Category Archives: Caregiver Resources

Seven Steps To Preparing For Being A Caregiver

For some, the role of caregiver for an ailing or aging parent is one that has been planned for. For others, being thrust into the role of caregiver, in many cases while still raising your own family and holding down a full time job, is not one for which you’re prepared.

Feeling overwhelmed, underprepared and even unappreciated are emotions many caregivers go through. You may feel guilt, anger, frustration, sadness and anxiety, but these feelings are natural. Along with the negative feelings that may ebb and flow during the course of caring for aging loved ones you will also experience gifts that come with that role including, compassion, courage, forgiveness and a sense of understanding and fulfillment.

Whether you’re trained in the area of health care or if this is your first experience caring for an aging or infirm relative, there are some steps you can take to familiarize yourself with what lies ahead and what you can do to navigate the changing family dynamics.

Below are some tips to help you as you move into your new role:

  1. Before you can begin helping your aging loved ones you need a baseline of information on what they need, how you can help, what signs and symptoms to look for. Ask their doctor if he’s seen changes in their health or behavior and what you should expect. Ask him to review the medications list and frequency the medications should be taken, it’s best to compare this list with the medications you have found in your parent’s home to make certain they are taking the correct medications.
  2. If your parents haven’t seen a doctor recently, make an appointment for a comprehensive check-up. There could be underlying medical conditions that could be easily addressed which could make it possible for them to age in place and which may make your role of caregiver an easier one. Also, ask the doctor at the visit whether he feels your parents are able to remain living independently. Keep in mind that if they are borderline with needing in home care or moving to an assisted living facility, simply equipping the home with a medical monitoring device and them with a medical alert pendant you may be able to extend the time they can remain in their own home.
  3. What exactly do your loved ones need? Are they keeping up with personal hygiene as in bathing and getting dressed for the day? Are they taking their medications as prescribed? Do you notice any signs that may be alarming; such as forgetting to turn off the stove when they’re done cooking? Are they able to keep up with light housework and cooking? Do they need help paying the bills or doing heavier outside yard work? If they are overwhelmed with cooking meals and are perhaps not eating as healthy as they should be? If that’s the case look into a Meals-on-Wheels program or prepare meals for them and deliver them throughout the week. Knowing what your parents need will help gauge the level of involvement.
  4. Involve your family members in the role of caregiver. Ask for help with items you simply      cannot take on. Look into county-offered services for the aging. Make notes and keep a folder of information available for all family members on any signs of deterioration in your loved ones. Put all medical information and prescription information in that folder as well.
  5. Prepare for any eventuality. In the event your parents reach the point when they can no      longer live alone, what will the options be for their living arrangements? Will they move in with a family member? Do they need to explore assisted living or nursing home arrangements? Begin researching these options now as you don’t want to have to make decisions in the event of an emergency and be faced with an untenable situation. Be sure to involve your loved ones in the conversations and ask what their feelings are on where they may eventually be living. Preparing could also mean looking into hiring a part time home healthcare aide or a nursing service to come in and check on their mental and physical health on occasion.
  6. Undertake a financial check-up and review legal documents. While your parents may be hesitant to share bank account or credit card information, impress upon them that      sharing that information can help with long term care planning needs. If you, and other family members, have an understanding of their financial situation you will be better able to navigate the roads that lie ahead. You will also want to ask if your parents have a will. Where they keep their life insurance and medical insurance papers. Who do they want to designate as a healthcare proxy or power of attorney? This information needs to be decided upon prior to deterioration in mental or physical health as you don’t want to be making decisions under duress.
  7. Safety proof the home. If your parents are determined to age in place, then your role as caregiver could mean doing a safety check up of the home to make certain it is safe. Mobility issues plague many seniors and removing trip and fall hazards, making sure there are clear walkways and that the rugs are non skid and are securely in place can go a long way in keeping trip and fall incidents to a minimum. Make certain smoke alarms are installed and working. Check that hallways and rooms have proper lighting and consider installing motion activated lights. Check the water temperatures to make sure that hot water isn’t going to scald them. Make certain they have access to adequate healthy foods and that they are, in fact, eating the food you’ve shopped for or prepared. Post a list of emergency phone numbers by the telephone and in other locations around the house where they can easily access them. Keep in mind, though that in the event of a medical emergency or a trip or fall accident they may not be able to reach the telephone and may be in too much pain or unable to dial the telephone – this again, is a reason to give them access to a medical alert pendant. At the push of a button emergency medical personnel are summoned and your parents will have access to an experienced call center representative from LifeFone who will stay with them until help arrives. LifeFone representatives will also call family and doctors to alert them.

