Elder Care “Family Planning” and Those Difficult Conversations

…a 2 minute read

elder care

Most people think of “family planning” as a road map to parenthood but it’s also an important aspect of elder care and senior living. Planning ahead for where and how your parents will live as they lose independence is an important part of elder care family planning. It takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a village to care for our parents in their elder years. This month, we’ll focus on elder care and best practices designed for optimal quality of life for seniors.

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SEVEN TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR DOCTOR VISITS MORE PLEASANT

doctors visit

Accompanying elderly patients to the doctor can be challenging if you’re not prepared. Here are some recommendations for making you a pro at doctor visits.

IT’S LIKE TAKING YOUR KIDS TO THE DOCTOR

My role as a caregiver to my parents began gradually. At first, I started accompanying them to their doctor visits and eventually, I became their sole medical historian and health surrogate.

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The Art and Science of Medication Management for Seniors

dreamstime_l_9027708Medication management for both seniors and caregivers can be overwhelming. In this series, we’ll look at ways to make the process less daunting. Here are some tips to get you started.

As a primary caregiver to my parents, I never imagined I’d become a medical historian, health surrogate and patient advocate — that’s quite a few shoes to fill! — all of which required me to learn a great deal about medication management when they could no longer handle their own healthcare.

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How to Use Twitter to Learn About Caregiving

How to use twitter

 

Social media “tweetchats” on caregiving offer a platform to connect with others and find countless resources on elder care.

As an avid, frequent user of social media, I regularly employ a great online community tool that improves my access to information on elder care. In two previous posts, I wrote about the importance of caregiver support groups and also listed some online resources for those involved in caring for seniors. Today, I’d like to go into further detail about the advantages of connecting with other caregivers on Twitter.

A TWITTER PRIMER

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the social network, here’s some Twitter basics.

Twitter is a web and mobile application where you can post 140-character messages, which are called tweets, to share with followers. When you tag a posted message with a particular word or phrase – a “hashtag” using the # sign – you can search for others tweeting about the same topic.

For my purposes as a caregiver, popular tags to follow include #caregiving, #eldercare, #aging, #alzheimers and #dementia, but there are many more.

Just today – as I wrote this post — a quick search on #caregiving yielded hundreds of tweets on the topic. I found out that Amy Goyer, AARP’s Family and Caregiving expert, was on the NBC’s Today Show earlier this morning, so I could click on a link and see a recording of the televised segment. I also discovered an audio podcast about elder care called The Aging Boomers –which I could listen to for free with one click on Twitter — as well an article about who will provide caregiving for childless baby boomers on Forbes.

I found all this with just one quick glance!

Consider the hashtag on Twitter a very powerful tool; it’s a living library of resources and information on the world wide web, but you can also search locally. By allowing Twitter to know your location, you can also find out who’s tweeting near you about caregiving.

TWEETCHATS

You can dive even deeper into the social network and get to know others who are caregiving through a scheduled tweetchat, which takes place when a group of people gather virtually online and use the same hashtag to track each other’s tweets. Tweetchats are usually one hour in length.

A Twitter chat, which is easy to follow on applications such as Tweetchat, usually features a moderator and poses a series of numbered questions followed by participants’ numbered answers. For example, when a moderator posts a question labeled “Q1,” participants answer by writing “A1″ before their tweet.

Another advantage to participating in Tweetchats or following specific hashtags is that you become familiar with service providers and retailers who cater to caregivers. As well, you might even pose a question and get an answer from others following the same hashtag — a strategy known as “crowdsourcing.”

All in all, it’s an easy way to network from the comfort of your home.

MY FAVORITE TWEETCHATS ABOUT CAREGIVING

One of my favorite tweetchats is hosted by Denise Brown (@caregiving on Twitter), founder of Caregiving.com. Every week, she goes online and moderates a chat where I get to “talk” with others interested in caregiving by following the conversation with the #carechat tag.

Sometimes tweet chats can be very specific and turn into a roundtable discussion on a particular subject. Last week, I participated in a Tweetchat focused on the hashtag #trackstress, which shed light on the amount of stress caregivers experience in their role. The conversation added momentum to the movement around a petition that encourages the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to track family caregiver stress and its source.

