Strokes occur when the flow of oxygen to the brain is blocked. They can happen to people of all ages, but the chance of suffering one is much higher for seniors over age 65. When an aging parent suffers a stroke, it is crucial that they get treatment right away to improve the chances of survival and recovery.
October 29 is World Stroke Day, which is dedicated to raise stroke awareness and educate people about the importance of seeking help immediately when they see warning signs in loved ones of all ages.
Michigan residents can benefit from learning the three warning signs their senior loved one is having stroke. According to a 2007 study, many residents of the Great Lakes State could not identify all of the signs of stroke when surveyed. Stroke is the state’s fourth-leading cause of death and the nation’s leading cause of adult disability.
What to Know About Strokes
Here’s how you can help raise awareness that can save lives:
Know the signs. According to the CDC, the five most common symptoms someone is suffering a stroke all occur suddenly and without warning. They include
- A severe headache.
- Numbness or weakness in an arm, face or leg on one side of the body.
- Inability to walk or keep balance while standing or walking.
- Confusion, slurred speech and difficulty talking.
- Vision problems in one or both eyes.
Know what to do. Immediate action is key. If you see any of the symptoms in an aging loved one, don’t dismiss them. Call 9-1-1.
Educate your team. Make sure that all family and friends involved with caring for your senior loved one know the warning signs and know that if they see any of them, they shouldn’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.
Download the FAST Stroke Warning Signs mobile app on your mobile device. F.A.S.T is an acronym reminder of three common stroke signs and what to do when a loved one exhibits them. If you see Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, it’s Time to call 911. Use your device to show your aging parents this easy-to-read visual aid that can help them recognize the three most common stroke symptoms and remember what to do if they experience them.
Be Social. Share the American Heart Association’s World Stroke Day infographic and World Stoke Day messages on Facebook and Twitter. “Like” the American Stroke Association’s Facebook page.
Share the old fashioned way. If your aging parent resides in an assisted-living or independent-living community, ask to place fliers of posters in gathering areas.
Stroke can cause devastating lifestyle changes for older adults. Quick action can prevent disability and save your loved one’s life.
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Halloween can present unique challenges for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Ghosts and goblins, jack-o’-lanterns and skeletons are fun for most of us, but the sights and sounds of this spooky season can agitate and confuse seniors with dementia. Loved ones with moderate and late-stage dementia will need to be sheltered from items and activities that might alarm them.
Halloween Safety and Dementia
Here are some tips to help you keep your senior in Michigan safe and anxiety free this Halloween:
- Be realistic about much Halloween your senior with dementia can handle. Seniors with early Alzheimer’s disease can enjoy celebrations, but will likely need help with tasks like carving a pumpkin, making popcorn balls and packing treat bags.
- Never leave a senior with Alzheimer’s alone during trick-or-treating hours. This may mean you or another loved one keeps them company or hands out candy with them at their door.
- Limit the number of decorations. A house full of fake cobwebs and skulls may put you and your children in the holiday mood, but these types of décor can cause agitation and confusion for your senior with Alzheimer’s. If you do decide to decorate, avoid the fear factor. Items that move, talk or scream can frighten and cause a senior to wander.
- Protect your senior loved one in public. While shopping and attending community events, avoid animated decorations, especially ones that jump, scream and scare unsuspecting people. Also steer away from costumed characters and people in masks.
- Keep rooms well-lit during trick-or-treating hours. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, low light and shadows can trigger “sundowning” behaviors. Keep in mind that flashlights, flashing lights and flickering candlelight can also cause anxiety in seniors with dementia.
Tips for Soothing Alzheimer’s Agitation
If Halloween does agitate your loved one, use these strategies from the National Institute on Aging to calm them:
- Change the environment. Guide your senior away from whatever environment is making them upset.
- Comfort and reassure. Sit with your Alzheimer’s loved one. Talk softly and calmly and assure them that they are safe with you.
- Create positive distractions. Play soothing music, read out loud or offer a snack.
To read more about celebrating holidays with your Alzheimer’s loved one in Michigan, visit the Alzheimer’s Association Holidays and Alzheimer’s Families webpage.
For more information about specialized dementia care, contact one of the Heritage Senior Communities near you.
Caring for an aging parent in Michigan can be stressful. According to the American Psychological Association, 80% of Baby Boomers report high levels of caregiving stress.
Playing an active role in your senior loved one’s care when you live in another city can compound the worry. How can you stay informed? Be involved in decisions? How can you make sure your loved one is safe? How can you show that you care when you aren’t present?
Quality, long-distance caregiving may seem impossible. But with some organization, technology tools, advance planning and a little change in attitude, you can take an active role in your senior loved one’s care.
Here are some strategies for worry-free long-distance caregiving:
Communicate with Local Caregivers.
