Little-Known Winter Dangers For Elders

FallsLittle-Known Winter Dangers For Elders, and hypothermia are likely to top the list of caregiver concerns during the icy winter months. But, elderly loved ones are also at risk for some lesser known, but still impactful, hazards brought on by frigid weather.

 Seasonal affective disorder and vitamin D deficiency can be hazardous to a senior’s health. The good new is, they are both easily treatable if identified and dealt with properly.

Winter SADness

Feeling a bit glum may seem like an ordinary reaction to the fading glow of the holidays. But, when that feeling of sadness persists for more than a week or two, it might not be just the lack of festive lights and carols getting your elderly loved one down.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known by the acronym, SAD, is a form of depression that cycles with the seasons. It can occur during any time of the year, but it typically hits most people in the winter.

As the weather gradually gets colder and the days shorter, people affected by the winter-induced form of SAD will generally begin to feel the symptoms of depression, including; a loss of energy, an increased appetite and an enhanced feeling of lethargy and tiredness.

According to the National Institutes of Health, SAD is more likely to strike women and people who live in northern areas where the sun is not as strong or constant.

The main difference between SAD and general depression is that SAD only strikes during certain times of the year. The hormonal changes that lead to depressive symptoms in people with SAD are usually caused by a decline in the amount of daylight during the winter and fall.

These effects can be compounded if a person primarily stays indoors and doesn’t have the opportunity to venture out into the sun often.

Turning their Frown Upside Down

Like other forms of depression, SAD can be treated with antidepressant medications, which are most effective if started prior to the onset of symptoms each year.

Another form of treatment designed to alleviate the symptoms of SAD is light therapy.

Light therapy utilizes a piece of equipment called a ‘light box’—essentially a fluorescent lamp that gives off light similar to natural sunlight.

A good quality light box generally costs about $200 and most come with a filter that blocks UV rays so that the light does not to damage a person’s eyes or skin.

Research has shown that, when used properly, a light box can help decrease the amount of melatonin (a hormone that causes drowsiness and lethargy) circulating in a person’s body, and regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin and epinephrine. Having an imbalance of these chemicals can heighten the symptoms of depression.

If your loved one is diagnosed with SAD, their doctor may instruct them to sit in front of the box for 30 to 45 minutes a day, usually in the morning, in order to make up for the lack of sunlight most people experience during the winter.

Though it is not always the go-to treatment for SAD, some studies have shown that light therapy has the potential to be as effective as antidepressant medication when it comes to treating the disorder.

Of course, a more natural alternative to light therapy is daily exposure to sunlight. If time and weather conditions permit, it would be helpful for a person with SAD to go outside for a few minutes during daylight hours.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that has been linked to bone health, cancer prevention, incontinence prevention, and diabetes prevention. A person can obtain vitamin D by eating certain foods (Salmon, beef, egg yolks, fortified cereals and juices), brief sun exposure, and by taking dietary supplements.

While frigid weather is likely to have little effect on that availability of the right foods and supplements, the sun is weaker and out for shorter periods of time in the winter, making it difficult for people to get enough exposure to produce vitamin D.

Lacking vitamin D is bad for a person’s health at any age, but can be particularly dangerous for the elderly. Older people who don’t get enough vitamin D have an increased risk for developing osteoporosis—a dangerous decrease in bone density that can contribute to broken bones.

Unfortunately for seniors, the National Institutes for Health has identified elderly people as an at-risk group for vitamin D deficiency.

Older people are less efficient at using sunlight to produce vitamin D, and are more likely to be housebound and unable to be exposed to enough sunlight to be beneficial. Also, certain medications taken by older people, such as the anti-inflammatory, prednisone, can inhibit their natural ability to produce and metabolize vitamin D.

Fortify Your Senior Against a D Deficit

Combating vitamin D deficiency in the elderly can be tricky.

