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Caregiver's Guide
11/1/2018 10:58:12 AM
Caregiver's Guide

The number of people who care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aging family member is astounding: more than 65 million, or almost 30 percent of the U.S. population. They spend an average of 20 hours per week caring for their loved one, which can include: buying groceries, running errands, managing medication, going to the doctor, bathing, feeding, and grooming their loved ones, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with the American Association of Retired Persons. The Alliance also reported the value of the services that family caregivers provide for free to older adults is estimated to be $375 billion a year. In this special section on caregiving, we address the needs of those who care for family members or friends.

Caring for the Caregiver
By Christine Fisher

Caregiving, no matter how noble the intention, can be stressful. "It often falls on one person to manage the needs of an older adult; this could range from their daily meals to providing emotional support. There are times when it is physically and emotionally draining,” said Pamela Bruney, director of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital’s Home Health Agency.
Caregivers may need to take a little of their own advice. As they care for their loved ones, it’s easy to lose a sense of themselves in the process. "They’re busy making sure things are just right for their loved one and they forget to check in with themselves,” said Bruney.

"Home health care can ease the burden when it comes to medication management, teachings, and disease management processes. In addition to a tailored plan of care, physical, speech and occupational therapy services are available to assist with returning patients to the activities of daily living. It gives the caregiver a little respite. For those without home health services to rely on, caregivers should be aware of the potential problems that often occur in the process of caregiving.”

Caregiving can often be rewarding for the caregiver, as they selflessly work to make life better for one they love, but it can also be a time of high stress. While many factors contribute to this, the amount of energy the caregiver puts into maintaining his or her own health plays a significant role. 

"Many caregivers end up being stressed out, frustrated, and dealing with their own health issues,” Bruney said. "Stress is often a result of continuous caregiving when there aren’t boundaries set in place.”

Stress symptoms can be varied, depending on the person. Common signs of chronic stress include:
  • Anger
  • Body aches
  • Recurring colds and flu
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Over-reacting
  • Frequent headaches
If the stress is not dealt with, it can lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease or depression. A sense of sadness and burden is also frequently cited among caregivers.

"Caregiving can be consuming. It can take every minute you have, but we all need a respite. Caregivers need to take time off and know their loved one is in good hands, whether it’s another family member, a friend, a home health agency, or someone in their church. You have to take time for yourself so you can enjoy your life and have something left to give back to your loved one,” Bruney said.

It’s important to relax, enjoy time with friends, and ask for additional help so that one person isn’t shouldering the burden alone.

Here are tips to help caregivers:
  • Stay as organized as possible, from medications to doctors’ appointments. Writing everything down on a calendar or a notebook will help you stay on schedule and hopefully avoid a stress-inducing crisis.
  • Ask for help, more than once. People are often willing to help, but they don’t know what to do and they don’t want to create more work for you. Caregiving can be done in many different ways: cooking several meals, chauffeuring to the hairdresser, managing finances, etc. Let interested parties know how they might help.
  • Do something you enjoy. Whether it’s a long walk, getting a massage, reading a book or getting coffee with a friend, schedule time for yourself every week, if possible. It will give you something to look forward to.
  • Attitude is everything. Approaching your caregiving tasks with the right attitude can make a significant difference. If you’re low on energy, you’ll be more easily frustrated, which can lead to stress.
The main thing is to remember that caregivers also require care. If you are providing consistent care for a loved one, remember to take time for yourself. It’ll help you maintain your mental and physical health as well as providing the best care possible for your loved one.

Support for Caregivers

The Calcasieu Parish Council on Aging provides monthly Caregiver Support Groups. The meetings take place in three different locations throughout the Parish and are open to anyone who cares for a sick or elderly loved one.

Annette Tritico has facilitated the Caregivers Support Group for over three years. She’s a nurse with 34 years of experience in mental health care. "We offer caregivers support, education, and resources,” she says. "Most caregivers in the group have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, but the group is open to anyone caring for someone with any chronic illness.”

Participants learn about the disease process and ways to cope with the progressive stages of dementia. Caregiving can become quite isolating. Participation in the group provides some much-needed socialization. Group members come to the realization that they are not alone. They hear from others in the group that what they are feeling and experiencing is normal. They share ideas and solutions. Another aspect of group participation is learning the importance of selfcare; for example, stress management, grief processing, and taking time for themselves.

