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ElderCare Solutions of MI

Archive for 'Sandwich Generation'

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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I said good-bye to my beloved grandmother, Nannie, as I called her, in late November 2008. Alzheimer’s disease had ravaged her brain and taken away the grandmother I knew as a child. She was diagnosed in 2001 and steadily began to decline. Gone was the vibrant, eccentric gourmet cook, artist, and world-traveler, among other talents. She no longer helped me make cookies, sent me hand-drawn cards, or went on safari in Africa. She now needed to be reminded who I was, what food she was eating, how to get dressed.

She moved in with us and I watched as my mother had to essentially care for a second child. It must have been difficult, having one child going off to college and not getting an empty nest as she had been expecting. It was challenging for all four of us (My parents, my grandmother, and I) as we all had our roles constantly redefined, changed, and renamed. I was no longer granddaughter, I was big sister. My mother was no longer a daughter; she was a mother to her mother. My father was just a visitor. Even the dog played along: he was now the cat.

Within these roles, our responsibilities and expectations also changed. We no longer ventured far from home. I would have to “baby-sit” my grandmother and make sure she didn’t try and walk down the stairs for fear of a fall. My grandmother would set the table; someone else would reset it with the proper dishes and silverware for each setting. We all learned patience and creativity as we tried to keep her occupied and happy. We repeated ourselves often. The dog learned that he would have to go outside to do his business every 15 minutes because Nannie would forget she had already let him out.

As her disease progressed, it became obvious that she was no longer safe in our home. My parents woke up in the middle of the night to find her outside in her nightgown in December waiting for the bus to “go home.” With much pain and regret, my mother made the decision to place her into an assisted living unit. Faithfully, she visited my grandmother nearly every day. For over three years, my grandmother was in this facility before she went into hospice.

A few days before she was moved to hospice, she was having a particularly good day. I had taken a leave of absence from work so that I could be with my family and spend time with my grandmother, so I was sitting with her in the common room when she had a completely lucid moment, looked right at me and said, “I love you, Jennie.”

I think about this moment often. It is something I hold onto, for in all those grey, dark days where Alzheimer’s had taken over, this is a memory that shines like sunlight. It chases away all those negative thoughts and is how I like to remember Nannie in those last few weeks leading up to her death.

Jennifer Simms-Coffey

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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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I had several calls last week from family members, asking how to talk to their parents about whether or not it was time to stop driving.  Since the topic seems timely, I decided to repost this blog.  Hope it helps…

One of the toughest conversations to have with an older adult has got to be the dreaded discussion about driving, the keys and the car.  Whether it’s a spouse who has concerns or an adult child, undeniably, that’s a sticky topic.  But, what can make it a little harder, or a little easier is how we phrase the question.  It really isn’t a question of whether or not an older adult needs to stop driving; the conversation is really about whether or not they are still able to drive safely.

One thing to keep in mind in your approach is that age alone isn’t really a determining factor.  There are people in their late 80′s who still have the functional capacity to be really good drivers, where someone 10 years younger may not.  Vision, cognition, reaction time, as well as back and neck mobility may change as we age, and are really the topic of discussion.

So how do you start the conversation?  There are a few different ways to go.  You can commiserate with new technology by saying something like “Boy, driving sure isn’t what it used to be!  Between these new blind spot mirrors on my car, and the round-abouts that have popped up, I don’t feel as confident as I used to.”  Or you may use current events to break the ice for you by saying “Did you hear about that car accident on the news?”  If neither of those approached works, you can try taking the subject back a generation by saying “I remember when Grandma gave me her car when I was a teenager.  What made her decide to stop driving?”  Hopefully one of these will let you start talking.

But the decision to stop driving threatens our very independence.  An older adult who no longer drives may fear becoming isolated and dependent on others.  So be armed with a list of alternatives including local transportation services as well as activities that provide their own transportation.  If you’re not sure what resources there are in your community, contact a local geriatric care manager or social service agency for resources.

 Grabbing my keys,

Lynn

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Many older adults end up downsizing at one point or another, moving from their home to a smaller apartment or senior living community.  Usually their family members help with that process.   But after choosing the furniture and other mementos people want to take with them, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all that’s left.  We sure do accumulate a lot of stuff!

If this happens to you, it might be worthwhile to look into selling the items that you cannot take with you. There are a few ways you can go about doing this; you can sell your items yourself or you could have an estate sale.  Estate sales are often held after someone passes away, but that’s not the only time they’re held.   The difference between having a garage sale and holding an estate sale is the logistics behind the event.

For an estate sale, a company will come in and do the marketing, advertising, pricing, and display of your items for sale.  Estate sale companies have the expertise to know an item’s worth and will price your items at fair market value to get you the most money possible. The downside is that most estate sale companies operate on a percentage basis which can range from 20%-40% of the total sales.

If you have the time and the inclination, you may prefer to sell your items on your own at a garage sale or the internet, but then all of the nitty-gritty work (pricing, advertising, displaying, etc.) is done by you (and maybe friends and family if they are willing to help).  Either way works, but one caveat:  If you are disposing of possessions not because of a move but after the death of a loved one, it can be very difficult emotionally.  If it’s financially feasible, it might be helpful to choose the things you want as mementos and then leave the rest for professionals to handle.

