Note to Self: 10 Top New Year’s Personal Goals for Family Caregivers

Heading into the New Year, many people make resolutions they hope will help focus them on the road to wellness, health and prosperity.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks or perhaps even a few months our resolutions are forgotten and the goals unmet.

Family caregivers want the same for themselves as others – to be healthy, wealthy and wise. For many, though, personal objectives take second, or even third, place behind the care of loved ones.

Caregivers’ busy schedules and unending list of tasks to be completed before the day is done may not leave time for making a list of goals (not resolutions) much less establishing plans and working toward accomplishing them.

But it is all too important as a family caregiver to care for yourself! This year we have put together our list of 10 top personal goals that all family caregivers should consider working toward throughout the year for their own well-being and also for that of their senior loved one.

Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is an all too common occurrence. It is highlighted by real physical and emotional exhaustion, which can impact your own well-being and diminish how well you are able to care for your senior loved one.

Caregiver burnout can be incapacitating to you. It can lead to stress, fatigue, and depression. Burnout can also be financial for some people, who begin spending their own resources for essential needs and for those who can no longer work due to caregiving responsibilities.

When left unrecognized and untreated, caregiver burnout can lead to negative outcomes for you and your family — perhaps even result in placement of your senior loved one in a facility because you are no longer able to provide care in the home.

It is important for you to realize how quickly you can become overwhelmed and work to prevent burnout!

We hope you will live these goals as well as your own personal goals in the upcoming year so that you can be the best caregiver possible while avoiding burnout!

10 New Year’s Personal Goals for Caregivers

To help you, the family caregiver, have happy days building strong relationships with those you love, including the senior loved one for whom you care, we have compiled this list of 10 top goals we think are important and achievable for family caregivers.

You can work on one or more of these each day and you will feel better physically and emotionally as well as have more quality time to spend with your senior loved one all throughout the year!

  1. I will find ten minutes, even if I have to schedule it, to sit down, breathe and relax today! I am worth it and deserve time to recharge my batteries.
  2. I will call my healthcare provider(s) and make appointments for my own health check-up and preventive health procedures today so that I can stay healthy. I will get my immunizations as needed and prevent illness so that I can fulfill my caregiving duties.
  3. I will connect with those who can provide me with respite care, whether through an agency, paid caregivers or family members. I will build my caregiver network so that I have resources upon whom I can call when I need them. I will remind myself that I am not alone in my caregiving role and there are others who can help me.
  4. I will contact my closest friends through a phone call, email or social media to renew my personal relationships, have a cup of coffee and remember that I have a life outside of my role as caregiver. I won’t allow my friendships or my spouse to take a back seat in my life and find ways to maintain and even build these vital relationships. I will not isolate myself or my senior.
  5. I will remember why I am a family caregiver and give my senior loved one a big hug and kiss. I will remind myself every day that I am where I am supposed to be, doing the work that I am meant to do and I will never regret the time I am spending nurturing my senior loved one.
  6. I will call someone for help when I need it or just when I need a break or a shoulder on which to cry. When someone offers help, I will allow them to do something for me, even if they don’t do it exactly as I would. I will accept help when given and be thankful for it.
  7. I will get six to eight hours of sleep every night to replenish my own strength to face the challenges in the new day.
  8. I will eat nutritious food that will nourish my body for my daily tasks and keep me healthy to continue providing care to my senior loved one. I will not be happy to eat what others don’t finish or skip meals because I am too busy and will sit down at meal times to eat with my loved ones instead of starting the next task.
  9. I will recognize my own frustrations and take a breather before I show my emotions to my senior loved one. I will remember that it is their disease – not them – that spur my emotions and often they don’t realize that they are pushing all my buttons, nor can they stop themselves, but I can. I will seek help to control my emotions so that they don’t eat me up inside and cause me to be depressed.
  10. I will enjoy each moment with my senior loved one who is a gift to me so that in the future when they are no longer by my side I will know in my heart that I made a difference in their life and be comforted. I will capture the memories and store them away for the time when I will need them again. I will live in the moment!

We would love to hear your additions to this list that can benefit us all!

Wishing you and your senior loved ones a Happy New Year full of memory making and joy!

Overwhelming Possibilities, Too Little Time – Help Plan Our CES Coverage

As 2014 comes to a close it means the 2015 International CES is close at hand. Sure, it means a lot of other things but CES is HUGE and just days away.

Senior Care Corner­® has been covering CES for several years now and we’ve always approached it with a lot of excitement and even more scheduling panic. There will be so much at CES we can’t possibly cover it all.

In past years we have left CES with optimism for the what the future may bring but disappointment that — as it applies to seniors and their family caregivers — there seemed to be little offered by the tech industry compared to other age groups.

That looks to change this year, at least based on the previews we’ve seen.

Our expectations for the 2015 edition of CES have pushed the scheduling panic even higher, as there will be so much more of interest to family caregivers of seniors.

It will be physically impossible for us to cover everything on our list so we are asking for your help in setting priorities.

Setting 2015 CES Priorities

As we preview the 2015 CES schedule of press events, conference sessions and exhibitor descriptions (not to mention their emails), we have reason to believe our hopes for the event itself will be fulfilled. We expect to have a lot to report on what technology can do for the millions of family caregivers in the US and their senior loved ones.

