Tag Archives: Family

The Best Gifts For The Elderly: For Holidays And Year Round

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Money may be tight, but the gift of time is one that brings with it amazing rewards. When holidays and birthdays roll around, it is not always easy to know what to buy for your elderly parents or other aging relatives. Raising your family, paying for the costs of commuting and the items that go into your family budget can be a strain and when you add holiday gift shopping into the mix it can stretch the budget to the limits.

Here are some ideas for family gifts that won’t break the bank and will be remembered for years to come:

  • Spend time together with a recording device. Ask your elderly loved ones to talk about what it was like growing up, what they remember the most about your childhood and how they feel things have changed in the decades in between. Don’t avoid talking about a relative that has passed; sharing memories and talking about how you miss that person may be just what everyone needs to truly enjoy the holiday. Rather than pushing back the memories of missing the time you spent baking with your mother, talk about the fun times you shared then plan to start new traditions that incorporate the old.
  • Work on a family tree. Genealogy is a hobby that all family members can get involved with. You can make the family tree a visual hobby by drawing an actual tree on paper on the wall and fill in the branches and leaves as part of a family project. While making this tree, you can also bring up a discussion of family health and medical issues as this can help family members understand who had what illness and this can help shape your own health history.
  • Give your relatives a book of “coupons” for nights spent together watching a movie, cooking a week’s worth of dinners together, a day at the park enjoying the sunshine or even a day of spring cleaning,  yard work or getting the house ready for winter. Time spent together is one of the most precious gifts you can provide your aging loved one.
  • Let your relative know how important they are to you. Offering the gift of gratitude or letting them know how special they are to you is one of the greatest gifts. Put your message in writing or make a video. While your parent may be grateful to you for being his or her caregiver, you should take a few minutes to let them know the difference they’ve made in your life.

As you spend time during the Holidays with your loved ones you may want to start thinking about topics that may need to be addressed. It may not be wise to try to discuss these topics until after the holiday is over.

Once you’ve opened the doors for conversation, ask your aging relatives that they want to do when they can no longer live alone. Once you’ve started a conversation on life and health, your relatives may begin to think about what their future holds. While you may not want to spend the holiday or a birthday party talking about assisted living or other options, the idea that you’re sitting down and talking, in general, may make your relatives more open to discussing the future.

  • Put together a plan of action with your parents. Work with them to make it possible to age in place as long as possible. One way to do this is to gift them with a home medical alert system. These devices, which cost less than a dollar a day, provide your relatives with a way to remain in the home, have access to medical care if necessary and provide peace of mind to all involved. Get together with siblings and make this a gift from the entire family. Along with equipping the home with a medical alert system, talk with your elderly relatives about where their important documents are, whether they have long term insurance, if they have a power of attorney and who will help make difficult medical decisions in the event they are incapacitated. This discussion will alleviate stress in times of crisis and helps all family members feel at ease because all are involved in the decision making process.
  • Open the doors of communication and bury old family fights. Being in a family means you will encounter conflict, but conflict left unresolved impacts all of the family members, not just those immediately involved. Take the step to offer the olive branch and offer, or ask for, forgiveness. Living with the regret of not having made amends can lead to even more stress and unresolved issues. Also, showing your children how to solve conflicts and forgive teaches valuable lessons.
  • Offering the gift of gratitude or letting them know how special they are to you is one of the greatest gifts. Put your message in writing or make a video. While your parent may be grateful to you for being his or her caregiver, you should take a few minutes to let them know the difference they’ve made in your life.

Spending time with your aging relatives is a gift beyond compare and the time spent together will strengthen family ties and open the doors of communication and that is a gift you can’t put a price tag on.

Five Ways To Reduce Holiday Family Stress

Holidays bring with them holiday stress and when you’re a caregiver you may be dealing with more than your usual levels of stress because you know that there are not enough hours in a “regular” day to juggle the activities the holidays bring. You may wonder how you’ll get everything done – taking care of your parents, your children, your significant other and of course, yourself.

Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your holiday stress this season:

  1. What are your holiday priorities and traditions? What are your obligations to those traditions? Can you let some of the obligations slide? Is it time to rethink priorities and traditions to accommodate the change in family dynamics? If items like baking dozens of cookies are a tradition, why not start a cookie exchange? Gather a group of friends or family and break the task down while still being able to enjoy a wide variety of holiday baked goods. The same goes for holiday meals; enlist the aid of family members to help with the cooking and clean up.
  2. Have a central calendar. Work with all of the caregivers involved in taking care of your aging relatives and write down the dates and times of holiday parties and events. Also plan who will take your parents holiday shopping and when. Note the dates you, if you’re the main caregiver, may need off to tend to strictly personal family obligations.
  3. Streamline your shopping trips and your shopping lists. Is it time to scale back on the number of gifts you purchase? Can you shop online and have the items gift wrapped and shipped? This will save you from having to fight the crowds at the malls. How about drawing names out of a hat and buying a gift for one person rather than the whole crowd? Buy gifts for the entire family, consider movie passes, certificates to theme parks or restaurants. Check the cupboards for items necessary for holiday events and shop early to avoid the crowds.
  4. Dressing for the season. This means you need to take time to pack away the summer clothing and pull out the warm weather attire. Do this before the season is in full swing to make certain the clothes that got packed away last year still fit this year. Try on shoes, boots, jackets and other warm winter attire to see if it is still wearable or if you’ll need to make a shopping excursion.
  5. Spend time at home. Are there holiday obligations that require you to pack up the car and the family and drive for hours to different locations? Can you combine your visits and have everyone meet at a central location? Can you begin a new holiday tradition and have it at your aging relatives’ home rather than having to make them go out into the cold and potentially snowy weather? Imagine the joy on your parents face at having all of the family converge on their home for a holiday meal. Also, the time you spend preparing for the meal is a great time to make memories with them.

 

Making decisions for your aging parents’ care

Your parents spent so many years caring for you and maybe even your children, but now the time has come for you to make decisions on their care. How do you make the decision on what is best for them? There are many items to take into consideration and many of the decisions you need to make are based on how well your parents are currently taking care of themselves. When evaluating your parents’ situation, consider their personal hygiene, on-going medical care, any safety issues inside the home and day-to-day living which includes eating, cooking, and running errands.

Here are five tips from LifeFone, a provider of home medical alarm systems:

1. If both of your parents are still in the home, are they both at roughly the same level of health? Does one need more care and is the other parent able to provide that care?

2. Is your aging parent able to walk, move, eat, cook, and look after him or herself on a daily basis?

3. Can your parents stay in their own home or do they need assisted living care? With the installation of a home medical alarm system, will your parents be able to stay in the home for a longer period of time?

4. Do your parents need round-the-clock care or are they able to get by on a daily basis with minimal supervision.

5. Is the home safety-proofed in a way that makes it easier for them to live independently and age at home?

Once you’ve answered the questions above, you – and your aging parents – will be in a better position to make a decision on care. If your parents are healthy enough to take care of themselves and stay in the home, either on their own or with the help of a visiting nurse or with another family member dropping by, then allowing them to age at home is likely an option. If your parents are able to cook, clean and monitor their own medications then chances are they can age at their own home – which you will likely find is what they would prefer. Adding a medical alarm system will enhance the peace of mind for the family.

If there is a family member that is able to take care of your aging parents by making frequent drop-in visits to monitor their health and help out with household chores and running errands, the likelihood that your loved one can live independently at home increases. Another way to make it possible for your parents to age at home is by making certain the house is equipped for safety. You will want to make certain there are no trip or fall hazards such as loose items on the floor, throw rugs that could cause a potential trip hazard. Additionally, move as many items as possible to lower shelves for ease in reaching them without having to use a step stool or ladder.

Even if your parents are in good health, a trip or fall or any other health emergency could arise that could render them helpless and unable to call for help. Equipping their home with a medical alert system or a medical alert bracelet makes it easy for them to simply push a button to call for medical assistance. LifeFone, with its home medical alert systems, offers seniors a way to age at home while providing their family members with peace of mind.

Create Lasting Memories this Thanksgiving

The holidays always provide a much needed respite from the hustle and bustle of daily living, along with the perfect opportunity to savor the company of your loved ones. This Thanksgiving while filing up on turkey, take the time to embrace the holiday’s intended purpose and give thanks for the elderly people in your life.

Having your elderly loved ones at your holiday celebration provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about your shared history and your loved one’s time honored traditions. With all the wonderful aromas and amazing delicacies Thanksgiving offers, don’t forget to chronicle the family recipes served at this year’s feast. Recipes are an extremely important heirloom that is often overlooked. Making sure you know all of the secret ingredients to your family’s signature dishes will allow you to pass down your family’s delicious favorites for generations to come.

