Sun Safety for Seniors

Written by: Jessica Moreau RN

As we age, our skin changes. Our skin becomes more susceptible to damage from the harmful UV rays from the sun. The skin will begin to lose its turgor and wrinkles emerge. Individuals with thinner skin are more likely to develop sun-related skin problems, such as irritations, sun spots, and in some cases, benign or malignant skin lesions.

It’s important for seniors to get out and enjoy the sun, but they need to exercise extra caution when it comes to sun exposure. So how can seniors keep their skin safe while soaking up the Vitamin D?

HOW SENIORS CAN ENJOY THE SUN WHILE STAYING SAFE

Stay hydrated

When you’re in the sun, it can be easy to get dehydrated. In fact, you might not even notice you’re thirsty until you’re already dehydrated. Make sure to always have water on hand when you’re outside or in the car. You don’t have to drink it all at once – just be sure to sip throughout the day. If you tend to sweat more, consider an electrolyte replacement drinks (with salt and potassium) to replenish your sweat. Be mindful of the sugar content, however!

Cover up

If your skin isn’t exposed to the sun, it won’t burn. Covering up also provides protection from the harmful UV rays. Look fabrics that will help to block the sun and keep you cool. Just make sure you’re dressed to handle the heat, but still keep your skin safe. You don’t want to be too hot, so it’s a good idea to dress in layers. If you don’t already, consider wear a hat whenever you’re out in the sun; it will help protect your scalp and face from sunburns.

Use sunscreen

It’s easy to forget to put on sunscreen before you go out, but it’s a vital step in keeping your skin safe from skin cancer. Make it a habit to apply sunscreen whenever you step outside, even if it’s just for a short time. It’s also a good idea to carry it with you in your bag, so you can reapply if you’ve been out for a while. When you choose a sunscreen, SPF 30 rating is the minimum you should use, especially for prolonged exposure. If you are worried about chemicals in sunscreens, look for natural formulas. Here are some recommended ones!

Keep your eyeballs protected

Sunglasses are another important part of sun protection! The eyes can be extra sensitive for many seniors, especially those with vision problems. Wearing sunglasses can help shield your eyes from damaging rays. Make sure you choose sunglasses with 100% UV protection, or UV 400 rating, as these are the types of lenses that will actually protect your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun. If you wear prescription glasses, chat with your optometrist to “see” if you would benefit from prescription sun glasses – pun intended.

Keep cool

It’s easy for seniors to get overheated on hot days. Try to find a shady spot to sit when you’re outside and stay out of direct sunlight. On extra hot days, try to limit your time outside and take breaks indoors when you can. You can also try to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10am to 4pm when penetration of harmful rays is at its highest. If your home doesn’t have central air, consider investing in a portable air conditioner unit, or purchase some fans. It is easy to become overheated indoors when it is 30 degrees Celsius or higher outside.

Look for skin changes

Just one bad sunburn early in life can potentially double the risk of skin cancer as a senior. This is why it’s especially important to watch for changes in the skin for seniors. If you notice any changes, tell your doctor right away. What should you look for? A handy way to remember it is to look for the ABCDEs: look for moles that are Asymmetrical, have irregular Borders, have a strange Color, have a Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, or that have Evolved or changed in any way. If you are unsure about a spot on your skin, make sure you contact your GP or dermatologist so they can have a look!

In the mean time, cover up, stay cool and wear the sunscreen! Enjoy the sunny weather.

About the author:
Jessica is a Registered Nurse Psychotherapist and Intake Specialist at Freiheit Care Inc. She has been with Freiheit Care Inc since it’s inception. She has experience in community nursing and palliative care. She sees customers for psychotherapy sessions & initial intake assessments.

Glossary of Home Care Terms

Written by: Jessica Moreau RN

It is a known fact that medical terminology can be a bit daunting, especially so to the untrained eye. Terms such as “respite care”, “palliative care” and “gerontology” can be intimidating if you’re seeing them for the first time and aren’t clear on their meaning. We at Freiheit Care Inc have compiled a list of terms that are often misunderstood or are unknown, in hopes to simplify an already challenging time.

Glossary of Teams

Activities of Daily Living (ADL): things that happen every day and are part of personal care, such as bathing, dressing, hair care, nail care, brushing teeth, etc. Our companions and personal support workers are trained to assist or supervise our clients with personal care.

Family Caregivers: a family member or loved one of a senior who provides care to them in the home. In Canada, there are upwards of 8 million caregivers providing care to family members. Family caregivers are especially susceptible to caregiver guilt and burnout.

Gerontology: the study of social, cultural, psychological, cognitive and biological aspects of ageing.

Palliative Care: there is a tainted reputation surrounding “palliative care” and what it means. Palliative care has coined the nickname “end of life care” over time, and while this is true in some cases, even those who are not approaching the immediate end of life can receive palliative care. “Palliative care” is a blanket term used to describe comfort measures and symptom management of disease. This includes (but is not limited to): pain management, symptom management (such as oxygen therapy), psychosocial support and caregiver support.

