Friday, 31 August 2018

Caring for the Caregiver


Our ever-changing world has altered the way we do so many things – including caring for our elderly. For many families, children live great distances from their parents. Most women work in jobs outside of the home and even in cultures where the custom of the past had been to have multi-generational families living under one roof and caring for each other, this is becoming less feasible. Caregiving for elder loved ones is something many people now do from a distance or among several other daily responsibilities. The ‘sandwich generation’ is common place with many caring for both parents and children at the same time. Caregiving can be so overwhelming at times that it can negatively effect one’s emotional and physical well being which in turn impacts the care of the senior in need.

Without doubt, the key to avoiding such difficulties is for the caregiver to ‘care’ for themselves as much as their loved ones. This, of course, is much easier said than done. How do you do this when you feel as if you are being pulled in a million different directions?

If you are in this situation, there are several things you can do that may help you navigate and cope with this often unexpected and somewhat daunting role:

1. Communicate – make sure you speak to medical personnel about concerns or issues. Ensure you have the facts. Create a support network of family, friends and others that you can talk with about your feelings and needs. Remember – avoiding or negating problems does not make them go away – it only compounds them. Let you employer know your situation as well. There may be available support groups, Employee Assistance Programs or paid family leave options available to you.

2. Educate yourself – knowledge can only empower you. Fear is often based on not knowing. Ask questions so you can understand the situation. With the technological tools of the 21st century, finding out information is as easy as sitting in front of your computer. Seek out information about your loved one’s medical condition and the options available. This will aid you in planning for the future as much as possible. Know your rights and theirs. If you are providing physical care, ensure you learn how to do this safely.

3. Ask for and accept help – sharing responsibilities is often difficult but extremely necessary for the caregiver as much as the recipient of care. Use available community resources – there may be day programs, respite care options, homemaking and a host of other services available to you.  Good care can be provided by others besides the immediate family and getting this important relief is often as simple as asking for help. Keep in mind that people don’t know what you need unless you ask for it. Learn to delegate tasks to those willing to assist be it family members or friends.

4. Stress Management – acknowledge your feelings. It is okay to feel overwhelmed, sad, anxious and a host of other emotions. Learn to recognize the things that trigger a stress reaction in you and what that reaction is. It’s important to keep in mind that while you may not be able to change a situation, you can decide how you will react and respond to it. Learn the signs of ‘caregiver burnout’ and if you think you might be experiencing it or if your physical health or functioning is being affected, speak to your doctor or a trained mental health professional as soon as possible. Learning relaxation techniques may be helpful as well.

5. Life Balance – prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! Organization is the key to feeling a sense of control over your situation. Accept the good with the bad. Look after yourself. Eat properly, exercise, sleep and take breaks when needed. It’s okay to do things for yourself. Don’t self-medicate. Learn to say ‘no’. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Caregiving is a learning process so allow yourself to make mistakes. Know your limits and deal with stress before crisis hits. Seek medical attention if you are ill. Consider joining a support group for those with similar struggles. You may hear valuable helpful information from others who have been where you are but also, knowing that you are not alone can help you cope.

As difficult as caregiving can be, it also has the potential to be very rewarding. How it impacts us has everything to do with our ability to deal with the ups and downs of daily life and our attitude. Finding the ‘silver lining’, having realistic goals, sharing special moments and finding enjoyment in simple pleasures can contribute tremendously to how we cope and manage what can be one of the more challenging roles in our lives.


Friday, 17 August 2018

GUEST POST - 6 Ways Technology Helps Family Caregivers


The wealth of online resources makes it possible for almost anyone to gather a great deal of information about medical problems and treatment on her own. Pew reports that just under 3 out of 4 caregivers conduct their own health research online and over half engage in health-related social activity online.

It’s clear that the transformative power of technology in health care extends beyond high-tech hospital settings to include everyday senior and hospice care. Read on to learn about 6 tech trends that help family caregivers support the health and quality of life of seniors and others under their supervision.

1.   Med Monitors

A number of digital tools, such as MedMinder and TabSafe, are designed to remind seniors and caregivers to take or administer prescription medication. And the same functionality is available on the go with apps for iPhone and iPad like MedCoach.

2.   Wireless Safety Nets

Another way to monitor a senior’s health and wellness status, while helping them lead active and independent lives, is via sensor-based home monitoring systems like Canary Care and TruSense. These and similar systems alert caregivers or emergency personnel when warning signs, such as long periods of inactivity by a senior at home, arise.

3.   (Virtual) Fellowship

Loneliness and social isolation are particularly acute risk factors for elderly folks given their greater likelihood of reduced mobility and loss of loved ones. In-person interactions are ideal, but when they are not possible, email and video correspondence can be helpful stopgaps. Indeed, encouraging research has shown that social media use is associated with reduced loneliness and improved mental and physical health outcomes.

