Journaling is an effective way to reduce caregiver stress
Caregiver stress is no joke. Not only can it make you resentful or depressed, it can also cause serious health conditions. That’s why adding stress reduction and coping tips to your daily routine is so important.
One effective stress reduction technique that’s perfect for caregivers is journaling. Writing in a journal is free, takes as much or as little time as you’ve got, and can be done anywhere.
We explain how to get started with journaling and share 6 ways it makes caregiving easier and reduces stress.
How to start journaling
It can seem intimidating to start a journal. But all you need is a paper notebook or a notes file on your computer or mobile device. Keep it private so you won’t have to worry about anyone reading what you wrote.
It’s a wonderful ritual if you’re able to journal for a set amount of time each day, but you don’t have to follow any rules to get the full benefits of journaling. Write for as long as you want as often as you’d like.
The one thing most people recommend is to write continuously and use a “stream of consciousness” approach. That means writing down whatever thoughts come into your mind.
It’s important to let it flow and not edit your thoughts or worry about grammar or spelling. You don’t even have to use full sentences – anything goes.
6 benefits of journaling for caregivers
1. Reduce caregiver stress
Writing about anger, sadness, resentment, and other painful emotions helps to release the intensity of these feelings. After getting these thoughts out, you’ll feel calmer and less stressed.
2. Improve your health One study found that when people write about emotionally difficult events or feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over 3 or 4 days, their immune system functioning increased.
The relief gained by writing also improved the body’s ability to withstand stress, infection, and disease.
Additional benefits of journaling include decreased blood pressure, improved sleep, less need to visit the doctor, faster healing, greater mobility in people with arthritis, and more.
3. Find solutions to tough challenges
Journaling can also be used for problem-solving. Writing out your thoughts helps you connect dots and come up with solutions that you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.
Next time you’re up against a sticky caregiving challenge, try writing about what’s going on. It could help you think of a creative way to solve the problem.
4. Make caregiving easier
Journaling makes caregiving easier because writing things down helps you see patterns. That gives you the ability to spot things that could be improved, simplified, or eliminated to make life run more smoothly.
Maybe you’ll start to notice that mom gets upset every time you talk about leaving the house, but doesn’t make a fuss if you just leave. Or maybe you’ll find that your spouse is much more willing to bathe during the early afternoon than in the evening.
5. Resolve arguments with other people
Writing about fights or misunderstandings helps you keep from stewing over it in your mind. It might even help you see the other person’s point of view or figure out a way to resolve the conflict.
6. Get in touch with yourself
It’s easy to lose yourself to the pressures of caregiving and your older adult’s needs. Journaling helps you clarify your thoughts and feelings.
Taking a few minutes to write down your unedited thoughts and emotions will help you get in touch with your true self.
Protect seniors from 2018’s two most common tax scams
Tax season gives con artists and scammers another way to fleece older adults, preying on their fear of the IRS.
This year is especially dangerous because of the recent Equifax breach that leaked the personal information of at least 143 million Americans.
AARP warns us of the top two tax scams that are making headlines this year – tax identity theft and the IRS imposter scam.
To protect your older adult’s hard-earned savings, learn about these financial scams against seniors. Then, educate your older adult on the dirty tricks that fraudsters are using so they’ll be on the lookout.
We summarize how these two scams work and recommend trusted sources where you can get help and updates on the latest scams.
Scam 1. Tax identity theft
Tax identity theft is when personal information is stolen and used to apply for a fraudulent tax refund.
A scammer could file a tax return using your older adult’s Social Security number, claim them as a dependent, or claim a tax refund using a deceased family member’s information.
To avoid tax identity theft:
Don’t give out personal information unless you know who’s asking for it and why they need it
Do mail tax returns as early in the tax season as possible before scammers have a chance
Do shred personal and financial documents
Do know your older adult’s tax preparer
Do check the status of your older adult’s refund after filing at the official IRS website: irs.gov/Refunds
For help or more information, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 or visit irs.gov/identitytheft.
Scam 2. IRS imposter scam
Con artists also call people on the telephone and claim to be IRS employees. If they were to call your older adult, they’d say that they owe money for their taxes and make all kinds of scary threats.
AARP also created this helpful video that illustrates how these scams might sound – and shows the “behind the scenes,” how scammers are lying through their teeth.
IRS imposter scammers might:
Threaten to arrest or deport your older adult if they don’t pay
Know all or part of their Social Security number
Fake the caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from the IRS
Tell older adults to put the money on a prepaid debit card or gift card and tell the scammer the card number
Real IRS agents will never do these things
When running their tax scams, con artists are doing many things that real IRS agents would never do.