Experts are loath to prescribe extra time in the sun to a group of people more prone to developing skin cancer and it can be tricky to determine how much supplementation to suggest.

Making sure a senior is eating foods fortified with vitamin D is the safest way to help reduce or prevent a deficit. Certain varieties of milk, yogurt and juice all contain extra doses of the vitamin, but not so much as to pose a hazard to an elderly person’s health.

If you are considering supplementation or extra time in the sun for your elderly loved one, consult with their doctor to come up with a proper plan of attack.


Fun Fall Activities for Seniors and Their Caregivers

Of the four seasons, autumn tends to get the least amount of attention and is generally regarded as the lead-in to the holidays. However, fall is a great opportunity for outings and activities that seniors and family caregivers can enjoy together. Use these ideas to kick off the season with tasty treats, colorful outings and fun crafts.

Fall Color Tours

One of the biggest highlights of autumn is the turning of the leaves. Short walks and leisurely drives allow seniors with varying levels of mobility to admire the fall foliage and get some fresh air before the weather turns chilly. For loved ones who are homebound, gathering some leaves for crafts and sensory boxes can help them feel engaged with the outside world and excited for the changing seasons. Use an online foliage map to see when the fall colors will peak in your area.

All about Pumpkin

Carving jack-o-lanterns is a classic family tradition that can be easily adapted to meet a senior’s abilities. Visiting a local pumpkin patch is a great outing idea that can help a loved one get into the fall spirit. Both of you can pick out pumpkins to bring home, and many patches also offer fall-themed games, contests and activities on certain days.

Instead of carving your pumpkins this year, try decorating them with paint, ribbon, glitter, fabric, decoupage, rhinestones, or whatever craft supplies you have on hand. Work with your loved one to select a design and bring it to life. No-carve pumpkins tend to last longer than traditional jack-o-lanterns, too. If carving is still your preferred method, it is best to handle the tricky knifework yourself. Just be sure to have the senior participate throughout the process. Let them pick the theme/stencil, scoop out the pulp and separate the seeds, which are delicious roasted in the oven!

Happy Halloween

Younger generations typically consider Halloween to be the best part of fall, but this holiday can be too spooky for some seniors, especially those living with dementia. Decorating and celebrating are still possible, just make a point of keeping props and costumes wholesome and cheerful. For example, opt for a pumpkin patch or harvest vibe in lieu of a haunted house or scary cemetery theme when decorating. Do-it-yourself decor and costumes are perfect in this instance because they give you and your loved one something to do together, and the finished products can be as cute, scary or silly as you like.

Cook Up a Celebration

If decorating for Halloween isn’t a good fit for your household, making sweet treats together is another delicious way of celebrating. Caramel apples, marshmallow crispy treats, pumpkin bread, mulled cider and sugar cookies for decorating are simple, memory-evoking recipes. Flavorful fall spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg will leave your home smelling wonderful and add powerful antioxidants to your food, too.

 Autumn brings an abundance of seasonal produce, such as winter squash, apples, pears, beets, figs, parsnips, and other root vegetables. These ingredients are perfect for both sweet and savory comfort foods. Regardless of what is on the menu, try turning your mundane grocery store run into a fun outing by purchasing your ingredients at a local farmers market.

Sundown Syndrome Can Worsen in the Fall

Sundown Syndrome Can Worsen in the FallFall is here, and this is the time of year when “sundowning” can be more prevalent, especially for individuals in the middle stages of dementia. During autumn, the days begin to get shorter. I notice it already, but that’s because I am outside most of the time. We will be turning the clocks back before you know it, and this will only make a bad situation worse.

 Sundowning is the phenomenon where people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia become increasingly confused and agitated during the early evening hours of twilight and sunset. This time of day can be especially distressing for dementia patients, and it places a great deal of pressure on the caregivers who try to help them stay calm and oriented. Pacing, restlessness and shadowing can become more pronounced during these times. Additionally, hallucinations, wandering, and violent or paranoid behavior can manifest in more severe cases.