Where in past years we had to project applications of many technologies and products to the needs of seniors and those caring for and about them, this year it appears many of the largest tech companies have those needs in their sights.

We have grouped those products and concepts that we see most applicable to family caregivers and seniors — or just intrigued us for their possibilities — into a handful of topic areas so you can help us prioritize.

1. Home Health Technology

Knowing a majority of current and future seniors prefer to live in their own homes as long as possible, technology that will help them live healthier will be key.

A number of products and sessions at the 2015 CES will address home health needs, from devices that could be used by seniors and family caregivers in the home to technology that will enable healthcare providers to reach into the home with care.

2. Smart Home Technology

Living in the home of their choice, especially if they want to live independently, will require that seniors have a home that is equipped to meet their needs.

Smart home technology will help seniors live more safely and comfortably at home by putting control of their home within electronic reach. Seniors will have monitoring and control of virtually every electric device at their fingertips.

Just as important, smart home tech will let seniors grant system access to select family caregivers, healthcare providers and service providers, giving them an extra level of comfort should something happen.

3. Wearables

Wearable technology is more than the fitness bands, which can benefit seniors and family caregivers, that have boomed in popularity over the last couple of years. This is another area of tech that will be important to older adults wishing to live independently with peace of mind.

Technology that can be worn will let seniors, family members and healthcare providers monitor vital signs such as pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar and much more. Many things that might today require an appointment at the doctor’s office or a visit from a home health provider can be monitored and recorded in real time. Not only is that more convenient but allows detrimental changes to be caught in between planned appointments.

4. Mobile Technology

Mobile technology is already important to the lives of seniors and family caregivers in so many ways. In the future it will be much more than even is possible today, expanding beyond the link to the world a smartphone or tablet provides.

Seniors’ mobile devices, in addition to providing tremendous communications, information and entertainment capability, will be the hub that makes other tech valuable. Gathering and communicating data from healthcare devices, wearables and more will take mobile devices from important to essential for seniors who want to age in place. They will also serve as the controllers for many other technologies.

5. Automotive Technology

Automotive technology is much more than sound systems and vehicle driving performance, bringing innovations that will be important to seniors.

Driving is an important part of life to many seniors, in large part because of the independence it allows. At the same time, driving by senior loved ones is a source of anxiety to many family caregivers, worried about the safety of loved ones whose abilities are not what they were in earlier years.

Technological advances will make driving safer for seniors longer in life, providing much more information about their vehicles and their driving environment than is available today. Ongoing efforts will help overcome the loss of ability and let more seniors hold onto their car keys longer.

Of course, driverless (autonomous) cars will be a game changer for all of us.

6. Robotics

Robots in seniors’ homes? Yes, we see that happening — and becoming nearly essential for some seniors, making their lives healthier, more comfortable and safer.

Household robots, early versions of which are in testing and limited use, will help seniors with disabilities or simply limited physical capability live in their homes longer by providing assistance in their daily lives. They will also relieve family caregivers of some work they currently do.

There is a lot more wrapped into these topic areas than we can get into in one article and a lot of areas at CES that we haven’t mentioned. Hopefully we have given you enough insight to decide which are most important to your senior loved ones and your role as family caregivers.

Help Us Set Coverage Priorities

The 2015 International CES will be a huge show, with an overwhelming number of great exhibits, conference sessions, keynote addresses and press conferences spread over several sites. There is simply more than we can cover.

So we’re asking for your help.

We will be covering CES for you, to bring you information on current and future resources to help your senior loved ones and you as family caregivers. We’d like to know how to prioritize our time there to make the most of it for you.

Please let us know which of the above CES topics you feel we should give highest priority. You can leave a comment at the bottom of this article, send a message to us through our Facebook page or contact Barry via email at barry(at)seniorcarecorner.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

In a Time of Giving, Family Caregivers Are Giving the Gift of Themselves

In this season of giving, we want to shine a glowing light on those many caring people of all ages who are family caregivers to senior loved ones.

Often they don’t realize how special they are.

To be a family caregiver is to give of one’s time, talent and sometimes money to help make the life of a loved one happier, healthier and safer.

Because the needs of senior loved ones span the year, so too the contributions of family caregivers in helping to provide for those needs.

Millions Demonstrating They Care

The typical family caregiver is … well, there isn’t really a “typical’ as we see it. They may be found filling any of a virtually limitless range of roles for senior loved ones, roles as individual as the caregivers and the loved ones to whom they are providing care.

They may be…

  • Helping with, or even doing, the cooking, cleaning and other housework for an aging parent or grandparent who just can’t do everything they did when younger.
  • Stopping by when needed to do the yard work for grandma, who isn’t capable of filling in for her late spouse, or shoveling the snow for grandpa, who can’t handle that much physical work but might end up slipping on the ice going out for the mail or newspaper.
  • Teaching senior loved ones how to make good use of that smartphone or tablet they just got and then providing “tech support” from time to time when a little help is needed.
  • Checking the online bank and financial statements of aging parents from across the country to ensure no unusual, or even fraudulent, activity goes unnoticed.
  • Taking a week of family vacation to help maintain the home of senior loved ones or even install grab bars, ramps and other modifications that are needed to adapt their home to changing needs and capabilities.
  • Calling, emailing, Facebooking or stopping by to see aging loved ones from time to time just to chat, keep them company, and let them know that living independently doesn’t mean they are alone in the world.

