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You’ve had the hard conversation with your family. You know your parent needs more care than you can manage now and you recognize that you will need to become a full-time caregiver. Unfortunately, you can’t just give up having an income, especially when caregiving itself comes with so many costs.

So, what can you do to provide the amount of care a senior loved one needs while maintaining an income? Though there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, you can use our tips to see how to qualify to become a paid family caregiver.

Becoming a Paid Family Caregiver

There are many ways to access the funds and resources that pay for family caregiving, but they depend on multiple personal factors.

Some questions that will make a difference in whether or not you’ll qualify for help include:

  1. How much care does your loved one need? A lot of the resources out there will decide whether or not someone qualifies for aid based on the number of ADLs your loved one needs help with. If your parent isn’t quite sick enough, that could disqualify you.
  2. How old is your loved one? Some benefits only become available once your parent reaches a certain age, most typically 65.
  3. Is your loved one a veteran? Veterans and their spouses have access to benefits that other people don’t. If your parent was in the military or married to someone that was, you have more potential resources to tap into.
  4. What assets do you have? Some benefits are only available to those below a certain income level. How much your parent has in savings, as well as how much your family brings in, will play a role in how much financial help you can access.
  5. Which state do you live in? Many of the programs that pay family caregivers are administered at a state government level. What you can get depends a lot on where you live.
Government Resources That Pay Family Caregivers

Depending on your answers to the above questions, there’s a chance you can become a paid family caregiver using government resources.

Here are some government programs that provide family caregivers with resources to cover expenses or make up for lost income:

Medicaid

Medicaid offers a number of programs in different states that can be used to pay a family caregiver.

The Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) program provides seniors who need long-term care financial support that allows them to manage when and how they receive that care themselves. While LTSS is available throughout the U.S., the details of how this program works vary by state. In some states, seniors can choose to pay a family member for their long-term care, in others, there are restrictions based on what the family relationship is and whether or not you live in the same home. If your loved one is on Medicaid, get in touch with your local office to ask about LTSS and what the requirements are in your state.

Note that these services go by different names in different places. If your Medicaid office doesn’t recognize the term you use, see if they know anything about a “Cash and Counseling,” “Consumer Directed Care” or “Personal Choices” program.

If your state’s program does allow family caregivers as one of the options eligible for payment, you’ll need to follow a few steps to start getting paid:

  • Contact your local LTSS program about your interest in their services
  • Have a doctor confirm that your parent needs in-home care at the level the program requires
  • Provide evidence that you can legally work in the U.S. and are physically capable of the job (you may need to have blood work and/or a physical done)

Based on the level of care your doctor says your loved one needs, the program will determine a certain number of hours per week they require care. You can receive an hourly amount for the number of hours determined.

Veteran Services

If your loved one is either a veteran themselves or the spouse of a veteran, then you may have access to additional resources that can help.

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance

The Aid and Attendance benefit is another important resource for senior veterans and their spouses. For any senior that requires regular assistance for a number of ADLs, the benefit can provide up to $1,830 per month (or $2,930 for two people). The amount can be put toward the long-term care option of their choice, including paying for family caregivers.

Veteran Home and Community-Based Services

The VA has their own version of the consumer-directed care programs Medicaid offers in some states. In the interest of giving veterans more control over their care and keeping them from having to move to a nursing home if there’s an alternative, these programs provide veteran seniors with a monthly stipend to cover the cost of the type of long-term care they choose.

Veteran Home and Community Based Services aren’t available everywhere, but veterans in 34 states, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have access to some version of the program. On average, participants receive $2,500 per month (although individual amounts vary).

For either type of veteran service, find your local Benefits Office using the VA’s facility locater. Talk to the staff there to gain a clearer picture of what resources are available and whether your parent qualifies for them. If they do, your next step will be to make the case for the level of care your loved one needs. Provide a doctor’s report stating that they need in-home care and you may also want to describe the type of tasks you help them with each day.

Tax Deductions

While it’s not the same as a monthly check, you can make some money back each year by taking advantage of the tax deductions available to caregivers.

You may be able to write-off some of the expenses for:

  • Dental costs
  • Medical costs
  • Home modifications to make your house more accessible
  • The cost of transportation to and from doctor’s offices

Talk to your accountant to see what you qualify for and start keeping track of your mileage and hanging onto receipts for the expenses you can take as deductions.

Though it hasn’t yet passed, the Credit for Caring Act that’s been proposed would also provide more opportunities for family caregivers to get a tax break. Caregivers that qualify could get a tax credit of up to 30% of their caregiving-related expenses – up to $3,000.

Other Paid Family Caregiver Resources

Depending on where you’re located, you may have access to government resources we haven’t covered here. Many other resources for caregivers are provided at the local county and state levels.

Local Resources

One of the best ways to find local resources you can tap into is the Area Agencies on Aging. You can find your closest Area Agency on Aging office by plugging your city into their directory search, which will also provide information on other services for seniors in your area. The staff at your closest location can help you find the services you and your loved one have access to.

Long-Term Care Insurance Policies

Did your parent buy long-term care insurance when they were younger? If so, there’s a chance that your policy may include a provision for paying a family member who provides care. To be clear, this isn’t an especially common part of long-term care insurance coverage. But it’s still worth it to check with your insurance company to find out if they cover in-home care from family members as well as other types of long-term care.

If the policy covers in-home care, but only for a state-certified caregiver, it may be worth looking into the certification requirements in your state to see if getting certified yourself could be worth it.

Paid Leave

If your parent’s needs are short-term, or you’re hoping for a solution that will tide you over while you start looking into assisted living options, then you may be able to start providing care full-time without leaving your job altogether.

Many businesses today are recognizing the value of providing their employees with paid time off to help take care of aging loved ones. Talk to your HR rep to find out what sort of paid leave policies are offered by your company and if they include caregiving for senior loved ones. If you can take a few weeks off without losing your income, you can at least help get a good feel for how much care your parent needs and take time to find the right alternative solution for when you go back to work.

