Help for Young Caregivers Pressed Into Care

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Help for Young Caregivers Pressed Into Care

April 7th, 2017 by

Off-time events can derail a young life*

For many of us, there’s a general expectation that at some point in the future, we will be a caregiver for an elderly parent or even spouse. What we don’t anticipate or expect is for that caregiving to start when we are in our 20s, 30s, or even 40s. Those are the years we expect to take care of ourselves (education, career, family), but many are finding they must put their own lives on hold to become a caregiver, and it can create feelings of anger or sadness in the process. There is help out there and we have put some of these ideas together in the hopes that it can help.

The first suggestion given to many of these young caregivers is to join support groups. We know that support groups work, and that many people feel tremendous relief when sharing problems, thoughts and concerns with like-minded folks. However, with young caregivers, the immediate problem is finding peers in the support groups. Often, there is no one under age 55 in an elder care support group for caregivers, but there are others going through the same thing. Reach out to senior centers in your area, contact an Association that deals with your loved ones main issue such as Alzheimer’s Association or Parkinson’s Association, speak with religious leaders or contact a local “Senior Village” to ask about support groups with younger attendees. These resources will know the families that attend and be able to point you to the group that suits you best.

The second suggestion for young caregivers is to hire outside help so the burdens of care can be shared and the young life a little less ‘derailed’. This is the point that those us of over the age of 40 must pay attention. Although long-term planning can be a hard issue to face, basic planning such as: arranging Power of Attorney for your financial and healthcare needs, preparing a living will spelling out your wishes clearly if you are incapacitated, and maybe even purchasing long term care insurance should be one prong in our retirement planning. Taking these relatively simple steps is a prudent decision that may allow a younger loved one to continue his/her life path without the tremendous burden of caregiving for a parent and/or grandparent.

Finally, reaching out for respite care services may be a great choice for young caregivers. There are many church and community groups that can assist with brief respite care situations. Home care companies also offer respite care services so that the young caregiver can attend a university class, book club, or spend a few hours working out. Being a young caregiver may not be ideal, but with some thought and planning by all parties, there are ways to get through it without completely ‘derailing a young life’ while still feeling good about doing all that you can to help a loved one.

Do you have caregiver plans in place? Do you know how you would handle an unexpected illness requiring home care? Please send us an email or share your experiences on our Facebook page.

*Pressed Into Caregiving Sooner Than Expected. The New York Times

Seniors Surge

May 26th, 2016 by

People are living longer. Medical advancements, a cultural focus on health, and progress in technology have allowed people to extend their lives. Seniors are becoming one the fastest-growing groups all over the world.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) predicts that seniors will become 17 percent of the world population by 2050. This population explosion will affect the whole globe in a myriad of ways.

In the U.S., the NIA estimates that our aging population will double in the next three decades, meaning 88 million seniors will be living here. Throughout the globe, the so-called “oldest old” population—seniors living to be 80 or older—will triple in the coming decades.

What does this mean for you and your aging loved ones? It’s time to prepare.

Unless lawmakers and the population of the U.S. prepare for this senior boom, the country will face limited or nonexistent resources for their aging population. Programs like social security and Medicare will be stretched to the brink, while hospitals and doctors’ offices will be filled with seniors who need specialized gerontology care.

Some industries are already preparing for the senior boom. Caregiving companies are increasing staff and focusing on helping seniors age at home successfully. Tech companies are developing senior-friendly devices that will help the aging and their caregivers monitor health, medication distribution, and even movement throughout the house.

The senior surge also affords you an excellent opportunity to discuss aging with your soon-to-be-senior loved ones. Make sure your loved ones have a sound financial plan for their later years, and consult with a financial advisor if you’re concerned about retirement funds. Nail down your loved one’s wishes ahead of time: Do they want to age at home? What would they want done in case of a health crisis? These topics are often uncomfortable but utterly essential to a happy, worry-free aging process.

Whether you’re a soon-to-be-senior or a caregiver to a senior, it’s time to prepare for the senior surge.

Are Your Parents OK? Here’s How to Check

April 8th, 2016 by

As your parents age, are you confident that they’re coping with the changes that come with age? Are you sure?

