Stolen Wallet? Could What’s in Yours Make You an Identity Theft Victim?

My wallet was stolen!! When it’s someone we love, especially a vulnerable parent or grandparent, those words can send chills down the spine.

After we find out they weren’t hurt (hopefully), our thoughts turn to what was taken.

If we’re lucky, the loss is limited to cash, credit cards and maybe a nice purse and/or wallet.

For many people, unfortunately, a stolen purse or wallet can be a much greater loss.

What do your senior loved ones have in their wallets and purses – – and what could a criminal do with what they find there?

Carrying Identity Theft Material

How often do we have to sit down and clean out our pocket books or wallets? Sometimes when I haven’t done this in a while it may take me quite a long time to sift through all the ‘essential items’ that mysteriously find their way into my bag and wallet. Papers and cards seem to fall out in protest.

Sometimes our senior’s wallets get that way too and need a little attention whether we are women or men. It is important not to carry everything in wallets and purses in case they are lost and stolen.

I have had my purse stolen and it took a lot of time and energy not to mention fear of a loss of my identity to recover everything that went missing. You don’t want that to happen to your senior.

Many times older adults don’t realize how dangerous it will be to lose a social security card or bank PIN. Their nest egg could be gone in a minute. This was just not something they had to worry about before.

Essential Items to Carry

Here are the items that should be kept in your senior’s wallet or purse for every day exchanges. Naturally being able to show proof of identity is vital but they don’t need everything all the time. It would also be a good time to check the expiration dates on all the cards and update everything that needs to be updated including driver’s license, medications and emergency contacts.

  • Driver’s License or Official ID – this is important to use for proof of identity even if you are not the driver
  • Insurance Card if it does NOT have your Social Security number on it
  • Emergency Contacts/Next of Kin information – the Red Cross provides a great one you can download for free here
  • AARP card
  • AAA card
  • Library card
  • Credit card/Gas card – not more that you need, carry one versatile card you use often and leave the rest home
  • Cash – $20-100 (suggest you carry five $1 bills, one $5 bill, one $10 bill and one $20 bill)
  • One or two reward cards – for stores you regularly visit like grocery and drugstore if you can’t get them into a smartphone (yes, there’s probably an app for that)
  • Medication/Allergy list – we found one we like for carrying vital information here

Non-Essential and Could Be Dangerous to Carry

There are cards that we don’t even realize can be dangerous if our senior loved ones are carrying them around. Recently we found that one card that is routinely carried by our seniors can be one of the most important ones to stop carrying to protect their identity.

  1. Social Security Card
  2. Medicare Cardbecause your senior’s Healthcare Insurance Claim Number HICN is their social security number. (Most healthcare providers already have your number in their electronic system and don’t need the card. If you feel you must carry it in emergencies, it is recommended that you make a photocopy and scratch out all but the last four digits. Veteran’s Benefits cards no longer use your senior’s social security number on the benefit card but the government has decided it is too costly to change numbers and reissue cards due to the number of people who have Medicare cards. According to a GAO office report, CMS estimates it would cost $255 million to $317 million to change.)
  3. Checks – except for what you know you will need on the current outing
  4. Passport
  5. Passwords – since their memory may be somewhat impaired, many seniors (and even some of us) carry around our PIN and other passwords on small pieces of paper. Avoid this at all costs because if you lose your wallet and have a check and PIN in it you can forget about your savings too as that can be wiped out in an instant.
  6. Too many credit cards – bring the one or two you use not every active card you might own

Smartphone May Be Secure Alternative

Here’s another tip if you want to keep even fewer things in your wallet or purse. Use your smartphone to store loyalty cards with the code that the store can easily scan. You can go paperless with many cards including grocery stores, drugstores and AAA. This can definitely lighten up the wallet without losing out on valuable discounts or rewards.

You may also want to photocopy all the things you currently carry in your wallet in case it is lost or stolen. It will make it easier to replace what is missing and remember everything that was there. The copies can be kept in safety at home.

What’s in your wallet?

Malnutrition in Our Senior Loved Ones – What it Means & How to Spot It

Something seems to be wrong and you just don’t know what it is – – or what you can do about it.

You are a good caregiver. You are doing the shopping, medication administration, cooking and entertaining for your senior loved one. You know without your loving attention, things could be so much worse for your senior.

You are not alone here!

Unfortunately, despite all your best efforts, your senior just doesn’t seem to be healthy. They often refuse meals or they eat like a bird when you prepare their favorite foods.

Undernutrition may be the culprit.

Prevalence of Malnutrition in Seniors

In a nation where much time and attention is being focused on obesity – with good reason – we know it seems strange to talk about malnutrition and undernutrition, which is likely part of the reason caregivers and families don’t notice it.  Malnutrition is, unfortunately, far too common and could be a very serious situation in our senior loved ones.

In the community where you are caring for your senior as opposed to a facility, in 2010 the risk for development of malnutrition has been estimated to be 32% and the actual number of those diagnosed with malnutrition is 6%. Those numbers are increasing since the likelihood of malnutrition increases as we age.

