Spring Cleaning Series: Spring Clean Your Yard

Spring Clean Your YardSpring cleaning is a task that is not only for the inside of your home. When you’re done spring cleaning your home, it’s time to turn your attentions to the yard and the outside of the house. Chances are, winter has ravaged your yard and you may need to spend time picking up branches and other dirt and debris that has gathered. If you have pets, it may be time to clean the yard from their use of it during the winter!

A thorough spring cleaning of your yard will assure that your grass will grow green and strong, that your plants will flourish and that when it’s great weather you can pull up a chair, sit and relax and enjoy the beauty of your yard. Taking time to spring clean your yard when the plants are just waking up from their winter hibernation may help you avoid any issues with your foliage in the summer.

If you aren’t sure what should be done when and if you don’t trust your green thumb, here is a brief checklist of what should be addressed when spring cleaning the yard. This is a great list for both caregivers and their homes and for when they visit Mom and Dad and help them get their home summer-ready.

  • In early April it’s the best time to grab a rake and begin a thorough yard cleaning. The yard may still be damp so you may not want to run a lawn mower around so stick to handheld yard appliances.
  • Remove any coverings you put on your outdoor plants once the threat of overnight freezing has passed. If you staked up any trees so they would survive the winter, remove the stakes now.
  • Resist the urge to prune trees and shrubs in the early spring months. Wait until they have budded out. Also, if you don’t see buds you may be removing a viable limb. Summer and fall are the best times for pruning.
  • If you have perennial plants cut them back so they can grow back. If you have ornamental grass, cut them back so they flourish once summer is in full swing.
  • Once the ground is able to tolerate the weight of your lawn mower you may want to aerate it. This will help the yard be better able to absorb water and nutrients. It also stimulates grass growth and speeds the decomposition of any grass clippings.
  • Talk with a local gardening expert and ask the best time for planting your fruit and/or vegetable garden. You want to make sure they have a long enough growing season, but you don’t want the seeds to be planted in ground that is too cold to support them.

Sprucing up your yard may mean planting new grass in areas that were damaged by the winter. Seeing plants start to poke their “heads” up through the ground is a sure sign that spring is on the way and you want to do what you can to help with that growth!

The next in our Spring Cleaning Series focuses on Cleaning Out Your Closet

Spring Cleaning Leads To Summer Relaxation!

Spring CleaningOnce the snow has melted and the sun warms the air and the earth around you, your thoughts turn to summer. Before summer hits, many people get the urge to spring clean.

Giving your home a thorough spring cleaning leaves it, and you, feeling refreshed, revitalized and ready for summer. A spring cleaning can involve taking down the heavier winter curtains, cleaning the windows then hanging up the lighter, breezier summer window hangings. It also means you take off the winter quilts and replace them with summer weight blankets.

Take a look around your house and decide which room to tackle first. If you’re a caregiver you may be faced with spring cleaning both your home and your parent’s or loved ones home and this is a great way to spend quality time with them. A spring cleaning may also be a time to get the entire family together, spring clean Mom and Dad’s house, make a day of it and have a picnic dinner to celebrate a job well done. Look at the event not as a working weekend, but as a mini family reunion.

Use spring cleaning as a time to go through the cupboards and clear them out of expired foods. Get rid of, or donate, items that you have no use for any longer or that you know you will never use – there is someone who can benefit from your generosity.

Go through dressers and closets. Move spring and summer clothes to the front, clean and pack away the winter wear. Make sure the spring and summer clothes still fit. Pack away winter boots, keep out shoes fit for the muddy spring days, and get out summer footwear.

Give the kitchen a thorough cleaning from floors to ceiling and every appliance in between. Scrub the bathroom from top to bottom as well. When you’re in the bathroom, go through the medicine cabinets and check for expired medications. Also, check for medications that you no longer take; find a pharmacy that collects unused medicines for recycling – don’t flush them.

Shake out area rugs. Shampoo or steam clean carpets. Polish hardwood floors and scrub the linoleum. This is also an ideal time to clean all of the walls in all of the rooms to clear away any dust or grime that has built up during the winter months.

Once you’re done, the home will look, and smell, fresh and you can relax and enjoy the upcoming summer months.

The next in our series will be Spring Cleaning The Yard

Social Media & Caregiving

imagesWith social media a part of our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that it has created an impact on family members and the caregivers who are taking care of an elderly loved one. The ability to easily communicate with people from around the globe helps to keep everyone in touch and aware of their loved ones conditions, especially towards the end stages of life. Although this may seem to be a great thing, social media and the ability to stay connected can sometimes create animosity between families as well as stress due to the lack of privacy it has created.

