Caregiver Blog, News Feeds, Video Feeds, Useful Links

Friday, August 31, 2007

Reminiscing and Memories for Seniors and Caregivers

Reminiscing is an activity often enjoyed by seniors and recalling details from earlier in their lives can be good memory exercise.

Caregivers can share in the enjoyment as seniors tell stories about what it was like to cook in the kitchens of the 20's and 30's, or to drive the automobiles of that era.

When I ask seniors to describe the house where they grew up and the surrounding area there are always some interesting details.

Today we have fast food on almost every corner. Recently someone in his 70's said that he almost never had a meal with more than one type of food at a time during the depression, but whatever it was they had plenty of it. To this day he appreciates a plate with a wide variety and Hometown Buffet is his favorite place to eat.

One senior told me the story of living a long way down a dirt road on a dairy farm. Every morning at 4:30 a.m. the young couple milked about 24 dairy cows, and just as the sun was rising drove a wagon with a team of horses several miles to take the milk cans to a paved road where a truck picked up the milk. This was just the beginning of their day.

There is a magazine available called "Reminisce" that some of my caregiver clients and I have enjoyed reading and sharing.

When there is a stretch of quiet time you can always ask a question about what Christmas was like in the 1920's, or how people celebrated birthdays in the 30's.

One person described a Christmas tree the family had when they lived in a dry region and finances were low. The mother got some dried sage branches, sprayed them silver, and hung handsewn decorations on them. He said it was the prettiest tree he has ever seen, to this day.

Loose Stretch Clothing Comfortable for Elders

When a caregiver is assisting an elderly person who has arthritis or injuries to put on clothing the process can be difficult if the clothing is too snug to allow someone's head and arms through without strain. It might cause someone to feel soreness in joints of the shoulders or arms or cause a skin injury.

Choosing loose, stretchy clothing for an elderly person can help to make each day more comfortable. This will be safer too because soreness will not occur from twisting or straining to put it on.

Sometimes shirts and tops have shrunk through the years, or someone's posture and shape has changed. The caregiver needs to ease clothing on slowly and carefully because the joints and skin of the elderly are frail and injure easily.

Shirts or tops made out of stretch fabric that have buttons or zippers enable the caregiver to make the neckine easy for an elderly person to put on over the head without causing pain. Shoulders and sleeves that are loose and wide are easier for an elderly person or a caregiver who is assisting to put on without causing discomfort or pain to a sore shoulder, arm or neck.

If the clothing is loose enough it also helps to avoid rubbing on a hearing aid that is still in or on a sore ear.

Pants that are made of stretch fabric and have an elastic waist can also be more comfortable. If the waistband has shrunk it will pinch at the waist while someone is resting in a recliner or chair and this can be uncomfortable and may cause a skin problem. Tight waistbands and pants will also be more of a strain when being put on or off. Something loose will be more comfortable.

A turtleneck can be warm and comfy when there is a chill in the air but it needs to be large enough to be easy to pull over the head and to put the arms through without twisting or straining.

Roomy T-shirts, sweatshirts with zippers, sweatpants, pull-overs with large necklines and loose shoulders and sleeves, and other clothes made of cotton stretch fabrics can help make dressing and wearing the clothes more comfortable.

The caregiver can use an afghan or small throw blanket to cover a person's feet and legs, and their arms if they wish, while an elderly person is resting in a recliner or chair. As people get older they may feel chilled more easily than they used to and it's a good idea to have a small blanket handy at home and in the car.

If someone's neck, arms or shoulders are too stiff and sore to put a regular top on the back of an old top can be cut open with scissors at the back of the neck to enlarge it. If needed, the top can be cut with scissors from the neckline to the bottom of the hem. The arms can be easily put on and the top will be open at the back so it can be lifted off easily. If someone has had an injury but does not want to wear a hospital gown this is a way to wear regular clothing.

Socks that do not bind at the ankle are easier to pull on, more comfortable, and better for circulation too. Sometimes socks that were large enough originally have shrunk with many washings and caregivers can check to be sure the socks are not putting too much pressure on the ankles.

These tips can help to make a more pleasant day for an elderly person. Caregivers who provide assistance with activities of daily living in home care can use these tips to make a difference in the kind of day someone else experiences.

Seniors Can Use "Zoom" to Make Internet Text Easier to Read

If you are having difficulty reading the text on this website, or any other one, did you know that there is an easy way to make the text larger? You can even make the size of the typing huge if vision difficulties require this. It is easy and here are the steps to do this.

In the lower right hand side of your computer screen look for a small picture of a magnifying glass with a plus sign on it. To the right of it there will be a small arrow, actually just the "arrowhead".

Click on the "arrowhead" and a small pop-up screen will list amounts you can choose to increase the size of the text on your screen. You will see the main screen's text get larger and you can try different sizes to see which size is easier to read.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tips for Overnight Caregivers

Good preparation for overnight caregiver shifts can help make the time shared by a caregiver and senior to be comfortable and enjoyable. One of the couples I have assisted used to say "welcome home!" as I came in the door. It was a great feeling.

Tips for overnight caregivers start with keeping a bag packed ahead of time. Sometimes a caregiver can be called at the last minute for a 24 hour shift.

I keep a lightweight sleeping bag, pillows, overnight personal supplies, and non-perishable food items packed in my car for overnight caregiving.