Remote Work

Paid leave is a temporary solution at best, but a growing number of businesses are allowing for an option that can help you out more in the long-term: telecommuting. Almost of a quarter of the U.S. workforce telecommutes at least part of the time already.

While being the primary caregiver of an aging loved one while working full-time from home won’t be realistic in every case, for some families, having someone around to help out with the small ADLs and keep an eye on things in case of emergencies is the main need. That level of caregiving often is compatible with working from home.

Discuss the possibility with your superiors at work to see if they’re open to it. Remote work could allow you to be home when your loved one needs you, without giving up your income entirely.

Sibling Support

If you have siblings or other family members with an interest in your parent’s well being, then it may make sense to ask everyone who continues working to contribute pay to the family member that leaves the workforce to become a full-time caregiver. Or, if your parent has significant assets, discuss the possibility of them paying you directly or changing the terms of the will to account for the time away from work you’ll be taking.

These aren’t easy conversations to have, but the costs of becoming an unpaid full-time family caregiver are high. If you choose to leave work to take on that role, you’re saving the family the cost of hiring someone else to do it – which is very expensive.

If you do go this route, don’t forget to work up a caregiver contract. It will make things clearer and easier over time to set down the terms of payment in a contract up front. Meet with an eldercare attorney to review the contract and help you foresee potential pitfalls and issues you wouldn’t know to consider.

If the family has a hard time coming to an agreement about this, consider looking into a family therapist or financial consultant who can help provide outside perspective. One family member shouldn’t be forced to shoulder the full costs of a parent’s care needs if it’s possible for others to help.

There are no easy answers for covering all the costs of cargegiving, but there are a number of resources that could make the transition easier.

One last thing to carefully consider before leaving your job is whether or not your loved one would be better served by senior living options in your area. You may find there’s a better solution available than putting your own professional life on hold.

Are you a paid family caregiver? What resources do you use that we haven’t mentioned above? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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Around 5 to 7 million Americans are long-distance caregivers and that number is expected to double by 2020, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. Those caregivers may already be in contact with a care manager or in-home care provider, but it’s also a good idea to build a more casual network of local family and friends who can watch out for a senior loved one.

Read more about how to build a long-distance caregiving network.

Long-Distance Caregiving

One day, Shelly Beach received an alarming phone call from a member of a group that dined out with her parents every week. “Your dad passed out today at the Old Country Buffet. He was taken away in an ambulance,” the family friend told her. “And your mother just kept on eating.”

She was already driving nearly a thousand miles roundtrip every two weeks, from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Muskegon, Michigan, to visit her dad and mom. Meanwhile, her parents’ friends were growing increasingly concerned about her mom, 78, who had Alzheimer’s and her dad, 80, whose own health had declined due to the strain of caregiving for his wife.

“Someone would call and say, ‘I’m worried about your dad, that this is too much for him,’” says Beach. Others mentioned that her dad was eating TV dinners or relayed news about her mother’s disheveled appearance.

Sometimes, she learned second-hand about serious matters that her father failed to mention.

“When I talked to my dad on the phone, he didn’t tell me that he had to be taken away from the restaurant in an ambulance,” Beach says. Without that call from a friend, she might have never heard about the troubling incident.

The Benefits of a Long-Distance Caregiving Network

Many long-distance caregivers may already be in contact with a care manager or in-home care provider, but it’s also a good idea to build a more casual network of local family and friends. Other people’s assessments may be more realistic than your own, since a loved one may try to put on a good front when you visit.

It’s possible that family, friends and neighbors might already be concerned about your loved one, says Jennifer FitzPatrick, author of “Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing the Stress of Caring for Your Loved One.”

“They may have noticed your loved one’s issues but worried they could be overstepping by reaching out to you with concerns,” says FitzPatrick. “On the other hand, many of your loved one’s friends and neighbors are busy with their own lives and haven’t noticed.”

Fortunately, Beach, author of “Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey,” had already built a network of people close to her parents who could stop by regularly to visit. She’d exchanged phone numbers with others, who often saw her father and mother at church, local businesses or social events.

Her parents had next-door neighbors, Ellen and Joe, who also watched out for the couple. “Ellen and Joe were back and forth to their house all the time, with their eyes on my parents every day,” says Beach.

Meanwhile, Beach’s father-in-law, who had Parkinson’s disease, was also living with Beach and her family in Iowa. The bi-weekly treks to Michigan were exhausting but necessary.

During one of those visits, Beach found her dad passed out in the bathroom. He’d collapsed and hit his head. “My mother was stark naked and confused about what was going on,” she says. “I didn’t know whether to throw a blanket over Mom or stop Dad’s bleeding.”

She picked up the phone and called Joe, who raced over immediately to help.

Ways to Build a Long-Distance Caregiving Network

If you’re a long-distance caregiver, building a local network to help assess a loved one’s overall well-being is crucial. But how do you go about setting the group up?

Start by writing down all the people that you and your loved one know, says FitzPatrick. Then think about what each person on the list does best. Who might be best at hands-on care? Who loves to run errands? Match up each person with their skill set. Keep in mind that that involving other people must sometimes be handled delicately.

“If your loved one has advanced dementia, it may be best to not discuss with him or her that you are reaching out for support,” says FitzPatrick. “But if your loved one doesn’t have dementia, ask them how they feel about letting your mutual network know there is a health issue.” Engaging the informal network could backfire unless your loved one agrees, she says.

FitzPatrick’s suggestions for persuading your loved one to be open to a network of people involved in their welfare include:

  1. Consider utilizing a free service such as LotsaHelpingHands.com for communicating what each person is doing.
  2. Frame the network as a way to “give Uncle Jim something to do” or “help your friend Sue feel less worried about you.”
  3. Let your loved one know your boundaries. Be clear about how much you can contribute and how often you’ll be able to visit.
  4. Remind your loved one that paying for help rather than seeking help from friends or neighbors is an option only if his or her budget allows.