Here are two things to keep in mind regarding social media and some tactics to help keep private family information off the Internet.

1. When a loved one passes away, there could be an immediate reaction online from family members and friends as they show their remorse for the loss. This sometimes creates issues, as many family members may prefer to not immediately share that information publicly. Remember when addressing this type of situation that you are not only speaking on your own behalf but on behalf of an entire family and the loved one that passed. In order to protect what is shared on your loved ones page, privacy settings may be used to control some of the unwanted overflow of emotion that may arise. Also, communicating to those around you the expectations and wishes of family member who passed can also help keep a check on how information is shared.

2. Remember to consider the reason you are sharing loved ones information before doing so. A psychologist from the London School of Business suggests that before sharing anything take these two factors into consideration. One, does sharing the information make you feel better or will it make others feel better for what you have said? Secondly, are you using the information to better yourself in some way? If either of those questions can be answered truthfully without feeling a sense of guilt, the information you may want to share should be okay.

Ultimately, finding the right balance between social media and privacy of a loved one can be a tricky dance. Remember to think before you share private family information as offending a family member during tough times can create animosity for months to come. As great as the Internet has become and the ability to connect and share information increases, privacy needs to be cherished and respected especially in times of grief and despair.

Caregivers: Don’t Be The Middleman

A day in the life of a caregiver can include feeding your family breakfast, getting the kids ready for school or daycare, going to work and then stopping by to see mom or dad before you head back home to your children.

What do you do though, when your siblings or other family members come to you and ask, “So, how are mom and dad doing?” “Are they well?” “What happened at their doctor’s appointment last week?” It may seem innocent enough, but these questions can become frustrating and sap your strength. Why? Because you are being put into the role of middleman and your siblings are stepping back by not taking responsibility and that adds an additional burden onto your shoulder.

If you take on the role of mom and dad’s “agent” this means you are taking on more work on the caregiver role and your siblings are relying on you to supply the answers they need and this can drain your energy. You can certainly update family members if there is a change in the health or well-being of an aging loved one, but if you find yourself in the role of being the only one who reaches out and stops by to check on your parents, you are unwittingly putting yourself in the spokesperson, aka agent, role.

For some caregivers, they also find themselves having to explain to mom and dad that yes, the siblings are reaching out to you to see how they are, but no, you don’t know why they aren’t coming to visit or picking up the telephone. This is not a good situation for you to be in and resentment can build. You simply cannot speak for the other members of your family as to why they aren’t making an appearance and it does put you in a difficult position.

What can you do? You need to take a step back, get as many of the family members into the same room as possible and lay down some ground rules. Even if you are the designated legal representative for your aging parents, that doesn’t remove your siblings from taking an interest in their health. You need to ask for help and also let the other family members know that you cannot take on the role of middleman. Urge them to get involved and pick up the phone or stop by and visit. If mom or dad asks why they haven’t heard from your brother you need to say, “I honestly don’t know. You should call him.”

Regardless of your family dynamic, if you’ve taken on the role of caregiver you cannot take on the role of relationship manager for everyone. When you find yourself in the middle, take a deep breath, take a step back and remind your siblings of their responsibility to reach out on their own.

Financial Tips And Steps For Caregivers

A survey was completed recently that showed that close to 50 percent of caregivers spend more than $5,000 annually on expenses related to caring for their aging loved ones. As many of those caregivers are caring for their own growing families as well as their aging loved ones this is putting a strain on their family finances.

Costs that are being borne by caregivers include:

  • Paying for medication
  • Paying for medical bills and co-pays
  • Paying for in-home care

Caregivers also spend up to 30 hours per week caring for their aging relatives beyond their financial resources. You can see that time and put a strain on both wallet and body.

Some of the mistakes that caregivers make when they fall into the role is that they don’t properly budget for time or money. In some cases when family members are put into the role of caregiver it comes at a time of crisis and this could lead to overspending or perhaps not knowing what, if, or how much a loved ones insurance policy may pay for in-home care or other medications and physicians’ visits. If a caregiver doesn’t have access to, or is not in charge of, the loved ones’ assets, he may pay for it all out of pocket and hope for reimbursement later – this is not ideal.

The best way to make sure a family is prepared for a health or care crisis is to begin the conversation today about powers of attorney, finances, life and health insurance and even final wishes. Having a family meeting sooner, rather than later, can provide information that all parties need to be aware of in order to make the role into caregiving as seamless as possible.

