Create Your All-Star Care Team in 5 Steps

In this country, there is a growing problem regarding a lack of supportive resources for family caregivers. There are government programs, charities and nonprofits that might be able to help intermittently, but what caregivers often need most is sound advice, regular respite and an extra set of hands.

Friends may scatter when one begins caring for a spouse or parent, and not everyone has siblings or other family members they can depend on to share the load. It is crucial for each caregiver to take inventory of their personal supports in order to utilize their help as efficiently as possible. A carefully selected care team is a necessary complement to a loved one’s plan of care. Use these five steps to build your team.

Step 1: Draft a List of Prospective Team Members

Write down the name of each family member, friend or neighbor that you interact with on a regular basis. Forego any initial judgements or doubts about their usefulness in your care plan. You want to avoid limiting any potential sources of assistance from the very beginning, so just let the ideas flow.

Step 2: Assess Each Individual’s Strengths

Now is the time to assess the strong suit of each person on your list. Is your best friend financially savvy? Can your cousin listen to you vent without interrupting or casting judgement? Does your neighbor offer to keep an eye on Mom when she’s tinkering outside in the garden? Each of these people has specific talents or capabilities that can help you execute your care plan, and most have something to contribute, whether big or small. However, be sure to factor in each person’s attitude before asking them to join your team. Your sister may have plenty of free time to drive Dad to and from doctor’s appointments, but if she brings negativity or criticism to your regular routine, then the drawbacks may outweigh the benefits of her involvement.

Step 3: Create Your All-Star Care Team

Revise your remaining list to create a foolproof roster of people who will assist you with hands-on care and day-to-day tasks. Do not include anyone who may make your duties more difficult. This is your go-to tool for getting outside help, whether it is planned well in advance or needed at the last minute. Include each person’s contact information and, if possible, an outline of their weekly schedule. This will help you quickly reference when a team member is available to pitch in.

Step 4: Assign Roles for Each Member

Once you have narrowed down your list to reliable, positive individuals, identify specific tasks in your care plan that would be a good fit for each one. Friends and family often wish they could help, but they are usually unsure of what would be useful to contribute. Individuals who have never walked in a caregiver’s shoes tend to have a difficult time understanding all of the responsibilities that are involved.

It is best for caregivers to be very specific about the kinds of assistance they would appreciate. For example, if your son lives nearby, ask if he can tend to yardwork or any home maintenance projects once or twice a month. If you struggle to prepare dinner on Wednesdays (your busiest day of the week), see if Mom’s friend from church can pick her up for a weekly dinner date. The goal of creating this team is to be able to meet your loved one’s needs (as well as your own) without every single responsibility falling solely on your shoulders. A care plan that lacks meaningful support and respite time is not viable over the long term.

Step 5: Add Some Pros to Your Team

Relatives and friends aren’t the only ones to recruit for your care team. You may feel most comfortable with these people helping out because you know them personally, but remember that not everyone has the personality, time or resources to be even a part-time caregiver. Fortunately, there are a number of professionals who can facilitate the technical aspects of providing care. A financial planner can assist with complicated fiscal decisions, an elder law attorney can ensure that you and your loved one are legally prepared for the future, and a geriatric care manager can coordinate the care your loved one deserves. A social worker or advisor at your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) can help you find and apply for federal, state and local resources that can assist you in your caregiving duties.

Any remaining gaps in your care plan can be filled by paid caregivers and other services. For example, in-home care and adult day care services can provide supervision and stimulation for your loved one when you need to run errands, attend your own doctor’s appointments, enjoy some respite time or go to work. If housekeeping rarely fits into your daily or weekly routine, then hire a cleaning service or arrange to have these tasks added to your home care professional’s responsibilities. Healthy meal delivery, pre-sorted prescription medications, and transportation services are some other options that can simplify your schedule and reduce your workload.

A comprehensive team assists with daily duties and can provide valuable back-up care in instances when the primary caregiver cannot see to their responsibilities. The more support a caregiver has, the less likely they are to experience burnout and the more sustainable the care plan will be.

Who Should Join Your Care Team?

  • Family and Friends
    • Siblings
    • Significant Other
    • Adult Children
    • Close Friends
    • Neighbors
    • Members of Local Community or Religious Groups
    • Grandchildren
  • Professionals
    • Physicians (Primary Care and Specialists)
    • Elder Law Attorneys
    • Geriatric Care Managers
    • Social Workers
    • Financial Advisors
    • Pharmacists
    • Home Care Agencies and Professional Caregivers
    • Adult Day Care Centers
    • Charities, Organizations and Support Programs
    • VA, Medicare and/or Medicaid Advisor(s)

See also: Care Plan 101: Set Yourself Up for Success As a Caregiver

Source: AgingCare by Ashley Huntsberry-Lett

Forming Your “Circle of Help”

Forming Your “Circle of Help”

Never go it alone. The best way to stand up to Alzheimer’s is to gang up on it.

The best way to defeat Alzheimer’s is to come together and gang up on the disease. If you or your spouse have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, please know that you are not alone. Right now, thousands of Alzheimer’s researchers, doctors, nurses, caregivers, support groups, and long-term care facilities are fighting for you on many fronts.

