Category Archives: Caring for Parents

Decorating For Mom And Dad: Tips To Make Them Feel At Home

There are myriad reasons why your parents may need to move into your family home. These reasons range from one of your parents passing away and the other being unable or unwilling to live alone, to their needing more care than you can provide unless they are under your roof, to their not having enough money saved up to continue to age in place or to move into an assisted living facility. Regardless of the reasons why you are opening your doors to your aging loved ones, you will want to find a way to make them feel welcome and at home in their new living space.

If you find that you’re trying to move your parents from the home in which they’ve lived for decades into a small space – in some cases a spare room in your home – there will likely be the need for downsizing of their possessions. Rather than trying to move all of their belongings from their home into a space at your house, spend some time with them going through their possessions and determining what they absolutely cannot live without or what you may be able to give to another family member as a gift to keep in the family.

Here are some tips to make the transition easier and to make the room in which they will be living in your home more of a home-like feeling for them:

  • If the room is small and they will be using it as a combination living room/bedroom setting you will want to make the best use of the small space. This can be done by painting the room a light color, make it feel brighter by using light, airy curtains and by using light colored bedspreads and furniture coverings.
  • If you’re hanging paintings in the room, forget the rule about hanging them at eye level (this makes a small room feel even more cramped) hang them higher because this creates an illusion of a larger space.
  • Use large, intricate mirrors to make the room seem visually larger. Place a large mirror on a wall opposite a window to “double” the feeling of the space.
  • Using end tables, chairs or beds with legs rather than styles that are chunky and sit on the floor can make a room feel more airy and open.
  • You don’t have to downsize furniture to accommodate a smaller room. Make certain the furniture in the room is comfortable and usable. If your parents like larger pieces of furniture, opt for light colored covers to brighten the space.
  • Resist the urge, or help them resist the urge, to clutter the space up with knick knacks or collectibles. Filling every available space with memorabilia will instantly make it seem smaller.
  • Look for pieces of furniture that can do double duty. For example, look for end tables or ottomans that also provide storage space. Use a bed skirt to conceal storage containers under the bed.
  • Use lighting that is on the wall or ceiling, rather than cluttering up the space with table lamps. If necessary install motion activated lights or those on sensors that will turn off after a specified amount of time.

Moving your aging parents into the family home will certainly take adjustment on everyone’s part but with some thoughtful planning it can be a smooth transition for everyone.

 

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The Challenges And Rewards Of Caring For Two Aging Parents

Just as we are different from each of our siblings, so too are our aging parents unique in their own way. Whether your parents bicker or get along well, if the time comes when they can no longer age in place, you and other family members will need to look at options for caring for them. In some cases you and your spouse may find yourselves face with the situation where each of you had an aging relative or two that you’ve suddenly become responsible for and that makes for an even more precarious balancing act between both sides of the family as well as your own family.

What do you do, and how can you balance the duties that come along with caring for two or more aging relatives? Here are some suggestions:

  • Determine whether any of the seniors in your life can live alone. If being alone is possible with assistance, consider gifting them with a home medical alert device and a personal medical alert pendant as this can offer peace of mind to all involved as well as provide them access to immediate medical care if necessary.
  • Would hiring an in-home part-time caregiver help relieve some of the caregiving burden upon you and your family members? Would your parents be amenable to having a      “stranger” come into the house to help them out? This is something that would need to be discussed up front. Is there an outreach at the church or local religious association they attend that could provide assistance? Even getting help with cooking, cleaning, yard work or running errands can help relieve some of the burden of caregiving and allow you to simply sit and relax when you visit your parents and spend time with them rather than having to rush around to do the housework and errands.
  • If you are caring for both parents and in-laws, how do you divide the time between them so there are no hurt feelings of being left out? This could come down to a matter of “who needs the most care.”
  • You will have to learn to ask for help and delegate tasks. If you and your spouse are both engaged in caregiving and you have siblings in the area, you will need to pick up a phone and ask for help. You can’t do it all alone and you shouldn’t have to. Being an effective caregiver means knowing your limits and reaching out for help before you burn out.
  • Even if you have healthy parents, but your spouse has parents in need of care, don’t neglect to spend time with your own, healthier relatives. Feelings of hurt and neglect can quickly boil over into a stressful family situation.

