Cyber Monday Holiday Gifts for Seniors

Everywhere you turn, retailers are offering up Cyber Monday gift ideas. I happen to be in the market for a holiday gift for my elderly mother. When asked, of course she tells me she has everything she could ever want or need, but that won’t stop me from trying to find the perfect present to knock her (supportive) socks off.

I have never been to, nor will I ever attend, a Black Friday door-buster event. Luckily for me (and you), Cyber Monday provides many excellent deals to be had from the comfort of my (and your) own keyboard. Here’s a few that I found.

Digital Photo Frame — Best Buy
As the family gets bigger, there’s no more room on surfaces for conventional photo prints in traditional photo frames. I wanted to find a digital picture frame that was easy to set up, loaded photos quickly, had good quality resolution, and decent internal memory. Best Buy came through with their VistaQuest 8" Digital Photo Frame in Espresso, on sale for $29.99 (down from $79.99.) It scored a 4.1 out of 5 stars from its reviewers and 87% of customers would recommend this product to a friend. Will my normally tech-averse mother like it? At that price, I’ll take the chance. And she’ll get to see a changing array of photos of her favorite people without taking up more precious table space.

E-Reader — Amazon.com
She’s a voracious reader, and it pains me to see my mother struggle with diminishing eyesight. My mother has nearly exhausted all the large-print books the local library offers, and it’s hard for me to keep track of what she’s read so far. What to do? An e-reader like Amazon’s Kindle holds thousands of books, is lightweight, and gives the reader font-size control. The very basic version is listed at $79, does not come with a power adapter and, most importantly, does not have a built-in light. The Kindle Paperwhite is the next step up in Kindle e-readers and it provides improved resolution and the all-important backlight, but at $119, I think I’ll pass unless I see it deeply discounted.

Warm and Cozy Throw — Wayfair.com

Chicago winters get cold and seniors tend to feel the chill more than others. I wanted to splurge on cashmere but I have to be somewhat frugal as well. Wayfair.com carries Cashmere Republic’s Signature Waterwave Cashmere/Wool Throw in a variety of colors on sale for $132.99 (a 26% savings.) One reviewer says it feels like being wrapped in a large cashmere sweater. Just the effect I was looking for!

Fragrance — Department Stores; Beauty retailers
Chanel No. 5 will never find itself on a discount list. Everywhere I look, the 1.7 oz. Eau de Toilette spray comes in at $78. My goal is to find the online retailer that will offer me free shipping and maybe a little extra gift that I can use as a stocking-stuffer for my daughter or a special little gift for myself. Sephora not only offers free 3-day shipping on purchases over $50, but also give you a Cyber Monday Mystery Bag containing 7 free samples when you use the code: SURPRISE at checkout. Macy’s gives me 3 sample fragrances along with a choice of a free silver or gold clutch along with free shipping. Unfortunately, my purchase doesn’t qualify for the store-wide 15% Cyber Monday discount. Nordstrom Online also doesn’t offer any discount on Chanel, but gives me an option to add 3 of a variety of beauty samples, including Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. All the sites charge IL sales tax.

Of course, the most important gift we can give the elderly is the gift of our time. If you find yourself too far from home to give the gift of family caregiving, consider contacting a quality home care agency who can provide companionship care for your senior loved one. And don’t forget those important caregivers on your holiday shopping list!

How Long Should We Live?

Recently and rather infamously, Ezekiel Emanuel, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and brother to Chicago’s own mayor Rahm Emanuel, wrote a piece for the Atlantic entitled Why I Hope to Die at 75.

Citing the physical and mental degeneration that often accompanies old age, Dr. Emanuel asserts in his essay that he will forego not only life-sustaining interventions such as dialysis, ventilators and defibrillators after the age of 75, but also simple diagnostic and preventative measures, like colonoscopies and flu shots.

Reading his essay, one gets the distinct impression that Dr. Emanuel doesn’t buy the notion of aging well — the idea that as we increase our lifespans, diet and exercise (both mental and physical) can delay the decline and disabilities we face as we age. Instead of what he calls “American immortality,” Dr. Emanuel espouses his “75 and no more” philosophy.

It was like the shot heard ‘round the world, prompting responses and rebuttals from all over the web. As you can imagine, such a provocative essay hit people where they live (pun intended.) When one imagines a long life, it comes with the caveat of being able to continue functioning fully, without descending into frailty or senility.