One of the most important fronts, of course, is the home front. My new book, Mike & Me, is one of several new books to chronicle the changing face of home care among Alzheimer’s couples and caregivers. Together, we are learning how the astonishing power of love, patience, compassion, and stay-at-home care can be mobilized by virtually every couple to help Alzheimer’s patients defy the old statistics and live a longer, fuller life.

My Husband and I Made A Deal

Early in my husband Mike’s 10-year journey with Alzheimer’s, we made a mutual commitment: As long as it was safe for him and me, Mike and I would live together in our home and make the Alzheimer’s journey together. Our goal was to keep Mike’s life as normal as possible for as long as possible, and that would entail staying in our home and community. It turned out that keeping that commitment to Mike was only possible because of a circle of friends and family who gradually formed around us and helped us every step of the way.

Looking back, I now realize that one of the most important things Alzheimer’s couples must learn in the early going is to simply reach out for help from friends and family. That probably sounds too obvious to mention, but you would be surprised to learn how many Alzheimer’s couples try, initially, to go it alone in their care. My husband Mike and I were one of those couples in the beginning. You see, we weren’t accustomed to asking people for help or bothering others with our difficulties. In the past, whenever a problem arose, Mike and I had always turned to each other for help, and, at first, that’s how we tried to deal with Alzheimer’s too.

Forming Your Circle of Help 

So why do I tell you these things? I tell you because I want you to believe that your “circle of help” – your friends, family, neighbors, and community – is waiting for you, too, if you will only let yourself reach out.

Perhaps like you, my challenge in the beginning was to simply open up to the idea of accepting help from others. But once I opened up, I quickly learned two things.

First, I was surprised at how many people were more than willing to help Mike and me. And second, I didn’t have to accept everyone’s help; I could still be selective about who I would let into our circle.

As time went on, I eventually built a small team of people – kindred spirits – who were helping me care for Mike. I like to think of them not just as a team, but as a “circle” of thoughtful people who surrounded us and helped care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It felt like such a natural process. One by one, along came certain friends and neighbors who thoughtfully recognized that we had a need of one kind or another and offered to help, each in his or her own way.

You may not know it yet, but you, too, have a circle of support quietly waiting for you. Watch for it, welcome it, be thankful for it. Yes, it’s a little scary at first to allow people in when you feel most vulnerable. But if you do plan to stay in your home together, rather than go to a care facility, then you too will have to turn to a circle of caring people who can help you.

Source: UsAgainstAlzheimer’s by Rosalys Peel

FEED YOUR BRAIN: TIPS FOR BETTER BRAIN HEALTH

FEED YOUR BRAIN: TIPS FOR BETTER BRAIN HEALTH

Spend some time with the 50-plus age group and it becomes clear that memory and brain function are hot topics.

With many baby boomers encountering changes in their brain function—causing concern, and, let’s face it, amusement, at times— it is not surprising that boomers are looking for ways to hold on to their memory and increase cognitive ability.

Being vital until the end of life is something that everyone wishes for but not all of us are lucky enough to experience. According to the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org), 44 percent of Americans between the ages of 75 and 84 have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and by age 85 that number goes up to 50 percent. Those numbers are driving a whole new market of brain-enhancing health products, from supplements to video games, all aiming to increase cognitive ability. But will this do us any good? Are there proactive steps we can take to stop the deterioration of the brain as we age?

According to mounting evidence in the field of neuroscience, the answer appears to be yes. Research is revealing that the aging brain actually has more capacity to change and adapt than was previously thought. According to Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, founder and chief director at the Center for Brain Health in Dallas, Texas, it appears that the brain continues to develop neural pathways to adapt to new experiences, learn new information, and create new memories.(1) In fact, studies show that the brain can actually get smarter as we age: the more new learning experiences we have, the more neural pathways we create, which means we can actually stockpile a larger network of neurons that can markedly slow down the process of cognitive decline. The more we develop in the brain now, the fewer years of decline we experience down the road.

Research conducted by the Center for Brain Health shows that older brains can be more receptive to pattern recognition, judgment, and accumulation of knowledge and experience, giving those over 50 an advantage over younger brains if—and that is a big if—the physical structure of the brain is not in decline.(2) Physical decline of the brain, meaning the actual shrinkage and deterioration that begins in our forties, corresponds with cognitive decline. All of this is to say that brain health needs to be a priority for those heading into their forties and fifties to reap the most significant rewards.

The goal is to decrease stress on the brain, which breaks down brain function, and to build new neural pathways through mental stimulation. The good news is that building better brain health in your everyday life is easier than you might think.

  • Reduce multitasking to help preserve brain function. Practice focusing on the most important thing at the moment instead of trying to cover everything all at once. This higher level of thinking actually means less dementia as we age.
  • The brain does not like routine so avoid robotic, automated behavior and take initiative to learn new behaviors. Simple things like changing your morning routine or learning to eat with your left hand will stimulate the brain.
  • Repetitive mental stimulation such as learning a new language or a new word every day, can improve performance of other tasks. Just think: improving your bridge game may actually improve your ability to drive a car.
  • While “brain games,” video games, and subscription websites are flooding the market, there is no evidence that these things are more effective than learning new skills on your own. The key concept is new: branch out into new languages, sports, and other novel skills to stimulate to the brain.