Malnutrition may lead to other problems in our senior loved ones, including increased falls, loss of muscle mass or sarcopenia, wounds or poor healing, infections, hospitalizations and even death.

What exactly is malnutrition? Malnutrition as it relates to our elderly population can also be considered to be undernutrition. Ongoing insufficient intake of foods and fluids that results in a deficiency of energy, protein and other nutrients resulting in changes to the body. It can also be a result of a person’s inability to fully utilize the food they eat due to illness.

Malnutrition / Undernutrition Causes

Many seniors are healthy, active and free from difficulties with eating. Many can, however, be affected by their aging and lifestyle changes that impact their nutritional health.

  • Impairment in sense of taste and smell can lead to a lack of appetite. This can be related to medications.
  • Problems with teeth and gums which make it hard to chew different types of foods; loose and ill-fitting dentures following weight loss; missing and decayed teeth can cause painful eating
  • Difficulty swallowing, whether from loss of muscle tone, stroke effects, dryness or any other cause can make getting adequate nutrition next to impossible
  • Inability to prepare their own meals, shop for foods, live in a food desert where healthy food not accessible
  • Being unable to afford to buy a variety of wholesome foods
  • Lack of transportation to secure food
  • Lack of energy or fatigue for preparation or eating
  • Lack of adequate facilities for storing and cooking foods
  • Being isolated, not wanting to cook or eat alone

Spotting Malnutrition

Your healthcare professional can do screening tests on your senior to help determine if more intervention is needed to get back on track with nutrition. These screening tests usually involve asking questions and taking measurements such as height and weight. They can also do blood work to test if a nutritional deficiency is present.

You can also check some things out for yourself and make changes to improve the nutritional health of your senior loved one.

  • Is your senior losing weight? There are many reasons why weight loss can be happening, so try to determine what that might be and resolve it. Does the food need more seasoning, do they need smaller more frequent meals, do they need chopped meat, do they need gravy on meat, do they need more water, do they need to drink between meals instead of at meals to decrease fullness, do they need a quieter place to eat, are there too many distractions during meals including a busy patterned tablecloth or plate, is a swallow problem occurring that should be evaluated, could they use a supplement or appetite stimulant? Unfortunately, the list of what could be wrong is long but a few simple changes can spur their appetite.
  • Are they having trouble chewing food? Do they need adjustments to dentures? If so, can the dentist either make a new set or re-line the old set? Will it help to use a denture cream or foam liner that you insert? Are the dentures being removed and cleaned properly? If food is getting caught between dentures and gums, there could be sores causing pain that you should treat.
  • Are they alone too much? Do they eat alone at every meal? Can you find someone to join them if you can not so they are not alone and isolated.
  • Are they depressed? Does your senior seem sad and tearful? Often when depression begins to settle over seniors, they lose their appetite. Talk with your doctor if this might be a problem for your senior so that it can be treated.
  • Has their medication list been reviewed lately? Sometimes certain medications can lead to decreased appetite, taste changes, and dry mouth which might lead to weight loss. You can ask the pharmacist or your doctor to review the list of drugs for possible interactions or negative side effects.
  • Have they had a health check-up lately including blood work? There could be something going on medically such as blood sugar or pressure problems interfering with their well-being. Are they sleeping enough? Poor sleep can lead to decreased energy for eating.
  • Ask them about their feelings about eating, they might surprise you with their answer. Maybe they are not getting the foods they enjoy or the ones they crave. Perhaps more traditional meals or comfort foods are what they are wishing for so when the meal is served they refuse it. Taste fatigue is real too. If the same food is served over and over they can lose their interest and stop eating. Maybe they need to be more involved in the planning and preparation even if it is only washing vegetables or setting the table.

So many things can influence how much and when we want to eat as we get older. Many older adults feel that since they are not as physically active as they once were, that they don’t need to eat as much. Some don’t want to drink because they know that they will have to go to the bathroom more often and that can be tiring.

Nutrition Still Important in Our Older Years

The unfortunate reality is that even as people age, the amount of nutrition we need including vitamins and minerals and macronutrients like protein remain the same as when we were younger. Older adults don’t generally need as many calories due to decreased activity so getting all the nutrients they need requires more attention to detail so nutrient rich foods are chosen.

Sometimes, a few changes can stabilize your senior’s nutrition when caught and addressed. Don’t wait too long to intervene or it could be difficult to reverse.

You may want to check out some related posts below on things you can do to improve your senior’s eating.

Long Term Care Insurance: Has Your Senior Read Their LTC Policy Lately?

Did you know: 70% of those currently over 65 years are expected to use some form of long term care for their future healthcare needs. How best will they be able to afford that care is something that worries caregivers and seniors.

Some people think that Medicare will cover all their bills, but in reality your senior loved one will have to pay for long-term care services that are not covered by a public or private insurance program – – which could be more than they (or you) can afford. That is one of the looming financial issues associated with our longer lifespans and aging population, one which families will face head-on.