Being in a caregiving situation is stressful, but can be managed with time and effort and thoughtful care. Adding a second or third elderly relative into the mix will certainly add to the challenges. Make certain you take time to remember the care you’re giving may allow your parents to age in place for a longer period of time and use the time you’re spending with them to build memories for those times when they are no longer with you.

 

 

 

 

10 Home Safety “Parent-Proofing” Tips for Caregivers

Home safety precautions protect seniors from accidents and injuries. While some may require minor renovations, other home safety measures can be implemented in a matter of minutes. 

We may think of home safety instinctively when it comes to small children. But it’s important to keep in mind regarding seniors too. Whether seniors living at home have arthritis, are prone to falls or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, home safety is an important priority for caregivers. It’s also something to evaluate on a regular basis as seniors age and their health needs change.

Consider these tips for “parent-proofing” a senior’s home.

1. Make sure all living spaces are well lit.

Eyesight diminishes with age. So extra light can make a significant difference to a senior’s safety. Some suggestions for improving lighting around the house:

  • If a room is dimly lit, change to higher wattage light bulbs.
  • Leave the bathroom light on at night.
  • Make sure light switches are available at the top and bottom of staircases.

2. Install a personal response service.

Safety at the press of a button. Medical alert bracelets, pendants, wristbands or tabletop consoles are among the devices seniors can use to contact a call center in case of an emergency.

3. Turn down the water heater temperature, if needed.

To prevent accidental burns or scalding, set the water heater temperature to 120° Fahrenheit or lower. This is also a good way to keep energy bills lower.

4. Install railings and/or grab bars where needed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of adults age 65 and over falls each year. These falls result in both nonfatal and fatal injuries. For safety and privacy, add grab bars or handles to the shower and tub (inside and out) as well as on either side of the toilet. All interior and exterior staircases should have sturdy rails too.

5. Clear the floors.

Remove throw rugs, electrical wires, low-lying decorations and similar items that can cause a senior to trip, slip or fall. Do this in every room or the house, and make sure all walkways and doorways are clear. Seniors who require a cane or walker will need ample space in hallways and doorways to turn around.

6. Offer help in the kitchen.

Seniors who still enjoy cooking may have shakey hands. Being with them to prepare meals and perform tasks that require added dexterity and mobility can help them maintain a sense of independence.

7. Put household items and appliances within reach.

Groceries, dishes, small appliances and other everyday items should be within easy reach for seniors. If they have to get on a stool to reach something, it risks injury. Similarly, bending to a low cabinet might also present challenges. Talk to the senior about how you can rearrange cabinets and countertops to make items more accessible.

8. Organize the closet.

Getting dressed and undressed can be difficult for seniors with arthritis, shakey hands or vision problems. Organize the closets to make clothes, coats and shoes more accessible. If necessary, take seniors shopping for comfortable clothing with minimal buttons.

9. Go through the medicine cabinet.

Dispose of expired prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some seniors may benefit from a bubble pack or more convenient dispenser. Medication tracking and reminder tools can help seniors remember to take pills when they’re supposed to, or alert caregivers when a senior has forgotten. If necessary, caregivers may want to lock medicines in a cabinet to ensure a senior’s safety.

10.  Clean out the fridge.

Poor nutrition leads to poor health. Seniors need adequate calcium and vitamin D to keep their bones healthy and lower the risk of fractures. Those with heart problems, diabetes and other health conditions require a healthy, well-monitored diet. If cooking and grocery shopping are difficult for a senior, offer to help or have meals delivered. Maybe an in-home cook is in order, if that’s an option financially.

Feeling Safe at Home

“Parent-proofing” a senior’s home is all about safety. But it’s also something to talk about with the senior. Have an honest conversation that emphasizes your concerns about safety and avoiding injury. Seniors should feel that although these changes are happening around them, it’s still their home.