Caregivers sometimes find themselves toiling in isolation. It may make sense to interact with other caregivers, ask them how they address particular situations and just simply talk with someone who understands what you’re going through. Being a caregiver for your parents, is one that may be fraught with tension but it can also be a time to reconnect and build new memories that will carry over for a lifetime.

 

 

Prepare Now For Caregiving Tasks For The Holidays

It may seem like it’s too early to begin thinking about the holidays, but once October hits the months tend to become a blur. If you’re a caregiver that is in charge of caring for your own family, holding down a job and caring for sick or elderly parents, planning and preparation is crucial to an enjoyable holiday for all involved.

What steps can you take now prior to the busyness of the holiday season so that you can enjoy both the holiday and time with your friends and family? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make certain your aging relative is healthy before the holidays roll around. Do they need to get a flu shot or an annual check-up? Schedule those before the season picks up. Ask their primary care doctor about the medications they are on and whether they’re still up to date with everything they’re taking.
  • Know all that you can about how the stress of the holiday might impact your loved one. If your mom or dad has been recently widowed, the holidays could be a painful time for them. Be cognizant of that fact. Understand what other medical conditions they might have that could make it difficult for them around the holidays – dementia could mean they could be fearful in situations in which they aren’t accustomed to.
  • If your relatives will be traveling for the holidays, be aware that their home medical alert system with LifeFone can travel with them. You need only contact LifeFone to let them know the new location and the duration of the stay. Having their personal medical device with them when they travel is a great idea.

Caring for yourself during the holidays is as important, if not more so, than caring for the health of your aging parents. What can you do to make certain you’re healthy? Here are some tips:

  • Have a check up with your family physician and get a flu shot if necessary.
  • Make certain you take time to eat healthy meals, even if you’re on the run with errands. Pack healthy take along snacks and prepare meals at home so you’re not tempted by fast food.
  • If you can’t make it to the gym, get a piece of exercise equipment for your home that you are sure to use. Whether it’s a treadmill or a DVD of exercise routines, staying fit, healthy and active will help you deal with the holiday madness to come!
  • Take time to enjoy those holiday traditions that are solely yours and those that are part of your extended family. If you need to excuse yourself for an afternoon to work on holiday crochet projects or to do some scrapbooking or to simply wander the malls by yourself, you need to make time for yourself – your mental health will thank you.
  • Connect with other caregivers and ask how they handle holiday and family and caregiving. Caregiving can be stressful during the best of times during the year but for many of us, the holidays add additional pressure. Talking to someone in your same situation can be more than beneficial.
  • Don’t forget to ask your aging relatives what they’d like to do for the holidays. Do they have a special tradition that they’d like to incorporate? Try to make that happen so that the holidays are as memorable for everyone as they can be.

Start today, putting your holiday plans in place, whether it’s looking at a calendar and determining who will be cooking the holiday meals and when the more pre-planning you do, the more enjoyable the months ahead will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Adult Daycare An Option For Your Aging Relatives?

Caregivers, who are being celebrated in the month of November, understand the stresses of holding down a job and caring for their children in addition to caring for and worrying about their aging parents. There are several steps that can be taken to help relieve the burden on all involved and also help keep your parents engaged and involved.

Whether your parents or other aging loved one needs full time care or simply a way to get out of the house and be under supervision while you work or run errands, an adult daycare facility might be the ideal option. If you’re employed you may want to talk with your human resource department as many employers offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which can provide valuable resources for family caregiving.