Beach and her family later moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be closer to her parents. After her father-in-law with Parkinson’s went into a long-term care community, Beach’s parents then came to live with her and her family. However, the previous informal network allowed Beach and her brother, who lived 200 miles from her parents, to continue caregiving at a distance until the move became necessary.

“My parents lived in a very caring community,” says Beach, who created the Facebook group Caregiving Journey, based on her caregiving experiences. “My husband and I could never have undertaken this type of care without a network of people who helped us.”

Have you built a long-distance caregiving network? How has it helped you? We’d like to hear your long-distance caregiving stories in the comments below.

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Last Updated: June 29, 2018

It’s no secret. Retirement is expensive. While many plan well, some seniors can, unfortunately, run out of money and become a financial burden to their families in their retirement years.

You don’t want to sacrifice your own finances to pay for your parents’ assisted living, because you need to think about your own future. What should you do? You have options – you just have to do your research. Read more about what to do when you want to retire but a parent needs assisted living.

Common Sources of Retirement Income

Most seniors receive income from a variety of places, according to a Gallup survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, including 636 retirees. Retirement these days is expensive, so families need to pull together many different sources to live comfortably.

Here are some common resources to explore to pay for your parents’ senior care:

1. Home Equity

Use your parents’ home to help pay for their care, if needed. If it’s a bad time to sell the home, a second mortgage or reverse mortgage may also be an option.

2. Investments

Find out whether your parents had individual stocks or stock mutual funds to help pay for their retirement.

3. Long-Term Care Insurance

Some Americans qualify for long-term care insurance for elderly care, and some don’t. You’ll have to research whether your parents are eligible.

4. Pensions

More than a third of retirees enjoy a steady stream of pension payments in retirement. Do your research to find out whether Dad or Mom had a pension.

5. Retirement or Savings Accounts

Many people have a 401(k), IRA, savings account or similar type of retirement account to help fund their golden years. Check with your parents or their financial advisor to find out whether there’s any money remaining in these accounts.

6. Social Security

Social Security is the most common way Americans pay for retirement and 61% of retirees say it is a major source of their annual income, says U.S. News and World Report. Find out if your parents’ get social security and how much can help contribute to their senior living care.

Have You Exhausted Your Parents’ Resources?

If you have exhausted these resources, Medicaid is a good place to start looking into eligibility, along with your local Area Agency on Aging:

Medicaid

Medicaid is the foremost government assistance program paying for long-term care for people who can’t afford it on their own. It is administered cooperatively by the federal government and states. While the majority of its funding comes from the federal government, each state has some discretion in its individual rules, regulations and eligibility requirements.

Eligibility for Medicaid

There are a number of qualifiers to be eligible for Medicaid:

  • A senior has to put almost all of his or her existing assets towards care
  • Low-income seniors need to have care or medical expenses that are higher than income
  • If a married couple wants to qualify for Medicaid, the couple does not need to have exhausted all financial resources
    • The healthy spouse can usually keep the home he or she lives in, but may still have to make significant sacrifices

Medicaid is the safety net for Americans who need care that they cannot afford privately. Like Medicare, Medicaid acts as health insurance. But unlike Medicare, Medicaid can be used to pay for long-term nursing home care in all states.

Many states also allow their residents to use Medicaid to pay for assisted living communities or other alternatives to nursing homes such as in-home care.

Some states even offer a program through Medicaid called PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), which covers all of the senior’s care and medical needs through one contracting agency, with the goal of allowing people who have traditionally gone to nursing homes to stay in the community (at home) with support.

Plan Ahead: Approaching the Topic of Senior Care

Andy Smith, A Place for Mom’s Financial Expert and Senior VP of Financial Planning at Financial Engines, provides financial planning to families on a daily basis and was kind enough to offer his expert guidance on ways to plan for parents’ senior care early.

Here are the steps he advises taking to discuss senior care finances with your parents:

1. Catalog and organize as much as you can. This will mean accounts, bills, budgets, debts and mortgages, etc.

2. Find out their accountants, advisors, attorneys, etc. Call each of them, introduce yourself and ask for a meeting; let them know what is happening and what your initial plans are, then ask for their help in terms of creating their sets of plans and instructions for what they believe your parents, and you, need to do to plan for the future.

  • If you don’t understand what their advisors are telling you, or if you get the sense that they’re taking you (and your parents) for a ride, fire them and hire someone you can trust
  • Make sure you (and your parents) are working with fiduciaries: someone who is legally obligated to do what is in your best interests — not theirs

3. Get sign-off from your parents early in the process. If they want you to help them, but they don’t give you the authority to do certain things (especially with powers of attorney and financial decision-making, in some situations), you’re always going to be playing “Mother, May I?” and you’ll never accomplish anything.

4. If your parents are in a place where they can still understand what you’re doing for them with these financial matters, have regular conversations with them. Let them know what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you plan on doing in each of their major financial areas: expenses, income, investments, outflows

5. Regularly revisit the plans and determine what (if anything) needs to be changed, taking into consideration any of the following:

  • Changing family situations (you having to deal with engaging or disengaging siblings, family, etc.)
  • Changing finances (good or bad)
  • Changing health
  • Changing markets

6. Remember that a lot of other Americans are going through the same thing. You’re not alone in this, so reach out for help and talk with people about what you’re feeling, what you’re trying to do, and how to deal with the situation.

7. Set short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals for yourself with managing your parents’ finances. If you, personally, can’t see regular wins, you’re going to become frustrated and you’ll lose steam (and eventually, quit)

8. Talk about senior care finances early and openly. You think you’re going to offend someone by saying the wrong thing, but not saying anything is more problematic than making someone feel bad short-term, and having to deal with financial problems later.

Have you had to be creative to pay for your parents’ senior care? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

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Seeing a parent struggle with age-related conditions, whether cognitive or physical, is an extremely difficult thing. When we are young it’s impossible to envision our parents as unable to perform certain tasks; but as life goes on and our parents continue to age, they need us to provide them with care and support.

