Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events. Continue reading
Though fall is nearly upon us, there are still plenty of days where we can expect very hot weather! Some of the ways we think to beat the heat are kids jumping in and out of swimming pools, families at the beach, or perhaps sitting indoors enjoying a book in an air-conditioned room. However, it’s also important that we remember the importance of making sure our senior loved ones beat the heat as well.
From ultraviolet (UV) rays to skin dehydration, there are many potential dangers that too much sun and heat can cause. Excessive heat exposure can cause dehydration, which in turn can cause conditions like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
As a caregiver, it’s important to know how to keep your loved one from getting over heated. Here are four tips for you:
When you take on the role of caregiver, in many instances it is something that is thrust upon you without much planning. It simply happens that your aging loved ones are “fine one day and in need of care the next.” It happens to many individuals and they don’t have time to “take a class” or “learn how to be a caregiver” they just have to do their best and hope things work out well!
Here, though are some techniques that will help you in your new role as caregiver:
- Retain eye contact with your oved one. This may not be something you think about, but it’s important. If your loved one is wheelchair bound or bed bound, it’s best if you can get down to eye level with them so they aren’t straining to look up at you.
- Approach them from the front. Don’t come up behind or even beside them and start talking or reach out to touch them as it may startle them and cause confusion.
- Before you attempt to move your parent from one position to another by yourself, ask if they can help you by helping to shift their own weight. They may be able to help with their own movement and that can help prevent any injuries to you or your back.
- Caregivers are, in many cases, crunched for time. Even if you’re running late, though allow your loved one to complete the activity he or she is involved in. If you’re anxious, try not to let your anxiety rub off on them. Remember, they are going through as much emotional upheaval as you are.
- Allow them to have the time to adjust to what may be their new reality – being wheelchair bound or having received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or any other number of ailments that plague the elderly.
One of the best things a caregiver can remember is to ask to for help. You don’t have to do it alone. Whether you reach out to other family members, neighbors, church groups or even any of the number of services available for the aged, it’s an easier task to manage when you have assistance.
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.
Whether you’re a caregiver for your aging relatives or if you’re an adult in the Sandwich Generation who is taking care of both aging relatives and a growing family, chances are probably realize you don’t take good enough care of yourself.
If your family is asking, “What can we get you for the holidays?” here are some ideas that will bring a smile to your face:
- Pay for a three, six, nine, or twelve-month house cleaning service. This gift can provide a once monthly housekeeping and deep cleaning that will keep your house neat and tidy and ease your thoughts on your own housekeeping when you’re in the midst of cleaning your loved ones’ home.
- A gift of a LifeFone Medical Alert System for your aging relatives is a gift of peace of mind for the caregiver. With this system, you can walk away from your duties as caregiver for a few hours or even a weekend and have the peace of mind that your loved ones will not be “alone” as long as they have, and wear, their personal medical device.
- Do you like to keep in touch with relatives, but sometimes forget the birthday and anniversary dates? If you have friends and relatives to keep in touch with, it also becomes a task you add to your to-do list, but may not get around to – especially if it involves having to go to the store to buy cards. A subscription to a service that will automatically send cards to loved ones lets you keep in touch without the stress of trying to remember every date. Check out: americangreetings.com or sendoutcards.com. This is a handy time-saver that allows your family to keep in touch.
- Do you have a lot of paperwork and clutter that you need to keep track of, both for yourself and your aging parents now? If that’s the case, you may want to request some organizational tools or bins to help tame the clutter. There are myriad options, ranging from desk organizers, purse organizers, craft bins, plastic totes to store off-season decorations or clothing. If you spend a lot of time in the car driving from your home to theirs, a car organizer might be ideal, especially if it is stocked with items you might need in the event of an emergency or a car breakdown. Check out http://www.thirtyonegifts.com/catalog/utility/ or check Amazon.com and search for car or desk organizers.
- When you finally make it home after a long day, you might want to grab a glass of wine or a cup of hot tea and indulge and relax. Ask for some essential oils that can lead to a more relaxed state. Relax in a bathtub with some luxurious bubble bath and even a big, fluffy bath sheet or two. Add in some candles and high end lotions and viola you can be whisked away!
- To truly add to an “indulgence” gift purchase ask for a gift certificate for a massage. Hint: In some parts of the country, you may be able to find a masseuse who will come to your home so you can enjoy that indulgence without having to leave the comfort of the house.
- Gift certificates to restaurants or a movie theater could be something you’d crave, especially if you never think you have the money to indulge. Chances are, you love nights out on the town, but won’t spend the money without prompting – this thoughtful gift means you have no excuse! Look for certificates from sites like these where the caregiver can choose his or her favorite restaurant.com or http://www.giftcertificates.com.
- Spend time with family members and gather up photos from the past and put together a photo album or scrap book. You can even do this on a digital photo frame. With that you scan in photos or documents or even tickets from events they’ve enjoyed and they run in rotation on the photo frame.
Never forget, though, that one of the best gifts you can offer your family is the gift of your time, love and the attention you pay to them when they want to share their memories. Those are times and gifts that you simply can’t put a price tag to.
