Holiday Blues: How You Can Help an Older Loved One Prevent Depression During the Festive Season

November 13, 2017

It is not uncommon for seniors to experience depression during the winter holidays. You can help prevent “the holiday blues” by taking a few simple steps.

The winter holiday season should be a time of joy and celebration for everyone in your family, including your senior loved ones. Unfortunately, many seniors struggle with depression or the ‘holiday blues’ this time of year.

There are many reasons that seniors lapse into sadness—illness, injury, frustration with the aging process or loss of a spouse—but what really matters is that you find ways to prevent depression from happening.

The Signs of the Holiday Blues

Knowing the signs of the holiday blues is critical to helping seniors overcome their seasonal sadness. If you get involved early, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of making a difference.

Here’s what to watch for when spending time with your older loved one:

  • Sadness or irritation that doesn’t go away
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or other formerly pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of uselessness or helplessness
  • Feelings of isolation or loneliness
  • Lack of appetite or sudden weight loss
  • Preoccupation with death and dying

While this list gives you a good place to start, it’s important to watch for subtler signs as well. Many seniors aren’t willing to open up about experiencing sadness so take note of any unusual behaviors even if they don’t admit they’re feeling down.

Preventing the Senior Holiday Blues

Here are four effective ways to keep the holiday blues at bay:

  1. Give Freely of Your Time

Nothing is more important than being present for your older loved ones during the holidays. Spending time together can prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation, which are closely associated with the holiday blues. The only caveat is that you give it eagerly, not as though it were a chore.

  1. Listen, No Matter What

Everyone needs to be listened to, especially seniors who are experiencing depression. When you listen closely to someone’s concerns, it’s much easier to empathize and take their problems seriously. This simple acknowledgment of their feelings will go a long way toward alleviating their pain.

  1. Include Your Senior Loved Ones in Your Holiday Activities

A painful feeling of separateness marks most holiday sadness and inclusion is one of the best ways to counter it. Invite your older loved one to participate in shopping, wrapping presents, and decorating the house to remind them that they’re still an important part of the family. Inclusion can also mean asking them for advice and letting them have a say in family holiday decisions.

  1. Help Them Participate in Outdoor Activities

Inactivity and a lack of sunlight can make a senior’s holiday blues even worse so getting them outside can be a big part of the solution. This is especially true if your senior loved one is experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Activity could include anything they are interested in, but it should involve at least a small amount of mild to moderate exercise.

More Helpful Resources from Legacy Senior Living

A bout of the holiday blues is something seniors experience all too frequently, but that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. As you can see, there are many things you and your family can do to prevent depression.

Remember that we’re here to help. The Legacy Senior Living blog offers a constant stream of useful information every week. We hope you return to visit often, especially in times of confusion or doubt.

Contact us if you’d like more information or to schedule an in-person tour of one of our communities. We hope the holidays bring you and your family a season of good cheer!

How to Keep a Senior You Love Safe on Facebook

October 16, 2017

Safety on Facebook

More seniors are on Facebook these days. Here’s how you can help a senior loved one avoid the common social media pitfalls.

Kids usually know their parents are on Facebook and probably have been for years. But now there’s a good chance that their grandparents will be sending them a ‘friend’ request, too. According to a Pew Research Center survey, almost half of all seniors are active on social networking sites like Facebook.

That’s great news for seniors. Social media can help older adults feel connected and engaged with friends and family. The down side is that an increasing amount of scammers and con artists are using these types of platforms to find victims.

Facebook Isn’t Always Safe

From phishing scams to privacy issues, there’s a veritable minefield of dangers to watch out for on social media. Teaching senior loved ones how to stay safe online will allow them to continue connecting with friends. Whether it’s keeping in touch with faraway friends or viewing pictures of grandchildren and other family members, seniors love Facebook!

But adult children and family caregivers need to take steps to ensure their senior loved ones stay safe on social media.

Here’s what you can do to keep your loved one from falling prey to a scammer, hacker, or data thief.

Helping Your Senior Loved One Stay Safe on Facebook

Use these tips to help an older American stay safe on Facebook.

