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ElderCare Solutions of MI

Archive for 'Long Distance Caregiving'

I can’t believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone, Hanukkah is almost over, and Christmas and New Years are right around the corner!  The best part of any holiday celebration is visiting with family from out of town.  While it’s always fun for everyone to catch up with each other, all too often my phone rings the following week because  people get an unexpected surprise…their parents do not seem to be doing as well as they were last year, or as well as they seemed over the phone.  Changes can happen suddenly if someone has a fall or other serious illness, but most often changes happen very gradually, with cumulative effects that become more pronounced over time.  And while they may go unnoticed from week to week, if it’s been several months since your last visit, the difference can be very surprising.

But how do you know when your parents might need a little help?  Here are a few clues that you might see on your visit:

  1. Stacks of unopened mail
  2. Old, expired or moldy fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt in the fridge
  3. Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  4. Difficulty walking or precarious balance
  5. Fatigue and lethargy
  6. Confusion or forgetfulness
  7. Misplaced or lost items

The tricky part is knowing what to explain away and what to consider concerning.  Any one of these signs by itself  may not be worrisome, but if you’re seeing more than one, it may be time to talk with your parents and other family members about getting some support.  If you’re not sure,  meeting with a geriatric care manager can help you decide, and arm you with recommendations to put in place before you leave or have at the ready.  Although this may be a conversation you’re dreading, it’ll make getting on the plane to go home much easier.

Feeling thankful,

Lynn

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Long distance caregiving…that phrase certainly sums up my week!  It seems as though everyone I spoke with this week lives out of town, but is coming in for the holidays and is worried about their parents. I am very fortunate because both my in-laws live locally.  and unlike my sister-in-law, I don’t have to get on a plane every time there’s a problem.

When that dreaded role reversal happens and our parents begin to need help, it’s hard under any circumstances.  All of us deal with the uncertainty of wanting to help, but not wanting to step on our parents’ toes.  But the emotional stress takes on another dimension when you’re not there to check on your parents yourself.  This week I spoke to daughters who feel guilty about not being more available, and to sons who feel helpless…both feel anxious and burdened by worry.

As difficult as these first few conversations can be, I’m always so uplifted when I get off the phone.  People’s relief at having found someone, willing and able to be there for their parents long term, is almost tangible.  Someone who can not only help put supports in place but will be there to follow up as their needs change over time.  At those times, I’m grateful to be a Geriatric Care Manager!

Talk to you next week,

Lynn

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The holidays are a much anticipated time of year for most of us.  Seeing family and friends, exchanging presents etc. make it a very exciting time.  However, for some the holidays bring unexpected surprises if they live out of town and haven’t seen the older adults in their life for some time.

An older adult’s level of functioning can change significantly over the course of a few months, even more so if it’s been longer since you were last together.  Here are some potential red flags that might indicate more support is needed:

  • Stacks of unopened mail
  • A fridge full of old, expired or moldy fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt
  • Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  • An older adult seems to:
    • have more difficulty walking
    • have precarious balance
    • have less energy
    • tire easily
    • be confused or forgetful

It can feel overwhelming when you first realize that all is not well, but there’s no need to handle it on your own.  Their physician might be a resource, and a Geriatric Care Manager can help you identify and put in place local resources that will make it easier for you to board that plane for your return flight. 

Happy Holidays,

Lynn

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Change…I don’t know about you but I’ve never really been a fan of it!  But on a serious note, change is difficult and older adults seem to constantly have to adjust to more and more changes.  Changes in their health, changes in their living arrangements, changes in their circle of friends, just to name a few.

 And generally the type of changes I’m talking about truly mean adjusting not only to change but to loss.  Loss of their independence, their home, their ability to drive, and in some cases their cognitive abilities.  Is it any wonder then that we hear so much about depression and anxiety in older adults? 

 I know we all lead busy lives, and many people live far away from their parents and can’t just drop in once a week.  The good news however, is that there are many ways to make a difference for the older adults in your life, from around the corner or around the globe.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Call for no reason at all, just to let them know you are thinking about them
  • Plan outings together whenever possible
  • Send cards when you can’t be there in person
  • An I Pad or kindle can bring back the pleasure of reading due to adjustable font sizes
  • If loneliness is a problem arrange for a caregiver or volunteer to pay weekly visits

 If you suspect a more serious concern, consult with a physician or geriatric care manager to see what other resources may be available.

 Going card shopping,

 

Lynn

 

 

 

 

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Mother’s Day is a time that brings families together. But sometimes those family gatherings can leave adult children with a heavy heart…especially if Mom or Dad isn’t doing as well as they once were.  Unfortunately we all decline as we age, some of us more drastically than others.  And it is sometimes difficult to know when it’s time to step in and offer some additional support. 

Signs that an older adult may need more assistance include:

  • Stacks of unopened mail
  • Very little fresh food in the fridge
  • Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  • An older adult’s  balance is precarious
  • They seem excessively tired
  • Signs of confusion or memory loss

Any of these signs by itself may not be concerning.  But if you’re seeing more than one it might be time to get a little help.  If you’re not sure, call us and let us help you find out.

Missing my own Mother,

Lynn

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There was an email circulating last week that talked about a speaker holding a glass of water in her outstretched arm as she addressed an audience.  She asked them one question…Is this glass heavy to hold?  Without repeating the whole story, the answer depends on how long you need to hold it.  It’s not heavy at all to hold for a minute or two, really heavy to hold for an hour, and almost impossible to carry for 24 hours straight, without setting it down.