In the business, exhaustion and stress that comes with being a caregiver, respecting aging parents can sometimes be unintentionally placed on the back burner.

Respecting Aging Parents

Below are considerations to keep in mind when supporting aging parents:

1. Be Considerate, Always

An article published by Forbes suggests asking your parents their feelings and opinions on matters, rather than assuming: “nothing shows less respect than assuming you know what your parent wants, without actually asking.” Many adult children think they know what is best for their parents, whether that is to surrender their license after they reach a certain age or move into an assisted living community if they experience a fall at home; however, Forbes firmly states that “as long as they are cognitively able to make decisions, frail seniors have the right to make their own choices. Even if you disagree with them. That’s what respect is all about.”

2. Calm Your Emotions

Supporting another person is not easy. Many caregivers can relate to feelings of annoyance and frustration that often creep in when dealing with a loved one’s age-related issues. While experiencing feelings of irritation are natural and normal, be careful not to express them outwardly to your parent. It is important to keep in mind that no matter how justifiable your level of irritation is, you must take a step back, regain control and then consider your parents’ feelings on the matter. Seniors with memory issues often are unaware that they are ‘slipping,’ and this realization can be terrifying and upsetting. It is not fair to impose your own irritation on them.

3. Empower and Support

Many adult children struggle with the belief that their parents are making the wrong decisions, or worse, they don’t have the ability to make decisions for themselves anymore. Forbes and many other reputable publications make it clear that as long as your parent is cognitively sound, he or she should be at the center of decision making and their choices should be respected.

When family members do not respect this notion, it causes concern and upset from both the aging parent and their children. The Huffington Post article describes an unfortunate incident regarding adult children who were concerned about their mother’s driving skills: “my well-meaning family members went behind my mother’s back and made her car “disappear,” sending it to the shop for fabricated “repairs.” My mother was so upset to discover her car was MIA that she tried to get an old farm truck going and wound up backing into a tree. So the ruse of the missing car did far more damage than a simple face-to-face conversation would have done.” Had this conversation been handled another way, with the adult children expressing their concerns in a calm, open and respectful manner, the results would have been very different.

4. Never Forget

No matter the age or medical condition of your parent, it is important to always remember that they are your parent and they have value. Parents spend decades of their lives caring for their children and sacrificing their own goals and happiness for those of their children. By keeping in mind the sacrifices that your parents made for you, it allows you to be more mindful and respectful when caring for them in their senior years.

5. Practice Honest and Open Communication

Often, the tone we use to communicate with our aging parents, as well as language used across the internet and in self-help books, paints seniors in a negative light, as “children,” lacking ability and competence. Phrases such as “parenting your parents” or “you have become your parents and they have become your children” creates a divide between aging parents and their children and breaks down communication. Forbes explains: “starting a conversation with, “Mom, you have to…” not only shows a profound lack of respect, it is a recipe for failure. You wouldn’t start a conversation with a spouse that way (at last you wouldn’t if you wanted to accomplish anything).”

An article entitled “Respecting Our Elderly Parents,” by the Huffington Post, agrees, condemning the idea of treating senior parents like children: “Why is it so difficult to have a considerate and compassionate talk, stating the facts in a way that acknowledges the parent is still an adult, not a child to be tricked?” Instead, the article suggests talking to your parents, even when topics are difficult, “in a way that lets them know they are a competent adult, still worthy of your love and respect.” This includes conversations about your fears and worries, as well as your wishes for them.

You are far more likely to be met with a positive response when expressing your concerns in a loving manner rather than barking expectations and orders.

As a caregiver, in what ways do you show respect for your parents? We’d like to hear your stories and suggestions in the comments below.

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Most of us are familiar with “helicopter parents” – the generation of overprotective dads and moms who incessantly hover like helicopters around their children – but recently, the roles have reversed. “Helicopter children” represent a new wave of overprotective caregivers who try to mitigate their aging parents’ every move; albeit with the best of intentions.

Whether you are the elderly parent receiving care or the adult child providing it, the transition of caregiving is often difficult for everyone involved. To make this difficult transition easier, Forbes suggests removing the barriers of communication as much as possible and to “think of this relationship as a partnership, not as one family member providing a service to another.”

The “Helicopter” Movement

According to Parents Magazine, the metaphor “helicopter parent” was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book “Between Parent & Teenager” by “teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter.”

The term took off in the 1990s to describe parents of millennial children who embraced an excessive parenting style that included “over-controlling, over-protecting and over-perfecting” their children.

Helicopter behavior hasn’t only been observed in parents of young children, not yet old enough to advocate for themselves. United States College administrators began using the term in the early 2000’s to describe baby boomer-aged parents who “earned notoriety for practices such as calling their children each morning to wake them up for class and complaining to their professors about grades the children had received.”

As baby boomers (and their children) continue to age, it has become a natural transition for them to focus their sites on their own aging parents.

Helicopter Children: The Right Approach to Caring for Aging Parents

Forbes points out that the language used across the internet and in self-help books negatively impacts the ways in which we view aging seniors and in turn, the way we care for them. Phrases such as “parenting your parents” or “you have become your parents and they have become your children” only serves to create a divide between parents and their adult children and ultimately corrodes communication.

Instead, Forbes suggests to always remember that although your parents need assistance and support as they age, they have not become your children… they will never be your children and “to treat them as if they are is to dishonor and disrespect your aging parents.”

To avoid becoming a helicopter child, it is important to keep your parents’ well-being at the heart of every issue, rather than your need to ease your own worries.

Clinical psychologist Laura Carstensen, who is also founding director of Stanford University’s Center on Longevity, suggests this basic rule for adult children to adopt when caring for their aging parent: “unless a parent is cognitively impaired and not aware of the level of his or her impairment, children need to respect the parent’s decisions.”