  1. Be Selective When it Comes to Making ‘Friends’

It’s tempting to accept every friend request you receive but the fact is, not everyone is a friend. Your senior loved one should be discouraged from accepting friend requests from people they don’t know offline.

  1. Take Advantage of Privacy Controls

The personal information you make public on Facebook can put you at risk. Make sure your senior loved one isn’t revealing too much to the general public. Snoopers are everywhere, looking for exactly this type of data.

Help your loved one by logging in together and reviewing the privacy settings on their account. Restrict public access to information about them as well as to their photos and profile.

  1. Use a Strong Password

This may seem obvious to you, but older adults likely have a different notion of what ‘strong’ means when it comes to passwords. Help them establish truly strong passwords on each social media and email account they have. Use caps, small letters, numbers, and symbols and avoid including any real words.

  1. Be Wary of Messages from Strangers

If a senior receives a private message on Facebook from someone they don’t know, it could be a scammer. Encourage them ignore all these types of messages. Remind them this is good practice for email, too.

  1. Be Picky About What Gets Clicked

Clicking on a link in a Facebook status update often takes you to a website. Sometimes these types of sites are risky. Even clicking on a link can cause malware to download. Make sure your senior loved one understands to be conservative when clicking around on Facebook.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Block People

If your loved one no longer wants to see updates from a particular user on Facebook, assure them it’s OK to block that person. This effectively makes it impossible for that person to see your loved one’s posts, too. And best of all, they can’t contact your loved one by private messaging.

Legacy Senior Living Has Lots More Tips Like This

If you learned something here today, we’re glad we could help. Visit our blog often to discover what else we’re doing to help connect caregivers, seniors, and their families with the resources they need.

And if you’re interested in assisted living, independent living or memory care for a senior loved one, we hope you’ll contact the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you or call us at (423) 478-8071.  We’ll be happy to help!

Explore the Benefits of Living in Independent Living

September 19, 2017

Seniors practicing yoga

An independent living community can be the ideal choice for many older adults and their families. Here are 6 benefits to know and consider.

We know that you have an overwhelming variety of choices when it comes to selecting a senior living community for your loved one. Our goal is to help simplify what can sometimes be a confusing process. Today, we’ll discuss the benefits of one of the most popular choices – an independent living community.

But before we present these benefits, let’s first talk about what an independent living community is.

What is Independent Living?

Briefly put, independent living communities are intended to provide support for older adults who are still in relatively good health. Most independent residents are able to tend to the majority of their day-to-day needs with minimal assistance.

Independent living communities range from easy-to-maintain studio apartments to villas or small cottage-style homes.

While every independent living community has a distinct personality and features different amenities, they all tend to have several important factors in common.

Six Great Benefits of Independent Living Communities

Six of the most attractive benefits older adults will find in independent living communities include:

  1. Variety of Services

Independent living communities feature a variety of services designed to make your senior loved one’s life easier. These often include housekeeping/laundry, personalized meal plans, transportation services, and access to fitness facilities and life enrichment classes.

  1. Beautiful, Maintenance-Free Living Options

Residents can choose from a variety of attractive floor plans and styles. It might be a stand-alone villa or an apartment. What they all have in common is maintenance-free living. No lawn care or snow shoveling required!

  1. Access to Help and Support

Some independent living communities have their own private duty home care on-site to provide assistance if needed. Many are on the same campus as an assisted living community, should a higher level of care be needed.

  1. 24-Hour Safety and Security

Independent living communities offer safe and secure living environments with onsite security staff and an emergency call system. This can give seniors and their loved ones greater peace of mind.

  1. Social Opportunities are Abundant

Independent living offers a variety of opportunities for socializing, entertainment, and fun. This is often one of the primary reasons older adults make this type of move.

  1. Conveniences Galore

These communities usually provide conveniences like trash removal, transportation, and lawn care. Some even offer concierge services, an on-site wellness center and a beauty/barber shop.