During the #trackstress chat, many caregivers from around the U.S. related to each other’s experiences as we tackled the question: “how does caregiving stress affect you?” I was able to connect with other caregivers, all of whom were in different stages of the process. To find a transcript of this and other tweetchats, click here.

(There are other chats organized by Caregiving.com, but not all involve Twitter. For more information, click here to visit the chat schedule page.)

LIFE EDUCATION THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA

If you’ve never tried Twitter before and aren’t able to get out much because of caregiving, you can use the platform to share concerns with others who are dealing with the same daily challenges.

No one ever goes to “family caregiver school,” which is a life education movement that I’m working on and that I’d like to see become reality so we can train on all levels of care — from what wheelchair to buy to what foods to feed to what home care service to hire for assistance — and so much more.

None of us are really prepared to become a parents to our parents. While there are so many resources with information, the process of sorting through all of it is overwhelming. Twitter and specific hashtags can provide some focus in the challenging process of caregiving for our elders as we create our own “education” online.

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

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ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

 

Noise Pollution: A Health Hazard in Elder Care

noise pollution

Be aware of noise pollution when caring for the elderly.

In my last post, I wrote about music as a beneficial form of therapy for the elderly who suffer from memory disorders, which begs the question: what about the sounds of everyday life?

The Environmental Protection Agency explains the consequences of unwanted and disturbing sound, which is the basic definition of noise pollution — an environmental stressor we cannot taste, smell or see: “Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life.”

Noise pollution can lead to health problems, too. “Studies have shown that there are direct links between noise and health.  Problems related to noise include stress related illnesses, high blood pressure, speech interference, hearing loss, sleep disruption, and lost productivity.”

Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are particularly sensitive to stimuli that a healthy person can normally filter. In creating a safe and comfortable environment for my parents, I found myself thinking like a parent creating a healthy environment for her children: routines, which are so important for kids to feel stable, are just as important for the elderly. A typical day for my parents revolved around “quiet” time and “noisy” time.

As caregivers, we shouldn’t take any of the five senses for granted when developing strategies for care — including hearing. Patients will react differently to auditory input and so we should be keenly aware of sound “hazards” in the patient’s surroundings.

NOISE POLLUTION AS ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS

When I was caring for my mother, I noticed that some ordinary sounds – such as a loud TV — were particularly disturbing for her. She would grimace and want to retreat to what I can only describe as her “safe space” where she detached from the world.

To help her, I avoided over-stimulation without completely dulling surrounding noises. Agitation and discomfort might otherwise have affected her cardiovascular health and emotional well-being.

I knew my mother well and so I could gauge what I thought she would like or wouldn’t like based on how she reacted to the world before Alzheimer’s disease. Neurologists had no answer for me, but all I really needed to know was old-fashioned common sense. In short, just keep the patient comfortable.

Sound is energy and vibration. While an Alzheimer’s patient may not be able to cognitively understand a sound — a spoken word may be interpreted as just that, a sound with no meaning — they may certainly be able to “feel” it, which explains the positive effects of music.

CONVERSATION AS NOISE POLLUTION

Noise pollution isn’t just about unwanted sounds; it’s also about conversation. I would always ask our health aides to refrain from any conversation when standing within earshot of my father, who was then in the beginning stages of dementia and my mother, who had advanced Alzheimer’s.

Imagine being surrounded by negative conservation or even a pleasant chat that your brain can’t process for context. Eventually, the meaningless “sound” may become jarring. You’re powerless to make it go away if you’re “stuck” in your body.

In one instance, my father overheard one side of a stressful conversation an aide was having over her cellphone about money. Because he was confused at that moment, he couldn’t properly interpret what he had heard. Later, he spoke to me as if he had been involved in her dilemma, which was a needless source of stress and anxiety for him and for me as well, as I had to go to great lengths to clarify that no one was stealing his money. (This is a major stressor for the elderly who perceive they are “losing” their possessions as they gradually let go of what they once managed.)