The Wall Street Journal suggests that adult children consider the following approach to avoid entering the helicopter zone:

  1. Consider assistive devices. If your parents forget to turn off the stove, don’t jump to the conclusion they can’t stay in their home. Look into devices that turn stoves off automatically.
  2. Consult a professional if you’re worried about risky behavior. If a parent has cataracts in both eyes and continues to drive at night, ask the primary-care physician to intervene.
  3. Consult, don’t command. Use classic ‘I’ language, such as: ‘I am concerned about you living in a two-story house after your heart attack.’ Avoid: ‘You can’t live here anymore.’
  4. Establish competence. If you and your parents don’t agree on their level of competence, consult a professional together.
  5. Pick your battles. If a parent is getting lost or has stopped bathing, talk about what help he or she might need to remain independent. If his or her clothes don’t match, get over it.
  6. Respect their privacy. Don’t go through your parents’ mail or screen their calls unless asked.
  7. Respect their rights. Your parents have the right to take informed risks. Unless your father or mother has dementia, don’t make decisions for him or her.

What struggles do you face when caring for an aging parent or older loved one? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Last Updated: June 20, 2018

Studies show that older adults want to stay in their homes for as long as possible as they age. While it is important for seniors to remain in familiar surroundings like the comfort of their own home, is it always safe?

How to Keep Your Senior Loved One Safe at Home

Safety is one of the top concerns caregivers have about their senior loved ones. Read the following 10 tips about how to keep your senior parent safe at home during this time:

1. Assist With Mobility

It’s important to make it easy for your senior loved one to move around the home. A bench at the front door is extremely helpful for seniors to sit while placing bags when they come in from outside or to put on winter boots. A tall counter stool is also a great addition to the kitchen. It can allow a senior to remain independent, possibly cooking while sitting down (which is great for seniors who can’t stand for long periods of time). Proper footwear is also incredibly important. Encourage your loved one to wear well-fitting shoes with low heels and sturdy soles.

2. Consider the Bathroom

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom and almost 14% are hospitalized. More than a third of the injuries happen while bathing or showering, while approximately 14% occur while using the toilet. Seniors in particular are vulnerable to injury near the toilet, as over half of the injuries sustained by people over the age of 85 occur in this area of the bathroom. Consider making the bathroom more accessible and safe by:

  • Installing grab bars inside and outside of the shower/stall and on either side of the toilet
  • Lay non-slip rubber mats in high-slip areas, such as in front of the sink and both inside and outside of the shower
  • Placing a stool or other area to sit during grooming routines
  • Retrofitting the current bathtub area with a walk-in tub or shower. The Safe Step Walk-in Tub Company offers walk-in tub and shower systems complete with a foldable chair, flexible shower wand, an ultra-low step-up and other senior-friendly features
3. Consider the Outdoors

Many senior falls take place outside of the home, so ensuring your driveway, entrance, porch and sidewalk are free of hazards is just as important as making the inside of your home hazard free.

Unstable cracks in the sidewalk leading to and from your home should be repaired seasonally and walkways should be clear of snow. Wood covered decks and porches can be especially slippery in wet weather conditions, so consider laying a rubber mat or adhering anti-slip grips to the base of your porch.

4. Easy Access to Doors and Windows for Seniors With Arthritis

If the senior you’re caring for has arthritis, then turning doorknobs and opening windows may be difficult. Consider the hardware you choose for these areas of your home — a lever-style door handle may be easier to use than a round one.

5. Encourage Exercise

Harvard Health Publishing suggests that seniors practice simple exercises to improve balance and coordination, reduce falls and strengthen supporting muscles. Consider the following activities:

  • Bicycling
  • Climbing stairs
  • Tai Chi
  • Walking
  • Weight training with hand weights or a machine
  • Yoga
6. Let There Be Light

Seniors who have a hard time seeing are at an increased risk of accidents. Ensure areas around entryways, hallways and stairs are well lit, and add brighter or extra lights if needed. You can also install glow-in-the-dark light switches or motion-sensor lighting throughout your home, so seniors don’t need to struggle to find the light switch in the dark.

7. Make It Easy to Call for Help

No matter how many modifications you make to your home, you can never prevent the unexpected. If a senior has an emergency, getting immediate help can be the difference between life and death.

Consider using a call-assist service or personal emergency response system which the senior can wear on their neck or wrist and push a button should they need help. If you don’t have such a service in your area then make sure your loved one carries a cell phone on them, or at the very least, that there is a phone within arms reach of the areas that your senior spends most of their time.

8. Remove Hazards

Remove slipping and tripping hazards that can get caught underfoot and cause your senior loved on to fall. Area rugs have a tendency to bunch up or can curl at the corners, causing a significant hazard. Clutter, pets, extension cords and steps that are too steep, are other major tripping hazards found in many homes. If you have small children, keep the ground as toy-free as possible or establish a senior-free toy zone.

9. Restrict Access to Doors, Windows and Dangerous Zones for Seniors With Dementia

On the other hand, if the senior you’re caring for has dementia or another type of cognitive impairment, then it will be critical to limit access to the outdoors (in case they wander) as well as to dangerous household items like chemicals, household cleaners (like bleach), medicines and other items that could accidentally be swallowed. Child-locks and other child-proofing products work well for this purpose.

10. Use At-Home Safety Devices

There are a number of products out there that are designed to keep seniors safe. For example, ImpactActive Hip Protectors are designed to protect a senior’s hips, should they fall. This comfortable underwear comes in a number of designs for men and women and will shield the hips from fracturing during a fall.

Other types of at-home safety devices for seniors include:

While these suggestions can extend the time a senior can stay in their home safely, in some cases the care needed will exceed what a family caregiver can provide.

In this case, it’s important to consider alternative options like an assisted living community to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved.

What other products or tips have helped you keep your loved one safe at home? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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It’s time. Your family has had a number of discussions about your parent’s increasing need for care and have come to the decision that an assisted living or memory care community is the best choice. Just making that decision is a big step, but now there’s a lot of work to do to make it happen.

If your parent owns a house, one of the decisions you need to make now is whether or not to hang on to the house or go ahead and sell it after a move to senior care. Learn more about both options and their advantages and disadvantages.

