Your senior loved one may have hearing loss, limited mobility, an inability to manage household chores, or health complications. It makes sense that as you work to arrange care, managing straightforward tasks is top of mind: hearing aids, a walker, help with dishes — check, check, check. These are essential tasks to achieve.
But many older people suffer from loneliness, depression, and isolation, too. Loneliness has been shown to precipitate declining health and can inhibit independence and mobility. That problem is not as easily solved. Loneliness can be an issue even for seniors who are not living alone. As you approach care options, there are multiple paths — primarily, task-centered care vs. person-centered professional caregiving — and it’s essential to consider the strengths, weaknesses, and outcomes in choosing a route for your loved one.
1. What is Task-Centered (or Task Management) Care?
Task-centered care is a social work practice frequently used in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted-living facilities to accomplish measurable, specific goals quickly. A target condition is identified by a medical professional, along with steps to get there. For instance, in a hospital, the target might be discharge, and the steps would be the checklist to get there. A goal is accomplished, and the project is over.
A problem with task-centered care is that the person affected is often not even involved. A study by BMC Geriatrics of the effects of person-centered care notes the many problems with the task-centered model. Care Is “primarily granted and delivered based on physical and functional needs, while psychosocial needs and quality of life requirements (quality of life) have been given less priority [causing a] gap between needs and services, between expectations and experiences, which may lead to expressions of dissatisfaction.”
Furthermore, the study cites other findings that have demonstrated how “a trusting relationship between the older person and professional staff is essential to enable shared decision making to facilitate the older person’s autonomy and sense of being respected.”
The research also finds another major issue with task-centered care, particularly in nursing homes: keeping good staff. Citing many previous reports, the authors note that “when it comes to nursing home services, a growing crisis has been described with high turnover rates and challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled care professionals. In addition, employees have reported experiences of dissatisfaction and frustration with work, citing a stressful and hectic environment, increasing demands for efficiency, not having sufficient time to converse, provide the “little extras” and support in the psychosocial domain.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way, the authors say, and person-centered care is the solution:
“Other studies in aged care have shown positive results from implementing a person-centered approach. For example, a report that implemented person-centered care in rehabilitation treatment resulted in functional improvements and higher satisfaction. Also, […] increased involvement in care resulted in lower costs, higher physical function, and shorter stays in hospital after hip fractures [and] person-centered care of older people with dementia can prevent and reduce agitation and depression.”
2. The Importance of an Interpersonal Connection
While task-centered assistance can provide the absolute bare minimum of care your loved one needs, a professional caregiver offers that interpersonal connection that supplements task-centered aide essentially and exponentially. A professional caregiver offers holistic care to ensure the emotional and social needs of your loved one — needs that may not fall under task-centered care — are also met.
While the above study demonstrates the danger of isolation, it can be helpful to consider real anecdotes, too. For example: In the aftermath of a stroke, an 86-year-old Florida woman, who lived most of the year alone, began receiving regular visits from a physical therapist and a nurse to aid in her recovery. Her family — nearby and closely involved in her care — found peace of mind in having their experience on hand and were thankful for some reprieve.
While her family anticipated a boost in her physical health, they didn’t expect what ended up being the most significant benefit: her absolute joy in having the caregivers regularly visit and the resulting immediate improvement in her mental health. The aging woman recovering from a stroke relished the conversations she’d have during the visits, what they worked on, a funny thing about so-and-so. It was a social side of her that her family hadn’t seen in years. And — despite family members having tried everything to get her to do simple exercises — she eagerly performed these tasks for her caregivers. She wanted to do her best for these new people in her life, in the way that one puts forth even extra energy and effort at the beginning of a friendship or relationship.
She was happy to be forging new connections and not to feel so isolated. Within weeks, she walked with energy around the house and completed tasks she hadn’t handled by herself in years.