We could go on and on, but you get the idea. Being a valued family caregiver doesn’t require being with senior loved ones all the time — or even being physically in the same location at all.

Giving a Gift to Family Caregivers

Yes, there are millions of family caregivers giving of themselves in so many ways that are important and deserving of gifts in return.

What sort of gifts? There are many ways to show them they are appreciated and important themselves.

For example:

  • Tell them they do a great job and are important to the lives of their loved ones. Sometimes a few simple words, especially at the right time, can carry tremendous meaning.
  • Ask if there is something you can do to help them, even if it’s to take one small task off their hands.
  • Remind them to care for their own needs, which often go overlooked by family caregivers.
  • Lend a caring ear to give them someone with whom they can unload the pressures of their day.

You probably have an idea of just the right gift you can give that family caregiver you know.

They are, after all, very special people!

Family Holiday Traditions are Strong, Healthy and Important to Our Seniors

Are you celebrating the holidays with your senior loved ones, family members and friends? There are many ways that we celebrate our family holiday traditions, each family has its own to share.

Whatever faith or festivities your family enjoys, holiday traditions are deep in your senior’s soul and mean more than you may realize to their quality of life.

Do you have traditions that you follow each year?

Are there special foods that have become traditions in themselves so you must serve them?

Are there activities that you do every year at certain times or with special people?

In our immediate family, we have been celebrating Christmas in the same way for many years. In the last few years as the children are grown and gone and we even have a grandchild now, our traditions are taking on a new life.

We are reluctantly giving way to changing some of the things we usually do because of the fact that the family is more spread out. We have others who are also putting demands on our time which alter our traditions (such as in-laws who want to share the grandchild love and parents who now live nearby).

It requires some flexibility and patience as we realize some of our heartfelt traditions will fall by the wayside while we create new traditions. Even as our new traditions take on meaning for us in the future, they won’t replace our other deep-seated and treasured memories.

Do your senior loved ones have some cherished memories you can help them recall?

Some Traditions That Never Change

This year, since my parents live close by for the first time in over thirty years, I am seeing some of the things that my grandparents did when my mother repeats them. Most importantly is the food that my grandparents loved making and sharing with the many people who called their house home and visited frequently.

The memories have come flooding back to me when I see things like mincemeat cookies being made by my mom, since they were a favorite of her mom. There are candy dishes with things I remember at my grandparents’ house, like gumdrops and ribbon candy. Peppermint sticks and candy canes were not that prominent but ribbon candy abounded!

Baking cookies and pies for days and days to get enough different kinds ready for whoever might drop by and plates of cookies for the neighbors, friends, church family and others, like the newspaper carrier, have taken over my mother’s days this holiday season. The smells emanating from her kitchen evoke such sweet memories of years past – – it is hard to describe.

Having ham and applesauce for Christmas dinner is another long held food tradition of my parents that has come back to my table this year. Don’t forget the brussel sprouts!

Holiday Family Activities

Every year during the Christmas holidays we do certain things with the family. Now we have to plan them to occur when we are all gathered.

We love to go see Christmas lights around town on Christmas Eve. We load up everyone in the biggest car and drive around eating Christmas cookies and hot chocolate we bring along. We play holiday tunes on the radio or bring our favorite CDs so that we can sing along as we look for the most cheerful neighborhood decorations.

We have planned for years to spend the day after Thanksgiving putting up the Christmas tree, setting up the Christmas village and putting up our holiday yard display. Everyone pitches in and makes the job fun and memorable. We have had to struggle for a few years when the family began dispersing and we didn’t have the holiday spirit to do the decorations without them. Another flexibility challenge we are learning to overcome.

We also have a special ornament that we add to the tree each year. It could be a homemade ornament, a special one purchased during a family vacation or a recent picture of family members. My tree is packed with ornaments collected for almost thirty five years! Putting the ornaments on the tree is a special walk down memory lane for me as I remember my kids when they were little and the trips we shared. It makes decorating the tree a pleasure!

We always make Christmas cutout cookies and decorate the cookies with the kids. As they have grown, I have become the primary baker and when I cut back on the number of cookies baked, I heard loudly about it. Where are all the cookies mom? Oh yeah, you weren’t here to help decorate so I made less…

Aging Seniors Benefit From Traditions

With our senior loved ones, fulfilling as many memories they have of years past will be a wonderful gift that we can give them this year and every holiday.

