Archive for the ‘caregivers’ Category

7 Signs a Dementia Caregiver Needs a Break

stressed caregiver

 

If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you’ve probably experienced some rewarding moments as a caregiver. But the challenges of providing care for someone with dementia can become overwhelming. Despite how much you love the person you’re caring for, it’s not uncommon to suffer from burnout and need a break. In fact, research shows that family caregivers face a slew of physical and mental health problems due to the strain of caregiving.

It’s important to recognize the signs that it’s time to take a break and recharge both physically and mentally. Take time for self-evaluation and be honest with yourself. Are you running on empty? Is your life out of balance? All of the following may be signs that you’re nearing or already experiencing burnout, and are overdue for a break and some much needed self-care.

  1. Increased anger and irritation

If you find yourself losing your temper easily and getting angry with your loved one, or becoming increasingly short-tempered with other family members, it can be a sign that you’re suffering caregiver burnout. You may find your frustrations mounting as new obstacles and challenges arise, or if your loved one repeats the same behavior over and over. You may also notice that you raise your voice in anger more than ever before.

  1. Sleep issues

Caregiving can be physically demanding, as well as mentally demanding if your loved one wanders or has disrupted sleep. Your own sleep may become disrupted as you find yourself having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and waking up tired.

  1. Emotional outbursts

It’s only natural to feel a wide array of emotions, such as grieving and sadness, when caring for a loved whose condition is declining, but if you’re becoming more emotional and fragile, it may signal that it’s time for a break. Feelings of despair, dramatic mood swings, and unexpected crying are all signs of emotional overload. Remember, depression and increased anxiety are real risks for caregivers.

  1. Physical ailments

Reaching a breaking point as a caregiver can include a rough cycle of mental and emotional stress leading to physical disorders – which add to the stress you’re already experiencing. You may find yourself getting headaches and colds more frequently (and more intensely) than usual, or develop chronic pain such as neck and back pain. Perhaps you’ve even developed high blood pressure. While you may intend to take better care of yourself, you probably lack the time to do so, which only adds to your stress.

  1. Isolation

It can be easy to become isolated as a full-time caregiver, so much so that it may seem at times like you never see another adult besides the loved one you’re caring for. Or, you may feel like other family members don’t care as much about your loved one as you do, or that they don’t understand the depth of your daily caregiving responsibilities.

Your loved one’s behavior may make you feel that it’s too risky to spend any time away and, intentionally or not, you’ve become withdrawn. Social isolation can add to your stress instead of re-energizing you like being with others can.

  1. Lack of energy or motivation

There are many ways that lethargy can manifest itself, from a lack of energy, a decreased desire for trying to accomplish things, to feeling sluggish after a good night’s rest, or finding it hard to concentrate when you’re reading or doing other mental tasks. Performing the same routines daily as a caregiver can leave you feeling like you’re stuck in a rut, even if those routines enable your loved one to thrive. And some routines, like managing your loved one’s finances, can be more confusing and challenging than others.

  1. Family complaints

As a caregiver, it can seem like a better solution to take on the entire burden of care, feeling that you are the only one capable of keeping everything under control. It’s hard to imagine another way of doing things when you’re on the “front lines” and caring for your loved one on a daily basis.

But everyone needs help sometimes, so it’s important to be open to family and friends who may suggest that you’re not spending enough time with your other loved ones, or are neglecting the things that once gave you joy. You may even find yourself in an increasing number of arguments with other family members about your loved one’s care. It’s important to be willing to enlist help, whether  via unpaid assistance from loved ones or paid respite care.

 

 

 

How to Cope When Caring for a Difficult Loved One

DifficultDad

There’s no question that being a caregiver for a difficult loved one can have its stressful moments. When that person is a parent or another person close to use, your stress levels can easily rise as you deal with emotionally fraught situations you may never have anticipated. Plus, old age and poor health or disability aren’t likely to improve your loved one’s disposition.

The good news? There are many strategies to deal with a difficult aging loved one that can ease your stress while helping to guide them more smoothly through the activities of daily living. What follows are some practical tips to help you cope.

