Tag Archive | Elder Care

Keep the Holidays Joyful

Photo courtesy morguefile.com & a2jc4life

As the holidays approach and life becomes especially busy, it’s important to remember our aging parents.

Joey’s mother sat in her recliner by the fireplace. “Mom, let’s put up your Christmas tree.”

“Don’t bother. No one to enjoy it.” She slumped deep into her chair. “I get so I start dreading the holidays in the middle of summer.”

Joey’s mother isn’t unusual. Many seniors feel especially lonesome during the holidays. Memories of a spouse long past, drift back. Their own immortality glares them in the face. The inability to make their home the bustling source of activity it once was hits hard.

Holidays can still bring joy into your aging parent’s life, it simply requires a little extra effort.

Don’t overdo decorations. For seniors still living in their private residents, don’t overdo. It’s easy to zip in, bring down all the normal decorations and spice up the house for the holiday. But for the aging parent, it may be too much. Sometimes the best of intentions fall short. Instead of seeing the joy of the holidays, your loved one may worry about funds for gifts they are unable to afford or hosting a dinner for the family they are unable to prepare. Use discretion and decorate gingerly, bringing out things that are simple yet pretty. Ease aging parents into the holiday spirit.

Change the giving process. Give parents permission to skip the purchase of family gifts by turning the tables. “This year we are celebrating you and all you do for us.” Find a family tradition you can expound upon. It’s a long running joke in our family about socks. Everyone gets a special pair of socks from mom. Small bags and boxes are passed out and as everyone opens their socks the family cheers. It’s silly, but fun and something that Mom can continue to do even in her 90’s, that brings laughter and joy. Find a fun family tradition and let go of the expense of gift giving for your aging parent.

Family meals. Rather than your parent being responsible for feeding the troops, make the holiday meals a carry-in. Treat parents by taking the work out of special meals and clean up.

Include parents in individual family events. Don’t forget to invite and bring aging parents to individual family events. Welcome them to Christmas morning in your home or “day after” events. Some families have “leftover days” where their adult children gather to finish off what’s left from large holiday meals. The point is, include your parent. Sometimes the greatest loneliness occurs the day after the holiday.

Small surprises. Surprise loved ones with sudden visits, lunch dates, or little gifts. Revive the joy of the holidays with family. Family is the legacy of aging parents. Make it a focus.

Despite what we do during the holidays, there is always a little sadness when we miss those who’ve passed. Respect those moments. Talk about them. Share fun stories and sweet memories. Loneliness quickly passes to that warmth of sweet memories. Ring in the holidays by setting a joyful atmosphere. It’s never too late to build memories.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Proactive

photo courtesy www.pixabay.com & geralt

photo courtesy http://www.pixabay.com & geralt

Proactive is not just an acne scrub. It’s vital to your aging loved one. The world keeps families swamped with activity. Between summer sporting activities, friends, camps, and work, rest for the weary seems hopeless. It’s hard enough to keep up with the kids and their activities, much less manage an aging parent but here in lies the problem.

Loneliness and depression can, and will, slip in like a thief in the night. It’s easy to assume aging parents are doing well, especially when they are still able to drive and maintain their daily activities. The best rule of thumb is simply to never assume anything.

Joe and Mary were married 50 years. Joe suddenly passed away. Mary, always active and somewhat the decision maker, seems to work through the loss like a champion. Her children were amazed how she handled the loss of their dad. Mary mourned for a short time, but then it was life as usual. Her children saw her weekly, spoke with her on the phone constantly but suddenly Mary became ill.  After a brief stay in the hospital her children thought she was fine. Instead, Mary had a slow, continual weight loss. She grew quieter at family gatherings, but not so much that the children thought it odd. Little changes occurred slowly over time – almost unnoticeable. One day, Mary’s daughter opened the refrigerator to pop in a casserole.  She was stunned. Vegetables were black, milk curdled, foods were moldy. Reality set in and though Mary seemed to be fine, the children realized she was depressed.

It’s not uncommon for very active aging parents to grow depressed. One must remember the era in which they were raised – a time when emotions were shoveled over the shoulder and “the just get it done” attitude kicked in. Depression was not recognized when our 80+ parents were youthful. The world was a different place, where people moved ahead despite the hardships. Many doctors referred to this as “survival mode.” Parents moved ahead simply because they had no option.