All the information we are learning about how significant a role basic life functions—the way you eat, sleep, and move—play in maintaining brain health and preventing chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease emphasizes the value of living a healthy lifestyle.

6 Tips for Brain Health
Here are six lifestyle factors that can have an impact on brain health.

  1. Diet. Many foods have been linked to brain health, and new information about the role of diet continues to emerge. Some of what research is revealing includes the benefit of the anti-inflammatory properties of a plant-based Mediterranean diet, which includes healthy fats such as olive oil and high-fiber grains, in preventing cognitive decline;(3) the impact of vitamin E, found in nuts and seeds, on the development of dementia; and the importance of decreasing the consumption of refined sugar and eating a limited amount of high fiber carbohydrates because research shows that dementia and Alzheimer’s may be due to “diabetes of the brain,” meaning insulin resistance in the brain that may cause loss of brain cells.(4,5,6)
  2. Weight control. An increasing body of evidence shows that being overweight in midlife increases risk factors for lower and faster decline in cognitive ability.(7) Weight control aids in blood pressure control, which affects brain function. Slow, steady weight loss that is sustainable has great benefit to brain health.
  3. Sleep. The brain actually does a lot of smart things while you sleep, so getting adequate sleep (seven to nine hours for the majority of us) can boost learning, attention, and memory. While sleeping, your brain practices new skills, sorts out memories for the future, and problem-solves, which is one of the reasons why “sleeping on it” often brings answers to problems.
  4. Exercise. Cardiovascular exercise is vital to brain health; it increases blood flow, delivering more nutrients to the brain. Most important, it increases brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a protein that aids in the survival of brain cells. Any exercise helps, but the real benefit shows up when one is active at least three hours per week.
  5. Stress management. Stress and anxiety are associated with memory disorders. Stress can interfere with the function of neurotransmitters in the brain and create toxins that cause cell damage and shrinkage of the brain. Meditation, prayer, and other relaxation techniques along with more-intense therapies may be necessary to control stress. Downtime and relaxation improve higher level thinking and brain health.
  6. Supplements. Dietary supplements that have flooded the market have not been proven effective in slowing cognitive decline. It is not about one nutrient but the diet as a whole. An aspirin per day and however, has been shown to be effective due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Statin medication that is prescribed to prevent heart disease has been shown to provide the same benefit, and there is increasing evidence that a multivitamin a day keeps the brain in tip-top shape.(8,9,10)

That’s right—supplementing with a daily multivitamin can improve cognitive function, according to a series of studies published by researchers from the United Kingdom.

Several teams of British neuroscientists studied the effects of multivitamin supplementation on mood and cognitive functioning among adults and children. In each study, healthy men, women, and children took the daily supplements for four to twelve weeks and then were tested for attention span, memory, accuracy, multi-tasking and other cognitive functions. The researchers also assessed participants’ mood and stress levels.

The results of the studies indicated that multivitamins improved cognitive function—even after only a few weeks of supplementation. In fact, men who took high doses of vitamin B-complex supplements showed improvements of cognitive function and also reported less mental fatigue and higher energy levels. Women also benefited from the daily supplements, as evidenced by an improvement in the ability to multi-task. Children between the ages of 8 and 14 performed well on attention-based tasks.

A multivitamin isn’t a magic bullet and certainly cannot serve as a substitute for a healthy diet—but it can be one component of a healthy lifestyle. It’s one of those things that falls into the category of “can’t hurt, might help.” So, if you needed another reason to add a multivitamin to your daily health regimen, add cognitive function to the list. If you want to give your brain a boost, start by swallowing your vitamins.

Source: Age Gracefully America  Charles H. Weaver, MD

Emergency Planning: Is Your Loved One’s Long-Term Care Facility Prepared?

Each year, nature pummels the United States with various natural disasters. Americans find themselves contending with tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, wildfires, floods and heat waves that only seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity.

Individuals who are elderly, disabled or have special needs are particularly at risk during and after these events. Preparedness is crucial for those who are still living in the community and for those who reside in residential care communities like assisted living facilities, memory care units and nursing homes. When disaster strikes, long-term care facilities are responsible for ensuring the safety of all their residents and staff on site. In some cases, evacuation and transportation to another care facility out of harm’s way may be necessary.

Securing the safety of frail elders is a huge undertaking. Many long-term care residents are unable to walk on their own, connected to life-sustaining medical equipment or have severe cognitive impairments due to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Every senior living facility should have a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan in place that establishes protocols for both evacuating and sheltering in place.

It’s beneficial for family members who have relatives in senior living to learn about how these communities handle potential emergencies. This will help families understand exactly what the plan of action is for their loved ones and how it may or may not mesh with their own emergency preparations and plans.

Questions to Ask a Long-Term Care Facility About Disaster Preparedness

The following list highlights crucial information on emergency planning and evacuation procedures provided by The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. You can print these questions out and use them to help guide your discussion about emergency procedures with the administrator at your loved one’s long-term care facility.

General Emergency Planning

  • What is the facility’s emergency plan for evacuation and for sheltering in place? (Plans will be different for hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.)
  • How are these plans coordinated with community resources, the city, county and state emergency management?

