Tag Archives: Aging Parents

How being a caregiver for aging parents can be one of the most challenging realities in life

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.

Role change

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.

Balance

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.

Planning ahead

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.

Network

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.

Empathy Plays an Important Role in Care Giving

Empathy and caregivingBe kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle   ~ Plato

Many of our elders who had reached the golden years, find difficult to see the golden part of aging and at least, initially, they are aware of the transitions and respond with a myriad of emotions from shame and anger to depression, anxiety, and fear. Let’s remember theirs was the generation that survived the Great Depression and fought the last “good war.” Aging was not on their agenda, not for this long, not with so many medical issues, and with so little resources for retirement; to care for them we need knowledge, skills but overall empathy.

What is Empathy?

The simplest definition is the feeling of understanding you get when you stop and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. For caregivers this can mean imagining what it must be like to be in constant pain, or to be facing your own death. It could even be picturing oneself as constantly dependent on others, without any privacy. Once you understand what this would feel like you are able to relate better to the patient and will be much less likely to be frustrated by their actions.

Understanding their pain is only the first part of the job. You will also need to overlook your own feelings regarding how they may have arrived at their situation. It is imperative to accept people as they are and help them in any way you can. Empathizing with them will make your job easier as you understand why they need the care and the best way of approaching it.

Edward Francis with Foresthc.com shared with us some of the important points about how relevant empathy s when caring for our elders. He says, “…There are an increasing number of care givers in the world. This is a combination of people living longer and the steady increase of people in the world. Many caregivers fall into the role and can be excellent at taking care of someone’s needs; however this does not mean that they emphasize with them; a good caregiver can simply treat others, as they would like to be treated.

Understanding the Patient

Some patients can seem incredibly rude and make it very difficult to either help them or emphasize with them. In fact these are the ones that need your empathy more than any other. The rudeness is generally a result of severe frustration with the situation they find themselves in. Part of the role of a good caregiver is to understand how the family and friends are coping and to emphasize with them as well.

They may need a break or be struggling with dealing with the issue and a supportive shoulder can work wonders. Understanding their needs and fears can also provide you with the opportunity to help a family member deal with their own emotions and offer a better care giving experience to their loved one. Embarrassment is a common feeling in patients, like all of us they have been used to looking after themselves and doing what they like when they want to.

To have this all taken away and be completely dependent on others is difficult for anyone to adapt to. This often shows as rudeness or aggression but once you understand the patient you will be able to see it for what it is and react accordingly. Be patient and whatever you do make sure you don’t lose your temper in front of them; you certainly don’t want to make them worse, not to mention that it is unprofessional.

Listening can help caregivers empathize more with the patient

It can be very difficult when you are in constant pain and dependent on others to assist you. This can become much worse if you are not able to share your fears with anyone. A good caregiver will see these fears and will listen. Talking to someone allows a patient to lighten the load and this will help them to cope with the situation. It will also prevent either the patient or their family from getting wound up when there are so many factors, which are beyond their control.

Level of care

Caregivers who take the time to understand their patient’s personalities, needs and situation can offer a far better service. You will be able to relate to the patient and this will trigger a better response from them as they register your intentions. A caregiver who can emphasize with their patient will automatically look for ways to improve both the level of care and the general care experience. The best caregivers have empathy, sympathy and integrity, a difficult mix to balance.

Empathy is vital when caregiving for someone with dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. You must find a way to control your negative emotions and focus on the positive. This will help you get a better response from the patient, not to mention that you’ll be more relaxed and willing to help them out too.

Living at Home and Understanding Dementia Symptoms

Understanding DementiaHaving a loved one diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer’s,  is a very hard circumstance and can be very challenging. Most of the times you want to keep them living at home, and provide the home care for the dementia or Alzheimer’s care they need. However, people get distanced from the one suffering from Dementia since they can barely recognize you; thus it is important to understand the symptoms of dementia and become a step closer to your elderly parents.

Nobody wants to see their aging parent struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Sadly, there are things in life we can’t control, like incurable diseases that could materialize after a certain age. When someone gets dementia, their relationships, priorities, and perceptions on life take an unexpected turn. Nevertheless, certain forms of dementia can be kept under control, reversed and even treated if caught on time. If you have an aging parent, it’s only natural to become concerned with their wellbeing. Are they eating right? Are they becoming more forgetful? Are they in pain? These are questions most concerned children ask themselves on a daily basis.

A 70-year old parent may forget things from time to time, but if you notice that their memory loss becomes intense, then it might be a cause of cognitive decline. Dementia can be identified in many ways. First, you must understand the disease. The more you know the higher chances you have to save your parent and stop the health condition from advancing.

Understanding symptoms of dementia

Dementia is not a sole health condition but a collection of numerous symptoms, and some of the most common are changes in personality, memory loss, and impaired intellectual functions that could result from trauma or disease to the brain. These changes are not normal aging signs, and their side effects are severe enough to impact someone’s daily living, relationships and independence forever. Even though Alzheimer’s is one of the most widespread forms of dementia, there are many others, including mixed and vascular dementia.

If you suspect that your parent may suffer from this dreadful illness, then some of the changes will be noticeable. Remembering, communication, learning and problem solving will become difficult endeavors to accomplish. These are changes that can happen fast, or develop slowly in time. The outcome and progression of dementia differ, but are mainly determined by the form of dementia suffered and side of the brain affected. A specialist in the medical field will provide a complete diagnosis after the patient has undergone a series of tests, clinical exams, and brain scans.