1. Put yourself first.
It seems counter-intuitive that putting your own needs first would be helpful in dealing with a difficult loved one. But it’s crucial that you don’t sacrifice your own sanity to provide care. Putting yourself first means delegating as many responsibilities as you can to others. Nurture your own relationships and friendships to maintain your own well being. The healthier you are, the better care you’ll be able to give your loved one.

2. Know your limitations.
This tip also relates to delegating responsibility, because caring for a difficult aging loved one can be extremely time-consuming. Trying to do everything by yourself is admirable, but certainly not practical. There’s nothing wrong with saying “no” when you need to. Knowing what you can and cannot handle effectively is important for your own health and your loved one’s health.

3. Don’t expect praise.
This is particularly important if you’re caring for someone with dementia. The cognitive impairment your loved one is experiencing may mean that he or she is no longer capable of appreciating your efforts. Instead, their behaviors may include hostility, accusations and suspicion – behaviors that they never exhibited before. It’s important to accept doing a good job for your own sake and because it’s the right thing to do, and not for your parent or loved one’s approval.

4. Try something different.
Take a closer look at the interactions that are consistently negative and decide if there are less stressful ways to spend time with your loved one. Find other activities, like reading a book together, asking him or her to talk about their past, or even creating a photo album together. If sitting together often results in an argument, then volunteer to do a cleaning project, or to cook a special meal.

5. Take breaks.
It’s easy to get so absorbed in caregiving, jobs and family obligations, and the stress of daily life, that you can forget how much time you’re putting in for others. Take time to nurture your spirit and soul in ways that ease your burden. You can take a peaceful walk by yourself, listen to soothing music, meditate, enjoy a hobby, or anything that helps you re-focus mentally.

6. Be proud of your efforts.
Sometimes your efforts will fail no matter what – and how hard – you try. Self-doubt can creep in, and it’s easy to feel guilty or get angry at the loved one who is being so difficult. But take pride in the knowledge that you continue to do what’s best for your loved one’s quality of life and that you’re doing it with a sincere heart. Admire your own bravery and persistence.

7. Bring in experts.
There are situations where bringing in a professional, such as a geriatric care manager, is necessary. You may not have family support, or the relationship has become too explosive and complicated. Whatever the case, a professional can provide support and advice, as well as coordinate care if you live far from your loved one.

8. Set boundaries.
Setting and maintaining boundaries is important for anyone in a caregiving role, and especially important if you’re dealing with a difficult loved one. Be clear about how much you can do (and are willing to do) and this will leave you less vulnerable to manipulative behavior and guilt trips. It’s not a bad idea to set boundaries about how much abusive behavior you’ll put up with, as well.

9. Communicate.
It’s important to discuss situations as soon they arise, when possible. Talking things through with your parent or loved one without getting defensive can make a world of difference. Try using “I” statements instead of accusations or “you” statements.

10. Understand their point of view.
A parent or loved one may feel frustrated with the role reversal in your relationship now that you’re taking care of them. This may make them uncomfortable and feel less like a parent and more like a helpless child. Change the dynamic to “How can I help?” which helps put the responsibility and decisions back on them.

SeniorHomes Announces Caregiver Scholarship

Senior man reading book

For caregivers, the John Lennon lyric “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans,” could easily be rephrased to read “Caregiving is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” There often is no advance notice that you will suddenly assume the role of caregiver, whether for a mother, uncle, spouse, or sibling. And for many new caregivers this means rearranging one’s life to make room for these new responsibilities. Yet this rearranging shouldn’t mean abandoning your own ambitions.

This is why SeniorHomes is proud to announce our brand-new Caregiver Scholarship program to help caregiver-students continue their schooling. We are offering two $1,000 scholarships for caregivers who are actively enrolled in a U.S. college or university. To apply, student caregivers may submit their story through a 1,200-word essay or a 5-minute video that tells us of your journey being a caregiver and student. The deadlines for entry submissions is June 30, 2016 and the winners will be announced August 1, 2016.

To learn more about the application requirements, visit our Caregiver Scholarship page. We look forward to hearing your stories.

