The Benefits (Gifts) of Caregiving

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As Baby Boomers age, they might be setting their sights on retirement, travel, taking up that old hobby or starting a new one. Instead, many of them find themselves as the primary family caregiver for elderly parents, taking on management finances and routine of medication dispensing when they expected to be stepping away from routine and responsibility. Today, the National Alliance for Caregiving estimates that 65 million people in the U.S. are unpaid family caregivers, seven in 10 caring for a person older than themselves.

Yes, becoming a caregiver has re-routed many plans. There are many reasons people accept the challenging job, sometimes out of a sense of duty or obligation to “do what’s right” by their loved ones. As the cost of services rise, some are financially obligated to take on the lion’s share of the responsibility. Some are fulfilling a promise made to a loved one and others’ recognize that their mom or dad responds better to their care, and therefore has higher sense of well-being because he or she is looked after by a family member.

Eldercare: Redefining Families

There are certainly physical and emotional impacts on a family caregiver. Caregivers often get less sleep because of being up in the night or adhering to round-the-clock medication schedules, and they are often required to lift a person who is bedridden or help him into and out of the bath. Caregiving also takes an emotional toll, ranging from anger at being the one to shoulder the burden to anxiety, isolation, exhaustion and then guilt, for having the feelings in the first place.

But this post is about benefits of caregiving, because despite the hardships, stepping up and caring for your elder can give you gifts.

Get to know your parents better. As children, the world revolves around us; as teenagers, we are the world; as young adults we explore the world; and often as adults we’ve turned into parents and we are someone else’s world. When you’re caring for your parent, you are afforded time to sit and listen and share a world.

Quality time is at hand. On one hand, you may feel isolated, not being able to run to the store whenever you need to or take a friend up on lunch. On the other hand, when you slow the pace from breakneck speed to a crawl, there are card games to be played, newspapers to discuss, recipes to share.

Story sharing preserves family history. Now is a good time to record stories from the past. If eyesight is bad, but memory is good, talking about days past may be just what your elder needs. At the same time, you get a chance to learn about your history.writingstories

Giving back love. They kissed scraped knees, reinforced why you’re grounded (again) to hopefully teach lessons, cooked meals, endured nights in a tent, hosted sleepovers and vacuumed up the resulting popcorn, celebrated when you mastered the potty. Caring for elderly parents gives you a chance to return that love and care.

Supervising the family funds. Managing your parents’ finances puts you in the loop. Whether you work with a financial planner or do it on your own, you have the opportunity to talk about finances and have a true idea of the financial picture.

Draw the family together. The world is not perfect, and siblings may fight over how mom and dad are cared for, where the money goes, and why isn’t our youngest brother helping? But often having a reason to come together opens doors for more communication between siblings who have drifted apart or simply haven’t made time to talk.

One writer recalls in her compelling story of stepping up to be the “Good Daughter,” the road is not easy, and each gift is not neatly wrapped. But if you choose to become the family caregiver, there is good balanced with hardship.

Resources for Caregivers

As the number of unpaid family caregivers grow, more recognition is being brought to the issue. November has been named National Family Caregiver month, and there are resources of all sorts, from online support groups to resources about finances, finding outside care, sharing information, advocacy and more. One example is the National Family Caregivers Association. This wealth of support and information they and others offer may lighten the family caregiver’s load.

Home For the Holidays: Can a Resident of Assisted Living Visit Home?

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“There’s no place like home for the holidays,” say the lyrics to a popular Christmas song. And as friends and families gather to celebrate their beliefs or enjoy traditional meal around a table, the absence of a family member can be very difficult. Is grandma, grandpa, mom or dad allowed to leave his or her assisted care facility or nursing home to join in the holiday festivities?

Many residents of assisted living facilities and care homes are able to leave the facility for special occasions, as long as family members give notice ahead of time, are able to care for their loved one while he or she is home and the resident is healthy enough to endure travel. Make sure you have wheelchair access if necessary, that you stick to medication schedules and adhere to special diets.

Concern over Medicare Coverage

If your loved one’s stay in a nursing home or care facility is funded in any way by Medicare, you may be concerned that you’ll forfeit Medicare coverage if he or she leaves the facility. According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., that is not a necessary concern. The Medicare Benefit Policy manual recognizes that leaving for a short time to attend a religious service, holiday gathering, family occasion or even a trial visit home, does not indicate a resident no longer needs skilled nursing care. Nursing home residents are permitted to leave for a short time without giving up Medicare funding.