Not every instance will play out the same way, of course. That stroke was a wake-up call and her expeditious treatment allowed for a full recovery. But this is far from the only example of professional caregivers making a drastic difference in the lives of those they visit. The regularity of a visitor, the conversation, the company to anticipate, the “new friend” — these things can defeat loneliness and boost the quality (and length) of one’s life.
The National Institutes of Health cites several studies demonstrating the adverse effects of social isolation in older adults — and not just mentally or emotionally. Per the NIH:
“Social relationships are consistently associated with biomarkers of health. Positive indicators of social well-being may be associated with lower levels of interleukin-6 in otherwise healthy people. Interleukin-6 is an inflammatory factor implicated in age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. Social isolation constitutes a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality, especially in older adults” and “People who are lonely frequently have elevated systolic blood pressure.”
3. What Can a Professional Caregiver Do Differently?
Many older individuals are adamant about staying in their own homes. But as their health declines and the number of tasks they can no longer manage grows, the situation can become challenging. This is why many families turn to home health aides, who can help with grooming, household chores, exercise, taking medication, etc.
But in a much more universal way, a professional caregiver can help by keeping loneliness and depression at bay and providing bright spots in what tend to be otherwise long and empty days that stretch into weeks and months. At Visiting Angels Newton/Canton, Your loved one is matched with a caregiver they connect with, who they look forward to seeing. Their companion gives them energy, on top of the benefits inherent in being in their own home, which lets them maintain essential self-respect and a sense of agency in being involved in their care plan. In a nursing home or assisted living facility, task management care is the common practice; it’s about checklists, the dedicated interpersonal aspect that seniors need is almost always missing.
A professional caregiver goes beyond a measurable task. They are not shuffled room to room, marking charts and moving right along. Their presence is consistent and long-term; they become a reliable conversation partner, as well as an aid in health, well-being, and day-to-day needs.
Loneliness is a serious health issue, and the companionship of a professional caregiver — someone who is focused on the person, not another list of tasks — can help stave off the isolation that leads to loneliness and depression.
About Visiting Angels Newton/Canton
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton MA is an award-winning home care agency that has been providing high-caliber in-home care services for the elderly and people with disabilities for over seventeen years. Countless families have benefited from our at-home care, senior companion support, respite care, live-in and 24-hour assistance, dementia and Alzheimer’s care, transitional aid, and private duty care services in Natick, Wellesley, Dedham, Needham, Stoughton, Brookline, Canton, Watertown, Jamaica Plain, Newton, Norwood, Roslindale, Upper Back Bay, Westwood, and neighboring communities. The non-medical assistance provided by Visiting Angels Newton/Canton home care providers can make a significant impact on your loved one’s happiness and quality of life.
Given the close, personal nature of in-home elder care, Visiting Angels Newton/Canton believes that care should be tailored for each client. Furthermore, our clients must have a say in how their services are personalized.
Exemplary senior home care agencies give clients plenty of choices, allowing them to structure care as they see fit. Other providers offer limited flexibility and control, giving clients limited options for customized care. At a glance, you might not think that this makes a big difference. But in the world of eldercare services, the more control you’re afforded, the more likely there will be a positive outcome and satisfaction of care for your loved one.
Why Customization Matters in Senior Home Care
In-home services allow seniors and disabled adults the ability to “age in place,” i.e., live at home for as long as possible. Without in-home senior care, older adults may need to move into an assisted living or nursing care facility. With elder care, they can continue living in the place where they feel most comfortable and secure: at home. This is crucial for U.S. seniors, 90% of whom wish to age in place for as long as possible.
Yet “aging in place” only tells part of the story. Elderly home care services aren’t only there to help seniors remain in the same physical space. They’re also there to help seniors continue their preferred way of life. A home health aide can prepare favorite meals, assist with light housekeeping, offer accompaniment on social outings, and help senior adults maintain their lifestyle in many other ways.
The ideal elder care services provider will accommodate your loved one’s lifestyle preferences, as well as his or her unique age-related concerns. This is done through customized elder care services, in which the client gets to dictate critical aspects of care. This way, your loved one can build care around their current lifestyle, receiving care on their schedule and according to their personal preferences.