Many aging Americans don’t like to admit when they need help. Others can’t see that they might need some assistance with everyday tasks. While it’s important that parents know there is no shame in asking for help, there are a few ways you can assess your loved ones and make sure they’re still thriving while living independently.

  1. Check out the car. On your way into the house, take a detour to your loved one’s vehicle. Is there any noticeable damage? Did your parent tell you about scraping the paint or dinging a door? If a senior has a banged-up car and hasn’t mentioned any accidents, it may be time to take them for a driving evaluation.  
  2. Give a hug. You should, of course, always offer a hug to a loved one you’re visiting, but this hug isn’t only a show of love: Take the opportunity to gauge any frailness or weakness you spot in the hug. When you’re close, evaluate the senior. Are they brushing their teeth? Do they smell clean? If you notice anything odd, don’t hesitate to bring it up.
  3. Get a snack. Even if you’re not hungry, ask for a snack and something to drink. This gives you the chance to check out the senior’s kitchen, and evaluate its general upkeep and what’s in stock.. It also gives you the opportunity to watch your loved one in action. Can they make a cup of coffee? Are they struggling to cut up a piece of fruit? Pay attention to how they navigate the kitchen.

If you think your parents need assistance, it’s time to sit them down for a gentle, honest talk. Consulting experts in aging such as Capital City Nurses for home care, or A Geriatric Care Manager for other advice is a good idea. If there are any physical changes to your loved one or to their vehicle(s), it may be time to bring them to a doctor for an evaluation as well.

Whether you’re just checking on a relative or worrying about mom and dad, it can be hard to evaluate if a senior is thriving in their environment. With these tips, you can take a look at your loved one and determine if they need some extra help managing their home or their health.

When Is It Time? Making The Difficult Decision to Move a Family Member to Assisted Living or Memory Care

March 30th, 2016 by

Suzy Murphy debra levy

special contribution by Susy Elder Murphy, BA, CMC
owner, Debra Levy Eldercare Associates

One of the most difficult decisions that any family faces is making the decision about when, or if, moving a family member to assisted living is the right thing to do. As Aging Life Care™ Managers, this is often when we are called on, whether to schedule an office consult with concerned adult children to discuss options or to meet with a spouse in their home and assess whether or not their husband or wife can still be safely cared for there. It is nearly always an emotionally fraught decision. Sometimes adult children promised their parents that they would “never put them in a home,” whatever that may mean in today’s world where some skilled nursing facilities actually more closely resemble a Hilton Garden Inn with nurses, and long before being faced with the realities of a difficult diagnosis, such as Lewy Body Dementia. When I meet with couples who may have been married for 60 years or more, they are often wracked with guilt because they feel that they have in some way not fulfilled their wedding vows to care for their spouse “in sickness and in health,” promises made decades before the diagnosis of a chronic and progressive illness such as Parkinson’s Disease has begun to take its toll on the strongest of marital bonds.

I give talks on this subject at assisted living communities in our area and they are always well-attended by adult children and spouses who have the same questions for me: What are the options and how can we afford to pay for this care? More of us have long term care insurance which may cover most or even all of the cost of care, but many families are dipping into hard-earned savings, or looking to government benefits to help cover the costs. I recently met with a brother and sister who live in this area and were concerned about their parents who live in Florida. They began trying to look at different communities on their own and quickly realized that they needed the guidance of an Aging Life Care Manager to help them understand the alphabet soup of categories of care that their aging parents might need. As members of the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA), we do not have a financial relationship with any community or resource that we refer our clients to, and our recommendations are based on our clients’ needs and our experience in the geographic area we serve.

To use the “Smith” family as an example, mom is age 85 and takes a few medications for chronic conditions such as hypertension and thyroid imbalance, but has had noticeable memory loss for the last several years. Dad, 89, also has some memory issues, but has also recently been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, including a hospitalization to treat that condition. Mom and Dad are both happy in Florida and have some extended family there, as well as many friends and activities they enjoy, although both of their adult children live here. “Don” and “Amy” wanted to know if they should continue to travel back and forth to Florida to deal with intermittent health crises such as their dad’s recent hospitalization, or, whether it would be better to bring their parents closer to them here.