What triggers dementia?

A healthy brain’s mass begins to decline in adulthood. However, this fascinating organ-machine of ours keeps forming vital connections even if we age, thus keeping us sane. When these connections are misplaced because of injury, inflammation, or disease, brain neurons begin to die. The result – dementia; it’s certainly traumatic to see a loved one go through such a horrifying disease. This is why it is important for adults to interfere as soon as the first signs materialize in their aging parent. The faster a doctor understands the cause, the better chances he has to recommend a treatment.

Caring for a parent with dementia

In the United States, there are roughly 10 million people who take care of a parent with dementia. Most of these at-home caregivers are women. It’s tough to do this job and at the same time have a family on your own. But since we’re talking about a parent, you wouldn’t want anyone else to take care of them.

Becoming a caregiver to a sick parent is tough. If you’re an adult and you have kids, you must accept that your aging parent may also have the behavior of a 5-year old. Given that dementia affects the brain, memory loss is not the only disturbing symptom. Many adults don’t want to move their loved one to a nursing home. In general, it’s not because they can’t afford the costs but because they’ve over protective.

Professional care can be good for an elderly suffering from dementia

The option of Home care or aging in pace and caring at home for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s is still an option for some. However, one size does not fit all. Living Well Assisted Living at Home in San Francisco and Marin County recognizes that home care for senior with dementia is an alternative but also, believe it or not, today’s healthcare facilities and nursing homes are no longer what they used to be. Some of these hospices provide exceptional comfort. They also feature all kinds of activities for patients, and they have professional personal taking care of your loved one 24/7. Making the decision and moving your parent to a facility is not something you want to do. But it is necessary.

Only an equipped facility can offer the best care for your loved one. At-home caregiving is great, but it’s still not enough to make the patient feel appreciated. A specialized facility comes with lots of programs, socializing sessions, and other therapies meant to stimulate your parent’s brain and ensure he remains in good physical health for as long as possible.

In collaboration with  Edward Francis and Foresthc.com!

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues, an experience many of us experience, therefore the San Francisco Bay Times, the LGBT News and Calendar for San Francisco and the Bay Area, published an article by Dr. Doris Bersing, founder and CEO of Living Well stressing the importance of caring for yourself when caring for other during the Holiday season and all the “Holiday Blues’ this time brings with it. In the article titled: Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues,  Dr. Bersing says: “… At its best, the holiday season should be a time of happiness and joy, of being nestled in the loving bosom of family and friends. It is a wonderful picture, but the holiday season is fraught with stress for most folks. Expectations of a “perfect” holiday, fed by advertising and media coverage, can contribute to depression for those who don’t feel their holiday is measuring up. The truth is that for many seniors and their caregivers, the rosy picture is a far cry from reality… ‘many people suffer from “holiday blues,” even without the stress of caregiving. For many elders, feelings of sadness, loneliness, and isolation are their holiday companions. The season can be an especially hard time for people away from family and/or who are living alone. This is also especially true for many elders in the LGBT community who have lost their partners, have been ostracized from their family, and find themselves alone and/or dependent on close friends who have become their caregivers. Add holiday season frenzy to the mix, and it’s not hard to see how the blues can emerge.

There are many influencing factors that can contribute to seniors being at particular risk of suffering from the “holiday blues” including: grief and loss, unrealistic expectations, all family dynamics and change resistance. Read the article

Dr. Bersing cannot emphasize enough how important it can be to spend the holiday season in the company of supportive and caring people, thus avoiding drama queens and trouble makers.https://www.livingwellah.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=1962&action=edit&message=10#wpseo_linkdex

How to Assess Your Loved One’s Situation: Review physical, mental, environmental well-being

woman-65675_640Source: AARP

As parents grow older, they face challenges that their adult children may not know how to address. The children may support their parents’ desire to continue living independently, but have concerns about their safety and well-being. One way to help resolve these conflicting emotions, and determine if the parents need assistance, is through an assessment. See what this assessment implies.

Elinor Ginzler, AARP’s Director of Livable Communities, provides tips and guidance on how to do an assessment, as well as on how to evaluate your loved ones’ legal and financial needs. Watch the Video: Assessing the Situation.

If you’re doing an assessment on your own, use the following list as a guide. Gently explore as many of these areas as you can to get a full picture of your loved one’s life. Assessment checklist.

If you are in the predicament of starting to take care of a loved one, check the 8 rules for new caregivers.

Adult Children Taking Care of their Parents: A Typical situation for the “Sandwich Generation”

34587526.thbJohn Jastremski from the Retirement Group discusses the juggling responsibilities adult children face when taking care of their parents. He gives some recommendations and states “… At a time when your career is reaching a peak and you are looking ahead to your own retirement, you may find yourself in the position of having to help your children with college expenses while at the same time looking after the needs of your aging parents. Squeezed in the middle, you’ve joined the ranks of the “sandwich generation”….”

Read more

Elder Care: Navigating the Maze

New York Times Knowledge Network – This course will simplify the maze of procedures and paperwork confronting children and friends who care for aging loved ones. Taught by a journalist who is a leading expert in this field, and who created the popular blog “The New Old Age” on nytimes.com, this course compresses vital information into two weeks, because time constraints are urgent for most people in this situation.

March 30 – April 13, 2011 Instructor: Jane Gross