Your senior loved one may have been one of many who bought a long term care insurance policy twenty or more years ago to help them pay for healthcare expenses. They probably have paid their premiums diligently, expecting that sometime in the years to come this will help them with financing care they need as they age.

Recently we have been asked several questions about long term care health insurance from aging seniors who just remembered that the policy exists or came across it in the files. They wondered if they might be able to actually make a claim against it for care needs and other items included in their coverage. They have had the policy for many years and put it away ‘for later’ when they really needed it but have forgotten about it and could potentially use it now.

The first question we asked them was “have you read it lately“? What coverage seniors signed up for in years past from an insurance agent who thought this was the right step for them to take to meet future needs may be important for them right now. Family caregivers may not even be aware that such a policy exists or what benefits could be requested.

A policy won’t provide benefits if nobody knows about or remembers it!

Do They – Or You – Have the Answers?

If your senior loved one has a long term care insurance policy, are you aware of what it covers or limits? Here are some questions to ask to be sure you are making the best use of the policy and getting all the benefits to which your senior is entitled.

  • What is the likelihood that they have re-read their policy since they signed on the dotted line or that you even know of its existence?
  • Do they remember what benefits they have paid for through the years?
  • Do they know which agent to call, since the one who sold them the policy is very possibly not the same one that is currently responsible for its contents?
  • Do they understand how to make a claim against their long term care insurance and any stipulations that must be met before they can collect?
  • Do you know any of the benefits for which they are entitled under the policy as their family caregiver and adviser?
  • Does the LTC insurance company have a copy of any healthcare powers of attorney that qualify you as the primary caregiver to make a claim or even inquire about the coverage?

LTC Insurance Benefits and Requirements

The industry that sold our seniors on long term care insurance policy has undergone innumerable changes in the years since our loved ones purchased their plans. Many insurance companies no longer even sell these plans. Others have changed hands so that the carrier may be different than the one with whom they originally did business.

Many of today’s seniors, and we as family caregivers, may well not be able to afford a LTC policy at this time, nor would we qualify. It certainly doesn’t seem like a premium we would pay at this time could return any of our investment in the future. At a minimum, it is a decision to be weighed carefully.

It was at one time a great idea and many seniors have benefited from their long term care insurance policy.

Long Term Care Insurance Covered Items

Long term care policies usually provide services for custodial care and personal care needs in a variety of different settings, including home or facility.

Covered services typically include activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, bathing, grooming, as well as house cleaning, safe transfers, transportation, therapy, skilled professionals and medication management. It may also pay for adult day care or care coordination services. Some of these different things can be provided with different levels of coverage options depending on what your senior selected.

Some long term care insurance plans also cover the cost of home modifications that would allow for safe aging in place. That’s important to remember, even if no other benefits are applicable at this time.

The policyholder is reimbursed on a per day basis for covered services. There is usually a waiting period, called an elimination period and measured in time similar to a deductible, which is measured in dollars once services are needed and there are limits on each point of coverage with maximum amounts of coverage over the life of the policy. During the elimination period you must either receive paid care or pay for the care yourself. Each policy can have a different elimination period timeline depending on what our senior selected such as 30, 60 or 90 days. Some policies will give payouts for the life of your senior.

Policies generally require some documentation concerning what medical condition is present, what type of care is medically necessary – also known as a benefit trigger – as well as assessments and prescriptions from the healthcare provider may be necessary before coverage can begin.

What if They Want to Buy a Policy Now?

If your senior loved one has been thinking about buying a policy now, it is good to really investigate all available policies, since there is no one-size-fits-all policy. Remember to consider whether the premium cost will be affordable not only now but in the future.

There are many health conditions that will likely exclude them from being eligible to purchase a plan at this point in their life, such as if they have certain disease diagnoses such as Alzheimer’s Disease or any dementia, Parkinson’s, a stroke in the last two years, metastatic cancer or AIDS. If they have already received long term care services or assistance with any of their activities of daily living they may be denied coverage. Also, if they are still eligible, the older they are and the chronic disease processes they currently have may increase the cost of their premiums.

When in doubt, ask before getting too far in any process.

Consider LTC Insurance Options & Implications Thoroughly

Be sure to understand what care your senior loved one may require based on their health condition so that you can be sure they get enough coverage without paying for too much or even too little.

Before buying a policy, ask whether the premium will go up with inflation or if there is automatic inflation protection. Be familiar with the history of that particular company with regards to their insurance plans. Another consideration is tax credits for the cost of premiums. If your senior itemizes deductions and has medical costs in excess of 7.5% of their adjusted gross income, they may be able to deduct the value of the premiums from federal income taxes depending on their age. States may also offer some type of credit so be sure to investigate that as well.

Be on the lookout for new insurance products, including combination plans that marry life insurance with the long term care benefits. There are also accelerated death benefits (ADB) plans available, which allow you to receive a payout of up to 50% of its value from your life insurance plan prior to your death to help pay for long term care costs.

