on days when they had not attended. Biological indicators of stress registered a lower reading on days when the care recipients attended, versus days when they had not. Older care providers can feel the burden of the stress of care giving disproportionately, more so than their younger counterparts.

The choice to put the essential care of a loved one into the hands of professionals can be a positive experience when you consider the real advantages it creates for everyone involved. Hiring in-home help or moving your loved one into a facility with proper resources and skilled staff is an excellent alternative to taking senior care into your own hands — it’s frequently a far more healthy option for both the caregiver and the recipient, not to mention other members of the family who worry about both of you.

Having access to information and scientific data is useful when trying to make an informed decision. Seniors accepting the role of primary care provider may be putting themselves and the person receiving care at increased risk. Consider some of the drawbacks to a senior’s being the primary caregiver to another senior.


Poor health patterns
Being a primary caregiver at an older age can result in an increased likelihood to abuse drugs, tobacco, and/or alcohol, as well as neglecting nutrition.


High blood pressure
Higher blood pressure readings occur for spouses in the presence of their elderly partner, when the spouse has assumed the full time care role.


Older caregivers (aged 66-96) have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.


Sometimes it’s possible to care so much for another that you miss doing what is really best for both of you. The paradox is difficult: You want to do what is best for your loved one, but it may not be best for yourself. While providing the care is often something you wish to do, it’s not always advisable. For most people, the goal is optimum care, and you can still participate in that care even if you are not the primary caregiver.

 by Peter Colten

Long Term Care: A Family Caregiver’s Survival Guide

long_term_care-photopinMore than 34 million Americans provide long term care to loved ones over the age of 50. Some 23% of family caregivers report having fair or poor health. An astonishing 40-70% have significant symptoms of depression. These are but a few sobering figures common in the caregiver community, most of whom are adult children and spouses of aging loved ones.

Long term care also influences a caregiver’s financial situation. The out-of-pocket costs for caregivers who are caring for someone who was age 50 or older averaged $5,531 in 2007. About 37% of caregivers for someone age 50 and older reduced their work hours or quit their job in 2007 (AARP, 2008). Working less hours, requesting unpaid time off, and paying out-of-pocket expenses on behalf of a loved one all contribute to burdens caregivers experience. We have to make compromises as a result of caring for a loved one.

Many of us become so consumed in meeting the needs of our aging loved ones that we forget to meet the needs of ourselves. If you identify as one of the 5.3 million, remember you are not alone. There are resources available to family caregivers in Arizona who provide long term care.

Reading up on caregiver resources takes time and effort, which some of us may not have at the moment. Don’t fret. Here’s a quick list of caregiver survival tools to help you remember that your loved one is not the only one in need of TLC.

  1. Take a break: Stepping away from our caregiver responsibilities for a few hours, a day, or long weekend does not mean we are doing less than we should for our loved ones. Taking a break recharges our mind, body, spirit and promotes a positive outlook.
  2. Eat right: Eating well and staying hydrated fuels our bodies and sustains our mental focus. We may have to rely on convenience foods more often than we prefer, but we do have choices. Stopping at the local grocer to grab a deli sandwich, apple, and juice may take the same amount of time as waiting for a hamburger, fries, and diet soda. You may save a little money too.
  3. Accept help: You don’t have to do it all nor should you. If a friend or family member offers to take your loved one to an appointment so you can do errands, cook dinner, or catch the early show, say yes.
  4. Acknowledge feelings: We all have good days, bad days, and many days in-between when providing long term care. Try not to feel guilty for feeling frustrated, inadequate, or burnt-out. Rather, seek a caring friend or support group to talk things through or to listen to other caregivers share similar sentiments.
  5. Exercise: Talk a walk. Go to the gym. Bike around the block. Doing a physical activity you enjoy a few times a week helps promote a healthy body and alleviates stress.
  6. Treat yourself: If taking a day off is out of the question, take time to indulge in something you enjoy. You deserve a little me-time for all that you do for your loved one.
  7. Check your health: When our minds are too busy to tell us to slow down, our bodies show symptoms we should no longer ignore. Take care of yourself or seek a doctor’s advice.
  8. Be present: As long term care providers, we are often one, two, or three steps ahead of everyone else. Remind yourself to appreciate today for what it is. Cherish its victories and learn from its trials.

