How Do I Keep My Dad Safe When Driving?

How Do I Keep My Dad Safe When Driving?

Dear Donna:

My 85-year-old dad is very independent. While I understand his age shouldn’t be the sole criteria in determining his health and well-being, one area I am concerned about is driving.

How can I tell if my dad is a safe driver? Are there steps I can take to make him less likely to experience an accident? I want to support his desire for independence as long as possible, but I also want to keep him safe.

Do you have any advice?

Thank you in advance,

Vickie

Tips to Evaluate Older Driver Safety

Hi, Vickie:

You are correct in not relying on your father’s age to determine whether or not he is a safe driver. While age can play a role, it’s not the only factor to consider. Other signals can indicate it’s time for your dad to stop driving, and adaptive aids address some common senior issues.

  1. Be the passenger.

An easy and non-confrontational way to evaluate your father’s driving is to ride along as the passenger. Look for warning signs that can indicate a problem, including:

  • Bumping into curbs while parking or turning
  • Pausing too long at stop signs and red lights
  • Inability to maintain their lane
  • Repeated and unnecessary braking
  • Tailgating cars in front of them
  • Driving too fast or too slowly
  1. Evaluate the driver’s comfort level.

When an older driver thinks they have no other option than to keep driving, they might become afraid behind the wheel. Skittishness can affect their driving. A few things to look for are:

  • Anger: Road rage can happen to older drivers too. It might be their way of coping with their anxiety and stress about driving.
  • Anxiety: Does your dad seems nervous when he’s driving? Nerves can impact safety.
  • Confusion: Adult children may panic and assume a parent is developing dementia if they seem confused while driving. While it may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, it could also be fear.

If your father exhibits any of these signs, it’s probably time to sit down and talk with him to determine how he feels about driving.

  1. Consider medical conditions.

Some medical conditions and medications can impact a senior’s ability to drive safely. If your dad takes any prescription or over-the-counter medicine, check the labels to see if there are any cautions about driving. If he takes more than a few types of medicine, call the pharmacist to see if there may be any potential interactions or adverse reactions.

Health issues most closely linked to driving safety among seniors include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, the senior’s physician might say they are still safe to drive. As the disease advances, however, it’s common for adults with Alzheimer’s to get lost traveling to and from once-familiar places. Judgment may also be impaired, putting good driving decision-making abilities at risk.
  • Decreased flexibility: One common age-related change is a loss of flexibility. People with arthritis are at especially high risk. This makes it more difficult to turn your head to look over your shoulder or slide in and out of the car.
  • Slower reflexes: This also occurs with aging. For drivers, being slow to react can be especially problematic. It can result in the senior taking too long to respond to road hazards and having an accident.
  • Vision loss: While some vision changes can be treated or corrected with glasses, others can’t. Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration make it difficult to spot road signs, traffic signals, and pedestrians.

Fortunately, there are a few tools that can make driving a little easier for seniors. Here are some driving aids you might consider for your father:

  1. Swivel seat: These devices make it easier to slide behind the wheel of a car. They usually cost less than $30 and can be purchased at auto parts stores and online retailers.
  2. Seat belt pull: The process of dragging the seat belt across the body and locking it is easier with a seat belt pull. This handle-like device gives an older driver up to 6 more inches of reach.
  3. Mirror adapters: A mirror adapter allows senior drivers to better view their surroundings. They are available for both the rearview and side mirrors.
  4. Pedal extender: While it’s an issue seniors joke about, research shows older adults often lose several inches in height as they age. A pedal extender is inexpensive and might help. They allow seniors to reach the car pedals without sitting too close to the steering wheel.

I hope this information is helpful, Vickie! Good luck talking with your father about driving.

Kind regards,

Donna

Finding Balance When You Are an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Finding Balance When You Are an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Caring for a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease can be rewarding. The hands-on role allows you to make a meaningful difference and provide emotional support. Taking your loved one to physician appointments, managing medications, and preparing meals help you feel confident they are receiving quality care.

The increasing demands of caregiving might make it tough to maintain your own mental and physical well-being. Back pain, headaches, stomach problems, and insomnia are a few of the most common medical issues caregivers report. Unfortunately, so are anxiety and depression.

Caregivers also experience guilt and fear wondering if they are meeting their loved one’s needs. This type of second-guessing can increase stress, something most caregivers already struggle to manage.

If this situation sounds familiar, it’s likely time to create a plan to regain a healthier sense of balance in your life. Here are a few steps you can take.

3 Ways to Restore Balance When You Are a Caregiver

  1. Take time off.

This might be tough for a dedicated caregiver, especially given the current coronavirus concerns. Taking regular breaks is essential for caregivers. Could another family member or friend stay with your senior loved one for a few hours each week? You will be a better caregiver if you are able to take time off on a regular basis.