Do you have additional home safety tips for senior caregivers? Please share your comments below.  

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“Dana Larsen is a senior living writer whose mission is to educate and empower caregivers and equip them with the resources and knowledge they need to not only care for their elderly loved ones, but also care for themselves.

On a personal note, Dana is mother to two bright-eyed, zealous children and helps as a caregiver for her vivacious and quirky 88-year-old grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Her passions include dancing, yoga, traveling, good food and the arts. She graduated with honors from University of Washington with a degree in English and Communications and achieved Technical Communications Certification from Bellevue College. View Dana’s Google Profile.”

Staying Safe When The Temperature Rises

Recent heat waves pose as much of a health risk for your aging parents as do winter storms or hurricanes. It is not unheard of for people of all ages to succumb to extreme heat. There are many ways to keep yourself, and the elderly people in your life, safe and protected during a heat wave.

What are the dangers of a heat wave?

Heat waves can be dangerous for anyone of any age, but they are more dangerous for the elderly, babies and young children. As you age, your body is less able to regulate its temperature and the elderly may be more impacted by the effects of the heat than they realize.  As the body’s temperature control centers are less sensitive, they may not “initiate the correct cooling mechanisms within the body when it becomes overheated” and this can lead to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Medications can also lead to insensitivity to heat fluctuations.

Here are a few tips on how to cool off when the thermometer rises:

  • Stay out of the sun.
  • Close the curtains in the home to prevent the sun from heating up the interior.
  • Run the air conditioner or fans throughout the house. Open windows slightly to create a cross breeze.
  • Stay indoors and don’t plan on walking or exercising out of doors until the sun goes down and the temperatures drop.
  • Dress in light colored and lightweight clothing.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take a cool shower or place cool water compresses on your body to help cool it down.

Taking measures to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke is very important and can mean the difference between early intervention and a serious medical concern.

Dealing With Family Dynamics When Mom Or Dad Moves In

Regardless of your upbringing –whether you have positive or negative memories – moving your parents into your home has the potential to cause a shift in your marriage and in the way you interact with your children. Grandparents in the home can either bring a calming effect or amp up the stress. There are ways to deal with the potential pitfalls so that you can embrace the changes and make the most of the time you have with your aging parents.

Here are our tips:

  • All parties involved need to be realistic about the significant life changes you will be facing. Your parents will be giving up their independence and may feel resentful, you will be giving up space in your home and have to deal with your parents in residence and may feel frustrated at a lack of privacy and 24/7 caregiving.
  • If you and your parents have any long-lived grievances they should be discussed prior to a move.
  • Talk with your parents and come to terms on who will do what, how much involvement you will have in each other’s lives, etc. For example, will you be the chief cook? Do you have to take time off from work to care for them or drive them to appointments or do you have other siblings that can help out. Remember, just because they’re living in your home full time doesn’t mean you can’t ask for assistance when needed.
  • Will your parents be responsible for their own laundry and cooking? How will you divide the household chores (if they’re physically able to help)? Will you need to be financially compensated for their moving in – helping with groceries, etc.
  • Don’t make a move unilaterally. Ask your siblings, your spouse, your children; regardless of how well you interact with your parents and how good a relationship your spouse and children have, it is still a life-changing event.
  • Recognize that at some point, your parents may reach a stage where you will need the help of trained caregivers or they may need to make a move into an assisted living facility or a nursing home. These are items that should be discussed up front, with the entire family.
  • If you and your spouse are employed outside of the home, it may be wise to consider setting up the home with a medical alert device as a way to provide your parents with access to immediate medical care if necessary. At the push of a button on      their personal medical alert pendant, they could summon assistance in the event of a health emergency or trip or fall accident while you weren’t home. These devices cost pennies a day but bring untold value in peace of mind for all involved.images (2)

Keep in mind that having your aging parents move in can give a family time to bond and build memories that will last a lifetime. Additionally, it may very well set a great example for your children as to how family cares for one another in a time of need.