The holidays are often among the few times a year that all of our loved ones are together in the same household. Celebrating the holidays with our relatives reminds us just how lucky we are to have all of the special people in our lives. When it comes to elders in your family, it is especially important to cherish the remaining years you have with them. Consider bringing a video camera to this year’s soiree in order to capture family stories – your elderly loved one’s voice, image and personality will be captured on film for years and years of viewing. No other device encapsulates the essence of your loved one like a video. Videos provide a unique opportunity to relive special memories that you otherwise cannot physically attain.

Our elderly loved ones serve as a wealth of knowledge regarding our ancestry as well. Ask your loved one about a great great-grandmother or a great uncle and they will unleash countless stories and anecdotes. Tracing one’s family tree is a revealing and enlightening experience. Encourage your loved one to trace your family’s history through the generations so that you can gain more insight into your roots. Numerous resources exist to help you with this venture including Ancestry.com, Family Tree Maker and Legacy.

This year while surrounded by your nearest and dearest, use the opportunity to live in the moment and create lasting memories. Since many of us do not get to see our families as much as we would like to, it is important to savor the time that we do have. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving this holiday season!

Manage Caregiving Like a Business

The first day at a new job usually induces feelings of doubt, heightened anxiety and fear of the unknown. Luckily some of these fears are partially subsided once you have adequately gone over the job description and the training manual has been fully assessed. Half of the battle is discovering exactly what is expected of you. Unfortunately, there are some jobs that fall into our laps without the accompaniment of training manuals, guidelines or job descriptions, which induces a whole host of new anxieties and fears. One such job is caregiving.

Entering uncharted territory without any outside help is absolutely overwhelming. Caregiving can consume your life with chaos, disorganization and mental anguish. What many caregivers are unaware of is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a simple trick caregivers can employ to make their job less stressful: Manage caregiving like you are managing a business.

Caregivers Should Treat Caregiving As Though it is a Job.

Running your caregiving role like it is a business will empower you and allow you to gain a sense of control. When people are thrust into caregiving roles, they are often overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. If you were to start your own business, you would not fly by the seat of your pants, you would line up resources, obtain legal documents and make a financial plan. The same goes for caregiving. You need to get all of your parent’s documents in order, so you have easy access to them including medical history, medications, doctor’s appointments, coordinating medical care, power of attorney and their finances. Begin looking up resources in your community like support groups for caregivers and eldercare assistance. The key to running a healthy business is to remain proactive instead of reactive.

Own your Title as the CEO.

As any good boss knows, being the CEO does not make you responsible for handling every single facet of the corporation. As primary caregiver, part of your responsibility lies in delegating the work at hand. Avoiding caregiver burnout is more easily attainable by dividing up the burden. Look to your family members for help. Your significant other, siblings and children should all play a role in the caregiving process. Assess what each person can bring to the table and delegate accordingly.

Garner Help from Outside Resources.

If your family members/employees are not willing or able to handle their fair share of the responsibility, it is your duty to bring in outside reinforcements. Take solace in home health care options, elder daycare or a geriatric care manager. While seeking outside help may cost you more financially, it is well worth the investment for your sanity. Remaining healthy both mentally and physically are very important to your caregiving role. You should not undertake all of the responsibility yourself and should focus on establishing a method of caregiving that works best for both you and your loved one.

When you assess your caregiving role as a business, you will find you have more control over your life and your responsibilities. Remaining organized, prepared and proactive will leave you feeling more at ease. By keeping your sanity you will find that you are a much better caregiver, which will benefit both you and your loved one.

Manage Caregiving Like a Business

The first day at a new job usually induces feelings of doubt, heightened anxiety and fear of the unknown. Luckily some of these fears are partially subsided once you have adequately gone over the job description and the training manual has been fully assessed. Half of the battle is discovering exactly what is expected of you. Unfortunately, there are some jobs that fall into our laps without the accompaniment of training manuals, guidelines or job descriptions, which induces a whole host of new anxieties and fears. One such job is caregiving.

Entering uncharted territory without any outside help is absolutely overwhelming. Caregiving can consume your life with chaos, disorganization and mental anguish. What many caregivers are unaware of is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a simple trick caregivers can employ to make their job less stressful: Manage caregiving like you are managing a business.

Caregivers Should Treat Caregiving As Though it is a Job.

Running your caregiving role like it is a business will empower you and allow you to gain a sense of control. When people are thrust into caregiving roles, they are often overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. If you were to start your own business, you would not fly by the seat of your pants, you would line up resources, obtain legal documents and make a financial plan. The same goes for caregiving. You need to get all of your parent’s documents in order, so you have easy access to them including medical history, medications, doctor’s appointments, coordinating medical care, power of attorney and their finances. Begin looking up resources in your community like support groups for caregivers and eldercare assistance. The key to running a healthy business is to remain proactive instead of reactive.