Emergency Training for Staff Members

  • What staff training procedures are in place for emergency evacuations?
  • Are evacuation drills practiced with both staff and residents?
  • Are there enough staff available to execute emergency plans during all shifts? For example, if a fire breaks out in the middle of the night, will the skeleton crew be able to handle the emergency?

Family Communication

  • How does the facility discuss emergency planning with their residents?
  • How and when will families be notified about a loved one’s status and whereabouts?
  • Is there a phone number for out-of-town family members to call for information before, during and after an emergency event?

On-site Emergency Resources

  • Does the facility have an emergency backup power system or generators? If so, how long can this back-up system provide power? What parts of the facility will have electricity?
  • Are extra medical supplies, equipment and medications (at least a 7-day supply for each resident) stored on-site?
  • How much emergency oxygen is available in portable cylinders?
  • Is the facility prepared with enough potable water and nonperishable food for residents and staff?
  • If the facility is multi-level and the elevators cannot be used, what is the procedure for evacuating physically impaired residents quickly and safely down the stairs?
  • Do residents have emergency supplies and first aid kits in their rooms? (Kits should contain clothing, toiletries, a flashlight, ID and other critical items.)

Evacuation Procedures

  • How will residents be evacuated? Are there contracts in place with transportation providers to relocate residents?
  • Where will residents be evacuated to? Are there contracts in place with other facilities to provide temporary housing for displaced residents?
  • Do family members have the right to evacuate their loved ones on their own if they choose? How would this decision affect a senior’s residency in the facility and associated costs?
  • How are elders who are on life-support or receiving hospice care transported?
  • If the building must be evacuated quickly, what procedures are in place to ensure that no residents are misplaced or left behind?
  • How will residents be identified during and after an evacuation?
  • If the facility is evacuated, how are residents’ charts, medical information, medications and other supplies transported and when?
  • Can family members meet residents at a designated location? Can they assist loved ones at the facility to prepare for evacuation?
  • Will a trained employee ride with residents on each vehicle to oversee their care as needed?

Source: AgingCare by Marlo Solitto

8 Odd Assisted Living Rules to Be Aware Of

The world of elder care is fraught with countless rules, regulations and guidelines. It’s enough to make even an experienced caregiver’s head spin. The myriad of complex laws that apply to the different levels of senior housing often makes an already difficult decision even more challenging.

There are federal guidelines in place for long-term care facilities that are certified by Medicare, licensing standards and Medicaid regulations enacted on the state level, and unique in-house rules that individual communities elect to follow (these are usually detailed in a facility’s contract or admission agreement). These policies and procedures are used to calculate costs for services, set staffing ratios, determine when care plans must be updated, define the level of care a facility can provide and much more.

Because assisted living is an intermediate level of long-term care that varies widely by state, gaining even a cursory understanding of some of the unique rules these providers must follow will be invaluable when making care decisions for an aging loved one.

  1. The Band-Aid application ban: Most assisted living facilities (ALFs) are only able to provide “limited health care services,” which are carefully regulated. For example, ALFs in the state of Rhode Island are not allowed to provide even basic wound care, such as the application of a Band-Aid, unless it has been ordered by a physician and it must be applied by a qualified, licensed staff member. While this regulation may seem frivolous, it helps control what level of care an assisted living community can legally provide. Compared to a skilled nursing facility, which offers around-the-clock medical care, ALFs follow less strict staffing, licensing and training requirements. It’s important to educate yourself on what medical care services a particular community can provide, especially when accounting for future changes in your loved one’s condition, before making the decision to move them there.
  2. The care plan command: Many states require assisted living staff to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of each resident upon admission to develop a personalized care plan. In Georgia, this must be done within 14 days of an elder’s admission, and the plan must be reevaluated at least once a year (or every three months for those residing in memory care units) and whenever an elder’s care needs change.
    In California, an aging adult’s care plan must also include an assessment of their likes and dislikes, as well as suggestions for appropriate community-run social activities for them to engage in.
    It’s important to inquire about prospective facilities’ care plan policies. You should be able to receive a written copy of the current plan at any time and request care team meetings to discuss any issues and potential changes.
  3. The medication adherence mandate: Residents have the right to control their receipt of medical services based on informed decision making, including the refusal of medications. However, ALF residents in Idaho must take their medications as prescribed by their doctor or risk being discharged. A reputable facility will document the refusal and contact the resident’s physician and authorized family members to work on a solution, but these facilities are not obligated to retain residents who endanger their own health.
    Rules regarding who can dispense and administer medications in assisted living communities can be especially tricky. The key is to determine which staff members are allowed to help a resident with their medications, how much assistance they can legally provide and how related issues are handled. This will enable you to determine whether a prospective facility can provide adequate assistance to ensure your loved one’s regimen is followed.
  4. The continuous medical care cut-off: In most states, the cut-off point for an individual to be able to reside in an assisted living community is whether they need around-the-clock skilled nursing care. Assisted living communities may be able to offer residents increased help with certain medical tasks, such as medication management, insulin administration and blood glucose testing, at an increased cost. However, even those facilities that employ certified nursing personnel are not allowed to admit residents who require full-time medical care. If your loved one needs 24/7 care, you may want to consider hiring home health care or placement in a skilled nursing facility.
  5. The leisure activities requirement: Assisted living communities in Georgia require their residents to be capable of participating in the social and leisure activities they provide. Obviously, staff members cannot demand that your loved one actually engage in these events, but it’s often advisable to encourage an elder to pursue an active social life when moving to senior living.
  6. The toe nail care condition: In Idaho, there are restrictions on which staff members can clip a diabetic resident’s nails. Only licensed medical professionals may assist with this personal care task because individuals with diabetes tend to heal slowly and experience limited sensation in their extremities. Even a minor cut or abrasion can become dangerously infected. This is one example of how a loved one’s unique needs directly influence your search for a long-term care provider.
  7. The dementia training directive: States typically require anyone working in an assisted living community to undergo formal training in how to interact with residents who have dementia. In some cases, this mandate may extend beyond the obvious medical staff and personal care aides to encompass all employees who have regular contact with residents, including kitchen, housekeeping and maintenance staff. If you’re caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, be sure to ask all prospective communities what type of initial and ongoing dementia training is mandated for their employees. This can have a big impact on a resident’s safety and the overall quality of care they receive.
  8. The ineffective CPR exemption: In the event that an ALF resident in Georgia becomes unresponsive and it is apparent that any effort to revive them would be futile (i.e. their body is stiff, their skin is blue/grey and cool to the touch, etc.), staff members do not have to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the effectiveness and advisability of CPR on seniors. For example, an independent living facility in California came under intense scrutiny when a nurse refused to give a dying woman CPR.
    When it comes to emergency resuscitation efforts, the best way to avoid confusion is to encourage your loved one to fill out an advance care directive. Also, be sure that you fully understand the policies and procedures a particular community has regarding CPR and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders.

