‘Aging Parents’ Posts
Caregiver’s self care when caring for a loved one is a growing problem many of us face, these days and is going unattended. We hear this often:, “My mother is the person with Dementia, but I am the one going crazy!”. Many people want to age in place and sometimes that comes with a high price for family members and friends who need to support the loved ones to fulfill this goal and meet their needs.
Researchers know a lot about the effects of caregiving on health and well being of family members and friends acting as caregivers, as much as that one of professional caregivers.
For example, if you are a caregiving spouse between the ages of 66 and 96 and are experiencing mental or emotional strain, you have a risk of dying that is 63 percent higher than for those who are not caregivers.
Caregivers who feel burned-out report:
- sleep deprivation
- poor eating habits
- failure to exercise
- failure to stay in bed when ill
- postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves.
Taking your Care in Your Hands
Kira Reginato says: Do you tend to put yourself last as a caregiver? Not sure how to go about changing that? As a gerontologist and elder care consultant, Kira wants to help you. She draws from her three decades of expertise helping older adults and their families as well as from caring for her aging father for two years. She knows the weight gain, the interrupted sleep, the worry, the resentment, along with the funny and tender moments. Join her presentation! Learn why elder care is so much harder nowadays than ever before. Decrease your guilt.
Kira Reginato, speaker, author, and elder care consultant has served thousands of older adults and their families in many settings: hospitals, residential care homes, skilled nursing facilities, hospices, Alzheimer’s adult day health programs and Meals on Wheels. She also hosted the long-running radio shows “Call Kira About Aging!” and “The Elder Care Show.” In her new book—Tips for Helping Your Aging Parents (without losing your mind), she shares best practices from 30 years of experience. Kira speaks to civic and corporate groups to help people maintain their own lives while “not losing their minds” in a caretaking role.
Learn how to reverse caregiver burn out. Learn to give yourself permission to limit what you do. Find out about gadgets you can use to make life easier.
Elders’ driving is one common concern adult children have regarding their senior parents’ safety . Home Care providers and geriatricians specialized in elder care, often hear the following questions from concerned children: How do I tell Mom or Dad, they cannot drive anymore. Is it safe for them to be driving at their old age? How to stop my parents from driving? and the problem seems to become bigger.
According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next eighteen years. By 2030, almost one in five drivers will be over the age of 65, and they’ll outnumber teenage drivers more than three to one. Some experts are calling this the silver tsunami—and it’s not a movement that’s coming peacefully.
Statistically speaking, elderly drivers are involved in more car accidents and highway fatalities than any age group but teenagers. Elderly drivers often have trouble keeping up with traffic on the road, but unfortunately, there’s no easy way to prevent unsafe drivers from getting behind the wheel while still allowing experienced and competent senior drivers to keep driving. Several procedures have been discussed, from mandating vision tests (which isn’t always effective in identifying drivers whose visual impairments raise their accident risk) to issuing restricted licenses that only allow for daytime driving (which might not impact elderly drivers significantly, since they already tend to remain at home). Implementing an age cap on licensing, on the other hand, raises constitutional due process and equal protection concerns, as federally imposed restrictions must not be at odds with the Fourteenth Amendment. Clearly, balancing senior driving rights and safety precautions is a serious concern with few obvious answers. Speeding violations lawyer Zev Goldstein cites a recent study by Katherine Mikel of University of Miami School of Law which sheds light on the subject.
State Testing Initiatives
State governments, rather than federal governments, control driver’s licensing across the United States. States vary widely in how they treat elderly drivers. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have imposed additional requirements for older drivers, ranging from improved vision testing to more frequent license renewal for elderly drivers.
License Renewal Restrictions
No states will revoke a driver’s license based on their age alone. Some states, however, have put additional restrictions on license renewals for elderly drivers. Some states, however, don’t differentiate based on age: they have few or no requirements at all for older drivers. In Tennessee and North Carolina, however, elderly drivers are given more leniency than their younger counterparts: drivers over the age of 65 don’t have to renew their license in Tennessee, while North Carolina drivers over the age of 60 don’t have to parallel park to pass a road test.
States vary on their requirements for older drivers when it comes to renewing their license. Many states institute shorter renewal periods for people over a certain age. These periods, however, can vary widely. In Colorado, individuals over the age of 61 have to renew their license every five years, while those under 61 may renew theirs every ten years. In Illinois, on the other hand, the average driver must renew their license every four years. Between the ages of 81 and 86, this shortens to every 2 years. From the age of 87, drivers must renew their license every year.