Good Reasons to Keep the House After a Move to Senior Care

Chances are, someone in the family has an emotional connection to your parent’s house. If letting go of it is a difficult emotional decision for any of you, then you’ll want to think through whether or not keeping it makes sense. Sentimental reasons alone aren’t always enough to go off of, but there may be other good reasons that make it worth it.

  1. It makes sense to keep as a real estate investment. Depending on where you live, selling could mean losing more money than you would gain by hanging onto the house for a while longer. If you know the real estate market where your parent lived is on an upward trajectory, then keeping the house may be a really smart financial decision. Even if someone from the family won’t be moving in, you could rent it out and make money on it while you wait until the right time to sell.
  2. Someone wants to live there. If one of the children or grandchildren wants to inherit the house, then there may be no need to sell it. It can stay in the family and continue to be used. Your parent can know the house they loved is still in loving hands (and visit it sometimes) and you can all know there’s someone there to take care of maintenance and the costs associated with ownership.
  3. You have a good use for it. Making money and making into a home for another family member are both good uses for your parent’s old house, but there may be other less obvious reasons that keeping it makes sense for your family. This was the case for my mom, Debra Hicks, and her siblings when my grandmother moved to memory care. “We kept the house because it was a great meeting place for all of us to get together,” she told me. “It’s in a central location with enough space for our large family to gather for celebrations and meals.” Even with no one living there full time, the house serves a good purpose several times a year when the children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren of the original owners join together there.
Important Factors to Consider If You Decide to Keep the House

Whatever reasons have you leaning toward keeping the house, it’s not a decision you should make lightly. Make sure you’re prepared to figure out all the details that go with that decision:

  • Covering ongoing costs. Even if the home is entirely paid off, this includes the cost of ongoing fixes and maintenance, home insurance and taxes.
  • Deciding on financial details. This can be the tricky part for a lot of families. You have to all figure out how to pay for the expenses involved in keeping the house and how to use any profits from renting it out, if applicable. If your family is prone to disagreements, hanging onto the house may cause more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Figuring out who will live there (if anyone). If you’ll be renting it out, you have to do the work for finding good renters, which may take some time. If someone in the family wants to move in, you just have to be sure everyone in the family is okay with the arrangement. If you’re leaving it empty, you need to make sure somebody goes by frequently to check on things and deal with the aforementioned ongoing maintenance.
  • Keeping up with ongoing maintenance. Someone will need to take on the responsibility of making sure the house stays in good condition. That means fixing things that break, keeping the yard maintained, etc. It’s a lot of work and can especially be hard to stay on top of if someone isn’t living in the home.
Good Reasons to Sell the House After a Move to Senior Care

Whether you feel an emotional connection to your parent’s home or not, for some families, there will be more reasons to sell it than there will be to hang onto it:

  1. Keeping it would cost too much (and require too much work). As we discussed in the earlier section, keeping the house will mean becoming responsible for a number of associated costs – from home insurance and taxes to various repairs. This especially becomes an issue if no one is living there says Ann Cohen, “As a Realtor, I see vacant homes often fall prey to unexpected issues – frozen pipes, leaky pipes, roof leaks and so on. Homes are meant to have people living in them! Unused appliances and pipes develop compromised seals.”
  2. Nobody lives close to it. This was the case for the author Carol Amos. “When our mother moved to assisted living, my brothers and I agreed that we should sell my mother’s house. My two brothers and I lived outside of the area in different parts of the country,” she explained. Taking care of the house – either while it stands empty or as the landlord to renters – is a lot harder if you’re not there in the same city or even state. If your parent moves into a senior living community close to one of the kids, then there’s nothing keeping any of you tied to the city their home was in. Going back just to deal with house stuff will likely feel more like an annoyance than anything else.
  3. You want the money from it to pay for senior care. Staying in a senior care community can be expensive. If the value of your parent’s home is high enough, selling the house may seem like the most practical solution to getting the money you need to pay for the home. Selling now could pay off in how you’re taxed on what you make. As Sissy Lapin of Listing Door explains, “There are no capital gains taxes for a $250,000 gain if you are single and $500,000 if you are married.” As long as your parent had owned the home for at least the last two years and treated it as their primary residence, that is. In some cases, selling the house will be your smartest financial decision.

If no one in your family feels up to the task of dealing with the maintenance and costs associated with keeping the house, then selling it just makes sense.

Important Factors to Consider if You Decide to Sell the House

If you’re leaning toward selling the home, there are a few important factors you need to think about before making a definite decision:

  • The condition of the home. If it’s an older house and especially if your parent hasn’t been doing much work on the upkeep, then the house may not be in good condition to sell now. You’ll need to consider the fixes and upgrades that need to be made to attract a buyer, or decide if you’re willing to make less on the sale in order to forego the work.
  • The local real estate market. Before you decide to sell, talk to a local real estate agent. You need to find out what the home is worth now and what the expectations are for what the market will do in the coming years. If you’re hoping to use the sale to pay for assisted living, then you need to understand what you can expect to make for the house before you can be sure the math will work.
  • The work of selling. While a good real estate agent can take a lot of work off your plate, you’ll still need to clear your parent’s things out of the house, make the recommended upgrades and do paperwork. Someone in the family will need to be prepared to take those tasks on.
  • Your parent’s readiness to sell. At the end of the day, the home still belongs to your mom or dad. According to Dr. Ann MeyersonRealtor and Transition Counselor, “Senior parents may also need a little psychological room to give up ‘their home’ in stages and renting out the property can be a temporary solution.”If they’re not ready to give up the house yet, you should try your best to respect that. Although if you quite simply can’t afford to hang onto it after they move, you may not have a choice.

Deciding whether to keep your parent’s house or sell is ultimately a personal decision that depends on your particular circumstances and feelings and those of any other family members that have a stake in the decision.

Carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option so you can make the best choice for your family.