Ways to Celebrate In the Assisted Living Facility

Although you may feel like the holidays aren’t the same without grandma or dad at home with the rest of the family, consider whether or not the visit is the right thing for them. Returning home–for just a short time–may trigger feelings of homesickness and loneliness upon their return. Are you having them home to satisfy your need for a family holiday, or theirs?

If it’s not feasible for your loved ones to come home, there are many ways to bring the holidays to them. Share photo albums from holidays past and talk about old memories. If your loved one has special ornaments or decorations, get them out and decorate his or her space. The taste of a favorite food may bring back memories of a happy time or satisfy the need for tradition. And most facilities go to great lengths to help their residents celebrate, inviting church choir groups, children’s groups, other seniors and families to participate in activities.

You may wonder, if your family member has dementia or is suffering from Alzheimer’s, why bother making an effort? Carol Bradley Bursak, editor-in-chief of ElderCareLink, says that even if your loved one is suffering from memory problems or dementia, their short-term memory is often foggy while they are able to remember things from the long-ago past. Ornaments and photos may provide a sense of familiarity and comfort. In fact, new items or recent pictures may add to his or her confusion. At the very heart, including an elderly loved one in your traditions reaffirms their humanity. Make each moment count.

When To Hang Up the Car Keys: Driver Safety and the Elderly

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No one wants to watch his or her independence slip away or be the one to take that independence away from a loved one, and losing the ability to drive oneself at will is a significant loss of independence. It’s not easy, but there comes a time to consider both your loved one’s safety and the safety of other’s on the road when an older driver is behind the wheel.

A recent Harvard study showed that adults aged 40-49 were the age group most likely to worry about a loved one’s driving capabilities. Of those concerned, more than 33 percent had not yet voiced their fears because of worry of a negative reaction, feeling unsure about how to bring the subject up or feeling concern about the lack of alternative transportation.

Physical limitations as a person ages

Not only do physical change to a person’s body and mind occur as he or she ages, but a body 70 years or older is at much higher risk of severe injury or death as a result of a car crash as opposed to a younger person in the same crash.

  • Vision: night vision may decline, sensitivity to daytime glare can increase, it may becomes more difficult to judge of others’ rate of speed and depth perception changes.
  • Hearing: horns, emergency vehicle sirens and other warning signals may be muffled.
  • Slower response time due to limited mobility.
  • Chronic conditions like insomnia, arthritis, heart disease, Parkinson’s may affect a person’s ability to focus attention on the road.
  • Side effects from medications may cause confusion or drowsiness.
  • Dementia and other cognitive problems can lead to confusion on the road.

How to know when it’s time

The Office of Aging lists warning signs pointing to unsafe driving in older adults. Does the driver:

  • have difficulty maintaining posted speeds
  • find it uncomfortable or intimidating to drive at night
  • show erratic movements such as abrupt lane changes, jolted acceleration or confusion between gas and brake pedals
  • get lost easily
  • feel easily taken off guard by a car or pedestrian that “wasn’t there a second ago”
  • have difficulty reading signs
  • demonstrate a failure to use turn signals or obey other rules of the road
  • drift into other lanes or hit curbs
  • incur traffic citations
  • have difficulty looking over shoulder because of limited range of movement

These are signs that driving is becoming difficult and potentially dangerous.

How you can help

Your loved one likely won’t  hand the keys over without resistance, but the suggestion is easier to hear from a family member or close friend rather than the DMV or a court order. Here are a few tips on making the conversation go a little easier:

  • Be empathetic–this is a hard transition!
  • Help figure out alternative transportation or develop a schedule so that your loved one doesn’t feel helpless or stranded.
  • Use resources like the free online course offered by AARP, The Hartford and MIT Age Lab called We Need To Talk, providing information on fostering meaningful conversation between family members about adult safety issues.
  • Seek outside expertise from a Comprehensive Driving Evaluation. Evaluations are given by an occupational therapist who can provide a clinical assessment of vision, cognition, reaction time as well as a behind-the-wheel assessment of driving skills. For a list of occupational therapists, visit the American Occupational Therapist’s website.