 

 

Navigating the 2015 Tax Season: Helpful Tax Advice for Seniors and Caregivers

Tax season is in full swing, much to the chagrin of many tax payers and even a few overwhelmed accountants. But for seniors and caregivers, tax season means it’s time to round up medical expenses, mileage, and other expenses associated with your own care or the care of a loved one for the 2014 tax year. It’s no secret that taxes can be confusing, so it’s often difficult to know what tax benefits you or your loved ones are eligible to receive. (And to make things a little more complicated, tax credits, deductions, and thresholds often change from year to year.) These tips will help you navigate this tax season successfully and minimize your tax burden.

Deducting out-of-pocket medical expenses

For many tax payers, the threshold for deducting out-of-pocket medical expenses has increased from 7.5% of adjusted gross income to 10% of adjusted gross income for the 2014 tax year (for which you’ll file in early 2015). But if you or your spouse are over the age of 65, you’re exempt from that increase through the 2016 tax year (to be filed in 2017). What that means is you’re eligible to deduct the amount of your out-of-pocket (unreimbursed) and allowable medical and dental expenses that exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Tax advice for seniors and caregivers

In other words, if your total out-of-pocket, allowable medical expenses equals 10% of your adjusted gross income, you may deduct the 2.5% that exceeds the 7.5% threshold, but not the entire 10%. Travel expenses for medical care are also eligible, including mileage on your vehicle, bus fares, parking fees, and related expenses. A complete list of all qualifying medical and dental expenses can be found here.

Determining if your care recipient qualifies as a dependent

For caregivers, one of the most common questions to arise is whether the care recipient qualifies as a dependent on the caregiver’s tax return. A general rule of thumb is that an individual may qualify as a dependent when the care provider provides more than 50% of the recipient’s support for food, housing, medical care, transportation, and other basic needs.

The care recipient must also be a relative to qualify as a dependent, such as a mother, father, grandparent, mother-in-law, or father-in-law, but the dependent need not live with you as long as you are providing at least half of the person’s total support.The care recipient’s adjusted gross income must be less than $3,950, and he or she may not file a joint return with his or her spouse in order for a caregiver to claim the individual as a dependent. The good news is that if your loved one meets the eligibility requirements as a dependent, any out-of-pocket costs you contribute to his or her care will count towards your personal 7.5% or 10% threshold for the medical expense deduction.

Assisted living and other long-term care costs

If your loved one resides in an assisted living community, dementia care community, or other long-term care community, some or all of these costs may be deductible on your taxes, as well. According to MarketWatch, medical professionals must deem your loved one “chronically ill” in order for you to be able to deduct the full cost.

“The IRS defines this as either having severe cognitive impairments that require round-the-clock supervisory care, or needing help with at least two activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating, dressing and using the toilet. Full basic monthly expenses can be deducted for those who meet these definitions,” explains retirement reporter Elizabeth O’Brien. If your loved one is not deemed chronically ill, you may still deduct the portion of assisted living or long-term care fees that go toward medical care and expenses, such as nursing services, certain therapies, and medications.

What about long-term care insurance?

Qualified long-term care insurance premiums also count towards your out-of-pocket medical expenses. According to IRS Publication 502, “a qualified long-term care insurance contract is an insurance contract that provides only coverage of qualified long-term care services.” The Publication further clarifies that in order to qualify as a medical expense deduction, a long-term care insurance contract must:

  • Be guaranteed renewable,
  • Not provide for a cash surrender value or other money that can be paid, assigned, pledged, or borrowed,
  • Provide that refunds, other than refunds on the death of the insured or complete surrender or cancellation of the contract, and dividends under the contract must be used only to reduce future premiums or increase future benefits, and,
  • Generally not pay or reimburse expenses incurred for services or items that would be reimbursed under Medicare, except where Medicare is a secondary payer, or the contract makes per diem or other periodic payments without regard to expenses.