What got me, however, was Dr. Emanuel’s supposition that your creativity declines as you age — his assertion that the elderly have nothing left to give to society. I disagree. Heartily. And I am not alone. Our friends at Homecare Together, a Dublin-based quality home care agency, sent me this wonderful infographic, Life Begins at 60+, which presents examples of seniors who changed direction, reinvented themselves, gave back to the community, and prospered well into later-stage life.

 

Of course, not all of us will enjoy such a run, but it won’t happen without trying. I may not take drastic measures to prolong my life after 75, but I hope by the time I get there, with the help of an exceptional senior caregiver ( or perhaps a robot companion), an aged quality life full of vim, vigor, and creativity will be the rule and not the exception.

"Do not go gentle into that good night... Rage, rage against the dying of the light" — Dylan Thomas

Pumpkins in the Park: Stress Relief Photo

Thanksgiving time and all the thoughts of food and family have arrived. Caregiverlisinvites you to take a moment to relax and enjoy this week's photo and inspirational quote. These pumpkins were at the Greenmarket in Lincoln Park in Chicago, and bring to mind a plentiful harvest. Thank you caregivers and certified nursing aides for your hard work and caring for our seniors. Senior care training assists caregivers to better manage a senior's care needs and manage caregiver stress. We hope you enjoy some time with friends and family this week, and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.   

"The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest."  -William Blake

Thanksgiving with Seniors: Checking for Signs of Dementia

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and with it, the holiday season officially begins. If you are like the host of other Americans that celebrate by gathering with family and sharing a delicious meal, it’s a great time to assess the health, both physical and mental, of the aging member(s) of your group.

Holidays are a prime time for families to detect dementia in a family member, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve seen your older family members. While it’s certainly an exciting time, it’s also an extremely stressful time — regular routines are disrupted, and large groups of people means noise and excitement — it’s sort of a perfect storm of a time to determine if your aging loved one is exhibiting signs of memory loss.

If you spend Thanksgiving at your senior’s home, a quick bit of detective work will give you some insight into their mental health. Remember to do this stealthily! This is not the time for confrontation, but an opportunity to gauge if your loved ones are living their best lives.

Take a good look (and smell)
Has there been obvious weight loss? People with memory loss often forget to eat. If they are depressed, which often happens when someone begins to experience mental acuity changes, they may decide that cooking is too much bother.

How is their personal hygiene? Are clothes clean? Make note of their grooming to determine any odd or peculiar changes in their regular appearance.

In the house
Check the refrigerator for expired food. Or multiples of the same food. Take a look in the living areas; are they clean and free of clutter? Peek at more personal spaces. While common areas might have been picked up in anticipation of guests, out-of-the-way areas like bathtubs and closets might give a truer picture of a senior’s ability to keep up with general tasks. If they have plants or animals, are they thriving?

Is there any unopened mail hanging about? Paying bills, especially, may seem overwhelming. According to Forbes, financial decision-making capacity erodes early on in those suffering with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Talk to neighbors
If you aren’t around much, talk to those who are. If you happen to see neighbors, ask if they have noticed any changes in your senior loved one. A certain red flag is isolation. If they don’t see your senior as often as they used to, it can be cause for concern. Now is the perfect time to exchange phone numbers and ask them to contact you if they see anything remiss.

If you do suspect that there are changes in your senior loved one’s mental acuity, don’t hide your head in the sand. Take the opportunity to talk to other family members and make a plan of action. The first step? Consult your elder’s primary care physician and in the meantime, perhaps enlist some help.

From all of us at Caregiverlist, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Basic Exercise Plan for Caregivers with Run 5K App

Maintaining a consistent workout plan can be difficult in the busy lives of senior caregivers, but exercise plays an important part in caregiver stress relief. For caregivers who have a tight schedule, the Run 5K app offers a chance for a flexible and effective workout, starting at a beginners level and working up to being able to run a whole 5K. 

Cardio workouts help prevent future heart issues and keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels down, among several other health benefits. The Couch to 5K program used in the Run 5K app sets caregivers up for three runs per week over nine weeks total. Users start out with a five minute walking warm up and then during the first week, they alternate between jogging for one minute and walking for a minute and a half.

