Patient Perspective: Julie's Story

 Julie's Story - Caring For Her Incontinent Mother

I’ve always been close to my Mom, but after my Dad passed away 5 years ago, we became closer than ever. We talked on the phone every day and I checked in with her every weekend. She was still very active, even after Dad passed, and continued to play golf every month, meet her girlfriends for bridge and walk her dog two times a day.  All of this changed when she had a stroke.

Suddenly, my very independent Mother was unable to do most things for herself.  Without a second thought, I took her in and cared for her as much as possible as she began her slow path to recovery. It was a shock to suddenly watch a woman that I always looked to for guidance become suddenly, completely dependent on me.  

I’m not going to lie - it’s been difficult at times.  She has always been a very proud woman and to have to ask for help for things like using the bathroom, or worse, to need help cleaning up after an accident, was mortifying for her and uncomfortable for me.  

After some trial and error, we finally developed a rhythm with each other and learned which products worked best for day and night. Even though it’s hard, I’m so grateful to still have my mom with me, and I can’t thank organizations like NAFC enough for providing education on management options during this difficult time of life. Help is there if you need it - you just need to know where to look.  

Julie F., Tampa, FL

A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

 A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

One of the most challenging things about being a caregiver to someone who has incontinence can be the mornings. Waking up each day to your loved one’s wet bed can be both physically and emotionally draining. No one likes to wash and change sheets each day, and knowing the discomfort (and likely embarrassment) that your loved one feels can be disheartening.  In fact, incontinence is often a big reason that older adults are placed into long-term care facilities.

The key to managing this problem is prevention. Having the right tools at your disposal will do wonders to help keep the bed dry and your loved one comfortable.  And remember, layers are your friend. They will help keep any leaks to a minimum and make clean up so much easier.

Here are some of our top tricks for keeping the bed dry and making your life a little easier.

  1. Zippered, Vinyl Waterproof Mattress Cover. This should go on the bed first and will help keep any moisture from getting on the mattress. After all, replacing a mattress is expensive, and getting lingering odors out of them is very hard. If you do nothing else, do this.
  2. Waterproof Mattress Pad. Use this as a second layer – it’s a softer, but still waterproof cover that will go over your vinyl cover.
  3. Waterproof Flat Sheet.  
  4.  Waterproof Underpad. You can use these both under, and on top of a flat sheet if you wish, and they can be disposable or washable. We recommend putting a large, sturdy, washable pad on the flat sheet, then topping that with a disposable pad that you can simply toss in the trash when needed.
  5. Use Layers Of Blankets Instead Of A Thick Comforter. These are easier to wash in the event of an accident.
  6. Disposable Absorbent Products. A good fitting disposable absorbent product is key. Find one for nighttime use (they’re more absorbent) and make sure the fit is good – you don’t want anything too tight or too lose, as it will lead to leaks. For a breakdown on what to look for, see our guide on absorbent products here.
  7. Skincare Protection. While this won’t protect your bedding, it will protect your loved one. Proper skincare protection can help keep skin from getting irritated or chapped due to accidents that happen during the night. 

Try these tips for a drier night, and happier morning. 

What tips do you have for a dry night? Share them with us in the comments below!

How To Have An End-Of-Life-Care Talk With Your Parent

End Of Life Care
End Of Life Care

It’s not something we ever want to think about, much less discuss. But we all get older, and sooner or later, there will be decisions that need to be made when it comes to how we, and our loved ones, want to be cared for toward the end of our life.  Talking about dying is not fun, but it is necessary to do it ahead of time to ensure that everyone’s wishes and needs are met – especially in the event that a loved one can no longer make those wishes heard on his or her own.

When talking with a parent, approach them directly, and let them know that you’d like to talk about how they’d like to be cared for as they get older.  This involves asking them questions about how involved they’d like to be in their medical care (do they want their doctors to do what they think is best or do they want to have a say in every decision), how much they want their family involved, what to do in the event of life-support or a terminal illness, etc. Talking about and documenting these wishes early will help prevent confusion later on and can ensure that your parent’s end-of-life wishes are carried out the way they would like.

Need some help getting things going? The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people have discussions on end of life and has a great starter kit available on their website. Download yours here.