Check with your local Office for the Aging or other entity that provides senior services to inquire about costs for the program, services provided and whether there is transportation provided to the program. You will likely need to have an intake session with the program so they can understand your parents’ needs and you can decide whether it’s a good fit.

During your research you will find there are two main types of adult day programs:

  • One that offers intensive health, occupational and physical therapies and cater to those individuals with more severe medical issues, or
  • An adult day care program that is a way for aging individuals to spend time with peers, socialize and enjoy healthy meals in a medically supervised setting

Isolation is a factor that faces many seniors especially if they’ve lost friends to illness or death and especially if they can no longer operate a vehicle. Being involved in an adult day program is a perfect way to help your aging relative find and make new friends and partake in the planned activities. These programs also work to keep the senior moving and active as this can help them to better age in place and is ideal for good mental and physical health.

An adult day care center will provide the caregiver peace of mind and allow him or her to continue to work with the knowledge that their parent is being cared for in a safe and healthful environment.

 

 

 

Artfully Asking For Assistance With Caregiving Tasks

Asking for help is not something that everyone is comfortable doing. Even if you’re comfortable asking for it, there are some people in your family who will simply not hear what you’re saying.

When it comes to being a caregiver, it is easy to take on too much especially if you’re in the Sandwich Generation (those caregivers that are caring for their own families while caring for aging parents). It is easy to suffer caregiver burnout and as such it’s crucial that steps be taken to relieve some of the burdens prior to that happening.

How can you ask your family members to become involved in the tasks of caring for aging parents? Here are some tips:

  • Ask for help prior to needing it. Set up a time to speak with all of your family members at one time, if possible, to solicit help. Ask for their ideas on how the tasks can be more evenly divided. Do you have a sibling that would be happy to do yard work but really doesn’t want to have to cook, clean or pay your parent’s bills? Then take him up on the offer of the yard work. Utilize the strengths of each of your family members as a way to help you get back some of your own time and be better able to care for yourself and your family.
  • Don’t start the conversation with accusations of who’s doing more than someone else. If possible come prepared with a list of the items you, as the caregiver, are currently      responsible for. Being armed with a detailed list makes it easier to determine who can help with what and also makes certain that major as well as minor tasks are accounted for. Use the meeting time as a way to come together for a mutually beneficial solution for your parents not as a finger pointing session.
  • Be prepared for push back from siblings and be prepared for someone to bring up the idea of “putting mom and dad in a home.” These are sometimes natural inclinations when faced with elder care. If your parents are still able to live independently, that should be encouraged. If your parents are on the borderline of being able to age in place, consider gifting them with a home medical monitoring device and a personal alert pendant; this is a way to provide peace of mind to all involved in the event of a trip or fall or other medical emergency. Perhaps the family will need to come up with a plan for hiring a personal care aid, or a housekeeper or even someone to help with meal preparation or driving them to doctor’s appointments. Once you know what your options are, you can better plan.

Even though you may be facing burnout as a caregiver, you still need to approach the meeting with siblings with focus on helping mom and dad in addition to relieving some of your burden. Because everyone in the family is working toward the same ultimate goal – caring for your parents – the conversation should flow smoothly. If not, here are some tips on how to negotiate:

  • Be prepared with what needs to be done
  • Don’t be accusatory
  • Present the problem as one that is shared by all family members
  • Ask for suggestions other than ones you may have posed
  • Be flexible in addressing issues and don’t feel you need to provide answers to all of the tasks that need addressing. Getting suggestions from family members might just open the door to a solution no one had thought of previously

Don’t forget to invite mom and dad to the conversation and get their input on the tasks they feel they can take on themselves, and those for which they need assistance.

 

Tips for New Caregivers

New caregivers don’t generally have the resources or support system in place and many are thrust into this role rather quickly without adequate time to prepare. We offer a few tips that can help you get started.