We began with a discussion of finances. The Smiths have modest income of about $3500 per month, and are not eligible for the Aid & Attendance benefit through the VA, since neither parent served in the military. They have savings of about $50,000 and a condo worth about $100,000, which is fully paid off. They currently live within their means and cover their out of pocket medical expenses and living expenses out of their monthly income, usually with some left over at the end of the month. My first suggestion was that they get a more comprehensive assessment of their parents’ medical condition, particularly their dad’s congestive heart failure and their mom’s memory impairment. They plan to have a comprehensive assessment by a geriatrician of both of their parents, and I was able to refer them to an ALCA member in Florida who could assess how they are actually functioning at home. My colleague in Florida could assess if their memory issues are causing them to forget to take medication, compounding their other medical issues, and also identify what local resources they could tap into to support their continued care in their familiar home as an option that might be sustainable for another year or two.

At the same time, we explored different housing options in this area. I suggested that they look at communities that offer independent living (a private apartment with a full kitchen and a congregate dining meal plan of 1 -3 meals daily and weekly housekeeping) with the possibility of a subsidy, as well as the availability of ala carte services such as medication management, and assistance with bathing, as a way to stretch their savings out for as long as possible. Some of these communities also offer assisted living options (a private apartment but with only a kitchenette and 3 meals and snacks daily, as well as weekly housekeeping and laundry) with more comprehensive nursing oversight, as well as possible subsidies. In the event that one of them needs skilled nursing care, possibly Mr. Smith due to his advanced age and congestive heart failure diagnosis, I explained how Medicaid would come into play to pay for most of his care, and referred them to an elder law attorney who specializes in Medicaid for additional guidance. In the event that Mr. Smith predeceases Mrs. Smith, we also explored the possibility of a small group home to meet her care needs, due to her memory deficits and the strong possibility that she might have early to mid-stage dementia. Group homes offer private bedrooms, shared meals in a communal dining room and a less institutional setting than a skilled nursing facility, for about half the cost.

At the end of our 90 minute meeting, Don and Amy had a short list of communities near their homes in the metro DC area that could meet their parents’ medical and financial needs, as well as a referral to the Aging Life Care Manager in Florida to help them understand what options are available to their parents there, as well as to get a more complete assessment of their needs. We will remain in touch as they explore the options and, as a family, make the decision about when it is time to move their parents.

Susy Elder Murphy is the owner of Debra Levy Eldercare Associates, an independently owned and operated Aging Life Care Management practice founded in 1988. She is also President of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Aging Life Care Association. She can be reached at smurphy@care-manager.com

Top 10 Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help at Home

March 28th, 2016 by

David Letterman was famous for his Top 10 lists on his late-night television show. Most of them often brought a chuckle, while some were downright awful. But what Mr. Letterman understood was the power of creating an easy-to-remember list that could be recited the next day at lunch or around the water cooler at work.

We’ve created such a Top 10 list, but it’s not intended to make you laugh. It is intended to be memorable and frequently discussed with your loved ones. While you may not want to recognize one or more of the signs on this list because to do so would be to admit that your aging parents need some help at home, it’s vitally important that you know what to look for so you can act before an accident happens.

Here is the list: 10 Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help at Home

  1. Stacks of unopened mail or unread newspapers and magazines
  2. Spoiled food in the refrigerator
  3. Empty pantry and cupboards
  4. Declining personal hygiene (body odor, unkempt hair, unbrushed teeth)
  5. Mood swings and unexplained changes in mood
  6. Lack of interest in hobbies, reading, and conversation
  7. A strong smell of urine in the house
  8. Piles of dirty laundry and beds without sheets or blankets
  9. Difficulties with standing, walking, or mobility
  10. Forgetfulness beyond a simple “senior moment”

If you’ve noticed one or a combination of the above signs, then it may be time to start the conversation about next steps for your aging loved one. Many options ranging from part-time home care aides to assisted-living facilities are available. There are many ways to help you protect your elderly parent when you notice the signs. This list of indicators is a place to start.

Help for Adult Children of Aging or Sick Parents

March 11th, 2016 by

 

Special contribution from Barbara Kane, LCSW-C and Linda Hill, LCSW-C, of Aging Network Services

As geriatric social workers, we work with adult brothers and sisters who are caring for their aging parents. They are often reengaging with one another in very intense circumstances, sometimes after decades of being focused more on their own families than on their family of origin.  The stakes are usually high, as can be the associated emotions and opinions about how to best help their parents. As they sit in our Bethesda office, sometimes with one or two siblings on a conference call, they may silently wonder whether they are even going to continue a sibling relationship once this last parent dies. The process is never easy, but once we have a plan of care in place, siblings frequently look at one another with a rush of gratitude and maybe even a new respect.

