The name “April,” may have originally derived from the Latin word aperire, “to open,” referring to the opening of flowers. An ancient reference for April is to Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love; and in modern times, April is the month of National Card and Letter Writing, designated by the US Postal Service in 2001, to observe and celebrate the craft of letter writing. Stitching these themes together, let’s explore the joy, creativity, expression, and connection through a hand-written note for someone to “open” and feel the love.
Handwriting a personal message in the age of technology may feel like a lost art, but it is easily revived in a few minutes. As with social media, you may not even know the person you are writing to. Receiving a personal message in a card or letter is a gift for the recipient and can become a treasure for a lifetime. The content can be a one-liner or multiple pages. Regardless of age, gender, or location, the power to bring joy to a senior citizen is yours to create!
Senior citizens living alone at home, or in assisted living and nursing facilities, often report feeling lonely and isolated. Depression can become a ‘normal’ way of getting through the day. You have the power to change this for someone by taking a few minutes, right now, by sitting down and writing a letter to an elder. Tell them about yourself, send a picture of your dog, send a funny story, invite them to write to you by including a self-addressed, stamped envelope with a piece of paper to write on.
Starting with the community where you live, inquire with local agencies and facilities working with senior citizens -- senior centers, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, etc., and ask if they have an activities director you can speak with to coordinate sending cards and letters to one or more residents. This is safe and secure for all. Becoming a Pen-Pal may be one of the most rewarding life experiences. Make it a social event by inviting friends for coffee and letter writing – have fun paper, pens, color markers, stamps, and the like for an atmosphere of creativity and sharing. Decorate the envelope! Invite children to draw pictures and write, too!
Establishing the practice of letter writing has its own rewards. To sit quietly and contemplate what to write and putting words on paper can have meditative benefits. Write to your family and friends – someone you can’t be with in person, someone you think of often, or admire from afar. Send a handwritten note to someone who lives in the same house as you.
April is the official month for card and letter writing, but any day of any month is a good day to handwrite a message. Start your own mission to bring joy to a senior citizen. May you receive many blessings in return, finding letters in your own mailbox to open, and feel love.
Valentine’s Day can cause mixed emotions for older adults who are widowed or living alone. Mourning the loss of a spouse or loved one, no matter how long it has been, can be especially difficult and finding a special way to show them some extra love on Valentine’s Day can make a big difference.
Whether you are a family member, caregiver, or close friend, a thoughtful gesture can be
rewarding and create a nice memory. Some suggestions are:
• The timeless hand-written message. This can take the form of a card (handmade with a
photo or ready-made with printed sentiment inside) or letter written on special stationery
with matching envelope. Think of the ways your elder is a stand out person, how they
make you feel good, what you like about working with them, what you admire about how
they live their life. Then simply tell them straight from the heart.
• Balloons – get more than one and tie them together with a ribbon. Helium filled or blown
up by you – the more the merrier. The ‘bouquet’ of color will last for days after the holiday
has passed and continue to be a reminder of feeling special.
• Ask your elder if they would like to look through old photo albums and tell you about their
loves and loved ones from days gone by. Invite a conversation about sweet memories
from the past like their first kiss, first crush, first love.
• Many older adults have a sweet tooth, so if yours does, present them with homemade
cookies or a selection of their favorite candy or candy bar(s). These can be sugar free if
preferable. Indulgence on Valentine’s Day can be a treat all by itself.
• Ask about their favorite romantic movie and if they would like to watch it if possible. Ask them why it is their favorite.
• Invite one of their friends or neighbors over for tea, coffee, or cocktails. This third person
might appreciate being included as you might make their day special, too.
• If transportation is not a problem, take them for a drive to a favorite restaurant, park, or
scenic drive. Seeing the outdoors or favorite neighborhood can be a big boost if staying
indoors most of the time.
• Think red. Get a bottle of red food coloring and make red pancakes or waffles for breakfast. Make red cupcakes or cookies. Make red tea. Dress them in red. Use red place-mats and napkins and plates, etc.
Making Valentine’s Day special for your loved one, client, or friend, will be rewarding and remembered as a special day for a long time.
Partners In Care is locally-owned and operated family business providing non-medical home-
care in nine Northern California counties.
Though most New Year’s resolutions fail, we have a custom of making them, with good intentions, to celebrate a new year. Welcoming a new year, we contemplate the year past resolving to do and be better in the future. Perhaps we could call our resolutions ‘promises’ or ‘wishes’ for ourselves and others to help stay strong and energized to meet goals in the coming year, or at least some of them.
Healthy recommendations from the American Geriatrics Society for older adults include many we may already know but perhaps have forgotten. The new year is a perfect time to refresh our information to use for ourselves and share with others. Older adults and caregivers of older adults may both benefit from a refresher course in self-care promises and wishes for the new year. Here are a few ideas to kick off the new year.
- Read a book, fiction or fact, to dream or learn from someone else’s life or knowledge about a topic you can relate to, or for entertainment. If an older adult is unable to read for themselves, a caregiver or family member could read out loud and both enjoy the experience.
- Take time in each day to do something special for yourself if only for a few minutes. This can be listening to a favorite song, taking a bubble bath, enjoying the outdoors, or calling a favorite friend or family who live far away. This promise to yourself will be a highlight in each day.
- Ask for help for to complete a project, provide respite, or start something new.
- Join a support group and learn from others as well as offering your own knowledge to others.