Check with your state Medicaid office, as this ADB plan may impact your Medicaid benefit. Keep in mind that taking money from a life insurance plan will naturally limit the death benefit for your senior’s survivor. Learn all you can about the options available to your senior as well as any potential benefits/consequences. The premium alone should not be the determining factor in choosing a plan.

Because long term care insurance policies vary so greatly, it is a good idea to know exactly what your senior loved one’s policy covers, any limits of time or amount and how to claim the benefits. Getting any tax credit is a great idea too.

As with all insurance decisions, the financial implications may be significant down the road. The decision that looks good today – and may help fix a current problem – may carry significant undesired implications later.

Do you have any experience with long term care insurance that you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.

Future of Senior Care & Aging in Place – Science Fiction Meets Tech Reality

Innovation in technology has changed all our lives significantly — mostly for the better — in the last thirty years but may have had the least positive impact on the lives of our senior loved ones who are living independently at home.

But we see that changing — and soon.

We at Senior Care Corner see upcoming technology having great positive impact on seniors, especially those choosing (if they have options) aging in place in their own homes.

This isn’t based on some pipe dream of what-ifs and distant futures, either. Much of what we foresee is based on what we’ve already encountered in early stages at the International CES or heard/read from innovators is being developed. Not their vision of what might be developed but what is already the subject of efforts to make reality.

In other words, we see it as a matter of when seniors will get the benefits of this technology rather than if – and the “when” is closer than we imagined even a couple of years ago. The technology is already available for some of it so it’s just a matter of a few extra pieces, adapting something already used for other markets or purposes or even just having the foresight and reach to bring it all together.

Here’s a quick glimpse at what we see…

Seniors’ Homes Anticipating & Meeting Their Needs

Family caregivers often worry about older family members living alone because the capabilities of bodies and minds, once reduced by age, illness and/or injury, make it harder or even unsafe to accomplish some of the basic living activities. While concerns about those for whom we care are likely to always exist, upcoming technologies for homes will make it easier and safer for our senior loved ones to live in comfort.

While there are already digital devices in the home today (or in the near future) we can operate by voice command or scheduling functions built into the devices, significant benefits to seniors will come when their homes will anticipate their needs, such as:

  • Knowing, because of a tiny wearable sensor, which senior is coming out of the bedroom first this morning so that their coffee can be started and the daily paper brought up on the screen next to the chair where the coffee is enjoyed.
  • If a can of soup is being heated on the stove, how long it will take to heat the soup to proper serving temperature and then turning the burner off (or to a warming setting) to avoid overcooking or a fire that might result because the soup was forgotten.
  • Turning on appropriate lights and providing notification of an icy sidewalk when the seniors are preparing for their evening stroll.
  • Sensing that the senior has left on a trip and adjusting the heating, cooling and other systems appropriately to save on the energy bill – and then returning everything to normal operating settings (based on the current weather) upon the return home.

These are but a few examples of ways technology will improve the comfort and convenience of those aging in place. Even these seemingly minor activities, though, may combine to mean the difference between being able to live independently or needing assistance for a senior loved one who prefers aging in place.

Senior Care & Healthcare Needs Met in the Home

Providing for the healthcare needs, both current and those that may arise, of our independent older loved ones is another ongoing concern for many families. Is she taking the right medications at the right time, how will we know if he has a recurrence of an earlier illness – or a first heart attack or stroke? Again, these are but some of the functions we see technology filling with little or no need for intervention by the senior:

  • Monitoring vital signs in real time and notifying the healthcare team if they fall outside the programmed range or contacting emergency responders if immediate care is needed.healthcare team member on computer
  • Ensuring the right medications are taken at the right time by the right person – and notifying pre-established contacts at healthcare providers or family members if that’s not the case or if prescriptions go unfilled.
  • Automatically, using sensors and the web, checking medications brought into the home, whether prescription or over-the-counter, and providing notification if there is the potential for adverse interaction.
  • Sensing if there has been a fall and contacting emergency responders if the senior does not indicate otherwise or letting the senior indicate if a family member or neighbor should be contacted to provide assistance.  This will provide assistance to a senior who has been incapacitated by a fall or whose fall was the result of being incapacitated without the need for the senior to initiate an alarm.

This just scratches the surface of the many health-related innovations that will make it possible for seniors to live where they choose longer than today, likely improving the level of care many receive at a lower cost.

Elimination of “Taking Away the Keys” Discussions or Worries

Even with technological innovation there will still be healthcare needs that can’t be met – or a senior chooses not to have met – in the home and for which travel is needed. Today that means arranging for a ride or having the senior take the wheel of his or her own car, which may be a concern to family members worried about the senior’s ability to safely drive or to find their way to their destination and back home.

Not in the future.

Self-driving vehicles are, we feel, likely to become reality before too long, relieving many worries about seniors getting safely to their destination on time and then home again.

If they don’t own their own car, the vehicle of a family member, friend or a local service will be able to pick them up, get them where they want to go, and deliver them home again – all without the need to schedule or worry about a human driver.

