Here is where you can find past Caregivers’ Corner articles.
Thoughts from former director Joanne —
The caregiver in the workplace is often agonizing in a silent predicament. Faced with demanding roles of family caregiving along with their company’s performance expectations, many working caregivers are experiencing the ramifications of overload: increased absenteeism, decreased effectiveness, and their own personal health problems.
Fortunately, more and more companies today are recognizing the implications working caregivers have on their internal costs, and are seeking solutions to the caregiver in the workplace dilemma. With the right mix of resources, working caregivers and their employers are finding effective strategies to manage both worlds in a mutually beneficial manner. These effective companies are taking a lead in providing not only family leave time, but education, intervention, and ongoing consultation and/or financial support. This is an investment for businesses, but one that will retain dedicated and experienced workers, and in the end save money and generate goodwill.
If you are a working caregiver, take time to discuss your family caregiving and work demands with your human resource person or manager. Awareness of the issue is a first step in assisting our business world in maintaining their competitive advantage in the global market. There are numerous websites and online tools such as these to get you started:
The Administration on Aging 2011 theme for Older Americans Month, “Older Americans — Connecting the Community”, poses a potential opportunity for caregivers. Consider yourself not only as a care provider, but as a significant resource to your community.
Connect to Caregiving Issues: You have first hand experience to the joys and challenges of caring for an individual. Share the knowledge you have gained with those who would benefit from learning: your children, policy makers, other caregivers.
Connect to New Technology: Learn about advance in robotics, online resources, medical treatment options, safety monitoring systems and future concepts in health care.
Service Connections: Consider volunteering with your care partner in your community. Along with making a contribution, you may also experience the fulfillment of sharing your experience and talents with other generations or cultures. Contact your local schools, senior center or volunteer center to find a good match for your situation.
Connect to Health Living; Take care of yourself. Make behavioral changes in your lifestyle that reduce your risk of disease, disability and injury. You are a key resource for the success of your caregiving team.
Americans of all ages and backgrounds can celebrate Older American Month. As a caregiver you can help pave the way for future generations to improve the health and well being of elder adults.
We often enter our new year with inspirational ideas and lofty goals, only to be overwhelmed and disappointed by mid-March. What are reasonable aspirations for you and your care partner? This year, consider the “ONE Method” of change. Here’s how it works. Analyze your personal situation. Then choose to modify just ONE element. After you have achieved ONE positive change, you may feel like moving on to ONE more.
Here are a few suggestions for getting started:
- Preserve ONE part of your day for just BEING together with your care partner — without a task or mission
- Make arrangements to get ongoing help so you may do ONE thing to take care of yourself — go for a walk. take a nap, eat an uninterrupted meal, watch a movie, enjoy a pastime, etc.
- Make an appointment to consult with ONE professional to assist your situation — a physician, social worker, legal-financial advisor, therapist, clergy, etc.
- Open dialog with ONE new family member or friend about joys and trials of caregiving
- Choose ONE new healthy food to add to your diet plan and eat it at least once a day
- Try out ONE new product or service that may save you time or energy
- Learn ONE helpful technique for your situation. A therapist or support group may be right for you.
Move in the right direction — name ONE starter idea for yourself. Hopefully, you will find that caregiving does not have to be so difficult when you take small steps towards a healthy lifestyle in 2011.
It is not uncommon to encounter confrontations between family members about what is the best choice for a caregiving situation. Providing care for a family member can become very complex. Families may be considering a myriad of care options, with differing individual perspectives. In response, the caregiving team can often benefit from a well organized family meeting to develop a thoughtful plan for the future. Here are some tips for your family meeting.
- Include everyone who is, or will be part of the “team.” In some families this may be just the husband/wife and children. Others include extended family, friends and professional caregivers. Long distance family members, unable to attend in person can be included using today’s audio and visual technology.
- An outside, trained facilitator is extremely helpful when families are in disagreement. This person may be a social worker, geriatric care manager, public health nurse, or other medical professional.