Own your Title as the CEO.

As any good boss knows, being the CEO does not make you responsible for handling every single facet of the corporation. As primary caregiver, part of your responsibility lies in delegating the work at hand. Avoiding caregiver burnout is more easily attainable by dividing up the burden. Look to your family members for help. Your significant other, siblings and children should all play a role in the caregiving process. Assess what each person can bring to the table and delegate accordingly.

Garner Help from Outside Resources.

If your family members/employees are not willing or able to handle their fair share of the responsibility, it is your duty to bring in outside reinforcements. Take solace in home health care options, elder daycare or a geriatric care manager. While seeking outside help may cost you more financially, it is well worth the investment for your sanity. Remaining healthy both mentally and physically are very important to your caregiving role. You should not undertake all of the responsibility yourself and should focus on establishing a method of caregiving that works best for both you and your loved one.

When you assess your caregiving role as a business, you will find you have more control over your life and your responsibilities. Remaining organized, prepared and proactive will leave you feeling more at ease. By keeping your sanity you will find that you are a much better caregiver, which will benefit both you and your loved one.

Managing the Added Costs of being in the Sandwich Generation

Life is all about stages. Closing the door to one stage opens up an entirely new set of opportunities. Entering the stage of parenthood comes with the knowledge that eventually your children will leave the nest, opening up a whole host of opportunities for you to undertake in your spare time, you remember all that free time pre-parenthood? Time to travel, discover new hobbies and relax. As your children continue making their way toward adulthood and that next stage is finally within grasp, members of the sandwich generation quickly see a new stage sidelining the one they thought they were headed for, one with very little free time.

Enter your parents, who are now living longer than ever before, and are in need of financial, emotional and physical help, much like the children you have spent the last 18 years raising. This new stage you are entering is hardly carefree and comes equipped with emotional baggage and added stressors.  Members of the Sandwich Generation are responsible for providing care at both ends of the spectrum of their family. Adult children care for their aging parents and relatives, while at the same time meeting the needs of their children and in some cases, grandchildren.

Many elderly are finding that their financial plans for retirement which accounted for 10-15 years were much too short as they live well into their 90s and exhaust their funds. The burden then lies on their adult children who also have to take into account their own retirement finances and their children’s financial needs. Aging increases the likelihood of developing certain types of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, Cancer, Diabetes or Cardiac/heart disease problems that many elderly did not allot treatment funds for. These scenarios are morphing from unique to usual.

If you are finding that your parents need assistance, the first thing sandwich generation members should do is sit down and have a frank discussion with their parents about their finances, as uncomfortable as this may be. You need to discover their sources of income and expenses as well as their assets and liabilities. Once you know where they stand, you will be better able to help them and yourself.

  1. Let your parents know that unnecessary expenses (like extravagant gifts for the grandchildren) are unwarranted. Your parents may need to cut back on the money they spend and evaluate their spending habits to determine where they can save a little money.
  2. Look over their insurance coverage and deductibles for property, long-term care and prescription drugs to make sure they have the correct coverage and are not paying too much for it.
  3. Your parents may benefit from re-evaluating their unnecessary whole life insurance policies with built-up cash value. Look into a 1035 tax-free exchange to an immediate fixed annuity for extra cash flow.
  4. It may also be time to tap the value of their home. Downsizing or selling their house can exclude up to $500,000 in capital gains from taxes for married couples filing jointly and $250,000 for singles. By selling their home and moving in with others, or selling the home to family members so they can remain in the home, they will free up a lot of extra cash.

If you are part of the sandwich generation, you have a lot on your plate. Finding the funds to support your aging parents is no easy task, and you should not be saddled with all the extra costs. While the new stage of life you have entered may not be exactly what you were anticipating, it is important to keep your funds intact so that you can survive the next stage of life, which may finally include relaxation.

How to Get Your Siblings to Share the Caregiving Burden

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Emotional stress and turmoil among siblings are often bi-products of caregiving. Statistics show that the sole responsibility of caregiving often rests on the shoulders of one adult sibling, usually the family member who lives the closest to the parent in need.  With other adult siblings skirting the responsibility  citing lack of time, money or claiming they simply cannot bear to see their parent in such ill health, strong feelings of resentment and abandonment are often evoked  in the sibling serving as the primary caregiver.

