Be prepared.

It’s a motto that’s served the boy scouts well over the years, and as you age it should become your mantra as well. As your loved ones age, take time to prepare and the transition from middle age to the later years will be happier.

There are three basic areas that you need to discuss with your aging loved ones: Finances/Legal Issues, Health and Living Arrangements.

Finances/Legal Issues

Though it’s sometimes considered impolite to discuss finances, if you have an aging loved on, it’s imperative. Sit down with your family members and make a list of all the financial accounts they hold and the amount of assets they hold. If possible, consider consolidating the accounts for simple use. You could also make bill paying easier by setting up online accounts for relatives that don’t have them, and teaching them how to monitor their finances via the internet. Finally, you may want to meet with a financial advisor or accountant to discuss your loved one’s finances and how they can maintain their lifestyle post retirement.

If your loved one suffers from a mental impairment or the onset of dementia, it is advisable to discuss power of attorney. It is especially important to work with your loved ones to make sure that you honor their wishes. It can be an uncomfortable talk to have, but make sure that your loved one has outlined what financial and medical decisions they would like made, should they be incapacitated. Visit an attorney to discuss legal options and finalize a will, or learn the basics here.

Health

You have to rely upon more than just an apple a day as your loved one ages. Get a full medical workup and discuss with doctors any possible health problems that your loved ones might encounter. Be sure that you have an up to date list of medications and help coordinate appointments when necessary.

It may also be time to reevaluate health care plans and make sure that your loved one is on a plan that will benefit them the most as they age.

Living Arrangements

Take a look at your loved one’s house. Is it safe for an aging person? Are there lots of stairs? Narrow doors or hallways that might make walker/wheelchair access difficult? Discuss with your loved ones whether or not they are committed to “aging in place”. If so, consider consulting a contractor to get an estimate on what needs to be done to their home.

Since studies have shown seniors thrive in a social environment, it may be beneficial to suggest a residential living facility to them. Look at full service communities, such as The Cottage at Curry Manor, that will offer your loved one a wide range of activities to keep them stimulated and engaged throughout the day.

At Capital City Nurses, we know that successful caregiving and aging are both linked to preparation. If you take steps to organize your loved one’s lives as they age, you’ll find that growing older is more enjoyable for everyone in the family.

When most people think of skilled nursing services, they often think of skilled nursing facilities, but there are those times skilled nursing services are needed in the home. These companies may be able to help you when you need them. How you might ask?

Post-op Care – If you’ve ever had surgery, you know that this is a time when extra help is needed. A skilled nurse can reduce post-op stress. Think of how at-ease you would feel if you didn’t have to worry about how you were going to take care of your basic needs. Stress is a major factor in hospital readmission. Reduce your risk by reducing your stress. A skilled nurse can help with bathing, wound care, and medication reminders. These wonderful helpers will also spend time chatting with you while you recover or do post-operative rehabilitation exercises. This friendly care will create a relaxing environment, contributing to stress reduction and the release of happy, healing hormones.

Care of Newborns and Their Mothers – Having a baby is a wonderful, joyous miracle. It’s also exhausting. Pregnancy and childbirth take a toll on you physically, as does bringing a new child home. It doesn’t matter if this is your first child or your sixth; a new baby is a lot of work, and getting help from a skilled nurse can be a lifesaver. Not getting sufficient rest can wreak havoc on you physically, mentally, and emotionally. A nurse help care for your child so that you can get much needed rest to heal from labor. These skilled helpers not only care for your new baby, they can help out around the house when needed. They know what you are going through and know what to do that can help and benefit you in the best way possible.

Special Needs Children – You love your child and are ready to do anything for them, especially if they have special needs or illness to contend with. As the parent, you are also the main provider for your child, which means that you can’t spend as much time with your child as you might like. You have to work to take care of them. Skilled nursing services are a great extension of the care you would personally give your child if you could be with them all day, every day.

Becoming a caregiver for a family member is challenging under the best circumstances. When your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving can be even more stressful. It’s imperative that you prepare for ahead of time so you and your loved one can handle the transition more gracefully.

There are three basic stages of mental decline for patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia: Early, Middle and Late. Each stage comes with a set of challenges that caregivers must be ready for to effectively help their charge. If you plan on caring for a person affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, consider going to the Alzheimer’s Association website and exploring their caregiver planning guide.

During the early stages, a caregiver’s role is mostly to help maintain their loved one’s independence. At this point in the disease, patients tend to experience small changes in their brain functioning, but are still able to maintain semi-normal lives. Your charge may still be able to go out independently to social functions, and manage their lifestyle. Caregivers are needed mostly to ensure medication is managed properly and that their loved one is happy and healthy.

During the early stage, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends that caregivers “make legal and financial care decisions for the future; try to complete tasks as a team; read up on caregiver resources; and seek out a support group when feeling overwhelmed.”

The Middle stage of the disease brings about fundamental brain changes that can affect a person’s daily life. At this point, living alone or independently is not feasible. “You may notice the person with Alzheimer’s jumbling words, having trouble dressing, getting frustrated or angry, or acting in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe,” explains the Alzheimer’s Association.

Because middle stage patients function on a different level than early stage patients, you’ll need to refine your caregiving strategy. Always speak to your charge in a calm tone, as they can be easily upset. Whenever possible, assess the emotions your loved one is expressing, as well as the words, this may help you understand what they are feeling and allow you to help them. Keep highly visible written reminders around the home to help them maintain a bit of independence. Keep an eye on physical or mental delays that seem sudden.

In the Late stage of the disease, caregivers must be ever-present to maintain a good quality of life. Patients may be unable to walk without assistance, have trouble eating, be vulnerable to infections, and incapable of verbal communication. It is important to create a supportive and comforting environment for your charges during this time.

As late stage is the final phase of the disease, caregivers can expect extra challenges. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests “playing your loved one’s favorite music; reading portions of books that have meaning for the person; looking at old photos together; preparing favorite foods; aiding with daily ablutions; and sitting outside together on a nice day.” The goal of a caregiver at this point is to maintain their loved one’s dignity and quality of life.

At Capital City Nurses, we know that caregiving is a tough job that gets tougher when patients are afflicted with a disease that affects mental functions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24-hour helpline for resources and expert advice: 1-800-272-3900.