Real IRS agents would never:
Call to demand immediate payment for taxes owed without first sending a notification by mail
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
Ask for payment via gift card
Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to make an arrest for nonpayment
If you or your older adult have any doubts about someone claiming to be from the IRS, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.
If you’ve heard about an attempted scam or think your older adult may have been scammed, call the IRS helpline for advice at 1-877-908-3360.
Get the latest info about scams from trusted sources
If you have any concerns about your older adult’s tax return or think a con artist might be trying to scam them, there are two trusted, reputable sources where you can get more information.
The IRS posts information about the latest scams here on their website. For questions about an IRS notice, call them directly at 1-800-829-1040. Additional IRS contact information is also posted here.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a trustworthy place to get helpful information on scams targeting seniors. You can also get help from their call center at 1-877-908-3360.
The Fraud Watch Network covers a wide range of scams and shares useful tips range from keeping debit and credit information safe to staying safe on social media – and everything in between.
Caregiving is a tough role and there are pitfalls that we often don’t learn about until we start struggling. To help you minimize potential problems, Caring.com shares expert tips on how to avoid 5 top caregiving challenges that cause extra stress. Find out how to solve common issues like lack of sleep, “lone-soldier” syndrome, overwhelming care tasks, and more.
Caring for an aging parent or other loved one in your home usually begins with the best of intentions. Over time, however, a good thing can disintegrate into a tough, tense situation. Knowing the top trouble spots can help you make changes that can delay or avoid the need to move on to out-of-home placement.
Here are five big “sore points” that undermine family caregiving – and what to do about them:
Sore point #1: Lack of privacy
Everyone in a caregiving family needs privacy – the freedom to exist in their own space.
Having physical privacy means having boundaries that let everyone in the house get away from 24/7 interactions. It’s especially challenging in small living spaces or when the live-in elder has dementia. The disinhibition (loss of social appropriateness) that can be part of a dementia like Alzheimer’s can lead a loved one to barge into bedrooms and bathrooms, for example.
Having mental privacy means being able to continue some version of long-established family time and traditions. While it’s important to weave a live-in guest into family life, this needs to be balanced against the risk of alienating kids and spouses who may miss old routines or come to feel ignored.
“The time and energy of caregiving, by necessity, must be taken away from other things, especially family,” says geriatric psychiatrist Ken Robbins of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who counsels family caregivers. “This may be the biggest issue for caregivers.”
Lack of privacy: Solutions
Make necessary home improvements to allow the live-in elder to have his or her own space, not just for sleeping but also for living: a TV set and comfortable chair, a desk, opportunities to get out of the house. Avoid making a child share a room with an elder if you can. Explore whether a parent’s assets can be used to fund a modest addition to a caregiving adult child’s home, rationalized as a cheaper alternative than out-of-home care.
Establish household rules everyone agrees on for the use of the TV, the kitchen, and other possible points of conflict. Keep in mind, though, that in the case of dementia, rules become less realistic as the disease progresses.
Remain conscious of maintaining one-on-one time with other family members. Your live-in elder doesn’t always have to come first with you; use respite care or other relatives to supplement care.
Don’t put vacations, school or sports events, or other previous family activities on indefinite hold.
Use locks and a low-key response to help manage disinhibition; explain it to kids so they’re not frightened.
The common scenario: The live-in elder’s sleep-wake cycle gets mixed up. This disrupts the sleep of the caregiver, who’s already burning the candle at both ends to manage everyone’s needs. This lack of sleep then imperils the caregiver’s mental and physical health.
Sleep problems are often dismissed by caregivers for two common, misguided reasons, says geriatric psychiatrist Ken Robbins. First, they assume that poor sleep is part of aging or of dementia, and that nothing can be done about it. Second, they fear that addressing sleep problems is “selfish,” only for their benefit.
In fact, resolving runaway sleep problems helps everyone. The elder whose sleep issues are addressed will experience better mood, more energy, and less pain; sleep is closely connected with all three conditions. And the caregiver who makes his or her own sleep a priority will be better able to cope with caregiving stresses and will have more energy for every part of life.
Ignoring sleep deprivation: Solutions
First make sure your loved one’s basic “sleep hygiene” is in order: No stimulating beverages or activity late in the day. A quiet, dark room. Proper clothing for sleep (elders sometimes nod off in their day clothes). No TV or electronics used in the bedroom at night. Use of a proper, comfortable bed, not a lounge chair. (An elder may “turn in” but never actually get in bed.)
Next, make sure your own sleep habits are similarly healthy. That 5 p.m. coffee crutch or after-dinner drink? Not a good idea.