Are your parents making the move to senior care? Do you have any other factors to consider that you think we should add to this list? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Caregivers and CNAs are the everyday heroes of senior care and this is their time in the spotlight. It’s “National Nursing Assistant Week” and June 14 is “National Career Nursing Assistants’ Day,” designated by the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants

It’s the perfect moment to thank the CNAs who care for your loved ones, so we’ve put together a list of gift ideas that your parents’ nursing assistants will appreciate.

Caregivers and CNAs

CNA stands for Career Nursing Assistant or Certified Nursing Assistant. You may also see CNAs referred to as nurse’s aides or patient care assistants. These caregivers work under the supervision of nurses to help patients with activities of daily living (like bathing, grooming, and toileting). They also handle some health-related tasks like checking vital signs and turning bedfast patients to prevent pressure sores.

Most CNAs work in long-term care communities like assisted living, memory care and nursing homes, and most of their time is spent providing hands-on care and a listening ear. The job calls for attention to detail, empathy, patience and some physical strength.

As our population grows older, demand for CNAs is rising fast. But pay remains low for these hardworking caregivers – the median yearly wage for CNAs in the U.S. is $27,520. Alaskan CNAs earn more than nurse’s aides in other states, with an average yearly wage of $37,950.

7 Ways to Show Caregivers You Care

Show your parent’s caregivers how much you appreciate what they do with a practical gift this week.

What’s practical for a CNA? When I asked my friend Heather Gattuccio, a nurse who completed CNA training in Washington State, she immediately suggested three perennial favorites that CNAs can use every workday: cool ID badge holders, Starbucks gift cards and tote bags.

Read on for more ways to show caregivers you care:

1. Coffee helps CNAs keep going.

A gift card to Starbucks is extremely practical for last-minute giving. Don’t have time to swing by a store to pick up and a card? Send your parents’ CNAs a gift card by email.

2. Make a fashion statement.

CNAs and other healthcare workers have to display their badges on the job and they can display their sense of style at the same time. Search Etsy for ID badge reels (the part of the badge holder that clips onto clothing) and you’ll find thousands of designs and even personalized options. Pair a cool badge reel with a pack of inexpensive but very practical waterproof badge covers to keep their ID in top shape.

3. Sturdy tote bags are always welcome gifts.

You can splurge on a monogrammed, structured canvas tote from L.L. Bean or Lands’ End that will hold up for years hauling lunches, gym clothes and supplies. Or you can find a simpler canvas tote with a CNA-themed design like this one on CafePress.

Badge holders, bags and coffee cards are just a start. There are other practical ways to make a CNA’s day.

4. Give the gift of hydration.

Cleaning, lifting and walking all day mean CNAs need a sturdy reusable water bottle that won’t get mixed up with everyone else’s in the break room. Simple Modern’s bottles work with cold or hot liquids, don’t develop condensation on the outside, and come in a rainbow of colors and prints.

5. Lend a hand.

CNAs’ hands do a lot of work during a typical day, which is why Scrubs nursing magazine suggests a hand massage or manicure gift certificate as a CNA thank-you gift.

6. Speaking of massage.

Why not splurge on a 30-60 minute gift certificate for your parents’ primary caregiver so they can unwind those tired muscles?

There’s one other gift you can give that costs you nothing and has a long-lasting impact.

7. The gift of public recognition.

You can write an online review of your parent’s senior community that mentions their favorite CNA by name and gives examples of why they’re outstanding. You can also write an email or an old-fashioned paper letter to their boss explaining how much their work means to your family — be sure to copy the CNA. Positive feedback not only gives every CNA a morale boost but having it in writing and shared with supervisors gives them extra positive points at their next annual review. That’s a gift that can keep giving for a long time.

What other gifts can you give to CNAs to show caregivers you care during National Nursing Assistant Week? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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“National Call Your Doctor Day” is June 12 and it’s the perfect time to remind you that if you’re a family caregiver, your health is important.

National Call Your Doctor Day

BrightPink began National Call Your Doctor Day to remind women to schedule their annual well-woman exam because more than 90% of Millennials skip preventive care.

Although we often assume that family caregivers are middle-aged adult children or spouses, one in four family caregivers in the U.S. — or ten million people  is a Millennial, according to a report from AARP.

Skipping routine care puts these young caregivers at risk for the types of chronic health issues that all caregivers face, including depression and exhaustion that both generally occur at an earlier age than the typical caregiver.

Why Caregiver Health Is an Issue

The Caregiver Action Network (CAN) reports that more than 70% of family caregivers say they don’t see their physician as often as they should. That lack of regular preventive care puts their health at risk because these caregivers miss out on things like blood pressure checks, chronic disease management and mental health screenings.

Unfortunately, research has also found that people’s health often declines when they add caregiving to their other responsibilities, especially if they’re caring for someone with dementia or mental illness whose behaviors may be unpredictable and challenging. The health impacts of caregiving are real and can have ripple effects.

Caregivers of dementia patients can suffer immune system damage for as long as three years after they stop caregiving, putting them at risk for developing a chronic disease. Sleep deprivation can worsen stress, make decision-making harder and contribute to excess weight gain — which in turn can contribute to arthritis, diabetes and other chronic conditions. Caregivers also develop clinical depression at a higher rate than non-caregivers the same age.

What Caregivers Can Do to Protect Their Health

It’s easy to look at a list of self-care tips and think about how you don’t have time to do any of them. That’s why the first step toward better health is getting some caregiving help. It’s always a good idea to have a backup caregiver arrangement in place in case you have an accident or become seriously ill. Regular breaks give you the time you need to go to the doctor, prepare a healthy meal or take a nap or walk so that maybe you can avoid that serious illness or injury.

If you feel guilty about taking your parent to an adult day program once a week or having a helper come to your parent’s home in the evenings, try thinking of it as care for you.

When you’re well cared-for, you’ll be a better caregiver to the people you love.