4.   Picking up the Pace

Like anyone, seniors need regular exercise to reach their full potential for living capably and independently. Technology can help put them in motion and keep them active. Wearable fitness trackers help seniors and their caregivers mark progress toward wellness goals and document encouraging results.

5.   “Telehealth”

Thanks to the emerging tools of telemedicine, obtaining professional consultations no longer requires leaving the comfort and security of home. Senior and hospice patients can arrange virtual visits with physicians and other healthcare professionals. In discussion with U.S. News & World Report, Medical Director of Telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Dr. Andrew R. Watson emphasized telemedicine’s positive impact on health outcomes and patient engagement.

The benefits of telehealth tools for patients and healthcare providers include reduced costs, fewer hospital readmissions, improved diagnosis and treatments, and stronger relationships between doctors and patients, especially in rural areas.

6.    Brain Benefits

Finally, it turns out that healthy amounts of screen time don’t rot your brain. On the contrary, internet browsing and even video games, the brain decay boogeyman of yesteryear, increase elderly brain function and help reverse the bad mental effects of aging. The takeaway here is that, quite apart from the other benefits we’ve discussed, technology offers direct cognitive advantages to senior and hospice patients.

Digital tech is not the most critical line of defense against health setbacks for the elderly and hospice patients, let alone a cure-all. But as we have seen, it provides a wealth of resources supporting family caregivers in their efforts to promote the best possible outcomes for those in their capable hands.



Contributed by: Christian Golden, PhD
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Christian Golden, PhD, writes about tips and trends in digital marketing and social media. He is a philosopher by day who loves teaching and digging into the big questions. His extracurricular interests include making music, reading comics, watching (really old) movies, and being in the great outdoors. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

GUEST POST - Planning and Paying for Long-Term Care: A Guide for Seniors and Caregivers


Regardless of age, preparing and planning for long-term care isn’t something most people think about. But, for a person over the age of 65, it’s an important conversation to have. There is a 52 percent chance that they will need long-term support and services. That means it is never too soon to start planning how you want to handle that situation—for yourself and for loved ones.

Planning for long-term care is one step, deciding how to pay for it is another. For seniors, preparing for this is crucial to enjoying your golden years with independence and dignity. For family members, planning for long-term care can help you understand your role as a caregiver. In 2013, unpaid caregivers — mostly comprised of family members — spent 37 billion hours providing long-term care. Being a caregiver is rewarding, but can often be stressful and physically draining.

“Being a kind, compassionate caregiver is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a senior loved one,” says June Duncan, co-founder of Rise Up for Caregivers and author of the upcoming book The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers. While family caregivers play an essential role in our society, they often do so without much-needed support and guidance. June’s book fills that gap by offering a helping hand on everything from how to assess your loved one’s medical needs to how to work self-care into your busy days.

Self-care is just one aspect of planning for long-term care. Planning out the potential steps can be a huge benefit to seniors and their loved ones, even if they don’t wind up needing care at all. You can plan for long-term care by:
       Assessing the likelihood you or a loved one will require long-term care. There are a few reasons long-term care could be in your future. For example, if someone in your family suffered from hereditary illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, you may be at a higher risk. Be sure to plan for in-home care or pick out an assisted living facility to help care for your needs.
       Making lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of injury or onset of illness. Regular exercise, a good diet and consistent good sleep are three lifestyle choices that are critical for healthy seniors. From prolonging the onset of dementia to promoting healthy knees, hips and joints, all three impact your physical and mental health. Start walking, join a gym or sign up for yoga classes.
       Plan for future home modifications you need to make. Most seniors want to age in-place, meaning they want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Planning for long-term care means planning for independence and safety. If the house is two-story, consider moving all essential rooms to the first floor. Install non-slip flooring in bathrooms and kitchens. These modifications will prevent accidents that could make long-term care a reality, as well as create a home environment that supports independent living.

Planning for long-term care also involves insight into the costs involved. Some ways to pay for long-term care include:
       Retirement options. If you can, consider postponing retirement and staying on at work for another year to boost up your savings. You can also take out an additional retirement policy specifically to cover potential health care issues.
       Purchasing long-term care insurance. Many insurance companies offer special long-term care insurance policies. Keep in mind— the younger and healthier you are when you purchase this type of insurance, the lower your premiums will be.
       Selling a life insurance policy. Selling a life insurance policy can help pay for daily living expenses and medical care. This can give you cash in hand to cover the costs of an in-home caregiver, home modifications or medical equipment you need that Medicare doesn’t cover.

Planning for long-term care is not a simple conversation to have, but it doesn’t have to be too complicated if you start talking about it now. Make sure your family and friends know your wishes, so that, if the time comes, you’ll receive the care you want and deserve.
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Contributed by: Marie Villeza, ElderImpact. 

Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.