Tritico says meetings last only an hour "because caregivers are busy people.”

For more information or to register, call 337-474-2583, calcoa.org.

Monthly meetings, times, and locations:

St. Theodore Catholic Church
785 Sam Houston Jones Parkway
2nd Mondays at noon

The Verandah at Graywood
5851 Graymarket Dr.
3rd Tuesdays at 5:00 p.m.

Brookdale Senior Living
2420 Country Club Rd.
4th Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m.

Senior Care Options
The Growing Trend to Remain at Home
By Lauren Atterbery Cesar

Deciding on care for an aging loved one or a family member with special needs can be equal parts frustrating and terrifying. How do you know you’re making the right choices? Should you put your loved one in an assisted living facility, a nursing home, or a memory care center? Should hospice be involved? Over the past decade or so, there has been an growing trend to care for the elderly at home. According to the 2010 Census, only 3.1 percent of seniors were nursing home residents. To meet this trend, there are an increasing number of businesses to assist in care for the elderly who choose to stay at home.

These businesses provide different levels of care to meet a variety of needs, from simple duties such as companionship, meal preparation, medication reminders, and light housekeeping, to more personal care tasks like bathing, dressing, transferring, ambulation, incontinence care, and transportation. 

"All of our services are designed to help someone stay home and stay independent,” says George Cestia, owner of Home Instead Senior Care, Lake Charles.

Businesses such as Home Instead also offer services to family members who care for their loved one at home. They can provide respite care to give caretakers a much-needed break. Home Instead offers services for as few as four hours a day, one day a week, and up to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They also offer education to family members on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

When asked about clients’ biggest fears regarding care options, Cestia says, "Most clients we talk to want to stay in their own home, and their biggest fear is having to leave it. They are often relieved that there is an option to help them stay in the home they love. However, many folks choose to live in assisted living homes and nursing homes. Southwest Louisiana has many great facilities for these options. We have great relationships with these facilities and can provide care in them as well.” Home Instead Senior Care also provides care in hospitals.

If you have concerns and difficult decisions to make about the care of your loved one, a good way to answer your questions and combat your fears is to arm yourself with information about all the different care options in your area. Visit the sites. Talk to the directors and ask questions. Ask for input from friends who have family members in various care settings. Consider the feasibility of keeping your loved one at home. And if appropriate, do include the care receiver in the decision-making process.

For more information on in-home care options, call Home Instead, 337-480-0023, 622 E College St, Lake Charles.

Pet Therapy
Just What the Doctor Ordered
By Angie Kay Dilmore

Studies show that interacting with pets can be a stress reliever. Using pets to help comfort and heal the sick began as early as the middle ages. Since the 1980’s, pet therapy has flourished and become more structured. Dozens of therapy dog groups across the country provide educational material to volunteers, screening for both volunteers and dogs, and liability insurance for when the dog and handler volunteer in a therapy setting.

Lake Charles is home to Dr. Dogs Pet Therapy. Started in 2007 with one golden retriever mix, the group now has approximately 40 dogs that visit residents in retirement and nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and community events. 

Callie East has been a registered hospice nurse for 22 years and a certified hospice and palliative care nurse since 2002. She says it has been a privilege to use pet therapy to help her patients. Years ago, she took a baby goat along on visits. Now, through the Dr. Dogs group, she and her goldendoodle Brody visit patients in nursing homes, private homes upon request, and other locations a few times each month. She says pet interaction can decrease heart rate and blood pressure, and boost levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for wellbeing and happiness. "Alzheimer’s and dementia patients particularly benefit from pet therapy,” she adds. "The physical touch can trigger positive memories. Even if they do not recall the visit later on, they’ll remember the happy feelings.”

East and others have discovered that pet therapy not only benefits the patients, but their caregivers, as well. "Pet therapy reduces the psychological stress experienced by a caregiver and helps reduce the feelings of isolation and depression,” she says.

For more information on local pet therapy, see drdogspetherapy.com.