Coordinating care for aging and ill parents is difficult for many adult siblings and frequently reawakens old wounds and conflicts. The presenting problem is not the sibling relationship; it is the effective care of the aging parents. Still, working to resolve issues related to taking care of their parents may offer siblings a fresh opportunity to resolve past conflicts.

Division of Roles

We often find that discussing roles and responsibilities is an opportunity to coach siblings on how they can work together more effectively. In a consultation, we may interrupt them to show healthier ways of communicating, both listening and talking. With siblings, we point out that each has different temperaments. We work to help them acknowledge and respect these complementary differences and the strengths of both.

After a couple of sibling sessions with the help of our coaching, we advise siblings to continue these meetings on a regular basis themselves.  Perhaps monthly meetings which they can regard as care planning discussions or business meetings is a good way to check in with each other.

Here are some questions that siblings may use to guide them in their discussions:

  • Do you feel that I have been doing enough?
  • Do you feel that I have been doing too much?
  • Is there anything that I have said or emailed over the last month that bothered you?
  • Do you feel that I have asked you for approval for big care decisions during the last month?
  • Do we need to revise our division of labor?
  • Do you feel I have been respectful of you in tone and action?
  • Have we communicated enough over the last month?
  • Are any old wounds festering?
  • Overall, how do you feel we are doing as a team?

It may seem that monthly meetings are not necessary.  But even if the aging parent is quite stable, sibling relationships need to remain on an even keel throughout this journey of caregiving.  Many families are split by geographical distance and it is often the out of town sibling who has the harder time with feeling out of the circle of care. These meetings, even over the phone, can go a long way towards keeping all the siblings feeling good about each other and the work they are doing together.

For this may be the last time that adult siblings have such a profound reason to come together.

What’s Wrong with Old?

February 17th, 2016 by

Close your eyes and imagine someone who is “old.” What images does this word conjure up?  Do you see frailty, sadness, or people with memory loss? For most Americans these are the images they see. But why?

Getting older isn’t the end of one’s life; it’s a chance to embrace more of life. Aging should be seen as a grand adventure, not a slow march toward death.

Geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas believes our attitudes toward aging exacerbate some of the problems the senior community faces. He sees seniors as entering a new phase of life, something he calls “post-adulthood.” Thomas argues that the senior years can be vital years of self-discovery and adventure, given the chance.

But embracing your age also means that aging Americans have to stop chasing their youth.

‘You’re as young as you feel, and I feel like I’m 22 years old.’ That’s not good, that’s not right ... and the reason it’s wrong is it doesn’t allow you to be who you are,” Thomas explained to TheWashington Post. Instead of seniors pretending to be in their 20s, Thomas wants seniors to embrace their true age with the same energy and enthusiasm that would be expected of a 22-year-old.

Thomas points out that believing old age is a bad thing can lead to dementia, depression, and other maladies. The key to aging, in his mind, isn’t denying what’s happening, but refusing to view age as a burden. There are 80-year-olds who run marathons. There are 90-year-old grandmothers who make Christmas dinner each year.

Another culprit of the negative aging stigma are the very institutions we use to offer assistance to seniors. According to Thomas, American nursing homes are regimented against seniors, making them feel useless, and are designed for the convenience of the staff, not the benefit of the patients.

Whether you’re running marathons at 80 or need a little help with mobility, aging is nothing to be ashamed of. By embracing our age and celebrating seniors, we help build a stronger, happier elderly community.

Sing Along If You Know the Words

January 19th, 2016 by

What’s your favorite song?

Whether it’s a golden oldie or new music, chances are, if it’s your favorite you know the lyrics by heart. You sing them on long car rides, in the shower, or when you’re having a good day. It turns out, these impromptu karaoke sessions are good for more than your vocal training.

Finnish researchers have found that singing may be a way to improve brain function, even in patients with early stage dementia. Singing improved the mood and the cognitive abilities of everyone in the study, especially those with early stage dementia.

