Category Archives: Parish Nurse

(W)holy, (W)holy, (W)holy: Health, Healing and Wholeness – July 2024

“Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”  John 21:18

Jesus is telling Peter what to expect in the future, that he too will face the kind of fate that Jesus did. Peter, the impetuous disciple, needed to accept the sobering reality of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Whenever I read it, this verse also speaks to me of the sacrifices that we sometimes have to make as we grow older. <!–split–>

No one wants to find themselves in the situation in which they are dependent upon others for their daily activities. That is why it is so difficult to make the decision of whether or not we should give up driving.

Please understand that getting older does not automatically turn one into a bad driver, however, sometimes physical limitations can make it more challenging. Stiffening in joints may make it more difficult to turn your head side-to-side to watch for on-coming traffic, to accelerate and brake. They can also make it uncomfortable for our hands to grip the steering wheel. Reflexes are slower, and vision problems such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or cataracts make it more difficult to respond to the glare of on-coming headlights, street lights, or bright sunlight, and sometimes limit our peripheral vision.

We can compensate for some of these age-related conditions by carefully planning ahead: driving during the daytime; keeping to familiar streets; taking routes that avoid risky traffic spots, such as left turns and on-off ramps; not driving when we are stressed or tired; leaving at least two car lengths between our vehicle and the one in front of us; and keeping our headlights on at all times. Regardless of age, we should all wear a safety belt and stay off the cell phone when behind the wheel! Consider taking a driving refresher course (contact AAA or AARP) – in fact, by doing so, you may receive a discount on your car insurance (depending on your carrier and policy).

But when should we hand over our keys? AARP ( safety) proposes the following warning signs as indicators that we should either limit, or stop driving either temporarily or permanently (one or more):

  • feeling uncomfortable and nervous or fearful while driving.
  • dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  • difficulty staying in the lane of traffic.
  • getting lost – particularly in familiar areas.
  • trouble paying attention to signals, road signs, cones and barrels, and pavement markings.
  • slower response to unexpected situations (animals crossing, road construction, people walking/running)
  • medical conditions or medications that may affect safe driving (ex. untreated sleep apnea, diabetes, stroke)
  • difficulty judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on-off-ramps
  • drivers frequently honking at you
  • friends or relatives no longer willing to ride with you
  • difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking ahead (peripheral vision)
  • easily distracted; hard time concentrating
  • hard time looking over shoulders while backing up or changing lanes
  • frequent traffic tickets or “warnings”; driving through red lights
  • friends/loved ones expressing concern about our driving
  • frequent “near misses/close calls”

None of us wants to feel that we must surrender our freedom to be an active participant in society, however, we also need to be realistic regarding our safety, and the safety of others when we get behind the wheel. We can still be productive and enjoy a full life without driving. It takes some planning, and some sacrifice on our part. Don’t wait; begin to explore other options now. You may be surprised. The money spent on maintaining a car may go a long way toward paying someone to drive for us!

Summer Blessings!    — Kara Ade, Parish Nurse

After a Hospital Stay: How Older Adults Can Prep for a Smooth Recovery at Home by Marsha Jones.

For many older adults, going home after a hospital or rehabilitation stay is a big milestone. It can be not only physically demanding but mentally exhausting, too. This can be especially so when the recovery takes time and you don’t feel as independent as you once were. But with the proper planning and preparation, you can ensure a smooth recovery process and reduce the time it takes to feel like yourself again. <!–split–>

Preparing for Home Recovery in Advance

  • What kind of help will you need, if any?
  • Will you be able to climb stairs, or will you need to change how your home is laid out?
  • And what about transportation to follow-up appointments?

These are just some of the things to address ahead of time so you have the support and assistance for a comfortable and safe recovery at home. Ideally, you should consider these questions before you go into the hospital or rehab center.

Here are some tips for questions to consider asking and things you might want to prepare for:

  • Communicate with your health care team. If the hospitalization is planned, much of the information you need to be prepared can be asked ahead of time. Your pre-op appointment is the time to ask about medications that will be needed, follow-up appointments, dietary restrictions, and any specific instructions for managing your condition at home. This discussion should include whether you’ll need physical, occupational, or speech therapy. But if the hospitalization wasn’t planned, your health care providers should explain your post-hospital care plan and needs before discharge.
  • Ask family and friends to help. Reach out to family members, friends, or neighbors who can help during your recovery. Asking them to do tasks such as making meals, grocery shopping, and household chores can be a huge help. If that’s not an option, contact your local Right at Home office to learn how their professional caregivers can help with these and other needs.
  • Arrange transportation. Make transportation arrangements for your journey home. You may need help getting in and out of vehicles, so ensure transportation options cater to your needs. You’ll also likely have follow-up appointments or physical therapy sessions to get to, not to mention that arrangements will need to be made so you can get needed medications and groceries.

Prepare your home.

  • Make any changes to your home that will be needed to accommodate your recovery needs. Clear pathways of clutter, secure rugs to prevent tripping hazards, and consider installing handrails or grab bars in bathrooms and high-traffic areas to reduce the risk of a fall.
  • Stock up on essentials. Be sure you have essential supplies, such as medications, wound care materials, and any durable medical equipment prescribed by your health care providers. Having these items readily available will streamline your recovery process and reduce stress.