Here are some financial tips families can take to minimize the financial burdens or stresses that come from caregiving:

  1. Ask for help. If you or your aging loved ones have close ties in the community reach out to them for assistance. This may be ideal if only to make certain your family members have interaction with the “outside world.” You, as a caregiver, have to remember you simply cannot do it all –especially if you’re working full time and caring for your own family. You need to look at hiring caregivers for your parents, finding someone who can take them to and from doctor’s visits or grocery shopping treks and even cleaning the house and preparing meals. Freeing up time for the caregiver is as important as the money being spent on hiring for these roles. Also, if you worry about your loved ones being home alone and having no contact it may make sense to invest in a home medical alert system. These devices offer a way for your family members to have immediate access to medical attention should the need arise.
  2. Join a caregivers support group. Many of the feelings you experience – anger, frustration, exhaustion and more are shared by others in your role. It’s best to make connections with others who are in the same situation because they may be a great source for inspiration and tricks to make caregiving easier.
  3. Understand the type of insurance your parents have, what is covered and what is excluded before you make any investments in in-home assistance or spend money on prescription drugs. Also, check to see if they’re eligible for any Veterans or Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare benefits.
  4. Prior to the need arising, it’s best to investigate long term health care and living options. Making a decision on where to place mom or dad in the middle of a crisis is not healthy for anyone. When you’re researching locations for them to reside, you will also want to contact an elder law attorney so you can understand the options for payment of a stay.
  5. Gather all necessary paperwork – bank accounts, wills, power of attorney, insurance information, debts owed, information on utility payments, medications taken, physician information, etc. this way if your parents can no longer speak for themselves, the family knows where all of the “important papers” are kept.

The further ahead a family can plan the easier the transition to a caregiver/caregiving role will be. It is also a role that needs to be shared by all family members so that one sibling isn’t shouldering the entire load.

The Power Of Positive Thinking

Medical evidence has shown the mind is powerful and your moods and emotions impact the overall quality of your life. Additionally, if you fear aging and “getting old and not being useful” any longer, that is a mindset that can be addressed and perhaps changed. While aging may be a fact of life, the way we approach the inevitable will determine how gracefully we age.

As caregivers, it’s important to take care of yourself physically and mentally. It’s also easy to look at our parents’ and their failing health and subconsciously take on those characteristics and “grow old before your time.”

Your perception of how you age will influence the way in which you age. What does that mean? If you feel “old and tired” chances are you will begin to feel that way. However, if you feel like a Spring Chicken and you have that mindset you may be able to live your life in a more positive manner.

What are some of the benefits of a great mindset and what can positive thinking do for you? Here are a few things:

  • You might live longer! The Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement found if you face aging gracefully you may increase your life expectancy by close to eight years. Feeling “useful and happy” are key.
  • Accept what you can’t change. We cannot stop the clock and rather than worrying about aging, we need to accept it. Accepting that we will age doesn’t mean that we have to spend our lives in a rocking chair in front of a television. Aging and aging well means staying active and remaining involved with friends, family and community events.
  • Staying active as you age will allow you to age better and could even allow you to age in place for a longer period of time. Individuals who self-isolate and who are not active age more quickly than an individual who is active and working to remain viable and involved.
  • Your positive attitude can boost your brain power and enhance your memory. It’s been shown that individuals who have negative thoughts about aging suffered a 30 percent greater decline in cognitive performance than those who embrace the changes that the Golden Years bring.
  • Stress can damage your heart and raise your blood pressure and this is an important reason to embrace positivity. Again, it was shown that negative thoughts about aging put significant stress on the cardiovascular system.

What can you do, today, to enhance your attitude? Realize that the way your parents have aged, or are aging, doesn’t necessarily have to be the way you are going to age. Take steps today to remain active and realize that making positive changes today can help you age more gracefully and could, as Eastern prophecies say, “help you celebrate and embrace each year’s triumphs and even the hardships.”

It is important for caregivers to understand the importance of adopting a positive mindset especially if they’re in the midst of caring for their parents and aging loved ones.

 

Boomers Need To Get Their Financial House In Order

Retirement

Planning for retirement makes life less stressful.

Boomers, who often assume the role of caregiver, need to get their financial house in order. If you are that Boomer, it is up to you to take steps today to make certain your finances aren’t a burden for your loved ones.

