Placing unrealistic expectations on our loved ones

I love sharing guest blog appearances on my blog and today is no different. I am truly blessed to have connected with industry experts all over the country, one of them being Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks.

“A Quiet Visit”

Today as I sat and visited with my Mother I had to admit to myself I was struggling. Struggling to get her to engage me. To notice me. To react to me.

As I felt a lump grow in my throat and my eyes began to well with tears, I realized my focus was all wrong.  I had fallen back into one of my old patterns, one of setting expectations.   I wanted her to meet me where I was, verses me meeting her where she was.

Setting expectations is such a simple thing to do wrong when visiting a person with Alzheimer’s.  Depending on the stage of the disease they may not even know we have expectations of them.  If they do understand, they probably won’t know how to meet our expectations. Once I understood what was wrong I could correct the problem.  I could correct me.

I was able to adjust my focus back onto my Mother’s needs and not mine.  I could touch her and feel how soft her skin was.  I could see her briefly react to the touch of my cold hands upon hers.  I could look closely at her eyes and see her squint slightly, and sense she didn’t care for the bright light in the dining room where we sat.

I could watch closely and see she preferred the banana I was feeding her over the scrambled eggs by the way she chewed.  I could see her lips purse because she didn’t like the taste of the milk I gave her.  I could see a slight smile spread on her face when I told her we are planning her birthday party for New Year’s Day.

It always amazes me what I see when I look for the right things. When I get out of myself and focus on her. When I engage her.

When I notice her. When I react to her. When I accept the fact my visits are about her, but not just for her. When I take time to appreciate what I get from my visits with her. What she gives me. What she allows me to see. What she allows me to feel.

How rich and fulfilling she makes my life no matter what stage of the disease she is in, or what type of day I am having.

My Mother is a gift to me and always will be.

About the Author:

Lori La Bey is Founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks and Senior Lifestyle Trends.  Lori is on a Mission to Shift Caregiving from Crisis to Comfort Mode.  She does this by changing how people perceive, receive, and deliver care; through her presentations and writings.  You may reach Lori through her websites, email or call her.

www.AlzheimersSpeaks.com

www.SeniorLifestyleTrends.com

Lori@AlzheimersSpeaks.com

651-748-4714

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Hang onto your Joy

I was listening to a Joel Osteen message about Joy and how nothing can take our joy from us.  This means that no issues with a spouse, illness, loss of job or abilities or challenges associated with caring for an elderly loved one can take our joy away from us. We can however, give it away.

This is quite a revelation!  Even though I have a conceptual understanding of my control over my reactions to people and situations in my life, I was daily giving my joy away to inconsequential events such as being stuck in traffic, fear of running late for a meeting, worry about personal and family health issues.  Now you may think that worrying about health issues is not inconsequential.  Any health issue that you or a loved one is facing is most certainly of consequence.  What is not, however, is the act of worrying about these challenges.

Worrying does nothing to change the traffic pattern, fear doesn’t change what time you get to your meeting and most importantly, worry does nothing to change the outcome of the test to see if the cancer has spread.

Worry and fear can negatively affect your personal outlook, relationships with loved ones and health (which is ironic as that is the very thing you’re worrying about).  We allow worry and fear to steal our joy from us and for what?  Something we have little to no control over.  The test results will be what they will be, worry and fear will not change them, but could hamper our ability to make good decisions about next steps and treatment options.

Studies have shown that there is a strong association between positive health outcomes and people with strong social well-being (happiness & joy that comes from within).  This is great news!  This means that you can have a positive effect on your health by adjusting your focus to things that are positive and joyful!

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to change your focus to become joy-filled, but there are some steps that can help you start your joy journey today!

  • Focus on the positives – spend time with people who fill you with joy :family, friends, children, grandchildren.
  • Disengage from “drama” people in your life – you know who I am talking about. The people who can turn any story into drama (i.e. – a dog jumping on their leg becomes a vicious attack).  These people especially focus on the potential negative aspects of your situation.  Politely turn down their offers to hang out and focus attention on positive people.
  • Create a Joy Journal – get in the habit of writing down positive experiences EVERY DAY! At the beginning you may have to really stretch to find them (i.e. – I got out of bed today).  After a while you will start to notice that there are more positives in your life than you realized!

I heard this saying “Worry does not change tomorrow’s burdens, but steals joy and power from today”. SO TRUE!

Take hold of your joy TODAY!  Don’t give it away no matter what the circumstance.  Things may be stressful, life can be challenging, but you have the power to find the joy in life no matter what else is going on around you.

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Best Mom Ever – Happy Mother’s Day

I have been blessed to have the best Mom in the history of Mom’s. Maybe I’m a bit biased (just a little), however; if you were to ask my friends from childhood through today about my Mom they would probably tell you the same thing.

me and mom

Most women have the ability to become a Mom (I unfortunately I was not one of them), however; I believe that some people are just born to be Mom’s. They have some kind of special DNA which makes them innately more gifted at the job than others. My Mom is one of those women born to be a Mom.

If you were to ask my Mom about herself she will talk about me, my sister, her grandchildren and son-in-laws without ever actually mentioning anything about herself. She always seems to be amazed at what a great family she has never realizing her love and support has been the cornerstone of our family.

She has always been my hero; facing the obstacles that life has thrown at her with strength and dignity (see One Word can Change Your Life). She is the kind of person who will show up for you when others are walking out on you. She will give you the shirt of her back and has literally given me the shoes off of her feet. She has taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

So in honor of her I want to share life lessons from my Mom.