Legacy is Here to Help

From answering your questions to sharing information on the Aid & Attendance program for veterans, the team at Legacy Senior Living is here to assist you whenever and however we can. Contact us today to schedule a visit or tour of the Legacy community nearest you!

9 Tips to Help Caregivers Manage Anxiety

September 4, 2017

Senior woman meditating in lotus position at home

Caregiving is a demanding role for everyone, no matter how resilient they are. The responsibility over someone else’s health and making sure their needs are met can lead to high levels of anxiety. And anxiety can take a toll on your own well-being, including both your physical and mental health.

Caregiver stress affects both the caregiver and the senior who’s receiving the care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29 percent of family caregivers report having difficulty managing stress. That, of course, can affect your behavior in ways that become noticeable to your senior loved one as well as those around you.

If you want to be successful in your caregiving role over the long term, you will need to find ways to manage and reduce your daily anxiety levels.

Here are Nine Tips for Managing Anxiety

Keep in mind that every caregiver is unique and has a unique set of circumstances. So no two solutions are alike when it comes to managing caregiver anxiety. We encourage you to browse this list and see what might work for you.

  1. Talk with Friends and Family

The CDC, a wealth of data on caregiver stress, also reports that 61 percent of caregivers manage their anxiety by talking it out with friends or family. They also seek advice on how to manage their stress or how to make important decisions that concern their senior loved one.

  1. Manage Your Work-Life Balance

Use kind self-talk to remind yourself that balance is the key to being able to care for your senior loved one over the long haul. Instead of striving for perfection in every area of your life, set more reasonable expectations.

In everything that you do, every decision that you make, keep this important balance at the forefront of your mind. Let its significance weigh in your thought processes, always protecting the notion that you need time for your own life.

  1. Nurture the Spirit

Almost three-quarters of family caregivers surveyed by the CDC report that praying helps them cope with the stress of their caregiver role. This assumes that you’re religious. But if you’re not, there are other alternatives to consider including meditation.

For some people, meditation helps them approach the spiritual levels of well-being offered by prayer for religious people. Some people do both! Meditation has a calming effect, but it also helps focus your brain so you can better face the anxiety-causing stressors in your life.

  1. Get Organized

A major cause of anxiety is a lack of organization. Being disorganized can leave you with the constant, nagging feeling that you’re going to be late, miss an appointment, forget a medication, or somehow fail yourself and your senior loved one in your caregiving role.

Get a phone app (or two) to help you manage your time. Learning to keep track of doctor’s appointments, medications, shopping needs, and more on your phone may help you a great deal.

Prefer the old-fashioned way? Get a purse-sized calendar and notebook and use them every day!

  1. Get More Exercise

Working out—even if it’s just a daily brisk walk—can help with anxiety. Your body releases all sorts of feel-good chemicals when you exercise, and you get to let off lots of steam.

  1. Learn From Others

There are several ways that listening to other caregivers can help you. First, people usually find it comforting to know that other people experience what they’re going through. Secondly, you may learn tips from other caregivers about providing care and/or managing stress. Joining an online caregiver support group is an easy way to connect with peers.

  1. Eat Better

Start eating healthier foods and you’ll feel a whole lot stronger when it comes to facing anxiety head-on.

When you’re busy, as most caregivers tend to be, you don’t have a lot of time for healthy food prep. Consider taking advantage of healthy, home-delivered meal programs, such as Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, to make eating nutritious meals a little easier.

  1. Concentrate on Positive Relationships in Your Life

Caregivers just don’t have time for negativity in their lives. Focus on spending time with people who love and support you. Those friends and loved ones who listen to you and make you happy can help you maintain a positive outlook.

  1. Ask for Help

Finally, there’s no shame in asking for help. Friends, relatives, and professional home care aides can supplement the work you’re doing in numerous ways. Start thinking about what tasks you need help with and how you can enlist outside support.

Legacy Helps Seniors and their Families

Legacy Senior Living can help, too. We offer short-term stay options and respite care for seniors whose caregivers need a break. Caregivers often use respite care services when they travel, trusting their senior loved ones to the Legacy community near them until they return. Call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you to learn more!