Once you have some room in your schedule, you can work on these steps toward better health:

  1. Eat as well as you can.
  2. Find a caregiver support group.
  3. Keep tabs on your stress level and wellbeing at home. You can use this caregiver health checklist from the American Medical Association.
  4. Make and keep your checkup appointments (dental, medical and vision) to maintain your overall health.
  5. Make regular plans to do something you want to do, either with friends or by yourself.
  6. Set aside time each day for exercise.
  7. Use technology to make your caregiving tasks less stressful.
Resources for Caregivers

Ask your doctor if his or her office sends out email and text reminders when you’re due for a checkup — that alone can help keep you on track.

Other resources for caregivers include:

  1. Brightpink offers health management tips and well-woman exam reminders with an emphasis on breast and ovarian cancer screenings.
  2. The Family Caregiver Alliance online learning center has a library of articles and videos to help caregivers take better care of themselves and their loved ones.
  3. Caregiver Action Network has a Family Caregiver Toolbox full of resources like printable doctor visit checklists and tips on finding support groups.
  4. The nation’s Area Agencies on Aging can help you find local respite care and support groups. Individual counseling and training for caregivers may be available through the AAAs’ National Family Caregiver Support Program.

You can also get detailed information about respite care and home health options near you by speaking with a Senior Living Advisor in your area.

Are you planning on honoring “National Call Your Doctor Day?” When did you last have a health checkup? We’d like to hear more from you in the comments below.

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The costs of family caregiving are enough without losing any more income in the journey. One option that could help you provide your parent’s care while still providing financially, is working from home. While it’s not an option available to everyone, working from home is becoming increasingly common.

Nearly four million people in the U.S. now work from home and the numbers continue to grow each year. For anyone struggling to balance family and work responsibilities, having a flexible schedule can make a huge difference. Read more about how to work from home as a family caregiver.

Caregiving Is a Challenge

Caregiving is a challenge and we have to acknowledge that although helpful, working from home isn’t the only solution to finding a work-life balance. Ruth Ullmann, Founder of My Elder Care Journey, learned how difficult caregiving and working from home could be when her mother’s health started to decline. She spent seven years successfully managing a consulting business from home while caring for her parents, but “the constant interruptions, emergency runs to the hospital and rehabilitation, numerous doctors visits even with the help of home care made it impossible to meet my commitments to my clients.”

Many caregivers find that as their loved one’s needs grow over time, the ability to balance caregiving with other responsibilities becomes increasingly difficult. Part of the issue is having realistic expectations of what will happen and what you can manage. Ullmann admits:

“It never occurred to me that caring for aging parents would impact my business, health, income or savings in such a profound way. Nor did it occur to me that this journey would span 14 years.”

Working From Home as a Family Caregiver: Ways to Make It Work

Not everyone will be able to keep the job they have now while being a family caregiver for a loved one, but there are steps you can take to increase your odds of being able to do both:

1. Consider home care at least part-time.

While the point of being home is that you can take care of your loved one yourself, you will find that having outside help for day-to-day needs makes putting the time you need toward work each day much easier. Hiring a home care aide, whether it’s for a couple of days a week or every day, means you can let someone else take care of the minor caregiving work, while you’re still nearby if something major happens that your parent needs you for.

If your parent has long-term care insurance, you can likely find home care agencies in your area that are covered. If not, your parent may qualify for some form of assistance to help cover the cost. Letting someone else take on some of the caregiving work will make a big difference to your ability to do professional work, so this is an important option to consider and take advantage of, if possible.

2. Create a plan for what working from home will look like.

It’s true that your plan probably won’t match exactly what happens when you start working from home but it’s worth it to create a plan anyway. If you’re an employee, this will help with making a case to your supervisor for why you can be trusted to work from home. You want to demonstrate that you’ve thought things through and know how to make sure the main responsibilities of your job will be taken care of. If you’re self-employed, it will help you better organize your schedule and business responsibilities so that you can make sure everything gets covered.

Your plan should include considerations like how others can expect to be able to reach you, how to handle time-sensitive situations (you may need someone to serve as a backup for these) and how to manage collaborative work while outside of the office. Anything you can think of that will change because of being out of the office and working different hours of the day should be addressed here.

3. Create an office space.

Turning a section of your house into a workspace will help you psychologically separate out your home and work life and will also help encourage those around you to do so. You need to set clear boundaries with your family members and any friends prone to stopping by about when it’s okay to disturb you while you’re working. Heading to your office space (ideally a space with its own door) will signal to them when those boundaries are in place.

4. Don’t try to do as much as you did before.

If your parent only needs assistance in basic tasks like getting dressed in the morning or having meals prepared, you may not need to make much of a change in how much work you continue to take on at first. But if you try to continue spending 40 or more hours per week on work while taking care of a loved one with more serious problems who requires more of your energy and time, you’re heading toward burn out or failure.

Be prepared to scale back. That may mean talking to your boss about a move from 40 hours to 30 or hiring someone to take on some of the tasks you’re in charge of now. That’s not an easy to decision to make, but it’s better to plan for it and be prepared early on than it is to fail in your responsibilities and lose your job entirely because you’re trying to do too much.

5. Enlist others to help with the caregiving.

This part is crucial. Luisa Brenton is a freelance writer that’s been working from home while caring for both her child and mother-in-law with dementia and she notes this as one of the main things that has made that possible.

“I have a husband, my daughter who is completely capable of putting away her toys [and] I have my friends and parents. I do ask them a lot. Believe me, people are happy to help,” she told me.

She spends a lot of her day taking care of her child and mother-in-law but can plan on times to do work when her friends come by to take over caregiving duties for a bit and when her husband comes home from work in the evenings.

This may be the most important tip of all on this list. If you’re going to successfully balance your job and being a family caregiver for a loved one, you have to have other people you can count on to do some of the work needed. Think about who you can depend on for different tasks at different times and get comfortable asking for help.

You’ll still be balancing a lot of work, but being a family caregiver and working from home can allow you to be in a better place financially when it comes time to think about your own retirement.

Are you a family caregiver who works from home? What other caregiving or working from home tips would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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