Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

To all who celebrate-- Have a very Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays! Resources for Caregivers

Take time for you!! Don't forget to spend some quality time with YOU over the next couple of weeks. The holidays can be very stressful for anyone, add in caregiving responsibilities and you might find yourself over the edge with caregiver burnout or caregiver fatigue. So take time to recharge your own batteries and relax!!

On January 11, you might like to tune in to an online chat sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. They will be chatting with the authors of The Care Organizer. It looks interesting, I haven't had time to review it yet, but might me a good present for yourself!!

Add it to your shopping list along with The Everything Guide to Caring for Aging Parents.

Happy and Safe Holidays!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Enjoying the Holidays with Loved Ones

The holidays are almost upon us and they can be stressful in the best of times. If you're also caring for aging parents, there are many other things to think about such as how to safely get them to and from your celebrations. They may tire out quickly and have to be taken home early. Be prepared. If they have diaper issues, you'll need to make sure you have plenty and bring a change of clothing along-- just in case.

Make sure you plan for toileting every couple of hours and if someone has to assist, add that to the to-do list to enlist someone to help. Perhaps they will need some assistance with eating or need their food cut up, chopped or even pureed. Allow time for this and assign someone to assist with this. Make sure you have any medications that need to be taken during their outing. And plan for bad weather causing you to get shut in.

The holidays can also be a time to reminisce and make sure that stories and traditions get handed down. Ask them about their childhood, where they lived and went to school. When did they marry? What kind of work did they do? Where did they live? what did they do for entertainment (before television, video games and the internet!!)?  Maybe have a video camera running in the background to capture some of these moments. And be sure to always take lots of family group photos. Make lots of memories, as they help keep loved ones alive in our hearts when they are gone.

Take time for yourself, and remember that there is NO SUCH THING as a perfect holiday. Being with the ones we love and enjoying their company and a few laughs is the perfection you can expect. The best holidays are the ones that everyone remembers, and they often stand out for their imperfections! So relax and enjoy!!

Photo by monmart

Friday, September 24, 2010

Finding Resources

While it would be nice to be prepared for any event in life, sometimes it's just not possible to be that well organized and prepared. Part of the problem when dealing with aging parents or spouses or other relatives is that we really don't want to face the fact that they are aging and having challenges and struggles. It would be great to keep everyone young and active. But the fact is, age creeps up on all of us and lifestyles take a hit.

So when you need to find some resources to help meet the needs of your aging loved ones, one of the best places to start is with your friends who are experiencing the same process. Then the Internet can offer lots of information.

A good place to begin your online search would be with the Area on Aging Agency in your state or county. I usually use Google as my search engine of choice so this example is what I got using Google. You can enter the search term "Area on Aging Agency San Francisco" for example and you'll receive information on the agency in San Fransisco along with an number of similar sources. Plug in the name of your local area and see what you get.  Then search their site for the kinds of resources you need.

Another good search term is "caregiver resources _______" Fill in the blank with your city or county and see what comes up.  Search their sites and contact the sources to find help with additional resources in your location.

Start a file folder and keep copies of the information or write down the web addresses of the places you've found helpful. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Johns Hopkins' Nurse Makes a Difference for the Aging

The population continues to age because we have better health care and more interventions to help keep the elderly safe as well as healthy. This also presents many new challenges each day to keep this population safe and as independent as possible. An associate nursing professor at Johns Hopkins' University School of Nursing has made a difference in Baltimore, MD with a pilot program.

If your aging parents or spouse needs some suggestions for safer living, contact the PCP (primary care practitioner) to discuss the possibility of a home health safety evaluation.  A visiting nurse, PT, OT and Medical Social Worker can be made available to assess their needs to keep them safe and as independent as possible in their own home. This service is paid through Medicare as long as there is a skilled need and the physician orders the evaluation. The skilled need can be issues such as a fall risk, safety with performing activities of daily living, taking medications appropriately, and pain control.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Resist the Urge to Control -- Help Aging Parents Stay Independent

We have become a generation dependent on instant gratification and quick fixes. In general, we often have little patience and lack the coping skills to handle things that we cannot control.