Aging is Easier When You Build a Community

They say two heads are better than one. And the old adage of a village raising a child isn’t just made up. Building community is key to longevity, positivity and happiness, and overall health.

People need other people and that need couldn’t be more apparent than during the aging process. Aging is much like growing up. It’s uncharted territory fraught with new experiences and changes in the body. Unfortunately, experiencing aging alone is more common that we realized.

 Aging Is Easier When You Build A Community

Aging Is Easier When You Build A Community

The U.S. Census Bureau reported 11 million or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone in 2010. As spouses and family members age and die, the likelihood of living alone increases. Although living alone and spending time alone isn’t a problem in and of itself, it can lead to isolation, which can lead to depression.

Additional strains of loneliness include physical health decline, vulnerability to elder abuse, cognitive decline, high blood pressure, and pessimism about the future. Some experts point to these statistics as reasons for community care with other elders or co-housing.

So how do caregivers or individuals in the midst of aging create or find community? They build relationships and attachments to recurring activities and engagements.

We recommend starting small and branching out. Look around your neighborhood and see if there are opportunities for friendships with neighbors. Or beyond the fence-- go to your local senior center and try a new class.

Building habits around time spent with other people is crucial. The importance of that time can’t be stressed enough. Click here to watch one of our favorite examples of the beauty of community.

How have you seen community benefit the aging process?

The Importance Of Being Kind

 The Importance Of Being Kind

Earlier this year we shared a story about a woman named Lisa Lemming Jackson who was shopping at a Kroger supermarket. She happened to notice a man who, as he locked eyes with her, seemed as if he needed something. She kindly asked if she could help him. It was this act that of kindness that led to a chain reaction from not only her, but the supermarket staff that was working that day. Lisa’s story is as follows:

"Just spent 2 hours with an elderly man at Kroger. It started with me just smiling at him, making eye contact.... As I walked past him he looked like he needed something. I went back and asked him if I could help him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he said, 'I have colon cancer and I have had a really bad accident, if I get up out of this cart everyone will know ... What should I do?' The look of his dignity lost left me with a lump in my throat. From that moment on, Kroger staff quickly fetched us wipes, undergarments and discreetly took him to their employer bathroom Area where he was given clothes. He cried and apologized. He said he had to hurry his wife was at home alone. When we walked to the register we found his groceries all bagged and somehow paid for. He cried harder. He said he fought in Vietnam and Korean War and loved his country, but up until today he said he thought his country forgot about him. We both cried and I shared with him my own struggles and fears... He gave me words of wisdom and encouraged me that maybe after all, humanity still does care about one another. Today proved it. Thank you Elmer, thank you Kroger and thank you God for the lesson and reminder I received today."

Let us use this story as a reminder to be kind. We may not always know what someone is going through, but a smile and an offer to help can do wonders in making this world a better place. 

Handling The Added Tension Of Incontinent Visitors Over The Holidays

 Caring For Incontinence Visitors

Caring For Incontinence Visitors

The holidays are upon us (already!) and while this is often a time of joy and thankfulness, it can also be a time of stress if you are hosting festivities at your home or having overnight guests.  This is even more so if you have a guest who experiences incontinence.   

We’ve compiled some tips below to help you deal with the added tension of having visitors with incontinence over the holidays. 

Tips For Hosting Incontinent Visitors In Your Home

1.  Preparation is everything. 

An old manager that I had used to recite this saying to me before every sales meeting:  “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”  I have found this to be true in many aspects of life, and preparing for a visitor – especially one that may suffer from incontinence – is no exception.  Find out what they like to eat (or, maybe even more importantly, what they don’t like to eat) and have healthy snacks on hand that won’t aggravate their bladder/bowel.   Buy a plastic or waterproof mattress cover to ensure that if an accident happens, no serious damage is done.  Have extra bedding and towels available to make any cleanup needed easy, and prepare the guest bathroom with appropriate cleaning supplies – flushable wipes, soap, air freshener, etc.   Ensuring that the appropriate tools are ready before an accident happens makes it so much easier to take care of when something unexpected occurs.

