Hello Senior and caregiver communities. I thought I would share a personal thought. For me, there is one thing that is hands down the best part of the job. I will go see any client anywhere at any time as it is my favorite part of what we do. The responsibility of taking care of clients is a very serious honor for us and can be stressful at times depending on the situation. To our clients, all seniors and all caregivers, we love you and we are here to help whenever you need us. Just like this picture included, when you contact us, we will come out to see you and it doesn’t matter where you are. Best wishes to all of you.
If your parent has been complaining about the room spinning or feeling unsteady on her feet, she might be suffering from vertigo. Vertigo is a symptom of various things that could be occurring in a person’s body and causes someone to feel dizzy and off-balance while having a sensation that the room is spinning around. It can be a bit frightening the first time it happens, but vertigo is generally not serious.
Vertigo tends to occur more often in women and those who are over 65. If you are caring for an elderly parent, she might find herself experiencing vertigo at some point because 40% of the population will get a spell of it occasionally. Most attacks only last a few seconds or minutes and are often compared to motion sickness, where the room seems to be rocking, spinning, or tilting.
Some common vertigo causes can be:
- Migraine headaches.
- Some medications.
- Prolonged bed rest.
- Head injuries.
- Shingles in or near the ear.
- Peri lymphatic fistula (when inner ear fluid leaks into the middle ear).
- Low blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension) – a condition in which blood pressure decreases when a person stands up.
- Ataxia, or muscle weakness.
- Otosclerosis (a bone growth problem affecting the middle ear).
- Brain disease.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Acoustic neuroma.
If your parent is suffering from consistent vertigo, finding the cause of this nauseating symptom will be very important. There will be several tests your parent’s doctor can do to help determine the exact cause.
While caring for an elderly loved one, one of the biggest concerns may be your loved one stumbling and falling when vertigo sets in. It may be beneficial to hire an elder care provider to be on hand to assist your parent in household chores when vertigo sets in or help your parent traverse up and down the stairs, and even across the room when the vertigo is strong.
There are also several precautionary steps your parent can take to prevent or lessen the onset of vertigo.
- Your parent should take her time standing up, turning her head, and making any other movements that may trigger vertigo (such as looking up quickly). An elder care provider can help her stand up slowly if vertigo sets in.
- When vertigo sets in, sitting down as soon as she feels dizzy will help reduce the risk of falling. She should grab the elbow of someone who is around and have them walk her to the nearest seat and see if she can wait out the vertigo attack.
- Sleep with her head elevated by two pillows. Some vertigo attacks are triggered when lying prone in bed and can make getting out of bed difficult. If your parent still lives alone, even if she has an elder care provider come by during the day, she’ll need to develop techniques to get out of bed safely in the morning. The two pillow trick may prevent the vertigo from even setting in.
- If something needs to be picked up, encourage your parent to squat to pick it up instead of bending over.
Bringing up the idea of extra help to your senior might get you a surprisingly negative reaction from her. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t need help, of course, but it does mean that you need to approach the conversation about home care assistance carefully.
Let Your Senior Know You’re Concerned and Want to Help
A common issue for aging adults when it comes to the topic of help is often that they don’t want to burden the people that they love and they don’t want to upset anyone. So what happens is that they refuse offers of assistance and muddle through on their own, to varying degrees of success. What matters is that your senior understands that you genuinely want to help her, so share that with her in a way that only you can.
Be Clear that You’re Not Trying to Take Over
While you’re talking through all of this with your aging family member, you need to be very clear about the fact that you’re not trying to take over. Many aging adults experience assistance as a code word for losing independence and having no choices offered to them. That is not a healthy situation for your elderly family member to be in and it’s not a healthy way for you to be a family caregiver, either.
Talk about What Types of Help You’re Considering
It can be very helpful to talk with your senior about the types of help you’re considering and why. If she bristles at the idea of home care assistance, for example, she needs to understand how that type of care is going to be helpful for her and for you. Home care providers can handle a great many tasks that make your senior’s life easier and safer, which is your ultimate goal for her. Go over the ways that you’ve found this type of help can benefit her the most.
Make Options Available Instead of Ultimatums
If you tell your senior that home care assistance is coming in and she has no choice in the matter, that’s probably not going to go over well. Instead, offer options as much as you can. Make home care assistance a trial option, for example, with your senior having a say in whether she truly does find their help useful. Giving your elderly family member ultimatums may get her to agree with you, but at the cost of your relationship with her.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be a Bit Vulnerable
It can be so scary to be a family caregiver. Don’t be afraid to share that with your elderly family member. She may find it helpful to understand why you’re campaigning so hard for some extra help, for instance. And understanding that you need help and time away to handle other responsibilities can help her to see that home care assistance is truly something that makes everything better in the long run.
It isn’t easy to ask for help or even to accept it at times, and that’s definitely true for your senior. Don’t give up on the conversation if she’s still digging in her heels but try to understand where her feelings are originating so you can compromise.
In creating a safe space for someone with a memory disease, here are a couple of things you should keep in mind. Routine is good. If we can keep the care receiver in a routine of doing very similar things on a daily basis, it may become habit and therefore somewhat easier for the care receiver to mimic. Routine is very helpful for people who have different types of memory issues.
As falls are so important for seniors to eliminate and people with memory issues can struggle with balance and walking at some point, it is important to keep walkways open and unobstructed. When you have walkways open and free, the care receiver can see where to place their feet and they can see if there is a hazard in the way. We recommend that rugs are taken up and that cords are moved to the perimeter of the room as to not cause a tripping hazard. Anything smaller than a two feet square should be removed from the floor if possible.
Additionally, oven and stove monitors are recommended. It is not uncommon for a care receiver to turn on a stove or oven and completely walk away never to return to check on it. The care receiver has a brain disease causing a memory issue. The care receiver should not have use or access to the stove or oven. It also extremely important that the care receiver does not have access to car keys. The care receiver can literally get into the car, drive 200 miles away without an accident and have no idea they have done so. They wont know where they are. Where they live and frequently they cant remember the names of the people they live with. This type of situation can be tragic if not monitored.
Lastly and most importantly the care receiver needs is patience and dignity. They will repeat themselves. They will not remember everything. And frequently, the words they remember most and easiest are the nasty words. We always advise our caregivers that they person is not being nasty. It’s the disease being nasty. The person has no control over what they say and how they say. Especially if they’re sundowning which has nothing to do with the sun.
These are just a few of the issues and opportunities to assist a person with a memory issue or brain disease. For more information, please visit us at GoldenHeartScottsdale.com.