If you don’t have anyone who can help, you might want to consider respite services through an in-home care agency. Depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in your area, your family member may be able to stay at a local memory care community a few days each month.

This has another benefit: allowing you to evaluate if the community is a good fit for your loved one should the need arise. Having a backup plan if you fall ill or are otherwise unable to care for your loved one can give you peace of mind.

  1. Connect with support.

Family members often feel a strong sense of duty when it comes to taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The idea of turning a loved one’s care over to someone else isn’t easy, especially when they may have limited verbal skills and memory loss. Talking your challenges through with peers who can relate will help.

Alzheimer’s support groups are hosted in a variety of places ranging from local churches to area senior centers and libraries. Another safe option is to connect with an online caregiver support group. This article will help you learn more, including how to find an online group to join.

  1. Engage in nurturing activities.

Engage in activities that boost your spirit on a regular basis. While it may feel like a luxury, spending even short amounts of time on hobbies or tasks that bring peace will make you a better caregiver.

Enjoy a few laughs over lunch or on a video chat with a friend. Take an art class online. Plant an indoor or outdoor herb garden. Meditation, Tai Chi, and yoga are also good ways to connect with your spirit.

Call Heritage with Questions about Dementia Care

If you think the time has come to start exploring memory care communities in Michigan or Indiana, or if you have questions about dementia care in general, we’ll be happy to help. Call a Heritage specialized dementia community today!

Is Social Media Bad for My Health?

Is Social Media Bad for My Health?

Dear Donna:

I am a retiree living alone since my husband passed two years ago. Because I don’t drive much in the winter, I’m sticking close to home. The coronavirus is another reason.

My grandson helped me sign up for Facebook last spring and I’ve been using it a lot every day. I’ve noticed my anxiety has increased over the last eight or nine months. I’m sure the COVID-19 pandemic is a big reason for it, but my daughter also wants me to spend less time online. She thinks it is bad for my health.

While I probably could use it less, I am wondering if social media is good for me. For seniors like me, there are a lot of positives.

Fondly,

Renee

The Pros and Cons of Social Media

Dear Renee:

That’s an interesting question! I would say you and your daughter are both right. Social media can be an easy way for isolated older adults to feel connected to friends and family while waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside.

First, the benefits of being active on Facebook and other social channels often include:

  • Engaging with loved ones near and far
  • Exploring virtual events like watercolor painting workshops and knitting classes
  • Reconnecting with friends you’ve lost touch with over the years

While social media has many advantages, there are definitely downsides. In recent years, the dark side of social media has become more obvious and may include:

  • Spreading misinformation on essential topics, such as coronavirus prevention and vaccine safety
  • Instigating family feuds about politics
  • Contributing to a sedentary lifestyle, which researchers say can be as dangerous as smoking

Social Media-Related Stress

If you are struggling to decide which category your social media habits fall into—healthy or stressful—ask yourself these questions:

  • How much time are you spending on Facebook each day?

Are you taking breaks to get up and move? Sitting too much can result in high blood pressure, weight gain, depression, diabetes, and more.

  • Are you fighting with loved ones you would never disagree with in person?

Have any of your important relationships been damaged by issues that started on social media? People often feel freer to express their opinions on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. If you’ve seen your relationships suffer, you might need to cut back on your social media engagement.

  • How do you feel after you log off for the day?

Social media can be a source of anxiety and stress. Facebook is often considered one of the worst platforms for both. Pay attention to how you feel before you log in to your account and again when you log off. Is there a positive or negative change? Use that as your guide in deciding if you need to cut back or even give up social media altogether.

I hope these suggestions help you make an informed choice, Renee!

Kind regards,

Donna

Get to Know Heritage Senior Communities

A leading provider of senior living, Heritage Senior Communities is a fourth-generation family-owned company. With locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, older adults will likely find a community that meets their needs and interests. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!

5 Tips for Beating the Caregiver Blues This Winter

5 Tips for Beating the Caregiver Blues This Winter

Winter can be a tough time of year for family caregivers, particularly those in colder climates like Michigan and Indiana. Cold, snowy days make it difficult to leave home. When you factor in the added worries associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, a caregiver might feel especially isolated. Those caring for a family member with dementia or another disease that impacts verbal skills may be exceptionally lonely.

These factors all put family caregivers at high risk for developing the winter blues. As we head into a season known for challenging weather, these tips may help ward off a case of the caregiver blues.

Blues Buster Tips for Family Caregivers

  1. Commit to a healthy diet.

Juggling the demands of caregiving along with your own responsibilities can take a toll on your overall wellness. A caregiver’s once-healthy diet may be sacrificed in the interest of saving time. Fast food and convenience foods might be quicker, but they can leave you tired and sluggish. These foods also contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

One of the few positives associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in grocery stores offering delivery services. There is also a wide variety of home meal services. If you aren’t able to fit grocery shopping and meal preparation into your busy schedule, take advantage of these services.