There is a whole host of things you can do to minimize the symptoms of sundown syndrome. They can be simple, such as turning on all the lights in the house before it starts getting dark or slightly changing a loved one’s evening routine. There are many types of dementia, and each one manifests differently in a person. Therefore, trial and error is the best way to find out what techniques can help minimize troubling behaviors.

 Different Approaches to Managing Sundowner’s Syndrome

Symptoms of sundowning can be brought on by too much activity or noise toward the end of the day, increased fatigue, shadows caused by low light, and hormone imbalances (which can affect a person’s internal clock). Look for patterns in your loved one’s behavior that will clue you in as to what may be bothering them.

For example, if they become more tired and frustrated in the evenings, then encourage a short nap in the early afternoon (not too late, or they’ll be awake all night) and make a point of keeping nighttime activities soothing and low key. If visual hallucinations and disorientation spike after the sun has set, make modifications throughout the home to minimize shadows, reflections and distorted images that could be misinterpreted.

Sometimes medication, supplements like melatonin, increased lighting, soft music, a full-spectrum light box, and a carefully tailored routine can help minimize the confusion and agitation associated with sundown syndrome.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything that helps me. This isn’t meant to discourage you, but lighting up the house like a Christmas tree doesn’t work, and changing my routine has a nasty snowball effect, causing confusion and frustration in other areas of my life. Keep this in mind when you are considering changing your loved one’s routine. If you make changes, make them as subtle and incremental as possible.

Sundowning and the Season

Just be aware that the days are getting shorter and sundowning can be an issue. If your loved one is already experiencing symptoms, then they will likely get worse. It does for me and every other patient I know. It has to do with our internal biological clock. Everything gets confusing when we lose so much daylight and we have to endure all those dreary, dark and cloudy days that usher in winter. Even people without dementia can experience fatigue and mood changes this time of year.


Create Your All-Star Care Team in 5 Steps

Create Your All-Star Care Team in 5 StepsIn 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)


When Is a Person Too Incapacitated to Sign a Will, Trust or POA?

When Is a Person Too Incapacitated to Sign a Will, Trust or POA?As an elder law attorney, I frequently advise adult children who suddenly realize that they must step in to help an aging parent. Perhaps Dad has fallen behind on his bills, or Mom is not making sound decisions when it comes to her medical care. Regardless of the reason, this transition of control over their very personal affairs can be challenging.

Unfortunately, the parent may be reluctant to sign a power of attorney (POA), empowering the child to make legal decisions on their behalf, because this step is frequently seen as a direct loss of independence. Combine that with the child’s reluctance to broach the subject out of fear that it may result in anger or offense, and you have a recipe for procrastination.

When families delay discussing these matters and fail to preplan, the results can be stressful and costly. In many cases, an attorney has to decide if a senior is legally incapacitated and therefore unable to sign a will, trust or power of attorney.


Many people are surprised to find out that a person with Alzheimer’s—even one currently under guardianship—may still be legally capable of signing a will. That’s because under the laws of most states, a person is competent to sign a will if they meet the following criteria at the time of signing:

  • They know the natural objects of their bounty (i.e., are aware of their spouse and children, if any).
  • They comprehend the kind and character of their property (i.e., know approximately their net worth and what kind of assets they own).
  • They understand the nature and effect of the act (i.e., realize that it is indeed a will they are signing and what that means).
  • They are able to make a disposition of their property according to a plan formed in their mind.

Thus, a lawyer must meet with the individual in question and try to discern the above. If the attorney determines that the client is incapacitated, they must refuse to prepare a will.

Power of Attorney Documents

A slightly different competency test is involved for signing a power of attorney. With POA documents, the individual must be capable of understanding and appreciating the extent and effect of the document, just as if they were signing a contract. For this reason, a person may be deemed competent to sign a power of attorney but not competent to sign a will.