Professional Caregivers: professional caregivers are trained and certified individuals who will enter the home to provide care. Freiheit Care employs 3 classifications of professional caregivers:

Personal Support Workers: assist in the home with tasks such as hygiene, meal preparation, light housekeeping.

Registered Practical Nurse & Registered Nurse: administer treatments in the home, such as medications, wound care, foot care.

Respite Care: often offered temporarily in the home, respite care can provide family caregivers with a much needed break from the caregiving process. Our trained professional caregivers are available 24/7 to provide relief to you and your loved ones.

These are only a few of the common terms used in home care. At Freiheit Care, we are happy to help explain what our services and definitions are. We don’t want there to be any confusion, because the longer you spend trying to figure things out, the less you will be free to live your life to its’ fullest. So, call us today and we’d be happy to define any terminology for you that is unfamiliar or seems daunting! Just another way we help you be free to live.

About the author:
Jessica is a Registered Nurse Psychotherapist and Intake Specialist at Freiheit Care Inc. She has been with Freiheit Care Inc since it’s inception. She has experience in community nursing and palliative care. She sees customers for psychotherapy sessions & initial intake assessments.

Caregiver Guilt

Written by: Jessica Moreau RN

Family caregivers are some of the most unnoticed and under-appreciated caregivers there are. They juggle their work lives, their families, their wellbeing and their social life with that of their loved ones – taking them to appointments, to treatments or to the grocery store. It’s easy for a caregiver at the end of the day to feel like they haven’t done enough. Caregiver guilt is very common when caring for a loved one, but it doesn’t need to be insufferable. The stress of caregiving, if left unchecked, can take its toll on your health – mentally, emotionally and physically.

It is important to recognize the feelings of guilt, explore why you may be feeling guilty, and to find ways to try to overcome it. Caregiver stress can cause feelings of guilt if not addressed.

Common signs and symptoms related to caregiver stress are:

  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Feeling increasingly resentful
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Overreacting to minor upsets
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression or irritability

Here are 5 of the most common reasons for experiencing caregiver guilt, and some suggestions to overcome it:

1. I feel guilty when I can’t be with my loved one.
When Mom begs you to stay longer or visit more often, it can feel like a real guilt trip. Busy schedules, work demands and family commitments make visiting difficult. Knowing that your visits are the highlight of her otherwise lonely days only adds to the stress and keeps you from making the most of the time you do have.
How to overcome it:
Try to make the time you spend together as meaningful as possible.  When you can’t be there, consider how companionship services could help. You won’t feel as guilty leaving Mom if she has someone coming on a regular basis whose company she enjoys.

2. I feel guilty when I lose my patience.
Caregiving is a true test on anyone’s patience at some point in the caring process. Caregivers of loved ones with dementia or cognitive impairments who exhibit repetitive behaviours may find this especially true.
How to overcome it:
Patience typically wears thin when you’re worn out and have little support. If you feel like you’re reaching the end of your rope, use that as a warning sign that you need to take a break. It’s important to remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Using respite care services will give you the break you need while ensuring your loved one receives the support they need.

3. I feel guilty when I take time for myself.
Putting another person’s needs before your own may feel natural to you, as these are likely the people that raised you. In a way, you may feel like you need to “repay” them. But you can’t ignore the need to care for yourself. It’s self-defeating to feel badly about indulging in a little time to yourself.
How to overcome it:
Remind yourself that in order to be the best version of yourself, you need to be well rested, well nourished and well hydrated. You won’t be able to care for your loved one if you burn out, so taking time for yourself ensures that you can continue to be by their side when they need you most.

4. I feel guilty when I rush my loved one.
It’s easy to forget that Mom or Dad can’t eat as quickly as they used too, or get dressed as fast as you’d like. It’s also easy to snap at them to hurry up when you’re in a rush to get a move on with your day. You may feel like they are intentionally moving slowly to spite you, but when you factor in their mobility problems, illnesses, or medications, you may realize that they are just slowing down.
How to overcome it:
We are all busy. Giving care to your aging loved one is not easy, and sometimes it’s easy to want to rush through it to make time for other things in your life. But it’s important to remember that rushing your loved one can cause them to choke or fall. Take a deep breath, and if they’re seeming a bit slower than usual, ask them if they’d like assistance instead.

5. I feel guilty for getting angry or frustrated.
You may view emotions like anger or frustration as a sign of weakness. People tend to bottle up certain emotions until they become too much to manage. It can be stressful to both you and your loved one if you begin to display your negative emotions in an unhealthy way.
How to overcome it:
While it’s true that too much negativity can be toxic to those around you, it’s important that you have a safe outlet for those emotions. Vent to a friend, engage in some exercise, or find a secluded place to have a good cry. If you feel it would be beneficial, go to counselling to discuss with a neutral party. There is never any shame in talking to a professional.
If you feel that you are overwhelmed, stressed out and can’t work past your guilt, seek out someone you can talk to and share your feelings. As important as it is to take care of your loved one, it’s equally important to take care of yourself too.