Of course, only a few of these sample regulations may apply to an aging loved one who is looking to move into an assisted living community. However, being aware of the varied and complex policies that govern this type of residential care will assist you in your research and help you determine which questions to ask when evaluating potential providers.

Source: AgingCare Anne-Marie Botek

Caregiving is the Greatest Teacher for Future Planning

Our Guest Author this month will help many who are facing aging alone once their family caregiving role comes to an end. Carol Marak is the founder of CarolMarak.com, the Elder Orphan Facebook group, and @Carebuzz Facebook Live events. She is an expert about everything aging. Herself a former family caregiver, Carol is personally equipped with aging alone expertise.

No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, if you’re past it, in the middle of it, or it’s a paying job, the lessons learned will equip you for your own older life.

That’s what happened to me.  After caring for both parents, I realized, “There’s no one here for me to do all that I’ve done for them.”  A thought like this will quickly jolt anyone into scrambling for a plan. I’ve always been the independent sort, and now I face growing older without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Like me, there are many women, and men, who find themselves in the similar circumstances. Growing older alone. And most of you, I bet, are caring or have cared for a relative as well.


          Carol Marak,
      Aging Alone Expert

The lessons learned give insights into what’s ahead.  At first it’s scary, but soon you’re grateful because you know so much and feel prepared, sort of. You know how to respond in an emergency, what’s needed when making serious medical decisions and legal matters, how to prepare for a medical treatment, the out-of-pocket costs of medical and other necessities, what to expect when you ring a doctor at 2:00 AM, and how to arrange for extra help.

Above all, you know that one day you will need help!  That’s wisdom you cannot buy.

But what people like me, aging alone, don’t learn from helping parents is, who do we count on for assistance, to help us respond to an emergency, make medical decisions, bring us a cup of soup, take us to the doctor, run errands, and more.

We learn what’s to come. But we don’t know where to start when planning for it or even thinking about it.

Growing older for my parents was totally different than what it is for me. They didn’t feel the need or urgency to prepare.  Growing older was part of life and they had no doubts about knowing who would step up for them.

Caring for an older person is hard. Period. No ifs buts or maybes. And making a plan for that is even more difficult. Period.  It’s takes time, effort, and patience. But making a plan when aging alone, well, that’s titanic. We question:

  • Will my money outlast me?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Who will be my health care proxy?
  • What if I’m all alone and lonely, who will come over?
  • What if I’m sick, who will look in on me?

That’s the short list.

Future Planning

These are the tough questions and they’re the reason I started working on my future plan soon after my dad passed away.  I’ve created a FREE starter kit for people who have the urgency to prepare. It’s yours for free to download here.

The thing about planning, it’s not meant to be a once and done deal. Instead, it expands our understanding of the kind of world we want and shows us a path we’d need to take to get to a better place–or, at minimum, the paths we need to avoid.

I believe we all need to have a sense of what’s next, and a vision of the kind of world we want. Planning for the future should deal with tomorrow’s problems–which if not addressed will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.

Source: Senior Care Corner

What Happens When a Senior Can No Longer Care for Their Pet?

Howard Cutler knows the joy animals can bring to people. His childhood memories are filled with stories of his family’s two beloved dogs and cats. After moving into a senior housing complex in Atlanta, Georgia, Cutler acted on his love of animals and adopted a Shih Tzu named Ollie from a fellow resident who could no longer care for the animal. For seven years, the pair was inseparable until Cutler’s Parkinson’s disease forced him to move to a different assisted care facility that didn’t allow pets.

“He was my friend and my companion, and giving him up was very difficult for me,” Cutler explains. As much as he wanted to keep little Ollie, Cutler knew he needed to rehome his beloved pet. He began looking among his neighbors in the senior complex to find a new owner. “Ollie was loved by everyone there, but I was worried that I wouldn’t find the right person.”

