NorthShore Voice (Blog)

Natural Disasters Impact on Older Adults

In a time when it seems, there is a natural disaster occurring nearly every day globally Gerontologists think about the devastating impact on older adults. It is less visible the extreme implications these events have on our aging population. Over half the people who died in Hurricane Katrina were age 65 and older. The Cornell Aging and Environment Initiative in New York was one of the first of its caliber to examine climate and aging. Older adults are typically more vulnerable during natural disasters due to chronic disease and decreased mobility. Research has also shown they are more likely to live in areas that are vulnerable to storm damage. In cases where older adults died, they were trapped in their homes or chronic diseases were worsened with the impact of the disaster.

The risk of death for isolated older adults is enormous! Older adults who smoke are less likely to die than older adults that are isolated. As social networks dwindle, spouses pass away older adults who are experiencing limitations in activities of daily living, are especially vulnerable. Often, social isolation is due to personal preference. Loneliness is of great importance when we discuss aging. As men and women age, those who experience loneliness are more likely to physically and mentally decline. One of the best ways we can understand social support within families is to examine the influence of culture. Culture has a tremendous impact on family ties. The patterns and arrangements of individuals throughout the lifespan are dependent on gender, race, class, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation. We confer family relationships within the framework of social structures that are instilled with cultural views of an ideal family and an ideal old age.

Older adults prefer to seek assistance from a few close people rather than strangers. They also tend to gravitate towards their peers for support rather than younger counterparts. Many older adults do not follow evacuation orders. They tend to want to stay with their property. Seeking assistance is often experienced as a threat to their independence.

So how can we change this? The topic has to be addressed with dignity and respect. We cannot threaten this demographic’s independence. We must work together to find agreed-upon solutions. The first step is planning ahead. Introducing assistance, however little it may be is a great way to build a strong rapport between an older adult and a caregiver who can combat isolation and provide support. Through seeking the help of a home care agency, clients can retain the assistance of skilled professionals that are experts at creating disaster plans specifically for the aging population. Having a plan in place dramatically reduces the risk of death when an emergency arises.

Melody Lynch
Upcycling to Age in Place Successfully

Aging is expensive! Over 25 million Americans age 60 and older are living at or below 250% of the poverty level. We are firm believers in giving back and paying it forward. That's why we're so excited to announce our new UPCYCLE program! Many older adults may have excess items that another older adult needs from something as simple as excess grocery bags that another individual may reuse as trash bags.

According to the New York Times, nearly three- fifths of all clothing ends up in incinerators or landfills. The average American throws away 70 lbs of clothing and other textiles each year. Furoshiki is just one of the ways we can repurpose old fabric. Furoshiki is the traditional Japanese way to wrap presents in fabric, giving them a unique, glamorous look.

Our staff, along with local artists, will put use to items that may appear to no longer have use for art projects re-engaging older adults. NorthShore Home Care isn't just a home care company we create meaningful purpose in each of our client's lives to help them achieve the highest quality of life possible. Cleaning and organizing the home as we age not only simplifies living but clears unnecessary clutter that may be hazardous.

If you would like to participate in the program, please email us at info@nshomecare.org. We look forward to giving new life to old items to benefit the community.

Melody Lynch
Family Ties & Aging

The potential for conflict in families may be greater today, not because there is less love shared or because older family members are neglected, but rather because the demands and expectations on families as a source of personal identity and satisfaction in life are greater. These demands often exceed the family’s ability to meet them, creating a potential source of guilt and conflict. (Connidis, 2010)”.  None of us have a perfect family. When life becomes more complex, these issues can become exasperated. Aging in place is difficult for both the client and their family as they face new health diagnoses’, decline in ability to perform activities of daily living, encounter role reversal, tackle home modifications, and work to establish care plans. As older adults develop increased needs, family availability and living arrangements often become a source for conflict. Boundaries and sibling conflict are also a common problem encountered  with aging parents. There are many dynamics that typically need to be addressed between aging parents and their children. Children often feel unable to reciprocate the lifetime of support they received from their parents. Our patient adovcate assesses complex client, family, and caregiving relationships to find solutions that are amicable for all parties. Through the program, clients and their families have a higher quality of life and adjust to aging in place. Clients and their families can expect:

  • Practical solutions and easy-to-follow advice

  • Improvement of relationship skills

  • Communication on a deeper level to discuss what’s really important

  • Discover ways to have the necessary conversations with your loved ones

  • Recognize and manage the guilt, anger, resentment and other emotions you may be dealing with

  • Supports healthy coping responses with the stages of death

Our Certified Caregiving Consultant & Patient Advocate, makes recommendations for in-home care, referrals for more extensive care, and connects clients with resources and support through their individual journey. Each client is provided with a customized solution that addresses the family’s dynamics and expectations. With the assistance of the Caregiving Consultant the family and agency can work toward a specific goal through written recommendations to all who are involved in the care.