Monitoring & Privacy Concerns

Much of the technology that will enable seniors to live longer at home independently will, as discussed in the examples above, involve some sort of monitoring of the seniors in their homes. That very concept turns off a lot of us, no matter our age, as an unacceptable invasion of our privacy. It’s something with which we have to deal to get the benefits of the tech advances.

We feel the nature of the technology itself and some education will get us through this barrier.

Discussions of monitoring seniors in their homes often leads to responses such as “I won’t have cameras watch me” or “I don’t want my children to know what I’m doing all the time.” It’s hard to argue with that because we share those feelings.

There are some see characteristics of home monitoring that we see must exist before new aging in place technology will be readily adopted – and before the benefits can be realized.

  • Monitoring must not leave seniors feeling like they are being monitored. Cameras, if any, must be in areas that are not sensitive or allow others to watch everyday activities except in the case of unusual needs. Monitoring devices can’t be bulky or unattractive devices that remind seniors they are constantly connected to the world and leave them self-conscious about what others think.
  • Data collection and reporting should be limited to what is needed to act on the senior’s behalf, such as medically necessary information prescribed by the healthcare team and exceptions to the defined normal, so senior loved ones don’t feel they are living their lives under a microscope, with every action or inaction subject to discussion or critique. That data should only be collected for the benefit of the seniors, unless they give express permission otherwise, and not for studies or other purposes.
  • Security associated with data collection and reporting about seniors’ health and activities must be at a level that engenders trust. Nobody wants to live in fear their activities could end up plastered on their friends and neighbors Facebook pages or used by a criminal to take advantage of them.
  • Access to all monitoring data must be acceptable to seniors and configurable so the healthcare team, family members and others only have access to information they need and are trusted to use appropriately.

Comfort with technology and being connected to the world is key, which makes it even more important that we as family caregivers advocate the use by our senior loved ones of today’s tech, including smartphones, tablets and other connected devices. That means helping them get comfortable using and living with technology, not just giving a gift and leaving it to them to learn.

Who Will Pay

That IS a big question that has yet to be answered, one that comes up any time technological advances in the area of health are discussed. Should government programs for seniors pay? Insurance companies? Seniors and their families? All will surely see benefits from the advances.son showing mother how to use tablet

If these advances in senior care and aging in place are like most technology innovation, the price may be high initially but will quickly come down, even as the products continue improving.

Let’s be honest, at least some (if not much) of the impact will be to the benefit of family caregivers and other loved ones, especially those living at a distance. Coming innovations will reduce the worry about the safety and health of older loved ones living on their own and likely avoid, or at least delay, the often unpleasant and even confrontational discussions about the need for a move to a senior living facility where required assistance and care can be provided.

As family caregivers and loved ones, what is our peace of mind worth?

We would love to get your views and comments on this important topic. Please leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Grandma Benefits When She Babysits – Till There’s Too Much of a Good Thing

Grandparents, whether seniors or future seniors, rank being with their grandchildren among their greatest pleasures.

I have the honor of being a grandparent and know how much I love the kisses and hugs I get when I visit my granddaughter, not to mention the joy in her eyes when she sees me approaching or even calling on Facetime.

Grandparents who live nearby may be able to visit their grandchildren often, unlike those who are at a distance and get to visit when someone makes a trip.

Spending time with grandchildren can give seniors happiness — and more. A recent study says it can also improve their cognition. However, being close by and watching grandkids (or great-grandchildren) can be unhealthy when done too often or long, such as when it becomes daycare and is relied on by working parents.

I know a family with four generations where child, mom, grandma all live together with great-grandma nearby. The mom and grandma care for the great-grandma who struggles to age in place. The mom and grandma are both working and use great-grandma to care for the child for after school care. The situation is a often sticky one for this family and could be more than the great-grandma can handle.

Cognitive Improvement for Grandparents Who Babysit

Grandmothers who babysit (the study participants were grandmothers but we know grandfathers watch kids too!) grandchildren one day a week showed improvements in cognitive functioning, scoring higher on tests given.

However, if grandmothers watched the grandkids five or more days a week, they did significantly poorer on the same tests of cognition. These women reported feeling as though the parents of the kids (their own children) were more demanding by asking for frequent babysitting.

While some babysitting is enjoyable and a great social interaction stimulating their brain function, too much seemed overwhelming among this study’s participant.

Grandparent Babysitting Strategies

Sharing special moments, teaching them a skill no one else can teach, singing songs, playing games and cooking family favorites are times that grandparents and the grandkids cherish. Both benefit when multi-generational activities occur. Our senior loved ones (and us too) long to have someone to mold and help bring youth back into our lives.

It is best however not to overdo it either watching them too long at one time, too often throughout the course of a week or physically overextending through activities.