Compare this with pre-set caregiving programs. A pre-set approach forces your loved ones to rebuild their lives around their elder care services. Instead of continuing their usual routine, your loved one may need to accommodate their caregiver’s schedule.
With customized elder care services, your loved one won’t just continue to live in their home. They’ll also continue to live on their terms. The takeaway is simple: The more control they have during the care-planning process, the higher the quality of care they can expect.
Choosing the Right Elderly Home Care Services
Different elder care providers offer various levels of customization. It is recommended that you research home care agencies to find the right provider. You might find the perfect elder care agency on your first consultation or interview several agencies and caregivers before making your decision.
This process will be much easier if you know what you need from a home health aide. Before your first consultation, spend time speaking with your loved one about how they envision their life with eldercare. What are their current routines? How important is it that they continue them? Which aspects of their lifestyle are they most attached to and why? What are their biggest concerns about eldercare?
By asking and thinking about these questions, you and your loved one will have a much stronger sense of what you’re looking for in senior home care services. When evaluating different providers, you may want to ask:
Do you have a loved one in need of senior home care? Call Visiting Angels Newton/Canton today to request a free in-home consultation and discuss your loved one’s options for customized care.
About Visiting Angels Newton/Canton
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton MA is an award-winning home care agency that has been providing high-caliber at-home living assistance to seniors and people with disabilities for over seventeen years. Countless families have benefited from our in-home care, elder companion support, live-in and 24-hour assistance, dementia and Alzheimer’s care, transitional aid, and respite care services in Dedham, Needham, Stoughton, Brookline, Canton, Watertown, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Norwood, West Roxbury, Roslindale, Upper Back Bay, Westwood, and neighboring communities. The non-medical assistance provided by Visiting Angels Newton/Canton home care providers can make a significant impact on your loved one’s happiness and quality of life.
Senior adults who are starting to lose their vision often need the support and assistance of family caregivers to help them with their daily routines. But if you don’t have experience with vision loss or blindness, it can be challenging to know the best way to provide elder care for a loved one who has a visual impairment.
First, you need to notice signs of low vision. These may include
Suppose your senior is suffering from low vision. In that case, Visiting Angels Newton/Canton suggests the following in-home senior care strategies to help reduce the risk of injury for visually-impaired seniors and make day-to-day life easier to navigate.
Senior Fall Prevention
Helping seniors avoid falls is a crucial element of elderly care. But when a senior is visually impaired or legally blind, the risk of falls becomes much more significant. Family elder care providers need to be especially careful to reduce the risk of slipping, tripping, and falling around the home.
If your loved one still has partial vision, there are steps you can take to make it easier for them to see their surroundings and avoid risky areas. Consider replacing lights around the home with higher-wattage fixtures and bulbs to make the space brighter. You may want to install new lights in dark areas or spots where your loved one is at a higher risk for fall or injury, such as stairs. You can also make stairs easier to see by applying brightly colored tape along the lip of each step.
Think about eliminating tripping and slipping risks; This means getting rid of clutter, keeping cords out of the way, removing rugs that could be stumbled over, and applying a non-slip coating to tile floors. Consider encouraging your loved one to wear rubber-soled shoes with a firm grip.
For more tips on avoiding falls, please review our Fall Prevention brochure.
Using Vision Aids to Cope With Vision Loss
In addition to keeping your loved one safe, providing elder care at home for a family member with vision loss also means keeping them happy and comfortable. Unfortunately, vision loss can make favorite activities and day-to-day living much more difficult. As a caregiver, you can help your loved one cope with visual impairment by accommodating their vision loss in day-to-day life.
One of the simplest ways to do this is by helping them learn about possible vision aids. In addition, you can provide them with products that make it easier to cope with vision loss, such as books with oversized print or large screen TVs with high contrast images.