1)      Understand your care recipient.  If you’re caring for a family member you might find that tip rather silly. In truth, however, knowing a person as your mother or father is a bit different than knowing them as a care recipient.  Your mom or dad may not initially care for the role reversal, for example. It’s important to get to know them through a more critical eye and notice the changes they are going through. Take time to talk with family members to learn more about the changes they’ve seen, their favorite hobbies or movies, essentially anything that would help you know them better.  It’s also important to review their medical history to the degree it is available.  By learning these simple, but valuable pieces of information, you will be in a better position to identify future changes in behavior or physical condition.

2)      Talk with your loved one about his or her finances and health care wishes. For your peace of mind and theirs, consider a Durable Power of Attorney for finances and health care. This planning can help reduce your immediate anxiety and better prepare your family for the future.

3)      Invite family and close friends to be involved in your loved one’s care. Caregiving can be exhausting at times particularly if you have many other obligations.  Make a list of all the tasks that are required as caregiver along with things such as driving mom to the doctor or the pharmacy.  Ask everyone to consider what they are willing and able to do to assist with care. Avoid the urge to feel you can manage this alone as you’ll soon find out that you can’t do so while taking proper care of yourself.

4)      Identify community resources and programs. Meals on Wheels, Senior Programs and others can be very valuable services. Medical alert services allow you the freedom to be away while still ensuring that your loved one has access to medical care should an emergency arise. Life simply can’t be suddenly placed on hold so find local programs to allow you to lead a balanced life.

5)      Find support for yourself. Caregivers often feel isolated as they take on more responsibility, and as their social lives move into the background. You may find a local support group or one online; groups that can help you muddle your way through the challenges you are facing. Don’t feel you need to go it alone!  Ask for help, as stated before, from friends, family, community programs and others you may find. Take care of yourself or you’ll have little to give to the one who is in need at this time.

Resources for the Growing Population of Male Caregivers

Within the past few decades, gender roles and social norms have become increasingly blurred. Men are more hands-on with parenting, and it is not uncommon to see men taking on the role of stay-at-home dad. More recently there has been a spike in the number of males assuming the role of caregiver to their loved ones as well. Today it is estimated that 45 percent of caregivers are male.

Recent studies on how gender affects caregiving have revealed some key differences in how men undertake the role. Males are less likely to seek outside help and are more likely to view the position as a case manager or care coordinator would. In response to the differences men experience as caregivers, a variety of resources have popped up catered to the gender. The following list provides a good place to start if you, or a male you know has recently found themselves caring for a loved one.

1. Malecaregivercommunity.com: Founded in June, the Male Caregiver Community serves as an online community for males to seek support and advice from professionals and their peers.

2. BenefitsCheckUp.org: Designed to help adults 55 and older utilize government and private programs that aid in funding prescription drugs, health care, in-home services and other needs, BenefitsCheckUp.org is a goldmine for finding aid. Adults can also look into ElderCare.gov to find resources within their own community.

3. Work benefits: Many large employers offer resources to their employees including information and referral services. Contact your employee-assistance program for more information.

4. Veterans benefits: If your care recipient served at least 90 days of active military service,  they may qualify for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ aid-and-attendance benefit, which helps pay for long-term care.

5. Caregiver Conferences: Conferences like the Fearless Caregiver Conference have seen a surge in male attendance as of late. A number of male support groups are also in existence and can be located at caregiver.com.

6. Geriatric-care managers: Social workers and registered nurses are available to help caregivers assess their loved one’s needs and determine what in-home services they may benefit from. There are various websites and message boards available to aid you in researching care managers.

Caregiving is not a job that should be undertaken alone. Utilizing as many resources as possible will make the experience much easier to navigate – for both men and women.

Caring for Caregiver during National Family Caregivers Month and Beyond

Even though November has been designated as National Family Caregivers month, taking care of the caregiver is something that needs to be front-of-mind year ‘round.  Because caregivers can typically be juggling so many items – work, family obligations and their aging parents – equipping the seniors’ home with a medical alert system can offer the caregiver peace of mind beyond compare.