  • A note of encouragement can make a huge difference in someone’s day (see Encouragement by Mail)
  • Always show up for others (even if you don’t think they deserve it)
  • Make family a priority
  • Family and forgiveness go hand-in-hand
  • Keep moving forward even when it’s hard
  • Unconditional love cannot be earned, it is given freely whether or not you think the other person deserves it
  • Encouragement is a gift you can give to anyone at any time
  • Be nice to everyone (AKA: kill them with kindness)
  • If someone doesn’t like you or want to be your friend it’s their loss not yours (this was one of my favorites)

Thank you Mom for all the love, support and encouragement you give so freely.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

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Learning from the Past

It’s amazing how insightful we are about situations faced in the past. Why? Because once  the chaos has subsided and the situation is over, we can analyze it from a new perspective.

However; when in the midst of challenges in our lives, the physical and emotional mayhem causes us to function more in reaction to, as opposed to careful analysis of, the situation.

When caring for someone we love there are several factors that come into play when making decision

  • Our emotional reaction to what is happening to that person
  • Our personal dynamic with that person
  • Our perceived role in the life of the person that is ill as well as in the overall family (i.e.: our birth order)
  • Our understanding of what is happening to them health wise
  • Understanding what resources are available and how to utilize them

Having worked with family caregivers for over 20 years, written 2 books on the topic, as well as having cared for several family members, I can tell you first-hand that even when a caregiver knows what they are doing and how to access resources, emotional reaction and family dynamics can often overshadow the judgment of even the most knowledgeable of caregiver.

Points to Ponder

  • You don’t get a “do-over” so dwelling on what you should or could have done is an exercise in futility.
  • You did the best you could in the face of the overwhelming tasks and factors involved in caring for someone you love.
  • Guilt is an unnecessary emotion that we “put upon” ourselves once we are on the other side of decisions made. The good news is you have the power to remove the guilt (see Letting Go of Guilt).

Even if you grasp an understanding of these points, human nature triggers us to over analyze and dwell on situations thus inducing guilt over the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s we come up with.

What can we do to stop the madness?

Utilizing the new-found Genius

  • Analyzing the past can assist us in being pro-active about the future care needs of other family members (see Pro-Active vs Re-Active Caregiving).
  • Understanding the challenges we faced can benefit others around us who are in the midst of the caregiving chaos by sharing our story and lessons learned from the experience.
  • Our experience can assist us in being more aware of our reactive tendencies causing more focused and fact based decisions in the future. (see Fear vs. Fact)
  • Utilizing our experience to assist us in creating a plan for our own future care needs. (see Wrinkles Memory Loss and Erectile Dysfunction)

Most importantly – Keep reminding yourself that you did the best you could, considering what you were up against!

For more support and resources visit email sue@caregiverlife.com

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Caregiving and Corporate America

With the growth of the elder population, it is imperative that vital eldercare education be provided to family caregivers in their communities and workplace, as this growth pattern negatively effects caregivers in both their home and work life. 

According to a MetLife Caregiver Cost Study (2011), at any given time, between 25-35 percent of the workforce is caring for a chronically ill or aging family member. Some experts expect this statistic to increase to nearly half of the workforce within the next 5-10 years. Statistical data illustrates that issues related to caring for an elderly loved one are costing US companies an estimated $17 to $26 billion dollars annually in lost workplace productivity (NCOA.org).

In other words: if employees are responsible for taking care of an elderly relative it WILL negatively impact their employers’ bottom line.  This has become even more prevalent during COVID as more employees are working from home, trying to manage remote working, their children’s remote learning and oversight of elder care with insufficient access to resources that would normally be available.

Due to the need to retain their income, family caregivers often come to work completely distracted and/or worn out. This is referred to as “presenteeism”. Presenteeism occurs when employees come to work but are unable to focus on their jobs. Workplace distractions are often triggered by an ailing family member in need of periodic check-ins throughout the day as well as assistance in household management along with coordinating doctors’ appointments and support services. Presenteeism for whatever reason, results in poor productivity and can reduce a workers’ productivity by more than one-third producing a negative effect on a company’s bottom-line equal to or greater than absenteeism.

According to an Eldercare Survey by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM): 47% of HR professionals report an increase in the number of employees dealing with elder care issues and found that companies without eldercare benefits stand to lose $2,500 a year per caregiving employee. However personal this matter seems, the complexities of managing work/life balance for working caregivers has a significant effect on a company’s bottom line due to lost productivity, workday interruptions, absenteeism, worker turnover and replacement, low motivation, and other factors. Caregiving negatively affects morale, productivity, and costs. As a result of caregiving responsibilities, a tremendous amount of talent, loyalty, and institutional knowledge leaves the workforce every day – either temporarily or permanently.

Informal caregiving is the foundation of health, social and financial assistance for older adults in the community. It is possible to help family caregivers balance their work lives with family caregiving responsibilities by providing resources and programs that acknowledge the lives of employees outside of work through the implementation of eldercare wellness initiatives. Employees who take advantage of educational and eldercare resources in their corporate/work environment are more productive and less likely to report negative caregiving impacts on their work performance.  Of course, the programs are only helpful if caregivers use them. Education, resources, and programs implemented before a crisis arises is the most advantageous way to maximize benefits initiatives for everyone involved, including the care recipient.

