Boston Aging Well
Helpful tips for family caregivers
We have answers! This month we feature articles that will help your loved one make travel plans, find caregiving assistance, and ease your worries about an isolated loved one.
- Planning for travel with oxygen
- Review of the CareFinder Assessment Tool
- When is your loved one too isolated?
Planning for travel with oxygen
If your family member needs medical oxygen, the crucial ingredient for successful vacation travel is planning ahead.
First, decide how you will be traveling. By air, train, or cruise ship? By bus or car? This information will help determine how much oxygen your loved one must carry.
- Consult with the doctor for medical clearance to travel. Obtain a brief medical history to carry along. Include a list of current medications and an oxygen prescription.
- Create a list of contact information of health care providers.
- Check the health insurance plan for guidelines regarding out-of-area medical emergencies. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers has a planning tool for international travel that can help you identify health issues for your specific destination. They also list resources for traveling with lung (pulmonary) conditions.
- Have a respiratory therapist calculate how much oxygen will be needed. Allow for an extra supply in case departure or arrival times are delayed.
- Contact the airline, train, cruise ship, or bus company to make arrangements for oxygen. The requirements are different for each mode of travel.
- When flying, prepare for getting through the security checkpoint with oxygen.
- When traveling by car with oxygen, secure the tank in an upright position. Ensure that no one smokes. Crack the window to prevent oxygen build up.
Vacation days, have your loved one
- Wear emergency medical identification. Keep medications on hand at all times. Pack them in carry-on luggage and day-trip gear. Include a current prescription list and contact information for all health providers.
- Stay hydrated. Airplane air is especially dry. Drink lots of water and skip the caffeine or alcohol.
- Avoid sitting for long stretches of time. Try to move around every hour or so.
- Keep up to date about air pollution and weather at their destinations. Be alert to conditions that may make breathing more difficult.
Review of the CareFinder Assessment Tool
Finding the right care for your loved one typically involves interviewing a number of care providers. Certainly the “feel” of a person or place is important. But an accurate description of the services needed is key to a good match.
The CareFinder Assessment creates a personalized interview guide based on your answers and comments.It’s a sort of checklist for determining a care provider’s ability to meet your family member’s unique needs. Because it was created by the Alzheimer’s Association, special attention is given to any memory-related problems you identify. But the tool is useful whether there is memory loss or not.
This online tool produces a framework that helps you assess a care agency or facility. It takes only minutes to complete.
The CareFinder gathers information about an individual’s needs.
- Personal care. Does your family member need help getting out of a chair? Can she or he bathe or dress alone?
- Daily tasks. Is assistance needed for cooking? Housekeeping? With shopping? Can your loved one manage his or her medications?
- Memory loss/dementia. Is your loved one easily confused? Are there any behavioral symptoms? For example, a frequent need for reassurance? Or a refusal to bathe?
The interactive tool provides predefined levels of assistance and stages of dementia. You choose those that best reflect your family member. You are also prompted to add comments. This allows you to add details about your loved one’s needs and preferences.
The CareFinder questionnaire also comes in PDF format. Print it out to get input from others.Return to top
When is your loved one too isolated?
When caregiving draws us closer to a family member’s routines, we’re sometimes surprised by what we find. Perhaps you’ve noticed that Dad only leaves the house once or twice a week.
Social isolation has been shown to be a risk factor for many conditions. Depression. Heart disease. Obesity. Dementia.
Should you be concerned? Not necessarily.
Although 28% of older adults live alone, not all of them feel lonely. Similarly, a person may be surrounded by others but still feel isolated. Before becoming alarmed, consider if your loved one is an extrovert or an introvert.
- like to be out and about in the world
- get energized by doing things with others and often initiate activities
- like to “think out loud” about decisions and want others’ feedback
- find routine, such as solitary housework, unappealing
- are naturally quieter and keep thoughts to themselves
- enjoy an active inner world
- get energized by contemplating ideas and memories
- like people but typically have a few close friends rather than a big social circle
Mom may have always been an introvert and happily so. A solitary lifestyle is only a problem if your loved one wishes things were different. Is your loved one’s pattern in later life different from their earlier pattern? Common causes of isolation include death of a partner, friends getting sick or moving, loss of a driver’s license, or increased difficulty getting around.
More important than having become isolated is whether your relative seems distressed by the change. He or she may or may not talk openly about feeling lonely. But depression from loneliness may show itself in other ways. Confused thinking. Irritability. Loss of appetite. Or difficulty sleeping.
If loneliness is a concern, consider making social activity a higher priority. And ask the doctor to do a depression screening. The hazards of stressful isolation are too risky to ignore.Return to top