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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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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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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