  • Make sure you know the ‘rules’ that the kids are supposed to follow so that they don’t try to push or trick grandparents into letting them do things they aren’t supposed to do, such as cook for themselves or watching certain unauthorized programs. Some of these “unapproved by mom” activities could put an undue strain on the grandparents physically and mentally, not to mention their safety issues.
  • Be aware of the foods that might be off limits, such as junk foods or any to which the children might be allergic or that the parents just think are not appropriate or unsafe. This can be another unnecessary cause of stress for the family.
  • Be aware of toys that can get underfoot so that no accidental trip or fall occurs during the babysitting experience, resulting in injury to our senior loved ones.
  • Try not to offer advice or criticize the parents for the things you think they may be doing wrong with respect to child raising. They just want your love not your opinions (unless they ask). Emotional conflicts aren’t healthy for grandparents’ blood pressure and mood.
  • Discuss whether or not payment is expected or reimbursement for any money spent for food or activities, such as movie tickets or zoo admission. Unmet expectations can lead to hurt feelings or inability to meet budget for the month, resulting in difficult choices later between food and medicine.
  • Know what will happen and who should be called if the child or the grandparent gets sick during the visit. Does everyone know correct emergency contact numbers and who is providing “backup” when needed? Knowing the plan will help everyone relax and feel confidant.
  • Ensure your senior knows where everything is kept that might be needed in the child’s home so your senior doesn’t have to spend valuable time and energy rummaging for supplies, not to mention possibly leaving the child unsupervised.
  • Be able to honestly assess if the children are too active for the grandparents to keep up with for everyone’s safety. An older adult shouldn’t be expected to run after a busy toddler or keep track of a socially active teenager. They shouldn’t have to cart around heavy equipment or even a young child who refuses to walk if they have their own physical limitations.

The family will enjoy spending time with each when the stress and expectations are kept in check.

Many of our favorite memories involve the time spent with our grandparents growing up so let’s all make the best of the situation for the kids and the grandparents.

Family Caregivers: Make Time to Share, Unwind & Learn about Senior Care

Family caregivers face a variety of challenges and hurdles with each new day they provide care to their senior loved ones.

How do you handle this behavior?

Where do I go to find this item?

Who can I talk to for advice on this legal problem?

Is there an agency that can help me pay for that device?

How am I supposed to feel about this new problem or react to this new diagnosis?

Fortunately family members are not on their own. There are a number of places they can turn for the answers to questions and so much more.

Finding Information for Caregivers

Let’s see what we can do about finding information that can help you solve whatever issue you are facing. There are a variety of ways we can gather information or support, here are a few you might find helpful.

  • We can look to the internet and hope to find credible accurate information.
  • We can ask our medical team and hope to find the answers from them that we seek although this may only be of a medical nature and not filling the gap for other needs such as legal, emotional and day to day care concerns.
  • We can communicate with other caregivers who may be dealing with similar issues, who may or may not be handling a similar disease process or others who have walked the path and are recovering from loss. This could be either via in-person support groups, online connections via social media or local friends.
  • You can participate in a caregiver training session either in person or online.
  • We can also point you to some books that might help you with your more specific needs.

New Book Recommendations for Caregivers

We have recently enjoyed some book selections that we think might help you fill a gap and provide you with some helpful information.

Books whether eBooks or print versions give you information when you are ready for it. You can read it when you have a moment or when you feel a greater need for an answer. Books fit your schedule whenever or wherever that might be and so are great ways to get the inspiration and information you seek.

Emotional support, knowledge of a disease process, what to expect in the future progression of the disease, how to provide care, legal issues for your protection, how to handle your own care, how to use technology to your benefit, how to get the benefits you deserve, how to cope with family issues and any other topic you need can be found in a book.

We have been given a few new books to read that we found interesting and also that could be useful to some caregivers. One of the great points in reading books intended for family caregivers is to gain a feeling that indeed we are not alone in our journey and through the experience of others we can learn and persevere.

  • Alzheimer’s Through My Mother’s Eyes by Suzette Brown     Written from the perspective of a daughter now with the task of caregiving for her mother who doesn’t always appreciate her efforts. It is a true to life account that will helps others feel that they are not alone dealing with the trials and tribulations of Alzheimer’s care. The author describes through a journalling format how it is not always an easy road especially when not everyone agrees with your ideas and well meaning suggestions are often dangerous. There are many tips and strategies that you might find useful too.
  • How to Clean Out Your Parent’s House (Without Filling Up Your Own) by Claire Middleton      How to Guide if you are faced with downsizing your parents home or cleaning out  in the event of their deaths. There are many useful tips about how to clear out trash, sell the excess and keep yourself and your siblings from allowing your grief to overtake your basement. Emotions can overtake you but coping strategies are reviewed to help you navigate this while still honoring your parents.
  • When Goodbye Begins: Sharing Life With Dementia by Dorothy Webb      The author relates her personal experience caring for a loved one in the early stages of dementia. It gives a birds eye view into the daily life of a caregiver and topics that need to be considered for the future.

We hope that you will find these books helpful and like that all have low prices. We also hope that you truly do fit in some time into your daily routine to read a chapter of a good book of your choosing to help you not only learn but also relax and de-stress so that you can continue caregiving!

Do you have some favorite titles that helped ease your caregiving experience? We would love for you to share!