The sleeping bag means I don't need to use the client's bed linens and launder them in the morning on the day before I leave. Having my own pillows helps me to sleep better because it's more like being in my own home.

The overnight caregiver accommodations might be a bed, a couch in a living room, or a camping cot if the need for a caregiver came up suddenly.

Sometimes there is a danger that someone might get out of bed in the night alone and fall. If so, then someone puts an extra bed in the room for me so I am there to prevent falls. Even with bedrails some people climb out of bed and fall, but a caregiver in the room can act in time to prevent this.

Some instant coffee or tea, creamora, and packages of nutritious instant foods are part of my caregiver's overnight pack. Protein bars, cereal, soups, and nutrition drinks have been useful. On the way it's easy to stop for milk or other refrigerated foods. Even though clients often provide food for the caregiver, it's frequent that the caregivers need to bring their own to satisfy their preferences. Many seniors are on limited diets and I find it's often better to bring my own meals.

I also have a digital clock with an alarm that can be set if I need to get up to provide care for a senior client at certain times during the night.

Other useful items include some books, audiobooks, videos, puzzles or games, and a cell phone. Audiobooks and videos that meet the requests of the senior I am assisting can add a highlight to the day for people who are housebound.

Local libraries have free CD's, books on tape, videos, and DVD's and a caregiver can pick up titles or authors that a senior has requested. Some of the favorites have been travel, family humor, and biographies.

On rows of 24 hour shifts there might be periods of busy activity alternating with times of sitting and providing companionship. Having some good books with me helps pass the time when things are quiet. Arts or crafts can help to pass the time also. I sketch landscapes from photos in magazines.

My grandmother, who lived on the opposite side of the country, used to hire caregivers for what she called "sitting" because she was lonely and enjoyed the company. Many of her "sitters" knitted or crocheted. One used quiet companionship time to sew heart shaped pillows by hand with artistic embroidery and lace added. Gram developed close friendships with her caregivers and they enjoyed talking and sharing experiences.

Sometimes I am called at the last minute when another caregiver has had an emergency and it helps to simply keep these items in the car so I can leave at a moment's notice.

Having the items in an overnight supply pack makes a 24 hour caregiving shift more like being in my own home. This reduces stress and I can share an enjoyable time with the senior whom I am assisting.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Caregiver's Love and Inspiration

At The Rose Dog Book Store on the net you can find a book about caregiver love, overcoming grief and depression, and finding peace.

"Seasons of the Heart - A Caregiver's Story" by Louisa J. Le Grande is a book about how she coped with the worst ordeal of her life, and found peace with God and His heavenly help.

The book discusses the huge responsibility of being a caregiver, and the desires sometimes to run away from the stresses of it. Reading about the author's search for strength and peace provides inspiration and ideas for caregivers.

It's helpful to have a library at home of caregiver support books. Like good friends, you can turn to them for advice or inspiration. When the caregiver role has too much isolation, there's always a good book to light up the day.

Taking Seniors with Wheelchairs Shopping or on Outings

Taking seniors in wheelchairs grocery shopping provides a chance for people who are at home much of the time to have an outing.

If seniors are unable to propel their wheelchairs alone, I can take them shopping by pulling the wheelchair with my left hand, and pushing a grocery cart with my right hand. If there is an oxygen tank, I put it on the holder on the wheelchair on the back, or attach the straps to the back of the wheelchair.

Seniors can bring their own wallets or purses, and can then handle paying for their own groceries when we are done. Women carry their purses on their laps, and men use their pockets or various types of knapsacks or carriers.

Going to the grocery store can be a highlight of the day or week for a senior who is housebound. If the person has a walker we can make short trips into stores or banks, when the distance is not too much. Sometimes people start on a walker, and get tired, in which case I quickly fetch the wheelchair from the car. A walker with a seat on it can allow seniors to turn around and sit down to rest.

Some seniors use one of the lightweight wheelchairs available, which makes it easier for a caregiver who has to lift the wheelchair in and out of the backseat or trunk of the car frequently.

If people want to exercise their legs and feet they can ride in the wheelchair without using the foot rests, and "walk" their feet to help propel the wheelchair, in addition to using their arms to push the wheels around.

One of the seniors, who was over 95 years old, and who used a wheelchair and an oxygen tank, liked to get foot and arm exercise in the grocery store. One day, when I turned around to look for fresh vegetables on her grocery list, she had disappeared when I turned back.

I was worried, and after searching I found her several aisles away. She was happily looking for cake mixes, while bystanders were handing them down to her from the higher shelves.

She said several people asked her if she needed any help, but that she told them she was fine. A store clerk told me that he thought she was there alone.

After that I made doubly sure she was always in sight, in case she needed me for something, and for her safety.

Taking seniors who use wheelchairs to grocery stores, hair styling appointments, garden supply stores for plants, family get-togethers and so on, takes a little planning, but caregivers and seniors can share an enjoyable time on these outings.

Love and Light from

If you go to you will find Empowering Caregivers, which has won a long list of awards for years.

Spiritual sharing at the touch of a computer key, by going to forums or prayer circles, can help isolated caregivers stay in touch with others and provide uplifting strength.

Meeting new friends online and talking to others who have similiar experiences can help relieve caregiver stress. You're not alone! Somebody understands.

