Struggling With an Elderly Parent? Consider This…


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It’s not easy caring for an elderly parent and the worry that keeps you up at night can keep you emotionally spent. Your head is spinning and you feel ultimately responsible for what happens to them. On the other hand, you want to run as fast and far as you can from the big hot mess known as their life…

You’re overwhelmed, frustrated and confused!

If your mom or dad are suffering from some horrible form of dementia, this is understandable and there is plenty we can do to help. However, if your elderly parent is toxic and always has been chances are you’re feeling a bit resentful and burned out. If you feel you’re being sucked further into their toxic vortex I want you to seriously consider this….

They are who they are and you are who you are; you are not one in the same. Do what you can to get the right professionals involved and release the rest. When elderly parents are toxic, it’s best to get out of their way and let them carry on…

 

 

5 Ways to Make Caregiving Less Stressful


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It can be stressful and lonely caring for an aging parent. The endless appointments, piles of laundry, agitated behaviors, meals on the table, pills to dispense, answering the same questions over and over, siblings that don’t help or worse yet criticize your every move. If you haven’t already, you need to create some strategies that will help ease the stress of caring for your aging parent or loved one.

Consider building these strategies in to your every day routine and tap in to them before you reach your tipping point.

Build a Care Team

You cannot do this alone. I don’t care how skilled you are or how much you love your mom or dad you will need help to care for them. It can be informal or formal in the way of paid help but you need to create a routine that includes help. That can be friends that drive mom to her hair appointment or a paid housekeeper to clean the toilets. You may need the assistance of a paid caregiver to help with bathing or meal preparation. I’ve yet to meet anyone that can care for an aging parent 24 hours a day 365 days out of the year without the help of  care team.

Resource: Lots of Helping Hands is an online service that can help you build and organize a care team. At the very least set up an account and start exploring the possibilities.

Surround Yourself with Peers

Find a support group or reach out to people you know who are in the same boat as you. I know it’s hard to reach out when you aren’t feeling like your best self but I have news for you other people in your shoes don’t care nor are they feeling great either so you have nothing to lose by reaching out to others. A good laugh or a good cry with someone that’s been there can go a long way in easing the stress. Caring for an aging parent can be a lonely place and no one understands that quite like another caregiver.

Resource: My favorite online support forum is at agingcare.com. You can find peers there any time day or night. I find the folks there to be supportive, non-judgmental and full of information that can help. Click here…

Create Moments of Respite

Typically we think of respite as a lengthy break of 24 hours or more but think of the impact simple moments of respite throughout your day could make. An activity for you alone that can provide you with a break from caregiving. Walk around the block, read a book, coffee break, hair cut, retail therapy, exploring art… Whatever brings meaning to you and provides you with a break from your caregiving duties; do it!

Let Go of Perfection

If you’re a perfectionist, please learn to let it go. A perfect day does not exist in the world of caring for an aging parent. Without a doubt, you will have moments of joy and happiness but there will always be laundry to do, appointments to make, things to worry about so understand this. There is no perfectionism in caregiving and you are going to drive yourself nuts if you remain on the hamster wheel of perfection, so get off of it.

Stop Being a Martyr

Being a martyr is not a healthy way to get your needs met. Suffering and expecting others to read your mind will not only set you up for resentment and anger but it will push away the people you should be depending on the most. Consider setting boundaries and putting yourself in the position of being empowered versus being victimized.  Find ways to set healthy boundaries; learn when to say yes and when to say no. A caregiver stuck in the cycle of being a martyr is destined to become stressed out.

Moving forward…

Checking back over this list do you see any strategies that may work for you? Can you pick one that you can weave in to your daily or weekly routine?

If you can’t imagine practicing these strategies on a day-to-day basis, consider posting them on your refrigerator and use them to hit your reset button…

Do you have a secret for dealing with stress? Questions about the above suggestions? You could help other caregivers by sharing your thoughts in the comment section.