There is also a per-person limit on the amount of premiums that may be deducted, as follows:

  • For those age 40 and under: $370
  • For those age 41 to 50: $700
  • For those age 51 to 60: $1,400
  • For those age 61 to 70: $3,720
  • Age 71 or over: $4,660

Elderly Dependent Care Credit

IRS Publication 503 outlines the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which allows caregivers to receive tax credits if they paid someone to provide care to a dependent in order to be able to work outside the home or seek outside employment. These payments cannot be made to a person whom you could claim as a dependent on your tax return, a spouse, or to the parent of the qualifying person. The Qualifying Person Test will help you determine if you are able to take this deduction.

The Child and Dependent Care Credit may be up to 35% of your qualifying expenses, with other limits and criteria applying to the total eligible amount. For instance, you (and your spouse, if filing jointly) must have earned income in the tax year in which the credit is claimed, and the total qualifying expenses “must be reduced by the amount of any dependent care benefits provided by your employer that you deduct or exclude from your income.”

Credit for the Elderly or Disabled Tax credit for the elderly or disabled

If you turned 65 prior to December 31, 2014, retired on permanent and total disability, and have taxable disability income, you may qualify for the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. IRS Publication 524 outlines the eligibility requirements and income limits in more detail. Figure A will help you determine your eligibility, and Table 1 can be used to determine if your income exceeds allowable thresholds to qualify for the credit.

The amount of the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled ranges from $3,750 to $7,500, depending on a variety of factors such as filing status, age, the status of any dependents, and whether one or both spouses are 65 or older and retired on total disability.

Just a few years ago, there weren’t many tax benefits available to family caregivers or even senior citizens. But as the population ages and more individuals are serving as primary family caregivers to an aging loved one than ever before, the government is beginning to implement credits and eligible deductions to help seniors and caregivers reduce their tax burdens. Caregiving is stressful both emotionally and financially, so these tax benefits are a welcome relief that enables some caregivers to continue providing much-needed care and support to their aging loved ones. If you’re a senior or a family caregiver, be sure to talk with an accountant about all the possible tax benefits available to you to minimize your tax burden or maximize returns.

7 Apps That Meet Caregivers’ Needs

Silicon Valley is beginning to realize that there is an ever-increasing need for technology—mobile, online, and in-home—to support caregivers. A report from the National Alliance for Caregiving, the “Alliance,” comes on the heels of an April 2014 roundtable that featured government experts, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, caregiving advocates and researchers.

The report, “Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving,” summarizes the recommendations developed by the roundtable, in the hopes of motivating the industry to develop useful technology tools and apps for caregivers.

Today’s caregivers are connected

In the foreword of the report, President and CEO of the Alliance, Gail Gibson Hunt, explains that “today, most family caregivers are connected to technologies, whether through the Internet, mobile apps, or telemonitoring devices that can help friends and support the care of a loved one.”

She also explains that there are tons of digital solutions out there, but “these solutions must be tailored to the needs and abilities of the family caregiver. Recent research shows that nearly 40 percent of people in the U.S. are caring for an adult or child with disabilities, a number that is increasing as Baby Boomers age. Caregivers increasingly rely on technology to help with medication management and reconciliation, to get information on a treatment or diagnosis, to find support, and to search for services.”

The purpose of the report is to urge those working in Silicon Valley to address the needs of caregivers and meet them where they are, by providing a better understanding of those caregivers’ needs.

Digging deeper into caregivers’ needs

To get a clear picture of those caregivers’ needs, we look to 2010, when the Alliance published a study with United Health Group. “The e-Connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century,” surveyed family caregivers about the likelihood of using 12 different technologies to help them care for their loved ones. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed were most interested in one of four systems: Personal Health Record Tracking, Caregiving Coordination System, Medication Support System, and Symptom Monitor and Transmitter.

It seems as though Silicon Valley has been paying attention to what these experts and caregivers want, as countless apps for caregivers currently are available for various types of devices. Our goal is to highlight some of the most useful, reliable and user-friendly apps  out there for caregivers. Our recommendations are below, in no particular order.

1. Healthspek

A free, cloud-based iPad app, Healthspek gives individuals and caregivers the ability to track, collect and share personal and family health records. Healthspek also is helpful for recording physician, insurance and emergency contacts. Caregivers especially love the way in which the app helps them manage medications, medical charts and images, and track vitals. To make communication between caregivers and medical providers easier, Healthspek receives medical records and facilitates electronic communications with providers, and, with patient’s permission, doctors can access records through Healthspek’s ChartNow feature.