- Prepare for the meeting by creating an agenda which incorporates everyone’s
input. This agenda may include any or all of the following:
- A review of the medical diagnosis and physician reports
- Members’ feelings and concerns
- The care recipient’s care needs
- Members’ unique skills and availability
- Legal and financial status and how matters will be managed
Realistically, not every problem will be solved in one meeting. Hopefully, the team members can work towards consensus, and respectfully consider and implement an action plan with an agreed-upon outcome. The team will benefit from ongoing open dialog and reassessment as situations change. Many online tools and professionals are available to assist families with coordinating these efforts.
As a caregiver, you may welcome summertime with mixed emotions. Reunions with family and friends and renewed outdoor activities canplace a challenging twist in your caregiving routine. Before you set out on a venture, objectively consider these tips.
- What will you be doing? Will you and your care recipient need to change the manner in which you engage in the event? If so, can you adapt your participation in such a way, as to create an enjoyable experience?
- Study the location. Will you encounter physical barriers to access the event? Will protection from the sun or heat be important? Will the change in location be confusing for the care recipient? If so, what equipment or assistance will be needed?
- Consider the timing. Will you need to adjust meals, medications, rest periods? Consult with your medical team about revising the medication schedule.
- Study travel arrangements, including vehicles and planes. Will you require adaptations? Contact the carrier about services and additional fees.
- Who will you meet? Consider calling in advance to communicate the care recipient’s physical and/or cognitive changes and special accommodations that may be needed.
Preparing ahead for these events can equip you and your care recipient to meet any unexpected surprises with greater success. Enjoy the summer and stay connected to friends!
Should your parent move in with you? The question comes up frequently as adult children observe changes in an aging parent’s living situation. The decision is not as clear cut as it may seem. Consider carefully some of the circumstances that may arise while living together, before making a move.
- How do other family members living with you feel about sharing their home, and how will it change our lives together?
- Do we have a clear understanding of our parent’s health conditions and what types of personal and medical care may be involved in the future? How comfortable am I in assisting with personal care needs if indicated? Or if not, who might be able to assist me with these cares?
- Is our home adapted to any special needs of our parent such as grab bars, ramps, bathrooms?
- Do all family members agree on the legal and financial arrangements for providing room, board and care? How will it be administrated?
- If I have siblings or other relatives, how and when will they be involved in assisting with care?
- How will I manage to allow enough time for taking care of a parent as well as other family members, work, other responsibilities and myself?
Situations differ from one family to another. If you are facing these considerations, experts advise you to consult with an eldercare professional. Please visit our supplemental resources for more discussion on this important decision.
The Middle Class Task Force, a White House task force comprised of administration policy makers and federal agencies, has unveiled a series of initiatives for the Federal 2011 Task force on Middle Class Working Families has proposed increased funding for programs to assist the “sandwich generation.” It is estimated that there are approximately 23 million caregivers with jobs, of which 12 million are also caring for their own children. Typically, this generation balances work, caring for their children/grandchildren, in addition to an average of 18 additional hours/week caring for elderly relatives. Couple this workload with the current skyrocketing health care costs, and family budgets begin to feel the squeeze.
The Middle Class Task Force proposes federal funding for more respite care, caregiver training, transportation, adult day services and other community-based programs. It is projected that the assistance to millions more caregivers will delay nursing home placement and enhance caregiver well being. These initiatives are welcome news to eldercare agencies and caregivers across our nation. For the next few months, the Task Force would like to hear from the public about work and family issues. This is an opportunity for caregivers and businesses to advocate for health care support to middle class working caregivers. This issue is significant to curbing the workforce strain, and in discovering quality, cost effective care for our aging families.
You may submit your caregiving stories and proposals to the Task Force’s blog. For more dialog with other caregivers, check out Prairie Adult Care support groups, or join one of the several online message boards and chat rooms found on websites listed on our Supplements page.