The complete site title is "In Love and Light, Empowering Caregivers, Choices, Healing, Love". The mission of the site is stated as "to provide a safe, nurturing site for all caregivers. . . and to provide emotional and spiritual support."

We caregivers sometimes like to be independent heroes, but recognizing the need for emotional well-being and spiritual inspiration is one of the ways we can take good care of ourselves. If our own inner batteries are run down its time to recharge those batteries.

This site is also part of the Hospice Webring.

The site has won multiple awards including the "Divinity in Action Award", the "Golden Web Award", and a "Healing Well Award".

There is a "Healing Circle of Prayer", and categories on the site include "Inspiration", "Humor", and a multitude of practical resources.

Part of a caregiver's support system can include a collection of websites like this that a caregiver can turn to like a good friend.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Laughter Is Good Medicine for Caregivers and Seniors

Laughter, or at least gentle humor, can be good medicine for caregivers and seniors. Reading a humorous book to someone who can no longer see well enough to read has been an enjoyable activity I've shared often.

Some of the recent readings have been from Garrison Kieller's "Prairie Home Companion" series, a book on ""How to Talk Minnesotan", a book of humor by columnist Dave Barry, and "Laughter the Best Medicine" from the Readers Digest.

Books on tape, read by authors or professionals, often with sound effects, can give the caregiver and care-receiver some relief from the usual stresses and create a light mood.

Recently some visitors stopped by while a care-reciever and I were listening to "Dusty and Lefty", some humorous cowboys from Garrison Keiller. As the humor in the stories built we were lauphing all together, and the visitors said they were glad they stopped by to join the party.

After a dose of gentle humor or outright laughing, the tired and tense feelings can melt away.

Here are a few links to wholesome, family humor.

This site offers Laughter the Best Medicine, Life in These United States, All in a Day's Work, Humor in Uniform, Laugh Lines Newsletter, and more.

Background Checks on Independent Caregivers

The American Stroke Association has a site on doing background checks when hiring an independent caregiver. They explain that background checks can include criminal background checks at the state and federal level, checking driving records, checking for auto insurance, and perhaps a credit check.

Background and reference checks are some of the things a caregiver agency can do. However, if you hire an independent caregiver, which may cost less, the checking and references will be important steps for you to take.

Other issues when you hire an independent caregiver include payroll, taxes, and liability, and you can check with an attorney or an accountant for advice on these.

There are also services available and investigators who can do the checks for you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Medworm Offers Caregiver Blogs Category

Medworm, which was created by Frankie Dolan in the U.K., has added a special category for caregiver blogs.

Because the blogs are on a "feed" they are updated as new posts appear in the blogs.

You can quickly scan titles and new posts, and click to read the full information. I've gotten help with some puzzling dilemmas by reading other caregivers blogs. Plus, it helps to know that others are sharing similar experiences.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

CNN News RE: Caregiver Syndrome

At CNN you can read the article that just came out about research on "Caregiver Syndrome".

The article says constant caregiver activity, unrelieved, contributes to "Caregiver Syndrome" which can include declining health, anxiety, depression, anger and exhaustion.

Caregivers may develop a compromised immune system, high blood pressure and other conditions.

I looked on the internet and there is a lot of research comparing the health of caregivers with the health of noncaregivers. There are studies which focus on specific groups.

For example, some of the groups in the studies include elderly people who are caregivers for a spouse. There are also groups of family caregivers who are employed outside the home so they actually have two jobs.

The family caregivers who are part of the sandwich generation take care of elderly parents and children at the same time and often they have multiple demands made of them.

There are also paid caregivers, and caregivers who receive training compared to those who do not receive training.

When I searched the web I found many studies and sites that encourage self-care for caregivers.

As a caregiver I know sometimes any of us might feel it is selfish to take care of oneself.

But, good health is needed so the caregivers can keep taking care of others. A caregiver's needs to have exercise, sleep, a nutritious diet, social contact, and relaxation are not frivolous but are necessities. re: Wandering Syndrome

Alzheimer's Notes, a blog on the net, discusses the wandering syndrome and has a survey that highlights an important subject.

The survey asks "Do you think Alzheimer's patients should wear electronic tags for ease in finding them if they wander away from home and caregivers?"

My neighbors told me about their mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer's, who wandered away from home and family, walked over to a busy street, and got into a car with tourists who could see help was needed.

The tourists drove the person around town while the Alzheimer's sufferer tried to remember where she lived. She was describing a place that was later identified as somewhere she had lived many years ago in another country.

Eventually they asked for help at a local small business, where fortunately the Alzheimer's patient was recognized, and could then be driven to the independent living section of a retirement home.

One of my teachers in a nursing assistant class told the story of her mother, who wandered away from the facility where the teacher was a nurse. She must have gone out through the locked doors when visiters were buzzed out.

Some neighbors several blocks away called the nursing facility because they came home to their unlocked house and found an elderly lady asleep on the couch, wearing a wrist bracelet from the retirement home. She had evidently gone for a walk, and when she was tired she found an unlocked house and a comfy place to lie down to rest.

To read some alzheimer's notes that cover everything from A to Z, you can click on the link for the site at the beginning of this post.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Caregivers Can Subscribe to Medworm for Info is the medical RSS (real simple syndication) filter engine for over 4000 authoritative "feeds" and where hundreds of new RSS feeds go out.