No one has a crystal ball to tell us how long we will live, and because of that it’s crucial to plan for the future and for a time when you can comfortably retire. Doing this means you need to consider your income, expenses and what you want to do in your Golden Years: Do you want to travel? Buy a new home? Simply kick back and enjoy your family home and putter around the garden? Regardless of what your retirement dream is, financial planning is something that needs to be discussed. In fact, planning for retirement should begin when you first become employed, but not many of us in our 20s think of retirement. Regardless of your age, there is no time like the present to plan for retirement if you haven’t already.

If you’re in a caregiving role and are tasked with paying the bills of your aging loved ones or are wondering where the money is going to come from in the event they suffer a health emergency that lands them in a hospital or assisted living facility, you understand the stress that finances can cause. How can you, make certain that if your children are put into the role of caregiver for you that your money will last and that they won’t have that burden?

Here are some ways to do just that and to make your money last:

  • Consider downsizing your home. If you raised your children in a large home and now it’s just the “two of you” why not downsize? If you have a smaller home, or move into an apartment you can realize a windfall in savings on utilities, property taxes, insurance and mortgage payments. If you realize a profit from the sale of your home talk with a financial advisor on the best way to invest it to help your money grow.
  • Downsize your debts. Pay off your highest interest credit cards first then start paying down the rest of your debts. Financial planners say individuals should strive to be debt-free by age 70.
  • If you’re both retired, do you still need two vehicles? Consider trading one, or both, in on a reliable model that you can share.
  • When you’re eligible for Medicare, take advantage of the benefit. When you turn age 65 you are eligible to participate in Medicare – a program that covers up to 80 percent of the cost of doctor’s visits and medical expenses.
  • Take advantage of senior discounts. If your favorite store offers a discount for seniors, sign up! Ask whether the restaurant you’re frequenting or the hotel you’re staying in offers a senior discount; many establishments may offer one if you ask. Ask your auto insurance provider about discounts it may provide as well.
  • It may sound morbid, but plan your funeral. This is not a burden – either emotional or financial – that you want to place upon your children. You can make virtually all of your arrangements with a funeral home and then let your children know what your wishes are and where the arrangements have been made.
  • Talk with your financial advisor and see if your money is working for you. If it isn’t ask him how you can diversify in a safe manner that won’t put you at too high a risk for loss.

When you’re making your plans for finances in retirement, make sure you and your spouse or significant other sit down and have a heart-to-heart about the ways in which you will spend your retirement. It can be a stressful time when both partners, who may have been accustomed to a particular work routine, are now faced with seemingly endless hours of “nothing to do” and “too much togetherness.” Talk about, and review those plans as you move toward retirement to ensure you are meeting you needs and goals.

Is Diet Soda Healthier? Myths Uncovered

Diet Soda & HealthAs a caregiver, you are charged with caring for your aging or ill loved one, but you also need to care for yourself. Self-care, unfortunately, is not something that comes easily to caregivers – there are just too many pressing tasks on their plates, many of them say. One way in which a caregiver can practice self-care is through their food and drink choices.

Before you pick up that diet soda, thinking that you’re saving calories and therefore drinking “healthier” you should be aware of a few myths that are pervasive. Yes you will be saving calories and sugar and you can still receive a sometimes much-needed caffeine boost, but the caloric savings from diet to non-diet sodas may not even the scale.

Studies have shown though that even with the ingestion of fewer calories and sugar, diet sodas may not be better for your overall health. Researchers from Boston University found that both types of sodas – sugar and diet – can “boost the risk of metabolic syndrome- a collection of risk factors that increase the risk of health problems including heart disease diabetes and stroke.”

This metabolic syndrome was shown to be close to 40% higher among individuals who drank one can of soda a day as compared to those who didn’t drink soda. The research didn’t show that an individual who drank soda would suffer this syndrome, but that there was a connection.

It’s also been shown that those who drink sodas with artificial sweeteners may eat more than those who don’t drink diet sodas. The reason could be that the artificial sweetener doesn’t allow your body to properly “assess” the calories you’ve ingested and may make you believe you are still hungry.

Making a change from diet sodas with artificial sweeteners to regular soda is a start in weaning oneself off of carbonated drinks. Giving up soda is also better for your teeth because the carbonation can lead to tooth decay. A healthier option would be to give up soda all together and drink water. Add a slice of lemon or cucumber or even a few squeezes of lime juice to the water to jazz up the flavor a bit.

Ask your family and those in your care to give up the soda as a show of solidarity and help the family all make healthier choices in beverages!