For more information (and solutions) about Eldercare Initiatives in your workplace please feel free to contact me via email Sue@caregiverlife.com

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Caregiving and Dementia challenges

Most common challenges associated with caring for a loved one with dementia:

  • Sleep problems and caregiver exhaustion are two of the most common reasons persons with dementia are placed in nursing homes. Causes of sleeplessness in dementia patients include pain, lack of exercise and activities, anxiety, agitation, or too much fluid or caffeine late in the day.
  • Urinary incontinence is the second leading reason that families institutionalize their loved ones with dementia. Urinary incontinence in persons with dementia should be evaluated for treatable causes, including urinary tract infections, electrolyte and calcium abnormalities, pro-static hypertrophy, and estrogen deficiency. A regular toileting schedule at two to three-hour intervals or verbal prompting may also alleviate this symptom.
  • Agitation and aggressive behavior have been reported in 65 percent of community-dwelling persons with dementia. Reasons for agitation or aggression include over-stimulation, physical discomfort, unfamiliar surroundings or persons, complicated tasks, and frustrating interaction, as well as more serious reasons as paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations.
  • Caregivers may be embarrassed or ambivalent about discussing inappropriate sexual behaviors exhibited by persons with dementia.
  • Persons with dementia are often reluctant to stop driving when safety is at issue.
  • Repetitious questions may be due to short-term memory loss and an under-stimulating/over-stimulating environment leading to anxiety, feeling out of control, or fear.

It is OK if caring for you to seek out alternative housing options for your loved one, even if you promised you never would.  Caring for someone with dementia can be overwhelming and often creates safety issues. Seek out professionals who can help you find the right option for your loved one in a location that is convenient for you.  You were never meant to do this alone!

Information for this blog cited from the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Medical Association

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Caregiver Life with Dignity Podcast

  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    Join the Life with Dignity Team for an outdoor Fiesta! Enjoy Mexican cuisine and margaritas from the taco truck and catch up face to face with other referral sources and peers.  Last Thursday, September 16th from 3-6pm 250 business companions were invited to have tacos at the World headquarters in St. Charles IL.  It's our way of saying thank […]
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    Hospice and Palliative Care with Tammy Smith For over 15 years Tammy has assisted families as they navigate some of the most challenging and emotional times in their lives. She recognizes that each person and each family can have very different needs but upholding one's dignity is universal. She gives families comfort and knowledge of all […]
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    How creativity can support your caregiving journey In this episode Fran and Sue discuss how creativity can support your caregiving journey    Getting creative with caregiving support    Search for supportive products (don’t reinvent the wheel)    Be creative with time management to create time to take care of yourself Summary   – Sum up today’s […]
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    Advocating for patient rights: the Jimmo Act Linda Strohschein is an estate planning and elder law attorney. Linda, Fran and Sue discuss long term care planning and the impact of the Jimmo Settlement Agreement. Jimmo clarified when a beneficiary needs skilled nursing or therapy services under Medicare.    This is a production of Habanero Media 
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    Your Right To Choose #20 When it comes to your healthcare, you're the decision maker. In this episode Fran and Sue discuss how you have the right to choose since you're the one to live with the consequences. The path to wise decision-making is to be fully informed. Ask questions and demand answers. Doctors work […]
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    I Care A Lot – A Movie Review A new movie recently released by Netflix is reviewed and condemned for being all fiction and no reality when it comes to guardianship for the elderly. In this animated conversation, Fran and Sue walk through elements of the plot and with outrage point out the lack of […]
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    Applied Neuroplasticity for Caregivers with John Kennedy #18 John Kennedy is an innovative  master coach, consultant,  and trainer who has helped thousands of people and their organizations exceed their performance expectations for over 35 years. In this episode Sue and Fran learn that In response to a contract by the US Marines in 2007, John […]
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    Understanding the Dementia Connection Model In this episode Fran and Sue welcome back Dr. Jennifer Stelter (Clinical Psychologist) and Jessica Ryan (Biologist and Educator) to the podcast. All four discuss the "dementia connection model" and how it explains what's going on with dementia in a loved one and practical advice on how to intervene. Caregivers […]
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    How To Recognize Exploitation In this episode Fran and Sue share advice on how to recognize a situation where a loved one is being exploited. Exploitation is a case where the act of using resources or treating people unfairly in order to benefit for their effort or labor. It may or may not have anything […]
  • by Fran Piekarski and Sue Salach-Cutler
    Preparing for Elective Surgery What are the key elements? What are the pre-op & post op procedures  Get prescriptions filled ahead of time and get a list of potential medical equipment that might be needed. Who will be contacting you once the surgery is complete (make sure they have the correct phone number)  Keep in […]
Posted in aging, boomers, caregiving, dementia, eldercare, elders, encouragement, making a plan, veterans, work/life/flex, working caregiver | Leave a comment

Surprise – Mom got old!

It still amazes me how many people I have met over my 25+ year career that seemed genuinely surprised that their parent had gotten old.  Especially since the alternative to getting old would be death (not trying to be crass, it’s just the truth).  The reality is that barring an untimely death our family members, as well as ourselves, will all eventually be old.

When I speak to people about being pro-actively prepared for this approaching season of life share many will say that they are prepared.  When I ask for an example of their “preparedness” 99/100 times their example is their pre-paid funeral, to which my responses is “That’s great for when you’re dead, what do you have planned before that?”

While it is very helpful to have your funeral pre-paid, there are many other pro-active steps that can be taken to help ourselves as well as our family members before that.  I refer to this as preparation for “What if”.