It’s crucial, then, to watch one’s words when speaking in front of dementia patients who are still aware of surroundings.

In my mother’s case, it was impossible to tell in the advanced stages of the disease if and how her brain could interpret sound. I erred on the side of caution: even in a state of stupor in which she was completely unresponsive, I encouraged everyone who came near her to keep unpleasant sounds and conversations at bay.

While it may seem obvious that no patient or even a healthy individual would want to tolerate noise pollution, consider this: the elderly in many nursing homes who do not enjoy private rooms must endure an almost constant stream of distracting and unpleasant noises that interfere with peace and quiet: working staff, sick roommates and their visitors, loud television sets, beeping medical equipment and other sounds create a cacophony of noise.

This situation is yet another reason to consider in-home healthcare alternatives for the elderly where caregivers can control the environment.

Some Alzheimer’s and dementia patients tend to yell or wail loudly when they feel nervous, which is a whole other aspect of elder care. My parents were relatively quiet but in all cases, it’s imperative to be conscious of noise levels. (Read what worked or didn’t work for some caregivers at Caring.com’s support group.)

In my experience, I simply tried to imagine how I would feel if I were sick and bewildered, not just for the sake of empathy, but also to gauge what would be an appropriate level of noise for my parents.

If you found this post of interest and value, kindly click your favorite social button below and share.

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

ahcs1

ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

6 Positive Thoughts on Caregiving to Welcome the New Year

CaregivingCaregiving seems overwhelming when you’re caught up in the daily routine. As we head into 2016, here are some thoughts on how to experience caregiving with a positive attitude.

In 2015, I transitioned from a full-time caregiver back to a somewhat “normal” life with my dad now in a nursing home. Although caregiving was challenging, to say the least, it was a phase of my life I’ll never regret. As a caregiver to my elderly parents, I evolved spiritually and deepened the special bond between parent and child. My mother is no longer with us, but the love my parents and I shared — expressed in their care of me when I was a child and in my care of them when they became my “babies” — is one of the greatest gifts of my life.

While I was caregiving, I was too caught up in the daily routine of constant worry to truly reflect on what was happening to me as an adult child caregiver. Now that I can look back, distancing myself from the constant, immediate medical needs of in-home care, I can see it as a beautiful part of the life cycle that no one should ever fear. It’s an honor to take care of your parents.

Here are six positive thoughts to help you stay the course through the often arduous journey of being a parent to your parents.

CAREGIVING LESSONS FOR THE NEW YEAR

1. Be a witness to your own actions. Every phone call to a doctor, every medical question, every diaper you change, every meal you prepare, every tear you might cry in frustration or sorrow, every little thing that fills up your day while caregiving — it’s not you postponing something else you could be doing — it’s you living life in the moment just as it should be. You’ll never have another chance to love your parents this way. They never gave up on you as a child. Don’t give up on them.

2. Don’t forget to breathe. Sometimes, that’s all you need and that’s all there is. Knowing this, accepting this is very liberating. Feeling desperate and fatigued, it was hard for me to just surrender and accept the circumstances during many hospital emergencies. “Not this again,” I’d tell myself. But it did happen. Again and again — and so what? Be in the moment when you’re caregiving. You’re stronger than you think.

3. Fear is an illusionIf you live in fear of so the many “what ifs?” of caregiving — will my parents be OK? will they fall? will they get the right medication? will they remember me? — and on and on, you’ll never truly enjoy caregiving. It may sound contradictory to think you can enjoy something so challenging, but that’s only because for most people, like myself, caregiving showed up like an unexpected pregnancy. Nobody gave parents a manual; nobody gave caregivers of the elderly a manual, either. Proceed with confidence, not doubt. Fear will hold you back and keep you from experiencing joy. Fear doesn’t help you or your beloved elderly parent.