Keeping their home organized will be helpful so that it’s easy for them to find items by memory or touch. In most cases, it is best to keep things in familiar places. But in some cases — like a cluttered cutlery drawer — it can be better to organize items so that your loved one can easily pick things out by touch.
Elder Care for Vision Loss
As an elder care provider, you might be called on to help with everyday tasks. Your loved one’s visual impairment might prevent them from being able to cook, clean their home, do laundry, or any number of other activities, as well as shopping and errands.
If you can’t always be there for your loved one, you might consider professional elder care services. Visiting Angels Newton/Canton caregivers regularly work with visually impaired seniors, offering a helping hand and fresh set of eyes around the home. Our case managers are happily available to schedule a free in-home assessment to discuss options with you to find the right care plan for your loved one. Contact us today at 617–795–2727.
About Visiting Angels Newton/Canton
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton MA is an award-winning home care agency providing high-caliber in-home care services to the elderly and people with disabilities. Countless families have benefited from our in-home senior care, respite care, elder companion care, live-in and 24-hour care, dementia and Alzheimer’s care, transitional aid, and in-home care services in Dedham, Needham, Stoughton, Brookline, Canton, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Natick, Newton, Norwood, Roslindale, Upper Back Bay, Watertown, Wellesley, West Roxbury, Westwood, and neighboring communities. The non-medical care provided by Visiting Angels Newton/Canton can make a significant impact on your loved one’s happiness and quality of life.
Each year, countless seniors break and fracture bones due to slips, trips, and falls. According to the National Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths to individuals age 65 and older. Something as simple as tripping over a rug or slipping on a wet spot on the kitchen floor can be life-threatening. Hip fractures are a particular danger. The recovery period can take up to 12 months, may require transitional care, and comes with a significant risk of life-threatening complications.
Older adults are more prone to falling due to failing eyesight, hearing problems, stiff or painful joints, less muscle tone, and poor coordination, among other reasons. Heart diseases, diabetes, thyroid problems, blood vessel problems, and nerve damage can also affect their balance. Sometimes medications cause dizziness and can result in a fall.
Your senior loved one may wish to age in the comfort of his or her own home. It is crucial, then, to implement fall prevention measures to keep their living space safe. Visiting Angels home care services has a Safe and Steady Fall Prevention Resource Guide that can help you identify risk factors in your senior loved one's home and take steps to reduce the risks of suffering a fall. It contains essential information about
Fear of falling should not stop your senior from staying active. A home caregiver can engage your senior in an exercise program that's right for them, such as taking walks or gardening. Your loved one will get regular exercise to improve strength and muscle tone and keep joints, ligaments, and tendons flexible.
Home caregivers for seniors will provide peace of mind in the event of an injury or accident. In a worst-case scenario, a senior could fall and remain on the floor, be injured for several hours or days because they live alone, cannot move, or are unable to make a phone call. Professionally-trained caregivers regularly check in, call and visit elderly clients to ensure they are cared for and safe. Should a senior suffer a fall or accident, an HHA-certified home caregiver will be able to get help quickly.
For more information on fall prevention and home care services, please call 617-795-2727.
About Visiting Angels Newton/Canton
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton MA is an award-winning home care agency providing high-caliber in-home care services to the elderly and people with disabilities. Countless families have benefited from our in-home senior care, respite care, elder companion care, live-in and 24-hour care, dementia and Alzheimer's care, transitional aid, and at-home living assistance services in Brookline, Boston, Canton, Dedham, Natick, Needham, Newton, Norwood, Stoughton, Watertown, Wellesley, Westwood, and nearby communities. The non-medical care provided by Visiting Angels Newton/Canton can make a significant impact on your loved one's happiness and quality of life.
Call us at 617-795-2727 to book a free in-home consultation with one of our knowledgeable case managers today!
Helping Senior Loved Ones with Dementia
If you provide care for elderly loved ones with dementia, you most likely have witnessed their battle with memory loss and other cognitive limitations. It can be heart-wrenching to hear them forget family members and friends, fail to recall recent events, or talk about deceased loved ones who they believe are still alive.