In healthy families asking for help is an easy extension, but functional families are hard to to find. Most families have an uneven balance of power, a lack of compassion or an inability to communicate with constructive results. Caregiving duties should be split up evenly, but asking for help can trigger insecurities in the sole caregiver in fear their siblings will deem them an inadequate caregiver, respond negatively or simply deny the fact your parent needs help.

While you should not abandon the thought of requesting help from your siblings, you should have more realistic expectations in the potential outcome. Assuming your siblings will take their fair share of the responsibility is probably just a set up for a let down. The best way to prep yourself when asking for help is to clarify your goals without setting exact expectations.

  1. It is important to define your goal. When calling siblings try to discover how they are willing to help or ask them for their opinions regarding your parent’s problems instead of assuming they are willing to undertake certain duties. This way your goal becomes discovering exactly what they are willing to do in the beginning stages of caregiving, instead of your goal being to get them to do a specific task.
  2. Abandon your expectations. Expectations are rarely met. They simply open you up to vulnerability and resentment which will not be beneficial to your caregiving role. Be open to hearing what your siblings have to say. Don’t abandon hope if your siblings are unwilling to offer help with the initial conversation, be persistent and optimistic.
  3. Be clear in what you need. While you should respect what your siblings have to say, they should respect your desire to relieve some of the burden. As your role progresses as a caregiver you can be more specific in asking siblings for certain help. Ask them to take your parent for the weekend, so you can receive needed respite or tell them what specific areas you need help in. Clearly addressing the issues leads to better results. If your siblings are still unwilling to cooperate give them a chance to offer a way they can participate that works for them.
  4. Discover how your siblings are willing to support you. If your siblings are unwilling to support your parent, discover how they are willing to support you whether it be financial or emotional, they should contribute in some way.

Getting siblings on the same page as you when it comes to caregiving is no easy task. It can be extremely time consuming and offer little results. The most important thing is to never abandon hope, do not give up on your siblings providing care no matter how big or small. It is also important to remember there are other services available at your disposal including friends, neighbors, senior centers and caregiver groups. Caregiving is not a task that should be undertaken alone. Be persistent in seeking help, regardless of where you find it.

How Caring for Your Kids Differs From Caring for Your Parents

Almost 10 million baby boomers are housing both their children and elderly parent(s) under the same roof. Accomplishing such a feat requires an understanding of how to manage both tasks. Undertaking both roles is a challenge, since children and elderly parents have different needs and require different strategies when it comes to providing care. While ‘how to’ books for raising children and being a caregiver to your elderly parent abound, there is not much information available distinguishing the primary differences between the two caregiving roles and how to manage both at once.

How parents and children differ:

  1. Taking Charge: With children the authority figure is obvious, but the line gets a little fuzzier with your parents. Children spend their lives being told what to do by their parents, so caregivers often feel as though they are overstepping their boundaries by telling their parents what to do. When it comes to your parent’s health and end of life decisions however, it is imperative to plan ahead with your parents and convince them to get all of their finances and legal documents together so if a power of attorney is needed,  you can speak legally and financially on their behalf.
  2. Emotions: The emotions associated with raising a child often evoke joy, fulfillment and satisfaction. Caring for a parent usually leads to feelings of remorse, guilt and sadness. Oftentimes caregivers are not fully prepared for the roller coaster of emotions their caregiver role puts them through. Having grown up being cared for by your parents, it is hard to accept the sudden role reversal combined with their declining health. It is important to share your feelings with family and friends to cope with your emotions.
  3. Aging: The aging process for children is pretty predictable as they reach certain benchmarks with each age. The aging process with the elderly is more uncertain as their health can deteriorate at the drop of a hat, not knowing what is coming next or what lies ahead creates a different mentality when it comes to adult aging.
  4. Confrontation: Confronting your parent or participating in a debate with them is not as cut and dry as it can be with your children. If you find it hard to reach common ground with your parent don’t hesitate to consult a geriatric counselor. Oftentimes parents are more willing to listen to an objective third party. Asking their doctors to speak with them is also beneficial.
  5. Financial: Bringing a parent into your household leads to unplanned financial strain. While some seniors have prepared for the costs associated with aging, many others find themselves burdened by unexpected illness. As you are simultaneously saving for children’s college, this burden can be a lot to handle.

Being a caregiver is no easy task, but being prepared to handle situations as they arise makes the job a lot more manageable. Stay prepared, informed and organized and you will be able to embrace the fact that three generations are living under one roof!