In general, older adults have high seatbelt usage and low citations for driving under the influence, reckless driving and speeding. So if medications or clear cognitive issues are not problematic, consider a trial of self-imposed limitations. Don’t drive at night or in bad weather conditions and avoid rush-hour traffic times.

The key is safety, for your loved one, for the drivers’ passengers and others on the road. As difficult as the conversation may be, a tragic result will be even more difficult to handle. Consider using family time together over the holidays as a time to observe and possibly talk to your loved one about retiring the car keys.

Home Help for the Elderly: Is it Right for Your Loved One?

Many older adults desire to stay in their homes as long as possible, avoiding placement into an assisted living or senior living setting. This can be a viable option as long as an elderly parent or loved on has adequate help in the home as additional care and support becomes necessary.  It is important however, to research the range of options available to maintain this desired lifestyle. There are different levels and types of care which can be offered in the home depending on your loved one’s needs.

Make Decisions Early

All too often, families don’t have discussions or make these decisions until  a catastrophic event occurs and it becomes absolutely necessary. Other family members (in cooperation with physicians and other healthcare providers) are then faced with determining whether arrangements can be made for their loved one to remain in her home or whether an alternative living arrangement, such as nursing home placement, will be necessary.

Home care can be more affordable than residential senior living settings, depending on how much care your loved one requires. But home help providers can’t provide more complex services, and non-medical in-home care is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid in most cases.

Evaluating Your Options

There are a few questions you should ask yourself if you’re considering hiring at-home care for an aging loved one. These questions will help guide you in making the right decisions for your family.

  • What support do you have available? Do you have family, friends or neighbors, and how willing are they to become involved? Are there people in your life who can and will step in when needed to help with the lighter aspects, such as house cleaning, errand running, or providing a respite for the caregiver?
  • Do you have the financial ability to pay for care? Obtaining help now or in the future is something you should budget for. Also, look into what the financial obligations are when using a home health or private agency so you can create a financial plan in advance. Call your local office of aging and inquire about what services they provide and about income guidelines.
  • What are your loved ones medical needs? Does your elderly loved one have chronic medical conditions that will inevitably worsen over time? This is specific area of concern when evaluating your options. Consider mobility and health concerns,  possible future complications and how you might handle them.

Finding the Right Home Care Services

Once you have determined your needs, it’s time to evaluate what services your loved one will require to help maintain her independence. It’s time to look for outside providers. Ask among your network of friends and family to find out what local services might be available. Sometimes the best referrals come from your personal network.

Older adult resources such as the Area Agencies on Aging, eldercare specialists such as geriatric care managers, and senior centers can also be great places to start. When it comes to home health care, your physician will also be able to help with the referral process and may have recommendations or advice.  . Insurance providers will sometimes cover a portion of the costs associated with homecare services, if the care is necessary due to a medical condition.

Full-Service Agencies  vs. Independent Providers

There are two main types of in home care available to seniors: Full-service agencies and independent providers.

  • Full Service agencies typically range from companion services to complete nursing services. They can be more expensive but the trade-off is their caregivers have often been carefully screened with extensive background checks. This provides a little peace of mind and helps you feel comfortable with the caregiver in your home. Most states require these caregivers to be certified according to specific state standards, such as taking an examination to become a CNA.  And if a caregiver is unable to work due to illness or emergency, a replacement is typically sent to the home when using the full-service option.
  • Independent Providers are often less expensive.  However, you’ll want to do the legwork to carefully screen your employee. It’s also a good idea to check backgrounds and verify identities. The other downside is not having a readily available replacement should your employee is unable to work on any given day.

Home care can be a viable option for helping your loved one remain independent and in her own home. It’s not right for everyone, however; some seniors prefer the socialization and activities available in senior living settings, and not all families can afford the costs associated with in-home care. Finally, your loved one’s needs may eventually exceed what the agency is able to provide, making a move to a residential senior care facility necessary.

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Role Reversal: Cohabitating with an Elderly Parent

As the population continues to age, few things become more apparent than seniors’ desire for independence coupled with wanting to stay in their own homes. It’s a comfort thing: Most people want to grow old in their home, surrounded by their personal belongings and memories. Not to mention, the exorbitant costs associated with care outside of the home either in a long-term setting or assisted living facilities seems far out of reach for many of today’s families.

