Recognized by President Clinton when he signed the first proclamation in 1997, National Family Caregiver’s Month has been proclaimed by an American President annually ever since. Many states and dozens of local municipalities have also proclaimed November, NFC Month.
Day in and day out, more than 75 million family caregivers in this country fulfill a vital role in caring for elderly, aging parents. Click the link above to learn more about the role that caregivers play and why this month especially, we should join together to celebrate and recognize them.
According to data collected by the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are over 66 million family caregivers in the United States. That translates to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. adult population…a stunning statistic. This number includes people who are caring for the sick or disabled, but the majority of these caregivers are assisting an elderly family member.
Other than a spouse, the most common people to be tasked with caring for an elderly loved one are adult children. In fact, a study conducted by MetLife showed that 10 million adult children over age 50 were acting as a caregiver for their aging parent(s), a number that equals approximately a quarter of all Baby Boomers. Click the link above to learn more about the realities of caregiving for an aging parent and the unexpected costs that come with it.
With so many of us living with and caring for our parents, we are constantly searching for ways to incorporate that care into our daily lives…and our vacations.
Remember back when our travel plans required that we consider feedings, strollers, diaper changing, and playgrounds? Now, we are considering walkers, oxygen tanks, hydration, and benches for resting. It can be challenging to assure you have covered all your bases and to assure everyone will have a smooth, enjoying, and relaxing vacation. Click the link above to learn some tips that will help when traveling with your aging parents.
As your parents age, there may come a time when they are not able to live as independently as before, whether because of a chronic illness, injury, or decline in general health. As an adult-child of an aging parent, it may fall upon you to begin the conversation about a move to a retirement community or even assisted living, depending on the degree of need. Having this conversation can be challenging and emotional, especially because the majority of aging Americans are more attracted to the idea of “aging in place” in their current home.
Here are four tips that will help you approach this fragile subject with empathy and openness that will put you and your loved one on the same page about this transition. To learn more, click the link above.
Too often we underestimate the time obligation of caregiving. Adult children step up to be the primary hands-on caregiver having no idea that they may spend as much time caring for their parents as they spent raising their children.
We tend to think that we can burn the candle at both ends – that we can do it all. We think we can manage kids, career, spouse, house, and parents. If caregiving were a sprint, we could probably do it all. Unfortunately, it’s not. Caregiving is a marathon that you could easily spend 15 years focused on the health and well-being of your parents. Click the link above to learn more.
Caring for an aging family member is a labor of love. But study after study also shows the emotional, physical, and even financial stress that the caregiver incurs as a result.
Research conducted by MetLife revealed that approximately 10 million adult children over the age of 50 (that’s roughly a quarter of all Baby Boomers!) have taken on the role of caregiver for their aging parents, helping with a variety of tasks–everything from running errands and cooking to bathing and using the toilet. It’s a lot to take on, especially for caregivers who may also be juggling a career and their own children, which is likely why caregivers over age 50 who work and provide care to a parent are more likely to have fair or poor health as compared to peers who do not provide elder care.
A few other noteworthy stats from the study:
- Adult daughters are more likely to provide help with daily care, and sons are more likely to provide monetary assistance.
- The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these adult-child caregivers is nearly $3 trillion.
- For women, the total individual amount of lost income (wages, Social Security benefits, pension) due to leaving the labor force early and/or reducing hours of work because of caregiving responsibilities averages $324,044. For men, it averages $283,716.*
Yet despite all of these physical and financial drawbacks, the adult-child-as-caregiver trend continues to grow rapidly in the United States. The MetLife study showed that the number of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to an aging parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years.
Caring for the caregiver
It seems that caring for an aging parent is here to stay. So what can caregivers do to help alleviate some of the stress associated with the gig? Click the link above to learn more.
“Fifty Tips on Aging Well to Celebrate 50 Years of Excellent Service”
As The Wesley Communities approach 50 years of excellent service, our CEO Peg Carmany offers “Peg’s Perspective” on a variety of topics affecting seniors and their adult children as they plan and choose to age well – 50 tips to celebrate 50 years!