If it turns out that the client is not competent to appoint a power of attorney for health care and/or finances, it may be necessary for the adult child or another family member to seek guardianship (also known as conservatorship).

Read: How to Get Guardianship of a Senior


Similarly, a trust is sometimes deemed to be more like a contract than a will, so the mental capacity required to sign a trust may be less than that needed to sign a will. In recent years, states have recognized that living trusts are often utilized as substitutes for traditional wills. Therefore, some have enacted statutes that make the competency test for creating a trust the same as that for signing a valid will.

A Note on Mental and Physical Capacity

The mental capacity to sign a legal document should not be confused with the physical ability to sign one’s name. The law will permit a person to sign an “X” (known as a “mark”) that will suffice in lieu of a signature as long as it is properly witnessed. In addition, if an individual is incapable of making a mark, they can direct someone else to sign on their behalf.

Of course, the best advice is not to wait until it may be too late to engage in proper legal planning. If possible, make a point of having these conversations with family members while they are still of sound mind and able to comprehend exactly what they’re signing and why. These discussions can be difficult, but an experienced elder law attorney can help with this process.


Helping Mom and Dad Make the Decision to Relocate in Older Age

Helping Mom and Dad Make the Decision to Relocate in Older AgeAt age 90, Marta’s mother still lived in the two-story farmhouse where she had raised five children. The white clapboard structure held a wealth of memories beyond measure, not to mention an attic’s worth of personal possessions, pictures and mementos of birthdays and Christmases gone by.

But Marta worried her mother could fall while walking to the barn and lay injured, undiscovered for days. The idea haunted her.

Finally the anxiety propelled Marta into sitting down with her mother to discuss the situation. “Mom, I worry about you. Maybe you should think about selling the house and moving into a smaller place closer to us.”

Like many older adults, Marta’s mother bristled at the idea of surrendering her independence and refused to budge.

What can you do when you feel your parents are jeopardizing their well-being by staying put at home? Or what about the opposite scenario,

when they announce they’re going to downsize to a retirement community that’s far too expensive for them to afford? How can you help aging family members make sensible decisions about these matters?

Try these suggestions for four common scenarios.

1. Refusing to leave the family home.

Many older adults have a vision of living at home forever. This might be because the idea of downsizing feels overwhelming or because they believe you will take care of them, bring them hot meals, drive them to appointments and so on. Or maybe it’s too painful for them to think about selling or giving away precious possessions.

To help guide the decision-making process in this situation, first try to determine the reason why your parents refuse to consider downsizing. Then address the underlying reasons, either by creating a plan to help them dispose of their possessions without guilt or to shed some light on the reality of how their future will actually look if they continue living in the family home.

For instance, gently articulate your own boundaries by saying something like, “Just to be clear, if you stay here at home, I want you to understand that I will only be able to check in on you each Saturday. I’m not always going to be able to take time off work to drive you to doctor appointments and things, so this is something you should take into consideration.”

2. Proposing to move to a place that is too expensive.

Whether we like to believe it or not, most of us are subject to peer pressure. And if your parents’ friends all start downsizing to pricey assisted living or retirement communities, your own parents may start to decide they want to do that, too.

But if you know they will not be able to afford such a lifestyle—now or in the future—you can point out the financial reality of the situation. Try painting a picture for them, so they can easily relate. For instance, you might say, “That sounds like such a nice place to retire to! Have you considered, though, that, with a monthly rental fee of X and your budget of Y, if your health needs change you could be faced with a choice between paying your rent or buying prescriptions? Maybe it’s something to consider.”

3. Announcing their intention to move in with a family member.

Many parents take for granted that they will simply move in with one of the kids when they can no longer take care of themselves. However, you should use caution before agreeing to such a decision. It could come with many benefits for both you and your parents, but it’s important to seriously consider the cons as well. Adding people to your household can upset the social balance and cause marital strife, as well as creating a possible financial burden.