Several states have instituted increased testing requirements for elderly drivers. Many of them require a vision test in order to renew a driver’s license. In Illinois, a driver who is 75 years old or older must take a road test. Some states, however, are more lenient than others. In Florida, elderly drivers are able to renew their licenses by mail for up to 12 years before experiencing testing requirements. If they are over the age of 79, Florida drivers must pass a vision test; however, they can submit results from an approved test by an eye doctor or physician by mail. Most states don’t require a road test to renew a license at any age.
Unsafe Driver Referrals
All states may not have restrictions on license renewals, but there are systems in place to help keep unsafe drivers off of the road. In every state, the Departments of Motor Vehicles, Highway Safety, or Transportation have offices where family members or doctors can make referrals concerning unsafe drivers. The state office will investigate the claim, which may lead to the driver needing to take a road test. Doctors don’t have to report unsafe patients. The state of California, however, mandates reporting of patients with dementia; other states require doctors to report patients with epilepsy.
Age Caps on Licensing: Constitutional Concerns
As was previously mentioned, age caps must adhere to the Fourteenth Amendment. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states that no citizen can be deprived of constitutional rights—including the right to “liberty”—without due process. The Equal Protection Clause protects everyone within the state and insists that no one should be arbitrarily denied any right granted to others. These clauses protect drivers from age discrimination, which means that no arbitrary cap on age can be assigned in order for a person to hold a driver’s license in any state.
Simply put, these amendments protect United States citizens from having their driving privileges arbitrarily revoked. In other words, there can be no “mandatory expiration” of driving privileges after a certain age. States also can not restrict the use of their highways. Like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, these regulations prevent drivers from experiencing discrimination on the basis of age alone. Because of this, the responsibility falls on each individual senior and/or their adult children to keep an eye out for any changes in driving ability. When they reach an age where it is no longer safe for them to be behind the wheel, it is up to individual families to note the continuing signs of age and prevent their loved ones from endangering themselves and others.
Across the United States, people in every age group tend to view driving as a necessity rather than a privilege. However, there is a significant conflict of interest on the issue of elderly driving. Elderly drivers want to retain personal autonomy—and as seniors lose some of their mobility, it becomes even more imperative for them to retain their independence and ability to get around—but states and other drivers wish to increase safety on the road. As the rise in senior drivers continues, state and federal governments must continue to seek solutions in order to provide the best outcome for everyone.
Caregiving brings about a swirl of feelings and guilt is one of them. As the saying goes, guilt is a useless emotion, says Ruth Folger (*). While that may be true, as compassionate human beings we experience guilt more frequently than we may like, especially when it comes to taking care of an aging loved one.
Caring for the elderly is a frustrating task. You may find yourself getting angry at the slightest things, like having to prepare an extra meal or finding the time to help them change. Then, you start to feel selfish or guilty. These feelings are normal, but in order for you to be happy and continuing to enjoy your elderly loved one while they are still here, it’s important to learn to let go of the guilt associated with caring for them.
- Don’t feel guilty for not spending enough time with your loved one. Any time spent with your loved one is quality time – time they will be grateful for it. Most often, when you are acting as the caregiver, it is in addition to the full time job you already have. Think about the time you spend with them like a budget. How many hours a week can you put towards visits and phone calls? Making a mental plan of how you will allocate your time can help ease the guilt.
- Don’t feel guilty for taking a vacation. This is probably one of the biggest fears caregivers carry with them. In addition to not spending enough time with a loved one, you feel the second you leave or go away somewhere that you’re going to get “the phone call.” Thinking this way will only add more stress to your life and make the time that you do spend with your loved one strained. If you want to go away, have a plan in place in case of an emergency, but do not halt your plans all together.
- Don’t feel guilty when other emotions take over. Do you sometimes feel like you are losing your patience? Some days are more difficult than others, and occasionally your emotions may take over. This is completely normal. No one is perfect and you are allowed to be angry, sad, or tired. Just take a deep breath and remember that it is okay to feel this way.
- Don’t feel guilty when you find yourself resenting this role. Being a caregiver is a very trying job. Resentment is another emotion that can develop over time. You begin to resent your loved one for the little things they do. You resent that you are in charge of being the caregiver. You resent other members of your family who could be helping a lot more but aren’t. At the end of the day, you have to remember that you are doing the right thing. While something trivial may send you spiraling down the path of resentment, you know deep down that you would have even more resentment if you weren’t helping out your loved one.