2.  Make things easy for them. 

Make things as simple as possible for your guest.  Give them a tour of the house when they arrive so they know where all the restrooms are.  For overnight guests, try to have them sleep in a room that is close to a bathroom.  Place extra supplies in their room so that they have easy access to them when they need them.  If it makes sense for their visit, provide them with an itinerary of what they can expect when they visit – places you will go, company you will be having, etc.  Knowing what to expect ahead of time may give them more peace of mind when traveling to and staying in an unfamiliar place.

3.   Be understanding if an accident happens. 

This is probably the most important tip that we can offer to you.  While we know that it can be frustrating to make extra stops to use the restroom, clean up messes, and change bedding, you can be sure that the embarrassment that your guest feels from these things far outweighs any inconvenience they may cause you.  No one wants to be incontinent and making someone feel bad or ashamed of something they cannot control will put a damper on the whole trip.  Be understanding with your guests, and if an accident does happen, don’t act frustrated or make a big deal about it.  Help them as much as they will allow, and leave it at that.  They will greatly appreciate your discretion and kindness toward them.

Do you have any tips for caring for a visitor with incontinence over the holidays?  Share them with us in the comments below!

A Recipe To Treat Constipation

 A Recipe To Treat Constipation

For the past few days, my 83 year-old father has been a little backed up. While under my care, he has experienced this several times and at first, we credited the changes to his decreased mobility.  However, we’re discovering it’s likely the medications he’s started taking for his Parkinson’s.  Not only is his constipation uncomfortable for him, but it has also started to affect his control of his bladder.

Constipation is common among the elderly.  There are many potential causes for it – poor diet, depression or other medical condition, irregular toileting routines, medications.  It may also be a cause of bladder control problems.  When the rectum is full of stool, it may disturb the bladder and cause the sensation of urgency and frequency.

A common remedy for constipation is extra fiber in the diet.  I’ve found the recipe below helps my Dad become a bit more regular.  It can be stored in the fridge or freezer.  I’ve taken to making batches of it and freezing pre-measured servings in ice cube trays to thaw as needed.  Not only does this make prep a little easier, my Dad thinks the slightly frozen mixture is soothing and refreshing.  Begin with two tablespoons each evening, followed by one 6 to 8 ounce glass of water or juice.  After 7 to 10 days, increase this to 3 tablespoons.  At the end of the second to third week, increase it to 4 tablespoons. We usually see an improvement in Dad’s bowel habits in about two weeks. 

Special Recipe To Treat Constipation

  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup prune juice
  • Spices as desired (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)

Fall Prevention In Elderly Patients

 Fall Prevention In Elderly Patients

One-third of people over the age of 65 fall every year, and 50% of those are 80 and older. Unintentional injury is the fifth leading cause of death in those 65 and older, and two-thirds of all injuries are related to falls. 5% of older people who fall require hospitalization. Fear of falling leads to loss of independence. It is important to understand the impact of falls because of morbidity and mortality in the older adult. Risk factors for falls include: muscle weakness, history of falls, gait and balance problems, need to use a walker or cane, visual impairment, arthritis, difficulties doing activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, transferring, and toileting), depression, cognitive impairment or memory problems, and age greater than 80.

There are numerous medical problems that cause gait and balance problems, including neurological disorders, which affect the spine, peripheral nervous system, and the central nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease and strokes. Other problems include arthritis of the hips and knees, cardiovascular disease, and vertigo.

Medications that affect the central nervous system can contribute to falls: tranquilizers, sleeping medications, anti-depressants, narcotics, muscle relaxants, and anti-seizure medications. Medications for cardiovascular disease and hypertension can contribute to falls because they may cause a drop in blood pressure when standing.

If you have had a fall or have a gait or balance problem you need evaluation by a physician. You should also evaluate your home for environmental hazards. This can be done by home safety evaluation checklists that are available online, or you can have a home safety evaluation by physical therapist. Muscle strength and balance through appropriate exercise is a must. Preventing and treating osteoporosis can reduce risk of fractures due to falls. Vitamin D is important in decreasing risk of falls.

Other precautions you can take:

  • When getting out of bed, sit on the edge of the bed for few minutes before standing
  • Keep the path to bathroom clear of clutter
  • Wear slippers with non-skid soles
  • Remove loose rugs
  • If using a walker or a cane, keep it bedside
  • Take time to turn on lights
  • Frail and elderly with multiple risk factors may benefit from a bedside commode