4. The world isn’t ending. Although I’d do it all over again if I had to without an ounce of regret, I sometimes felt as if I was missing out on life. I thought life was passing me by but in reality, I couldn’t have been living life more to the fullest. Sure, this meant that my friends could go out and enjoy themselves more often than I could. There were many events and career opportunities that slipped by, jobs lost and relationships damaged. But that’s only because I didn’t see that it was my job, my duty and my honor to be a caregiver. Our society doesn’t always see caregiving as a natural life obligation. You certainly wouldn’t tell a parent that they’re missing out on life, because parenthood is life. So is caregiving. Caregivers don’t need pity. They need support and understanding. If you’re caregiving, own it and be proud, knowing that it’s just a phase in life.

5. It’s all in the details. I could repeat so many clichés about living life with a positive attitude: “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” But it’s true. When I was caregiving, I took time for self-care in the minutest details that most of us take for granted. I relished little moments in my day like putting on a favorite scented lotion before bed, watching I Love Lucy reruns with a bowl of popcorn, buying flowers to brighten up the home every week, wearing a nice sundress at home instead of drab sweatpants and t-shirts. Long conversations with friends on the phone were a treat. Caregiving is overwhelming but don’t let it literally overwhelm you. More often than not, I’d slack on self-care. “What’s one more thing going to help?” But believe me, all these tiny gestures add up throughout the day. If you’re caregiving, think of all the little ways you can add joy to your life, as in another motivational saying: “Happy people aren’t those who have everything, but those who are happy with everything they have.”

6. Caregiving is spring-cleaning time. By putting the hold button on my personal and career life, I had a chance to focus on other aspects of my life that needed work. One of them was seriously evaluating all the toxic relationships in my life and moving forward. Think of caregiving time as a gift to work on any aspect of your life that may need to evolve. So, you see, my life really never was “on hold,” it only felt that way. My only duty was caregiving and so, in fact, I had the opportunity to reflect on who and what was actually in my best interest and in the service of a life filled with love and peace, not anger and resentment. Yes, while emotions run high during caregiving, it’s possible to see that as a blessing and a huge benefit.

As I ring in the new year, I feel stronger in spirit and happier than ever. I encourage anyone who is caregiving to adopt a positive outlook on their important role in life. I often shrugged off positive thinking with an “easier said than done” attitude. As I’m coming out of caregiving, life has changed for better to “there’s no challenge I can’t face” attitude. Caregiving makes you stronger and give you the opportunity to be the kindest and most compassionate person you could be. In the end, it’s all about the love you share and that’s all that really matters.

 

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

ahcs1

ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

 

8 Essential Holiday Gift Giving Ideas for Caregivers

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The holidays celebrate family, build memories and bring people together. But they can also be an emotionally charged time for caregivers who are observing the decline of their beloved parents.

When I was caregiving for my parents full-time in the last year of my mother’s life, the holidays didn’t mean much to me as I was too involved in the daily routine that was more like a hospital schedule. Both parents were under in-home hospice and pre-hospice care situations and the entire first-floor of their two-story townhouse had been redesigned to accommodate two hospital beds and other medical equipment. Our lives were — for lack of a better term — clinical.

While I was glad my mother was still here with us, Alzheimer’s had stolen her memory and my father, who had been diagnosed with dementia, didn’t respond to any cues about the holiday.  In such a caregiving situation, one day blends into another and the holidays become irrelevant. All I could do was simply hold on to memories of past Christmas festivities with my family and put my own memory-making on hold.

When I thought about holiday gift ideas for caregivers, I remembered the kinds of gifts I would have enjoyed receiving during the holidays. The truth is, however, that gifts were welcome at any time of the year. Caregivers need respite — a lot of it — day after day. Here are some ideas for any caregiver on your holiday gift giving list; presents any caregiver would welcome twelve months out of the year, not just during Christmas.

HOLIDAY GIFTS ANY CAREGIVER WILL ENJOY

1. Respite. Any caregiver will tell you that a break from routine for any reason — even if just to take a nap! — is a welcome gift year-round. Offer to “parent” sit for a few hours or hire hourly certified health aides as the ones available at Miami Home Care Services. Create your own gift certificate for the caregiver with a pre-purchased number of hours to use at their own discretion. Although you can’t wrap this gift with a ribbon, believe me, every single caregiver will be deeply grateful for respite care.