Despite having a good family, Mary’s kids did not see the importance of being proactive. They didn’t see the changes because they were slow and subtle. The children were horrified this happened to their mom. They thought their visits and calls were sufficient. After all, it wasn’t like they’d abandoned their mother. She was an active part of their lives.

Being proactive is not only being present physically with parents, but it is truly walking a fine line between no attention and over reacting. So how do family members become proactive? Follow these steps to help assure your aging parent is on track.

*Have those heart-to-heart talks – Take time to reminiscence those happy times past. Gently dig a little deeper into the heart of the surviving parent. Reassure them emotion is acceptable, even show your own emotion. Sometimes a good cry is exactly what is needed to pass through grief in a healthy manner.

*Accompany loved ones to doctor appointments -Keep in mind, as they grow older, loved ones do not always pay close attention to physician instructions.  Keep a notebook of dates, times, and reasons for doctor appointments. List instructions and verify the need for all medications.

*Keep an eye on the refrigerator -If foods are spoiling, it’s a clear sign your loved one is not eating. Carve time to prepare a meal for your parent in their own home. This will allow the opportunity to observe the refrigerator contents, pantry, and see exactly how much food parents are consuming.

*When conversation begins to wain from chatty to quiet, it’s time to get to the source of the silence. Depression comes in many forms. It’s not always sadness.

Learning to be proactive takes practice. It’s taking the step of due diligence to step into what has always seemed private to your loved one. Remember, their spouse is no longer there to take this role. Sometimes it feels awkward, but gently is the working word. Be proactive in your aging parent’s life even when they seem well. You’ll become keenly aware of changes and begin to ward off bad things before they happen.

Start the Year Right for Aging Seniors

MP900309664Now that the holidays have come to a close and the decorations are down and stored for the year, it’s a prime opportunity to sit with your senior and sort out the upcoming year. Being organized is the best way to start a new year, especially if your loved one has been ill throughout the previous year.

Arranging and rearranging the needs of our seniors can be a long task, but the effort more than repays you when the time comes. Follow these suggestions to start “new” in the New Year.

Make a portable carry file with individual file folders inside. Name each file with individual Doctor’s names, addresses and phone numbers. As medical, pharmaceutical bills, and EOB’s (Explanation of Benefits) forms arrive in the mail box, they can be easily filed and accessible.

Keep additional addressed envelopes and copies of every bill paid, the date, and when. Often, especially if the medical expenses are extensive, you may be asked to produce past paid invoices for physicians or even hospitals.

Update personal files. It pays to update medication lists twice to three times yearly. Sort through medications and dispose of old prescriptions. Make note of new ones. It’s always wise to make several copies of this list and keep them in your files for fast and easy access in the event of emergency or new doctor visits. We suggest a list inside your primary information notebook that states the drug, the last time purchased, and if the drug has been suspended, when and who suspended it. This is important too, to update dosage changes. Changes will be in order of date for easy reference.

Again, place a copy in your car and in the car of your senior (should they still be driving) along with a list of important phone numbers i.e. doctors, hospital of their choice, key family members so you and your loved one are always prepared.

Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney are must have papers. Be sure Power of Attorney and Power of Medical Attorney are in place and keep copies with key family members as well as in your loved one’s personal file. Carry copies to doctor’s visits and add them to your senior’s medical files. Place copies of these papers along with Living Wills, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), and other end-of-life requests in an envelope and tape them to the refrigerator or inside a cabinet door in the kitchen in the event EMT or Paramedic services are required.

Banking needs. Make arrangements with banks and lending institutions so that key family members are able to access funds in the event your loved one is unable to manage their personal business. It is important to understand, simply being listed on the signature card of the bank does not give you access to funds in the event of the loss of a parent. Check with all banking institutions, life insurance, 401K providers, and retiree benefits to be sure the proper paperwork is in place should access to funds become a necessity otherwise, accounts can be locked by the institution and made inaccessible.

Verify Insurance co-pays and coverages. The new year brings new co-pays and changes in old coverages. Take time to contact insurance companies and verify deductibles and co-pays. Inquire about old coverages, especially the most used ones, and verify nothing has changed. If changes have occurred, have the companies mail an updated coverage sheet so you are prepared. As unstable as the economy is, never assume that insurance remains unchanged. Healthcare is changing monthly with our government’s hand now forcing coverage for all individuals. There is no longer security in what you “once” had. This is one area you cannot afford to skip over. Failure to keep up-to-date on insurance can cost your loved one thousands of dollars.