2. Unfrazzle

Sometimes, coordinating care between caregivers is the most challenging task of all. Unfrazzle is a free app for iPhones, iPads and Android devices that seeks to make the lives of caregivers a little easier by helping them coordinate tasks for themselves or with other family caregivers. The app allows caregivers to keep track of day-to-day caregiving tasks, share some or all of the tasks, and choose which tasks to track or assign. With flexible reminders for scheduling one-time or ongoing events, caregivers don’t have to worry about forgetting something. Plus, privacy controls allow users to decide who sees which information. Caregivers also have peace of mind when using Unfrazzle, because they are able to check in to make sure assigned tasks are completed.

3. Balance: for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Alzheimer’s is a very specific disease, and Balance: for Alzheimer’s Caregivers is an iPhone and iPad app designed specifically for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. Because to the nature of Alzheimer’s, it is especially important for caregivers to track behavioral and emotional changes and share them with other caregivers and doctors, and the app makes those tasks so much simpler for caregivers. At a reasonable $0.99, Balance is a popular app among caregivers because it also provides news, information, and research relating to Alzheimer’s. Users also take advantage of Balance’s medication management features, including refill date, start date, dosage, and more. Plus, Balance makes doctor’s visits more manageable because the caregivers can log symptoms and take notes.

4. Caregiver’s Touch

One of the best apps for collaborating with other family members and caregivers, Caregiver’s Touch has been referred to as “The Cadillac of Apps” by Caregivers blogger Ann Napoletan. Create as many as six profiles that each stores information on tabs for easy access. To get the full web version, a $19.95/month or $199.95/year subscription is required, but the $4.99 iPhone app is available to sync with the subscription service; one may be used without the other. Caregiver’s Touch includes a simple tool for organizing and storing information and then sharing it with family members in several categories: calendar, contacts, emergency, insurance, legal and financial, medical history, medication and notes. The app also helps caregivers share information with family members securely.

5. PocketPharmacist

Billed as “the easiest to use (and understand) drug information app and medication organizer,” Pocket Pharmacist has earned outstanding reviews from medical professionals and users. Caregivers can rest easy knowing the app will alert them to potentially dangerous drug interactions. The $1.99 iPhone and iPad app allows caregivers to organize family members’ medications with medication reminders, automatic interaction alerts, and profile printouts, plus create multiple medication lists with the Med Box med organizer.

6. CareCoach

With caregivers and their loved ones making so many trips to the doctor, it can very difficult to keep track of and remember what physicians say at eachappointments. And, if there are several caregivers for one individual, keeping track of the topics discussed in the exam room can be nearly impossible. CareCoach, a free app available for both Android devices and the iPhone, solves the problem. With CareCoach, caregivers have the ability to review questions and notes to ask the physician and then record a doctor’s visit with your smart phone. After the visit, users can securely upload to their online CareCoach account and then choose who can listen to the recording, for a convenient way to share information about the family member’s care.

7. Lotsa Helping Hands

Lotsa Helping Hands realizes that caregiving takes a community effort. So, the app helps users to ask for help, and it makes it easy for members of the community to know what to do, and when to do it. Sometimes, caregivers need to lean on one another and community members for support as they face the challenges of caring for a loved one: Lotsa Helping Hands has a solution for that, too. The free app includes a host of helpful features for caregivers, including a Help Calendar, Community Building Features, Custom Sections, Photo Gallery, Message Boards, Well Wishes, and more.

Do you use any apps to help you in your daily caregiving duties? We’d love to hear about which apps you have tried, and which have worked the best for your situation. Leave a comment to get the conversation moving.