Run a medication review with a doctor to make sure no meds are interfering with sleep. Benzodiazepines used for depression and as short-term sleep aids can actually prevent sleep, Robbins says; these include drugs such as ProSom, Restoril, Xanax, and Valium.
If you’ve done everything you can to create a healthy sleep environment, discuss sleep issues with your loved one’s doctor. A mixed-up sleep-wake cycle is not a normal part of aging. It is a feature of dementia (because brain changes can mess up circadian rhythms), but it can often be remedied by a good household routine and by addressing the person’s fears to reduce anxiety. At last resort, medications may be prescribed to improve sleep health.
Sore point #3: Lone-soldier syndrome
Caregivers too often fall into “lone-soldier” mode thinking without even realizing it. Feeling responsible for a loved one, they assume the full burden, marching forward without regard to their own emotional needs. Eventual result: one badly wounded soldier who’s not much good to anyone.
In reality, it takes a whole army to manage caregiving effectively. Failing to have emotional outlets where you can vent and “be yourself,” and failing to let others share the practical burdens, results in a surefire recipe for falling down – or giving up.
Lone-soldier syndrome: Solutions
Let go of old ideas that asking for help is a sign of weakness. If ever you needed other people in your life, it’s now.
Join a caregiver support group. “I push families to join a support group,” says Caring.com’s Ken Robbins. “It’s really hard just to talk to friends. They get tired of listening to you or have little to offer besides a pat on the back.” Groups offer a level of emotional support and group-think problem solving and idea sharing that’s different from what a mental health counselor provides in one-on-one sessions. To find a group, ask your doctor or your local Area Agency on Aging, or try an online group.
Sore point #4: Not anticipating what’s coming next
Like firefighters, caregivers tend to stomp out one flaring crisis after another. Unfortunately, it’s an exhausting way to live and fuels the stressful feeling that your life is at the mercy of an unpredictable force in your home.
“Feeling a lack of control comes in part from a lack of knowledge about what to expect,” geriatric psychiatrist Ken Robbins says. “Especially with dementia, being able to step back and see a bigger picture can help you make appropriate plans and then feel more on top of things.”
Not anticipating: Solutions
Make contingency plans. “Live in the moment” is good advice to help you manage stress, but don’t do so at the expense of a little advance planning. Once a week, devote an hour to focusing on “if this, then this” scenarios. This type of thinking helps you at least begin the process of considering where you might find more help, what kind of home modifications would help and how you’d get them done, alternative living situations, and so on.
Make lists of your options, or of places and people you can contact to solve potential problems common to your situation.
Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s condition(s) and how it/they typically progress. Caregivers are sometimes reluctant to “read too far ahead” for fear they can’t relate to later disease stages. They’re also prey to fear of “jinxing” – worrying that if they think about something, it might come true. Diseases are realities, not wishes. Ask your loved one’s doctor to be candid about the prognosis and course of the disease, read info online, ask others who’ve been there.
If your loved one has dementia, understand the various stages, where your loved one likely is, and what to do next. Caring.com’s Steps & Stages program, for example, provides weekly advice about stage-specific problems while providing peeks ahead and information about what to prepare for next.
Consider a support group. These help caregivers visualize future problems, as they’re expressed by other group members.
Sore point #5: Overwhelming care tasks
Perhaps the most difficult home-care deal-breakers are practical matters that go beyond the caregiver’s ability to manage. Chief among these: incontinence, heavy lifting, wandering behaviors in someone with dementia. Both urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence, for example, are among leading causes of nursing-home placement. A small or frail wife of a big man who needs help is another tough scenario.
“These situations often do end up where care has to be in a facility – and that may be a good solution for everyone,” psychiatrist Ken Robbins says. “Sometimes, though, there’s an easy answer that allows home care to continue.”
Overwhelming care tasks: Solutions
Be sure there’s been a through physical exam to see if a problem, such as incontinence, is fixable. Adult diapers and toileting schedules, or a change in medications, may make incontinence more manageable, for example. Frequent falls and problems getting up are other physiological problems that may be treatable.
For behavioral issues such as wandering, learn the basic ways to address the problem (for example: floor alarms, locks, reducing anxiety) and see if they make a difference.
Explore whether bringing in more help, such as personal care assistants or nurse aides, can buy time and get you through difficult challenges (such as bathing and dressing).
Make sure you’re not trying to solve the problem alone. Brainstorm possible solutions with other family members, a social worker or geriatric care manager, doctors, and friends – including virtual ones – who may have experienced similar issues.
If you’ve explored every option and things still aren’t working, ask yourself if you’re resisting out-of-home placement because of guilt. “Step back,” Robbins says. “If a problem is dangerous to either one of you, ask yourself why you’re being so persistent about not making a change.” He often finds that when caregivers are no longer frustrated and angry with their loved ones all the time, they’re better able to spend emotional energy enjoying one another again.