The Importance Of Locating Personal And Financial Documents Of Elderly Relatives

When faced with an emergency situation, do you know where to locate your elderly relatives’ health insurance cards, or health proxy or DNR paperwork? If there is a death in the family do you know where to find life insurance papers? Your parent’s will? Have you discussed funeral arrangements? If your elderly relative is incapacitated have arrangements been made that will allow family members to access bank accounts or other critical financial information or to make healthcare decisions on his or her behalf?

Here is a checklist of important papers that your family may need in the event of a crisis (and you should be aware of their location prior to an emergency). Once you have located these papers, make certain they are in a central, easy to find location and that the family knows where to find them. It may make sense to make copies of these documents so that all family members have access.

Here is information you will need from both of your parents:

  • Full names (Mother’s maiden name)
  • Social Security Numbers (location of Social Security Cards)
  • City of their birth
  • Date of birth (location of birth certificate)
  • Marriage date and marriage certificates
  • If one of them is deceased you will need death certificates
  • Information on any military service including branch, dates served

These are documents you will want to have stored in a secure location. Make certain you know where they’re stored:

  • The will (if your relatives do not have a will, it is crucial that one is prepared)
  • Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare proxy
  • Insurance policies including: life, health, homeowner’s, automobile, etc.
  • List of checking and savings accounts
  • List of credit cards
  • List of monthly obligations including: credit card bills, utility bills, subscriptions, etc.
  • Retirement papers
  • Information on monthly income including: Social Security benefits, Medicare/Medicaid information, Veteran’s benefits, etc.
  • Mortgage papers/lien releases
  • Title to vehicles
  • The names of physicians, insurance agents, attorneys, etc.
  • Funeral arrangements if they’ve been made

There will likely be more information and paperwork that your relatives have accumulated over the years that will be necessary for family members to have access to. Be advised that gathering this information could be a lengthy process and could also cause stress because it’s making both you and your other family members face their own mortality. The care you take now, though, when not operating in crisis mode will assure that any final wishes are carried out and will also help you when dealing with end of life financial issues.

The Importance Of Locating Personal And Financial Documents Of Elderly Relatives

When faced with an emergency situation, do you know where to locate your elderly relatives’ health insurance cards, or health proxy or DNR paperwork? If there is a death in the family do you know where to find life insurance papers? Your parent’s will? Have you discussed funeral arrangements? If your elderly relative is incapacitated have arrangements been made that will allow family members to access bank accounts or other critical financial information or to make healthcare decisions on his or her behalf?

Here is a checklist of important papers that your family may need in the event of a crisis (and you should be aware of their location prior to an emergency). Once you have located these papers, make certain they are in a central, easy to find location and that the family knows where to find them. It may make sense to make copies of these documents so that all family members have access.

Here is information you will need from both of your parents:

  • Full names (Mother’s maiden name)
  • Social Security Numbers (location of Social Security Cards)
  • City of their birth
  • Date of birth (location of birth certificate)
  • Marriage date and marriage certificates
  • If one of them is deceased you will need death certificates
  • Information on any military service including branch, dates served

These are documents you will want to have stored in a secure location. Make certain you know where they’re stored:

  • The will (if your relatives do not have a will, it is crucial that one is prepared)
  • Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare proxy
  • Insurance policies including: life, health, homeowner’s, automobile, etc.
  • List of checking and savings accounts
  • List of credit cards
  • List of monthly obligations including: credit card bills, utility bills, subscriptions, etc.
  • Retirement papers
  • Information on monthly income including: Social Security benefits, Medicare/Medicaid information, Veteran’s benefits, etc.
  • Mortgage papers/lien releases
  • Title to vehicles
  • The names of physicians, insurance agents, attorneys, etc.
  • Funeral arrangements if they’ve been made

There will likely be more information and paperwork that your relatives have accumulated over the years that will be necessary for family members to have access to. Be advised that gathering this information could be a lengthy process and could also cause stress because it’s making both you and your other family members face their own mortality. The care you take now, though, when not operating in crisis mode will assure that any final wishes are carried out and will also help you when dealing with end of life financial issues.