2. Entertainment and dining cardsOf course, if I didn’t have a someone to watch over my parents, I couldn’t go out. A fantastic gift would be both respite care and a gift card for movies and restaurants in any amount. Starbuck’s cards are welcome by any coffee lover as a gift. Also consider giving the gift of an online membership to a movie club, such as Netflix, or an iTunes card.

3. Online exercise programsThis is something I wish I had discovered sooner. It wasn’t until after my mom passed away — nearly a year later — that a friend introduced me to Daily Burn. There are other exercise programs out there, but I particularly like this one because the daily workouts are easy and target the whole body in just half an hour. As we all know, the most important aspect of caregiving is caring for yourself. If you’re not healthy, you can’t be the best possible caregiver and if you’re a caregiver, this is the best gift you can give yourself: half an hour a day to keep fit. To sign up for Daily Burn — a total bargain at $12.95/month — click here and purchase a membership on the caregiver’s behalf.

4. Health, wellness and beauty giftsAnd speaking of good health, no caregiver would ever turn away an opportunity to benefit from a day at the spa for massage therapy and other wellness treatments, as well as yoga classes, which can relax the body and the mind. I particularly recommend Hand and Stone Massage in the South Florida are, which offers affordable 50 minute massages and gift certificates. Massage isn’t just a form of pampering; it also provides many physical and mental health benefits.

5. Food. When I was a caregiver, one friend gave me a gift I’ll never forget. She called it “school spaghetti” and it was just that — a simple homemade spaghetti casserole accompanied by garlic bread. This kind of comfort food was particularly welcome at a time when my father had just returned from one of his hospital visits and I was quite exhausted from sleepless nights. Think of any of the myriad food gifts out there — from gift cards for markets and restaurants — to gift baskets and more. How about some gourmet hot chocolate mix? One friend once sent me a gift of chocolate-covered fruit from Edible Arrangements and another sent me soup mixes that I like from Minnesota’s The Secret Garden, which are not only delicious, but also easy to make. Hearing through the grapevine that I was under the weather, yet another friend surprised me by calling a local restaurant and requesting delivery. As you can see, food gifts needn’t be limited to the holidays.

6. Household help. Caregiving at home usually involves enormous loads of laundry. I lived in an apartment building with two laundry rooms on different floors. My daily treks with sheets and towels to the laundry room required a cart. Because of elderly incontinence and sponge bathing, sheets and towels need to be washed frequently. Consider helping out a friend by hiring maid services from a local agency, which will free up time for any caregiver who would rather spend it on self-care. I used Maid Brigade several times in the Miami area.

7. Kitchenware. No caregiver can do without an immersion blender and a food processor. These are key to preparing foods for in-home patient care when the elderly need a soft-mechanical diet. I used Cuisinart brand kitchen appliances for turning just about anything into “baby food” for my parents and as an added bonus, delicious hot soups for myself!

8. Care packages. Care packages aren’t just for college kids. Think of anything your caregiver might want or need and put it all in a box.  Caregivers often suffer from an undue amount of stress. I for one enjoyed anything that was soothing — bubble bath, bath salts or even just hand soap or dishwashing soap with a favorite scent such as lavender — any little detail that takes away from the clinical setting of the home. Although I was often too tired to read and preferred mindless television at the end of the day, a good read or even an audio book would have been welcome.

I hope some of these ideas can spark creative and thoughtful gift-giving from your heart … Merry Christmas!

 

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

ahcs1

ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

 

10 Caregiver Support Groups You Need To Know About

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Here’s a list of support group resources that will help you find a meeting place – in person or online – that’s right for you.

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of making time to attend caregiver support groups, which is critical for anyone who cares for a loved one who is seriously ill.

Even if you hire a home health aide or place an elderly parent in a care facility, it’s important to connect with others dealing with similar concerns: from managing healthcare to financial decisions to emotional distress and coping strategies.

The Caregiver Action organization provides some great tips on choosing a group based on your needs on their support group page. Apart from the resources listed below, you might consider looking into caregiver support group meetings at area agencies on aging, disease-specific voluntary organizations, faith communities in churches or temples, adult day care centers, hospice providers and community outreach programs at hospitals.

