Senior Caregivers: Tips For Taking A Vacation

Those of us who -- well, let's just say we've been around for a few years now -- we may remember Madonna's breakthrough "Holiday" hit way back in 1983. If we could all just take a little break, she imagined, it would be so nice.

And wouldn't it be? That's especially true if you're a volunteer caregiver for a relative or friend in your community.

Long-term care is extraordinarily expensive, and the reality is that the majority of America's senior care providers are in-home family members who provide those services out of the goodness of their hearts. These are people who have lives, careers, and families of their own, so their daily schedules can become big challenges.

It's a balancing act worthy of a tent and a tightrope!

Summer is no time for stress, though. It's time to get away, rejuvenate, and harness enough energy to keep you going strong through the end of the year. So here's our message to anyone currently caring for a senior: it's vacation time.

"But how?" you might ask. Volunteer or not, you have responsibilities, and someone very special is counting on you. How can you get away? It's easy if you try! Here are a few tips to help you make Madonna's motto your own this year:

  • If you're looking for more "me time" than "we time," you can consider an adult daycare service if it's available in your area. Alternatively, you might look for an in-home nursing assistant or senior companion who can come in for a week or two at a time. Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer short-term placement services as well.
  • Traveling with your mom, dad, or another family member in your care? A little homework can go a long way. Look for a getaway that offers the kind of fun that won't overwhelm the family. Be sure your hotel is located close to a doctor, pharmacy, hospital, or any other resource you might need to access in a pinch.
  • You might also find an in-home caregiver within your destination city. They can sometimes come to the hotel and help out while you take time to explore on your own.
  • Stock up on prescriptions, medical supplies, snacks, and anything else your loved one might need before you go.
  • Talk to concierge professionals about securing rental cars and hotel rooms that meet your senior's accessibility needs.

Holidays aren't always an option, but if you feel overdue for one, we're here to give you the best summer present ever: a permission slip. Give yourself a little break. Have some fun. You deserve it.

Can Lifestyle Changes Prevent Cognitive Decline?

Music is truly "chicken soup for the soul". Experts have long been mystified by the therapeutic power of a message set to melody. In times both easy and hard, music matters. Studies have shown that even sad songs have a way of making us happier by the end. Indeed, therapists around the country are increasingly incorporating music into their care.

On June 30, Apple launched its much-anticipated Apple Music service, which gives users unlimited, instantaneous access to a seemingly endless library of songs. Newcomers can access a three-month free trial with no obligation (just be sure to turn off Auto-Renew in the settings if you don't plan to pick up the $9.99/month fee when the trial ends).

We know that many of our readers are coping with Alzheimer's or dementia in their families, so in light of Apple Music's debut, we thought we'd recommend a few heart-healing songs inspired by the artists own experiences with dementia.

AMY GRANT

Pop and gospel star Amy Grant has emerged as something of a spokesperson for family caregivers. Grant's parents were both diagnosed with rare and severe dementia around the same time, and those experiences have inspired a number of her newer songs. Here are some that stand out:

  • "Unafraid" Each verse explains how someone in Grant's life learned to live life without fear. The final verse is reserved for her mother, who finds a unique perspective on her impending battle with dementia.
  • "Our Time Is Now" Carole King joins Grant here, as do Amy's five children in the chorus. The most special guest, though, is her dad. Grant explains that music was the only memory he had left by the time they recorded this track. She brought him into a studio and asked him to hum "Frère Jacques," a simple tune he still knew. Then, with Paul Simon's help, Grant built a whole song around it. The lyrics urge us all to savor the time we still have with our loved ones.

REBA MCENTIRE

In "Moving Oleta" songwriter Barry Dean reflects on his grandmother's transition to a nursing home. He gazes at her through his grandfather's perspective, realizing that to him, she's still the young woman he fell in love with long ago. McEntire's tender vocals bring the story to heartwarming life.

KENNY CHESNEY

"While He Still Knows Who I Am" is one of those songs that are sure to bring a tear to your eyes. It's a feel-good tear, though, as the singer learns to look at his dad a little differently in light of an Alzheimer's diagnosis.

DAVID MAINELLI

"I Will Remember for You" a sweet little song that reminds us that our parents memories can live on in our own lives. Search for it on YouTube and you'll find a touching music video to go along with it.

M-Words: 5 Brain-Boosting Memory Exercises For Aging Adults

Each week seems to bring a new headline on cutting-edge advances in the war against aging. A recurring theme in those reports: the benefit of brain-boosting exercises. The mind is like a muscle in that it needs regular exercise to stay strong.

The media usually covers these stories in the context of dementia, but the science says that just about everyone stands to benefit from staying sharp as they age.

We've put together five easy exercises to give your gray matter a good old-fashioned workout. And as long as we're talking about mind and memory, we thought we'd focus on a few more M-words that are easy to remember:

  • Math. We know what you're thinking -- we're off to a bad start already. Math!? What's fun about that? We aren't talking textbooks, though! Pick up a pamphlet of fun word problems or logic games and use your math skills to solve a few each day. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy them.
  • Maps. Pull out a pad of paper and draw maps of places you've been from memory. Theme parks, shopping malls, recent vacation destinations, and your hometown make for a good start. Get as artsy as you'd like!
  • Music. Elsewhere in this newsletter, we talked about the healing power of listening to an inspiring song. Why not make your own music too? Studies show that learning (or re-learning) to play an instrument can pay some major mental dividends as you get older.
  • Munching. Trying new foods has been shown to help stimulate the brain. This is especially effective if you make the food yourself, as cooking uses all five senses at the same time. Sign up for a cooking class and you'll add some social stimulation to your repertoire too!
  • Moving Around. We all know that physical exercise is good for the body, but some sports help the mind just as much! Tennis, golf, yoga, ping-pong, martial arts, and dancing are all proven brain boosters!

No matter your age, mental health is worth a workout! Pick an exercise or two from our list and commit to making them a part of your day-to-day life. You'll be glad you did!

 

A Personal Note From Becky

I know how difficult it can be for the sandwhich generation. My grandmother moved in with my mom while I was still in high-school. It took years before my mom found services that she could connect with to help with grandma's care and respite services for herself.

At Cholewka Law, we partner with many groups as a legal resource for families. If you are looking for additional resources, please connect with one of the following.

Alliance Care Team (ACT): www.alliancecareteam.org

The Alliance Care Team will help you connect with specialized professionals in our community who will provide you with products and services you need while remaining committed to finding ways to solve your problems.

East Valley Adult Resources (EVAR): www.evadultresources.org

EVAR exists to provide services to seniors and their families. Their dynamic and diverse Active Adult Centers and community based programs offer a variety of opportunities for older adults to remain healthy, independent, and connected to their community.

Human Services Professionals (HSP): www.hspeastvalley.com

HSP is an organization dedicated to professionals serving the senior industry.HSP is committed to educating members as well as the community, and providing current information regarding community resources.

Blessings,

Becky Cholewka