- Don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself or the other members of your family. Do you want to read a book? Catch up on your favorite TV show? Go get a massage? Do it. You deserve to take time for yourself so you can rejuvenate and relax. When you take time for yourself, it can help ease your guilt and the other emotions because you are restarting your mind. You may also have a family of your own, and they need to spend time with you as well. Don’t stretch yourself too thin, but make sure you aren’t neglecting your family or friends because you’re taking care of one of your elders.
- Don’t feel guilty if you have to put your loved one in a nursing home. No one can do it all, and it is okay to ask for help. As much as you would love to be the sole caregiver of your loved one, with full-time jobs, families, and other obligations, it can be close to impossible. You can relieve yourself from a lot of stress when you find the right healthcare center to move your loved one into. There are many stigmas against senior homes, but in today’s society, most of those are just old wives’ tales. Finding a good senior home can be the best decision you make both for you and your loved one, mentally and physically.
With care giving comes a lot of stress. It is essential that you don’t let the guilt associated with that stress consume you.
(*) Ruth Folger Weiss is a writer for the Westgate Hills Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Baltimore, MD, who shares with us tips for busting the guilt associated with caring for an elderly family member.
The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability; an estimated 21% of households in the United States are impacted by caregiving responsibilities; and unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 90% of the long-term care (IOM, 2008).
It is estimated that one in eight people are now official caring for an aging parent. Edward Francis, a Living Well collaborator, at Forest Health Care estimates that this is a result of the baby boom years combining with improved healthcare and an increase in the average life expectancy. This responsibility may come to these caregivers suddenly or it may become a gradual, progressive path of commitment. It requires a change to your mindset, no longer are you the child, you now need to take care of your parents as they have always done for you.
It can be a challenging experience to be a caregiver for a parent dealing with memory loss that eventually materializes in dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Illness can cause a gentle shift in roles but it is a lot moiré difficult when an accident changes the situation dramatically in moments. This is often the case as elder people are more prone to injury and a broken hip can have a serious impact on their ability to care for themselves. The role reversal can be exceptionally difficult for those who were never that close to their parents but do feel the need to care for them.
It can be very difficult to make the right decision in either your own eyes or your parent’s eyes and you may bear the brunt of a parent’s frustration. For your role as caregiver to work you need to accept that you are now responsible for the decisions and care of your parent.
It can be tempting to visit your parent every day or even multiple times during the day. In reality this will make the process far more difficult. You will end up physically and emotionally exhausted whilst emphasizing your parent’s dependence on you. It can be very difficult to find the right balance between being there and making the best decisions whilst providing them some space to be as independent as possible. It is essential for your own survival to maintain a balance between caring, time for yourself and your own family commitments.
From the moment you start caring for your parent you will have to start thinking about the future. If their condition deteriorates will they need additional caregivers, professional homecare, or perhaps assisted living facilities are the way to go; after all one size does not fit all.
The harsh reality of knowing your parents have a finite amount of time left will combine with concerns over the future, this can become a serious burden and it is essential you share the responsibility as much as possible.
Strengths and weaknesses
Like anyone you have areas of expertise and areas which you are not so knowledgeable or good at. You may be more sympathetic than your siblings or more financially orientated and it is important to utilize the skills you have. Knowing your areas of weakness and accepting that someone else can do that part better is a better way of caring for your parent and yourself than attempting to do it all on your own.
Dealing with a parent experiencing memory loss
One of the most challenging and draining aspects of being a caregiver is when your parent starts to lose their memory. It can feel that day by day they are drifting away from you and you are losing one of the people who have always inspired you and have always been there for you. It is essential to focus on the positives; a memory problem is probably more of an issue to you than to them. Encourage them to visualize their past by using photographs and talking to them, cherish the moments you have and the experience will be rewarding instead of challenging.
Both the caregiver and the parent need to have a good network of support. You need to be able to vent your frustrations and gain advice from others to ensure you know you are doing the best possible for your parent. Your parent needs to remain in contact with as many people as possible to avoid loneliness and frustration building up and making the situation worse.
Every situation will be slightly different but it will always be a challenging time and a difficult journey. Your feelings and emotions will be tested to the limit but the ultimate reward will be worth it; knowing that you were there for your parents when needed and did the best you could, after exploring all the alternatives you could have. Look for consultation with the experts in the field, even if it is a long journey, you are not alone.