The most important thing to remember is that you do not have to go through this all alone. Friends, family, and community members are always available to provide emotional support and help you in your care of your loved one. All you have to do is ask.

photo credit: FUNKYAH via photopin

 by Peter Colten

A Practical Approach to Choosing a Senior Care Facility

Safe and happy in a senior care homeThere are a number of reasons to decide it is time to look for a senior care facility. Many times a crisis, such as a fall resulting in injury or an illness, makes you realize Mom or Dad needs help; or perhaps you have taken them or an older relative into your home and the arrangement is less than ideal; or the arrangement may be OK, but you can no longer care for them yourself. You may visit them at home and notice one or more indications they are having trouble taking care of themselves:

  • Their home is no longer clean or well-maintained;
  • Their personal hygiene is not up to former standards;
  • They have lost significant weight, the refrigerator is empty, or it contains spoiled food;
  • Pets or plants are not well cared for;
  • They seem to have no friends or activities they enjoy doing;
  • Their finances are no longer in order, such as cutting back on expenses, bills not being paid, letters from creditors, being preyed on by scammers.

Finding the right place takes a lot of research and consideration. Many people find that the places they like are too expensive and they don’t like some of the ones they can afford. While you can’t remove your own emotional response to the situation, a practical, logical approach can make it feel less overwhelming.

We suggest the following steps:

  1. Discuss and write down the considerations – geographical area, level of care, lifestyle, reputation, etc. – that are most important to your loved one and other family members who are involved in the decision process.
  2. Start your research on the Internet and narrow your choices down. Keep in mind that every facility will make itself look wonderful on its own website. There are a number of sites that review facilities you might want to check out, as well.
  3. Call your top choices and make appointments for tours of the facilities. Visiting will narrow the field considerably, as you observe actual living conditions and learn about pricing options and additional fees that may not be mentioned on the website.
  4. Download our Facility Comparison Checklist and take it with you when you visit each place, so that you can compare features and pricing when you’re ready to make a decision.

Finding a new home for a loved one who can no longer care for themselves in their own home is a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be a heartbreaking one. While it is emotionally difficult to accept a loved one’s declining abilities – whether physical or mental – an honest assessment of the kind of help they need is the best way to make sure they are safe as well as happy as they age. Knowing they are safe and well cared for goes a long way towards giving you peace of mind.


 by Peter Colten

10 Ways to Reduce Night Fright in Seniors with Dementia

dementia care includes reducing night frightAccording to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5 million Americans aged 65 years and older have Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementia. That means one in 11 Americans over 65 have some form of dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that family caregivers spent a combined 17.7 billion hours providing informal care for their loved ones in 2013. This figure is expected to jump to exponentially over the next 25 years. Amid these alarming trends, one thing remains constant: the need for quality, individual dementia care.

People with dementia experience a number of psychological and behavioral symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and unwarranted aggressiveness. Dementia symptoms not only disrupt our loved ones’ livelihood, but are also upsetting to us.

As family caregivers, we may feel caught between a rock and a hard place when caring for an aging parent or spouse with dementia. One of the more challenging dementia care ordeals is dealing with night fright.

Night fright in seniors happens when a loved one abruptly awakens in terror, panic, and bewilderment in the middle of the night. Night fright is common among seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Night fright may be associated with agitation, restlessness, and confusion they experienced earlier in the evening. These symptoms may be related to another common psychological condition in seniors with dementia called sundown syndrome, which generally occurs around sunset as natural light fades.

Night fright may also cause unintended harm to our loved ones from waking up frightened and falling out of bed to waking up disoriented and wandering out of the house. Providing the right dementia care is essential in safeguarding their welfare.

Here are 10 other tips to reduce night fright and improve dementia care at night:

  1. Encourage your loved one to practice good sleep hygiene to help them sleep better at night. When possible, use the bedroom only for sleep.
  2. Help them take a warm bath before bedtime to help them relax.
  3. Play your loved one’s favorite music, or calming, instrumental music before bedtime to soothe their mind.
  4. Get rid of accident-prone areas like flimsy rugs, unguarded stairwells, protruding furniture in walkways, and slippery floors in case they wander in the middle of the night.
  5. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake to prevent evening jitters.
  6. Plan their meals and beverages several hours before bedtime to prevent repeated trips to the toilet.
  7. Remove ticking clocks from the bedroom to maintain a quiet environment.
  8. Partake in morning and early afternoon outside activities and exercise with your loved one.
  9. Have an panic plan in place if your loved one wakes up frightened. Practice the plan with them including steps to quell their panic: turning on an easy to reach light, getting to an easy to reach phone, and dialing a familiar person. Write down the steps and number and keep on the bedside table
  10. Reassure your loved one that your or someone they know is just a phone call away.

Have additional tips to reduce night fright? Share them in the comments below.

 by Peter Colten