  1. Do they have favorite foods that evoke their childhood, when their own mom or grandma made special cookies, cakes or pies? Have you made them their favorite cookies or seasonal drink, like eggnog or wassail? Will they eat dinner with you on the big night and if so, can they help plan the menu?
  2. Do they still have ornaments from their life that have been passed down through the family that they would love to put on the tree? Does their own home or apartment, whether they live alone or in a senior living facility, have a small tree where they can hang their memories? Can you give them a small tree for their table or dresser with some ornaments or popcorn strings?
  3. Are they able to listen to some of their favorite holiday tunes or sing along with some of the most fun jingles of the season? Can you give them an MP3 player or tablet with a playlist designed with their favorites?
  4. Are there movies that they enjoy and have been able to watch during the holidays? Do they love original classics like White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Can you give them movies on DVD and show them how to operate it if they are unfamiliar? Can they stream videos on their computer or smart TV? Do they watch them on TV when they are played during the seasonal schedule? We used to mark the TV Guide for our grandfather to remind him when his favorite shows and movies would come on and which channel/time to tune into so he could enjoy them.
  5. Will they be able to go to church and celebrate the season? Can they accompany you when you go to school plays, choral concerts, holiday musicals, or church programs? When you are going to a holiday event, don’t forget to bring them along so they don’t miss out on the joy of the season.

These are some simple things that we can all do for our special senior loved ones. They just take a little remembering. You may be doing all these things and more already.

Tell us what traditions you continue to maintain for your senior loved one this holiday, we would love to hear yours!

Preparation Can be Life Saving – Get Seniors Ready Before the Storm

Family caregivers worry about those things that could potentially affect their senior loved ones and are always on high alert for one to happen.

Are you on edge at times, waiting and worrying, especially for things we can see coming, like severe weather?

Have you prepared for what could happen?

We have already seen areas around the US hit with strong winter storms before Thanksgiving — and some even before Halloween.

Many were out of power and out of daylight as the snow covered windows and doors. Did you see the picture of homes covered deeply in snow?

If you weren’t this time, you and your senior loved one could be affected next in the coming winter storm season. Those images make us all thankful it wasn’t us digging out or our senior loved ones who were buried behind an avalanche of ice and snow.

Because we feel that way, it is important to plan ahead before the storm hits us.

Winter Weather Issues

Winter snow and ice are not only a possibility in the northeast, Midwest or mountains of the Northwest. Did you know that crippling and dangerous ice and snow affects people in the south too, even the deep south?

We have lived through ice storms and snow in southern states ourselves and realize that it is possibly even worse when it happens there, since it is unexpected and no one is prepared to handle the consequences. There aren’t enough road plows or de-icing protocols that help prevent the worst or recover when the storm blows through.

There are a variety of winter weather conditions, besides just snow, that should concern family caregivers due to their ability to make life unsafe for our senior loved ones especially if they are living alone.

  • Freezing rain is rain that freezes once it hits the ground covering everything with a coating of ice including walkways, sidewalks, trees, driveways and roads. It leaves in its aftermath, an unsafe condition.
  • Sleet is rain that forms into ice pellets as it falls to the ground. Once it covers the ground it causes dangerous conditions on roads and walkways.
  • Black or clear ice is a coating of ice on a surface that creates an invisible hazard to drivers or people who are walking.
  • Winter storm watches and warnings are forecasted so that we can make certain preparations to be safe before, during and after the storm. A winter storm alert includes conditions where precipitation is changed into other forms due to low temperatures. Conditions are favorable for sleet, freezing rain and snow to form. Ground temperatures are also low enough to allow the snow and ice to stick thereby resulting in hazards.
  • A wintery mix is when there is a mix between rain, sleet, freezing rain and/or snow.
  • A snowstorm is when large amounts of snow fall. As little as two inches of snowfall can lead to unsafe travel. A blizzard is a massive snowstorm characterized by heavy sustained winds with gusts of 35 mph and snow that is falling or blowing.

Dangers Caused by Winter Weather

Besides just feeling cold and having cabin fever during the winter months, there is a very real danger of physical harm when winter storms hit. Consequences of severe winter weather that can negatively impact the health and safety of senior loved ones include:

  • Power and communication outages
  • Heart attack from overexertion
  • Hypothermia and frostbite
  • Heating related fires
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation
  • Falls with fractures
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Car accidents

While we can’t always prevent these things from happening, we can prepare for them to impact our senior loved ones.

Be Prepared Before a Winter Storm

Being ready for whatever comes, planning ahead, and being organized when disaster does strike are all qualities to which family caregivers aspire. We are fixers and planners; otherwise each day would be more of a struggle than perhaps even we can handle.

With each new season of the year, there are new to do items on our list. Winter is no different and it is important that we are one step ahead of winter weather.

We have a few tips for items that you should be gathering together and keep handy before the storm as well as some household tasks that should be done so that your senior is comfortable and safe in their home this winter.

