Caring for Elderly Parents

By Roz Jones

Joanne’s mother, Betty, had rheumatoid arthritis for years.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, Betty was disabled by the pain, fatigue and limited mobility that she had feared since her diagnosis.  

Joanne convinced her fiercely independent mother that living alone was no longer an option. Joanne, the eldest of four children, knew that caring for her sick mother fell on her shoulders.  Joanne was a legend in the circles of her family, friends and colleagues for her ability to act with grace under pressure.

Joanne took two weeks of vacation from her job to cook and freeze meals for her husband and three children before she flew to her hometown to assist her mother. Joanne wondered how she would coordinate her mother’s care from a distance. Supporting her husband as he built his new business, nurturing her kids and directing a major project at work already made her feel that she was running on empty.  

You may relate to Joanne’s story.  One out of every four Americans cares for a friend or relative who is sick, disabled, or frail. That’s 46 million Americans who offer unpaid help to a loved one.  If they were paid caregivers’ compensation would exceed last year’s Medicare budget! Also like Joanne, you become a caregiver, and try to do it alone, shrouded in secrecy. 

Solo caregiving compromises your ability to nurture yourself and others. Let’s take caregiving out from behind closed doors.  For your sake and the sake of those who count on you, please get help. Caregivers are competent people who feel that they should be able to do this job.  Yet, many soon find themselves unprepared and ill-equipped to manage the sometimes daunting tasks, such as managing a complex medical regimen, remodeling a house so it’s wheel-chair accessible, or even finding someone to stay with their loved ones so they can go out to a movie without worrying their relatives will fall on the way to the fridge.

If you are a caregiver, you know that this act of love has its costs.  You stand to forfeit up to $650,000 in lost wages, pension and social security.  Add to that is the personal cost to your well-being, as your new demands leave you less time for your family and friends.  You may give up vacations, hobbies and social activities.  Finally, caregiving places a burden on your health.  Caregivers are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, depressed immune function and even hospitalization.

Instead of reaching out, caregivers become isolated.  Many who assume the caregiving burden fit the profile of the giving family member, like Joanne, who does not want to trouble others with their problems.  Some fear the consequences of disclosing their new demands to coworkers or employers. Caregivers are further challenged by the cultural conspiracy of silence.  Our youth-centered society turns a blind eye to the unpleasant and inevitable reality that all of us age and die.  This leaves both caregivers and care recipients unprepared.  Look no further than the path of Hurricane Katrina to witness the consequences of a lack of planning.

What can you do?  Start talking about the “what ifs” and make a plan.  If you aren’t sure where to start, I am here to help! Book a Family Caretaker Help Session and leave our meeting with your care plan in hand!

5 Ways Caregivers Can Address Inner Conflict

By Roz Jones

Is inner conflict holding you back? When we struggle with inner conflict, it is basically a battle between our emotions and thoughts. If a situation doesn’t turn out how we expected, it can release feelings of anger, stress, fear, and frustration. 

There are many types of inner conflict. You may know you need to set better boundaries as a caregiver, but you keep avoiding the difficult conversation. You may know you need to adopt a healthier diet but eating the foods you love is the only thing that gives you pleasure right now.  Whatever the inner conflict is, it could be holding you back from a happy, healthy life. Below, discover 5 ways to address inner conflicts, in order to be a happier and more fulfilled caregiver.

1. Identify and confront inner conflicts.

You’re going to find it hard to address your inner conflict if you aren’t fully aware of it. However, identifying and being aware of inner conflict isn’t always easy. After all, it is much easier to ignore confrontation and the things that make us uncomfortable. 

The trouble is, when you ignore your inner conflicts, they simply get worse over time. So, start by writing down what you want and the things that are holding you back. Then, delve into your inner conflict and try to understand where it comes from. For example, is it coming from a place of fear or comfort? Often, we stay stuck in routines because it is our mind’s way of protecting us. 

2.Balance your rationale and emotions.

To address inner conflict, you need to be able to balance rationale and emotion. If you tend to focus more on your emotional needs and desires, your rational thinking will be compromised. Similarly, if you were to focus only on being rational, your emotional needs would suffer. To make the best choices, learn how to balance reason and emotion.

3. Avoid making rash decisions

When you are going through an emotional time, be sure not to make any rash decisions. Think about what is best for you, but also remember the impact your decisions will have on others. 