Guest contributor:Caring.com’s mission is to help the helpers. We equip family caregivers to make better decisions, save time and money, and feel less alone – and less stressed – as they face the many challenges of caregiving. Visit our site at www.caring.com to find helpful articles, support groups, and a comprehensive directory of local senior care resources.
After a long winter, sunshine and warming weather are a welcome change. To help you enjoy the season, we rounded up 5 festive ways to celebrate spring with your older adult.
These senior-friendly activities are sure to brighten their day and help you create special memories together.
5 festive spring activities for seniors
1. Get outside and enjoy nature
After being cooped up indoors all winter, it will feel great to get some fresh air and sunshine. Keep your older adult comfortable with plenty of layers, a hat, or a light scarf.
For older adults who aren’t mobile, simply sitting in a room with windows open to the fresh air is a comfortable way to enjoy nature. Or, sit just outside the house to appreciate the trees and flowers. For some added fun, blow some bubbles!
Many older adults love to visit farmers’ markets. Stroll through and shop the fresh produce, lovely flowers, and local products.
This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain some affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.
Family caregivers often ask “how do you tell someone they have dementia”? And in some cases, the answer may be that you simply can’t.
Damage in the brain can cause people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, brain tumors, and other cognitive impairments to believe that there’s nothing wrong with them.
When that happens, it’s called anosognosia (pronounced ah-no-sog-NOH-zee-uh, hear it here). The word literally means “to not know a disease” and it’s much more than being in denial.
We explain what it means when someone has anosognosia and doesn’t believe they have dementia and why it’s different from denial. We also share 6 suggestions for helping someone with anosognosia who doesn’t want assistance, but clearly needs it.
What is anosognosia in dementia?
Anosognosia is a condition that causes someone to be unaware of their mental health condition and how it affects them. It’s common in some conditions, including dementia.
So, someone who has been properly diagnosed with dementia, but has anosognosia, doesn’t know or believe that they have dementia.
However, anosognosia symptoms may vary significantly from person to person, change over time, and might even fluctuate within a day. The person might sometimes understand what’s happening and other times firmly believe that they’re completely fine. And other people might only be partially aware that there’s something wrong.
The unawareness of cognitive impairment can be related to memory, general thinking skills, emotions, or physical abilities. Someone with dementia might have occasional difficulty with language skills, like finding words, but they can explain away these situations with excuses about forgetfulness or fatigue.
And even if they forget to bathe, miss appointments, or burn food on the stove, they’re still likely to insist that they don’t need help. They’ll probably also insist that they’re absolutely capable of living independently – despite clear evidence that things are going wrong.
If someone reminds them of their cognitive impairment, someone with anosognosia may get angry and defensive because in their mind they’re 100% convinced that there is no problem.
Anosognosia in dementia isn’t denial
It’s important to understand that someone who has anosognosia in dementia isn’t just being difficult or in denial – this is something different.
When someone is in denial, they are aware of a fact, but refuse to accept it. With anosognosia, the damage that dementia is causing in their brain makes it impossible for that person to be aware of what’s happening to them.
6 ways to help when someone has anosognosia in dementia
1. Don’t try to convince them they have dementia
Using reason and evidence to explain or insist that someone has dementia is not going to help. It will only upset them and will likely make them even more convinced that they’re right and you’re wrongly discrediting them.
A far more effective strategy is to discreetly make changes that will help them live safely. And overall, stay calm and focused on their feelings when expressing your concerns and keep it as subtle and positive as possible.
2. Work with their doctors and care team
When your older adult’s dementia symptoms are interfering with their daily lives, it’s time to start working with their care team – including doctors, relatives, friends, in-home caregivers, or assisted living staff.
Explain the problems your older adult is having and help the team understand that they aren’t aware of their dementia and why it won’t help to try to convince them.
Work together to creatively provide your older adult the help they need without waiting for them ask for it or making it clear that they have a problem.
3. Discreetly make their life as safe as possible
Making your older adult’s everyday life simpler and safer can help prevent someone with anosognosia in dementia from hurting themselves or others.
Some people might try to drive, manage money, cook, or do other activities that could be dangerous because of their cognitive impairment.
Use positive approaches and present it as removing burdens from their life so they can do more of what they enjoy rather than doing chores. Focus on allowing them to do as much as they can independently while yourself or another caregiver is available to help when needed or observe for safety.
Finding ways to help that still preserve pride will be most effective. For example, you might say that you don’t enjoy eating alone or you want to spend more quality time together so you want to eat dinner with them.