Ask the following questions of your elderly loved ones (as well as yourself) and then encourage them to start gathering information on the local programs, facilities and care options available in order to empower them to make pro-active decisions about their care.

What if…

  • You needed to go for rehab due to a stroke or other major health issue, where would you want to go?
  • You were no longer able to safely live in your home where would you want to live?
  • You were unable to make decisions about your care would you want the procedures/options of care:
    • Resuscitation. Restarts the heart when it has stopped beating.
    • Mechanical ventilation. Takes over your breathing if you’re unable to do so.
    • Nutritional and hydration assistance. Supplies the body with nutrients and fluids intravenously or via a tube in the stomach.
    • Dialysis. Removes waste from your blood and manages fluid levels if your kidneys no longer function.

Write down the answers and then share them with all the family members.  When everyone is aware of the persons’ wishes ahead of time it makes it less problematic for the family if ever faced with making those types of difficult decisions. These are just a few examples of care related questions.  Having a place to start the conversation can help families share much needed information about individual preferences and help not only to create a practical plan for the future but empower pro-active personal decision making.

About the Author:

Sue Salach has worked in the geriatric healthcare field for over 30 years and has a Master’s Degree in Gerontology (the study of aging).  Sue employs her comprehensive experience and enthusiasm to assist corporations in creating innovative programs to reach out to employee caregivers in the workplace. She is a National Speaker and the author of two books, Along Comes Grandpa, a caregiving resource guide and If I Walked In Her Shoes  a caregiving novel. Follow me @SueSalach on Twitter.

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Caregiving and Alzheimer’s: Asking the Right Questions

A frustrated friend called me for help while visiting her mother. Her

mother’s Alzheimer’s was progressing and she was exhibiting some, let’s say, wearisome behaviors (to my friend that is). It had been over a week and her mother refused to change her clothes. She and her sister had spent days going through her mothers’ expansive closet showing her all of the beautiful clothes she owned; yet she remained in the same outfit.

I ask her one question, “What is it about those clothes?” After a perplexed silence, she asked me to explain. I invited her to consider that, though her mother was confused, there could be a valid reason behind that particular choice of clothing over the plethora of other options. I recommended she ask her mother directly why she refused to change her clothes.

A few days later she called to share what she had learned about the clothes… Her mother spent some of her childhood in a German concentration camp. She had experienced the horrors of Hitler’s reign and the death of her parents, family and friends first hand. Everything she owned she could carry in her pants pocket. These items, though not valuable, were very sacred because they were hers. As her Alzheimer’s progressed she began to relive some of the fear and paranoia associated being the survivor of such an unspeakable trauma. I advised her to buy several outfits similar to the one she was wearing and donate the rest of her clothes to charity. She did and her mother started changing her clothes.

Another friend shared her frustration over her father’s need to wear the same jeans all the time. I advised her to ask him “Why those pants”. A few days later I saw her again and she said that her father explained that they were comfortable and that when he tried to find replacements nothing fit him right. Though she understood, the pants were well worn and had some good sized stains; and she added that she was ready to sneak into his house in the middle of the night and steal them so he would be forced to get new ones. I imparted a compromise. What if she dyed the jeans a dark color to cover the stains and make the pants more presentable? Then he gets to keep his favorite pair of jeans and she doesn’t have to be embarrassed about taking him out in the pants. She did and it worked.

Points to Ponder:

  • Have we tried to push our agenda on an elderly loved one due to embarrassment or frustration without asking some simple questions?
  • How can we create an atmosphere of communication?
  • What compromises can we come to that would work for both of us?

These tips can be applied to more than just caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Take time today to ponder questions that could open up communication in the all the important relationships in your life.

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This just in: CEO’s starting to see the need for increased wellness programs

I just recently ran across an article that stated employer’s are starting to see the need for increased wellness programs and that on the executive level.

It began with a survey that gauges employers’ attitudes and strategies on the different stages of implementing a wellness program and found that more senior-level executives are supporting the company’s wellness initiatives.

Here are the findings:

Senior management’s support of improving employee health jumped to 42% in 2010, compared with 6% in 2009, according to experts in Willis North America’s human capital practice.

In the survey, participants were asked to describe wellness program components, incentives, participation rates, vendor satisfaction and how program results are measured. The company polled 1,949 individuals and 71% of participants employed 500 or fewer workers.

While it is encouraging to see organizational support at the senior level significantly increasing, the survey [also] indicates a need to focus programs on increased employee engagement,” says Cheryl Mealey, national practice leader of wellness consulting, at Willis North America. “Senior management is really starting to embrace the idea that our health impacts how we work, and how we work impacts our health,” she adds.

Survey participants ranked “management support and a strong internal leader championing wellness within the organization” as the two most important factors in maintaining a successful wellness program. Other key factors cited to sustain a strong wellness program included marketing and communication efforts, setting specific goals and strategic planning.

The need for strategic planning is rising because of the rising health care costs associated with so many things such as caring for family members with disabilities, elder-care issues, etc. and the stress involved in daily work/life issues.

Meanwhile, Mealy advises employers to invest more resources in training to assist mid-level managers to better understand the link between health and productivity.

She goes on to say “Our survey findings show that only 5% of respondents offer such training. The relationship an employee has with his or her direct supervisor is of paramount importance, not only in relation to engagement and job satisfaction, but also to overall health and well-being.”

