Memorial Day Weekend 2015–Offers Meaningful Connections with Elders and Aging Parents

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Memorial Day Weekend 2015…

…Is there a better time to have meaningful conversations with the older–and the oldest–people in our lives?

Tum, Tum, tum-tum-tum.Tum, Tum, tum-tum-tum: The beat of drums–comes from outside our NYC apartment. Looking through the side window I catch a glimpse of the colors going by, carried by men in uniform. They are followed by a group of about 50 additional uniformed men, marching proud and tall. I learn these men have just placed the above wreaths of fresh flowers at a 1918 Memorial near an entrance to Central Park.

The commonality of experience, hardship, and sacrifice for country, is shared by countless families over countless years. Some memories lie deep within our elders–aging parents and grandparents and no doubt people who never married. Some memories may still haunt; some may never be spoken of. We know this from movies and books we’ve read, if we haven’t experienced it in our own families.

Never-the-less there’s a positive for those of us with aging friends and family members as well as those for whom we’re caregivers if these elders like to talk about the past. It’s the opportunity to ask them meaningful questions that convey genuine interest in them and in their past. It’s something that becomes more precious and more rare, as their contemporaries–with whom they’ve shared a commonality of experiences–die or move away.

The inability to have conversations with people who share the commonality of place and time is a significant loss. And how many younger people have real interest in, or take the time to listen to memories of the past?

The Veterans from World War II die each day. Viet Nam and Korean War Veterans are, themselves, now senior citizens…aging parents and grandparents. Memorial Day weekend offers another opportunity to raise feelings of self-worth in these elders by honoring them with our genuine interest in their service to our country.

Note: Click photos to enlarge

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Aging Parents: Don’t Miss Out on Tax Credits for Caregivers & the Elderly–Next Year!

I’m guessing we’re all relieved after readying and submitting our taxes. Yet I think it’s timely to feature this article which is well-researched, with informative links. While April 15 has indeed passed, some tax payers get extensions and can still benefit. Others can do as Marti suggests: save (and round up unsaved) expense documentation for 2015 tax returns next year. You will learn (or have reinforced) what merits saving in the article below.

Who takes care of the caregiver? It usually must be us. By making certain all reimbursable caregiving expenses are included on our income tax returns, we make a start. Additional money (saved through resulting tax credits) can give us a little wiggle room and that, in turn, can relieve some stress or enable us to give ourselves a well-deserved treat..

Dakota Home Care

accounting series- confusing tax formsToday being Tax Day, it’s probably too late for you to claim additional tax credits for certain expenses related to being a family caregiver during 2014, but it’s the perfect time to start collecting records that will prove the caregiving expenses you’ve incurred in 2015!

When Beverly drew my attention to three ND House Bills related to caregiving and the elderly, a big question mark lit up in my brain: “Was I aware of ALL the expenses I could have claimed, on both my aging father’s taxes, which I do for him, and possibly on my own tax return? Even though he doesn’t live with me, I drive him to a lot of Dr. appointments, and I oversee his care at an assisted living center that doesn’t give him quite as much assistance as he requires. I hadn’t given a thought to my out-of-pocket expenses related to being a family…

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Aging Parents: Forcing Resistant Parents to Do What’s In Their Best Interest

FORCING ELDERS?

Sticky subject requiring careful treatment. As a high school counselor I was no stranger to dealing with sticky subjects that could threaten life and limb. There’s a delicate balance between what we’re professionally mandated by law to do, and concern about maintaining a valued relationship and sense of trust that we’ve worked hard to develop.

Likewise, a delicate balance exists between forcing aging parents to do something for their own good when life and limb are at risk and maintaining a close, loving relationship. Plus–guilt can weigh heavily. Can we force resistant parents to do what’s in their best interest when they’re dead set against it, maintain our relationship, and have no guilt?