Cutler was fortunate to find the perfect fit in his friend and neighbor Nancy Markovich. “Howard was heartsick that he had to give up Ollie,” Markovich recalls. “So, I offered to adopt the dog and promised to take good care of him.”

Ollie’s veterinarian, Dr. Duffy Jones, says pets provide much-needed comfort and companionship to people of all ages, especially seniors. “The value that animals bring to people is amazing,” he says. “I’ve seen older pet owners who are struggling financially choose not feed themselves so they can feed their animals. Their pet is the reason they get up in the morning.”

But when aging pet owners find themselves unable to care for their animals, surrendering the pet is often the best course of action. “Most owners understand they’re sick and their pet needs more care than they’re able to provide,” Dr. Jones says. “They want to make a plan for their pets; It’s a real source of comfort.”

Senior Pet Owners Must Plan for the Unexpected

Dr. Jones encourages all pet owners to devise a succession plan for their animals as early as possible. Having a “plan b” in place before the pet owner becomes too ill, needs to move to a care facility or passes away will offer invaluable peace of mind for the owner and added security for their pet. He offers the following tips for creating a contingency plan for a loving animal:

  • Consider adoption. Ask friends and family who are familiar with the pet if they are willing and able to offer the animal a new home. Those who interact with the pet regularly will be better equipped to determine if the animal’s size, personality, routine, etc. would fit well with their schedule and lifestyle.
  • Talk to a vet. Veterinarians have many resources at their disposal and can often help rehome a pet. No-kill shelters can also be a useful option, and there are many non-profit rescue organizations around the U.S. that will also assist older adults in finding new homes for their animals.
  • Get the owner’s input. Be sure to let the pet owner have a say in the decision. Ask them who they would like to look after their pet. “In some cases, older people don’t have a lot of family around and their friends are going through similar transitions, so they worry what will happen to their pets,” explains Dr. Jones. “Animal owners are visibly relieved when we tell them we’ve found their pets a new home. It’s not uncommon for them to cry.”
  • Allow for a smooth transition. Ideally, the current owner will be able to help the pet transition to its new home. The goal is to help the animal and new owner build trust and become familiar with one another incrementally. Try having the new owner come for extended visits with the pet, take the animal for walks and care for it in the new home for short periods before full-time ownership begins. Small steps are easier on everyone involved compared to an abrupt change.
  • Rehomed pets aren’t gone forever. While evaluating prospective adopters, discuss the possibility of allowing the original owner to continue visiting with the animal. Even a monthly visit with a cherished furry friend can brighten up a senior’s day.

Dr. Jones says euthanizing a pet should be the last resort. “Some older people think that putting a pet down is best because the animal is so bonded to their owner,” he says. “We usually try to talk them out of it, explain that there are so many other options and then we work with the owner to rehome their pet(s).”

When Is It Time to Rehome a Senior’s Pet?

With so much research touting the physical and mental benefits that animals provide to humans, Dr. Jones advises that older people keep their pets for as long as possible. Unfortunately, though, circumstances do change. If either the pet or their elderly owner is living in a neglectful situation or experiencing a reduced quality of life, then it is time to explore alternative options. It can be difficult to balance the health, safety and happiness of both the senior and their pet, but it must be done.

Dr. Jones sympathizes with family members who don’t know what to do about their aging loved ones and their furry friends. “For caregivers, the thought of taking care of a person and their pet can be overwhelming,” he notes. “Sometimes older people haven’t trained their pets well, which can amount to behavioral problems and unsanitary conditions. But what people don’t see is that these animals mean so much to their owners. Separation often causes physical and emotional decline in both parties.”

Balance What Is Best for the Senior and Their Pet

Markovich has no regrets about adopting Ollie. She tried to make the transition as smooth as possible for both pet and owner. Cutler now receives the care and assistance he requires while Ollie gets the love and stimulation that dogs thrive on. Markovich inherited Ollie’s food and water dishes from Cutler and even places them in the same spot in her apartment at the senior housing community. The twosome goes for daily walks and Markovich hopes that she’s kept Ollie trained to Cutler’s standards.

Every month, Cutler gets to see his favorite companion when Markovich brings Ollie for a pet therapy visit at the assisted living community. “When he comes to see me, he’s overjoyed,” says Cutler. “When Nancy is ready to leave, he goes to her side to let me know he was happy to see me, but he is leaving with Nancy. I feel sad about that, but also happy that I was able to find a good home for him.”

Markovich is equally grateful for the opportunity to help a friend in need and to find the loving companionship that a pet brings. “Ollie sits by me on the sofa, sleeps on my bed and we are thick as thieves. He is a true blessing for me,” she remarks.

Source: AgingCare  by Candace Rotolo

Should You Quit Your Job to Care for Your Elderly Parent?

As parents age and need more assistance, most adult children do what they can to help. For many, the first step is a weekly stop by Mom and Dad’s home to assess the situation and perhaps help with some chores and errands. Often, these check-ins increase in frequency until it becomes a routine part of each day.

Family caregivers typically look into community services and in-home care for assistance. They research adult day care centers and assisted living communities. However, most seniors are adamant about wanting to remain in their own homes and receive assistance from their own children. They don’t want “strangers” in their house or driving them to engagements.