Logs and calendars are important. Keep a log book of Doctor visits, what the issue was and anything discussed, any medication changes, and referrals. We tend to think we won’t forget instructions, but if an emergency arises the details are easily forgotten or confused—dates in particular, so keep a log book. If there is an in-home caregiver having this log book provides up-to-date information for the care of their patient, but for you, it provides accountability in how those caregivers are providing services.
Write upcoming dates on a large calendar so seniors can see the appointments clearly. Keeping a calendar can be one of the best things you do for your aging parent. It adds a sense of security and routine to their lives and it reduces stress and worry. Large erasable calendars are available at local office supply stores and make for easy updates.

Personal Emergency Response Button. PERS units are valuable assets for aging parents. Units are placed in the home and the client wears a button around their neck. In the event of a fall or an emergency, aging parents can simply press the button. A representative from a call center responds immediately securing the necessary emergency help necessary. Unit service costs range from $29-$59 per month, but it is a service well worth the investment. PERS units save lives by getting immediate response to family members and dispatching necessary emergency personnel.

Caregiver services are available to offer respite to families. Many seniors may need minimal assistance bathing, dressing, and help with daily living skills. Caregivers placed by in-home, non-medical companies can provide this assistance. It is important to remember that even though there are many willing individuals able to provide this service, they are not licensed, bonded, or insured and can be held accountable to the State for failure to adhere to state requirements for in-home care. The client is responsible for state and federal taxes, social security, and Medicare payments or for a Federal 1099 for these caregivers as long as they are employed by them. Seeking caregiver services through a company provides families with the security that individuals coming into the home are safe, reliable and fully meet state licensure requirements for in-home care.

Start the year by being prepared. Taking these advance steps will bring your loved one into the new year with a new sense of security and ease.

The Terrible F-word…Fear

As baby boomers assume more and more responsibility for their aging parents a number of issues move to the forefront—questions that need to be answered, fears that need to be soothed.

Providing appropriate care for our aging parents places a huge and unexpected burden on young families. Adult children are torn as to how to offer the most appropriate care for their parents.

Here are a few suggestions which will help ease the fear that accompanies the decisions for our aging parents.

Private caregivers verses company hired caregivers. The first choice of family members for the care of their elder parents is immediate family members. However, extended family quickly dissipates as the weeks of care progress. Immediate family members have the responsibility to care for their own families as well as their parents. One cannot interrupt the regular schedule of a home for an extended time without dire consequences.

A second choice is to hire private duty caregivers. These usually come from friends or  media sources such as classified ads. Though there are many wonderful caregivers found through this method, families are placing themselves in a high risk situation.

If a private duty caregiver is ill or out of town, families are left without care for their senior. For every one caregiver hired outside a company that is wonderful there are five who will not be reliable.

Most insurance companies will not cover any injury to a private duty caregiver under the homeowners policy. Why? This is a workman’s compensation claim and most general homeowner polices do not provide coverage for “employees” of the homeowner. You are at serious risk to be sued to cover major medical expenses.

Backgrounds checks are costly and difficult to attain for the average individual. Most families will only attain a county background check and assume their search is complete. Full background searches through a national data base are necessary to protect your family and your senior from serious consequence.

The benefits of a caregiver company.  There is no question that it is more costly to attain the services of a company who provides caregivers. However, the benefits far outweigh the cost.

By hiring a licensed and bonded company you are hiring quality and responsibility. Many companies are not licensed, bonded, and insuranced even though the State of Tennessee requires these items. Companies who are licensed adhere to the strict standards set by the State and Federal guidelines and are accountable for their actions. Families who hire companies have a mediator in the event there should be any questionable actions of the company providing care.

Companies provide their own liability insurance as well as their own workman’s compensation to cover their employees. And quality companies bill the client, taking any financial responsibilities away from the caregiver and providing records for insurance and accounting.

You will not be left without care. Companies provide quality caregivers and should one become ill or be unable to work, they are able to replace that caregiver quickly and keep your family on track.

By hiring a quality company such as Comfort Keepers, the needs of your loved one will be met with pride, love and compassion taking the fear away from the family and allowing exceptional care that is necessary to keep the aging parent comfortable and happy.