It’s easy to make rash decisions when you are dealing with inner conflict. However, staying calm and really thinking things through is going to lead to the best decisions.

4. Think about what you really want

What is it you really want? Often our inner conflict comes from not doing the things we desire. If you are trying to please everyone else, you are only going to end up feeling miserable. As caregivers, we often have a difficult time putting our needs before others. So, if you feel like you aren’t being true to yourself, take a step back. Think about what you truly want and then focus your energy on that.

5. Practice meditation

Finally, meditation is a great way to address inner conflict. It gives you the peace and mental clarity to reflect on your life and opportunities for growth. It may take a while to get used to it, but you’ll find great beginner videos online to help.

As caregivers, we have to ensure we are deterring our inner conflict to practice self care, all while caring for others. These are just a few ways to deal with inner conflict. What are some of your inner conflicts and how do you cope?

Care for Caregivers

By Roz Jones

If you’re caring for an aging parent or facing the challenges of assisting a loved one or friend who is chronically ill, disabled or elderly, you are not alone. You are one of the 22 million Americans who care for an older adult. Caregivers provide 80 percent of in-home care, but unlike nurses and home health aids, they are unpaid for their labor of love. 

“Caregiving is a difficult job that can take a toll on relationships, jobs and emotional well-being,” says Dr. Elizabeth Clark, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers. “Those who care for others need to be sure to take care of themselves, as well.”

Here are some important tips for caregivers:

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help 

We tend to wait until we are in crisis before asking for help and consultation. Seek out the help of a licensed clinical social worker or other trained professional.

It’s Not Easy to Tell Your Parents What to Do 

The most difficult thing about caring for a parent is the day you have to tell them they need to have help, they can no longer drive or they may have to move from their home. Discuss long-term care wishes and desires before any decline happens. 

Take Care of Your Mental Health

It is not unusual to feel frustrated with your parents or children when they refuse your input and help. Seek a referral to a professional who can help you cope with your personal issues and frustrations. 

Stay Informed

We live in a world of constant change. Medications and treatments are constantly changing and the only way to keep up-to-date is to stay informed with the latest news. Attend local caregiver conferences, participate in support groups, speak with friends and relatives, and talk with professionals in the field of gerontology and geriatrics. 

Take Time Out

Caregivers who experience feelings of burnout need to accept that occasionally they may need a break from their loved one in order to provide him or her with the best care.

Laugh

Humor and laughter are tremendous healers.

Hire Help

If possible, you may want to hire help. The most important thing is to find trustworthy people to provide assistance. Use recommended home care agencies, talk with friends about their experiences and interview professionals before deciding on the one you are going to retain.

It’s Your Funeral: Why Not Plan It Properly?

By Roz Jones

Making plans for the future brings mixed feelings. It is right to concentrate on the good things, but sometimes there are things you would rather not think about. A funeral is one of those things. You may not have considered planning a funeral in advance, but there are several reasons why it can bring great peace of mind.

Bereavement usually brings with it emotional and financial burdens. However, you can spare your loved ones much of the burden of having to make difficult decisions at an upsetting time.

The cost of many funerals has more than doubled in the last 10 years, and prices are set to continue to increase in the future.

If you have savings set aside for your funeral, you can never be sure that there will be enough – or you may be setting aside more than you really need to. It makes good sense to guard against unknown price rises.

A prepaid funeral plan is the way to be absolutely certain that the services of the funeral director will be provided and there will be nothing more to pay for these services.

Bereaved relatives usually arrange a funeral and may be unsure what was actually wanted. It helps to do something at times of sadness, but it is not a good time to make important decisions – which, if wrong, cannot be put right later. Planning ahead for your funeral can be a great help in alleviating the emotional and financial burdens that naturally accompany bereavement and those who remain will remember your thoughtfulness.

There is also some quiet satisfaction to be gained from putting your affairs in order and reflecting on the most appropriate arrangements. People worry that their wishes will not be carried out. It is important to realize that any funeral wishes set out in your Will or other letters or documents are only requests. Your executors are under no obligation to carry out your wishes. However, if you own a prepaid funeral plan, your guarantee is with a funeral director and your wishes are set out in your guarantee certificate.

When you pre-arrange your funeral with your pre-paid funeral plan you can: 

  • Decide on your funeral service and select a suitable arrangement 
  • Settle on a method of payment to match your circumstances 
  • Select who benefits under the plan
  • Have comfort, reassurance and freedom from worry and stress  
  • Ensure no hidden extras are charged 

Why not give it some thought? Funerals are a touchy subject, but avoiding the issue won’t help you or your loved ones deal with bereavement.