The analogy is so relevant to caregivers, and the stress they carry 24/7.  Even small tasks become burdensome when you can’t put them down and take a break.  So many family members carry their worry and stress about an older adult around with them all the time.  It’s on their minds at work and often in their dreams at night. I was speaking with someone I really respect on Friday, and after talking to him about his mother, advised him casually to not think about it for a few days.  “Like that’s going to happen” he responded.

This is exactly why Caregiver Stress is such a common problem in our society.  In addition to seeing to all the details in our own lives, family caregivers are also trying to figure out how best to help their parents, aunts, uncles etc., without consciously taking time to set their burdens down.

Whether it’s through meditation, exercise, retail therapy (my personal favorite) or getting help from a professional, we all need a stress free zone.

What is your stress free zone?

Lynn

 

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A new year…a time for new beginnings and resolutions…anything seems possible!  It’s also a natural time to open conversations with the older adults in your life about planning for the future.  Are there any legal documents they need to put in place?  Do they need any additional assistance this year? 

As you make your New Year’s resolutions be sure to include ways to not only care for the older adults in your life, but to be sure you care for yourself as well.  In addition to all the old standbys like “Lose those extra 10 pounds”, you might also consider some of the following:

  • Be honest with yourself
  • Create resolutions that are realistic
  • Vow to make time for a little fun each week
  • Be sure you laugh, loudly and often
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Be proactive whenever possible

None of us can escape the complexities of aging, whether we’re experiencing difficulties ourselves, or with someone that we love.  But the one thing we can control is how we react to those changes.  Are you being proactive or reactive?  Let’s all plan to age well and live well in 2012.    

 Ringing in the New Year,

 Lynn

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 I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving time again…I can almost taste the turkey and stuffing!  The best part of the holiday is visiting with family from out of town.  While it’s always fun for everyone to catch up with each other, all too often my phone rings the following week because  people get an unexpected surprise…their parents are not be doing as well as they seemed over the phone.  Changes happen over time.  And while they may go unnoticed from week to week, if it’s been several months since your last visit, the difference can be striking. 

How do you know when your parents might need a little help?  Here are a few clues that you might see on your visit:

  1. Stacks of unopened mail
  2. Old, expired or moldy fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt in the fridge
  3. Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  4. Difficulty walking or precarious balance 
  5. Fatigue and lethargy
  6. Confusion or forgetfulness
  7. Misplaced or lost items

 The tricky part is knowing what to explain away and what to consider concerning.  Any one of these signs by itself  may not be worrisome, but if you see a few, it may be time to talk with your parents and other family members about getting some support.  Although this may be a conversation you’re dreading, it’ll make getting on the plane to go home much easier.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Lynn

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So many people called last week asking about how to help smooth the transition for older adults in their lives who need to move that I decided to re-post this blog.  I hope it helps…

Downsizing, relocating, or just plain “moving” at any age, can be an exciting but very stressful time.  In fact, moving ranks third in a list of stressors surpassed only by death and divorce.  However, older adults frequently do move, either by choice or necessity. 

The stress of moving as an older adult has many layers.  The physical work of packing and moving can take a toll, but is often overshadowed by the emotions that get stirred up.  It is bittersweet to leave the home where you were newly married, raised your children, or shared a life with a now-deceased spouse. Yet, this is often reality.

So what steps can you take to ease the transition? 

  • Choose your new home wisely.  Many senior retirement, independent and assisted living communities look the same from their glossy brochures, but have very different activities, meal plans, floor plans, and pet policies. 
  • Bring a list of questions to ask as you tour communities, to help you decide if you or your relative would be happy here.
  • Decide what you need to take with you from your current home, to make your new one feel like “home”.
  • Work with a layout of your new floor plan to see where your furniture will fit.
  • Hire a professional organizer to help pack and dispose of what you don’t need.  They can hold estate sales or arrange for donations, and have movers and packers who specialize in working with older adults.

Be sure to save any boxes of photographs that you may discover during a move.  Families can relive wonderful memories by creating a scrapbook for a loved one’s new home.

Organizing as we speak,

Lynn

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One of the hardest decisions we help our parents make, or even make for ourselves as we age, is about leaving our homes.  And all too often, after the packing, moving and unpacking is done, people discover that they may have made a mistake.

There are many things to consider when contemplating a move, but the issue I see most often these days involves people who have moved to an Independent Living apartment, thinking that they will receive far more support than is readily available.

Independent Living is a great alternative for a more or less healthy senior who either can’t manages a larger home anymore, or simply doesn’t want to. They may offer great locations, lovely apartments, transportation and an optional meal plan.  That’s a lot to offer. But the important thing to remember is that that is all that is usually offered. 

If an older adult needs personal care, that is something that must be arranged, and paid for privately.  Because they are not in any way restricted, residents can come and go as they wish, which sounds appealing, but can be dangerous for someone with dementia who might wander outside and get lost.  Even an older adult with minor memory issues might not realize that it is dinner time and will miss a meal because there is no staff available to prompt them to come down to dinner.  They also might find it difficult to make new friends, because higher functioning residents may shy away from them.

Assisted Living offers similar services to Independent Living environments, but they also have help available for personal care in-and-out of the shower, getting dressed, as well as an escort or reminder for activities and meal times.  And, the door is usually monitored to prevent wandering. Unfortunately the apartments usually do not have full kitchens, and may be smaller than in Independent Living.

The last thing anyone wants to have to do is move again.  So before you consider a move for an older adult, use the names literally.  Take a good look at whether or not they are able to live independently or need assistance throughout the day …or night. 

 Lynn

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  • Does an older adult's family live out of town?
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ElderCare Solutions of Michigan is a division of Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, a non-sectarian not-for-profit organization that has served the metro Detroit area for more than 80 years.