Image via Flickr by ebayink

7 New Year’s Resolutions Every Family Caregiver Should Make

It’s the time of year when, in the midst of taking care of last-minute holiday preparations, many start thinking about the start of a new year and how they’d like their lives to be different, preferably better, in the coming year. It’s the New Year that inspires people to turn over a new leaf, whether they plan to lose weight, stop smoking or advance their careers. But for family caregivers, those resolutions might look a little different from most. We’ve rounded up a few New Year’s resolutions for family caregivers to help you determine how to improve your life, and the caregiving experience, in 2015.

1. Take time for yourself. Family Caregiver Resolutions

While it’s often difficult to put your elderly loved ones in the care of someone else, taking time to take care of yourself and recharge allows you to be more present when you are caring for your loved ones. Resolve to start taking some time for yourself, if not each day, at least once a week.

2. Reach out and ask for help.

Family caregivers are notorious for never asking for help, even when they’re in desperate need. You’re so used to having everyone else rely on you that the idea of being dependent on someone else is unfathomable to you. But many family caregivers are surprised to learn how many friends and family really do want to help; they just don’t know what to do. Commit to asking for help when you need it in 2015.

3. Get ample rest.

Whether you’re losing sleep because you’re up caring for your elderly loved one in the middle of the night or you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress, resolve to get enough rest in 2015. Lack of sleep can lead to a multitude of problems, including serious health conditions. If you’re not well-rested or you get sick, you won’t be able to provide the care your aging loved one needs.

4. Read a good book.

Many people get so tied up rushing through our day-to-day lives that reading a book seems out of the question. But reading a good book can be tremendously good for the soul. Read an inspirational book, such as Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul, or choose a book from this list of the best books for caregivers.

5. Find more balance.

If you’re a family caregiver and also a member of the Sandwich Generation, you’re painfully aware of the struggles of balancing multi-generational demands. Commit to finding more balance in 2015, dividing your time adequately among your children, elderly loved ones, spouse or partner, and work demands. A more balanced life is a more fulfilled life.

6. Advocate for your aging loved ones.

If your loved one suffers from a disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, get involved. Advocate for funding for a cure. Participate in fundraising events and, most importantly, network with other caregivers and families in similar situations. The support these networks can provide when times get tough is priceless.

7. See the value in yourself.

The elderly loved one you care for may or may not be able to tell you how much they appreciate you. Your children, if young, don’t know how to express their gratitude, or maybe they haven’t yet reached that pivotal moment in life when they realize just how much their parents love them and the sacrifices they made on a daily basis to provide for them. But they don’t have to vocalize it; trust us, they’re grateful. Because they can’t always thank you themselves, thank yourself. Be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given and your amazing ability to be a pillar of support to so many people in your life. And take some time to enjoy it.

We’d love to hear your 2015 New Year’s resolutions. What suggestions do you have for family caregivers to live better, more balanced, more fulfilling lives next year?

A Somber Reminder of the Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease

NPR listeners are mourning the death of Tom Magliozzi, one half of “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers,” on the wildly popular Car Talk show. Though Tom and his brother, Ray, retired in 2012, NPR has continued to air reruns on NPR member stations, and listeners remember Tom’s infectious laugh and his quick wit.

What some listeners may not have realized was that Tom had Alzheimer’sCar Talk executive producer Doug Berman wrote: “Please note that the Magliozzi family is asking that in lieu of flowers, friends and listeners make a donation to either the Alzheimer’s Association or their favorite public radio stations in Tom’s memory.” Tom passed away at the age of 77 as a result of complications from the disease.

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a disease that attacks the brain. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s facts and figures, more than 5 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s, and someone in the country develops the disease every 67 seconds. The sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for the deaths of approximately 500,000 people each year. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

November also is Family Caregivers Month. Currently, more than 15 million caregivers provide care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. In 2013, caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care worth more than $220 billion.

Several organizations and agencies provide support for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and their family members, especially during the month of November. To find programs and services in your area, visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s My Community page. While most organizations offer more tips and events during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness/Family Caregiver Month to raise awareness and promote fundraising efforts, events and resources are available year-round for families touched by the disease.