Caring for Elderly Parents: 5 Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

By Roz Jones

Joanne’s mother, Betty, had rheumatoid arthritis for years.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, Betty was disabled by the pain, fatigue and limited mobility that she had feared since her diagnosis.  

Joanne convinced her fiercely independent mother that living alone was no longer an option.  And Joanne, the eldest of four children, knew that caring for her sick mother fell on her shoulders.  Joanne was a legend in the circles of her family, friends and colleagues for her ability to act with grace under pressure.

Joanne took two weeks of vacation from her job and cooked and froze meals for her husband and three children.  As she flew to her hometown, she wondered how she would coordinate her mother’s care from a distance. Supporting her husband as he built his new business, nurturing her kids and directing a major project at work already made her feel that she was running on empty.  

You may relate to Joanne’s story.  One out of four Americans cares for a friend or relative who is sick, disabled or frail. That’s 46 million Americans who offer unpaid help to a loved one.  If they were paid caregivers’ compensation would exceed last year’s Medicare budget! And if you become a caregiver, you, like Joanne, may try to do it alone, shrouded in secrecy. 

Solo caregiving compromises your ability to nurture yourself and others. Let’s take caregiving out from behind closed doors.  For your sake and the sake of those who count on you, please get some help. Caregivers are competent people who feel that they should be able to do this job.  Yet, many soon find themselves unprepared and ill-equipped to manage the sometimes daunting tasks, such as managing a complex medical regimen or remodeling a house so it’s wheel-chair accessible or even finding someone to stay with their loved ones so they can go out to a movie without worrying their relatives will fall on the way to the fridge.

If you are a caregiver, you know that this act of love has its costs.  You stand to forfeit up to $650,000 in lost wages, pension and social security.  Add to that is the personal cost to your well-being, as your new demands leave you less time for your family and friends.  You may give up vacations, hobbies and social activities.  Finally, caregiving places a burden on your health.  Caregivers are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, depressed immune function and even hospitalization.

Instead of reaching out, caregivers become isolated.  Many who assume the caregiving burden fit the profile of the giving family member, like Joanne, who does not want to trouble others with their problems.  Some fear the consequences of disclosing their new demands to coworkers or employers. Caregivers are further challenged by the cultural conspiracy of silence.  Our youth-centered society turns a blind eye to the unpleasant and inevitable reality that all of us age and die.  This leaves both caregivers and care recipients unprepared.  Look no further than the path of Hurricane Katrina to witness the consequences of a lack of planning.

What can you do?   Start talking about the “what ifs” and make a plan.  

1. Start with yourself. What will happen to you and your family if you become disabled or die unexpectedly?  Do you have disability insurance? Do you have a will?  Do you have a living will, and have you identified the person who will make the medical choices you would make if you are not in the position to do so?  

2. Approach healthy family members.  Say, “I hope that you live many happy years in which you enjoy all of the pleasures you worked so hard to create.”  Have you thought about what would happen to you in the event that you cannot live independently anymore?  If some medical event befalls you, who would make your medical choices?

3. Look into community resources that support caregiving.  A day program, for example, helps your loved one by providing social connections with peers.  Your community may even offer transportation to and from the program.  Getting out of the house offers the additional benefit of getting bodies moving.  Socializing and exercise are the two most powerful interventions that help your loved ones stay at their best.  

4. Make specific suggestions to friends, family members and neighbors who want to help. You may even want to keep a “help list.” When they say, “Let me know what I can do,” you have a response:  “Could you take Mom to her physical therapy appointment this week?”  “When you’re at the store, could you pick up some oranges and blueberries?”  “Could you watch the kids for an hour so I can get to the gym?” Your giving friends will appreciate specific ideas about how they can help.

5. Take care of your health.  Get good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise to stay in top health.  Wash your hands regularly to prevent colds and flu.  Manage your stress with laughter, a prayer or even a deep breath.  Nourish your soul with a taste of activities that recharge your batteries such as writing in your journal or gardening.  Finally, talk to your doctor if you feel depressed or anxious.   

The best strategies for effective caregiving include preparation, acts of self-care and reaching out for help. That begins with the courage to start talking openly about caregiving.