About the author:
Jessica is a Registered Nurse Psychotherapist and Intake Specialist at Freiheit Care Inc. She has been with Freiheit Care Inc since it’s inception. She has experience in community nursing and palliative care. She sees customers for psychotherapy sessions & initial intake assessments.

Aging in Place – “what” and “why”

Written by: Jessica Moreau RN

Aging in Place is a term used to describe when an older adult continues to live in their own home while they age for as long as it as safe to do so. Modifications may be needed in the home to promote safety, such as grab bars in the shower or a chair lift if going up and down stairs is becoming difficult. Older adults may decide to use community resources, such as home care, to assist them with daily tasks. By supporting your loved one in their choice to age in place, you are also supporting their right to autonomy and promoting their independence.

While there are several benefits to retirement home living, the benefits to aging in place are often greater – for the right population. Not every older adult is suited to continue to live in their home, and that is dependent on their condition, their physical limitations, their cognition, their mobility and their comfort level with remaining at home. The decision between aging in place and moving to a retirement home is a personal decision to be made with the advice of their physician by individual and their family.

There are 4 major benefits to aging in place:

1. Decrease loneliness

When your loved one is able to remain in their home, they are remaining in a community they have spent part of their life in. They have created social connections, perhaps engaged in community activities or gone social events. They do not have to go through the process of meeting new people, becoming acquainted and establishing new connections. This can be especially difficult on people who move into retirement communities with a high population of people with advanced stages of disease, such as dementia, as they can typically be less social and less engaged in social interaction.

2. Familiar environment

Change isn’t easy, and it can be even less so as we age. As we get older and our memory lessens, or for those with the beginnings of dementia, it can be difficult to adapt to a new environment and can be overwhelming. When aging in place is an option, the individual remains in an environment they are comfortable with. Some adaptations may be made depending on the condition, however the familiarity of the environment eases some of the anxiety that change can bring.

3. Maintain independence

Studies have shown that maintaining independence has a positive effect on one's quality of life. By aging in place, the individual has the option of receiving the care they need, where they need it, when they need it. Community resources such as personal support care, nursing care and companionship services provide the support one needs while promoting independence at every turn.

4. Routine

Everyone has a routine in some capacity. Wake up, wash up, breakfast, read the paper, walk the dog, feed the cat… In a retirement home, your day isn’t your own. You’re told when to eat, you’re told when activities are. Your entire routine changes. If you have been doing things a specific way for a long time, this may come as a shock to you. Pair this up with an unfamiliar environment, new people and a loss of independence and you may feel overwhelmed.

So, while aging in place offers the independence, familiarity and quality of life that your loved one craves, it also offers them ability to remain active in their community, and combats loneliness and social isolation. Aging in place is definitely something to consider, and if you call us, we’d be happy to discuss it with you.

About the author:
Jessica is a Registered Nurse Psychotherapist and Intake Specialist at Freiheit Care Inc. She has been with Freiheit Care Inc since it’s inception. She has experience in community nursing and palliative care. She sees customers for psychotherapy sessions & initial intake assessments.

What Is Home Care?

Home Care 101

You might be wondering what Home Care actually is. Do you or a loved one need it? Home Care, or domiciliary care, supports individuals to live independently in their homes.

The care and support you need will vary as your situation changes and your care will change with you.

What To Do After An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

So I've got Alzheimers. What next?

If you've had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, we want to equip you and your loved ones.

Memory aids can help you stay organized and ensure you take all your medications. Working with an occupational therapist may help you to stay independent for longer.

How Safe Is Your Home?

Keeping Your Home Safe

Home safety is important at any age but as we age or struggle with a disability, our needs may change.

Some of the things we need to consider are storage of medications, indoor air quality and handling food. It is also important to prepare for extremes of temperature. Snow and ice are slip risks, and there are health risks with clearing it too. Summer might seem a long way off but extreme heat is also dangerous.

This guide gives some easy steps to maintaining a healthy home.

Managing Your Pain

Osteoarthritis: Symptoms and Support

Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis, especially in older adults. You may have pain and stiffness in your knees and hips or in the small hand joints.

Although it cannot be cured, there are lots of things you can do to manage the symptoms.

Hydrated and Healthy

How Much Should I Drink?

It's especially important for older adults to drink throughout the day. Staying hydrated can reduce the risk of falls, improve constipation and increases overall health.

To know if you're drinking enough, check your thirst, your urine and your mood! Do you have dry lips, headaches or feel thirsty? All these are signs of dehydration. So is dark yellow and strong smelling urine and low blood pressure.

Water is best, but milk, juice and coffee also help.

Keeping Fit

Benefits Of Exercise

Aging doesn't mean that exercise isn't important! Regular physical exercise can actually prevent a number of conditions, including osteoporosis, depression and even some cancers.

This doesn't mean you should sign up for the next marathon, but going for a walk, swimming and exercising your balance and flexibility can make a significant difference.