November is National Caregiver Recognition month. We have an opportunity to not only recognize family caregivers for the valuable service they provide, but to learn more about the challenges caregivers face everyday. Most family caregivers assume the caregiving role with little or no advance training, yet take on a complex job of balancing legal, financial, medical and emotional cares for a loved one, on top of their own needs. Sometimes this new relationship transpires very smoothly. Frequently, it does not — resulting in an unhealthy family situation. If you recognize some detrimental signs, perhaps what is needed is a new family caregiving roadmap.
- Obtain a diagnosis from a qualified physician. Familiarize everyone involved in your caregiving team with the disease process and recommended management.
- Assess all team members’ needs, skills, time and resources. You may wish to utilize a trained healthcare or social service provider to facilitate this discussion.
- Equip the caregiver and the care recipient with the strategies, resources and an action plan to create and sustain a healthy and safe relationship.
- Time is usually of the essence in the busy life of a caregiver. Fortunately, there are numerous modes available to fit individual preferences for education and resource coordination. Caregivers may choose to gather and coordinate information online, through hard-copy print, audio-visual media and/or in-person contact.
If you feel you need more direction in your caregiving situation, please connect with your physician and any of the Community Resources found on our Supplements page
According to the Family Caregivers Alliance and the National Institute of Mental Health, it is important to recognize signs of depression. Caregiving does not cause depression, nor is depression a normal part of aging. But it is not unusual for caregivers to experience mild or more serious depression from the constant demands of care. In addition depression often co-occurs with other serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease and frequently is not diagnosed in older adults.
During October, National Depression Awareness month, we will take a look at the classic signs.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism or feeling that nothing you do is good enough or life is not worth living
- Nervousness, restlessness, irritability
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in people or activities that were once enjoyed
- Changes in eating habits or sleeping patterns
- Feeling tired all the time and slowed down
- Persistent headaches, digestive disorders and pain.
Depression is a treatable illness. Left untreated, depression can delay recovery or worsen the outcome of other illnesses. Consulting with a trained mental health professional is an excellent starting point. From there the appropriate treatment will be recommended, ranging from medications to various therapies. For caregivers and care receivers, something as simple as the day program can be an effective, therapeutic tool, providing respite for the caregiver and the social support of peers and staff for the care receiver. If you or your loved one is suffering, please seek the help you need.
The rigors of caring for another person can be physically and mentally challenging. Caregivers often recognize that they are ill-equipped for this demanding fitness level. Along with an array of physical tasks that creep into the caregiver’s responsibilities, there are endless matters to keep juggled in the mind.
Most people are aware of the benefits of regular exercise and activity to perk up physical fitness. But what about brain fitness?
A national initiative is underway to improve the cognitive fitness of older adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled a Road Map to Maintaining Cognitive Health that has many resources.
These tips are supported by the AARP, the American Heart Association and the Alzheimer’s Association. Many of the recommendations are simple and enjoyable, and could be easily incorporated this summer to involve the caregiver and care receiver.
- Participate regularly in a physical activity. During summer months, choose the cool part of the day, or indoors out of the heat and humidity.
- Consider a fitness evaluation by our Physical Therapist.
- Practice brain exercises such as cards, reading, crossword puzzles or online games. Check out the AARP brain games for starters.
- Include foods that may reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke and also protect your brain cells.
- Stay curiously involved in learning, and enjoyable social interaction.
Late Spring 2009
Recognition of Older Americans Month also takes into account the thousands of caregivers who are approaching or already are considered “older adults.” The importance of a healthy caregiver cannot be overstated. Too often the caregiver compromises his/her own health at the expense of caring for another individual, and before long, both parties are on the decline. The Area Agency on Aging points out several key points to consider in healthy, successful aging that are equally important to care partners.
- Follow nutritional eating habits
- Cease smoking, the single most preventable cause of death in the US
- Engage in regular physical activity and adequate rest
- Participate in social community relationships
- Seek mental health counseling if needed.