Caregivers provide help with in-home health care, errands, housekeeping and transporting senior family members to and from doctor visits. Because there are so many demands placed on caregivers, they are prone to suffer from anxiety, illness and depression. Regardless of whether your loved one is ill or simply is an aging arent who wants to age at home, it is a daunting task. Here are some steps to take to help take care of the caregiver:

  1.  Ask for help. Simply because the aging or ill care recipient is your family member doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. Look for volunteers to come to the house and help with weekly housekeeping or grocery shopping, take turns with a friend or another family member for taking the family member to doctor’s visits. See if there are outside activities in which your family members can become involved – events at senior centers for example.
  2. Build a network of support. While your siblings may not offer to help with caring for your aging parents, chances are they will offer help if you ask. If either of your senior parents suffers from any particular illness or disease, look into support groups. Talk to a local area agency on aging for support services that are provided. A support network can include equipping your loved ones home with a medical alert system, one of the best types of support systems as it gives the aging parent a way to have immediate access to medical care in the event of a medical emergency or a trip or fall. Having the medical alert pendants offers the caregiver the peace of mind in knowing that the systems are monitored 24/7.
  3. Take daily breaks. You need to take some time for yourself, even if it’s simply going to a coffee shop to relax and read a newspaper. Go out for lunch, take a walk in the park…take a break to recharge your batteries.
  4. Don’t neglect your own health. If you’re not feeling well you can’t be your best for anyone. See
    your doctor if you need help with your health. Take a day off if you’re not feeling well. Also talk with your doctor if the stress of caregiving is taking its toll.
  5. Look for resources. Many insurance providers or local aging agencies offer resources for individuals who are dealing with a senior loved one. Call your aging adults’ insurance provider and check on local resources.

Baby boomers are straddling the line between seeing their own children move out of the home but now being faced with taking care of their aging parents and it can be mentally and physically exhausting. Caregivers need to care for themselves as well as their loved ones.

Caring for the Caregiver

There are currently millions of Americans that are caring for aging or disabled family members. These caregivers are typically also in the midst building their careers and raising their own families. Taking care of aging parents can be a strain both emotionally and financially, especially when you consider that according to a report caregivers deal with high levels of stress, poor physical health, loss of income, lower at work productivity and depression.

Part of the reason for the issues that caregivers deal with are that they feel they are alone in the everyday care of their parents. Even if the aging parent has a healthcare provider come to the home to offer medical care and relief, the caregivers feel “invisible” and are typically not consulted on items relating to the care they provide almost round-the-clock.

In addition to caring for the aging parent a caregiver typically is responsible for:

2.  Personal hygiene care is something the caregiver either typically providers or makes certain that the aging parent is taking care of on his or her own. Personal hygiene can also include wound care and treatment.

3.  Errands need to be run, groceries need to be purchased and medications need to be picked up. In addition, the caregiver may be responsible for driving the aging relative to and from doctor’s visits.

4.  Companionship could be part and parcel of the caregiver’s routine. If the aging parent lives alone, providing companionship and conversation could be one of the most important benefits the caregiver can provide.

In most instances the caregiver doesn’t live with the aging or disabled parent, so chances are even when they leave the home, the parent is never far from his or her mind. One way to relieve some of the burden and offer caregivers peace of mind is by equipping the aging relative – whether in home or in an assisted living facility – with a medical alert system.

The installation of a medical alert system offers peace of mind to both the caregiver and the relative whose home is equipped with the device. If the individual suffers a fall or some other health injury, he or she can activate the lightweight, waterproof LifeFone pendant device and the service providers at the medical alert system company alert paramedics and family members based on the individual care instructions. From the moment the device is activated the patient’s personal medical profile is displayed and the LifeFone Emergency Response team remains in contact until the emergency situation has been resolved.

Mobile Apps that Aid Caregivers

Caregivers will be the first to tell you that they could benefit from more information or assistance regarding their caregiver role. Having help at the touch of button via their smartphones is a fast and effective way to gain more insight into their loved one’s situation and needs.