The directions walk you through the steps to subscribe and it is very easy. If you are not a computer whiz or not familiar with RSS feeds, don't hesitate to try it due to worrying that it will be complicated.

After entering your name, email, and password, you will go to a screen to select information by clicking on topics that you would like to receive, or that you would like to read now.

Subscribing to get ongoing information about a medical condition can help the caregiver keep up with the latest medical treatments and help available.

There is a new Caregivers Blog category at, and medworm is seeking additional blogs to add to it.

To read some other caregiver blogs, or subscribe to information on a medical condition, you can click on the link at the beginning of this post.

Communicating When Parents Say "No!"

At the website for Caring Today there is an article titled "Caregiver Communication: When A Parent Says "No!", Tips on how to turn "No!" into "Yes".

The article discusses the subject of elderly parents who do not want to accept having a hired caregiver in the home. More success is obtained when the topic is framed as the adult child needing some rest, and feeling better if someone else can come in to help the elderly parent.

The article also discussed coping with elders who are having difficulties driving, and suggestions for discussing using family members or caregivers to do the driving.

One of my relatives continued to drive, until one time she accidently turned and drove down the off ramp on a freeway at night. She would have been going the wrong way against the freeway traffic. Luckily there wasn't any traffic. A police officer was near the ramp and he stopped her. She realized it was time to stop driving, and to let family members drive her or to take the bus.

Alzheimers Caregivers Benefit from Training

The San Luis Obispo Tribune has an article about a study in which Alzheimers caregivers received special training.

A social worker visited once per week, teaching coping skills and providing information about Alzheimers. The training made a difference and the article goes into details with examples.

The article explains that taking care of a person with Alzheimers differs from providing care to a regular senior. Symptoms of Alzheimer's can include aggressive outbursts and wandering.

When I had a relative with Alzheimer's symptoms it was before the condition was studied as much as it is now. The outbursts were psychologically painful and puzzling to me because they came from someone who had never behaved this way before.

The variations in the relative's behavior at different times of the day or on different days kept me wondering what was going on and what to do. This very sweet person would sometimes say things that were so unpleasant it was hard to believe.

Today, with the information we have available now, understanding this relative would be so much easier and life could be better for him. Practical training in hands-on assistance for activities of daily living would have helped me to cope better and to be of more help to him.

For the entire article click on the link above.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

San Luis Obispo Retirement Homes Offer Cuesta Adult Emeritus Classes

In addition to the many Emeritus classes offered at the college campus and other county locations, Cuesta offers Adult Emeritus Classes at several of the local retirement and nursing homes. The classes are free.

For information go to the Cuesta College website for Adult Emeritus or call (805) 546-3121.

Agencies vs. Independent Caregivers has a page that compares the pros and cons of hiring a caregiver agency versus hiring an independent caregiver.

For both the person doing the hiring and for the caregiver the issues can be complex.

When I worked as an agency caregiver,I appreciated having other caregivers available if I needed to have rest or to change my schedule to go to an appointment. When the agency needed a caregiver for a new client, I would receive a phone call if my personality and skills seemed to match the needs of the client.

If there was an emergency, I notified the agency and they were on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This way there was a team approach.

When I worked as an independent caregiver, I interacted with other caregivers and agencies to set up schedules. When in doubt about eldercare issues I telephoned my attorney for advice.

Sometimes clients wished to hire me as an employee, and sometimes as an independent contractor. I went to a C.P.A. for tax advice and filed quarterlies when working as an independent contractor.

My grandparents, on both sides, had a variety of caregivers, including independent caregivers who were students at the nursing school in their town. The nursing students traded caregiver duties for rent, but paid caregivers came in while the students were in school or working at the hospital.

When my grandfather "Grand-Joe" took trips across the country by plane in later life he traveled with an independent nurse-caregiver. By then he was 92 years old, and having an independent caregiver who could travel for extended periods of time helped him to continue doing what he loved. He was alone after my grandmother died and we were glad he could travel with his independent caregiver for companionship and care. Free Help Finding Caregivers

Families can find free assistance in locating caregivers from the site for Eldercarelink. They can fill out an assessment to pinpoint details of services needed and Eldercarelink will match them with agencies, homes or individuals who can meet those needs.

Caregiver agencies, nursing homes and independent caregivers available for hire can list with them.

Those who are seeking assistance can fill out an assessment form to pinpoint what type of services are needed. Agencies, homes and caregivers can fill out a form to help eldercarelink match them up with those seeking assistance.

If you haven't hire a caregiver or an agency before then looking through the elderlink pages can help you start to get an overview of home care and facility options. There is a wide range of assistance in home care from hourly shifts to rows of 24 hour shifts.

In facilities there is a range from independent living, where seniors might share a central dining room, services, and activities, to skilled nursing care where licensed care is available around the clock.

Caregiver Support in San Luis Obispo County

At you can find groups that provide sharing, tips, education and ideas for people who are caregivers. For information you can call the Coast Caregiver Resource Center at (805) 534-9234.

The opportunity to share with others who are in a similar circumstance can help to reduce the isolation that many caregivers say they experience as they care for family members. Developing new friendships and learning how others are coping can ease the burdens of caregiving.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Health Problems of Family Members Who Are Caregivers

Research and statistics show that family members who are caregivers are often less healthy than non-caregivers, and that they may neglect themselves in order to take care of others.