Researchers studied the effects of music on the brain for 10 weeks, allowing seniors to sing their favorite tunes, hum music, and listen to tunes. Seniors with mild dementia showed improvement in memory, thinking skills, and their ability to get around. Those without dementia showed improved memory skills as well.

Singing also served as a mood elevator. Seniors who were encouraged to sing reported mood improvement and increases in optimism.

What does this mean for the seniors in your life?

It means it’s time to get musical.

If your loved one is having trouble with memory or mood, consider signing them up for a music class or a senior singing group. An activity with a musical theme is also an excellent idea for seniors with no memory problems, as it will help keep them sharp. If you can’t find a music-based activity, singing along may be the key to victory. Get your senior’s favorite music and arrange for an interactive concert. Afraid of sounding off-key? The study shows that even those who listen to music can reap the mental benefits.

Whether you’re hoping to keep your mind honed or simply interested in a sing along, music may be the key to keeping healthy in 2016.

Stay Connected This Holiday Season

December 18th, 2015 by

elder ladies enjoying christmas

It’s easy to lose track of what the holidays are about. There are presents to buy, decorations to hang, cards to write, and carols to sing. But while you’re hustling to make your holidays merry, remember that this season isn’t about reindeer lawn displays or buying the most presents; it’s about spending time with your loved ones.

For seniors, this is especially important. The holiday season can often lead to feelings of depression in seniors, especially if they feel isolated from family and friends. Depression is a common condition in many seniors. The Kadlec Senior Clinic reports that 10% of elders who live independently report depression. The numbers escalate when seniors live in nursing homes (25%) or are forced to stay in hospitals (45%). The holidays can exacerbate feelings of depression if elders aren’t able to make family gatherings or can’t decorate their homes the way they used to.

This holiday season, give the senior in your life the gift of connection. Organize a family decorating day, and help your favorite senior string lights and put up a holiday tree. Spend the day baking festive cookies or helping them send holiday cards. A few hours out of your day can dramatically help a senior feel the uplifting spirit of the season.

If you live too far to visit your loved one, consider sending them some holiday cheer in the form of Capital City Nurses. Our multi-tiered services include everything from full-time nursing care to Daughter Down the Street visits, which are designed to get seniors out into the world and interacting. We can help elders get to their favorite holiday play, visit and bake cookies, or take them caroling with their senior group.

At Capital City Nurses, we know that connection is the key to aging successfully. Help seniors stay connected by taking time with them this holiday season. A few hours a day can help stave off depression and create beautiful holiday memories.

Shop Smart for Seniors This Holiday Season

December 10th, 2015 by

Does Grandma really need another pair of slippers?

At Capital City Nurses, we know the holidays can be daunting. Long lists of shopping for family and friends, holiday feasts to plan, decorations to hang—this season of peace can be extremely stressful. This year, instead of relying on the classics, like slippers, why not get the seniors on your list something that could change their lives and their outlooks?

Here are our favorite gift suggestions for the holiday season:

  1. Technology. Getting a tablet or computer for a senior may not be the most obvious choice, but it might be the best present they ever get. Studies have shown that technology keeps seniors minds’ sharp, helps them stay connected to the outside world, and expands their horizons. Give your aging loved one the gift of tech, and spend a few hours teaching them how to navigate the web. It will open a whole new world up for them.
  2. Classes. Has Grandma always wanted to learn French? Does Grandpa have a passion for history? Get them learning again by signing them up for classes at local community colleges or senior centers. Studies have shown that learning, especially languages, helps keep the mind sharp as we age. It will also give your loved one exciting new experiences.  
  3. Upgrades. Do your parents live in a safe home? Are you sure? This Christmas, why not make their home the safest place to be with a few upgrades? Consider your parents’ mobility before you get started. Do they need a chair lift? Or would better, brighter lighting to help their vision be a good choice? Work with your parents to pinpoint little home improvements that will make their living space safer and more convenient.
  4. Reliable Visitors. If your loved one is having trouble navigating their house or completing weekly errands, perhaps some help is needed. Capital City Nurses offers a Daughter Down the Street program that is ideal for independent seniors who may need a little extra help during the week.

This holiday season, skip the slippers and give a gift that can have a lasting impact on the seniors in your life. Focus on giving that lasts long after the celebrating is over.