Advance Directives for Senior Loved Ones – Have Decisions Been Made?

Thinking about what will happen as the end of our life draws near is not a thought many people want to have.

But they should.

Considering the importance of making decisions about how we want things to occur is the topic of the recent National Healthcare Decisions Day. It is a time for all of us but especially our senior loved ones to consider their wishes and get them executed using a variety of different legal forms.

If your seniors have already prepared their advance directives then you will want to be sure you understand what they have decided and where these documents are kept so that you can find them when the time comes.

It is important to know who has been designated the healthcare proxy for your senior loved ones, if it is not you, so that you can maintain communication with them. If it is you then other loved ones should be made aware.

Living Will Numbers Growing

Living wills are being created by more adults than ever before, according to a recent study we read.

A living will outlines what you or your senior chooses to occur at the end of life and designates a proxy who will speak for the principal if he/she is unable to do so. Personal preferences are spelled out in this document.

The designated healthcare proxy is the one who makes sure your senior’s wishes are respected and carried out per their desires.

In 2010, 72% of the nation’s older adults had a living will or advance directive compared to 47% in 2000.

It was hoped that having a living will would mean a decrease in the rate of hospitalization in favor of hospice care but that has not evidently been the case. There has been an increase in the hospitalization rate among seniors. I don’t know that we can read a cause-and-effect relationship into that, though.

Hopefully the rise in the number of people creating advance directives means that we are all getting more comfortable discussing death and dying and willing to put our ideas in writing. We want to be a part of these decisions even when we can’t speak up for ourselves.

There is likely also some effect from highly publicized situations regarding those who did not have designations in place.

Maybe it is true that seniors want to be sure that at this time their family and caregivers are not burdened with making these decisions or handling the finances in a guessing game fashion. Having everything clearly spelled out will help family members not only do things the way they want but also with less trouble and guilt.

Advance Directives Explained

Living Will is a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent.

A do not resuscitate order, or DNR, is a medical order written by a doctor. It instructs health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if breathing stops or if the heart stops beating.

Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal form that allows an individual to empower another with decisions regarding his or her healthcare and medical treatment. Healthcare power of attorney becomes active when a person is unable to make decisions or consciously communicate intentions regarding treatments.

Elder Law Attorney is the specially trained professional that you and your senior will probably want to consult to help you get these documents properly executed as the regulations vary from state to state. There are several things that should be considered especially when siblings, property and assets must be distributed. An elder law attorney is skilled to provide recommendations about legal issues specific to older adults.

Completing a Living Will

This is likely going to be a difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversation for you and your senior but one that you should try to broach soon. They may have already made these decisions and created the documents but you are not yet aware.

It will make things go much easier if you and everyone involved are aware of their wishes and who is responsible to carry them out so that there is no inaction or miscommunication in the future.

Some families choose to work with an attorney but other may prefer to complete documents on their own, either due to cost or because they simply feel more comfortable working that way. For those, we have found the resources offered by LegalZoom (affiliate link) are straightforward and provide what most people need.

Don’t forget to do your own paperwork and be sure there is a plan about who will care for your senior loved ones if you are unable to continue as their caregiver.

Senior Loved One in the Hospital? How to Make It Easier on Them — and You

Hospitals aren’t on our list of favorite places to visit — and we really don’t want to have to go there as a patient. However…

Most of us have had a loved one visit a hospital for either an elective operation or an emergency. Often times as our senior loved ones get older, they seem to be in the hospital more frequently throughout the course of a year and for more days each visit.

Recently I had a loved one in the hospital. There were many concerns as you might expect such as how would surgery progress whether our senior loved ones will want to eat or have food available that will stimulate their appetite. But we also have to eat while we sit and wait hour after hour, day after day.

Hospital Tips to Ease Everyone’s Caregiving Experience

As with other aspects of caregiving, hospital trips for our loved ones require stamina and planning. We have put together a list of a few things that you might find helpful as reminders to make your senior’s next hospital stay more comfortable for them — and for you too!