Also, “Organizations need to rethink their incentive and communication strategies and determine whether their approach is resulting in compliance with a series of defined tasks, or true engagement in health improvement and ultimately in the success of the business. Increasingly, we are seeing that the two go hand-in-hand,” Mealey adds.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • One-third of employers did not agree that financial rewards should be used to encourage healthy lifestyles, a 15% increase over the 2009 survey results.
  • Nearly 45% of participants reported insufficient time or not enough staff as the most significant barrier to offering a wellness program, followed by budget constraints at 43%.
  • Fifty-three percent of employers indicated they had some type of wellness program. Of those with a wellness program, 57% describe their program as “basic.”
  • Seventy-eight percent of employers reviewed their health care cost trends prior to implementing a wellness program.
  • Only 28% of responding employers have a specific and defined strategy in place to improve employee engagement in the workplace. Of the organizations that have a formal strategy, 64% considered their work-site wellness program to be an important part of their overall employee engagement strategy.
  • About 38% of survey respondents indicated they did not have sufficient data to calculate ROI.

If these issues are considered from executive leaders within the corporations and businesses and strategic plans are put in place to address these issues before a crisis the return on investment is huge. Increased productivity and a healthier work environment become a win-win situation for all involved.

For more information on this subject and more on implementing wellness programs go to CaregiverLife.com.

Sources:

(http://ebn.benefitnews.com)

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Having a Heat Wave

Summertime tips for Caregivers

Seniors are especially at risk in high heat situations. Large stretches of the USA are experiencing extreme temperatures.

Here are some summer heat tips for helping elderly loved ones avoid heat stroke or heat exhaustion

  • Encourage fluid intake.* Water is best.  Pick up some bottled water to keep in their fridge.  It’s easy to grab and can help them track their water intake. Some fruit has a high water content (such as cantaloupe) is also helpful.  Remind them that sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol act as diuretics so fluctuating those fluids with water is key.
  • Make sure their air conditioning is working and turned on. Whether in an effort to cut expenses or because many older adults, especially those on blood thinners, get cold easily, they may not have their air conditioning turned on.  However; they may not recognize that being in air-conditioning can help them avoid heat stroke/exhaustion.  Explain the reasoning behind having the air on and then find them a sweater to wear in the house.
    • If they do not have air-conditioning, consider going to a mall, movie theatre, museum or city cooling center.  Another option is having them stay with a family member until the heat wave passes.
  • Take a cool shower or bath, especially in the evening before going to bed.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that breathes.
  • Discourage activities such as cooking/baking in the oven as well as thorough housecleaning during heat waves. 
  • If going outside, apply sunscreen and keep it on hand for re-application.
  • Regularly check in on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors in person if possible. If you live far away, contact another relative or neighbor who can stop by and check on them.

Know the signs of heat stroke (i.e.: flushed face, high body temperature, headache, nausea, rapid pulse, dizziness and confusion) and take immediate action if you or your loved one is having any of these symptoms.

For more caregiving support visit LifewithDignity.net

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Strategic Caregiving

plannowheader“I wish I had met you when…,” I hear some variation of this phrase weekly (sometimes daily) from people I meet through networking and personal events.  The statement derives from people who have experienced the chaos associated with caring for an elderly loved one with little to no idea what resources were available to assist them or the person they were caring for.

REALITY CHECK: At some point, we have either been, will be or know someone who is the caregiver of an elderly relative. Depending on our life expectancy, we will also become an elderly person in need of care and resources.

So, what happens when caregivers have to make decisions with no preconceived notion about available resources or are making decisions in reaction to a crisis? All decisions made from the point of the “incident”, the fall, hospitalization, _____ (you fill in the blank), are done in REACTION to the situation.

Without a proactive plan in place, these very important, potentially life altering decisions will be based primarily on the emotional response to the event or the direction given by a medical professional (often one who is meeting your loved one for the first time).  Regrettably, reactionary decisions can have unexpected consequences that may be in direct opposition of the person wishes.

I realize that in our busy world, if something isn’t happening to us this instant, then we aren’t going to seek out information and resources concerning the “what if’s” in life.   Unfortunately, in the case of elder care, lack of a “what if” strategy can lead to uninformed decision-making when a crisis strikes.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are preparations that can be made TODAY for the “what if’s” in life.

Ask yourself and those you love these pro-active “what if” questions and begin the effective process towards preemptive crisis management:

  • If I cannot make health care decisions for myself, who would I want to make those decisions? (See FYI about POA)
  • What guidelines would I want my POA to follow in determining what care was given? (i.e., nutrition, resuscitation, end of life comfort/care. See 5 Wishes or ask your local hospital if they have copies of POA/Living Will forms)
  • What if I could no longer manage my finances, who would I trust to manage them for me?
  • What if I can no longer care for myself in my home?
  • What if I needed long-term nursing care, would I want that in home or in a facility?
  • Do I have enough money to cover the cost of long-term care? (Long-term Care Insurance?)
  • What if I need short-term rehabilitation, where would I want to go for that care?
  • What do I need to have in place to make sure that if one of my “what if’s” happened my family would know what I wanted done?
  • What if _____ (Fill in the Blank)

I know that asking these questions can be awkward, however; if and when the crisis strikes, you’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

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Caregiving and Corporate America

With the growth of the elder population, it is imperative that vital eldercare education be provided to family caregivers in their communities and workplace, as this growth pattern negatively effects caregivers in both their home and work life. According to a MetLife Caregiver Cost Study (2011), at any given time, between 25-35 percent of the workforce is caring for a chronically ill or aging family member. Some experts expect this statistic to increase to nearly half of the workforce within the next 5-10 years. Statistical data illustrates that issues related to caring for an elderly loved one are costing US companies an estimated $17 to $26 billion dollars annually in lost workplace productivity (NCOA.org).