You may be feeling helpless and discouraged, but there are strategies you can use to reduce stress, circumvent confusion, and maintain a healthy relationship with your aging loved one.
5 Ways to Cope with Dementia and Confusion
Dementia can cause your elderly loved ones to say outlandish things or become befuddled when out in public. You may feel embarrassed as they clumsily interact with neighbors, talk to store owners, or even chat with strangers.
Dealing with loved ones exhibiting dementia-related behavior, in private and public, can be disturbing. The following tips can help you manage tricky interactions caused by your senior’s illness:
Step into their reality
Seniors with dementia can find it hard to keep track of reality and memory or imagination. If you pull seniors with dementia into the “real world” by correcting them, you can sometimes cause more confusion, stress, fear, or even anger — which only worsens their symptoms.
Experts recommend, whenever possible, that you affirm and join your loved one’s reality. If your senior occasionally speaks as though they live in the past, keep the conversation going without correcting them as long as it is not causing them harm. For example, if your senior thinks it’s Saturday, but it’s Wednesday, there is no need to correct them – just let it go.
Use distractions and diversions
Experts encourage using situational distractions to help people with dementia stay calm and avoid worsening symptoms. For example, if telling your senior you are taking them for a medical checkup causes distress, you may tell them, instead, that you are going on a trip to the park and will stop for a doctor’s appointment on your way back.
You may also choose to distract your senior from topics that cause stress or if you find they are stuck repeating themselves. Changing the subject to the weather or asking them to assist with a simple task can help diffuse the situation. Assistance folding laundry or watering plants can help to shift their focus.
Some people may feel guilty about using therapeutic distractions or diversions, and that is perfectly normal. Just remember the goal is to make your loved one feel comfortable and find a balance that works for both of you.
Use brief explanations and gentle corrections
Sometimes, you may have to correct a confused senior. In situations like this, do so as gently and briefly as possible. Reduce confusion and other negative emotions by phrasing your corrections as suggestions. For example, you could say, “Why don’t we take a walk together?” instead of, “I can’t let you go out alone because you’ll get lost or fall.”
Be sure to use simple words and phrases that your loved one will recognize. Physical reminders, such as photographs, can also help gently reorient a senior with dementia when necessary.
Respond to feelings, not words
Ask yourself what emotion might be behind your loved one’s words. If they are lashing out, perhaps it’s because they are afraid. In this case, you can reassure them that everything is okay and perhaps offer them a hug or hold their hand. It is important to respond calmly at all times.
Take care of yourself
Although following these tips can help reduce stress for you and your senior, caring for a senior with dementia can still be very demanding. Remember that taking care of yourself is essential to avoid caregiver burnout. If you find yourself hurt by comments your senior has made, try to remind yourself they aren’t doing it on purpose.
If you need additional support in caring for your elderly loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or memory loss problems, consider hiring a Visiting Angels caregiver. We have partnered with leading dementia specialists to develop a series of dementia care certification programs. Basic dementia care training is available to all Visiting Angels caregivers, and many home health aides are certified in advanced dementia care protocols. Our Visiting Angels care coordinators are available to discuss your loved one’s needs during a free care consultation. Contact us today!
About Visiting Angels Newton/Canton
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton MA is an award-winning local home care agency providing high-caliber in-home care services to the elderly and people with disabilities. Countless families have benefited from our in-home senior care, respite care, elder companion care, live-in and 24-hour care, dementia and Alzheimer's care, transitional aid, and at-home living assistance services in Stoughton, Brookline, Canton, Dedham, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Natick, Needham, Newton, Norwood, Roslindale, Upper Back Bay, Watertown, Wellesley, West Roxbury, Westwood, and neighboring communities. The non-medical care provided by Visiting Angels Newton/Canton can make a significant impact on your loved one's happiness and quality of life.
Visiting Angels Newton/Canton is an award-winning in-home care agency that provides high quality home care to seniors and disabled adults in Greater Boston, MA.