Tip # 12 of 50 – If you’re considering retirement community living . . . .
Here we are, well into the new year of 2019, and how are your new year resolutions coming along? Most of us resolve to eat better, exercise more, get rid of clutter . . . . and the gyms are certainly more crowded for the first few months of the year! But most of us, by now, have gone back to our old ways.
So what’s the best way to start and continue a new habit? Experts agree: starting small and building toward a goal is the best way to stay focused and committed.
If you are considering looking at, and perhaps moving into a retirement community (for yourself or a loved one), start with small, concrete steps. Things I recommend that you consider:
1. Location. Do you want to be near to family? Or near to your old stomping grounds (and doctors and grocery stores)? That’s the first question you need to answer.
2. Determine what level of care you may need. Still living on your own? Independent living is probably the place to start. If you’ve had a health break and need assistance, assisted living or nursing care may also be appropriate.
3. Once you know where you want to be, locate several retirement communities in that geographic area. Find out if they have the level of care that is appropriate for you.
4. When you have a list, call and ask to visit. It’s easy to do, and the main number for each facility will put you in touch with exactly the right person.
5. When you visit, take notes so you can compare. Don’t try to visit more than two in any one day, even if you are pressed for time. There is a lot to take in at each community, and one of the best ways to “see” it is to have a meal there.
Each community you visit will have a different “feel.” Take notice of these things that are sometimes hard to measure: Is the staff friendly? Is the community for profit or not-for-profit? Is it clean and well-maintained? Are there resident satisfaction surveys you can review?
Progress to your goal is all about planning, and taking small, concrete steps.
We of course welcome you to visit The Wesley Communities! We are welcoming communities of kindness and grace where residents and staff thrive.
By: Peg Carmany
When someone you love is diagnosed with a life limiting illness, it may be a time when the kaleidoscope of your life suddenly snaps into focus. Or it may be a time when the laser focus of your life becomes scattered. And very likely, there will be some of both. Of the research I have done, and the practical tips I can share from my own experience, these are my favorite pieces of advice:
1. Remember there is no right answer on how you’re supposed to act, and you should not assume that you are supposed to know exactly what to do and exactly how to act. It’s OK to fall apart, but one word of caution about that: try not to let the person who is ill be your primary source of comfort when you do hit a wall.
2. When trying to follow Tip 1, remember that your established role with this loved one doesn’t necessarily switch at the moment of diagnosis. Perhaps only one of you has ever been good under stress? It’s okay to keep it that way. Both of you may take great comfort in continuing on with familiar patterns.
3. Make it a priority to show your love as your loved one is facing what may be overwhelming and scary. It’s not all roses and chocolates – be authentic, be honest, and be yourself. Express gratitude to them for how they have positively impacted your life – and share happy memories – and don’t be afraid to say goodbye, tenderly.
4. Respect their authority to make their own decisions, whether you like it or not. These are their choices, not yours.
5. Keep things as normal as possible. Continue watching your favorite tv shows together or listening to their favorite music, it can be a very meaningful thing.
6. Laugh when you can, and don’t be afraid to poke a little fun at the whole situation. A sense of humor will lighten any mood!
7. And perhaps most importantly: listen, and give advice only when asked. This one can be the most challenging. Often, we are great talkers, but not the best listeners.
Remember, your loved one needs your emotional support. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often family and friends who live near by are more than willing to help with errands. And, if you need further support, Wesley Hospice can visit your home, the community you live in, and even hospitals.
We send our deepest condolences to the families who are faced with a loved one being diagnosed with a life limiting illness. And, we hope that with these tips you’ll be able to better love your loved one during this time.
A couple of weeks ago I watched a documentary produced by the FBI about the heroin epidemic in this country, in our city, entitled “Chasing the Dragon.” It is an epidemic, and it is heightened by the ongoing use of prescription opiates. Many of the prescriptions were prescribed by doctors for pain management following an accident or surgery or diagnosis of chronic pain.