Setting Realistic Expectations for a Move to Senior Living

July 17, 2017

When preparing for a move to senior living, the first step is managing expectations. Here are some tips for helping a senior loved one with the transition.

As you probably already know, moving to senior living is a process. It begins with a conversation, followed by the search for the right community. Finally, there’s making your choice, putting affairs in order, and arranging all of the details of the move.

But the process isn’t over yet. Now comes the psychological preparation — not just for your senior loved one, but for you and your family as well.

Managing expectations can be your family’s highest hurdle to jump yet.

Imagining the Transition Ahead

If you remember back to your first day of school or the day you moved out of your parents’ home, you might be able to recall the blend of emotions you felt. On the one hand, the tingle of excitement and the prospect of new horizons filled your head with hope and joy. On the other hand, fear of the unknown and sadness of leaving something behind made the transition bittersweet.

It’s the same with a move to senior living. One of the most important steps you can take at this point in the process is to work on managing expectations — for your senior loved one, yourself, and your family.

Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate the psychological waters ahead. They should help smooth the transition and set the stage for a positive experience in your senior loved one’s new community.

Guideline #1: Get the Whole Gang Involved

For seniors about to move to a new community, one underlying fear is that their social connections will be severed forever. That’s closely related to the fear they’re being abandoned. While you know that to be untrue, the best way to quell those fears is to get everyone involved in the transition process.

Setting up a new space that feels like home is often a personal process. However, having loved ones there for support makes a big difference. From planning the move to helping sort through possessions to physically helping pack things up, it’s better when a supportive network of family members is there to help.

Once the move has occurred, help your loved one integrate by taking the time to make the new space feel like home. Unpack, remove boxes, and place familiar objects throughout the room. Then, try to join your loved one for a few meals at the community so they feel less alone.

Guideline #2: Expect Highs and Lows

Just like when you were young and there was a big event on your horizon, there will be some emotional hills and valleys. Don’t try to flatten out the emotional highs and lows — they’re natural. Just try and surf the wave by talking things out and, more importantly, doing a lot of listening.

Guideline #3: Practice Patience

A key strategy for embracing this transition is to practice patience. There will be times, at first, when your senior loved one will feel the whole idea was a mistake. Some things may not go as planned. Or your loved one may not make friends as quickly as they hoped. That will change with time, so keep in mind that patience will see you through the difficult patches.

Life at a Legacy Senior Living Community

At Legacy Senior Living, we help each new resident prepare for this transition and support them through the good times and bad. But don’t just take our word for it. Call today to schedule a time to visit so you can see for yourself how we go the extra mile in creating an environment that helps each resident live their best life!

How to Have “The Talk” about Senior Living with a Loved One

June 12, 2017

Having the talk about senior living

Talking to a loved one about senior living can be a tough conversation to have. Here’s some advice on preparing for a healthy discussion.

Throughout your life, there are times when you are forced to have difficult discussions. Talking to a loved one about moving to senior living is one of those times. Some adult children say it is one of the conversations they fear most.

Don’t Give Up

Everyone has an inner voice telling them when they need to talk something over with someone. In a case such as this, that inner voice may have been pulling at you for a long time. Fear can easily drown your inner voice, however, causing you to delay “The Talk.”

That’s understandable since discussing major lifestyle changes with a senior loved one can be stressful for everyone.

It’s also why you need to make time to prepare for this discussion. The consequence of avoiding this sometimes uncomfortable conversation your loved one can be dangerous.

Even if you think having the talk will only make things worse, it’s important to express the feelings you’re having. Those feelings are rooted in concern and love, after all.

How to Prepare for ‘The Talk’ with a Senior Loved One

What you have here is a primer for preparing for “The Talk.” Reviewing this advice before you talk with your senior loved one may help improve your chances of having a healthy discussion, rather than one that ends up with everyone feeling hurt and frustrated.

  1. Consider the Situation from Their Point of View

Before you even think of approaching what might be a sensitive topic for your senior older loved one, stop and think. One major fear older adults express about aging is that they will be forced to give up control of their own lives. This loss of independence might make them more resistant to change.