How To Be A Great Long Distance Grandparent

It’s a fact of life for many families that they are separated by as much as hundreds or thousands of miles. A recent study found that more than 50 percent of all grandparents live more than 200 miles from their children and grandchildren. The family may have had to move for a job opportunity or other financial reasons, but where does that leave the grandparents who want to have a close bond with their grandchild? It leaves them to find interactive, unique ways in which to stay in touch.

Tech savvy grandparents are turning to the internet and to options such as FaceTime or video chats to stay involved in the lives of their grandchild. Forming a bond across the miles is much easier if you can see and virtually interact with them rather than simply being a faceless voice on the telephone.

Just because you don’t live “over the river and through the woods” there are ways – thanks to technology – that you can keep in touch with your grandchildren. Don’t let yourself become the “grandma who gives me gifts” be the “grandma that’s waiting for me when I get home from school or soccer practice.”

Here are ways you can stay in touch, and in tune, with what’s going on in the lives of your grandchildren:

  • Make a daily or weekly “date” with your family. If your grandchild is too young to video chat, ask your children to let you be a part of his or her life by turning on the video camera during dinner or bath time or even when he or she is trying to take her first steps.
  • Once your grandchild is old enough to know that it’s time for grandma and grandpa time, use the video feature to talk with them about their day, read a book with them or even do crafts together.
  • Make sure that once your grandchild is old enough that he knows you have a date at a particular time and ask your children to make sure they help build the excitement of the visit. Imagine if you could be there to welcome your grandchild home from school in case they come home to an empty house on occasion. It would be a treat for the both of you and could even put mom and dad’s mind at ease.
  • Read a book together. Find an age appropriate book and either read it to your grandchild or when they get old enough read the book together and talk about it.
  • Are you a crafty grandparent? If so, see if your grandchild wants to learn to knit, crochet, bake or do woodworking crafts with you. You can supply them with what they need to complete the craft and then you can be on the camera together learning and working on the project.
  • You can play a game together. Set up a chess set in each house and play together. Grab a crossword puzzle book or a word jumble and complete them together.
  • Play a getting-to-know-you game. You can each ask questions via email and then answer them. This is a great way for you to truly get to know your grandchild and for you to pass along some of your life experiences.
  • Grab a camera and take a photo a couple of times a week to share with each other. Did you go to the park? Take a picture. Did your grandchild have a soccer game? Have a picture of him taken in his uniform so you can see it. Remember too, that with the beauty of the internet you can have your child video tape or even have you there “live” at the game or the dance recital.

It isn’t easy to be long distance from your beloved children and grandchildren, but thanks to technology you can feel as though you’re in the same room!

Protect Yourself From Diabetes: Tips For Caregivers And Seniors

One of the most common and most prevalent forms of diabetes is Type 2 (formerly called adult-onset and/or non-insulin dependent diabetes). This form of diabetes impacts close to 95% of the 26 million Americans that have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Adults don’t have to look at a diagnosis if diabetes as an inevitable product of aging. If you want to prevent diabetes, taking care of yourself and living a healthy, active life can go a long way in keeping it at bay. Your doctor will also tell you that monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure levels is also critical to a healthy life and avoiding diabetes.

Here are some other steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing diabetes:

Eat nuts daily. Almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts have been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Even eating peanuts – a legume, not an actual nut – can be beneficial. Eat only the recommended daily amount.

120px-Cup_of_coffee_5084862159Enjoy your coffee! Increasing your coffee consumption by one cup a day over what you typically drink can provide a close to 10 percent decrease in developing diabetes as compared to those individuals who didn’t make any changes to their coffee drinking habits.

Take a walk after you eat. Getting up and moving, especially after a meal, will lower your risk. Also, it’s been shown that people who sit for more than eight hours a day are more likely to develop diabetes than their more active counterparts. Start lifting weights – resistance training can keep blood sugar levels in check in ways that even aerobic exercise cannot.

Cut back on alcohol consumption. Drinking more than four alcoholic beverages within a two hour time frame can increase the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes because alcohol interferes with insulin in the brain. Drinking soda, whether it’s sweetened or unsweetened, can increase your risk of developing diabetes by more than 25 percent.

Cutting back on the consumption of red meats can also decrease your chances of developing diabetes. Processed meats should also be eaten in limited quantities as well. Eating fish, poultry and whole grains and low fat dairy are much healthier for you overall and as a way to prevent diabetes.

Caregivers should be looking at living a healthier lifestyle – which we understand is not always the easiest when you’re helping take care of aging parents – but these tips are ideal for both caregivers and their relatives to consider.