Supportive Care Bulletin
Helpful tips for family caregivers
Life is full of uncertainties! That’s not always easy. At least with this issue you will gain certain knowledge about coping with unknowns, taking good care of your loved one’s false teeth, and learning more about professionals who can help you on the elder care journey.
Dentures need the same level of care and attention as natural teeth do. Bacteria and fungi that grow on teeth can also infect a dental appliance. Pressure spots on the gums can lead to pain and potential infection. Also to problems eating and then weight loss. In addition, poor denture care can result in stains on the teeth and bad breath.
Encourage your family member to develop a solid routine.
- After eating. Remove and rinse denture(s) to clean off any remaining bits of food. Also rinse mouth.
- Twice a day. Brush the dentures using a soft-bristle brush and nonabrasive cleaner. Brush the teeth and areas that are in contact with the gums or where a dental fixative is applied.
- At bedtime. Remove dentures and soak them overnight in a denture-cleaning solution. In the morning, rinse the dentures before putting them back in the mouth. Empty and dry the soaking container. Leave it open for the day.
- Yearly. See the dentist at least every 12 months. He or she can assess mouth health, check denture fit, and clean the dentures professionally.
Keep in mind that dentures are delicate.
- Clean or handle them over a basin that is filled with water or lined with a soft cloth in case they are dropped.
- Use cool or warm water. Water that is too hot can warp dentures.
- Ask your dental hygienist to recommend brushes and cleaners. Regular toothbrushes are too harsh.
- Most dentures should not be allowed to sit in the air and dry out completely.
Call the dentist if your relative complains of pain or has difficulty wearing dentures. There may be a sore on the gums, or the dentures may need to be adjusted because of changing weight, etc.
Continue to schedule regular dental exams. With proper care, dentures can last five to ten years.Return to top
What is a care manager?
Conflicting demands on your heart, time, and energy can make it hard to care for an aging relative. If this sounds familiar, you could benefit from the services of a care manager.
A care manager provides relief. They work with you and your family member to develop a realistic care plan. The goal of the plan is to maximize your loved one’s independence, safety, and quality of life. A solid care plan addresses family resources. This includes making sure you are not called upon to do more than you are able.
A care manager is a guide and an advocate. These experts are typically trained in the health professions or social work. Many have specialties in elder care. They bring to their role an understanding of the
- local healthcare system;
- emotional and physical challenges of aging and/or disability;
- difficulties of juggling work and family;
- common legal and financial issues that arise in later life;
- local housing options and other senior or disabled services.
Care managers use a holistic approach. They begin with a thorough assessment of needs and capabilities. They can often resolve uncertainties and dispel family disagreements. Their emotional support may help your loved one come to terms with this new phase of life.
A care manager‘s input may also save you time and money. After looking at money and other family resources, they can recommend appropriate housing situations. They can identify veteran assistance and other benefits. They can avoid duplication of medical services and potentially catch problems before a crisis blooms. They can also monitor the quality of care.
A care manager works independently as the client’s advocate. They are not paid through referral fees. Nor are they employees of hospitals or insurance companies. In some cases, their services can be reimbursed by long-term care insurance.Return to top
Living with uncertainty
If you are supporting a seriously ill family member, your relative’s condition and needs could change at any time. Such uncertainty creates practical problems. (You may suddenly need to leave work to take him or her to the doctor.) It also comes with an emotional cost.
Doubts and the unpredictable can be hard to bear. You may put off decisions because you are not sure exactly how things will turn out. You may even find yourself wishing for something to happen right now, just to end the uncertainty.
Worrying about a problem may seem like it will eventually produce useful ideas and create certainty. But habitual worry itself causes stress. Our earlier article discussed how to keep worry in balance.
Another strategy is to learn to feel more comfortable with uncertainty. Use these questions to recognize and challenge your “need” for certainty:
- Is it possible to be 100% certain about everything?
- In what ways has your need for certainty been helpful to you? Are there ways it has been unhelpful?
- Do your predictions focus mostly on bad things happening? Can you imagine other possible outcomes?
- When you think about your life, are there uncertainties that you currently tolerate well? What helps make that possible?
You may find that your responses indicate you can, and are, coping with more uncertainty than you had realized.
To further support your acceptance of uncertainty, try these actions:
- When your thoughts involve a lot of worries and “what ifs,” take a moment to notice them. Remind yourself, “Oh, there’s my desire for certainty again. That’s a preference, not a life requirement.”
- Take a slow, deep breath, exhale, and visualize your need for certainty wafting away.
- Refocus yourself on the here and now. Pay attention to the sights and sounds around you and to your present task.