Nowadays, there are more and more adult children who end up cohabitating with their aging parents, whether that means the child returns home to get back on his feet or an elderly parent moves in with a child’s family to downsize or when it becomes unsafe for them to live alone. In the last 15 years, the number of seniors living with an adult child has skyrocketed, thanks in part to the high costs associated with getting outside help.

Living with elderly parents
Families provide the bulk of long-term care

It’s estimated that over 10 million adults over the age of 50 are responsible for the care of an aging parent. That’s about one in five Americans taking over the responsibility of a parent either in their home or paying for their care, according to the most recent statistics from the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA).

What’s more, Focus on the Family reports that families–not institutions–are providing 80 percent of long term care, meaning there are a lot of family caregivers out there providing the bulk of caregiving services for today’s elderly population. . As baby boomers are living longer and having healthier lives, any care that is needed for the aging parents typically becomes the children’s responsibility.

As people grow older, there are many ailments and conditions which may lead to the need for outside help. Cohabitating with aging parents can take the place of some, if not much, of the need for this assistance. A cohabitating arrangement can prove beneficial and rewarding, but it could also create plenty of complications.

Talk out the details first

Most children have good intentions when they decide living with an elderly parent is the best option. However, these situations can go south very rapidly if all the details weren’t given much thought before the decision was made.

Addressing every topic beforehand, such as finances, and evaluating how to establish unity among everyone involved can ease much of the tension associated with living with aging parents. Here are a few topics that should be considered prior to cohabitating with mom or dad:

  • Who will pay the bills? Will your parent be expected to contribute financially?
  • Are there young children involved, and how can they be prepared for this change? Be sure to discuss the situation and explain, even to very young children, why Grandma or Grandpa is moving in and what it means for them.
  • Do you need ground rules for young children? The roles can get mixed when multiple generations live under the same roof; be upfront about disciplinary roles and expectations to avoid hurtful confrontations.
  • What medical needs does your elderly parent have? Who will be responsible for taking care of any care needs, appointments and supplies?
  • Is it safe for your aging parent to be alone during the day? If not, who will be caring for her while your family is away? Look into options such as adult day care if needed.

Living with mom or dad

Share responsibilities with siblings

If your aging loved one requires a great deal of care, enlisting other siblings to help can be a good idea. If you have adult siblings who live close enough to help with daily activities or transportation to doctor appointments, it can alleviate the amount of stress placed on the child with whom the aging parent resides.

Make plans in advance and discuss these options with your elderly parent and any siblings who will be participating in care. Again, advance planning goes a long way in avoiding unpleasant disputes down the road.

Check into community resources

Researching all the options available in your community, such as respite care can also help alleviate some of the burden. It’s important for families entering into a cohabitating arrangement with an elderly loved one to know all their options and have ample support. Ancillary resources that can help include:

Living with elderly parents can and does work, provided there is sufficient space, privacy and boundaries for everyone involved. Mutual respect and a place to go when one has had enough family time are also crucial to a successful cohabitating arrangement.  Cooperation, advance planning and flexibility are all critical to the family’s happiness.

Images via celesteh.com and  InAweofGod via Flickr

8 Tips for Talking To Your Parents About Assisted Living

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Having “the talk” can be difficult, emotional, scary. But putting off the subject for another time might leave you with no time for pre-planning. If you’re considering talking to your parents about assisted living (and you probably should be), here are a few tips.

1. If you have siblings, discuss the assisted living option with them first.

The future plan for your parents as they age might be different in your mind than from your siblings’. Make sure you all can agree, or find ways to discuss your disagreements before bringing the topic up with your parents. If disagreements are strong and you can’t have healthy discussion, involve a social worker in your conversations. An unbiased third party can often bring resolution.

2. Bring the topic up before you’re forced to bring it up.

Pre-planning allows you to control the situation, the setting and the direction of the conversation. If it’s possible, choose a time when there’s a network of family or friends available, and when the people involved are happy and relaxed. Open dialogue when everyone isn’t feeling stress or immediacy allows your elderly parent or relative to offer his or her feelings on the subject. It’s dialogue rather than directive.

3. Be willing to revisit the conversations more than once (or a dozen times).

The first crack at it might be unsuccessful. Even just thinking about getting too old or not being well enough to live on your own is a scary consideration. That first conversation may, in fact, just be the ball that gets a long process rolling. Be willing to ride it out.