If you, as a caregiver recognize that you are way off track in pursuing these basic habits, it may be time to examine your care plan. Establishing a care plan that allows both you and your care partner to pursue these basics habits in healthy balance may require some new interventions. Understand that resources are available to assist you in evaluating your situation and in finding the help you need to get back on course with “Living Today for a Better Tomorrow.”
— Taken in part from Area Agency on Aging.
Early Spring 2009
April is Volunteer Recognition Month, an opportunity to thank the millions of persons who volunteer in caregiving roles. These volunteers provide a gamut of services that constitute the majority of care provided for our aging and disabled population. Also of importance during these economically stressed times is the financial significance of charitable care that is provided in our country.
If you are currently in a caregiving role, you may wonder, “How can we access volunteer services to assist our situation?” and/or “How can my care partner and/or I volunteer for a cause?”
Finding the right volunteer situation involves time and energy up front to determine what is a good match for each party’s time, talents and comfort level. Volunteering through a credible source is equally important to assure safety and liability. A licensed service, faith-based organization, medical association, city or school might be a good starting point.
To Assist You: Here in the Southwest Minneapolis Metro area we have volunteers available to assist with respite care, meals, home chores and transportation.
To Assist Others: Our schools, long term care facilities, day programs, faith organizations, humane society, and social services are wonderful places to volunteer. In addition, many organizations need help with projects that can be worked on in your own home setting.
Check out great connections to get started with volunteerism in the Southwest Metro Area by viewing our Supplement to Care page.
There are times when the caregiver realizes that the tool he/she needs for the situation, is missing from the tool box. In truth, the caregiver might not be aware the tool is even missing, but senses that something other than his/her own resources would be helpful.
Look into this Starter Tool Kit for the piece you need:
Local or County Social Services: Public Health Nurses and Licensed Social Workers available to assess your needs and recommend resources. Contact your local or county government center.
Disease Associations: Information about specific health care needs and referral to qualified health care professionals and services, such as:
- The Alzheimer’s Association
- Minnesota Stroke Association and the National Stroke Association
- American Parkinson’s Disease Association
Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging: An online directory of service providers, public education and other resources available in the South West Minneapolis area.
Independent Home Living, LLC: A web-based company providing caregivers with tools, knowledge and access to resources.
Family Caregiver Alliance: Practical tools and resources for caregivers and professionals.
If you are new to caregiving, understand that it is usually for the long term and it is wise to begin learning about this new role. There’s more to it than you think. Caregivers are discovering the convenience of finding information and services through the Internet. You can get started here at our website and link to other excellent sites. Educate yourself early on — before a crisis if possible.
- Don’t be shy about asking for and getting help — you don’t need to be superhuman
- Establish a balance between your work and caregiving roles
- Don’t give up your own hobbies and social activities
- Build caring support networks and healthy relationships
- Keep in touch with professionals who monitor your loved ones health
- Obtain and update legal and financial documents
- Learn and practice creative problem solving techniques
These tips may be challenging to actually execute. Know that skilled professionals are available to help you evaluate your situation and move forward with an effective plan.
— Taken in part from “How to be a Great Caregiver” at Third Age Caregiving
Summer is often a time for family holidays and rituals to celebrate life’s transitions. However, as a caregiver and care recipient, these important personal connections may present new circumstances. An interesting fact sheet about family stress management condensed from Ambiguous Loss by Pauline Boss can be found on the National Caregiver’s Alliance website. The fact sheet presents tips for coping with the ambiguity of unpredictable circumstances that frequently arises with chronic disease and disabilities. Consider Pauline Boss’ ideas in your summer plans:
- Recognize the importance of human connections during times of sadness
- Simplify your family gatherings rather than cancel them
- Be open to revisions in family roles to accommodate changes in task management
- Imagine something new to hope for. Connect to young people for inspiring new ideas.
- Practice “both/and” thinking to get you through the murky times. For example: “I am both sad about our loss — and happy about our new grandchild.”
- Get to know your community support systems. A reliable resource can provide the physical and/or emotional support you may need and become “like family” to your care situation.
We hope you enjoy your summer and can experience the rewarding spirit of human connections.