Sick days and paid time off begin to dwindle. Performance suffers and unpaid leave becomes the only option for taking time away from work to handle emergencies and doctor’s appointments. Eventually, like so many other family caregivers, you consider quitting your job, putting your career on hold. While it won’t be easy, it’ll just be a temporary solution, ideally with minimal impact. Right?

The Benefits of Leaving Work to Care for a Family Member

You already know what may be gained by giving up your job and becoming the primary full-time caregiver for your parents. You would benefit from knowing firsthand how they are faring day and night. You could save them from paying for in-home care or adult day care. You wouldn’t have to worry about the quality of care they are receiving from outside sources. You could likely delay, if not eliminate, their need for nursing home care. You may be able to deepen your relationship with your parents and grow closer to them.

Keep in mind that every family is unique. For some, these benefits are realistic yet short-lived. For others, these benefits are simply unattainable ideals. Caregiver burnout, financial strain and changes in health and relationships can severely undermine even the best laid care plans.

The Costs of Quitting a Job for Caregiving

While the benefits seem straightforward enough, the true costs of deciding to quit your job to care for Mom or Dad are much more complex.

A deficit in or loss of monthly income is likely the biggest factor in this decision, and that change can usually be tolerated on a temporary basis. However, caregiving can drag on for months and even years. Many caregivers do not think about the long-term effects of this choice, but it’s crucial not to forget about or ignore your own financial future.

Yes, stepping in to help your aging parents may feel good and help them save money. If they have significant assets and don’t outlive their savings, you may even recoup some of the financial resources you gave up by inheriting part of their estate when they die. But, my best advice to family caregivers is never to rely on that outcome.

It is highly likely that your parents will still need care in a senior living facility at some point, regardless of whether you embrace unemployment to personally spearhead their care. When the time comes for placement in long-term care, their financial resources will dwindle quickly unless they are fortunate to have a very good long-term care insurance policy or abundant savings. Therefore, assuming that you will financially recover after “it’s all over” is very risky. Even if a personal care agreement is put in place very early on to compensate you for your services, there is still no guarantee that your parents’ funds will see them through.

Obviously, this decision involves giving up a paycheck for a certain amount of time, but that’s not the only thing that’s on the line. Consider the following implications that may not initially occur to family caregivers who are contemplating quitting their jobs.

  1. Social Security Benefits: Even though family caregivers work very long, hard hours, these work hours do not show up on one’s Social Security record. Depending on the number of years you spend officially unemployed, you not only lose your take-home wages, but you also lose the opportunity to work toward earning hundreds of dollars a month in Social Security retirement benefits.
  2. Retirement Savings Plans: Without a job, you’ll miss out on the ability to participate in an employer’s retirement plan or 401(k) match. Unless you had a healthy retirement plan before you quit your job, your financial future is likely to be bleak. In fact, most family caregivers who give up their jobs end up withdrawing funds from their savings and retirement accounts prematurely to offset their lost income and cover monthly expenses.
  3. Job skills: As other colleagues in your field move up and gain experience, your skills are likely to wane during your unemployment. Countless people have left the workforce and been unpleasantly surprised to find that new educational requirements, technological expertise and training are now required for jobs similar to the ones they held before.
  4. Re-entering the Workforce: It’s easier to get a new job when you already have one, compared to job hunting while unemployed. In today’s tight job market, re-entering the workforce may not be easy, especially with a significant gap in employment on your resume.
  5. Ageism: As your parents age and you care for them, you, too, are growing older. Age discrimination is illegal, but when you’re finally able to work again, potential employers can find other ostensible reasons for not hiring you, such as out-of-date skills.
  6. Caregiver Isolation: Not everyone is cut out to be a full-time caregiver. You may find that, while you are glad not to be juggling a job and caregiving responsibilities, you miss the work atmosphere, your paycheck and the social interaction you had as an employed person. Caregiving can be a profoundly lonely job.

As with all issues in caregiving, there is no black and white answer. For some, leaving work for caregiving is the only right thing to do. For others, it can lead to financial ruin and a lost sense of purpose and identity outside of providing care. As a nation, we need more affordable elder care resources and better support from employers so that gainful employment, financial security and dedication to family are attainable goals that can coexist. Until more options are made available to Americans, adult children who wish to care for their aging parents will continue facing heartbreakingly difficult decisions like this one.

Source: AgingCare Carol Bradley Bursack

5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Caregiving is a labor of love, and love is about selflessness and sacrifice. Spouses give up so much for each other, parents constantly put their children’s needs before their own, and when those 5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiverchildren become grown adults with aging parents, they want to return the love and care they received.

If you find yourself consistently making sacrifices to care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, your heart is certainly in the right place. But such devotion can also take its toll on your health and well-being.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to report higher levels of burden and stress than other caregivers due to the cognitive and physical limitations experienced by the care recipients. And, a word of caution: a study from the National Alliance for Caregiving (PDF 2.6 MB) found that as care recipients’ dementias get worse, the health of their caregivers tended to diminish significantly as well.

Consciously taking steps to care for yourself is important both for your sake and your loved one’s. Feeling physically, emotionally and mentally refreshed will help you be the best caregiver you can be.