Think about it: they’ve lost friends and possibly even their spouse. Their physical health might be slipping, and they may be losing some of their mental sharpness. On top of that, they may no longer be able to drive. Holding onto the lifestyle they’ve known for decades is becoming more difficult.

Being sensitive to those feelings will help you find the right way to begin the discussion.

  1. Series of Discussions

One sure-fire way to step on toes is to drop in out of the blue and try to take command of your senior loved one’s life. That’s exactly how it will feel to them if they don’t interact with you very often. And it’s important to know that decision to move will require more than a one-time talk with a loved one. In all likelihood, it will be a series of discussions.

Spending more time with your loved one(s) will help you understand how independent they really are. It also allows for the topic of senior living to arise naturally during the normal course of conversation.

Even if you live far away, try to visit on weekends more and to have “face-to-face” conversations via Skype every few days. Eventually, the issues will emerge and The Talk may occur naturally. The key is to practice good listening. According to AARP, it’s important to set the right tone. This is hard to do if you don’t communicate very often.

  1. Gather Information on Local Senior Living Communities

Spend time researching the options for senior living. At some point, your senior loved one may want to know what’s out there. Being able to supply useful information will help that discussion.

Go one step further and prepare for questions about senior living communities. One common concern is how they’ll make friends in their new home. Knowing about the types of social activities a community offers can help allay those fears.

Legacy Senior Living Supports You

Whatever outcome you hope for in your conversation, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Legacy Senior Living understands the hopes —and fears— you have for your senior loved one. You want to know they’re safe, healthy, and happy. Those are our wishes too, for every resident who moves to one of our independent living communities.

If you’d like to learn more, we’re here as a resource for you. Call us or use the form you see on our pages. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by. We’d love to see you!

Advice for Overcoming Caregiver Guilt and Finding Peace

May 22, 2017

Caring for our loved onesCaregiver guilt is normal. Here’s advice for how to handle it in a healthy, positive way so both you and your senior loved one can enjoy spending time together.

It’s amazing that, amidst a population who does so much for others, you will find so much guilt. We’re talking about the family caregiver community who give and give until they become exhausted and burned out. Sometimes even putting their own health in jeopardy. Then they feel guilty for being so overwhelmed.

Why Does Caregiver Guilt Exist?

But why in the world would someone who has, quite literally, rearranged their life in order to take care of a senior loved one, feel guilty?

Common reasons for caregiver guilt include:

  • feeling that they’re not spending enough time with other members of the family
  • feeling angry about their senior loved one’s overwhelming amount of needs
  • sometimes it’s even their senior loved one’s unmet expectations that fuel the guilt

Caregivers often catch themselves thinking they should be doing more. And since there’s no benchmark for knowing what constitutes ‘enough,’ those feelings can be hard to reason away. Whatever the origin of the guilt is, the person feeling it is probably spread too thin. That’s according to the folks at WebMD, who interviewed psychologists on this very topic.

Where Does This Guilt Come From?

The stress you encounter every day as a caregiver – especially if you’re the primary caregiver – can sap your energy, your calmness, your sense of balance and, if you’re not careful, your mental health. And when you’re stressed out and feeling pulled in different directions, guilt has a funny of creeping in and taking hold.

All these feelings, left unchecked, can lead to depression.

See where this is going?

Before you find yourself heading down the road to depression, take steps to deal with your guilt. Learning what coping strategies work for you will help you overcome feelings of guilt and move on to a healthier life.

Overcoming Caregiver Guilt

Here’s what to know.

1. Be Warned: Guilt is Your Wake-Up Call!

The first step is to understand that caregiver guilt is normal. Lots of people who share your role feel guilty, in fact. But they learn how to handle it before it becomes a destructive force.

For starters, they recognize guilt as a warning sign. They acknowledge it, understanding that it’s normal. They also recognize that it’s something to be dealt with head-on.

2. Remove Caregiver Guilt from the Equation

Just by reading this far, you’ve already taken a huge step towards handling your caregiver guilt. You understand it. And by understanding where guilt comes from and that you’re not alone in feeling it, you can begin to find peace.