Aging Parents and Tough Love; You Can Do This!


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Adult children of aging parents often struggle when the time comes to step in and assist with decision-making. The moment you realize your roles have reversed and you need to provide your aging parent with the support and care they need versus what they want.  Sometimes this happens gradually; sometimes the hospital is asking where you want your mom or dad discharged to and you haven’t a clue what to say.

It’s not easy…

It’s not easy when you know in your heart that your aging parent needs more help. Their home is a mess and you detect the smell of urine or their doctor is indicating a move to assisted living or worse yet the nursing home, is in order. Of course, your aging parent will have nothing of it and you’re left holding the bag of worries.  It’s difficult to balance their safety and their wishes when the two don’t coincide. The denial runs deep and you want to scream at the top or your lungs. You beg; you plead but it all falls on deaf ears.

I’ve been there…

Last year about this time my dad was in ICU in acute renal failure. it was clear to me early on that discharging right back to home was not going to be a good choice {read about the dirty details here}  yet that’s all he talked about; going home. I knew in my heart that if he didn’t get some inpatient rehab { i.e. nursing home care} that he would be back in the hospital within 2 weeks, if not 2 hours. I also knew in my heart that he was going to say “thanks but no thanks” to the nursing home idea, which he did.

Presenting it with clarity and compassion…

I was brutally honest {choosing my words very carefully} with my dad about what was happening and very clear about why he needed to go to the nursing home for a while. This piece of the tough love equation is easier for me because of my background but, with all my years of experience and know how, this was truly bringing me to my knees and pushing my inner child buttons like you wouldn’t believe. But I stayed the course by remaining clear and compassionate. I told him I loved him, I knew he was scared but that he’s was going to have to trust me on this.

Tough love doesn’t always feel good…

I will never forget the day my dad was wheeled out of the ambulance and brought in to the nursing home. The look on his face brought tears to my eyes and I seriously wanted to run away. Instead I ran to the door he was coming in so he could hear my reassurance that he was going to be in and out of there before he knew it. To be honest with you, I wasn’t convinced that was true but he needed to hear those words. Even as I write this, there’s a knot in the pit of my stomach and I’m tearful.

Tough love sometimes feels good…

My dad did make it out of skilled rehab {the nursing home} and continues to live at home with the support of his grandson. By stepping in and making that decision to strongly influence {force} my dad to spend time in the nursing home, I made sure he got the care he needed to be as independent and self-sufficient as he can possibly be at this stage in his life. When he talks about being in the nursing home, he admits he didn’t like it one little bit but he also doesn’t express any resentment about the experience; this is all I ask for.

I want you to know this…

Tough love is an issue of setting boundaries with our aging parents and doing what we know is right for them. It’s not always easy but if done with clarity and compassion tough love can make the difference between your aging parent being in a position that puts them at risk versus them getting the care they need so you can both sleep at night…

 

RELATED ARTICLES AND RESOURCES

Clarity Session to Help You Help Your Aging Parent

Aging Parents: My Personal Story

Medicare; Physical and Occupational Therapy!


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This is a short and sweet post about accessing physical and occupational therapy under your aging parent’s Medicare benefit. Here’s a great resource that explains the Medicare benefit much better then I ever could. If your aging parent is struggling with cognition, getting dressed, getting in and out of a chair, they have fallen or are struggling with a transition to a senior living community, please find an occupational or physical therapist to help them. A little intervention early can make a BIG difference and go a long way in helping them maintain their independence!

In the Northern Colorado area, you can access Covell Care and Rehabilitation for help…

 

 

Transition to Senior Living Not Going Well? Don’t Give Up!


I wrote earlier this week about how difficult it can be adjusting to a senior living community and being the old new kid on the block. As a geriatric care manager, families often turn to me for help with this issue so I want to share with you the professional resources I turn to for help with my clients who are struggling with a transition.