4. Have options in mind.

If your parents or loved ones are willing to look at brochures, or even tour facilities, have the materials, websites or addresses ready. Being involved in the decision may make your mom or dad feel better about the eventual move.

5. Be ready to discuss the financial aspect of assisted living.

Do you know your parent’s financial situation? Have they planned ahead for long-term care or is there a fixed budget in place for daily living expenses? Personal finances are just that–personal, and delving into the checkbook, savings account and investments–or lack thereof–may cause friction. If it’s possible to involve a financial coach or expert in fiduciary matters, look into services in your area.

Listen to an interview with Sheri Samotin about financial management and fiduciary planning.

6. Make it a bi-annual or annual conversation.

If you begin the process early enough, and you don’t face decisions under duress, the topic of assisted living can be one you assess regularly. After six months or a year have passed, look at how your parent is doing. Assess his or her health, abilities, happiness and safety.

7. Come to the conversation with an educated but open mind.

If your goal is to convince your parent(s) to move to assisted living, then be prepared to discuss the pros and cons. Maybe it’s never having to mow a lawn or shovel snow again; having tasty, warm meals prepared each day; meeting new friends or becoming involved in social activities or classes they’d given up. The safety of an on-site healthcare team might be appealing if declining health is an issue. On the other hand, listen to how your mom or dad is feeling about the topic and show you understand–and really try to understand!–his or her viewpoint.

8. Breathe.

Whether you’ve taken the pro-active path and have time to research the issues and options, or you’re facing a crisis and feel pressure to make an immediate decision, remember to slow down and breathe. Use resources like AARP, Assisted Living Federation of America, American Seniors Housing Association or the National Council on Aging, to help with the tough decisions.

The Difference a Year Makes

With the holiday season approaching, families will soon be gathering to celebrate together. Today with more miles separating us from our loved ones due to job commitments, many people may only see their elderly parents or relatives at this time of year. A year can be a long time and many elderly heath issues including mental health issues may crop up during this time that you cannot detect just from a phone call.

Elderly status can change drastically in just one year.

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You may be surprised when visiting your parents or other relatives to find evidence that may lead you to suspect a decline in their physical or mental health. This may indicate they may be in need of home services for the elderly in order to remain in their homes, or it may be time to consider a residential home for the elderly for their best interests.

What to Look For

Does your relative appear to have lost weight? This could be a sign of elderly mental health or physical problem. They may be too weak or just uninterested in cooking for themselves and could benefit from home delivered meals for the elderly. Their medication may also be causing weight loss by having an effect on their appetite or changing the taste of the foods they used to enjoy. A more serious consideration may be that they are suffering from an illness such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s or depression that may be affecting their weight or their ability to cook.

Look at their prescription or over-the-counter medicine bottles for expiration dates and make a list of any medications they are on and keep it for reference if needed in an emergency. If you have concerns about what medications they are taking, discuss this with your relative, and if you still have concerns, suggest that you both visit their doctor to discuss them.

Does your relative seem to have balance problems? This may be health-related and put them at a higher risk of falls. You may want to investigate ways to improve home safety for the elderly. Some steps you can take are making sure to eliminate or move any items that may cause them to trip or fall such as unsecured rugs. You will also want to make sure any dangers are eliminated in the bathroom also. This may mean installing bars for the bathtub or a raised toilet seat to reduce the danger of falls in the bathroom.

Examine their home environment when you visit. If your parent(s) have normally kept their home neat and clean, this may be a sign that they are starting to have a decline in their physical or mental health. Are there piles of clutter, dirty laundry, or unpaid bills lying about? Is there evidence of cooking mishaps such as burned pots or scorched stoves or ovens? They may be beginning to slip in their abilities or lack the energy to do their chores on their own anymore.

What to Do if You Have Concerns

First, you do not want to insult your parent(s) or relative(s) and put them on the defensive by making them think you are going to take their independence away from them. Express that you are concerned for their wellbeing, and that you have noticed a big difference since your last visit. Suggest that you both speak to their doctors to rule out any unknown health issues. Often, declines in physical or mental health could be stemming from interactions between the medications they are taking. They may also be feeling shut off from the world and in need of social interaction. By pinpointing the causes, you are taking the first step toward improving their quality of life and in the end; your parent(s) or relative(s) will appreciate your concern for their wellbeing.