Doctors refer to the family caregivers as "hidden patients" and the term "caregiver burden" describes the physical, emotional, and financial toll of family members providing care.

The website for the AARP(American Association of Retired Persons), has an article discussing the exhaustion, stresses, and health problems of caregivers. The article discusses signs of caregiver burnout and what to do.

In a search of the internet for caregivers vs. noncaregivers I found a lot of research divided into groups. For example, I found studies of elderly spouses taking care of a spouse, sandwich generation caregivers taking care of elderly parents and children, and caregivers of people with Alzheimer's or Dementia.

There are also many blogs about caregivers for people who have specific medical conditions, and their stories and coping mechanisms are discussed.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Home Style Cooking, Memories and Seniors

Agency caregivers, independent caregivers, or family caregivers can help to make a senior's day a better day in many ways, and one of these can be to use home style cooking for a special treat.

Remember when meals were cooked from fresh ingredients, before the days of instant meals? Many of the seniors grew up when people still baked their own bread or muffins, created cakes from scratch, made stews from fresh vegetables, and used fresh fruit instead of canned.

The smell of bread baking or vegetable stew simmering on the stove can evoke memories of happy times and help create a warm, cozy atmosphere. Chicken noodle soup made from scratch sends an appetizing aroma throughout the house and sometimes people who do not have an appetite suddenly feel like eating.

Some elders enjoy sharing the cooking with their caregiver, and if standing up for long periods of time is difficult they can sit at a counter or table while making food the old fashioned way.

Caregivers can get an education in cooking without the help of frozen foods and microwaves from seniors who often like to remember recipes and share special cooking tricks.

Many of my caregiver clients who have been in their 90's have given me some cooking lessons that I treasure. Just think, in 2007 that means they are teaching me family recipes from the 1920's or earlier.

Cooking recipes from decades ago also stirs up old memories for them. I have enjoyed the stories of what is was like to cook with a wood burning stove, or to pick your own home grown fruits and make fruit preserves to store in jars sealed with melted wax.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"Self-Care for Caregivers" Guide

The book "Self-Care for Caregivers - A Twelve Step Approach" by Pat Samples, Diane Larsen, and Marvin Larsen advises caregivers on "how to stay strong and sane while providing healthy support and love".

The book is available at where you can read more about it.

Chapters of the book cover topics such as "What's Expected of a Caregiver" and "Where the Problems Start".

We have all heard about the recent article on CNN about Caregivers Syndrome and a book on self-care is a good addition for your caregiver support library. Taking good care of yourself is something that you deserve, and it will help you to take care of others.

Caregivers often don't want to take time for themselves or they are focused on others and do not notice their own fatigue. I've done this. But now self-care is one of my priorities. The seniors who are assisted by me will appreciate me more when I'm energetic and fresh.

OSHA : Using Lifting Devices, Avoiding Injuries

At the Occupation Safety and Health Administration website there is a powerpoint presentation titled "How to Establish a Zero Lift Policy That Works" .

This reminds me of when I worked at a skilled nursing facility. During the Certified Nursing Assistant training, Acute Care, and Home Health training, we practiced using a Hoyer Lift in class on each other. It was important to know what it felt like to be the person who is being lifted. When you are operating the Lift later, you can sense how the person who is being lifted feels and adjust everything for that person's comfort.

When the class that I took first saw a Lift it appeared strange looking, but after we got accustomed to using it and practicing on each other it was an accepted part of our routine.

The presentation is about a facility that established a program that uses a Lift and the presentation shows photos demonstrating the Lift. The Lift is a device that does the work of lifting patients, helping to avoid injuries to the people who are doing the lifting.

The presentation describes the step by step program.

For a variety of information you can go to OSHA's website at

Seniors Activities - How About Genealogy?

Caregivers looking for activities for seniors might see if they are interested in genealogy. Remembering life history, creating a family tree, and researching the family history and ancestors can be good mental exercise and interesting.

People of all ages enjoy life history and genealogy but seniors sometimes especially enjoy looking back at favorite memories and comparing what life was like when they grew up to what it is like now.

San Luis Obispo Genealogy meets on the first Saturday of each month. There are genealogy groups all over the world and people can join one in their area or find many groups and instructional websites.

The schedule on the website shows that some of the upcoming topics include researching in the SlO Genealogy Library and a presentation titled "You Will Never Look at Your Photo the Same Way Again - Using Forensics to Dig Out All the Clues in Your Unidentified Photos".

The meetings are free, open to the public, and include social time and snacks.

SLO Cuesta College Emeritus for Seniors

Adults over 50 are finding that returning to college for free noncredit classes or to local community education classes is a good chance to keep learning and to make new friends.

The Emeritus classes are free, noncredit, and are designed for adults 55 years old or more. The phone number in San Luis Obispo is (805) 546-3121. If you live else where you can check the yellow pages for community classes, colleges, education and so on.

Many classes are for active seniors but there are also classes open to the public that are held at local retirement centers for frail seniors.

The variety of the classes includes courses in Writing Your Life History, Music, Writing, Drawing, Yoga, Great Literature, Watercolors, Acrylics, and Film Appreciation.

There are classes in north county, San Luis Obispo, and south county.

Last Spring I took Great Literature (a different book each season) and Writing Your Life Story (which included beginning genealogy). They were so interesting that I am signing up for the same courses this Fall.