WE HAVE NO CHOICE…

  • When elders don’t have “a good head on their shoulders” and their judgment is impaired. It’s painful but we must force them to do what’s in their best interest if there’s a threat to life and limb–their’s or other’s.
  • If our parents’ situation is significantly impacting our physical health–actually we have two choices: Bring in a professional caregiver to help full-time until we’re strong again (and get away for 6-7 days asap–break the stress), or shift responsibility to a care facility. If we’re psychologically worn down, do the above.               —Otherwise google to find family counseling agencies, explain your situation and talk with a social worker–possibly a geriatric social worker. Otherwise we effectively help no one.
  • When parents’ physical/health issues (eg. vision, balance, mobility) require living/driving changes to avoid accidents (risk to life and limb).
  • When awareness of terrible decision-making necessitates forcing parents to turn over financial or other responsibilities to us or someone we choose.

REMEMBER

–The option of non-negotiable “force” is always there–unpleasant as it may be. With stubborn parents we may need to be “flat-footed” and use it.

–When parents are old and there’s no immediate pressure to change a situation, adult children who continue to pressure, find many elderly parents eventually give in.

SOME STRATEGIES TO AVOID FORCE, GET COMPLIANCE

One size doesn’t fit all. If we know ourself, one of the following strategies may feel right.

1. When parents strenuously object, if immediate change isn’t necessary, figure out how to back off gracefully, then tread lightly, slowly and patiently–working towards the original goal in whatever way works.

2. The straight-forward approach presents a narrow range of well-thought-out options (not dictated must-do’s). Parents are involved in decision-making. Begin with objective observationMom you sideswiped a car and had a near-accident this week. Then show understanding: Of course it’s upsetting; what do you see as options?  Next, listen, she may suggest something reasonable you haven’t thought of. If not, give options, making certain to include the most acceptable, realistic one you can think of, like infolving a doctor–Do you need an eye exam? (If the doctor says vision is too ify to drive, s/he can be the “bad guy.”)

3.  The light-hearted approach using humorous exaggeration–I know you wouldn’t mind having a chauffeur-driven limo at your disposal every day and if we win the lottery it’s yours; but in the meantime we need a practical plan. Now go back to #2.

4. The majority wins approach is powerful; basically non-negotiable. Needed: at least 1 sibling, preferably 2 or more. If all–or 2 or the majority–agree on what to do, the message is something like: We’ve thought long and hard about this. There’s no perfect solution, but we are uncomfortable with your continuing to drive. Here are the options….”

5.  The easy-way-out: Have a respected “someone else” deliver the bad news: doctor? insurance company?

It’s difficult to be objective where family is concerned, especially parents. They’re our parents. We have a long history (good and/or not-so-good) together. There may be unresolved emotional baggage that prejudices us thus, compounding the difficulty. Realizing this is an advantage. Another advantage: we usually also know what pushes our parents’ ” buttons” and can consciously avoid it.

There’s one booby-trap: past promises that must be broken. If a promise has been made, never to put a parent in a care facility, for example, the difficulty is compounded. Click Mitzi’s promise–she wanted it shared.

We try to help parents age well. “Angels can do no more.” (Grandma’s saying.)

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: How Dangerous is Caregiving to One’s Health?

11% of family caregivers report that caregiving has caused their physical health to deteriorate. [The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP–2009), Caregiving in the U.S. National Alliance for Caregiving. Washington, DC.] – Updated: November 2012

Family caregivers who are in good health are in a better position to help parents age well. No surprise here.  Reading the statistics about family caregivers’ health several years ago was sobering. The Family Caregiver Alliance’s  2012 “Selective Care Statistics Fact Sheet,” reports: “of those caring for someone aged 65+, the average age is 63 years with one third of these caregivers in fair to poor health.” The November 2012 report’s fact sheet is easy-to-read but long. However, it’s well-organized by topics–eg. gender, age, impact on working female caregivers, gender and care tasks–making selective reading easy. Example:

Impact of Caregiving on Caregiver’s Physical Health

While researchers have long known that caregiving can have deleterious mental health effects for caregivers, research shows that caregiving can have serious physical health consequences as well, 17% of caregivers feel their health in general has gotten worse as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. [AARP Public Policy Institute Valuing the Invaluable: 2008 Update. The Economic Value of Family Caregiving] – Updated: November 2012

Research shows an estimated 17-35% of family caregivers view their health as fair to poor. (Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update, The Economic Value of Family Caregiving. AARP Public Policy Institute.)  Updated: November 2012

Those who are more likely to rate physical strain of caregiving “high” are female (17% vs. 10% males) and older (21% are 65+ vs. 11% at 18-49). They have lower incomes (19% vs. 11% of those with an annual income of $50,000+), a higher level of burden (31% vs. 9%, of those with a moderate level of burden and 5% of those with a low level), and are living with their care recipient (29% vs. 11% who don’t live together). (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP–2009, Caregiving in the U.S., A Focused Look at Those Caring for Someone Age 50 or Older, Bethesda, MD: National Alliance for Caregiving, Washington, D.C.) Updated: November 2012

Read Selective Care Statistics Fact Sheet

Who takes care of the caregiver? Or must we find ways to take care of ourselves?

Related Posts:
https://helpparentsagewell.com/2014/01/21/aging-parents-and-us-as-caregivers-know-thyself/
https://helpparentsagewell.com/2012/01/25/aging-parents-over-stressed-caring-children/
https://helpparentsagewell.com/2012/09/29/aging-parents-discouraged-caregiver-children/

Aging Parents and Caregiving–Joan Lunden’s story

This week, nextavenue, the PBS online newsletter, published–reblogged:

Joan Lunden on Challenges, Guilt and Caregiving,

Her breast cancer battle and selfless life story are inspiring

posted by Sherri Snelling, December 1, 2014 More by this author

Joan LundenSherri Snelling, executive director at Keck Medicine of USC and author of A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers with special emphasis on how to help caregivers balance “self-care” while caring for a loved one.

Joan Lunden

Photo from JoanLunden.com

When she stepped onto the stage at a recent AARP convention, Joan Lunden looked as sunny and radiant as she always has. Famous as the 17-year co-host on Good Morning America in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Lunden later transformed into a healthy living guru and businesswoman who inspires everyone she touches.

She came to talk to the gathered boomer-and-beyond crowd about caregiving — a role she had played with her mother, who died in 2013……………………..

……Lunden’s life has been a series of triumphs and challenges. As a young girl, she lost her father, a cancer surgeon, in a plane crash. As she began her career as a TV broadcast journalist 30 years ago, she also became a caregiver both to her brother, who had health complications from type 2 diabetes, and to her mother, who was eventually diagnosed with dementia. What Lunden didn’t know at the time, she says, is that caring for her brother and mother simultaneously is when her caregiving journey began………..click link for full article 

(Note: Posts are off-schedule this week due to travel and lack of internet access.)

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: Help for Caregiver Stress–The Best Stress-Relief Posts and Information I’ve Found

Stress accompanies caregiving…

Yet caregiver stress differs from ordinary stress, eg. from the work place. Its “ingredients” differ: love, caring, devotion, loyalty, pushing oneself to–and beyond–the limit. Of course satisfaction, frustration, anger, resentment and fatigue are common byproducts–generating stress. Can non-caregivers appreciate this?

Unlike Supreme Court Justice’s Potter Stewart’s famous pornography quote: “I know it when I see it,” I believe we can only know caregiver stress if we’ve experienced it. With so much information about reducing caregiver stress (about 17,700,000 items on Google; 1.990,000 on Yahoo) shouldn’t we have learned to manage it by now? In an effort to try, the beginnings of a select list of stress-relief links concludes this post. Meanwhile, caregivers deal with–

Three apparent roadblocks:

1, One size doesn’t fit all (neither the elders we care for–nor us)
2. Non-caregiving family members often can’t/don’t appreciate the stress, and don’t help.
3. We’re often not very good at asking for–no insisting on–help when we need it. Is giving up “ownership” difficult? (True, they may not do as good a job as we.)