 

 

Startling Statistics Concerning Suicide among Elderly Men

Studies have shown a startling trend in the increase of suicides among older adults, which has brought the subject of elderly mental health into the spotlight. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health show that suicide among older adults is more common than most realize and more disproportionate to suicides committed by any other age group.

Depression among elderly men may go unnoticed.

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Adults over the age of 65 represent only 12% of the people in the United States, but they represent 16 – 25 percent of all suicides that occur in this country. What is surprising is that four out of five suicides are committed by elderly men. The numbers increase drastically for white men over the age of 85 to 50 occurrences out of 100,000 men.

No Previous Warning

What is even more disturbing is the majority of elderly suicide victims gave no indication that they were considering suicide and had no outward signs of depression. Many had been seen by their doctors in the month and even days before their deaths. Even though practitioners are trained to recognize symptoms of depression, which can be crucial in preventing suicides, often there are no signs exhibited by their patients.

Concern for Elderly Men

While depression plays a large part in many of these cases, other elderly health issues can increase feelings of hopelessness and not having anything left to live for. Social isolation can increase these feelings also. This is the case for many elderly men who tend to become more socially isolated than women do. The risk increases for elderly widowers because their wives managed many of their social connections. Once their wives has passed, these social connections may be greatly reduced or totally cease.

Elderly men may also find themselves losing a sense of purpose because they were poorly prepared for retirement and now do not know what to do with themselves. This is especially true if they have never developed interests or hobbies outside of work. The added stress of being alone may become too much to bear and they feel they would be better off dead.

Risks and Signs to Watch For

As with so many elderly health concerns, if an older man finds himself facing the prospect of going through a major health crisis such as cancer alone, this can become overwhelming. This is one major risk in which to be aware. Returning home after a stay in the hospital can be a trying time for many and can increase the risk of suicide.

One signal that may suggest depression is taking hold of one’s life may be drastic weight loss. This is often because they have stopped eating as their will to live fades. They may also stop taking their medications and sleep more often. They may also appear very sad and say such things about being a burden on others, and how their family would be better off if they were gone. This is not a normal stage of aging; this is a sign that help is needed, and now.

What Can You Do?

The key to helping to prevent depression and suicide among the elderly is to help them remain socially active and involved in activities. These activities could be of any type whether joining a senior center or a book club. Getting the person involved in volunteering for their church or local school or museum will give them a sense of they are making a contribution and have a purpose.

If you suspect that an elderly person you know is exhibiting signs of depression, take steps to stop them from becoming a statistic. Help find mental health services geared toward the elderly for them immediately. If you feel that they are in immediate danger, contact your local hospital for an immediate referral.

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10 Essential Tips for Caregivers

Caring for a loved one or employer should not make you forget about taking care of yourself daily. Caregivers have a stressful strenuous rewarding job that seems to go on forever. Having help and support, while taking care of yourself will make you a better caregiver and allow you to be a better caregiver for your loved one. A few tips will help you become the caregiver you want to be.

Signs of Dealing with Stress

Many caregivers get into the habit of worrying more about their loved one and letting their own health, needs and thoughts go out the window. When you focus on just one person other than yourself, worry about everything you are doing, what is happening to them and have other forms of pressure you may have anxiety and stress without even noticing the warning signs that something is wrong. Signs of stress that you need to watch for include the feeling of tiredness or overwhelmed feelings most of the time. A change in sleeping habits or a change in your weight can be a sign that you are stressed out. Additionally losing interest in any other outside activities or hobbies you had is a key sign of stress. The rest of these tips are about how to deal and reduce the stress a caregiver may be going through.

Asking and Accepting Help

If you are feeling overwhelmed with caregiving do not be afraid to ask other people for help. Have a list wrote out of stuff that you feel comfortable having other people take care of. This list may include stuff such as chores, errands, meals or even letting you get some time to yourself while they care for your loved one for an hour.

Take Breaks

A caregiver should always have some time to himself or herself every day. A good rule of thumb for a caregiver is to get at least an hour a day away from the cared loved one. This gives the caregiver time to relax for a few and follow some of their own hobbies and interests or exercise while letting their mind recuperate.