After the first three workouts, the plan changes to a minute and a half of jogging alternating with two minutes of walking. The length of time spent jogging increases as the users gets further along in the program. Eventually, caregivers work up to being able to run the whole 5K distance without any walking breaks. 

The app uses the GPS system on a user's phone to track how far they've run during the course of their workout. At the beginning, users may not complete a whole 5K distance as they're alternating between walking and running. The app also uses voice cues to tell users when to start or stop walking and it allows users to play music from their iTunes within the app if they like to listen to something while they run.

Caregivers can run outdoors if the weather is amenable to their needs, or on a track at the gym. As an added bonus, the workout data including how many calories were burned can be extracted from the app and sent to the Apple Health app if caregivers use that to track calories for a day. If caregivers own a bluetooth heart rate monitor, they can also allow the app to monitor that during their run for more insight into individual health. 

The Run 5K app is available for Apple platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Out of Middle Class Reach

It's all excitement around here as we await the release of the movie, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, in which our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), leads the have-nots of Panem’s districts in a rebellion against the haves of The Capitol.

Dystopian views of a future society, in books and in movies, often feature a missing element of the population — the middle class. In these communities, only the very rich and very poor have access to services, the former is afforded private (superior) services, the latter, inferior, government-provided resources. Like it or not, America is beginning to look a lot like those futuristic civilizations where you are either very rich (and in the ruling minority) or very poor (the rest of us.)

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ recent report, Housing America's Older Adults—Meeting the Needs of An Aging Population, shows that affordable elder housing will be one of the single biggest challenges we face in the near future.

Housing is the largest expense in many household budgets. Even though the majority of seniors prefer to age in place, many older Americans find that the high cost of housing expenses make it necessary to cut spending in other areas such as groceries and healthcare. In fact, over 37 percent of Americans aged 80 or older put more than 30 percent of their income toward housing expenses. And those are the property owners — the lucky ones.

In Joel Kotkin’s book The New Class Conflict, the author points out a “doomed” middle class.  In the wake of the housing bust, U.S. homeownership, which peaked in 2002 at nearly 70 percent, has since dropped to 65 percent in 2013, the lowest in almost two decades, according to the U.S. Census.

How does that affect senior housing? Even if you have the financial wherewithal to age in place, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 37 percent of those aged 65 and over will receive care in some sort of institutional setting at some point, with an average stay of one year.

Nursing home and assisted living costs are always increasing. The recent (Nov. 2014) Caregiverlist® Index reported the average annual cost for an Illinois nursing home is $72,631.35. Of course, quality of care usually decreases at lower cost points. The national average for assisted living base rates was $3,550 per month in 2012.
    
The typical homeowner aged 65 and over has enough wealth to cover nursing home costs for 42 months and enough non-housing wealth to last 15 months. The median older renter will not be able to afford even one month in a nursing home or in assisted living.

As a society, we will be facing these challenges together to make sure that the aging population, whether they be the Jeffersonian ideal “small landholders” or increasingly-numbered  “lower middle-class” have access to the similar quality housing and services in order to age with security and dignity.    

INFOGRAPHIC: Housing America
 

Relaxation by the Water in Malta: Stress Relief Photo

Sunshine, gorgeous water and a comfortable chair are a perfect combination.  This week's photo was taken in a cove in Malta. At Caregiverliswe understand the realities of caregiver stress. We invite you to take a moment to relax and enjoy the photo and inspirational quote and share it with loved ones. Thank you caregivers and certified nursing aides for your hard work and caring for our seniors. Senior care training assists caregivers to better manage a senior's care needs and manage caregiver stress. We hope you can take some time to yourselves and have a great week. 

"Believe you can and you're halfway there."  -Theodore Roosevelt

Welcome Winter with a Hearty Beef Stew

Winter is coming and for many has already arrived without an early invitation. Senior Caregivers must have their cookbooks prepared whether or not they're ready to welcome the cold, and this hearty Beef Stew gives as much warmth and comfort as the family fireplace.