One alternative is to suggest that you sit down together and make a list of the possible living options available to your parents, no matter how far-fetched they may seem. Jot down:

Move in with daughter/son

  • Assisted living
  • Retirement community
  • Long-term care facility
  • Stay in home with caregiving assistance

Don’t exclude any possibility during this brainstorming session. Then ask your parents to explore each of these options (including a tour, when possible) with you before making up their mind about what to do.

4. When cognitive impairment leads to unrealistic decision-making.

One difficult scenario many family caregivers find themselves in is when an older relative is experiencing mild to moderate cognitive impairment that renders them unable to make a realistic decision about their future living arrangement, even though they maintain enough function to live independently for the time being. How can you influence them to take a sensible course for downsizing and relocating?

In this case, you might consider engaging the services of a Geriatric Care Manager, at least temporarily. These individuals assess the living situation of an older adult and make recommendations for how to proceed in the future. Often, when the suggestions come from an expert (who also happens to be a neutral third party), an older family member will feel more open to them.

Rule of thumb: Try three times, three different ways

Marta wisely tried several different angles to engage her mother in a conversation about relocating. Over coffee, she casually took note of the dirty dishes piling up and the dust collecting on some knickknacks and offered to help with the housecleaning. Her mother declined. A second time, Marta expressed her fear that her mother might fall and be injured. Again, her mother took no notice. On a third occasion, Marta brought up the idea of her mother getting a medical alert bracelet. Her mother responded by stalking off to the garden.

After the third attempt, Marta backed off from the subject temporarily. Then, one day when Marta visited, she flipped a light switch and nothing happened. Thinking the bulb had burned out, she screwed in a new one, but still nothing.

Investigating further, Marta discovered her mother had forgotten to pay the electric bill for more than a month, and her service had been disconnected. Marta’s mother sheepishly admitted the lapse and declared maybe it was time to sell up and move into assisted living.

In a best-case scenario, it wouldn’t take a small catastrophe like this to prompt an older loved one to realize he or she needs to make a change in living situation. But even if this turns out to be the catalyst that finally moves things forward, know that your efforts to have these discussions and present options will pay dividends in the end.


Pill-Swallowing Methods for Simplifying Medication Administration

About 40 percent of American adults have trouble swallowing pills, according to a Harris Interactive poll. Commonly cited issues include gagging, a lingering aftertaste from an incomplete swallow, and having a pill become lodged in the throat. These problems can be even more prevalent in seniors with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and stroke, all of which can affect the ability to swallow.

A group of researchers from the University of Heidelberg has unlocked the secret to taking oral medications, even for those with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Scientists tested two techniques for taking pills on more than 150 men and women. Some of the participants had preexisting problems with swallowing and some did not.

“Both techniques were remarkably effective in participants with and without reported difficulties swallowing pills and should be recommended regularly,” study authors say.

Tips for Swallowing Pills

According to the researchers, different techniques work best for different pills.

The Pop-Bottle Method for Tablets

  1. Take a plastic water bottle that is flexible enough to squeeze in when you drink from it and fill it with water.
  2. Place the tablet on your tongue and close your lips tightly around the mouth of the bottle.
  3. Drink from the bottle by pursing your lips and sucking in water. Keep the mouth of the bottle entirely covered by your lips and refrain from allowing air to get into it. You should see the bottle begin to bend inward as you drink.
  4. Immediately swallow the pill along with the water.

Why it works: Sucking on a water bottle helps engage your swallowing reflex, enabling you to overcome the gag reflex that kicks in when trying to down a large tablet.

The Lean-Forward Method for Capsules

  1. Fill a glass, cup or bottle with water.
  2. Place the capsule on your tongue.
  3. Take a medium drink of water, but refrain from swallowing.
  4. Close your mouth and tilt your chin down towards your chest.
  5. Keeping your chin and head down, swallow both the water and the capsule.