Knowing what happens to us when we’re stressed–cranky, short-tempered, impatient, overwhelmed, (you fill in)–should wave a red flag that we need relief. That’s a first step in solving half the problem. When we know our stress-relief activity, we’re can solve most of the other half.

Finding out what works. There’s something that relaxes each of us and helps us see solutions more clearly and move forward. We just need to discover it.

When counseling, I would suggest stressed counselees think–perhaps while taking a shower–about what they enjoyed doing that relaxed them. I vividly remember one teenager who said she remembered hooking a rug in middle school. She loved doing it; remembered it took her mind off her problems. She still had a lot of the string (rags or whatever) and tried it over the weekend. She excitedly reported it still relaxed her and she realized a few things. Different strokes for different folks.

If I were musical, I’d probably play the piano. It seems like a wonderful stress reliever. That said,  I’ve identified 3 stress-relief activities, often suggested by experts, that work for me and may for you.

1. Walking fast (but not overly-exerting), the same boring walk day after day for 30 minutes. No distractions (alone and no cell phone). I notice the same things again and again: homes, wildlife, flowers, even rocks. Forced to focus on my surroundings, my mind rids itself of problems and order replaces emotional and intellectual chaos. Solutions appear out of nowhere. Plus getting exercise; and doing something for ourselves, no matter how small, makes us feel better.

2. Gardening inside or outdoors, depending on season and where I am. No cell phone; sometimes music. Gardening (planting, pruning, pinching, weeding, deciding right plant for right place) absorbs me. Stress evaporates. Plus I’ve accomplished something.

3. Being with my pets. They say “Dogs have masters; cats have slaves.” No matter. Petting the dog or cat–or just watching them–slows things down, refocuses our thoughts, and–we’re told–lowers our blood pressure (haven’t tested that).

The beginning effort to compile links to caregiver stress-relief posts I like is below. It’s in progress; obviously incomplete. Recommendations welcomed.

Also check out The 2nd annual virtual Caregiving Conference, March 29, 2015. It’s free. Register on the Caregiving.com website: http://www.caregiving.com/2015/01/save-the-date-virtual-caregiving-conference-on-march-29/

The List  (in progress)

 1.  Avoid Caregiver Burnout–Slideshow: of 14 Ways–WebMD  http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/caregiver-14/slideshow-caregiver-burnout
 2.  Caregiving.com http://www.caregiving.com/the-caregiving-years/  This is excellent with text and videos of “The 6 Stages of Caregiving.”
 3.  Caregiver Stress: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself: Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-
 4.  
From the Heart of a Caregiver  (affirms letting go)
https://generationsofcaring.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/from-the-heart-of-a-caregiver-thank-you/
 5.  Managing Stress: Care for the Caregiver–BrightAngel (Alzheimer’s Foundation)
http://www.brightfocus.org/docs/pdf-publications/caringcaregiver_stress.pdf
 6.  Relaxing: Why It’s Hard and How Caregivers Can Learn to Unwind https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/caregivers-can-learn-to-relax-
 7. The HelpGuide: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiving-stress-and-burnout.htm
This is long, excellent and very complete.
 8.
Tips to Manage Caregiver Stress–WebMD:  http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/caregiver-advice-cope
 9. What Can I Do to Prevent or Relieve Caregiver Stress? US Dept. Health & Human Services: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/caregiver-stress.html#f
10. In 2012 the Family Caregiver Alliance, Nat’l Center on Caregiving, updated statistics on caregivers, with many topics including “Impact of Caregiving on Caregiver’s Health.” (“an estimated 17-35% of family caregivers rate their health poor-fair”)
11.  Kiplinger’s Information about a site providing community volunteers and more: http://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T013-C000-S004-pitching-in-when-caregivers-need-help.html

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And Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.