At a time when teens should be active in extra curricular activities, hanging out with friends and working at part time jobs, more and more kids are taking on the task of caregiving.
According to Dr. Julia Belkowitz, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, more than 1.3 million preteens and adolescents spend their free time caring for a family member with a physical or mental illness, or misuse substances. The daily tasks include helping family members with eating, dressing, toileting, getting around, bathing and other common daily activities.
Dr. Belkowitz and her colleagues worked with the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) in Palm Beach County, FL to gain an understanding of the experiences of these youth who were an average of 12 years old; 62% were girls & 38% boys. In addition to daily care, the caregivers also indicated that in some cases, they cleaned the house, shopped for groceries, administered medications, provided companionship and emotional support and other tasks that are beyond their experience and training.
While caregiving can be difficult for many adults, these teens are facing challenges and situations that shouldn’t normally be on their radar. AACY is helping to raise awareness about the issue of youth caregivers and working to develop partnerships to better understand issues and provide the resources and support to this growing population of caregivers.
As we move into our Golden Years, whether we are taking care of ourselves or if we have been thrust into the role of caregiver, there are just some things that we should do for ourselves.
If you’ve heard of the movie The Bucket List, you’ll remember it’s about all of the things you should accomplish before you die. We believe there are things you can cross off your list that could just make you happier, healthier or wealthier.
Here are five things to consider before you turn 50, 60 or 70:
- Cultivate friends that are younger than you are. Sure, it’s nice to be with your peers, but if they “act old” you will act old as well. Making friends with individuals younger than yourself may keep you young and will also open you up to new experiences and ideas.
- Break a bad health habit. It is never too late to get healthier. If being healthier to you means losing weight, getting more active or stopping smoking, there is no time like the present. Any positive changes you make in your health – whether you’re 50, 60 or 70 – will pay long term benefits.
- Start saving money. Yes, a financial planner will tell you that you should have started saving for retirement when you were in your 20s, 30s or 40s, but there is no reason you can’t start today setting aside money to use once you’ve retired. Having a retirement plan will help you enjoy your Golden Years without the worry of how you will pay the bills or keep food on the table. Start now setting aside money in an account specifically ear marked for your Golden Years whether it’s for daily living expenses or to finance that romantic cruise you’ve always dreamed of.
- Forgive old hurts. In many families there is likely some long-simmering hurts or resentments; maybe you don’t even see your relatives because of them. Now is the time to forgive and forget. Nursing negative feelings can drain your energy. Reach out, take the first step and see what happens.
- Have a team in place to help you with your finances, your health (both physical and spiritual) and potential long-term care plans. For many individuals, finding a trusted physician could be something they’ve had in place for decades, but an attorney or CPA may not have been front of mind; now is the time to begin searching for someone to help with your finances and with getting your legal issues in order (think Power of Attorney or wills). Prior to your needing it, talk with your family about what you hope to have happen when you can no longer age in place. Will you move in with a family member or into an assisted living facility? If you’re going to become the caregiver for aging relatives, how will that look and fit into your current lifestyle? These are all conversations that should be had prior to it becoming an emergency situation.
Chances are there are more items that you can add to your list of what needs to be done before you’re 50, 60 or 70 and that could include how, or whether you will be, able to age in place as you age. There are myriad ways in which to make this happen and having medical alert device installed in your home is just one of the things you will want to consider.
It can be difficult to watch your parents age, especially if you are the caregiver accountable for their aging lifestyle. You may feel dejected or dismal about the aging changes happening in your parents’ lives including the change in the personal relationship you have with each of them. However, there are some empowering tips you can take away from the aging process and the circumstances that come with it.
Positive Changes Down the Road
There will probably be inspiring encounters you may have as the caregiver of your parents. The issue is, you may not feel or become mindful of them until years after the fact. The fact is that as a caregiver the daily routine becomes tiring and somewhat emotionally exhausting which may cause the positive things to slide right by.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s commented on aging and caregiving “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Basically, by becoming the caregiver of your parents, in turn it will help you evolve! Remember that providing for your parents is doing what eventually may need to be done for you if the circumstances ever arise.
Grasping the Sweetness of Old Age
There are many times when being up close and personal with somebody maturing, can regularly turn into naptime. The time in between the naps of discussion and story telling can create lifelong memories that can be told from generation to generation. Specifically, when you’re tired and baffled from a long day of your caregiver role, remember that your loved one may say something extremely touching, and it can remind you how important it is that the person is there with you and you with them. It is these sweet moments that will surprise you as you handle the day-by-day obligations included with caregiving.
You Figure Out How You Want to Age
When you see your parents aging, you begin to reflect and think about the way you want to age. You don’t just figure out how to recognize health issues and where you want to live as you age, you also begin to look to your parents for advice and their aging process as a standard to follow!
You’re Reminded of the Specialness and Fragility of Life
There is boldness we feel when we’re younger. Our bodies feel solid and it draws us into feeling as though we are invincible which we’re definitely not.
Caring for an aging parent, ailing spouse or child can take its toll on the caregiver. While care-giving is a task undertaken with love it can cause a strain on the caregiver’s health and in some instances put a strain on the relationship between caregiver and the care recipient.