Why it works: Most capsules float on water, making them difficult to swallow in the traditional way with your head in a neutral position or leaned backwards. Tilting your head forward while you have water in your mouth just before you swallow helps position the floating capsule at the back of your mouth so it slides more easily down your throat.

Still Have Trouble Swallowing Pills?

Nearly 97 percent of people who tried the lean-forward technique for capsules said the strategy was helpful, while 88 percent of people who used the pop-bottle technique with tablets said the same. These two methods were highly effective for many people, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to making medications easier to take, especially for older adults with swallowing issues.

Some pills can be cut into smaller, more manageable pieces or crushed and added to food or drinks. Others can even be prescribed in a liquid form that eliminates the problem altogether. Doctors and pharmacists are key sources of information about medications. Always consult one of these professionals before trying anything new with a prescription or over-the-counter medicine.


10 Tips for Family Caregivers

10 Tips for Family Caregivers

  1. Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
  2. Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
  3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
  4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
  5. Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks often.
  6. Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay getting professional help when you need it.
  7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
  8. Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
  9. Make sure legal documents are in order.
  10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!

Source: Caregiver Action Network

Saying ‘No’ to Family Drama while Caregiving

There have been many posts over the past few weeks, months, and even years about some of the absurd things family members will do to make your life living a hell.

We all have them: the ones who are never around and yet know everything; the ones you could not please if you tried.

We have them in our family, and the strange thing is, it has always been these few who seem to stick together through thick and thin. One could lie and the others will swear to it.

Back in the day, or back before I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, I let their nonsense roll off my back. I didn’t give them a second thought.

They were and still are drama queens. It is always about them, and they do nothing to help anyone else. When something happens to them, they always add their own flare to so it’s much more dramatic than it would be if they told the truth.

They would never consider helping you in anyway when it comes to the issues of caregiving. Yet, like I said, they are like the Michael Jordan of caregivers. They have done it all.

What are you to do with people and family like this? I can tell you what I did, but this doesn’t mean that anyone should follow suit.

When I was diagnosed, one of the things everyone told us was that I had to stay away from stress—stress of any kind. I would have to retire from my career. I would immediately have to make changes in my life.

They were absolutely right. Most people can and do put up with a lot, especially from their family members. Well, that was going to change.

I ignored the ones who thought they knew everything. That worked for a couple of years, and then it happened. They did something that neither my wife nor I could put up with. I won’t go into details, but it was horrendous and no one should ever treat another human being in such a way.

We have washed our hands of these people, and we are better off for it. We have accepted that they are never going to change. They have been ignorant their entire lives.

What I am trying to get at is, when you have dementia, you simply cannot put up with any nonsense. The stress that some family members will bring to the table is unimaginable.

The same goes for caregivers. You, the caregiver, and your loved one are under an enormous amount of stress just dealing with dementia and/or any other serious health issues. Throw in a couple of drama queens, a liar or two, someone who knows everything and does nothing, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Some of these people can be brothers and sisters. Some can be parents. Some are cousins, or just close friends. But whoever it is and however they have acted in the past, after one is diagnosed with dementia or another serious illness, it all changes.

I simply do not have the time or the inclination to deal with some people. I would never go out of my way to be mean or hateful to anyone. But when we have endured what we have from these people, there comes a time when we need to draw the line.

Now, if and when we see them, they look the other way, which is fine with me. I suppose they know they should leave well enough alone after the events that have transpired.

The bottom line is you cannot change people. If the people who are causing drama and strife are family, that makes it even worse. Balancing your own sanity, your loved one’s wellbeing and the duty you feel to relatives is an immense challenge, especially at a critical time like this. However, your number one concern is your loved one’s welfare. If you are a caregiver, God knows this takes up 120 percent of your time.

You can try to sit these people down and be rational about your feelings and how they are treating you, but the bottom line is, most will never see the light.

Again, I am not promoting family break-ups or estrangement here. Everyone faces their own challenges with family dynamics. I am saying that, since I was diagnosed, my outlook on things has changed. I was told to avoid anxiety and tension, which is nearly impossible.