My “go to” resources to help my clients struggling with a transition (drum roll please) are  Occupational Therapy and Counselling. By the way, both of these resources can be accessed under Medicare B with the cost of the co-payment so both are resources worth knowing about and exploring…

Occupational Therapy: I refer to an Occupational Therapist (OT) when I notice my client has some physical limitations that are interfering with their independence. Examples would be limited ability to use the phone, dress themselves or pour a glass of milk. I also refer to an OT when I suspect memory or cognition may be a factor in the transition. Perhaps your mom or dad are really struggling to reorient themselves to their new community.

An OT, can assess your aging parent and identify limitations and create a care plan to optimize functioning in those areas. They can also assist with adaptive equipment, room arrangement, cabinet organizing, orientation strategies and exercises designed to assist with increasing strength and mobility. The bottom line is an OT will create a care plan this is designed to maximize your aging parent’s independence. This can help with a new sense of well-being and confidence which naturally would make the transition a little easier!

Finding resources: ask the administrator of your senior living community, physician, local elder care network directory, yellow pages (if you can find one) or google: occupational therapist, Medicare B, outpatient, name of your city.

Counselor or Psychologist: I refer to a licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W) or psychologist (PhD) for counselling when my clients are exhibiting signs and symptoms that may be related to depression or intense anxiety about their move. I may even arrange this resource before the move if there is social history of mental illness, depression or difficulty with transitions. For some older adults and families, this can be a tough sell because of the stigmatization attached to mental health but trust me when I tell you it can make a world of difference for your aging parent to work with a counselor to help with this transition.

Finding resources: ask the administrator of your senior living community, family, friends, physician, local elder care network directory, yellow pages (if you can find one) or google: social worker, counselor or psychologist, Medicare B, name of your city.

Five Keys to Success

1) Physician’s order; both are Medicare B benefits and will require a physician to sign off and provide the order. Make an appointment for your mom or dad and attend that appointment!

2) Communication; don’t just ask the doctor for the order. Provide information that will lead them to understand the service is needed. i.e. “dad is having a difficult time getting dressed ” or “mom is tearful and isolating herself since the move”.

3) Positive spin; both are short-term disciplines so encourage your aging parent to be open to the help as it may just keep them in their apartment versus a nursing home (tough love).

4) Utilize both; you could certainly utilize both these disciplines at the same time. Two disciplines are better than one. The focus is very different so why not?

5) Flexibility; typically an OT can come to the senior living community but not always. You may have to arrange transportation to a counselor. Either way, flexibility will be needed.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help from either of these resources if your aging parent is struggling with their transition to a senior living apartment. A clarity session with me may help as well; during a clarity session we can strategize specific interventions for your aging parent and I can help you define which resources will be the best for you and your aging parent.

A little intervention early can make a BIG difference…

RELATED ARTICLES:

Aging Parents: Understand and Survive Their Transition!

Autonomy in the Retirement Community: Geriatric Care Manager’s Role

Aging with Autonomy in the Retirement Community

Being The New Old Kid On The Block is Never Easy


HiResAs a geriatric care manager, I’m often called in to help aging families struggling to find a way to help mom or dad transition to their new senior living community or independent living apartment.

Older adults can transition to senior living and find a sense of peace and happiness but it’s not always easy. As an adult child you can help by understanding the transition that accompanies this move and strategizing ways you can help.

Sound simple doesn’t it? (insert eye roll)

Before we go any further, let’s clarify what a senior living community with an independent apartment looks like. Your aging parent has an apartment with some type of kitchenette that may or may not include a stove or oven but most certainly has a refrigerator, microwave and sink. There is usually a bed room area which in a studio apartment may be in the open area. There may be supportive services to assist with bathing and dressing but for the most part your aging parent is expected to be independent. Regardless of the floor plan or ancillary services the bottom line is that the door closes and your aging parent has their own independent space to call home (insert smile).

