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ElderCare Solutions of MI

Tag: 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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When caring for an older adult, there can be many different areas where they need attention and support.  If your family is like most families, the most critical needs get addressed first.  But after that’s done, usually people forget to get back to those less urgent issues, which often include bill paying assistance.

Now I’m not talking about financial need, but rather help with the physical task of sitting down a few times a month to pay bills, keeping an accurate balance in a checkbook, and avoiding finance charges.   Sometimes an older adult’s cognitive functioning can really limit their ability to pay their bills on their own.  We often see people who pay the same bill twice, or mistake a solicitation for a bill.  After all, fundraisers are getting savvy…they put a return address envelope and tear-off pledge sheet right in the envelope so, in fact, it looks like a bill!  Often times an older adult may be paying for a service they don’t even use, such as high speed internet bundled in with their cable tv.

That’s the not so great news.  However, help is available.  If family members want to help by setting critical bills up for auto pay by the bank, that’s a good first step.  But for those who need a little more help, there are services that can step in and take over this responsibility.  The Fiscal Concierge is a company that puts an individual’s bills on a secure web page, viewable by family with an older adult’s permission.  They will check balances, contact the family if a bill is due and there are insufficient funds available thereby avoiding bank fees, and pay bills on time.  For those who prefer a more hands on approach, Daily Money Managers and retired accountants often offer in-home bill paying assistance.  They can set up files and stop in 2-3 times per month to go through the mail and help write checks.  Obviously, security is a number one priority when dealing with finances, so be sure to go with a personal recommendation from a trusted source.

Grabbing my checkbook,

Lynn

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The holidays are a much anticipated time of year for most of us.  Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, chances are you’ll be seeing family this time of year.  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,

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Caregiving…It’s the job none of us apply for, but most of us will end up having at one time or another.  Caring for an older adult that you love is truly an honor, but it also can be one of the hardest jobs we’ll ever have. 

As a geriatric care manager I have worked to help support spouses who are caring for each other, grown sons and daughters who are caring for their parents, even brothers and sisters caring for one another, and have been touched by their love, compassion and dedication.

Because November is National Caregiver Month, I would like to highlight family caregivers.  For the rest of the month, this blog will feature a different guest each week, sharing their stories…the struggles and the successes.

 Waiting for their posts,

 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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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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One of the challenges older adults and their families face regarding an older adult’s care is the need to coordinate schedules and share information.  Seniors often see many different physicians, may be in physical therapy, and also may be  working with a homecare company.  Juggling appointments and more importantly sharing information can become challenging. 

There also may be multiple family members helping to care for an older adult, taking them to medical appointments as well as making sure there are groceries in the house.  But often times what happens at a physician appointment doesn’t get shared with other family members, who then feel left out.  Or, if there’s a change in the caregiver’s availability, who needs that information?  Who will find a replacement?

One way around this dilemma is to choose a point person to funnel all information through that pertains to an older adult.  It’s one person to call or email with updates after a doctor’s visit, one person to contact to schedule appointments or to share concerns with.  That person can then share information with all family members so no one is out of the loop.

Ideally, if a family member lives locally, has the available time and is willing to take on that role, that would be a first choice.  However, if there is no local family able to take on this role, a Geriatric Care Manager can become the family point person.  For more information about Geriatric Care Management visit http://www.eldercaresolutionsofmi.org/geriatriccare.php.

 Coordinating schedules as we speak,

 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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  • 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.