Respite Care

Having respite care is a great opportunity for caregivers. This allows the caregiver a few hours off every day or every few days to take care of them. A relaxed caregiver is a happy caregiver. Insurance often covers the cost of an experienced respite caregiver saving the family time, stress and money. If you worry about leaving your loved one with someone else, make a detailed chart detailing the schedule of what needs to be done and if any medications are needed.

Support Groups

Support groups can offer advice and encouragement to a caregiver. They have all been in the same situation the caregiver is in and know how you feel when you want to vent or ask a question. Support groups are also a good place to meet new people and make friends that understand what you are going through.

Connections

Staying emotionally connected with friends and family will help reduce the stress a caregiver feels. Support groups can offer other social outlets and connections to finding experienced respite caregivers and opportunities for a caregiver to get help with errands and meals.

Set Personal Goals

Set goals for what you expect to do each week and a longer goal for a month ago or in a few months to a year from now. These goals could include more time to yourself, better health, and weight loss or even to learn a new hobby.

Education

Educating yourself about your loved ones condition and care can help relieve the stress of not knowing what is going to happen. Between doctors, books and online you should be able to find many resources explaining the situation going on and what to expect in the future.

Health

Your health as a caregiver is very important to your happiness and your loved one’s well-being. Caregivers are often stressed and busy throughout the day and part of the night lifting, moving, and twisting around to make sure their loved one is cared for, and everything else is done too. Make sure you exercise regularly, get fresh air every day, eat properly and relax. Routine doctor appointments are also a good goal to make to increase your health.

Pride and Rewards

Have pride in what you do, not everyone can handle the responsibility of being a caregiver to their loved one. Reward yourself with time away from your duties or something new each time you reach one of your goals.

Resources in Your State’s Department of Aging – helpful tips for Caregivers

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law. The OAA created specific objectives designed to maintain the welfare and dignity of the aging population. The OAA also created a grants system that allowed both federal and state agencies to organize, coordinate and deliver community-based resources for senior citizens. Under the OAA, the Department of Health and Human Services created the federal Administration on Aging. The Administration on Aging in the United States provides free links to states’ Department of Aging facilities that are focused on providing assistance to the elderly.

Your state’s Department of Aging likely provides aging resource centers. These centers offer referrals for elder care providers and information about getting access to both state and local benefits for the elderly. These state resource centers will help both seniors and their families to determine if seniors are eligible for long-term care services. For instance, some state programs provide subsidies to assist family members who are taking care of elderly patients in their homes. Some state and local agencies also provide respite services for exhausted family members both in the home and at outside facilities.

One specialized area of information that your state’s Department of Aging may provide is related to disaster preparedness. Both seniors who live alone and those who live with a caregiver need to have plans in case of fire or other natural disasters. Power outages and extreme weather conditions can also affect elderly citizens who do not have the resources to cope with disasters. State information will help families to develop disaster plans and will provide them with recommendations for creating a disaster supply kit.

Some states’ Department of Aging provides assistance with background screening for families looking to hire someone to assist in the care of an elderly relative. Background checks help to prevent abuse of the elderly, who are extremely vulnerable to caregivers and may be unable to defend themselves. When elder abuse situations happen, family members can contact their state’s elder care agency to report abuse and to seek punitive action.

Many people who are caring for the elderly want to know more about health insurance benefits. Many caregivers depend on Medicare, Medicaid, prescription drug coverage and long-term care insurance to meet the needs of their elderly patients. Your state’s Department of Aging can provide unbiased information about eligibility for health insurance and the extent of the coverage that state benefits will provide.

In addition to medical concerns, many seniors are still active and may be able to work outside of the home. For these people, the Department of Aging can offer job search boards designed especially for seniors to assist eligible workers with job placement. Working outside of the home can help to alleviate loneliness, provide a social outlet and promote continuing cognitive function for seniors who have the physical ability to work.

Some caregivers want to know about services for the elderly in their area. Senior citizens’ centers provide many recreational opportunities for the elderly including dancing, field trips, game nights and educational services. Even specialty services, like library and legal services, may be obtained through local senior centers or by requesting information from the state government.

Caring for elders, when combined with all of the other responsibilities of life, can be overwhelming. Families and caregivers want to make the best possible decisions to promote both dignity and quality of life for their loved ones. Fortunately, the state and federal government has free resources that will give elders and their caregivers the support that they need. Be sure to check with your state’s Department of Aging to make the best use of the free resources available to you.