Winter Storm Supplies

Supplies that you should keep on hand (best if stored together or in a duffel bag for easy access):

  • Flashlight with extra batteries (check to be sure it is functioning before you need it)
  • First aid supplies
  • Extra prescriptions in case you can’t get to the pharmacy
  • Nonperishable foods
  • Water – three days supply of two gallons per person per day
  • Emergency heat source such as a fireplace or space heater that are properly vented
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Rock salt
  • Snow shovel
  • Extra blankets
  • Get a weather radio
  • Matches in a dry storage container
  • ID and extra keys
  • Evacuation bag ready with supplies in case a shelter is needed

Home Preparation Steps

  1. Insulate your pipes to prevent freezing
  2. Cover water spigots
  3. Know where water and gas shutoff valves are located in case they are needed
  4. Seal cracks and air leaks in house
  5. Cover windows to prevent penetration of cold or loss of heat
  6. Service snow removal equipment
  7. Insulate home walls and attic
  8. Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector (install if not in use)
  9. Store additional heating fuel if able
  10. Gas tank in car should be near full to avoid freezing lines
  11. Install snow fences in areas where drifts could hinder paths

Doing some of these proactive maintenance items as well as gathering together essential emergency supplies will give you some peace of mind that your senior loved one will be safe in the next storm.

Other Steps You Might Want to Take

These are a few other precautionary steps you can take to be ready in any emergency.

  1. Contact the local utility company and let them know that your senior is alone and may need assistance in an emergency especially if they require electrical medical devices.
  2. Be sure you know how to operate medical equipment in an emergency and that back up batteries are available.
  3. Know where your senior should go for any evacuation location and how they will get there.
  4. Set up a means of communication in case of power outage.

What other precautions have you taken to be ready? We would love to add them to our list!

Seeking to Improve Seniors’ Quality of Life? Yes, There are Apps for That!

More and more family caregivers are finding their smartphones and tablets to be useful tools in their caregiving.

They are finding that the available technology is making their life a little easier, engaging their senior loved one or giving them much needed information or even support.

Yes, there ARE apps for that!

With all the newest ideas coming along, it can be hard to keep up with what could be beneficial for you and your senior loved one.

We have pulled together some of the those things that we find helpful and think that you might also enjoy for your senior loved one and yourself to care for them.

Essential Tech Devices

You probably have most of the devices that could be really useful for you as a family caregiver but are you making the most of them?

Smartphones

You are making calls with your smartphone but are you downloading helpful apps, using cloud storage for safe record keeping, scheduling appointments and getting reminders to stay on time, share photos, talk face to face, send messages and updates to family members, keep medication lists and advance directives for emergency use, and the list goes on and on.

Because smartphones connect to the internet, you can access information and even shop from your phone. Whether it runs on iOS, Android or Windows operating systems, you’ll likely find your smartphone will help you handle what you need and have apps that will meet your needs.

You can also use your smartphone to monitor a rapidly growing number of devices for your senior loved ones who live alone. Not only can you see if the front door is unlocked and what temperature the thermostat is set on or if it is on, you can track their vital signs via medical devices and also wearables that confirm their movement according to their established pattern.

Tablet

If you have a tablet, it can extend the use of your smartphone. Most apps you install on your smartphone will also work on your tablet – across platforms and devices as they say!

Tablets are a great way to store and access data and important information about your senior loved one. They can also entertain your senior (and you) when there is time to pass such as waiting for an appointment. They can access the internet and thereby put any information you seek at your fingertips.

Have you heard about the new RealPad tablet? It is a new device that makes it easy for seniors to connect. It is an Android based tablet that is touted as being ready right out of the box fully loaded with the apps you want. You can also add more later when you find a need. It is available at local discount retailers or through AARP at an affordable price. The icons are larger for older adults to read easily. Naturally it connects to the internet too. It comes with 24 hour tech assistance for those who need more help with its operation.

Are you using an eReader to access the internet? Is it doing enough for you? Can it do more or would you be better off transitioning to a fully functioning tablet?

Computer

Are you still tied to a desktop computer or using a laptop computer? Computers can be linked to programs, such as Evernote and Dropbox, that can cross platforms to your smartphones or tablets. This type of computer program can be used to scan important documents, create spreadsheets to help you track important information such as insurance billing, upload photos or to create a journal for your personal documenting of your experiences.

The beauty of this type of program is that you can use all your devices, keep them all updated and access what you need wherever you are.

You can also use your computer to access your senior’s patient portal to get up to the minute health data and medical history record.

Apps to Improve Quality of Life

There are so many apps now it can be hard to sift through them to find the ones that truly provide value rather than just take up your time and screen space.

We have found that most categories of helpful apps include many different options, each with its own set of features. Rather then point you to specific apps in most categories, we want to raise your awareness so you can check them out yourselves.