Loving Care for Aging Parents – Part Two

MP900444005In part one of Loving Care for Aging Parents we listed questions necessary to help family members begin to make a plan of care for aging parents. From the physical needs of the parent to personal affairs and financing. Now it’s time to put together a plan.

Finding a Caregiver

There are important issues to consider when a family decides to find a caregiver and generally two options for locating a caregiver. Here you will find the pros and cons of both.

Hiring a Private Duty Caregiver

There are many wonderful people willing to be paid as a caregiver however when hiring a private duty caregiver there are some things that should be considered.

*Private Duty may be less dollars per hour – Pro
*Someone has to pay the employment taxes – Con
*Homeowners insurance does not cover private duty caregivers under the medical portion of a policy. –
Con
*Someone must provide workman’s compensation in the event of caregiver injury – Con
*Background checks should be done by the family, not accepted from the caregiver applying- Con
*Dependability issues – Con

Though hiring a private duty caregiver may cost less per hour it does not always pan out in the long run. Unemployment taxes still must be paid, if a family is to be honest. Many people are paid, “under the table” but this is not legal nor ethical. If your family chooses to hire private duty, then check with local state agencies to handle the taxes, social security and Medicare costs that should be paid.

A huge misconception for many is a homeowners policy’s medical payments will pay if a caregiver is injured in the home. Not so. Medical payments cover “guests” in the home, not paid individuals who work for the homeowner. It’s not out of the question for homeowners to be sued. Workman’s Compensation can be pricey but certainly not like being sued.

Finally, background checks should be done by the hiring family. It’s important that families invest the $25-$30 to do local and national background checks. Never accept a background check from the caregiver. These can easily be manipulated so for the best care possible for aging parents, do background checks yourself.

Finally, when hiring private duty, personal illness and issues must be taken into account. Should your caregiver be unable to work then your parent is left without care.

Though there are many private duty caregivers who are wonderful, the financial aspect is not as cheap as it seems.

Hiring a Caregiver Company

Below are pros and cons to hiring a company to provide caregiver services.

*Price – higher than private caregiver – Con
*Care is sometimes bundled in price packaging – Con
*Payment is made to the company rather than directly to caregiver – Pro
*Workman’s Compensation is provided – Pro
*Background checks are done yearly – Pro
*Shifts will always be filled – Pro
*All local and state unemployment taxes are paid by the company – Pro
*Long term care insurance can be filed – Pro
*Caregivers can be switched from time to time to add variety or replace a caregiver who is not up to par
Pro
*Home and financial assets are not tied up – Pro

Yes, the price of hiring a caregiver company is a bit higher, but when the individual costs hire and maintain a private duty caregiver revert to the consumer it doesn’t take long to see the value in hiring a company. When families hire a company, use good common sense. Ask if total price is all inclusive or if services are charged according to the task. Some companies will say their cost is $10 per hour but if a bath is given to a client, the price goes up an additional $10. Suddenly the costs are now $20 per hour. Check that charges are all inclusive with the exception of holidays.

The hassle of paying unemployment taxes, Social Security and Medicare are the responsibility of the company as well as providing workman’s compensation . Companies also bond their employees and carry employee theft and liability insurances. Background checks are required by law and companies must meet Federal and State mandates for elder care.

Hiring a company means families will never be without a caregiver should the primary caregiver be ill or on vacation and long term health insurance will pay if a company is working in the home where many make exclusions for private caregivers. Should you find a caregiver whose personality doesn’t quite mesh a company can provide a change.

Finally hiring a company does not tie up home and personal assets. When a parent enters a facility, their assets are part of the financial care obligation.

Every family must choose for themselves what they think the best method of care is for an aging parent. With these tools the decision process should be a bit easier.

Elder Abuse

This country has recently seen a number of incidents of elder abuse and fraud. In lieu of these issues it’s important that families and friends of the elderly understand the types of abuse which plague our seniors, educate themselves and become an active force in recognizing and protecting these individuals.

The word alone will send a chill down your back. And in a world of such uncertainty, not only are children attacked but our elderly are prime targets as well.

Abuse rears its ugly head in more forms than just physical attacks and it’s important for us as caregivers of the elderly, to understand the methods which plague our senior citizens.

