Aging Parents: Sooo Much to Do–Too Little Time-Holiday Organization

Wrapping Christmas Gifts

Juggling everything on a normal day, with over-busy, over-programmed schedules, is hard enough at this time of year–whether we’re children of aging parents, caregivers or Sandwich Generation. Do we feel like we have ADD?

DISORGANIZATION, FRAZZLED NERVES–worsened by the unexpected glitch. And can’t we count on that! There’s an old saying “I’m dancing as fast as I can.” Taking that a step further: when we try to dance faster than we can, don’t we wear out or lose our balance? So how do we stay balanced?

9 Strategies that work 

Re: Making lists–works for some (once on paper, anxiety ends); not for me if the list is long.  A long list of to-do’s overwhelms: a stomach can go into knots just looking at it. I do have a mental list, but don’t write it down at the beginning. I know if I look at it I’ll become immobilized for a time…probably want to cry…which may help some, but again not me. (My eyes get red and puffy and I’m out of action until I look normal again.) 
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1. Get rid of visible messes at home. Their sight compounds the stress and confusion. Thoughts get scattered, surrounded by and knowing there are: unmade beds, messy kitchen, stuff strewn around. (Forget children’s rooms). And with too much to do, it’s easy to leave beds unmade, add to an already-begun pile of stuff to put away later etc., etc.

2. Get help doing the above. Don’t waste your time.  “I need your help” is the important phrase that psychologically pulls people into your web and gets results. Enlist children, any able-bodied person (husband/wife/other) in the house to help.  A noted researcher in the 1970’s when divorce was escalating, advised single-parent-frazzled mothers: “Even an 8-year-old can vacuum.”

3. Think about the time of day you are more efficient and energetic. I know the middle of the day isn’t best for me. I have tremendous energy in the morning and then a short burst later at night. At night, however, I don’t have patience for detail things, so at this time of year the “no-brainer” kinds of things–like wrapping presents–are perfect.

4. Everything needn’t be done this minute. Accomplish a few of the easy-to-do things that are mixed with all the other must-do’s that cause anxiety. Find the easiest time-sensitive one, and accomplish it. Reward: a psychological pick-up.

5. Try to identify a few more easy ones; get at least one of those out-of-the-way, you’ll feel better. Then attack and accomplish one of the more difficult or time-consuming anxiety-producers. Reward yourself. Take a break. Eat chocolate, take a short nap, watch TV, go for a walk–you get the idea.

6. NOW MAKE THE LIST, prioritizing what remains. Fit “remains” into time available in the days that are left, using the above model.

7. Next think about what can reasonably be done, how others can help, thus saving  you time and/or stress. We can get help with almost anything these days if we ask or can pay for it. Yet many of us don’t ask when we’re overwhelmed. We often think it takes too much time to have to explain. But if we’re asking a capable friend or family member, why do we hesitate? (Controllers: take note. This is hard.)

8. If necessary, delete the least important from the list…the one(s) where the world won’t come to an end if not taken care of now. Put it/them off or cancel.

9. Knowing the duration of the stress helps. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel provides relief.

When we’re less stressed those around us no doubt notice; indeed it’s probably a gift–as we do our best to help parents, grandparents and older friends age well.
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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.

Attention Busy Women Caregivers (Is that an oxymoron?) re: “Just a little Heart Attack”

heart-icon–Not For Women Only

This video highlighting women and heart attacks, no doubt typifies many sandwich generation women and so many of us caregivers who have aging parents with significant problems.

Even if this video has been seen before–a reminder is always in order for those whose lives are on fast-forward. Plus, this short video is well done AND entertaining, starring and directed by Emmy-nominated actress, Elizabeth Banks. Worth taking about 3 minutes out of a busy life.

JUST A LITTLE HEART ATTACK

Not wanting to exclude men here, I wondered why I couldn’t find a similar video featuring men and heart attacks.  These excerpts from the AHA/ASA article may explain the reason. In short,

Many women also do not recognize the warning signs or symptoms of heart disease, which may be subtler than those exhibited by men. In addition, only 53% of women said the first thing they would do if they thought they were having a heart attack was to call 9-1-1.

and

Women age 45 and older are less likely than men of that age group − 74% vs. 81% − to survive a year after their first heart attack. In women, heart disease is too often a silent killer – nearly two-thirds of women who died suddenly had no previous symptoms.

With the number of stay-at-home dads rising, will the above also apply to these dads? Or is it a man-thing to be more attuned to recognizing the symptoms and acting on them?

Our goal is to help parents age well. That said, the fight attendants’ speech upon take-off: “Place the mask over your face and mouth, before helping others…” resonates here. Especially when our stress level is high, we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves first.

Related: Parade Magazine, Feb. 7, 2013: The Rise of Stay-at-Home Dads
               
 UK Telegraph, June 7,  2013: Rise in Stay-at-Home Fathers
                
Mayo Clinic-Women: Heart Disease
               Center for Disease Control: Men and Heart Disease Fact Sheet

Sandwiched Between Aging Parents and College Graduates Who Can’t Find a Decent-Paying Job

The economy seems to be on everyone’s mind. In June, especially, college graduates and student loans occupied much media attention. If your child graduated with student loans and you also have responsibility for aging parents, to say you may have stress could be an understatement.

There is free help for government (eg. Stafford–subsidized or unsubsidized–but not private) loans that can most likely relieve or solve (depending) the repayment problem. The following information is courtesy of a friend/colleague/expert, who developed the no-longer-in-effect Direct Student Loan Program for the Clinton administration. It applies to college graduates (from 2 or 4-year institutions) who either have no job or have a low-paying job. Since I’ve been giving this information to recent grads, I’m thinking it could also alleviate some stress for those sandwiched between helping aging parents and college-educated, in-debt children.

It’s called the Income-Based Repayment Program and–here’s my friend’s guidance verbatim:

This is about paying your loan when you are unemployed or at a low income position and graduated college

 LOW INCOME JOB

 You are probably eligible for an “Income based repayment plan.” This plan revises your repayment as a percentage of your income.  If you earn less than $17,000, you pay nothing.  Contact the financial aid director at your University to arrange this plan

UNEMPLOYED

If you are unemployed, contact your financial aid director and you will get forbearance. 

You must do something such as the above or you will be declared a defaulter which will cause you permanent financial hardship such as no credit card, no car loan, no mortgage, no tax refund, etc until the loan is repaid.

Switching to the repayment program if/when lowish income qualifies, should not be a problem as long as you’re not in default. The financial aid officer should be able to arrange a switch to the repayment plan for you. If for some reason, the financial aid officer can’t, contact the Federal Financial Aid Student Unit to get the number for the  Government Customer Service Unit. (Note: Graduate school loans do not qualify.)

This is a government free service that evidently few graduates are made aware of. It’s available to grads–regardless of how long they have been out of college–with outstanding government loans–not in default

When we have less stress we have more energy. Any time we can reduce stress, in this case by using information to make our adult children’s government loan obligations manageable, the ripple effect should make us more effective as we try to help parents age well.

Additional resource: Begin with line 9 if you don’t want to read the entirety of http://www.candofinance.com/student-financial-aid/student-loan-forgiveness/