 Clearing out my junk,

 Lynn

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The 2011 American Time Use Survey, which asks people how they spend their time, had a new section this year.  For the first time, providing eldercare was included in the survey. The just released results show that 16 percent of the entire U.S. civilian population age 15 and older report spending time helping an adult age 65 and over.

That’s one in 6 people.  And if we eliminate the teenagers, that number would be significantly higher.  The majority of caregivers are members of the sandwich generation, still involved with their teenagers’ needs as well as their parents. With people living longer, it’s not at all unusual to find a woman in her 50’s caring for her parents and grandparents! 

This survey serves as a reminder to us all that every generation faces its own unique challenges.  Ours appears to be the caregiving challenge.  How do we maintain some sort of balance in our lives?  How do we make sure that our own needs and aspirations don’t get lost in the shuffle?

 Respond to this post and share what works for you.

 Trying to figure it out,

 Lynn

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One of the toughest conversations to have with an older adult has got to be the dreaded discussion about driving, the keys and the car.  Whether it’s a spouse who has concerns or an adult child, undeniably, that’s a sticky topic.  But, what can make it a little harder, or a little easier is how we phrase the question.  It really isn’t a question of whether or not an older adult needs to stop driving; the conversation is really about whether or not they are still able to drive safely.

One thing to keep in mind in your approach is that age alone isn’t really a determining factor.  There are people in their late 80′s who still have the functional capacity to be really good drivers, where someone 10 years younger may not.  Vision, cognition, reaction time, as well as back and neck mobility may change as we age, and are really the topic of discussion.

So how do you start the conversation?  There are a few different ways to go.  You can commiserate with new technology by saying something like “Boy, driving sure isn’t what it used to be!  Between these new blind spot mirrors on my car, and the round-abouts that have popped up, I don’t feel as confident as I used to.”  Or you may use current events to break the ice for you by saying “Did you hear about that car accident on the news?”  If neither of those approached works, you can try taking the subject back a generation by saying “I remember when Grandma gave me her car when I was a teenager.  What made her decide to stop driving?”  Hopefully one of these will let you start talking.

But the decision to stop driving threatens our very independence.  An older adult who no longer drives may fear becoming isolated and dependent on others.  So be armed with a list of alternatives including local transportation services as well as activities that provide their own transportation.  If you’re not sure what resources there are in your community, contact a local geriatric care manager or social service agency for resources.

 Grabbing my keys,

Lynn

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Have you ever heard the expression “you don’t know what you don’t know”?  That point was really driven home for me this week; it was a week full of seminars!  I ran into many professionals we have referral relationships with, and a fair amount of our client family members as well.  As I listened to the various speakers present over the course of several days, I was impressed with how much genuinely new information was being presented.

Yet as I looked around at the many familiar faces, I couldn’t help wondering about all the people that weren’t there, who needed to hear these wonderful ideas, these changes to the laws etc.  I know it’s difficult to find time during the week to attend a daytime seminar. And it can be just as difficult to carve out evening time after a full day at work.  However, when it comes to caring for older adults, things can change very quickly and it is so important to stay in the know.

So as your inbox fills with seminar offerings, or you hear about conferences, how do you know if the program will be worth your time?  While there is no fool proof way to tell, here are a few things to consider:

  • Where is the seminar being held?  If it’s at someone’s place of work, they will usually want to be sure what they are offering is of value.
  • If this is an annual event, what was the attendance last year?
  • Are the speakers professionally credentialed?
  • Are the topics relevant to your situation?

Even as a professional who often prepares and gives presentations in the community, I still need to keep learning.  And when a family member hears a great resource or has an ‘Aha” moment, it makes it all worthwhile!

Here’s to your ”Aha” moment,

Lynn

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This week has been all about crisis management!  As Geriatric Care Managers we see our clients at least once a month to keep current and look for changes that we can’t pick up on over the phone.  We often look for whether or not they gained or lost weight, if their dementia has worsened, or if it is time to switch from a cane to a walker, to give a few examples. We know how important these monthly visits are, but sometimes a client or family member may question their value when all is stable.  And that value was made clear to families several times this week.

Things can change quickly for all of us, most especially for older adults because their conditions tend to worsen over time.  When a crisis happens, it is much easier to begin to pick up the pieces when someone who knows the client, is familiar with their history, current medications, recent medical procedures, layout of their home, and their support system is there to provide expertise, help and guidance.

So instead of waiting until poor balance gives way to a fall that requires hospitalization, surgery and then rehab, or when progressing dementia gets to the point where someone can’t be alone, start working with a Geriatric Care Manager proactively, so they’ll be there ready to help when you need them. Let us help smooth the way for you the way we did for several of our families this week. 

Waiting for your call,

Lynn

 

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  • Does an older adult's family live out of town?
  • Are local family members overwhelmed and need help?
  • Is an older adult about to be discharged from the hospital or rehabilitation center?
  • Do family members have differences of opinion regarding a senior's care?
  • Is a senior living in an environment that needs aging-in-place modifications?

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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.