CAREGIVER SUPPORT GROUP MEETINGS

1. Find local support groups via  Community Resource Finder at The Alzheimer’s Association.

2. Contact your local Easter Seals office to find out about caregiver support group meetings in your area. Additional support is available through the Easter Seals Caregiver’s Spokespersons Network, which are based in several U.S. cities, including Miami.

3. Today’s Caregiver offers caregiver support group listings from around the country.

4. The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, can help you find local caregiver support groups.

5. Find caregiver support groups across the country at Meetup.com. Specify your zip code for more localized meetups. If none are available, consider starting your own.

ONLINE CAREGIVER SUPPORT GROUPS

6. The Alzheimer’s Association offers several discussion boards and a Solutions section in an easy-to-read question and answer format.

7. Emblem Health’s Care for the Family Caregiver Program shares stories on Facebook.

8. AARP has an extensive discussion forum just for caregivers in their caregiver support online community.

9. Caregiving.com offers two forums, Connect With Others in a Similar Situation plus Vent and Share, as well as numerous caregiving support online groups, a live chatroom, a Tweet chats and tips on starting a caregiver support group in your own community.

10. The Caregiver Space, a website founded by a caregiver, has a number of forums for caregiver support.

I hope you’ve not only enjoyed, but will put these resources to good use…

Take care!

 

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

ahcs1

ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

 

National Family Caregiver Month November 2015

 

National Family Caregiver Month November 2015

Congratulations for being who you are! –National Family Caregiver Month acknowledges the hard work of over 40 million caregivers in the U.S. who devote part of their lives to care for loved ones.

The month of November is a time for caregivers and support organizations to connect and create awareness for the over 40 million family or “informal” caregivers in the U.S. – unpaid family members or friends who take care of loved ones.

In 2014, President Barak Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation about National Family Caregiver Month, citing the important role caregivers play in the U.S. while encouraging us to acknowledge this role:

Not only this month, but every month, let us work alongside our Nation’s caregivers and make certain they are able to provide the best possible care for their loved ones for as long as necessary. Together, we recognize those who place service above self, including the women and men looking after our veterans. By offering them the same comfort, social engagement, and stability they bring to others, may we remind them that they are not alone.

For those involved in elder care — or for those who know someone who is — National Caregiver Month is an especially appropriate time to become even more engaged with the caregiving community through awareness campaigns and educational events.

National Family Caregiver Month Activities Worth Following

  • AARP is hosting a virtual Caregiver Fair on Thursday, November 19, 2015 from 12pm – 4pm EST. Register here to join the free fair online. The campaign also includes a Random Acts of Kindness for Caregivers contest, which encourages everyone to perform a kind gesture for a caregiver, post a brief story and photo. Participants earn a chance to win in a shared $10,000 prize pot. As well, AARP’s magazine October issue features a photo essay titled “A Day in the Life of an American Caregiver.”
  • The Alzheimer’s Association website has a section to honor caregivers as part of National Family Caregiver Month, which also coincides with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Add a personal tribute to the Alzheimer’s Association blog, which asks “what does a caregiver look like?” Share your story here.
  • Caregiving.com encourages you to acknowledge National Family Caregiver Month in many ways. Participate in a Blogging Challenge for a chance to win $100 or in a group Solitaire Showdown with other site members. Do a seven-minute workout or share photos, join others in a Bible study, online chats and much more. Read more here.
  • Although not directly related to National Family Caregiver Month, a petition to create awareness about caregiver stress was created by Denise Brown and is still active. Brown is the founder of Caregiving.com and wrote 10 Reasons Why Caregiving Is an Epidemic to point out why caregivers need as much support as the patients in their charge. Sign the petition at Change.org.

Even if you hire help from a company like Angel Home Care Services, it’s important to honor yourself as a family caregiver — someone who cares enough to manage a loved one’s health needs.

You’re still a caregiver in many ways, even if you aren’t there for every single daily routine. Take a moment, too, to thank even hired caregivers and all who help support your loved one.