  1. Get daily exercise.

Caregivers sometimes think because they are busy all day, they get enough exercise. While the bustle of hectic days can feel like a workout, it’s probably not providing enough physical activity. Physical fitness activities increase energy, improve sleep, and beat stress. Each is vital for overall health.

Some caregivers find two or three shorter workouts easier to manage. Instead of trying to find 30 continuous minutes to exercise, work shorter fitness sessions into the day. Research shows it reaps the same health benefits as exercising for 30 straight minutes. Resistance bands, chair yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and 10-Minute Beginner Zumba are all activities you can do at home.

  1. Nurture the spirit.

Caregivers experience a range of emotions as they care for a senior loved one. From sadness to fear and guilt, it’s easy to second guess yourself. That can impact your mental health.

Activities such as meditation, journaling, or joining an online caregiver support group can nurture your spirit. In the midst of a dreary winter day or COVID-19 concerns, dedicating a few minutes a day to mental health is vital for caregivers.

  1. Enjoy a few laughs.

The old saying that laughter is the best medicine is true. It’s also something caregivers might not do very often. As you navigate your days this winter, look for opportunities to laugh. It will boost your mood, and likely help you beat the blues. Stream an old comedy in the evening, like The Office or Clueless. Invest in a joke book to read aloud with your loved one every morning.

Try looking at the difficult situations caregivers find themselves in from a different perspective. Humor can make tough tasks less emotionally taxing for you and the senior.

  1. See your doctor.

When you are focused on being the best caregiver possible, you may neglect your own health. Staying on track with physicals and routine health screenings is an important part of protecting your health. For example, a yearly physical might help identify a thyroid problem that may be causing you to feel blue.

If it’s been a while since your last physical, call your doctor to schedule an appointment. During your visit, make sure to inform them you are a caregiver under stress.

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What to Do When Aging Parents Resist Help

What to Do When Aging Parents Resist Help

Dear Donna:

My dad recently experienced a serious fall that caused him to be hospitalized for several days. Because of the coronavirus, my parents have been isolated in their northern Michigan home for months. While I bring food and supplies to them, we’ve been careful to maintain a physical distance.

Because I stayed with my mom when my dad was hospitalized, I got a true picture of how they’ve been managing on their own. It was a real eye opener. The house wasn’t the tidy place it’s always been. Their refrigerator was filled with expired foods, and it’s obvious my mom is struggling with her personal care needs.

I tried to talk with my parents about hiring a home care aide or moving to an assisted living community. The discussion didn’t go well. I can’t seem to convince them to accept more help, even from me.

Do you have any advice? I’m so worried about the outcome of living on their own if we wait any longer. It’s just so frustrating!

Sincerely,

Clare

Communicating with a Parent Who Refuses Help

Dear Clare:

First, you aren’t alone in feeling worried and frustrated about aging parents! Nearly 80% of adult caregivers think their parents are stubborn, according to a study by Penn State University. It can lead to sleepless nights for adult children, and resentment on the part of parents.

I do have a few suggestions that may help foster cooperation and allow you to get to the core of your parents’ resistance:

  • Watch your tone and body language: Express empathy with your parents instead of seeming to placate or appear insincere. Your tone and body language need to be positive and non-judgmental. Instead of telling a parent what to do, try sharing the importance of considering a change. Explain that accepting a little help now will allow them to maintain their independence longer.
  • Dig for the underlying issue: Have you asked your parents why they won’t accept help? There are a variety of reasons older adults resist help. Sometimes they worry about losing their independence and identity. Most seniors see this as another part of life they need to handle.

Find out exactly what worries your parent about the potential change. Do they think moving to an assisted living community means losing their privacy, independence, or autonomy? Or are they concerned about finances? By expressing genuine concern, your parent may feel heard and understood. That’s an important first step.

  • Use positive language: Language is as important as tone. The Mayo Clinic suggests caregivers replace frightening eldercare terminology with friendlier language. For instance, refer to a home care provider as a companion who can help with basic chores and personal care. Talk about assisted living as a community that provides just enough support to allow residents to remain independent.
  • Enlist a trusted advisor: Sometimes aging parents might be more willing to listen to a trusted advisor who isn’t part of the family. It could be their clergy, doctor, or another health care professional such as a social worker. They may be able to persuade your aging loved one that accepting assistance is necessary for staying safe and healthy.

I hope these tips are helpful, Clare! If you have more questions or would like to arrange a virtual tour, please call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you!

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities Responds to COVID-19

We know prospective residents and their loved ones have concerns about how senior living providers are handling the coronavirus. We address this legitimate worry in detail on our website. Visit Coronavirus Precautions to learn more.