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.

Preparing To Move An Aging Parent Into Your Home

At some point, it may become necessary to open the doors of your home and invite your aging parents to move in; whether they’ve suffered a stroke, trip or fall accident, other health issue or if old age has simply made it impossible for them to live alone, family members need to have a plan in place. Whether your aging relatives will move into an assisted living facility or in with a family member, discussions should begin before the need arises avoiding the stress that comes with making difficult decisions in a time of crisis.

If your aging parents have the resources to move into an assisted living or retirement community, that may be the least stressful option for all involved. If, however, they don’t have the resources to pay for that level of care, the decision must be made on whether they can continue to age in place or whether they will move into the home of one of their children. Moving in with a family member would potentially free up resources that could be used to pay for a part time caregiver.

No matter how much you love and get along with your elderly parents, moving them into your family home changes the dynamic. If their health is failing, you may need to make decisions on who the primary caregiver will be and will need to involve siblings in their daily care. Caregiver stress and isolation is amplified once you’ve moved your aging loved one into your home as it may seem as though there is no escape – depending on your age, you could be holding down a job, raising your own children, and now you’re the primary caregiver for your elderly parents; you may fall into what’s called the Sandwich Generation.

Consider too, that your aging parent may not want to be a burden on the family and they may balk at the idea of moving into your home. If you’re being thrust into the role of caregiver, and have no medical knowledge or background, you may feel apprehensive at the idea of caring for an aging, infirm parent.

Just as you had to baby proof your home when you had children, you will need to age proof the home if your aging parents move in. Here are some areas that will need to be addressed to make certain the home is safe for an aging individual:

  • Prevent falls in every room of the house beginning with the bathroom because this is the most dangerous room for the elderly. Install grip rails and non-skid strips in the bathtub and shower. Make certain the rugs are tacked down or are non-skid styles. If possible install an elevated toilet seat or install toilet seat arm rests to make it easier for them to get up and down.
  • Check the house for trip and fall hazards. Move obstacles out of the line of traffic by rearranging furniture. Make certain that long hallways are lighted either through the use of motion sensor nightlights or lights that turn on when the ambient light is low enough. Again, check that rugs are backed with non slip strips and that power cords are stowed out of the way.
  • If the home has steps, you may need to install a ramp to make it easier for your relative to navigate. Moving your elderly relative into a first floor room is the best idea, but if that’s not possible you may need to install a chair lift to get from the first floor to the bedroom. If they use a walker  your doorways will need to be wide enough to accommodate it.
  • Chair lifts for couches or recliners will make it easier for your relatives to get on and off the furniture.
  • Home medical alert equipment provides peace of mind for your relative and for you, as the caregiver. A medical alert device allows the caregiver to feel more comfortable and confident of leaving the home and leaving their parent alone because they can rest assured that in the event of a trip or fall or medical emergency their relative can summon medical assistance at the push of a button.
  • Make the bedroom that your parents will move into a welcoming spot. If the room is large enough move in a chair so they don’t feel they have to sit on the bed to watch television. Speaking of televisions, provide them with their own, this gives them the option of watching shows they enjoy and also gives you and your family privacy to watch your own shows. Install wall rails to help them walk around their room, if mobility is an issue. If they have a hard time getting in and out of bed, install an adjustable bed rail to make it easier. Make certain their room has motion sensor lights so when they get out of bed, they don’t have to fumble for a wall switch.
  • Make the kitchen more elderly-friendly by moving food items and kitchenware to shelves that your parents can easily reach without having to stretch, strain or climb onto a chair. Set aside a shelf in the refrigerator or a cupboard where they can store items they specifically enjoy having on hand.

Regardless of the relationship between child and aging parent, moving them into your home will bring challenges. With open lines of communication though, you can make your home a welcome refuge and provide your elderly parent with a place in which they can feel secure and loved.