Stroke Symptoms and Survivor's Needs

The website at you will find symptoms that someone is having a stroke and how to recognize a stroke.

If you click on the "Survivors" tab on the left of the website and choose "Bill of Rights" there is a page full of insightful information titled "What I Needed Most from My Family, Friends, and Myself".

One of the ten "Rights" states "I needed you to love me - not for the person I was before but for who I might become". Number ten on the list is "I needed you to come close and not be afraid of me."

As a caregiver I've been in situations where I've noticed symptoms that could be a stroke, and it's important to get emergency room help as soon as possible. You can call 911 for an ambulance.

The Stroke Survivor's Bill of Rights says "come close and not be afraid of me" and sometimes others are indeed afraid to be around someone who has had a stroke. Some people feel nervous when they are around a person who is ill. Recovering from a stroke can take time, and the survivor needs others for social contact and support.

There is a lot of research about the isolation that people feel when they are ill, and this can add to the suffering. They need to know they are still lovable, still important, although they might be feeling frail and vulnerable.

Caregivers Guide "The Comfort of Home"

"The Comfort of Home - A Complete Guide for Caregivers" by Maria M. Meyer has been so popular that it is in its third printing.

It is available at Chapters of the book cover such topics as the following:"Is Home Care for You?"" Knowing What Level Care is Needed", and "Setting Up a Care Plan".

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Read Some Other Caregiver Blogs

At Medworm you can find lists of other blogs about caregivers or by caregivers. Many of the authors specialize in caring for people with specific health conditions and there are many helpful and inspiring blogs.

You can also find thousands of streams of information called "feeds". The information is updated continuously as new medical research and articles provide results.

I signed up and now I can check for updates with just a few clicks. The titles and beginnings of the articles show up in lists, and you can browse through them quickly.

Study Shows Pets Help the Elderly to Be Healthier

One of many studies is a release from the Department of Aging and Veterans Services titled "Pets and the Elderly - A Good Mix".

The report says studies showed that people who had a pet were more likely to survive another year after a heart attack and to have less deterioration. Elderly people who had pets in the study were happier than those without pets and functioned better.

Inspiring Stories by Caregivers

True life stories by caregivers can be found at Some stories are personal first person stories, some deal with caring for a family member, and others are by caregivers who became close friends when taking care of someone.

If you are wondering what to do in a certain situation you can find a true story by someone who has had a similar experience.

Elder Abuse and Neglect

The website provides information about types of neglect and abuse. The local Adult Protection Services in your area can also provide education, counseling and guidance.

Safe Lifting, Legislature, and Caregiver Injuries

Many websites dealing with nurses, caregivers and others who lift patients have news regarding current or proposed legislation to reduce manual lifting by using lifting devices.

When I worked for a skilled nursing facility we had several types of lift devices, and we were trained in how to use them. If someone is not accustomed to using lifts, or if a patient is not used to being lifted with lifts, training and experience can help people become comfortable with it.

At first the lift may look like a strange foreign object, but the caregivers using it and the people being lifted, became accustomed to it as part of the usual routine.

It can be part of a behavior modification. At the facility where I worked, everyone was accustomed to using lifting devices. The lifting devices helped to prevent back and other injuries in the caregivers, and injuries to the patients.

Below is a quote from the OSHA website regarding reducing manual lifting of patients in nursing homes.

Providing an alternative to manual resident lifting is the primary goal of the ergonomics process in the nursing home setting and of these guidelines. OSHA recommends that manual lifting of residents be minimized in all cases and eliminated when feasible. "

At the website there is a legislative update which refers to Minnesota's goal of minimizing manual lifting of patients by nurses and other workers.

"by January 1, 2008, every licensed health care facility in the state shall adopt a written safe patient handling program establishing the facility's plan to achieve by January 1, 2011, the goal of minimizing manual lifting of patients by nurses and other direct patient care workers by utilizing safe patient handling equipment."


The safeliftingportal website offers a huge variety of information about recent legislature, reducing manual lifting, lift devices that are available, and avoiding injuries from lifting people.

For a list of ways to prevent injury you can visit .

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has its website at and information about injuries from caregivers and other workers lifting people is available there.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Area Agency on Aging - Services and Programs

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging has a website at They have many programs to help enable older persons to live independently and this is one of the main places to look for information.

In San Luis Obispo County, CA, the local Area Agency on Aging can be found at centralcoastseniors. The Senior Information Guide is available there and you will find information about a huge number of programs for meals, daycare, transportation, housekeeping, and more.

The number for the San Luis Obispo agency is (805) 925-9554.

Caregiver Education

Caregiver Education and many other resources are available at familycaregiversonline which serves the Area Agency on Aging.

The online education is divided into modules and these are further divided into topics. Examples of some of the subjects include "Role of the Family Caregiver", " Behavior and Emotions of Aging," and "Safety and Independence".

I've read a lot of articles about caregivers who receive training. Studies show benefits for caregivers who are trained in practical hands-on skills, and in understanding the medical conditions of the seniors they are assisting.

The trained caregivers often say they feel less helpless and learning coping techniques enables them to have a better feeling of well-being. The seniors being assisted benefit by having a trained caregiver.

Some other resources include training provided by visiting nurses, by social workers, or by regular classes from a school or organization.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Alzheimers and Dementia

For information about alzheimers and dementia caregivers can go to the following website for

Learning about sundowner's syndrome and other aspects of alzheimers can help caregivers be prepared and help family members understand what is happening.