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

ahcs1

ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

We find ways to help families get the personal care services at home they need and deserve regardless of the insurance landscape or personal situation!

Call us With Your Questions or Concerns and Get Rid of All That Doubt and Uncertainty! 

CALL:   305-220-4544   [Miami Dade Area]

1-877-746-8908   [For Out of Area Families]

 

Support Groups Help Deal with Caregiver Burnout

caregiver

Support groups are invaluable for caregivers who feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Make them a priority in routine caregiver self-care.

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ATTENTION! Free Report Reveals Secret Formula For Getting Elder Care at Home …without going broke in the process!

The number one rule of caregiving is take care of yourself first. This rule is easy to overlook when we’re caught up in the daily routine of caregiving. The elderly, like children, often require constant attention and at the end of the day, it’s easy to overlook one’s own needs.

As a caregiver to my dearly departed mother and my father, who is still alive, I learned the hard way about the rule, which I would prefer to a call a survival strategy. The drive to care for a loved one eclipses the instinct for self-preservation in a counterproductive, vicious cycle: you can’t take good care of others if your own health isn’t optimal.

(For the purpose of this article, caregiver will refer to “family” or “informal” caregiver — one who provides unpaid assistance in daily living and medical needs — as opposed to “formal” caregiver — one who provides paid labor and who is available for hire through companies like Angel Home Care Services.)

While I don’t regret a minute spent caring for my parents, I can look back now and share what I would have done differently to alleviate caregiver burnout.

LESSONS LEARNED

For one, I would have benefited from being part of a support group; however, it never even dawned on me that one would be available to the estimated 43.5 million number of adult family caregivers who care for someone 50 years of age or older. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association via Caregiver.org). I was too busy to even think about adding another task to my plate. The last thing I wanted to do during my time off from caregiving was to talk about caregiving.

But I think it’s really important to talk as much as you can with people who are also experiencing the challenges of being a caregiver, which in my case, was being a single mom to my parents — a mother with Alzheimer’s, a father with dementia.

I was not alone! According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 14.9 family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association via Caregiver.org).

Because we couldn’t always afford a sitter, the number of event invitations I declined kept climbing, which left me disconnected from my social network. My friends were sympathetic, but I couldn’t blame them if they got tired of hearing the same old story; I was the only one in my circle of friends caring for elderly parents. Their lives were flowing. Mine was at a standstill.

Even if I had hired services from companies such as Angel Home Care Services, I still would have found solace in making new friends facing similar challenges in their social and professional lives. My sense of isolation and loneliness would have been mitigated had I reached out to support groups.

NEVER TOO LATE TO SEEK CAREGIVER SUPPORT

Luckily, earlier this year, I found a local Miami bereavement support group through Jewish Community Services, which provides numerous services to the community at large, regardless of religious affiliation. Although I attend this group to honor the memory of my mother, it has helped me tremendously in what I call the “pre-grieving” stage for my father. Having experienced the death of a beloved parent is one thing; knowing that the death of the other parent is imminent is wholly another.

I know now that it would have made a world of difference to make “me time” and gather with other caregivers.

At the group, there is no judgment. Some members are still grieving family or friends who passed years ago. For others, the pain is fresh. Some have lost children, while others have lost spouses. Like me, many have been caregivers. Two facilitators lead the group, but we are all co-creators in the talk.

I’m glad that I found this group, which meets twice a month. Although I can’t turn back the clock for how I dealt with the stresses of caregiving while my mother was still alive, it’s helping me tremendously now that I still advocate for my father. It’s time well spent and a respite I look forward to every month.

It’s not too late for me to reap the benefits of a support group. The sense of friendship in the group and the patience with which we all listen to each other brings me peace and comfort. I feel relaxed — the perfect antidote from burnout.

If you’re caregiving for a parent, I strongly encourage you to seek out a support group in your area. If you’re not able to attend one in person, there are online resources. I’ll share more about available resources in a follow-up post.

In the meantime, don’t forget to take of yourself.

maria de los angelesMaria de los Angeles is an award-winning writer based in Miami who became a caregiver to her parents in 2008. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for eldercare and caregiver issues.

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