Or, say that you have some amazing new recipes you need their help to taste-test so you’ll leave the prepared dishes in their fridge to eat during the week. Others have found it effective to use different ways to introduce an in-home caregiver so it won’t seem like the older adult needs help.
4. Avoid correcting them and having confrontations; pick your battles
When someone has dementia, their brain may experience a different version of reality because of the damage the disease has caused.
Dementia care experts recommend stepping into their reality rather than trying to correct them. Their brain is losing the ability to process information and forcing them to join the “real world” only causes confusion, anxiety, fear, and anger.
If something is a serious safety issue, you may have no choice but to insist on doing things your way. But as much as you can, try to solve problems without them knowing, choose your battles, and let the non-serious things go to avoid conflict as much as possible – stress only makes challenging dementia symptoms worse.
5. Present solutions positively and subtly
The less your older adult feels that they’re being limited for reasons they don’t understand, the less likely they are to become angry or resist help.
Generally, when someone has anosognosia, it helps to be creative and offer solutions in a positive way rather than talking about the problem.
For example, you might say, “It’s a beautiful day outside. Let’s go for a walk together so we can both enjoy the fresh air.” That’s positive and much easier to accept than if you had said, “ You know you can’t go outside alone, you’ll fall or get lost. I have to go with you.”
Or, offer a compromise with a positive incentive, like “Let’s clean the house together so we’ll be done twice as fast and have plenty of time to watch your favorite show.”
Reminding them about taking medicine can also be done in a positive way. For example, say “It’s time for both of us to take our medicine. We both need these to keep ourselves in tip-top health.” (If you don’t need any medications at that time, you could “take” M&Ms, frozen peas, or something else that appears to be a pill, but is harmless.)
6. Learn more about dementia and dementia care techniques
Many of the most effective dementia care and communication techniques aren’t easily figured out and might even be the opposite of our instincts.
Not knowing these helpful techniques can cause added frustration and stress for both you and your older adult. That’s why educating yourself is so important. Learning as much as you can about the disease helps you solve top challenges and improves quality of life for both of you.
Reducing salt intake significantly improves health in seniors with high blood pressure or heart disease
High blood pressure is a serious condition affecting 58% of seniors on Medicare, heart failure is one of the most common reasons why people age 65+ go to the hospital, and heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S.
What these serious conditions have in common is that reducing sodium intake can significantly reduce symptoms and improve health, reducing the risk of stroke or heart attack.
Table salt is a main source of sodium. For people with these conditions, experts recommend limiting sodium to 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams each day.
But cutting back on salt doesn’t mean cutting out flavor. There are hundreds of recipes that help you create tasty dishes that are low in sodium.
We explain where sodium can hide in everyday foods and share 4 of our favorite recipe websites with dedicated sections for low sodium recipes.
Excess sodium hides in packaged foods
Our bodies only need 1/4 teaspoon of salt every day, but the average American eats 5 or more teaspoons of salt each day. That’s about 20 times more than the body needs!
Sodium is found naturally in foods, but most of it is added during processing and preparation – watch out for these top 10 sources. And many packaged foods that don’t taste salty can still be high in sodium – especially canned, processed, and convenience foods. High amounts of sodium are also found in foods served at fast food restaurants.
4 places to find great low sodium recipes
All recipe websites have low sodium recipes, but the ones we like best have gathered them into a dedicated low sodium category. Here are 4 great websites that make it easy to find tasty low sodium recipes.
Use the horizontal menu items just above the recipe section to choose specific categories or just scroll down to browse all low sodium recipes.
2. Taste of Home
Taste of Home’s website offers a wide range of low sodium dishes. They’ve even got a handy navigation menu on the right hand side so you can jump directly to the type of recipe you’re looking for – appetizer, dinner, dessert, etc.
3. My Recipes
My Recipes is another website with a variety of low sodium recipes, organized by the type of dish. They have 4 categories: Breads, Desserts, Main Dishes, and Soups (located just above the section with recipes).
allrecipes has a great section of heart-healthy recipes, but they don’t have separate categories for specific types of dishes. You’ll need to keep scrolling to find something that catches your eye.
You can also use the search by ingredient section at the top of the page if you’ve got something in the fridge you need to use up.
Working with siblings to care for aging parents can be stressful and frustrating. There’s a lot to deal with – old conflicts, living in different places, tough decisions, and unequal contributions. Kathy Macaraeg from Caregiving Made Easy shares useful advice on how to handle these challenging situations. Her tips help everyone put aside differences and focus on what’s best for the parents.
How to handle past rivalries so your parents’ care doesn’t suffer.
The best thing about having a sibling is that you have someone who knows every part of your history and childhood. They’ve literally known you since day one.