The Central Coast Alzheimer's Association has a website at

The Alzheimer's Association in San Luis Obispo is located at 3480 S. Higuera St., #120, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. The number is (805) 547-3830.

Caregiver Registry Available in San Luis Obispo County

A caregiver registry that provides background checks, reference checking, interviews of caregivers, and a service matching a caregiver with a client is available in San Luis Obispo County. They will also provide assistance with filling out insurance forms for long term home care.

The name of the registry in San Luis Obispo Couonty is A Better Care Provider and the telephone number is (805) 528-7778. The address is 1988 11th St., Los Osos, CA 93402.

Terry Usry founded the registry four years ago after many years of working as a caregiver. Her husband designed and drew the cute cartoon figure that is the logo for the registry.

Terry is especially interested in keeping a relaxed, home style approach that is friendly and enjoyable for the caregivers and the people they assist.

Caregivers can call the above number to be listed in the registry. As described above, a background check and other requirements must be passed to be listed.

There are also many caregiver agencies available and they can be found in the yellow pages under Home Care and Home Health.

Facilities Offer Assistance from Independent to Total Care

You can visit for information about a variety of options for care.

A wide range of personal care assistance can be found at assisted care facilities. For example, independent living can offer living in a seperate apartment, condo, or studio with meals available at a central dining room.

Partial assisted living can offer personal care attendants who are available at the call of a button. A skilled nursing facility can offer licensed nurses 24 hours per day.

Some facilities have a variety of options at one location. If someone starts out in the independent living section a move can be made later to a section that will provide more assistance.

Small facilities or private homes that have been converted to assisted care might have half a dozen seniors or so and personal care aides in a home style setting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lifting Devices Help Caregivers By Doing the Lifting for Them

There are many places where electronic or manual lifts can be rented or purchased. For a start on photos of lifts and information there is a website at rehabmart that shows some of the lifts available.

There are a variety of electronic and manual lifts. The caregivers need to have special training in operating the lift but it is not complicated.

When I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a skilled nursing facility the nurses and nursing assistants used lifting devices and electronic lifts regularly. This was for the safety of both the nurses and the people who were being lifted.

The sling provides a safe, comfortable type of seat for the person being lifted, and using a Lift device protects the nurses from injuring their backs and knees.

Matching a Caregiver to the Person's Needs

It is important to match the caregiver's personality and skills to the needs of the client. For example, if the person who needs a caregiver has a broken hip, then a caregiver who has previous training taking care of someone with a broken hip will be more familiar with the situation.

A person who likes to visit will enjoy a friendly caregiver who will chat and provide companionship. A person who needs a lot of house cleaning will appreciate a caregiver who likes to polish the furniture and straighten up the house.

Matching the skills and interests of the caregiver with the client's needs will create a harmonious situation.

Finding a Caregiver

In the telephone book under Home Health you will find agencies for caregivers. You can also find caregivers through referral services, ads in the newspaper, or by word of mouth referral from friends, church pastors, and nursing schools.

Checking the caregiver's background and references is important. Agencies perform these background checks before they hire caregivers and if you hire an independent caregiver it will be important to do the checking. If someone is going to be in the house it's important to know the person does not have problems with alcohol, drugs, or any illegal activity.

It is best to get legal advice before you hire an independent caregiver so that issues relating to taxes, insurances, the background checks, and reference checks can be taken care of correctly. Some caregivers are hired as employees and some are hired as independent contractors. Ask an attorney for more detailed information.

Walkers, Wheelchairs, Etc. Used or for Loan in SLO

If you need to locate walkers, wheelchairs or other medical aides there is a website at sanluissenior that has resources for equipment.

Walkers or wheelchairs that are used or available on loan can be found there, and there is a resource that has electric wheelchairs for free to qualifying seniors.

A variety of ways to save money on equipment and many helpful links can be found on this website.

Medical Alert Buttons for Seniors Living Alone

A medical alert system provides a button attached to a cord around the neck, a bracelet on the wrist or an attachment on the belt. For a senior who lives alone this means help can be called 24 hours a day if illness or an injury such as falling down occurs.

There are many medical response type kits available.

For example, the one recently shown in AARP magazine was for a ReadyResponse Medical Alert System. The telephone number is (800) 552-5378.

The senior can then press the button to bring help if dizziness, a fall, breathing problems, or something else occurs.

Sometimes seniors have the system but take off the alert button, for example when they are showering and forget to put it back on later. It can be important to be sure they are wearing it because it won't be of help if it is left sitting on a counter.

Senior Citizens Centers

Senior Citizen Centers provide a variety of resources.

In San Luis Obispo the telephone number to call for information on Senior Citizen Centers is (805) 781-7306. The website address is

Some of the activities are for active seniors and some are for people who are in frail health.

The San Luis Obispo Senior Center lists activities that include bingo, bridge lessons, gentle exercise, a camera club, crafts and sewing, and a gems and minerals club. They also offer free legal services and health screening.

You can check on the website for senior centers located in Oceano, Morro Bay, or elsewhere in your area.

Sometimes seniors are socially isolated because they have become too frail to participate in their previous activities and the Senior Centers offer a place to gather, visit, share special luncheons and suppers, or watch events and entertainment.

