With the heat of summer, it is especially important to keep a senior loved one in your care hydrated. I find it helps to have water close by in an easy to drink from container. If a resident in my care is not taking sips, I will “offer” a reminder and my help. For those who resist, you may consider adding high water content fruits, vegetables and soup at mealtime, or even Jello, or a popsicle. If someone has an incontinence problem, they may not take a drink even when thirsty to avoid an accident. Scheduling regular trips to the bathroom can help avoid those accidents and increase liquid intake.
When caring for a person who needs to improve stability and/or confidence in going from sitting to standing (and back), I set up a workout station using the three W’s – wheelchair, walker and wall. The wheelchair is easy to move, yet locks in place. But you can use any chair with sturdy arms. Just place the person in the chair facing the walker and wall. The immovable wall takes away the worry about falling forward and encourages an upright posture. The walker offers lateral stability, along with myself on one side of the person. And the locked chair provides a safe place to land if the person falls back. Now up-down, up-down, up-down…at a pace they can handle.
The effective use of color and contrast can be very beneficial to seniors with poor vision and/or cognitive issues. A Boston University study by Alice Cronin-Golomb, PhD. found that the color red can increase the intake of food and liquids, which can help to maintain weight and hydration. The contrast helps diners to recognize plates and glasses, as well as specific foods. I add a placemat of a lighter, solid color to make the plate stand out even more.
A heart-healthy diet that is low in fat and salt can be boring. To spice up meals and appetite, I add taste-rich ingredients such as garlic, onions, vinegar, citrus zest/citrus juice, cilantro, ginger and thyme. I typically avoid prepared seasonings because they often include salt. I also take into consideration that taste buds decrease with age, so I am not afraid to add extra until I receive complaints. For sweetness and texture, a fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt smoothie can be a big hit. (And make some extra for yourself.)
When a confused person decides to do something they shouldn’t, do not correct them. They will most likely resist and tension will escalate. Instead, “redirect” their focus. For example, when a resident decides to walk to the home of a family member that is 30 miles away, I may suggest that we wait here for their loved one and then fill the time with an activity, something else that is of to interest to them
When I administer eye drops, I first explain what I am going to do to relax the person. Positioning is also important so that I apply drops successfully and do not waste expensive eye medications. I recommend that the caregiver have the senior sit in a chair that permits them to comfortably lean their head back. This allows you to be well balanced above the eye and see what you are doing, and lets gravity do most of the work.