Unfortunately, they also know which buttons to push and are either so much like you or so dramatically different that trying to work together as an adult, even for the common cause of caring for an elderly parent, can be challenging.
Old grievances can resurface and make it difficult to focus on the task at hand – your elderly parent’s care. So, how can you work together to ensure your parent is receiving the proper care and this doesn’t cause undue stress on you and your parent?
One challenge siblings have, particularly if one sibling doesn’t live nearby, is they view their parent’s care needs differently. The sibling who sees the parent regularly doesn’t notice decline since it is gradual.
When an out-of-town sibling comes to visit, they are shocked by how much mom or dad has aged. They see the small things because it is different from the last time they saw mom or dad. They immediately want to jump in and make sweeping changes and the local sibling gets frustrated because they know their parent is still capable of handling many tasks.
Involve your parent
Ideally, your parent is still able to make his or her own decisions so you can all sit together and plan how to manage their care. Don’t put them in the middle of your sibling rivalry. You are adults now, you can work together without putting your parent in an awkward position.
Before going into the discussion, agree that you are all working together for a common cause – the best care you can provide for your parent.
Of course, this is easier said than done. In business, we can work with people we don’t like because it’s business and there are not emotions tied to it. Unfortunately, when it comes to family dynamics, it is all about emotions so it can be difficult to set aside personal feelings.
Agree to go into it with an open mind and consider each making a list of your non-negotiables so you know what the hot buttons are. Provide pros and cons for your recommendations to remove the emotions.
Does your sibling want to put you parent in an assisted living facility and you want your parent to age in place? Once you’ve reviewed each other’s rationale, it may help you make a more educated decision of what is best for your parent, not what is best for you or your sibling.
What if you can’t agree?
If your parent is experiencing cognitive decline or dementia, it becomes more challenging to get their input as they may not be able to make decisions for themselves.
If you and your siblings are not on the same page, you may need to bring in an impartial third party to facility the conversation. A facilitator can be anyone from a clergy person to a trained therapist.
Once you’ve decided on a course of action, the next step is to figure out how to get it all done. If you still have a problem agreeing on how to proceed, you may want to consider outsourcing care to a geriatric care manager, who can provide recommendations for care and keep everyone updated.
Communication is key
One of the biggest complaints from siblings is that they didn’t know a decision was being made or they weren’t aware of a medical condition.
Avoid creating conflict by deciding ahead of time how often and when you will update each other and what decisions should be made by committee and what decisions can be made by the caregiver “on duty.”
It becomes less stressful when everyone knows their responsibility and the parameters for decision-making ahead of time. How you choose to communicate is up to you, but my preference is to maintain a document that holds all of the updates. You can download my family medical file or create a caregiving binder, family website or just maintain a regular email update.
Divide and conquer
You may not get along, but you will have to work together. The easiest way to work together and not have tension and conflict is to divide the necessary tasks and decide who will do what. You can all sit together and make a list of everything that needs to be done and decide what you can each manage.
Don’t leave the small things off the list, assuming they will get handled. Include everything from making medical appointments, scheduling or providing transportation to appointments, paying bills and housekeeping, grocery shopping and providing personal care for your parent. Once you have a clear picture, you can either divide it by like tasks or by the amount of time a task takes.
For example, a family member who doesn’t live nearby or doesn’t have flexibility to take time off work can handle administrative tasks such as phone scheduling, bill paying, tracking medical care and service research, while someone who has more flexibility or works irregular hours can handle transportation to appointments, grocery shopping and personal-care tasks.
I worked with a family that managed their mother’s care like a business operation. It was possibly the most effective strategy I’ve seen as they each knew their role and there was relatively little conflict on the day-to-day care.
The oldest daughter lived out of state, so she handled her mother’s finances and researching service providers for local care. She scheduled interviews and appointments for when she was in town visiting.
The middle child lived closest, but worked relatively long hours. He went with his mother on all of her medical appointments as she was in a wheelchair, making it difficult for her daughter to transport her.
The youngest daughter lived somewhat nearby and had a more flexible schedule so she did her mother’s grocery shopping and checked in on her regularly to be sure caregivers were providing proper care. She was also the point of contact for all of their providers.
Of course, their well-oiled machine worked extremely well for day-to-day care, but they had conflict like any family. It took them a long time to make decisions because they didn’t always agree on the next step for their mother’s care. They also disagreed on the type of care their mother should have and on modifications to her home.
Luckily, since there were three of them, if they put something to vote, they would go with the winning vote. It doesn’t always work out so well for even-numbered siblings.
Sometimes, the family members just have to decide what issue is their “hill to die on.” If one member has strong feelings about an issue and the other is not entirely sure their way is the best way, sometimes, for their mother or father’s best interest, they need to stand down.