In other words: if employees are responsible for taking care of an elderly relative it WILL negatively impact their employers’ bottom line.

Due to the need to retain their income, family caregivers often come to work completely distracted and/or worn out. This is referred to as “presenteeism”. Presenteeism occurs when employees come to work but are unable to focus on their jobs. Workplace distractions are often triggered by an ailing family member in need of periodic check-ins throughout the day as well as assistance in household management along with coordinating doctors’ appointments and support services. Presenteeism for whatever reason, results in poor productivity and can reduce a workers’ productivity by more than one-third producing a negative effect on a company’s bottom-line equal to or greater than absenteeism.

According an Eldercare Survey by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM): 47% of HR professionals report an increase in the number of employees dealing with elder care issues and found that companies without eldercare benefits stand to lose $2,500 a year per caregiving employee. However personal this matter seems, the complexities of managing work/life balance for working caregivers has a significant effect on a company’s bottom line due to lost productivity, workday interruptions, absenteeism, worker turnover and replacement, low motivation and other factors. Caregiving negatively affects morale, productivity, and costs. As a result of caregiving responsibilities, a tremendous amount of talent, loyalty, and institutional knowledge leaves the workforce every day – either temporarily or permanently.

Informal caregiving is the foundation of health, social and financial assistance for older adults in the community. It is possible to help family caregivers balance their work lives with family caregiving responsibilities by providing resources and programs that acknowledge the lives of employees outside of work through the implementation of eldercare wellness initiatives. Employees who take advantage of educational and eldercare resources in their corporate/work environment are more productive and less likely to report negative caregiving impacts on their work performance. Of course, the programs are only helpful if caregivers use them. Education, resources and programs implemented before a crisis arises is the most advantageous way to maximize benefits initiatives for everyone involved, including the care recipient.

For more information (and solutions) about Eldercare Initiatives in your workplace please feel free to contact me via email Sue@caregiverlife.com

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Essential Advice for Long-Distance Caregivers

Guest post by: Claire Wentz

Photo by Pexels

If you live far away from a senior loved one who needs your care, you’ve probably run into all kinds of problems trying to fulfill your role while juggling the demands of your personal life. While it would be a lot easier to care for your loved one if they lived next door, this is not always possible. Fortunately, there are several ways to provide effective and meaningful care to your senior loved one from a distance. Health-monitoring technology, communication tools, and delivery services will make life easier for both you and your loved one, so take advantage of all the resources available to you!

Consider Shared Housing

It’s common to live with roommates when we’re young, but roommates can also be beneficial in our later years. HomeAdvisor explains that shared housing can provide several advantages for seniors who are intent on aging in place. For one thing, splitting their household expenses with someone else can help them get by on a fixed retirement income. More importantly, however, having someone else in the house will be a valuable source of companionship and support. A senior roommate can help your loved one avoid household accidents, loneliness, and the loss of independence due to mobility limitations.

Shop for Food and Supplies Online

Today, you can order almost anything online. This makes it easy to do your loved one’s shopping from anywhere and have your orders delivered right to their doorstep. You can order groceries, basic household items, and even prescriptions for your senior loved one. For example, Costco delivers to most metropolitan areas in the United States and offers same-day delivery of fresh groceries on any food orders over $35. If your loved one is having trouble cooking, you could even sign them up for a regular meal-delivery service to ensure they maintain a healthy diet when you can’t be there to help them in the kitchen.

Use Technology to Monitor Their Health

There’s nothing worse than worrying about the well-being of your loved one day in and day out. Set your mind at ease by investing in some health-monitoring tools. For example, GrandCare recommends home-monitoring solutions like medication reminders, door alarms, help buttons, and remote activity sensors to ensure your loved one is following their normal routines. You can even have your senior loved one wear health-monitoring technology that will alert you if their vitals provide an unusual reading.

Stay Connected with Video Chat

Keeping in touch with your senior loved one is incredibly important for monitoring their well-being and preventing loneliness. Instead of relying on phone calls to stay connected, help your loved one get set up with video chat so you can engage them with regular video calls. It’s much easier to assess how your loved one is doing when you can see their face! If your loved one doesn’t use computers, tablets, or smartphones, consider buying them a unique device that they can use just for video calls. According to The Spectrum, some of the most user-friendly video-calling devices include the ViewClix, GrandPad, and Echo Show.

Don’t Forget About Your Needs

Caring for a loved one is stressful, especially if you live far away. Try to be mindful of your own health and well-being during this difficult time. Some essential ways to take care of yourself include accepting help from others, eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and saying “no” to things you don’t have the time or energy for. It’s important to find ways to cope with the stress that you’re experiencing, so try different relaxation techniques until you find what works best for you. Even something as simple as taking time out from your hectic life for a walk in the woods can be incredibly therapeutic.

Long-distance caregivers have a very tough job, so don’t go at it alone! From online shopping and grocery delivery to health-monitoring technology and video chat services, you have a number of tools at your disposal to ease stress and ensure your loved one receives the high-quality care they deserve.

About the author: Claire is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years.

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POA – The Chosen One

Copyright StarWarsA friend called me the other day and shared her concerns about being chosen to be the health-care and financial power of attorney for her mother.  She had heard me speak on the topic and the challenges associated with the choice.  Having to make critical decisions under overwhelmingly emotional circumstances can be trying for even the strongest of souls.