  • Pharmacy – smartphones can be used to scan prescriptions for refills. There are actual dedicated apps or your preferred drugstore has an app that can track your prescriptions, alert you when they are ready for pickup and keep track of your insurance data too. Not only can you refill prescriptions but there are apps that act as medication reminders alerting your senior that it is time for the next dose so medicines won’t be forgotten.
  • Books for enjoyment or knowledge – eReaders such as Kindle or Nook allow you to download the latest title or select from free books that can help pass the time or entertain your senior. You can read in large print or regular with an eReader, all with the same book, depending on the need. Using a Kindle app can put your books not only on your eReader but also on your tablet or smartphone so you can pick up your book on whichever device is handy. There are other book sites such as BookShout, Spotify and Audible that make it easy to put the love of reading or music at your fingertips.
  • Music – iTunes can be used across platforms to bring your senior her favorite music. You don’t need an MP3 player any more to listen to favorite melodies. Playlists can be created for whatever situation arises: holidays, dining, calming, sleeping or sing-alongs.
  • First aid and CPR – this is handy in an emergency. Apps with this information can walk you through helping your senior in the case of cardiac event, choking or basic first aid help. Most allow you to set up health profiles that can be easily accessed in case of emergency.
  • GPS locators – apps can help you locate your senior at all times. You can find them quickly if needed or even see where they’ve been.
  • TV program guide – you can use an app to locate movies or TV programs that are your senior’s favorites. It will tell you when, what channel and will help you locate programs of interest. It is a real time saver for you when you are seeking to keep your senior loved one entertained.
  • Brain stimulation  – there are many apps that can help people with dementia to stimulate their brains. There are apps that allow them to be creative, such as finger painting or doodling. Crosswords, math puzzles and trivia questions or just fun games that get their brain engaged are useful and entertaining. There is also a new app that improves cognition by arranging over 50 sequences of Activities of Daily Living, such as brushing your teeth, getting dressed, making a phone call, and making a sandwich. Working on this could improve independence.
  • Banking – there are apps that will help you track finances and pay bills. It can help you stick to a budget, link to all bank accounts and send you reminders so you won’t miss a payment. Most are secure and can be disabled if a device is lost.
  • Food, Menus and Health information – there are apps that give you recipes of all kinds, help with nutrition and creating menus for the week including shopping lists.
  • Keeping in touch – there are apps that will allow you to have a site that keeps all family and close friends connected. It can allow you to add information as needed that will keep everyone in the loop without spending hours on the phone relaying the stories.
  • Coordinating care – there are a multitude of apps that will help you keep everything straight. It helps with to do lists, track records, keep appointments, holds contact information and more are giving you access to health professionals so that you can get your questions answered timely.

Helpful Programs

Don’t forget how invaluable Facetime, Skype or Google Hangouts can be for families to connect face to face. It is especially good from a long distance for family caregivers to actually see for themselves how a senior is doing.

From personal experience we know how exciting it is to see a great grandchild up to toddler hijinks a few states away.

Family caregivers have so many choices from the latest technology that we should be taking advantage of as much of it as possible. It can help us have a better day!

Work / Life Balance for Caregivers – Key to Successful Care and Life

Many family caregivers juggle a senior loved one’s needs, children, spouses and a job outside the home. Imagine the amount of juggling required every day to make everyone happy — probably everyone other than the caregiver, that is!

Did you know that almost 25.5 million Americans who care for someone 50 and over are also working?

In 2012 a Gallup poll found that more than one in six people working full or part time report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend.

Family caregivers who work at least 15 hours per week said it significantly affected their work life.

Caregiving Puts Pressure on Work

A report from the AARP Public Policy Institute in 2012 found that “among working caregivers caring for a family member or friend, 69% report having to rearrange their work schedule, decrease their hours or take an unpaid leave in order to meet their caregiving responsibilities.”

Being a family caregiver when trying to maintain a career often results in financial burdens, including loss of wages, health insurance and other job benefits, retirement savings or investing, and Social Security benefits due to losing time at work or having to quit work or take early retirement (with a loss of benefits) to care for an elder.

In addition to lost time at your job, a lower productivity and extra time off needed could influence your ability to climb the career ladder and many report inability to accept promotions when caring for a senior loved one.

Businesses Beginning to Accommodate Caregivers

Some American businesses have begun to recognize the fact that a happy employee is a productive employee. They are slowly (some more so than others) understanding that flexibility for employees who are family caregivers, it doesn’t matter if the person to whom they care is young or old, will make them better employees.

  1. Some companies have begun to provide unlimited paid sick time covering not just personal illness but also caregiving responsibilities. What they found was the average number of sick days went down, not up, when flexibility became a standard practice. Most people don’t want to use all their vacation days for caregiving duties. Being able to get respite and a relaxation break will help caregivers remain physically and emotionally healthy and thereby, more productive employees.
  2. A recent survey showed that 3 out of 4 employers offer paid or unpaid leave to employees to care for the needs of an elder.
  3. Job sharing is a good way for family caregivers to continue to work at a career they enjoy but also meet the needs of their senior loved ones. Unfortunately, fewer employees are allowing job sharing possibly due to the recent economic situation.
  4. Flexible scheduling of work tasks can also help family caregivers. If an employee can be more productive working later in the day, a split day or some other arrangement suitable to meet their senior’s needs, they will be more loyal and efficient when they perform their job duties.
  5. Employers and managers could often be more understanding of the struggles of working family caregivers. Showing emotional support, offering resources or help to flex work time will be appreciated by family caregivers. Awareness that more time spent on personal phone calls during the work day to schedule appointments or check in with paid caregivers or family members is necessary for family caregivers is another way employers can show their support.
  6. Help family caregivers with information and resources for Employee Assistance programs and other organizations that can assist them meet senior’s needs. Only about 43% currently provide information to employees.
  7. Some companies (7%) are offering respite programs or links to resources so that caregivers can avoid burnout.
  8. Managers can receive training to show their employees who are struggling with family issues some empathy. Sensitivity training will go a long way to supporting caregivers (and all employees).