So what happens when, even after meeting with a facilitator and dividing all of the tasks, you find that you can’t get along and your parent’s care is suffering? It may be time to consider outsourcing.
Ideally, your parents have the financial means to cover the costs, but if not, you may need to decide as a family, how much everyone will contribute, or if some members aren’t able to contribute financially, how they can contribute their time.
I have seen some families divide caring for their parent with either financial help or performing the care. For example, I knew a family where one daughter was extremely well-off and lived eight hours away from her mother and sister. She paid for her mother’s living and care expenses and her sister, who was not financially stable moved in with her mother and provided in-home care. This worked for them as neither resented their role in their mother’s care.
If your parent isn’t able to cover care costs and you and your siblings are unable to bear the financial burden, there are resources available to your parent. I explore them in the article on Caring for a Toxic Parent.
Guest contributor: Being a caregiver is both physically and emotionally challenging. Kathy Macaraeg spent nine years working with both caregivers and their aging parents, giving her a unique perspective on their needs and challenges. After working one-on-one with families for nine years, Kathy decided to share her unique perspective with a larger audience through www.caregivingmadeeasy.com.
This simple home exercise is the best for mobility and independence
The ability to stand up from a chair makes a huge difference in everyday life for seniors. It helps with essential activities like getting up from the toilet, out of bed, and out of a chair.
That’s why the sit to stand exercise is probably the best of the mobility exercises for seniors. It’s a functional exercise for that exact movement and strengthens leg, core, and back muscles – all needed to increase mobility and independence as well as improve balance.
Plus, it’s an exercise that needs no equipment and can be done anywhere you can put a chair.
We found a straightforward video from Eldergym that shows how to do the basic sit to stand exercise as well as how to make it more challenging as seniors gain strength.
We give an overview of the exercise instructions, recommendations for how many repetitions to do, and tips on how to keep your older adult safe while exercising.
How to do the sit to stand exercise
The video demonstrates how to do the basic exercise, then adds various elements to increase the difficulty as your older adult gains strength.
A sturdy chair that won’t slide on the floor
Optional for more advanced levels: a flat pillow, foam balance pad, ball/similar object
1. Basic sit to stand exercise (1 min 5 sec in video)
Scoot/walk hips up to the edge of the chair
Bring toes back underneath knees
Optional: Use arms to push off the chair or off of knees
Lean forward a little to bring nose over toes and push up with legs to a standing position
To sit, bend a little at the knees to push hips toward chair and lower the body to a seated position
Pause before doing the next repetition
Safety tip: In step 3, he mentions holding onto a walker or chair to help with standing. We don’t recommend this because pulling or pushing on a walker or cane can cause the legs to slip, which then causes older adults to fall. In the video, he’s doing it more safely with one hand on the chair and one hand on the walker/cane, but doing this tends to lead to unsafe habits, like using two hands on a walker or cane.
2. Intermediate level sit to stand exercise (2 minutes 30 seconds in video)
Do the same steps as in the basic exercise and keep arms crossed over chest the whole time
3. Advanced level sit to stand exercise (3 minutes 14 seconds in video)
Do the same steps as in the intermediate exercise and place a relatively flat pillow under the feet to challenge balance
4. Super advanced level sit to stand exercise (4 minutes 13 seconds in video)
Do the same steps as in the advanced exercise and hold a lightweight ball (or similar object) in front of the body, about chest height
The video recommends doing 10 repetitions of exercise every day, if possible. But each person’s health and strength is at a different level, so it’s important to do what works best for them.
To determine the ideal number of repetitions for your older adult, gauge their ability while doing the basic version of the exercise. For example, if doing 2 repetitions of sit/stand is quite challenging, then that’s their current limit.
Your older adult should be able to complete their number of repetitions without getting so tired that they’re weak or off balance. But they should be using effort and getting a bit tired since the goal is to work their muscles.
Over time, slowly build up to 10 or more repetitions and increase the difficulty when the exercise isn’t challenging enough.
Safety during exercise is the top priority
Safety is number 1! The most important thing is that your older adult doesn’t fall or hurt themselves while exercising.
For older adults who are unsteady on their feet, we recommend having them wear a gait belt while you stand next to them and lightly hold on to the belt while they do their exercises. That way, you can provide instant stability in case they get off balance.
This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain some affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.
When you live far away from an older adult you’re caring for, you might wonder how to help when you can’t be there in person. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to keep them as safe, healthy, and comfortable as possible – even from a distance.
Their guide gives an overview of everything you’ll need to know, explains how to plan for success, and lists many useful resources. There’s a lot of information available, so we’ve highlighted the 7 most helpful sections to start with.