According to MarketWatch, more than 8,700 health-related apps are currently available for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry. If you are interested in receiving a little caregiver relief via your smartphone, the following apps are worth checking out:

  • Personal Caregiver: Available on the iPhone free of charge. Personal Caregiver tracks medications ensuring care recipients with multiple medications are given the proper dosage and are alerted of when care receivers need refills. This app also allows you to monitor the medications of up to three people in case you want to track your own medications or another family members. For $9.99 you can also receive FDA recall alerts and more detailed medication information.
  • Tell My Geo: Available on the Android for $9.95 a month. Tell My Geo is a personal-health-record app that allows health providers and emergency responders the opportunity to access the user’s medical history. This app also has a GPS locator so caregivers can track lost loved ones, this app is especially helpful for caregivers who are caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Pain Care: Available on the iPhone and Android free of charge. This app helps translate the pain loved ones are feeling if they can no longer talk due to a medical condition. Patients can indicate pain levels by tapping on frowning or smiling faces in addition to the location of the pain and its duration. Medical professionals can access the app in order to adjust treatments and medications as needed.
  • iBiomed: Available for iPhone free of charge. The iBiomed app is a comprehensive app that acts as a one-stop-shop for caregiving that includes all of your loved one’s medical information. There is a mobile log book for prescriptions, supplements, diets, allergies; portable medical records; and a journal so you can easily access foods, behaviors, reactions etc. You can also share your stories with caregivers through an online forum.
  • Betty Crocker Cookbook: Available for iPhone. Caregivers preparing meals can access the app for menu planning that is suited to your loved one’s specific dietary and nutritional requirements.

The bevy of apps available for caregivers today is truly amazing, check out your smartphone for more information on these apps and others. And remember, before purchasing any app it is always a good idea to reference app reviews on reputable websites to ensure their safety and reliability.

Mobile Apps that Aid Caregivers

Caregivers will be the first to tell you that they could benefit from more information or assistance regarding their caregiver role. Having help at the touch of button via their smartphones is a fast and effective way to gain more insight into their loved one’s situation and needs.

According to MarketWatch, more than 8,700 health-related apps are currently available for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry. If you are interested in receiving a little caregiver relief via your smartphone, the following apps are worth checking out:

  • Personal Caregiver: Available on the iPhone free of charge. Personal Caregiver tracks medications ensuring care recipients with multiple medications are given the proper dosage and are alerted of when care receivers need refills. This app also allows you to monitor the medications of up to three people in case you want to track your own medications or another family members. For $9.99 you can also receive FDA recall alerts and more detailed medication information.
  • Tell My Geo: Available on the Android for $9.95 a month. Tell My Geo is a personal-health-record app that allows health providers and emergency responders the opportunity to access the user’s medical history. This app also has a GPS locator so caregivers can track lost loved ones, this app is especially helpful for caregivers who are caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Pain Care: Available on the iPhone and Android free of charge. This app helps translate the pain loved ones are feeling if they can no longer talk due to a medical condition. Patients can indicate pain levels by tapping on frowning or smiling faces in addition to the location of the pain and its duration. Medical professionals can access the app in order to adjust treatments and medications as needed.
  • iBiomed: Available for iPhone free of charge. The iBiomed app is a comprehensive app that acts as a one-stop-shop for caregiving that includes all of your loved one’s medical information. There is a mobile log book for prescriptions, supplements, diets, allergies; portable medical records; and a journal so you can easily access foods, behaviors, reactions etc. You can also share your stories with caregivers through an online forum.
  • Betty Crocker Cookbook: Available for iPhone. Caregivers preparing meals can access the app for menu planning that is suited to your loved one’s specific dietary and nutritional requirements.

The bevy of apps available for caregivers today is truly amazing, check out your smartphone for more information on these apps and others. And remember, before purchasing any app it is always a good idea to reference app reviews on reputable websites to ensure their safety and reliability.