Financial Considerations When Caring for a Loved One
By Andrea Mongler

When an elderly loved one — often a spouse or parent — needs full-time care, it can be both emotionally and physically draining for the caregiver. In addition, family caregiving has a financial impact, and for some caregivers, it’s a big one.

According to a 2015 report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute, one in five caregivers of adult patients experiences financial strain. Those who live more than an hour away from their care recipient report even higher levels of financial strain, which could be due in part to the fact that 41 percent of them pay for caregiving help. In addition, many caregivers are still in the workforce, and about 60 percent of them report having to make changes to their work situation, such as reducing their hours or taking a leave of absence because of their caregiving responsibilities.

Though no one can know for sure whether they will be a caregiver — or need one — someday, it’s smart to prepare for the possibility.

As New York Life agent Chris Craven puts it, "You never know what you will be dealt.”

For anyone who can afford it, Craven recommends considering long-term-care insurance, which — depending on the policy — can help pay for services that range from assistance with daily living activities such as dressing and eating to skilled care provided by nurses or therapists. The costs of long-term-care policies vary widely.

"Premiums can start as low as 50 or 60 bucks a month for a basic minimum policy,” Craven says. "If you have all the bells and whistles, you may be paying $1,000 a month.”

He recommends viewing long-term-care insurance as a supplement to whatever other funds you’ll be able to draw from, such as retirement plans or Social Security.

While your own long-term-care insurance is designed to cover the costs of care you may need someday, what are your options if you’re facing financial hardship as a caregiver to someone else? Here are a few ideas to consider:
  • Have open, honest conversations about money with your family, including the caregiver recipient if he or she is reasonably able to participate. Talk about what expenses you’re facing and how to pay for them.
  • Check out the services provided by community organizations. Some offer low-cost or free services including respite care, support groups, transportation, and meal delivery. Check out communityresourcefinder.org to search for local options.
  • If you are providing most of the care, look into the possibility of asking your family to pay you as an independent contractor.
  • Create a budget to help you track spending and determine where to make adjustments.
Without a doubt, being a family caregiver or a caregiving recipient can be challenging, but it is possible to ease the financial burden. If you haven’t begun making caregiving plans for yourself and your loved ones, the sooner the better.

For more information, contact Chris Craven, New York Life Insurance, 3105 Lake St, Lake Charles, 337-475-6226.

Alzheimer’s Myths

You can’t believe everything you hear or read, right? Like so many things, there are myths swirling around the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease that doctors and scientists say are simply not true. For example:

Myth 1: Memory loss is a natural part of aging.
Reality: As people age, it’s normal to have occasional memory problems, such as forgetting the name of a person you’ve recently met. However, Alzheimer’s is more than occasional memory loss. It’s a disease that causes brain cells to malfunction and ultimately die. When this happens, an individual may forget the name of a longtime friend or what roads to take to return to a home they’ve lived in for decades.

Myth 2: Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal.
Reality: Alzheimer’s disease has no survivors. It destroys brain cells and causes memory changes, erratic behaviors, and loss of body functions. It slowly and painfully takes away a person’s identity, ability to connect with others, think, eat, talk, walk, and ultimately, survive.

Myth 3: Only older people can get Alzheimer’s.
Reality: Alzheimer’s can strike people in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s. This is called younger-onset Alzheimer’s (also referred to as early onset). It is estimated that there are more than five million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This includes the over five million people age 65 and older and 200,000 people younger than age 65 with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Myth 4: Drinking out of aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids, and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s.

Myth 5: Flu shots increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: A theory linking flu shots to a greatly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been proposed by a U.S. doctor whose license was suspended by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. Several mainstream studies link flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and overall better health.

Myth 6: Silver dental fillings increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: According to the best available scientific evidence, there is no relationship between silver dental fillings and Alzheimer’s. The concern that there could be a link arose because "silver” fillings are made of an amalgam (mixture) that typically contains about 50 percent mercury, 35 percent silver and 15 percent tin. Mercury is a heavy metal that, in certain forms, is known to be toxic to the brain and other organs. Various studies offer compelling evidence that dental amalgam is not a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

Myth 7: There are treatments available to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: Currrently, there is no treatment to cure, delay, or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. FDA-approved drugs temporarily slow worsening of symptoms for about six to 12 months, on average, for about half of the individuals who take them.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association
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