Ways to Help Your Aging Parent Transition to Their Senior Living Apartment

  1. Involve your parent in the decision-making process as much as possible while also filtering choices so they don’t become overwhelmed. This can be tricky depending on your relationship and their enthusiasm towards the move but I recommend you do the up front leg work and visit the communities before you take mom or dad for a visit. Ask your mom or dad what they prefer in a community (pets, pools, restaurant) keeping in mind location preferences. I realize that some of you may live in a community with few choices but the point is to try to involve your aging parents without overwhelming them.
  2. Downsizing is not something that can be accomplished in a day so please (I’m begging you) start the process early. Don’t wait until the decision to move has been made to start this process. It can take months or longer for your mom or dad to filter through what they want to keep, what they want to gift away and what goes in the trash. If you wait to start this process until on moving day, it can be extremely overwhelming for both of you. Encourage your aging parent to downsize one cabinet, one closet, one drawer at a time. We’ve been doing this with my mother in law for some time now; boxes of shoes, dishes for grand kids and photo albums full of memories. With each box we get closer to moving day.
  3. Creating a homey environment in the apartment that includes their furniture, keepsakes and family photos is probably the most important thing you can do to help ease your aging parent’s transition to their new home. You can even go so far as taking pictures of their private home furniture arrangement (especially the bedroom) and try to arrange the new home as close as possible. You may even be able to paint the walls and refurbish a little to your mom or dad’s taste. As you go about making their new apartment a home, keep in mind that it’s their home not yours so provide them with the opportunity to give input and feedback. The point is to make it feel comfortable and cozy not cold and institutional.
  4. Being the new kid on the block is never easy so keep an eye on the social situation and assist with making friends and getting to know your new neighbours. Some communities do a great job of welcoming new residents; some not so much. Help your aging parent by attending social events with them and reaching out to others in the community. With any luck, you may find old neighbours and friends living in your new community. The important thing is to be aware of how difficult it can be at 80 or 90 to make new friends and look for opportunities to bridge this gap.
  5. Set realistic expectations for both of you. Studies show that individuals moving in to senior living communities that set realistic expectations adjust easier and aren’t “blind sided” when issues come up (and they will come up).  The truth of the matter is we can do our best to make the new apartment warm and cozy but in the beginning it wont feel like home. There are certain responsibilities and restrictions that come with living in the senior community; noise in the hallway, waiting in the laundry, a personality clash in the dining room. This all part of the package and you can help your aging parent by setting realistic expectations from the beginning.
  6. Understand that this is a transition and all transitions have a life of their own. it takes time and there is an ebb and flow to the process not only for your aging parent but for you as well. Remember the first day you sent your child off to kindergarten how emotional it was for both of you? You may go through the same emotional roller coaster with this transition as well. There will be days you find your mom or dad smiling and positive about their new home and there will be days they do nothing but complain. Be supportive of your aging parent and kind to yourself as this transition may be full of tears and frustrations; it’s part of the process!
  7. Don’t underestimate the importance of structuring a world that feels as “normal” as possible for your aging parent. For example, if they are accustomed to you stopping by on Sunday afternoon for a visit be sure to stop by on Sunday afternoon for a visit. You may be able to have a meal together in a private dining room there in your new community or take mom or dad out to dinner. Also, encourage friends and family to send cards of encouragement or stop by for a visit (remember life before facebook?).

At the end of the day, it’s all about awareness, empathy and a little tough love. Listen to your mom or dad; understand what they are going through and encourage them to express themselves. You may also need to employ some tough love to get them to see that their glass is half full not half empty…

If you feel your transition isn’t going well, please reach out and ask for help. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective and some clarity…

How about you and your aging parent? Do you see any of these strategies working for you? If so, which ones? If not, why? Add your own strategies and questions in the comment section; I look forward to hearing from you!

Coping with the devastating affects of Alzheimer’s Disease?


For all aging families out there coping with Alzheimer’s Disease, this one’s for you!

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