  • Wash your hands when you visit, before and after being in your senior loved one’s room.
  • Talk quietly so you don’t disturb other people or say things other people don’t want to hear, including personal medical issues or private information. We can hear you talking on your cell phone to your relatives from the other room. Other people may also wish to nap and you may be keeping them awake.
  • Don’t talk with doctors or other healthcare workers about your loved one’s private medical condition in the hallway, elevator or cafeteria where others can overhear you. As much as they want you to know, they want to wait and tell you in a private setting.
  • Don’t bring 10-15 relatives and friends into waiting rooms designed for 2-3 family members per patient so that others have no place to sit while they wait. Be considerate of others who are using the facility and are worried about their own loved one. Take turns coming or designate a spokesperson to get updates to pass to the rest of the family. If you must all come, wait in alternate areas such as the lobby or cafeteria to avoid filling up smaller surgery waiting rooms or other procedure areas.
  • Be prepared to eat in the cafeteria or find a nearby restaurant, as you may be there for longer than expected and need to replenish yourself. The hospital cafeteria is probably good but even the best ones can get tiresome after several days.
  • Bring snacks or items to relieve boredom for the senior loved one you are visiting or you while you wait.
  • Bring going home clothes, including a light jacket, to your senior loved one. Don’t forget to bring shoes and undergarments, since they may not have those with them. Take home items every day that are not needed to save you from having a haul on the day of discharge.
  • Be sure they have any needed glasses and dentures, as well as a place for safekeeping when they aren’t in use. They will need teeth to eat the meals served and glasses to read the literature given to them by the staff.
  • Scope out the location of drink machines so that you can stay hydrated during your visits. Be sure to have some change or small bills to feed the machine.
  • Check with the staff for wireless (WiFi) service so you can connect with family and keep the updates flowing as well as keep yourself from being bored or missing an important communication.
  • Be sure you know how to call your senior loved one directly or call out from their phone. Does your senior loved one have your phone number written down to call if they want to or will they have to rely on their memory?
  • Ask pertinent questions so you are prepared to help your senior loved one after they are discharged. Be informed about medications before hospitalization so you know what might have changed to guide your senior later.
  • Bring cards and well wishes in to your senior loved one that may have been delivered to their home so that it will cheer them up during their stay, don’t keep them at home in a pile for later. They might need a few well wishes to improve their outlook and speed their recovery.

These are just a few ideas to help make your experience in the hospital better and also that of your senior loved one. When you can do some small things to help them feel better it will benefit you as a caregiver in the long run.

Do you have any other suggestions to add to the list?

Seasonal Allergies: The Price Spring Charges Us for Its Blossoming Arrival

Achoo, achoo is a sound many of us are hearing coming from every room in our houses at this time of year!

Spring is sprouting everywhere all around us! The trees and shrubs are in bloom, the bulbs are opening up to the sky and the grass is turning green (not to mention the weeds) giving us a beautiful show but one with some aggravation if you or your senior loved one has seasonal allergies.

Pollen is in the air and causing many to suffer from their seasonal allergies also known as hay fever to the tune of 40 million people and a cost of $1 billion in treatment.

Hay Fever or Seasonal Allergies Symptoms

Many of you already know what the symptoms are, unfortunately because you or your senior loved one (and maybe both?) are feeling them taking hold. If you see these signs in your senior loved ones, it should lead you to find an answer to help you decide if you should be looking for ways to decrease the causes of allergies instead of just treating the symptoms.

  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Sleeping trouble
  • Congestion
  • Dry cough
  • Taste or smell changes

Strategies to Reduce the Effect of Seasonal Allergies

Once your senior loved one and their doctor determine they indeed are suffering from seasonal allergies and hay fever, there are some things that you can do to help them reduce the things that are triggering their symptoms and help them feel better throughout the coming spring!

  • Visit an allergist recommended by the doctor for testing to determine what in the atmosphere is causing the allergic reactions. Is it grass, ragweed, pollen, mold, or pet dander? Knowing sensitivities will help determine appropriate actions.
  • Be aware of the pollen count in your area. Looking at the weather reports, reading the newspaper or checking the internet page of a local TV station or the Weather Channel for available daily readings will help decide when it is better to stay indoors in a climate controlled environment. If counts are high, it is best to avoid going outside even to get the mail. Knowing the mold count is also key if this is what triggers your symptoms.
  • If you do go outdoors on days when there is pollen or mold detectable, upon returning home take a shower and put on fresh clothes. Wear sunglasses when outside to help keep the pollen out of your eyes.
  • Do not open windows on days when the pollen count is high. This only allows the pollen to float inside on the air and cause constant symptoms. Pollen can also hang on to window screens so be sure to clean them off when the pollen count begins to lessen so that the residual pollen will not blow in once you start opening the windows again.
  • Use the air conditioner to help filter the air, keeping filters clean by changing them regularly. You may want to invest in a HEPA style filter for your air conditioner, which will catch more particles, it will likely be worth the additional cost.
  • Avoid mowing the grass, raking the leaves or other yard work that could trigger symptoms. Get someone else to do these tasks if possible. If these jobs must be done, be sure to wear a mask when performing them.
  • Take allergy medication as prescribed by the doctor. If there is no available prescribed medication, ask the doctor if there are any over-the-counter seasonal allergy aides that can help in coping with the nagging symptoms.
  • Some foods can help reduce certain allergy symptoms, such as clear hot broths that can clear nasal passages. Foods that are good sources of antioxidants and other nutrients can boost the immune system to help fight the effects of pollen.
  • Check with the allergist to see if there are any viable allergy vaccinations or immunotherapy that can offer relief to you or your senior loved one.

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine if our symptoms are originating from a cold or seasonal allergies. It is important to determine which it truly is so that you can treat it properly to feel better and be able to carry out your daily activities.

Being a caregiver means it is vital to feel your best to do everything that you need to do each day. There is no argument that if your senior is feeling well, your job is easier.

We can’t stop the flowers from growing — and I hope they don’t — but we can treat our nose to keep it from running!

Enjoy your spring!