Getting Help With Household Chores Makes Your Recuperation Easier   Everyone knows how nice it is to have a helping hand. That’s especially true when it comes to recovering at home. Here are the types of help around the house that can be a big relief to someone who’s recuperating:

  • Personal care. Depending on your level of mobility and independence, you may need help with personal care activities, such as bathing, dressing, using the toilet, and grooming.
  • Meal prep and nutrition. Recovery requires a nutritious diet. Consider meal delivery services and meal kits. If your recovery depends on a specialized diet, ask a friend, family member, or professional caregiver to help.
  • Household chores and errands. Tasks such as laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and pet care can be physically demanding and may require additional support during recovery.
  • Transportation to medical appointments. Follow-up appointments help your health care providers monitor your progress and answer your questions. Arrange transportation to and from appointments if you are unable to drive or navigate public transportation independently.

Emotional support and companionship. Recovery can be emotionally challenging. Having emotional support and companionship can greatly impact your well-being. Stay connected with loved ones, friends, or support groups who can offer encouragement, companionship, and a listening ear.

Planning Your Post-Hospitalization Recovery Is Essential.  Navigating your return home requires careful planning, support, and collaboration with your health care team and loved ones. By preparing in advance and enlisting help for your recovery needs, you’ll benefit from a supportive and nurturing environment that promotes healing, comfort, and peace of mind on the road to recovery.

How Right at Home Can Help

Your local Right at Home office can help with a wide range of services, including light housekeeping, personal care, and respite care to fill in when your family or friends can’t be there. Use our office locator to contact the office nearest you to find out more.

For additional information, download our free Adult Caregiving Guide. And consider subscribing to our free monthly e-newsletter, Caring Right at Home, for ongoing information, tips, and advice delivered to your inbox.

Your Parish Nurse,  Kara

Marsha Johns is a veteran health care marketer and award-winning writer. She strives to make medical topics understandable and relatable for all readers.


Dementia-Related Anger in Seniors – Tips for Caregivers

A recent study by Columbia University Irving Medical Center found that 1 in 10 older Americans has dementia. While we may all be familiar with the more commonly associated changes, such as forgetfulness, wandering, inability to recognize loved ones and friends, and poor hygiene, one of the hardest behaviors to cope with is anger and aggression. <!–split–>

Not All With Dementia Will Display Anger and Aggression  While not all people with dementia will display anger and aggressive behaviors, according to the National Institutes of Health, agitation has been reported in 60% of patients with mild cognitive impairment and 76% of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Anger and aggression typically occurs in the middle to later stages of the disease. Caring for individuals with anger and aggressive behaviors is not only challenging and exhausting but often frightening. Angry and aggressive behaviors include:

  • Throwing items
  • Swearing
  • Raising their voice, yelling, and screaming
  • Kicking, pushing, hitting, and spitting
  • Physically attacking their caregivers, family, and friends

Defining Angry and Aggressive Behavior  Although all causes of anger and aggression are unpredictable in people with dementia, many include the following:

  • Confusion/paranoia – They are unable to recognize people and places, causing them to feel threatened.
  • Misunderstandings – They have difficulty understanding what others are saying, causing them to become frustrated or misinterpret what is being said.
  • Loud noises – Because they do not understand the source of loud noise, such as thunder, sirens, or horns honking, they become frightened and lash out.
  • Delusions – Because they don’t recognize others, they become delusional and react aggressively.
  • Hallucinations – They experience hallucinations, including the feeling of insects crawling on them, seeing loved ones and friends who are dead, and so on.
  • Physical problems – They often experience physical problems, perhaps because they are in pain, reacting to medications, hungry, or lacking sleep.

Responding to Anger and Aggression  The Alzheimer’s Association recommends identifying the cause of dementia-related behavior and when possible, determining how to avoid it in the future. Suggestions for how to respond when aggression and anger occur include the following:

  • Think about what happened right before the reaction that may have triggered the behavior.
  • Try to rule out any pain that may have triggered aggressive behavior.
  • Rather than focusing on specific details, consider the person’s emotions. Look for the feelings behind the words or actions.
  • Although it’s hard, try to be positive and reassuring in a soft tone of voice.
  • Examine the person’s surroundings. Are there things distracting them?
  • Use music, massage, or exercise to help soothe the person.
  • The immediate situation or activity may have unintentionally caused the aggressive response. Try something different.
  • If the person is in a safe environment and you could leave them briefly, walk away and take a moment for yourself.
  • Make sure you and the person are safe. If the person is unable to calm down, seek assistance from others. Always call 911 in emergencies. If you do call 911, make sure to tell emergency responders that the person has dementia, which causes them to act aggressively.

An In-Depth Look at Dementia  If you are a caregiver or family member of a person with dementia, Right at Home offers a free, downloadable Dementia and Cognitive Change Guide to help you on the journey. Subjects covered include:

  • The five most common causes of dementia.
  • Right at Home’s approach to caring for someone with dementia.
  • How dementia can impact families and relationships.
  • Key focus areas when caring for a loved one with dementia.
  • Nutrition and dining guidance.
  • Communication challenges and tips.
  • Questions to ask when hiring a caregiver.

Taking Care of the Family Caregiver  Caring for someone with dementia can be physically and mentally exhausting. Although their care is a priority, you can’t care for them if you don’t take care of yourself. Right at Home recommends the following:

  • Take care of your own health – Get enough sleep and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Set aside some time regularly to get exercise. Keep preventive medical care appointments.
  • Give yourself a break – Enlist other family members for assistance on a regular basis. Ask them to help by running errands or providing transportation to medical appointments. If you don’t have relatives nearby, consider seeking respite care from a professional in-home care agency such as Right at Home.
  • Check out resources in your community – Various organizations offer many resources. AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, and Family Caregiver Alliance are excellent organizations to consult for resources.

(Marsha Johns is a veteran health care marketer and award-winning writer. She strives to make medical topics understandable and relatable for all readers.)

Your Parish Nurse,  Kara