Melody Lynch
4 Lessons I've Learned From End of Life Experiences

by Kyle Kendall, LFD

There are a few things that I’ve observed over the years as a funeral director, and here are a few things I think would be helpful for the readers to think about. Planning is one of the first things that I think about that I took for granted before I came into this profession. I was surprised at how many people had no idea what the wishes of their loved one were. Even when someone gets placed into hospice care, the question never came up as to what their loved one’s wishes were after they had passed. I know it can be uncomfortable to ask these questions, but it’s much easier doing it before someone has an unforeseen accident or becomes terminally ill. Best case scenario: the person pre-plans with a funeral home that they feel comfortable with. But at the very least, I think a spouse or kids should have a conversation with each other about what they wish happens when they pass. Traditional with a viewing, cremation, or both? Where would you like to be buried? Would you like to have your cremains scattered somewhere? It’s much easier answering these questions when the person is still alive than making the decisions on what you think they would have wanted.

This brings me to another uncomfortable situation: not having a will in place. If you’ve ever had to move in recent memory, you don’t realize how much stuff you have until you start packing things up in boxes and realize the moving van you rented might need to be upgraded into a small semi. I would suggest sitting down with a lawyer and going through everything and determining what you want done with these items. Who gets what? Usually each family has that one son or daughter that feels entitled to certain things, and it can really tear a family apart. Take the guesswork out of it, and designate a plan for how to allocate those assets after you pass.

One thing that’s surprised me when I first started meeting with families is their attitude when they walk in the door. I remember hearing from someone that “attitude is the one thing we have control over.” No, making funeral arrangements isn’t something that we want to do, but the attitude we have going into it can make a sad situation easier or worse. Most people come in with a good attitude, but the dynamics of families are getting very complicated, lots of different factions with multiple marriages, kids, stepchildren, not everyone gets along with each other. My advice is to do your best to get along with each other for the extent that the funeral takes place. You can go back to hating each other afterwards, but what’s important is to not make the funeral about you; it’s about the deceased. You should honor them, and not let past wrongdoings of certain family members get in the way of that.

Lastly, I’d like to mention the importance that friends can have on people who experience a loss. When my grandmother passed, I was amazed at how many people dropped off casseroles, cookies, and meals in general. I thought what a neat cultural tradition. So always be thinking of what you can do to help this person or family out, and something as simple as that can go a long way. Also, it’s easy for us on the outside after  one month, two months down the road to have moved on from the funeral . The spouse that has been married to that person for the past 60 years most likely hasn’t. It took me a while to realize that because I go from one funeral to the next, so I have to move on, but don’t be surprised if they’re still experiencing grief even though we’re not. 

Why using an experienced, ethical agency is essential

When you hire an agency you are getting educated, experienced leadership. Make sure the agency you choose has experience, as not all agencies are created equal.  Many agencies are franchised, requiring little to no education and experience from owners. 

Follow through is everything- many people can talk the talk. When it comes to older adults care, the most essential part of the service is Quality Care! When you hire an agency you are ensuring the safety and best interest of all parties involved. Agencies are required to have a variety of insurance policies and comply with the Department of Public Health's Administrative Code. This code mandates a variety of aspects from employee physicals to safety planning. This compliance provides a system of checks and balances which leads to better caregiver education, experience, and vetting, which all have a direct impact on a client’s health. When you hire an agency you mitigate risk. Caregiver injury is extremely prevalent in home care and agencies protect individuals from lawsuits. Agencies provide formal education on a variety of topics including body mechanics.  Individuals may experience complications, unnecessary hospitalizations and even death when utilizing unlicensed providers.

Consider this, when experiencing symptoms individuals usually go to the doctor. Most people conduct research about the physician before seeing them and would never go to a physician without licensing or credentials, where the potential for more harm than good is high. Third parties not only bring many years of education and expertise, they are also objective and can often assist with accurate assessments. The plan of care is essential, when you hire an agency you are provided with someone who has experience and education to design a plan for a client that addresses all of their physical and emotional needs. 

In closing, there are numerous reasons to utilize an agency. After many years of scenarios witnessed and stories shared, I would like to prevent people from experiencing the heartache that occurs in healthcare all too often.

Melody Lynch
The Positive Impact of Art

    There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence that proves art enhances brain function. It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and can actually raise serotonin levels. Art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world.  Decades of research have provided more than a sufficient amount of data to prove that arts education impacts everything from overall academic achievement to social and emotional development and so much more. Research has proven the arts develop neural systems that produce a broad spectrum of benefits ranging from fine motor skills to creativity and improved emotional balance. Quite simply, the arts are invaluable to our proper functioning individually and as a society.

 

Read more about the study here!

Melody Lynch