As I’ve shared in presentations and posts, choosing a POA (and making sure it’s the right person for the job) is imperative. (See FYI about POA).  However; being named as the “chosen one” has its challenges as well.

Here are just a few:

  • You may question why you were picked
  • Others think they would have been a better choice and question why you were picked (
  • Knowing when to step in to help someone in making difficult health-care decisions
  • Having the strength to make the decisions that they would want IN SPITE OF your emotions and/or the emotions of other family members.
  • Having the courage to make difficult decisions IN SPITE OF the criticism of those around you.

Sounds daunting but have heart there is hope.

Here are some steps that you can encourage the person who has deemed you the “chosen one” to take once they’ve made their decision

  • Have a very direct and serious conversation about what they want/don’t want in certain situations.  Use the “what if” blog as a starting point.
  • Ask them to write down in DETAIL what they would or would not want done if certain situations were to arise (helpful tool – 5 wishes)
  • Confirm that their decision to choose you as POA and their detailed wishes are written down (DON’T ASSUME). Make sure to get a copy of the paperwork for your files, and be informed as to the location of the original copy.
  • Encourage them to share their decision, as well as their wishes with other family members so that everyone understands that this was their decision and isn’t about “favorites”. It’s strictly about who will be able to administer care directives in the fashion requested by the assignee.

you-are-the-chosen-one-pl-ffffffImportant point!!**Just because someone asks you to be their power-of-attorney does not mean you have to say “yes”.  This is a VERY important appointment and should not be entered into lightly.  You must be willing and able to follow their wishes IN SPITE OF your own thoughts, feelings or emotional connection.  If you do not think you can do that, you should be honest with them and graciously decline and share your reasons.

 

 

(Picture Copyright: Obi-Wan Kenobi/Star Wars, Mr T/Meme generator.net)

 

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PUT YOUR DAMN PHONES DOWN and other Holiday Tips

I get irritated every time I see the commercial with the elderly couple reading their grandchildren’s social media posts that says “Entering the gates of hell, where there’s no Wi-Fi and no shows, aka Grandma’s house.” So, the elderly couple (most likely on a fixed income), in an effort to placate their bad-mannered grandchildren, lay out a bunch of money to purchase services they don’t need.  Maddening!!!

Growing up the best memories I have during the holidays were made by spending time with my grandparents.  TV’s were not turned on, phone calls were not made (nor received, because other people were spending time with their families as well) and family sat around the table (usually all day) just talking, playing games and enjoying time together.

It saddens and troubles me that people in our society are so detached from each other, that this commercial, as well as others, depicts time spent with family as if it is the worst punishment one could possibly endure.  As I look around, I feel that our society as a whole appears unable to REALLY interact with those around us apart from the use of an inanimate piece of technology.  Social media has replaced genuine social interaction.

Ok – enough Debbie Downer!!

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.  The truth is that all the generations have so much to learn from each other just by talking to each other (I know it sounds totally CRAZY but it’s TRUE!).

What would happen if this holiday season we were to focus on what is REALLY important – making memories with the people we love?!

Here are some ideas that might assist in this fanatical social experiment.

  • Have each person (no matter the age), share their favorite holiday memory or tradition.
  • Have every family bring a board game to play.
  • Instead of everyone tearing through presents open one at a time so you can see what everyone else got as well as their expression when they opened your gift.
  • Ask questions about family history.
    • Here are a couple of suggested questions to ask your parents or grandparents
      • How did you celebrate holidays as children?
      • What was your favorite thing to do during the holidays?
      • Were there any ethnic based traditions your parents/grandparents employed to celebrate the holidays?

This holiday season find new ways to spend time together, bring out the games (for my family the game Fact or Crap is a favorite).  Leave the phones off during family time (unless using them to take pictures with/of your family or to video tape your family history as shared by your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles).

Who knows?! Maybe you’ll learn something new about your family history. Maybe you will even start a new tradition. God bless and have a Merry Christmas and a VERY Happy New Year!

 

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Coping with Loss during the Holidays

holiday griefThe Hallmark movies always conclude with some type of Christmas miracle and joy for the characters in the story, however; in real life many people are experiencing unimaginable grief and loss during this holiday season. The journey of grief seems to become heightened during the holidays many times by the desire to experience those Hallmark moments of peace and joy. For many they put on a happy face and push forward through the season not feeling very holly or jolly but not wanting to burden others with their overwhelming feelings of sadness.

Though it may not seem possible to some there are ways to enjoy the holidays while experiencing the grief.

  • Acknowledge the loss: it is unrealistic to think that you can go to events with family and friends and not recognize that someone is missing or that due to unforeseen circumstances things in life have changed. This does not mean dwell on the loss; just acknowledge the challenges of moving forward in spite of the loss.
  • Tell people what you need: firmly, yet lovingly make others aware of what you need from them. Whether it’s a listening ear, some time to yourself or the distraction of going to a holiday event, being upfront about your needs will assist other in understanding how they can support you through the season.
  • Give yourself permission to say “no”: you don’t have to attend every event, party or program you may be invited to.
  • Give yourself permission to have fun without feeling guilty: when struggling with a significant loss we can sometimes get so caught up in our sadness that we actually feel bad when we are enjoying ourselves. Experiencing laughter and joy this season, in spite of the loss is good not only for your emotional health but your physical health as well.
  • Take care of yourself FIRST: grief takes a lot out of us emotionally, mentally and physically so make sure you are taking time to eat, rest and play.