Get long distance caregiving tips from this helpful guide
This comprehensive guide is free to print or download. It has an overview of everything you’ll need to know to be a wonderful long distance caregiver.
7 essential sections of the long distance caregiving guide
Everything in this guide is helpful, but the amount of material might feel overwhelming at first. We recommend starting with these 7 key sections.
1. Checklist of Care Needs, Page 11
The first step is to understand the situation and figure out what your older adult needs help with. That way, you can find the right services to meet their needs.
2. Care Managers, Page 12
Someone who can be there in person is a valuable member of your care team. This section describes how geriatric care managers can help.
3. Who’s on Your Team?, Page 13
We love this section because it tells you how to put your caregiving team together. The team is an essential support system for both your older adult and you. This list helps you think creatively about people near your senior who can help in person.
4. Places to Start, Page 14
This is a list of key elder care agencies and providers in your older adult’s local area.
5. Paying for Care, Page 20
Long-term care isn’t covered by Medicare and not everyone qualifies for coverage under Medicaid. That’s why it’s important to create a financial plan to pay for the services your older adult needs.
6. Practical Tips and Resources for a Distant Caregiver, Page 21
This is a great summary of the variety of ways you can provide long-distance care and support to your senior.
7. Helpful Agencies & Organizations, Page 24
This is another useful list of key government and nonprofit agencies that provide benefits and help to seniors and caregivers.
Once you feel comfortable with those sections, move on to learn about these additional topics:
Gathering information so you can make care decisions
Your caregiving strengths and limits
Balancing work and caregiving
How to hold a family meeting to discuss roles and responsibilities
Improve life for seniors with dementia with simple products
Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia may often get anxious, agitated, or angry. Using simple, non-drug products is an effective way to calm and soothe and may also help avoid triggering challenging behavior.
We rounded up 10 simple, but effective products for people with dementia that improve quality of life. They reduce anxiety, increase comfort, and provide entertainment. The best part is that almost all are very affordable.
10 products for people with dementia that give calm and comfort
1. $9 Earplugs or $15 ear protectors
Noisy environments like stores or restaurants can cause sensory overload for someone with dementia. Wearing earplugs or ear protection to muffle the sounds can help them stay calm and enjoy an outing.
2. From $10 – Stuffed animals
An effective, drug-free way to calm and soothe someone with dementia is to give them a soft toy they can cuddle and interact with. People who can no longer have pets may feel especially comforted by a stuffed animal that looks like their former pet.
3. $13 Ceramic aromatherapy diffuser
Having dementia is stressful and can cause anxiety, anger, and other symptoms that decrease quality of life. Using aromatherapy is a simple way to create a calm and relaxing environment.
4. $16 Jumbo large print 2018 wall calendar
Another way to help someone with dementia keep track of time is to have a calendar that’s easy to see and understand. This one is 17 x 22 inches when hanging and has plenty of space for making notes about appointments or special events.
5. $20 Vibrating massage pillow
This pillow vibrates gently when pressed, relaxing tense muscles. The 14 x 14 inch size makes it perfect for use on a variety of body areas – behind the back, hugged in the front, under the legs or feet, and more.
6. $23 Fidget activity set
This set includes a dozen simple, touch-based activities. They keep hands and minds busy in safe, soothing ways. These types of fidget toys are great for anyone, but are especially helpful for someone who’s anxious, pulls at their clothes, wrings their hands, or picks at their skin.
7. From $26 – Lifelike dolls
Another effect way to calm seniors with dementia is to give them a soft, lifelike baby doll to cuddle. Therapy dolls can even be effective in calming older adults with severe agitation or other significant behavioral issues.
Dolls can help seniors feel useful and needed, give them something positive to focus on, and soothe anxiety by having something soft to hug.
8. From $30 – Weighted lap pad or blanket
A weighted lap pad or blanket is a simple, non-drug option that can be used day or night. They reduce anxiety, calm nerves, provide comfort, and promote deep sleep.
The weight provides something called deep pressure therapy. When the body feels the gentle pressure, it produces serotonin. That improves mood and promotes calm.
Find out more and get links to weighted lap pads and blankets here.
A large digital display on this clock clearly shows the time and day, tells you if it’s morning, afternoon, or night, and also spells out the full date. The large print is also great for people with low vision.
10. From $100 – Robotic pet
These robotic stuffed animals are lifelike and engaging as well as being cute and cuddly. They respond to touch similar to a real pet, but nobody needs to worry about feeding or cleaning. We love the orange tabby cat and golden pup.
All prices quoted were checked shortly before publication, but prices change often and might not match what is found online. This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain some affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.