Mental Abuse – Many times impatience brews in family members and friends as seniors become increasingly more dependent. As their mental capabilities deteriorate and the level of understanding normal daily routines falters, individual will become “curt” or “short” with parents. Frustration rises because seniors may be a bit more contrary than in the past. It’s not uncommon for individuals to “brow beat” parents, verbally attacking their sense of dignity and degrading their sense of self-worth.

Financial Abuse—Our parents have worked hard through the years scrimping and saving for their retirement. At best, many live a meager lifestyle. Unfortunately, predators do not pick and choose their victims by wealth, rather by vulnerability. Elders fall victim to phone scams, door-to-door salesman, slick con men, even well-meaning neighbors who will take advantage of someone who is unable to care for him/her selves. Worse yet are family predators: those within the immediate family, who freely take from the finances of their seniors without permission or under the smoke screen of “caring” for their needs. Families will come to blows over a small senior savings long before the death of a parent, leaving elders feeling unloved and unwanted.

Nil-Care Abuse—Nil-care happens when caregivers, whether family or friends, become more concerned about what will be left in the will of their senior if finances are spent on their care now. Seniors will suffer from lack of medications, in-home assistance, facility care, even food and clothing when greed becomes the driving factor in their care.

Harsh, you ask? By all means. Abuse, in any form, is cruel—especially when it’s dealt from those we think love us.

Providing in-home care is not inexpensive, but many times it is the best route to protect our aging parents, by allowing a third-party watchful eye. An in-home caregiver can provide the additional space between family members to help keep a clear and safe care plan for seniors.

Though nothing is fool-proof, however hiring a state licensed and bonded in-home company can provide that watchful eye and help maintain and preserve the valuable parent-child relationship that aging can steal away. Be aware daily of the signs of elder abuse and remember, they do not always come in the form of bruises.

Encouragement and Prayer Make Good Caregivers

When the tables turn and we become the “caregivers” rather than the “cared for” in the lives of our parents, fear can easily take over. Though the years we’ve depended on our parents to be the lifeline and support for us in most every aspect of our lives. They’ve supported us through hard times, loved us when we were un-loveable, and been the solid rock of the family foundation.

Taking the helm in the care of our parents means turning loose of the dependency and becoming the one to be depended upon. What we fail to realize is that not only is this a frightening time for us, but it’s an equally scary time for our parents.

For years, our parents have been strong and able. They were raised in an era when caring for yourself was a necessity. Therefore, handing over the shards of independence cuts deep into their being, and it’s difficult to accept help when the time arises.

The stress which accompanies the care of an elderly parent can be overwhelming. Not only do children deal with the financial issues and the physical needs of their parents, but mentally shifting the thought process toward being the caregiver becomes more difficult. Separating our love for them from their care is tedious.

Many times our parents fight the need for help—they refuse to see their physical needs have increased. Finding a caregiver who can gently aid in this transition is vital. Being a caregiver is a tough profession, and often filled with frustration and hurt. However, being armed with the tools of knowledge can help ease the transition.

Encouragement is a must—reminding seniors that their opinion still counts and then respecting that opinion as well.

Respect and integrity—one of the hardest things to manage is to remain in control of how we treat our seniors both physically and mentally. Even a parent in the deepest stages of dementia recognizes respect and had a need to have their integrity honored. It’s easy to take the care of our parents to extreme and treat them as children rather than adults who simply need assistance. Honor their integrity and respect them fully for they are still our parents.

Pray – Doctors and hospitals nationwide are beginning to recognize the power of prayer. Pray daily for the empathy and gentleness necessary to handle the situations that arise with our elders. Pray for their health, their understanding and pray for the family as a whole. The knowledge of praying friends uplifts those who are in need.

Work with seniors, not against them—Digging in with stubborn heels is not always the appropriate way to handle things. Relax and move slowly into the transitions when ever possible. Allow seniors the opportunity to adjust.

Caregivers hired from outside the immediate family will generally have the upper hand in dealing with aging parents. A caregiver trained in the appropriate manner will come into a home, encourage, assist and gain the trust of the parent, providing  and making inevitable changes for seniors easier.

Choosing a company who has the ability to train and teach the art of good caregiving is important. Comfort Keepers provides caregivers who are trained in unique and loving caregiving skills.

Seek the help of a good company such as Comfort Keepers. Allow them to assist your loved ones into and through the transition of aging.