For those who want to support someone who is coping with loss I share the following story: I received a call Thanksgiving morning from my best friend and neighbor, Heidy asking if she could come down and talk for a few minutes. Upon her arrival she tearfully shared how sad she was that her dad, who passed away a few months back, would not be around to celebrate the holidays.

My response was to listen, share how sorry I was that her dad died and let her know that I loved her and was here any time she needed me. I didn’t try to talk her out of her grief. I didn’t try to cheer her up. I just made myself available. Most of the time that what someone really needs is to have a friend who cares and is willing to listen (and give hugs if needed).

Blog note: Keep in mind that the experience of loss can also include the pain of losing a job, home, relationship or physical abilities.

For more support and resources visit caregiverlife.com

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November is National Caregivers Month

According to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving in 2015, an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States, provide unpaid care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.

Highlights of Today’s Caregivers

  • 82% care for one person who is likely either living with the caregiver or living within 20 minutes of the caregiver.
  • 60% of caregivers are female. The typical caregiver is a 49-year-old female caring for a 69-year-old female relative, most likely her mother.
  • 40% of caregivers are male.
  • 34% of caregivers have a full-time job, while 25% work part-time. Caregivers who work do so for 34.7 hours per week on average.
  • Caregivers have been caring for 4 years on average, spending 24.4 hours per week helping with activities like bathing, dressing, housework, and managing finances.
  • 32% provide at least 21 hours of care a week, on average providing 62.2 hours of care weekly.
  • 38% of caregivers report high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving.

(Statistics provided by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP: Caregiving in the U.S. 2015)

Caring for a loved one is very stressful.  Caregivers need support, but most do not know how where to find it or how to ask for it.  This can lead to loneliness and depression.

If you are a caregiver, create a support system.

  • Check for local caregiver support groups
  • Ask people in your close circle for help
  • Make taking care of yourself a priority

If you know someone who is caring for a loved one, call, text or send them a special card in the mail to let them know that you are thinking of them or offer help if you can (i.e. staying with the loved one while the caregiver goes to a support group).  Sometimes, they just need to know that someone is thinking of them and little gestures can make a big difference.

 

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Keys to Caring for Yourself

Image result for self care quotes

It‘s one thing to gear up for a short-term crisis. But it takes different skills to provide care over a longer period of time. You’ll be more successful if you learn to take care of yourself, starting immediately. Some things to remember:

  • You cannot be perfect
  • You have a right to all of your emotions (See FCA Fact Sheet Emotional Side of Caregiving.)
  • Depression is the most common emotion of long-term caregivers
  • Set realistic expectations—for yourself and your loved one
  • Learn about the disease and what you can expect
  • Learn the skills you need to care for the care receiver and which ones you are or are not able to perform
  • Learn to say “no” to things you cannot do
  • Learn to accept help from others
  • Build resilience
  • Identify your button-pushers/stressors
  • Identify your coping skills
  • Remember the big three for successful coping:
    • Eat right—good nutrition as opposed to stress-snacking. Limit alcohol and other drugs
    • Exercise—it may be hard to find time but it’s the best cure for depression and increases your endorphins (“good” coping hormones)
    • Sleep—7-8 hours is hard to get, but essential. Admit when you are experiencing burnout and get help

Most importantly, remember that taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of someone else.    

For more support visit the Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving @ Caregiver.org

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The Grief Journey

Grief 1

Many people I’ve spoken with about grief think that there is a “time of mourning”. This would suggest a beginning as well as an end. I believe that grief is a journey that has no end date, it simply changes over time. There are many different stages of this journey, however; grieving a loss doesn’t come to some sort of end during our lifetime it merely changes as time travels forward.

Over the last decade as our family experienced several deaths, both expected and unexpected. I observed the reactions of family and friends to these losses. Based on these observations I created 4 grief reaction categories.

  • Action Heroes: these are the “get it done” grievers who spring into action, coordinating, communicating and arranging, as if being in constant motion will keep them from the painful reality of the loss.
  • Lamenters: these grievers bemoan their grief and cannot have any conversation without bringing awareness to their loss, focusing mostly on their guilt and regrets associated with the loss.
  • Frozen Stiffs: almost paralyzed by the loss they cannot be in action, nor can they bemoan their loss. They usually have a somewhat blank effect and are unable to make any decisions, even simple ones.
  • Disconnects: this category of mourners literally detach themselves emotionally from the situation and functions in a “business as usual” atmosphere.

Clearly, there is no right or wrong way to react to tragedy and, for those of us trying to support our grieving friends and family, we should keep in mind that grief is more of a marathon than a sprint.

Suggestions on how to help others in the days, weeks and years that pass after a loss.

  • Stay connected: reach out to those who are grieving especially during the year following the loss. Recognize important dates (birthdays/ anniversaries) of the person who is gone.
  • Give them permission to have fun: Sometimes we need to give others permission to laugh in spite of their loss. However; don’t push them too much to get out and have fun, they will need to do this in their own time. There will be times when they will want to and other times when they will not.
  • Sometimes there are no words and that is OK! You don’t always need to have something to say, sometimes just showing up and sitting with them can be enough.
  • Help them in finding support from professionals such as a grief counselor or Pastor. Offer to make the call to a counselor/Pastor for them. Though grief is a journey, some people can get stuck in the overwhelming feeling of their loss and need professional help to move them forward.

I’m sure there are many more ideas to support to those around us who are grieving so please feel free to post your ideas.

For more resources visit: Caregiver Life

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