    1. Say Yes to Help
      It might require swallowing some guilt or pride, but if you feel overwhelmed, stressed to the max and exhausted, it’s time to ask for help. Talk to your other family members and come up with a solution together. Maybe the others can pitch in more regularly to give you a respite. Or maybe you’ll decide to hire outside help. Non-medical in-home senior care agencies like Home Instead Senior Care specialize in finding just the right caregiver to match your loved one’s needs, interests and personality. They can provide care for just a few hours per week or as much as 24/7 care. You’ll find peace of mind when you can take a break from caregiving and attend to your own needs knowing your loved one is with a well-trained, trusted caregiver.
    2. Stay Informed
      Knowledge is power when it comes to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Arming yourself with information will reduce worry and stress while boosting your confidence and ability to take control of your situation.

    3. Find Support
      This could mean joining a caregiver support group in your community, taking part in an online community for Alzheimer’s caregivers, or just finding a good friend willing to listen and lend a shoulder to cry on. You need a safe space to vent your frustrations (without taking it out on your family) and a source of encouragement. Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is one of the hardest jobs out there, so it may help to hear other caregivers’ stories and take the journey together.
    4. Take Care of YourselfMuch easier said than done, of course, but taking time to take care of your own needs is absolutely essential.
      • Avoid skipping or putting off your own doctor appointments
      • Take time to yourself everyday to do something you want to do
      • Listen to your body and give it what it needs—rest, exercise, a chance to cry, a nice massage, healthier food, a doctor’s check-up, etc.

While you will inevitably still make some personal sacrifices, limit them to the ones you feel are most important. Keep your stress levels in check by taking the Caregiver StressMeter assessment and learn what you need to do to maintain your own health and spirits.

  1. Focus On the Positive
    Make a point each day to note the things that went well, focus on what your loved one can do rather than dwelling on the difficulties, and don’t hesitate to break out your sense of humor! Never underestimate the power of a good, hearty laugh to ease tension and melt away stress. Negativity, on the other hand, will just drag you down, so strive to maintain good moods and attitudes to remain at the top of your game.

Even if it seems like caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s demands all your time and energy, know that you’re entitled to take personal time for yourself. It’s not only allowed, it’s necessary. Start right now—choose one thing you can do to feel better today and you’ll be on your way toward a more rewarding caregiving experience.

Source CaregiverStress.com

Scams to Watch Out for in 2019

Scams to Watch Out for in 2019It is estimated that older adults lose billions of dollars to scammers each year. But there is good news—last year the Federal Trade Commission noted that older consumers are more likely to report they’ve been victimized by financial exploitation than their younger counterparts.

Here are three scams that are notably making the rounds.

1. Beware of Social Security spoofing calls

There’s been a significant uptick in fraudulent telephone calls from people claiming to represent the Social Security Administration (SSA). In them, unknown callers threaten victims that they face arrest or other legal action if they fail to call a provided phone number or press the number indicated in the message to address the issue. Sometimes the scammers switch tactics and say that they want to help an individual activate a suspended Social Security number. They may even “spoof” the actual Social Security hotline number to appear on the recipient’s phone: 1-800-772-1213.

If you receive one of these calls, hang up. Know that Social Security rarely contacts persons by phone unless you have ongoing business with them and they never make threats about arrest or legal action.

Report suspicious calls to the SSA Office of the Inspector General by calling 1-800-269-0271 or submitting a report on the OIG website.

2. Watch for a new twist on the old grandparent scam

The grandparent scam has been around for several years. In this approach, a person calls an older adult pretending to be a grandchild who’s been involved in an accident or legal trouble and needs money immediately.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that instead of using wire transfer or gift cards, an increasing number of older adults are mailing cash to these fraudsters, with a median individual loss of $9,000. According to reports, the scammers often ask seniors to divide the bills into envelopes and place them between the pages of a magazine, then send them using various carriers, including UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service.

The FTC warns that if you or a loved one receives one of these calls, don’t act right away. Call that grandchild back on a correct phone number and verify their whereabouts. If you’ve mailed cash, report it right away to the Postal Service or shipping company you used. Some people have been able to stop delivery by acting quickly and giving a tracking number. Be sure to also file a complaint to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

3. Only work with reputable agencies after a natural disaster

Wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes—these unpredictable forces of nature can be devastating to those living in affected areas. Even those not directly affected may want to lend support in whatever way they can.

Unfortunately, natural disasters are a golden opportunity for scammers, who target both those who’ve been directly affected and those who want to offer their support. Natural disaster scams typically start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail, or in person. Scammers may:

  • Impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-meaning consumers.
  • Set up fake websites with names that mimic legitimate charities to trick people into sending money.
  • Pretend to be from the IRS and collect personal information under the guise of helping victims file loss claims and get tax refunds.

To find reputable charities to support victims of natural disasters, use the IRS’s tax exempt organization search or look for an organization’s charity rating on places such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator.

If you’re a disaster victim, use NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® disaster assistance tool to find legitimate help with relief and financial assistance.

Pass it on!

One of the most important ways to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to pass along information about scams that are making the rounds. Through the Pass It On campaign, the FTC offers free materials you can download or order and share in your community to protect older adults from scams.

Source: NCOA – Nationa Council on Aging