Meals on Wheels and Senior Meal Programs

In San Luis Obispo the Meals on Wheels program will deliver meals to seniors. The telephone number is (805) 541-1336.

This is a great help for seniors who live alone because it provides a variety of nutritious meals based on a balanced diet. The meals arrive in styrofoam containers and leftovers can be reheated in a microwave easily. I've been a caregiver for many people who received meals on wheels. If they live alone and are at risk for not eating a nutritious, well-rounded diet, then meals on wheels can be a big help.

If seniors have difficulty going grocery shopping then having meals on wheels ensures there is always healthy food on the way when supplies get low. Sometimes seniors have slowly changed their eating habits as they became tired or weak. It can become a cycle - less nutrition, more tired, too weak to prepare food, less nutrition, etc.

The number for the senior nutrition program is (805) 541-3312.

The website address is at for San Luis Obispo.

If you live outside of this area check in your phone book, on the computer, or with your local Adult Protection or Social Services for a program in your area.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Elder Law Attorneys Can Advise Family and Caregivers

In San Luis Obispo County you can call Senior Legal Services for free legal advice. The telephone number is (805) 543-5140. Their website address is at

You can ask general questions over the phone or schedule an appointment.

Caregivers are not licensed or trained to offer legal advice.

If you have questions about what can be done, or what should be done to help a dependant or elderly person, it is best to ask an attorney or to call Adult Protection Services for advice.

Families who have questions about estate planning and about legalities of taking care of an elderly or dependant family member need to seek guidance from an attorney.

You can check in the phone book or on the computer for law firms that list "Elder Law" or ask friends for referrals.

Your local Adult Protection Services may be able to suggest legal associations in your town that specialize in these fields.

Call Adult Protection Services for Advice

In San Luis Obispo County the number for Adult Protection Services is (805) 781-1790. You can also go to the website for slocounty and click on the tab located on the top of the page that says "Health and Wellbeing".

Adult Protection offers educational advice and counseling. They also investigate possible neglect or abuse.

When people want to help, but don't know what to do or where to turn, then Adult Protection can provide information and guidance. Trying to help someone who has alzheimer's, or dementia, or who is frail but accustomed to independence, can be complicated.

Adult Protection can also help you to find social services that help to provide in home support care and other types of assistance if this is needed.

I have called Adult Protection for recommendations whenever their education or counseling would help me to be a better caregiver for my clients. They have always been wonderful and I have appreciated their suggestions and guidance enormously.

If you do not wish to give out your name ,or the names of other people about whom you are requesting advice, you can call anonymously.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Caregivers Are Non-medical

Caregivers provide non-medical assistance and are not licensed to answer questions relating to medical issues. For questions about someone's health ask the person's doctor.

Questions about following a special diet, doing prescribed exercises, using special positions to sit or rest comfortably, using a walker, and so on, need to be answered by medical professionals.

It can be difficult to describe conditions over the phone and it is best to take the person to the doctor, or, if the situation has any chance of being urgent, take the person to the emergency room.

If the visiting nurses are scheduled you can call them between visits to clarify directions for the person's daily assistance or ask medical questions.

A physical therapist may leave directions for exercises, special positions for sitting or lying down, or directions about using a walker. If you have questions you can all the therapist or leave a message asking for a call back at the therapist's agency.

If the person you are assisting shows signs of any new health problems or of any changes notify the family or guardians and get medical help.

Depending on the situation the caregiver may need to call the doctor's office or the visiting nurses' office with a question, make a doctor's appointment for sometime in the near future, drive the person to the emergency room, or call 911 for an ambulance.

Caregiver Tips- Emergency Phone Numbers

Keep a list of emergency telephone numbers. These can include the family numbers, doctors, other caregivers, visiting nurses, physical therapists, and so on.

If these are posted on the refrigeration or someplace obvious they will be easy for friends, family and caregivers to find.

Caregiver Tips - If Someone Falls

Safety comes first.

When I took classes for Certified Nursing Assistant and Home Health Aide, the teachers discussed what to do if you are working as a caregiver at someone's home, and the person you are assisting falls. If the person does not appear to be injured, you can call the local fire department for a free lift assist. If someone is injured dial 911 and ask for an ambulance.

The RN teaching the class advised us that you can call 911 to get the local fire department if you don't have the number handy to ask for the Free Lift Assist. If you have the non-emergency number for the fire department you can call that number. If you don't want to alarm the neighbors you can ask the fire department to leave the siren turned off.

In the skilled nursing facility, where I trained and worked, if someone fell we asked the person not to move. Next, we called for an LVN or Registered Nurse to check the person for injuries. Then a group of nurses and nursing assistants gently lifted the person from the floor in a manner that would avoid injury.

Sometimes people are injured from a fall, but they do not realize it at the time. A paramedic, nurse or medical professional can check people who have fallen before they are moved. The nursing school instructors taught us that moving someone who has an injury can make the injury worse or cause more injuries.

If the paramedics find there is an injury the person can be taken by car or ambulance to the emergency room.

My nursing class teachers advised us that frail seniors can have bones that fracture easily from pressure or from certain positions and their skin can be vulnerable to skin tears. They also bruise easily.

The instructors said letting the paramedics do the lifting is safer for the person who fell than doing it yourself. Lifting someone from the ground or floor could cause you to have an injury to the back, shoulders, or knees.