Now it’s time to be proactive and take steps to eradicate your guilt. Here are a few things to work on towards that end:

  • Find a network to help you. Delegate some of your responsibilities so you have time and energy for yourself. If you’re truly overwhelmed and can’t find support, an assisted living community might be an option. Even if it is only for a short-term respite stay.
  • Replace guilt with something positive. For all those moments when you feel guilt creeping in, give yourself a mini time-out. Do 10 minutes of meditation, take a walk around the block, or just go out for coffee or some quick window shopping. The idea is to restore yourself, not wear yourself down by feeling guilty.
  • Recognize that you can’t control everything. It can help to understand what’s totally out of your control, so you can stop feeling guilty about it.
  • Find a caregiver support group. Yes, they do exist. You can find one online or explore those in your local community.

 

A Legacy of Supporting Caregivers

 At Legacy Senior Living, we know a lot about caregiving and strive to nurture the caregiving community we’ve built over the years. If you found this information to be helpful, be sure to bookmark our blog and stop back often!

Survival Tips for the New Family Caregiver

April 10, 2017

Special days with parents

For America’s new parents, there’s a vast amount of information out there to help them adjust to their new lives as caregivers of a newborn. From books on “what to expect when you’re expecting”, advice on how to balance child rearing and work, how to respond to the various ailments that babies get, and what to do when you need to ask your boss for flexible hours so you can manage daycare drop-off or pickup, there’s just no end to the guidance and advice that’s available.

But for new family caregivers of aging parents, there are far fewer resources. What America understands about the challenges faced by new parents is light years beyond what’s understood about becoming a caregiver for a senior loved one. Many of us, until we’re faced with these complex issues ourselves, rarely stop to think about what’s involved.

Survival Tips for Caregivers of Senior Loved Ones

So, what does it take to manage life as a new family caregiver? We’ve gathered some advice from people who’ve been there and faced those challenges.

Here are their top three tips and some advice about what it took for them to adjust their lives in order to provide care for a senior loved one.

1. Don’t Lose Yourself in the Caregiving Role

When you start sacrificing in order to care for someone, it’s important to know where to draw the line. Give up too much of what makes you “you” and you’re in danger of losing yourself in the chaos of managing care for your loved one.

Caregivers who carve out time for themselves, no matter how far they’ve stretched their schedules to do so, find that they’re more equipped to tackle the challenges brought on by the caregiving role. In other words, a little “me time” can actually increase your capacity for giving your time to others.

2. Admit That You Can’t Do it Alone

Even if you were to quit your job, give up hobbies, and stop traveling in order to take care of a senior loved one, you’d still need relief from time to time. Accepting help with caregiver responsibilities as well as your own tasks means you’re less likely to burn out, suffer fatigue, or encounter a health crisis of your own.

Some caregivers report that cultivating helpers in the community is important. Of course they rely on family members, but they also looked beyond their inner circle and considered others who cared about their loved one and who could help out in their own ways. It may be as simple as having the neighbor stop by once in a while or having an old friend visit from time to time. It all adds up to relief for you.

3. Master the Art of Becoming Organized

If you’re not already, learn how to become a more organized person. Most caregivers are stretched so thinly they can’t spare much time for anything but the essentials of getting by. Do yourself a favor and figure out how to plan and organize your days and weeks. The added benefit: you’ll have more time for yourself as well.

And caregiving can be a paper-heavy nightmare. Unless you stay organized and on top of things, it can quickly get ahead of you. When that happens, you risk taking on a whole new bucket of problems like unfilled prescriptions, insurance issues, financial mistakes, and other issues that stem from being unorganized with your paperwork.

If you’re a new family caregiver, life may seem overwhelming for you at times. Just remember, there are rewards to be found in your new role, too. Give yourself and your loved one time to adjust, and with a little help, you’ll soon find your groove.

More Resources from Legacy Senior Living

Looking for more advice? Check out our Aging Resources page. And don’t forget, we’re always on call to answer your questions about caring for a senior loved one. Call or email us any time!