But drama is not welcome when you are trying to keep stress to a minimum. Sit back and think to yourself, “What has this person done for me lately? What have they done to make this journey with me or my loved one any easier?”

If you are honest with yourself, the answers will speak volumes about your relationship. It is likely that they have done little to nothing to help you, and they may have even made the situation worse with their childish antics.

If you can come to an understanding where they realize you will not tolerate such behavior, then that is a wonderful thing. Open discussion and appreciation of other points of view are vital to healthy relationships. However, they may not entertain either of these notions. They may not even be capable. If they were, they probably would have changed already.

Instead, it is up to you to make the adjustment. Change your life for the better. If that means altering who is involved in your life, so be it. You will be surprised how much better off you will be by eliminating unnecessary negativity.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but stress that is brought on for no unearthly reason is unacceptable. Sometimes we just need the courage and encouragement to say, “What you are doing to me is not right, and I am not taking it anymore.”


Considering Tapping Your Home Equity? Compare Your Options First

Considering Tapping Your Home Equity? Compare Your Options FirstRising costs and expenses coupled with a fixed income can be a significant challenge as you age.

If savings, Social Security, and modest retirement income is proving insufficient, you may be considering the role your home could play in meeting daily living expenses or planning for a secure financial future. When it comes to your home, selling to downsize is one option. You might also consider finding someone to share your home.

There are also financial products and tools that can help unlock the equity you’ve built up over the years. Each option has its pros and cons, and they vary in feature options.

Earlier this year, NCOA asked senior homeowners about their understanding of home equity release products. The homeowners told us that, despite their home equity representing a majority of their overall retirement assets (from 60-80%), few understood home equity products, and most would be reluctant to use one. The research also revealed some negative bias against a reverse mortgage line of credit, based on the product name, and preconceived notions of the product.

Here’s a comparison of the most common home equity release products:

Home Equity Product Comparisons

Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit (Home Equity Conversion Mortgages or HECM) Home Equity Loans
Borrowers have access to funds for a specified time period Borrowers have access to funds for no specified time period Borrowers have access to a specified lump sum up front for a specified time period
Must make minimum monthly payments No minimum payments required Must make specific set monthly payments
Lender can freeze or reduce the line of credit Lender cannot freeze or reduce the line of credit Lender cannot freeze or reduce the loan amount
Home subject to foreclosure if minimum payments, taxes, or insurance not paid, or borrower does not keep the home in good repair Home subject to foreclosure if taxes or insurance not paid, borrower does not keep the home in good repair, or does not live in the home as primary residence Home subject to foreclosure if minimum payments, taxes, or insurance not paid, or borrower does not keep the home in good repair
Loan balance must be paid back in full, even if borrower owes more than home is worth Borrowers or heirs never pay back more than the home’s fair market value when sold Loan balance must be paid in full, based on a fixed interest rate on a specific schedule
Fees and costs to obtain the HELOC can include closing costs Fees and costs to obtain the HECM can include closing costs, counseling fee, and mortgage insurance premiums Fees and costs to obtain the Home Equity Loan can include closing costs

If you’re looking for tools to unlock cash from your home to plan for the future, or to meet your current needs, here are a few tips to get started:

  • Download NCOA’s free booklet, Use Your Home to Stay at Home© (available in both English and Spanish).
  • Contact a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved housing counselor, or other trusted financial advisor, with questions or to discuss options.
  • Shop around and compare quotes to assure the best value for the solution you’re seeking.
  • Take a free and confidential BenefitsCheckUp® to find out if you’re eligible for relevant property tax relief or other public benefit programs.

Don’t wait for an emergency. Plan now, so you don’t have to make your choice in a crisis. Getting educated about the many options available for accessing your home’s equity can help secure your future and maximize your resources for a long, healthy life!

Source: NCOA