Working Family Caregivers Can Help Themselves

Caregivers with both a job and a family to look after find that juggling all the balls in their lives can be very difficult. Things don’t always go as planned and oftentimes something will suffer.

Naturally we don’t want to let the physical needs of our senior loved ones or our family go unmet, which means we may be forced to take shortcuts with our work responsibilities. There doesn’t seem to be much choice — and the outcome is not good for our future.

There are some things that you can do to help keep your life in better balance with respect to your work life. Hopefully your employer will be able to help you gain control of your situation.

  • Determine how your work schedule could be altered so that you will be able to perform your job duties with an appropriate level of productivity and effectiveness at the same time overseeing the needs of your senior loved one. Once you decide what positive changes can be made, communicate with your manager your proposed solutions for work place flexibility that will be mutually beneficial. You will be a healthier individual when you find ways to reduce job stress but also a more loyal and valuable employee when you work together to create a satisfactory solution.
  • Seek out community resources and information that will help you connect with needed services. You don’t have to do it all alone. Agencies are available to help you meet your senior’s needs and allow you to continue to have a career.
  • Determine your eligibility for various programs that could give you more support and receive all the benefits to which your senior is entitled. Review the BenefitsCheckUp site, from the National Council on Aging, to investigate your options.
  • Check out your company’s policies for sick and other leave time as well as other policies that might affect you as a family caregiver. Be aware of the employee assistance programs available to you and make use of them as a benefit.
  • Be open and honest with your bosses. Let them know what struggles you face with the care of your senior loved one and family members. Open communications with your employer could lead to creative problem solving and a better understanding of your situation. Don’t allow managers to jump to conclusions about your job performance without all the facts that only you can supply.
  • Keep yourself organized. You can alleviate many problems for yourself by coordinating and organizing your time, activities and paperwork. Find a system that works for you, whether it is a paper filing system, calendar with alerts or computerized spreadsheet and use it daily.
  • Give gratitude to those who help you. Don’t forget to say thank you and even give small gifts of appreciation to those in your network who support and assist you. Having a strong network is vital and keeping it strong with gratitude is a step worth taking.

Choose to Find Balance

How you find a balance in your work and personal life in order to achieve your goals as well as maintain your physical strength to carry on your caregiving duties is a personal choice.

No matter how you find your balance, we hope you are able to do so, for your sake and that of the loved ones for whom you care.

You will get out of it what you put into it. It may seem like a lot of effort in the beginning, but your time investment up front to manage your life’s schedule will pay off dividends in the long term.

We would love to hear what strategies you use to balance your work and caregiving responsibilities.

Please feel free to share with us so that we can learn from the experiences of each other and all improve our own situations!

Caregiver to Caregiver — Tips to Inform and Inspire in Our New Book!

Family caregivers are special people who care for and about loved ones.

Sometimes they need some help and inspiration in doing so.

Do you sometimes feel like you need to be inspired?

Does it feel at times that a little help would make a big difference?

Do you like to get new information that might help you in your caregiving?

Do you like to share with those who have similar experiences and understand how you feel?

If so, then you have much in common with other caregivers who face challenges every day and often search for answers and help from people who have been there and are facing the same challenges. These are usually the best people to get strategies to solve our own problems or suggestions about where to turn to for more even more help.

Our Family Caregiving Story

When we were caring for our grandparents we looked for help, inspiration or just a few tips. At that time there was very little information out there so we decided it was time for us to use our own experiences as family caregivers and professionals to spread information and insights from what we learned along the way and continue to learn as we still are family caregivers.

We strive to help family caregivers by giving them the information they need as we hoped to find when we needed it!

Over the years we have gathered information to share with other family caregivers about the latest in technology advances, medical information, caregiver support and innovations that help caregivers make every day in the life of their senior loved one the highest quality it could be.

Our New Book for Family Caregivers

A culmination of years of what we feel are the most pertinent bits and bytes of our tips, as well as those of the family caregivers in our community, has come together in a book we recently published, 1001+ Tips for Family Caregivers.

We published the book in order to reach — and thus help — more family caregivers.

We know from our own experience how learning something new, especially from other caregivers, can help put our own situations into perspective as well as give us some much needed inspiration to realize how important being a family caregiver is to our seniors.

We also want to help family caregivers help themselves stay healthy, avoid burnout and get the respite help they need from their network.

Our book provides tips and insights on all this and more!

Where You Can Get 1001+ Family Caregiving Tips

We decided the best way to get the book published and into your hands would be in a Kindle version, which is available on Amazon.com. This means you can read it on your e-reader, tablet, computer or smartphone and carry it with you to read when you have time in your busy day.

We hope you will check it out and that you find it helpful and crammed packed with new ideas and support from caregivers in short bytes that are easy to read and digest.

Many Seniors Aren’t Eating Right – How Family Caregivers Can Help

Many of our senior loved ones are not eating as well as they could, much like the rest of us.

There are many factors that come into play to prevent them from eating well.

There are always concerns about aging, functional decline, finances, chronic disease conditions, loneliness, and lack of motivation to change habits.