  • The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research, takes place in communities nationwide throughout the year.
  • Comedian and actor Seth Rogen and his wife, Lauren Miller, host Hilarity for Charity, an annual event that raises awareness and funds and promotes the idea that people should no longer consider Alzheimer’s as an “old person’s” disease, but an epidemic people of all ages should fight.
  • The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America offers several events throughout the year to support family and professional caregivers, including teleconferences, ceremonies in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, and screening days.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that more than likely will touch all of our lives at some point. Sharing information about the resources and events that help support Alzheimer’s patients, their families, and caregivers is one way to honor National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness/Family Caregiver Month. Another is to raise awareness about and funds for researching and curing the disease. Or, make a donation to honor someone like Tom Magliozzi.

Image via Flickr by Andee Duncan

LGBT Seniors Face Additional Caregiving Challenges

Caregiving is both physically and emotionally demanding for any family caregiver, but those caring for LGBT loved ones may face additional challenges. There are a variety of contributing factors, ranging from fear of being judged or discriminated against, a lack of social support from family and friends, and lack of access to healthcare. This often happens when LGBT seniors resist moving to senior living communities out of fear that they won’t be accepted by homosexual residents or will face ridicule. Essentially, aging sends some LGBT older adults back into the closet, despite the struggles and challenges they’ve overcome earlier in their lives in the process of coming out to family and friends.

The result is that many LGBT caregivers report feelings of isolation or feeling as though it’s just them against the world. Many are afraid to reach out and ask for help, and grief is magnified as LGBT spouses or partners are sometimes afraid of talking about their feelings with other loved ones out of fear that they won’t be understood or accepted.

Legal challenges only further complicate matters. Presently, only 19 states have legalized gay marriage. That means LGBT partners may be faced with losing their homes, losing financial and other assets, and even personal belongings if other family members are handling their partner’s estate — particularly if those family members disapproved of the relationship. When these same partners feel a lack of social support elsewhere, as well, it’s not uncommon for them to shut off from the world, disengage in the activities they once enjoyed, and basically seclude themselves from the outside world for six months or more.

That’s why it’s so important for healthcare providers and staff at senior living communities to undergo sensitivity training. The less judgement LGBT aging adults feel as they enter their elderly years and may need to seek support or housing for help with activities of daily living, the more likely they will be to make use of these resources. But even more important is for anyone with a LGBT friend or loved one to reach out and offer a helping hand, to provide support and compassion, to help spouses and partners successfully manage their grief after the loss of a loved one.

Caregiving is challenging for anyone. No one should have to go through it alone. For more information on the challenges facing LGBT caregivers, read this article.

 

Image via Flickr by r. nial bradshaw

Studies Show Caregivers Benefit from Community-Based Respite Care

Even caregivers are human, and sometimes they need respite to ward off exhaustion, isolation, and that overwhelming feeling caused by immense responsibilities.

It’s also important to keep in mind that caregivers who work too hard without a break can suffer other adverse affects, such as increased blood pressure and stress levels, or get to the breaking point and do something to harm the loved one in their care.

Several types of respite care

There are various types of respite available to caregivers.  One of the simplest options is the Five-Minute Respite advocated by Brenda Avadian, MA.  The Executive Director of The Caregiver’s Voice, Avadian founded the organization in 1998 while caring for her father who lived with Alzheimer’s.

She encourages caregivers to give themselves the realistic respite of five minutes by walking away into another room or, if possible, outside for a breath of fresh air when tempers flare and frustrations rise.

While Avadian jokes about the alternative, a “state-mandated vacation” when the caregiver loses control with the care recipient, she makes an important point about caregiving: it is not easy and caregivers deserve a break, a respite.

Plan ahead to give yourself a break

Access to Respite Care and Help (ARCH) advocates for respite that is combined with other services and assistance because it will be most effective for caregivers and care recipients alike.  Additionally, respite services are most beneficial if you consider them before you think you will need them, so that you use them before you get too exhausted or overwhelmed.

By planning ahead, you will have more meaningful and purposeful respite time and be able to provide safe and enjoyable care for the care receiver.

Respite has positive impacts

A review in Health Evidence reports that evidence exists from various studies that respite for caregivers of frail, elderly people has positive effects upon caregivers in terms of burden and mental or physical health.