As a way to help relieve stress, caregivers need to take time for themselves, away from the duties of caring for a loved one. In many cases, it’s not easy to do because you may need to find someone to come and relieve you, or if your loved one it able to be left alone, you still may worry, “What if something happens while I am gone?” The answer to that worry is that you could find another family member or friend to come and stay with your loved one or you could equip the home with a home medical alert device; with this device, at the push of a button he or she can receive assistance in the event of an emergency while you were out. These devices provide peace of mind for all involved in the caregiving relationship.
Once you determine you’re in need of some “stress-busting” here are five steps you can take that will go a long way toward self care – something that far too many caregivers do without:
- Take time to meditate. For some the word “meditate” may conjure up images of having to sit crossed legged on the floor chanting and for others, it may be a more spiritual. You can fit in short bursts of meditation by going to a quiet, preferably darkened room, perhaps putting on soothing background music and simply relaxing. Concentrating on your breathing and relaxing your muscles is a great way to relieve some stress when you simply can’t get out of the house or away from the caregiving tasks you’re faced with.
- Spend one day a week making a week’s worth of meals. Make your freezer, casseroles and your oven your best friend. Setting aside one day a week to cook for the upcoming week is a great time saver, especially if you work outside of the home. When you batch cook you are already in cooking mode so things move along quickly. Look for all-in-one meals that freeze well and offer healthy proteins; supplement the meals with fruits or vegetables as a side dish. You’ll find that creating meals during busy weeknights to be far easier.
- Speaking of eating… caregivers often forget to eat or take care of themselves and may be more likely to grab a quick, sugary or high carbohydrate snack; this will give you a quick burst of energy but it will quickly wane. Keep cut veggies and fruits in the fridge. Portion out healthy, high fiber snacks and keep them handy for a quick pick me up. Try to avoid sugary snacks and drive-through restaurants as your go to foods.
- Volunteer. This may sound counter-intuitive to a caregiver, but find an organization that you love and volunteer your time – it could be a local animal shelter or teaching knitting at a senior center or offering guided tours at the local museum. When you volunteer in this capacity you are giving back to a charity or organization that you truly love and it will help you to interact with others and, frankly, get out of the house for a while. Volunteering is something that you are truly doing for you.
- Take time to just slow down. As a caregiver, especially if you work outside of the house, it’s almost natural to rush through everything. Rushing means you’re going to be distracted and honestly that could lead to either you or your loved one getting accidentally injured. Another way to slow down is to make certain you’re getting a good night’s sleep. How can you do that? Sleep in a cool, darkened room, don’t use your computer or smart phone in the bedroom, turn off the television (if you need noise to fall asleep, invest in a sleep machine), go to bed and get up at roughly the same time during the week and even on the weekend.
Remember, a well-cared-for caregiver is better able to care for his or her loved one.
As a caregiver you’ve seen your parents’ health fade a little bit every year. It could be something as simple as being more forgetful, or stumbling when she walks or maybe your father is dealing with an illness or one or both of them are recovering from a hospital stay. They’re determined to remain in their own home and for the time being that might be an option.
The ability to age in place is a powerful motivator for many seniors as they are accustomed to being independent and taking care of the family and are not comfortable in the role of accepting care. Talk with them and discuss the possibility of equipping the home with a medical alert device and the two of them with medical alert pendants. These devices can save lives as well as providing peace of mind for both your parents and you, as the caregiver, for those times when they are home alone.
What should you look for in a medical alert device? Here are some items to take into consideration:
- The technology of the console itself. Look for a device that provides two-way voice communication
- Make certain both the pendants and the consoles have been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories as Home Health Care Signaling Devices.
- Check into the range of protection the device offers. There are some systems that provide protection up to 300 feet from the console and others that provide coverage up to 1,500 feet from the console. Determine where the console will be placed then choose a range that will suit your needs. If your parents like to go out of doors, make sure the unit will still work when they are outside.
- The pendant should be waterproof and lightweight. You want your parents to be comfortable wearing the device and you want to know they are protected even if they are in the bathtub or shower.
- Look for pedants that do not need to have batteries to replace.
- Does the equipment come with a lifetime warranty? Will there be a cost if it needs to be replaced?
- What happens if the power goes out? Is there a battery back up in place and if so, for how many hours will your loved ones be protected?
- Does the service provider you’re going to work with have a plan in place in the event of a power outage? At LifeFone, the emergency response center is notified if the power goes out and notifies loved ones. The base unit has a back-up battery that can last anywhere from 32-60 hours.
- Does the medical monitoring device provide a way to answer the telephone from the pendant? With LifeFone, a phone call can be answered by simply pushing the button on the pendant and speaking into the speaker console (this can be done from across the room which means your parents won’t have to rush to answer the telephone)
- Do you have to sign a contract with the provider of your medical alert system or is it a month-to-month situation? LifeFone does not require a time commitment meaning you can cancel at any time and get a full refund for any unused, prepaid service.
These are some of the basic questions you will want to ask a potential medical device provider before making any kind of a purchasing decision.