- Redefine your eating habits to enhance your overall well-being. We need fewer calories later in life and healthy foods are essential. Refer to the USDA’s Choose My Plate program to tailor meals specific to you. (choosemyplate.gov)
- Physical activity can be safe and healthy for older adults even with chronic diseases. Caregivers can share the experience of enjoying mild to moderate physical activities with those they are providing care.
- The more you use your mind the better it works. Socializing is a brain booster – playing cards, board games, discussion groups at your local library or senior center are a few ideas.
- It is never too late to stop smoking cigarettes and a good promise to make for the new year. There is a lot of support for this effort and resources are available on the National Cancer Institute’s website. (www.smokefree.gov).
- Let someone know when you feel down or anxious. Some possible signs of depression can be loss of appetite or pleasure in doing activities. Difficulty sleeping, worry, and irritability may be indications of depression.
- Older adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day. The National Sleep Foundation has tips on how to sleep better. (www.sleepfoundation.org)
Partners In Care is a locally-owned and operated family providing non-medical in-home care in the California counties.
Shaun Clinkinbeard, President, Partners In Care
We had a great time this morning honoring caregivers at the Home Care Aide of the Year Awards.
Karen Plant was our selected winner!
Thank you for your hard work and dedication!
Music as a therapy to benefit health and behavior has been used for thousands of years, with references from ancient Greece and Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. In the 20th century, after World Wars I and II, musicians, both amateur and professional, played in hospitals around the country for veterans wounded physically and emotionally. Physicians and nurses witnessed the positive effectiveness of music for their patients and began requesting hospitals hire musicians. The demand for musicians grew, and college curriculums were created with the first music therapy degree program established in 1944 at Michigan State University.
Studies have shown music benefits newborns to the elderly. In older adults with cognitive disorders, music therapy helps reduce agitation and aggressive behaviors, improving mood and cooperation with daily tasks. For elderly adults with depression, music therapy at home may have long-lasting positive effects – reducing blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate, and elevating a depressed mood. Music for older adults may significantly improve the quality of sleep, shorter time needed to fall asleep, less sleep disturbance, and less daytime dysfunction.
Singing, listening, or playing music will help maintain or increase levels of physical, mental, social, and emotional functioning. As a sensory and intellectual stimulation, music can help maintain or improve the overall quality of life for elderly adults. Familiar or preferred music evokes memories and influences mood, and music from one’s own culture may be most effective.
Music therapy can be beneficial in a variety of ways:
- Relieve boredom – As we age and become less physically active and isolated, we can become lost in silence. Impaired hearing may contribute to a sense of social loneliness and boredom.
- Motivate movement – Studies have shown even a minimal movement such as tapping a foot or clapping hands helps to release physical and mental stress, and promote joy.
- Evoke positive memories – Music is an emotional language, evoking personal memories we might otherwise not recall.
- Encourage happy thoughts – Music that promotes happy thoughts has a lingering effect in a person’s mind.
- Social skills – Increased social interaction with caregivers and others can encourage bonding, helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression.
Find what music resonates with your loved one, ask them about favorite music from the past or favorite artists and introduce their style of music into the daily routine. The most important thing is person-centered choices. The use of headphones may be a good way to listen for those with impaired hearing.
Access to free and unlimited music is available from YouTube, (https://www.youtube.com). You can create playlists and watch videos while listening, adding to the interaction aspect. Hits from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s are waiting for you. For radio listeners, iHeartRadio (https://www.iheart.com) is a great resource where you can create favorite stations and playlists. Enjoy!
Partners In Care is locally-owned and operated family business providing non-medical home-care in nine Northern California counties.
According to the CDC (cdc.gov) falling down is the leading cause of death and injury among older adults. Falls are often due to hazards easy to fix, yet often overlooked, and each year, thousands of older adults fall at home, causing serious injuries and death.
Some signs an older adult may be at risk of falling are a change in walking gait, difficulty getting in and out of chairs or bed, not able to see clearly, shuffling instead of lifting feet when walking, impairment diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, or Arthritis, and fear of falling. Watch for signs and take steps to help with preventative measure around the home and encourage practicing walking safely outside the home as well.
The fear of falling can create stress and lack of confidence. Take preventative measures around the home to help reduce the risk of falling. A suggested checklist below will help assess an in-home fall risk.
Q: When you walk through a room, do you have to walk around furniture?
A: Move the furniture so your path is clear.
Q: Do you have throw rugs on the floor?
A: Remove the rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip.
Q: Are there papers, books, towels, shoes, magazines, boxes, blankets, or other objects on the floor?
A: Pick up things that are on the floor. Always keep objects off the floor.
Q: Do you have to walk over or around wires or cords (like lamp, telephone, or extension cords)?
A: Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you are less likely to trip over them.
Q: Has the stairway light bulb burned out?
A: Have a friend or family member change the light bulb.
Q: Is the tub or shower floor slippery?
A: Puta non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.
Q: Is the light near the bed hard to reach?
A: Place a lamp close to the bed where it’s easy to reach.
Q: Is the path from your bed to the bathroom dark?
A: Put in a night-light so you can see where you’re walking.
Other things one can do to help prevent falls:
- Exercise regularly – this makes you stronger and improves your balance and coordination.
- Have your vision checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. Poor vision increases the risk of falling.
- Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
- Put a phone near the floor in case you fall and can’t get up.
- Consider wearing an alarm device that will bring help in case you fall and can’t get up.
Partners In Care is locally-owned and operated family business providing non-medical home-care in nine Northern California counties.