Overall, caregivers were satisfied with respite care.  And, it’s important to note that day care was reported as being at least as costly as usual care.

Adult Day Care is one common resource for respite careAdult day care center

Adult day care centers, also known as adult day services, have been providing respite for caregivers for decades.  These services have been expanding in recent years as demand has increased and also as various funding sources have become available.

Adult day care centers also provide health services, therapeutic services, and social activities for people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, chronic illness, traumatic brain injuries, developmental disabilities, and other challenges that increase care needs.

Generally, care recipients attend the program for several hours a day, up to five days a week.  Most do not offer weekend services, but some may offer half-day or part-time services on Saturdays.

Choosing an Adult Day Care provider

ARCH also offers guidelines for choosing an adult day care center.  Quality adult day care programs should …

  • Conduct an individual needs assessment before admission to determine the person’s range of abilities and needs
  • Provide an active program that meets the daily social, recreational, and rehabilitative needs of the person in care
  • Develop an individualized treatment plan for participants and monitor it regularly, adjusting the plan as necessary
  • Provide referrals to other needed community services
  • Have clear criteria for service and guidelines for termination based on the functional status of the person in care
  • Provide a full range of in-house services, which may include personal care, transportation, meals, health screening and monitoring, educational programs, counseling, and rehabilitative services
  • Provide a safe, secure environment
  • Use qualified and well-trained volunteers
  • Adhere to or exceed state and national standards and guidelines

Resources for finding Respite Care:

Image via Flickr by Fairfax County
Post by Angela Stringfellow

 

Giving Male Caregivers the Credit They Deserve

1 in 9 Americans age 65 and older (11% of the population) has Alzheimer’s disease.  It is also estimated that among people age 71 and older, 16% of women have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, compared with only 11% of men.  Of the 5.2 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 3.2 million, or two-thirds, are women. The numbers translate to millions of men being left to care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia; the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimate that more than 6 million men, almost twice as many as 15 years ago, are caring for someone with those types of cognitive diseases.

caregiving

As Director of Family and Community Services of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Jan Dougherty has seen the toll caring for family members with Alzheimer’s takes on loved ones.  She characterizes the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s as a “life-altering experience for everyone impacted,” but she notes the distinct differences between male and female caregivers in “Recognizing Heroes at Home: Male Caregivers.”

1.    Processing an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Dougherty has seen women process an Alzheimer’s diagnosis on a more emotional level, while men process it more functionally.  While women need to understand and cope with the diagnosis and what it means for all parties involved, men see the diagnosis as a problem and immediately try to find a solution.

2.    Coping with the Stress of Caregiving

Men handle the stress of caregiving more easily than women.  Women increase their stress levels by having constant worry and anxiety, but men can complete their caregiving tasks and move on.

3.    Seeking Outside Help

Women tend to shoulder all of the responsibilities of caregiving, but men are more willing to call friends, family, and professionals for help.  They quickly ask for resources and additional support.

4.    Handling Daily Tasks

The women typically are more able to juggle the daily duties of a house – cooking and cleaning and laundry – with caregiving than men.  Men have difficulty cooking and coordinating their wives’ clothing and makeup.  Much of these issues stem from the generation of caregiver currently tending to loved ones; they come from the generation of traditional roles in marriage.

Male caregivers are not just caring for loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s, though.  A 2012 analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that men represented as many as 45% of all family caregivers.  Many of these male caregivers aid their parents and spouses.  And, Sherri Snelling’s “The Rapid Rise of the Male Caregiver” points out that there are some benefits to having male caregivers: men often are more assertive when advocating for loved ones with doctors and hospital staff.  They demand straight answers about the condition of their loved ones.

Male caregivers also take advantage of support groups, as evidenced by Ed Mitchell’s support group Men Who Care, at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and the number of online support groups for male caregivers.

Online Support Groups:

Overall, men are stepping up to take on caregiving roles in record-breaking numbers.  They may not be considered “traditional” caregivers, but they are certainly just as dedicated and determined to provide loving care to their family members as female caregivers.

For Further Reading:

Image via Flickr by Anita Gould
Post by Angela Stringfellow