Your senior loved one may also have physical difficulties they can’t seem to overcome or manage that interfere with their ability to eat properly.

Family caregivers can help seniors find ways to make problems into opportunities for new solutions so they can eat right to stay well as long as possible.

Nutrition Roadblocks for Independent-Living Seniors

There are some obvious factors that may be influencing whether or not your senior loved one is eating right but there may also be some reasons that you can’t see — or they aren’t letting you see — that could be impacting their ability to eat healthy meals.

  1. They aren’t interested in cooking anymore especially when they eat alone. If they don’t like eating alone, they probably won’t put much effort into creating a meal and may grab anything or nothing. Loneliness can lead to depression which can further decrease how much elders eat.
  2. They aren’t feeling strong enough to prepare a meal. They get tired easily so standing over the stove or sink isn’t appealing.
  3. After the death of the cooking spouse, a senior may not have the skills needed to prepare foods properly or feel capable of doing it and ends up opening a can or microwave foods that aren’t as nutritious or complete.
  4. They are becoming more forgetful and can’t remember all the steps required to prepare meals as they once did.
  5. Their taste buds have changed and nothing tastes good to them so they stop cooking and eating right. Maybe they have a loss of smell so their favorite foods have lost their appeal.
  6. They are having difficulty with chewing or swallowing. Perhaps their dentures are hurting or loose. Maybe chewing tough foods and meats is too difficult or tiring so they stop making these nutritious foods. If they find themselves choking or coughing after eating, it can be scary so may be choosing only soft or liquid foods missing out on better nutrition.
  7. They don’t have money to buy groceries. Perhaps their medications and other bills are draining their spending money.
  8. They have trouble driving to the store or carrying their groceries back home so have cut back on foods they keep in the house. Research shows that some elders have money for food but currently lack the resources to access food (such as transportation or mobility) or prepare food (safe appliances or work areas).
  9. Because they aren’t eating as much as they once were, more of the food they buy spoils so they may feel that it is a waste of time to keep buying food only to throw it away.
  10. They may be taking medications which impair their appetite or have a chronic disease for which they are over-restricting their diet to control.

When our seniors begin eating less, for whatever reason, it begins a downward spiral that is tough to break free from later.

Loss of appetite or just poor food choices can impair nutrition and health to the point that muscle loss occurs which will then limit their mobility and functional status. When this occurs seniors can have trouble completing tasks of daily living and are more prone to falling.

How Family Caregivers Can Help

Family caregivers can do some things to help senior loved ones get back on track and keep from spiraling out of control with poor eating habits.

Because so many seniors are food insecure and have limited access to sufficient affordable and nutritious food, we should all be concerned about our senior loved ones who may not be eating right.

Did you know that 15.2% of seniors, or 8.8 million, face the threat of hunger? It is true and your senior may be one without you realizing it!

The first thing to do is observe them for signs of poor eating habits, such as weight loss, mouth pain or refusal to wear dentures, less garbage, poor skin color, fatigue and any complaints that are new.

  • Can they drive to get groceries? Can they carry them home if they walk or drive? Can they put the food away on shelves in the kitchen or it is too high? Perhaps they need assistance from a home companion to go to the grocery store or have the foods delivered from a local grocery store instead if transportation is an issue.
  • Is their refrigerator, freezer and stove working properly? Do they need a new appliance or repairs to what they have now? Is their current stove a fire or safety hazard? They can’t cook without functional equipment. Do they have running water at the sink?
  • Would they benefit from Meals on Wheels, which could provide one nutritious meal a day and someone to check up on them? There are almost 135 million meals delivered annually by Meals on Wheels programs.
  • Do they need denture repair, relining or remaking so that they fit properly and will not cause pain? Do they have mouth sores that need help to heal?
  • Do they need to see a doctor or speech therapist for assistance with chewing or swallowing difficulties? Do they need a dietitian to help them find the appropriate texture of foods that will give them the nutrition they need?
  • Should they go to the senior center near them to have socialization so they won’t be as lonely and have someone to talk with for at least one meal?
  • Is there enough money in the budget for food? Do they qualify for SNAP benefits that you can help them get? Do they need help to see if they are spending too much in other areas leaving them without enough for food, for example Part D prescription plan or energy bills?
  • Do they need a cooking class to learn some basic cooking skills? They often have these at senior centers or community colleges as part of lifelong learning programs for seniors.
  • Do they need help seasoning their food or learning about new foods so that their appetite can be stimulated with new smells, flavors and interests?
  • Can the pharmacist review their medication list to see if there are pills that could be causing loss of appetite as a side effect? Perhaps the doctor can suggest other drugs that won’t cause this outcome.
  • Do they need a strength building program and balance training exercises that can help them build muscles and stamina so that they can complete all their activities of daily living including cooking and even eating? This is also great for fall prevention.
  • Can you or others that you enlist bring them meals once or more during the week to be sure they are getting some healthy meals and not just a can of soup for dinner every night?
  • Can you help them package foods into smaller portion containers and freeze some so that they won’t be losing as much to food waste?

These are a few suggestions for things to consider and steps you can take to help your senior loved one eat better so that they can stay healthy!

 ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’

— Hippocrates