According to AARP, some seventeen percent of adults age 60 and older struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. In reports following the death of music icon Prince, prescription opiates were identified as the alleged cause. My sister, who is in her early 50’s, was prescribed Vicodin and Oxycodone for what was described as chronic pain. She now cannot live without these drugs. Until I watched the above documentary I was not educated about the growing problem. I wonder what situations other individuals may be experiencing, for example, surgeries and old sports injuries, and what has been prescribed by their doctors. What should we be looking for in their behaviors?
If you suspect someone you love is overusing medications, you will want to take some action. First and foremost, be on the alert. What health conditions are they being treated for? Are they still taking heavy meds months after surgery? Look at the labels on the prescription bottles. Who is prescribing them? What is the dosage, refill amount, etc?
Behavior. Is your loved one’s behavior erratic? Are they more depressed, anxious, angry, secretive or just want to be left alone? Do they fall asleep during a visit or conversation? Do they take more than the prescribed amount? Watch them and write down any odd or out of sync moments.
For older adults, especially if they live alone, it is important to monitor the intake of prescription meds. When my mother went from one prescription to seven following her heart attack, we purchased a seven-day pillbox and broke out the distribution per day to help her keep track of what meds she was taking and what day. We made sure we were comfortable with her taking the meds, and also accompanied her to several doctors’ visits to discuss her meds and long-term plans for taking.
Of course, I could not talk about monitoring without addressing some form of recordkeeping. I have kept a record of all medications prescribed to me over the years for various ailments, from dental procedures to back pain caused by a car accident. List all of your medications, dosages, and why they were prescribed for you. Also, include any over-the-counter medications you take. Be sure to share with your doctor.
Prescription opioids are powerful and can be harmful to long-term use. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor and ask about alternative ways to address chronic pain and/or new methods for pain management. Be most aware of the synthetic opioids that are coming into the market. If it involves someone close to you, look for warning signs. Either way, it is important to find or get help.
To watch “Chasing the Dragon” go to www.fbi.gov/chasingthedragon
Whether you call it a random act of kindness or paying it forward, doing something unexpected for someone else feels good. If you know someone who gives their time taking care of a loved one or friend, you have an opportunity to give back to him or her. November is officially National Family Caregivers month and the perfect time to make a difference in the life of a caregiver.
Being a caregiver can start out as small as just raking leaves for an elderly neighbor or balancing your mother’s checkbook. But most times, and especially for those of us with aging parents or relatives, it comes at you unexpected, like an out of control train. Such was the case of my 75-year-old mother who never expected to be a caregiver for her two siblings, still living in the family home. My uncle was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. My aunt was healthy but always taken care of, and she was unable to deal with household chores, much less taking my uncle to chemo treatments. So my mother stepped in. As a former nurse, it was natural to her, but over time it took a toll on her physical, mental and emotional health.
Because we lived several hours away, my sisters and I looked for things we could do to alleviate anything extra our mother needed to do around her own house and ways to help her relax. As expected, the last person a caregiver takes care of is often himself or herself.
So what can you do? It’s the little things. Here are some ideas:
- Rake their yard or shovel snow from driveways and sidewalks
- Bake some cookies or a pie
- Buy her a certificate for a massage or day at a spa
- Cook a meal or stock up on groceries
- Be the driver for the caregiver to help run errands or take her client to doctor’s appointments
- Not using your sports tickets? Extend them to your friend for a night out
- Drop off a nice bottle of wine
- Send them a card just letting them know you are thinking of them
- Take their car to get an oil change or tires checked
- Fix things around their house: a leaky faucet, clogged drain or clean the carpets
- Buy him/her a Kindle and download the latest books or just buy several new paperbacks
- Put a care package in the mail
Pay attention to things that are unique and personal to the caregiver and extend those random acts of kindness to them. I guarantee that any gesture, no matter how small, will go a long way. Caregivers are extra-special people who may be doing something that takes the burden off of you and your family. Let’s show them we care.