 

Contributed by Caregiver Sherpa Shanice Kelly

 

Ingredients:

 

2 pounds stew beef

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cups water

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 or 2 bay leaves

1 medium onion, sliced

3 bags of Mixed Vegetables

2 Medium sized Potatoes and dice them up in small squares

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 Packages of Saltine Crackers

1 Lime

 

Directions:


Brown meat in hot vegetable oil. Add water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, and potatoes. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaves and garlic clove. Add the 3 bags of mixed vegetables. Cover and cook 30 to 40 minutes. To thicken gravy, remove 2 cups hot liquid. Using a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup water and cornstarch until smooth. Mix with a little hot liquid and return mixture to pot. Stir and cook until bubbly. You can also choose to serve with saltine crackers and slices of lime for a side of jazz.

 

Glen Campbell Says Farewell in Documentary

When Glen Campbell, 78, received the news about his Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, he was told to “hang up his guitar and prepare for the inevitable.” The singer/songwriter instead decided to embark on a “Goodbye Tour” that was to last 5 weeks. Instead, the tour lasted a year and a half, and Glen Campbell played to sold-out audiences in 151 performances around the country.

That tour, along with the chronicle of Mr. Campbell’s advancing disease, has been captured by the documentary, Glen Campbell . . . I’ll Be Me, which opened this past week across the U.S. Documentarian James Keach captures not only the amazing performances, but also the struggles with his advancing Alzheimer’s disease. However, not only do we see the anger, frustration, and moments of lucidity that are the hallmarks of memory loss disease, we also get to see the triumph of Mr. Campbell’s spirit on stage. Of his film’s subject, Keach has said, “It became not so much the story of Glen Campbell, but the story of the gift that is being taken away from him. And us."

Even if he sometimes forgot the words, the music is so ingrained in this man’s mind, body, and soul, that he could still do this:

For those too young to remember, Glen Campbell is a 6-time Grammy winner, including an Album of the Year in 1967 and is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award (2012). He was a session guitarist with the Beach Boys and Elvis Presley and in 1975, his hit “Rhinestone Cowboy” was No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. He is back on the list at No. 90 with the film’s "I'm Not Gonna Miss You." It’s his first chart appearance since Sept. 5, 1981—marking a 33-year hiatus.

Since the tour ended, Mr. Campbell’s family, including his wife, Kim Woolen and the couple’s daughter Ashley, 27, were caring for the singer at home until this past April. It was then that the 24-hour care Campbell needed became too much for the family to provide themselves. They decided to place Mr. Campbell in a memory care facility near their home in Nashville, TN. Ms. Woolen told People magazine about the decision. "No one was getting any sleep and we were just struggling every second to keep him safe – we felt like it wasn't safe anymore."

An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. Most of us know someone or love someone with some form of dementia. We know how difficult it is to watch that person slowly slip away. It used to be that we wouldn’t acknowledge memory loss disease. What was referred to as “old-timer’s disease” was rarely spoken of and it’s sufferers stigmatized. It takes a lot of courage for someone like Glen Campbell, along with his family, to open their lives and share publicly what so many families are experiencing privately.

Find Crafts for Seniors to Maintain Motor Skills

Craft projects for senior caregivers and their senior clients offer more than a fun way to pass some time- certain activities such as knitting or crocheting allow seniors to keep up their motor skills. Staying active even in little ways like moving the hands repeatedly through a stitching process or doing some light garden work help seniors engage their body enough to help prevent dementia. The CraftGawker app offers a variety of project suggestions for crafts from knitting to candle making to plants. 

Knitting for seniors in particular makes for an ideal project because it can be done over any time frame and nearly anywhere. Senior caregivers can help their client find a pattern they like under the Knitting category on the app and then set them up with a yarn of their choosing, and the senior client can work on the project while they watch TV, when they're in the waiting room for an appointment or before they go to bed.

Once a senior learns know to knit, muscle memory kicks in to help them repeat the same motion over and over. Particularly with the holidays coming up, for seniors who already know how to knit, the CraftGawker app offers great pattern ideas for gifts for loved ones. Perhaps a hat for a grandchild or a coffee mug sleeve for an adult child. The app makes it easy to scroll through different finished products, then to click on the one you like and download the pattern.  

Other categories in the app that could be fun and easy for seniors include the basic clay and pottery projects, food craft, plants and jewelry. The app is easy to navigate and includes options for the most popular and latest entries if seniors just want to browse without a particular project in mind. 

The CraftGawker app is available for download for Apple platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

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