Whether your parent is aging in place at home or in an assisted-living or dementia-care community, you need to establish a regular line of communication with caregivers who see them on a daily basis.
• Ask in-home caregivers and visiting nurses to telephone you during or after visits. Adjust the frequency of phone calls based on your senior loved one’ needs and your schedule. For example, you could also set up an every-other-day phone call or a weekly phone call.
• In an assisted living community, connect with the social worker or activities director who can share regular updates with you.
• If your senior loved one is in physical therapy, schedule a regular call to learn about the progress he or she is making. Your aging family member will need to give the physical therapist permission to share the information first.
• If you have siblings who are sharing care close by, stay in contact with them, too. Not only can they keep you informed, but they will need your sympathetic ear. Don’t expect them to call you. They are likely overwhelmed with all the demands caregiving creates, in addition to caring for their own family and career.
Remember, phone calls aren’t the only way to stay in touch. In-home caregivers can help your senior loved one use Skype or a mobile app that will allow you to chat face-to-face over a computer, tablet or phone. This can also help you to build strong relationships with the caregiving team.
Stay close with your mom and dad.
Even if you talk with local caregivers every day, it is important that you still connect with your senior loved one. This will reduce the feelings of distance between you. Your parent will feel your presence and that you are “there for them.” Calling daily will also help you track differences in their health and cognition that you can then discuss with the caregiving team.
Use technology as your eyes and ears.
While you can’t always be in the house with your loved one, you can come pretty close with monitoring technology. Consider installing a remote monitoring system to help you keep tabs on your aging loved one.
• The VueZone Remote Video Monitoring System lets you oversee your aging parent’s activities by video feed on your computer.
• The BeClose system works with wearable tracker technology that monitors your loved one’s daily routine. You receive text alerts, emails and phone calls if your parent strays from his or her normal activities.
Work remotely with other caregivers.
If your siblings and other family members are managing all the hands-on care, you can share some of the load from a distance. You might offer to make phone calls and schedule appointments, pay bills online, do internet shopping for mom, or create her shopping list in Google Drive and share with the family.
Coordinate a caregiving network.
Even though you cannot keep your loved one company on a regular basis, you can work to create a community of visitors who can check on your loved one and keep them socializing. Talk regularly with your aging parent’s grandchildren, neighbors and friends. Encourage them to make a phone call or stop by for a visit. Contact your senior loved one’s church to inquire about services and visits for shut-ins.
Be prepared for changes.
Work with your siblings and caregiving team in advance to create an emergency plan. In the event of a blizzard or power outage, where will dad go? If your aging parent has to have surgery, who will be available to care for them during recovery? What if your senior loved one can no longer stay safely in their home?
Investigate options for short-term respite care or adult day care. This service is perfect for senior loved ones recovering from an illness or injury, or when family caregivers are taking a vacation.
To learn more about respite care for your senior loved on in Michigan, contact the Heritage Senior Community near their home.
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My mother is 81 years old and lives alone in her home near Holland, Michigan. Over the past year she has been in and out of the emergency room more times than I can even count! The issues have ranged from being dehydrated to several falls to a bad case of the flu.
We are struggling to convince our mother to take better care of herself. My sister or I deliver homemade, frozen meals and a big salad to her once a week. She would only need to heat up the dinners in the microwave and put the salad in a bowl at meal time. But she just won’t do it. Most days she lives on peanut butter toast, cereal and lunchmeat.
We really think the time has come to insist that she move to a safer type of senior housing. I think if she just ate better many of her problems would resolve on their own. I know she doesn’t want to keep going to the emergency room. All the trips back and forth have really worn her out.
Can an assisted living community help us get her back on a healthier track? I really don’t think she needs to be in a nursing home.
Anna in Kalamazoo
It sounds like your family has had a very difficult year! The situation is unfortunately all too common. For many seniors, maintaining good nutrition is a real challenge. In some cases it is because the older adult doesn’t have transportation to and from the grocery store or they have a health condition that makes preparing meals difficult.
Poor nutrition in seniors can create many of the circumstances you described. It can lead to a weakened immune system and put her at higher risk for the flu bug that landed her in the house, as well as muscle weakness that may have contributed to her falls.
The good news is an assisted living community may be an ideal solution! Your mother would receive three well-balanced meals each day and the opportunity to enjoy them restaurant-style in the community’s dining room. The social aspect of spending meal times with her peers might encourage her to eat more, too. She would also have the opportunity to participate in fitness and life enrichment programs that may help her improve her overall wellness.
It might be a good idea for you to visit a few assisted living communities in the Grand Haven and Holland areas on your own first. Once you have an idea about what each of them offers and which ones might be a good fit for your mother, you could return again with her.
Best of luck to you and your family, Anna! I hope your mother can get settled in an assisted living community soon and begin to get her health back on track.