So as we face issues with aging parents, spouses or other loved ones, we find ourselves in very unfamiliar territory and many times panic sets in as we realize we have to do something, but we can’t fix it.

The first thing to do is to RELAX and get a grip. No, you won’t be able to fix this and it’s not going to go away. Take a deep breath. You are going to find yourself on the wildest never ending, emotional roller coaster ride. And like any roller coaster worth its price to ride, it’s going to have steep slow climbs, sharp rapid drops, a few deceiving plateaus, and a bunch of slow bumpy ups and downs. Unlike the amusement park, you can’t get off. This one loops around and around.

The next thing to remember is that you are not going to become the parent. It may seem that way, but your role is actually to assist and guide them through the rest of their life. It might see easier if you just take over and do it for them, but this is not in their best interest.

Independence is Essential 
The key point is to make it possible for them to remain as independent as possible for as long as they can. You need to do things to “aging” proof the house.

Reacher can help keep aging parents safe
  • Put up grab bars in the bathroom, and maybe a few in the hallway or strategically throughout the house to help them safely navigate.
  • Clear away clutter. They seem to love to pile up newspapers and magazine that they insist they will read someday. Move them out, they are a fire hazard at the very least!
  • Get rid of throw rugs and make sure the carpet is flat. Elders don’t pick up their feet as well and tripping is an issue.
  • Put reachers throughout the house so they don’t have to bend over to pick up things they drop.
Consider hiring help to perform tasks they can’t or shouldn’t be doing. This does NOT mean 24/7 help!! It also doesn’t mean they need to move to assisted living facilities. A housekeeper to do the laundry and heavy cleaning once or twice a week. A gardener. Someone to assist with grocery shopping once or twice a week. Maybe they need someone to help them bathe a few times a week. A daily phone call to remind them to take medications.

If cooking is an issue, consider solutions such as Meals on Wheels or other food delivery services, gourmet frozen foods, or cook meals and freeze them for them.

What other ADLs do they need help with?
Device to help button shirts
Bathing, ambulating/transfers, toileting, feeding, dressing/grooming? The more help they need, the more help you need to hire. Perhaps a few hours a day. But encourage them to do as much for themselves as is safe and possible. Consider alternative as well such as slip on shoes instead of ties that Dad can’t handle anymore. Assistive devices are available to make any chore easier such as buttoning shirts, opening jars, long shoe horns, sock helpers, etc. Look for ways to help them help themselves BEFORE doing it for them!

Taking over and forcing them to be dependent on you or someone else will not fix the situation. It may cause them to wither and die faster. Be prepared to pick the pieces as they falter and make changes as needed. Crises will happen, and guaranteed they will come at the most inopportune times.

Slow down. Resist the urge to control the situation. Enjoy the last years with your loved ones. Keep them comfortable and safe, but as independent as possible.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Conflict Resolution Needed Here

One of the most common issues I have dealt with in helping families find ways to care for their aging parents is the conflicts that arise among siblings. It's almost like a time warp taking them back to childhood rivalries. Now it's focused on the parents. As each child struggles with their own guilt and other issues about living far away, not being able to provide the care, the money to assist with care or even just to cope with what's happening, there builds a huge struggle about what the parents need.

Sometimes it's about wanting to be the one in charge, or a need to seem like the big hero, or it's about making sure they're still in the will, or to be the favorite child. What was your childhood like? Which sibling had these same issues as a kid? Yep, deja vu!

Occasionally it's not even reality based. One sibling may seem to think that dad needs total care when indeed, he just needs some occasional supervision, transportation, and some assistance with writing checks (or online bill paying), grocery shopping, and cleaning/laundry. Once he starts to need a little help doesn't mean that he's going to be total care in a few short days!!

Deal with each crisis as it comes along. Each time they will need a little more care for a little longer, and sometimes 24 hour care for short periods of time, but encourage as much independence (as is safe) as soon as possible to keep them strong and active. 

Be alert to subtle signs and signals, and have a plan to make changes as you need to....but don't go overboard at the first signs of decline. The aging process is a long time line.

Here's a great resource to help you cope with some of those conflicts that arise as one sibling or another feels the need to take charge and take unnecessary steps way too early on.