Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Can’t Miss Resources for Family Caregivers

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get all the information on caregiving you needed without having to scramble?  After all, you have way too much on your plate already. Maybe you’re taking care of more than one person—a child and a parent, two parents, a parent and an in-law, a spouse and a parent—the possible configurations are endless. Whether it’s one or more, it’s a huge commitment.

To save you time, we’ve compiled a list of non-profits, organizations, and websites that will give you what you need: local and national resources, online forums to swap advice, vent, and stay sane, brochures, booklets, articles and hotlines. These folks are experts!

So let’s get started:

Disease-Specific Organizations

They know about resources in your community, besides online, and problems (and solutions) related to your situation. They’ll also connect you with others who’ve been in your boat. Groups include the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (http://www.alzfdn.org/?gclid=CJDn3O7n7LsCFUyu4godXiIAMw),
the American Heart Association (www.heart.org) , American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the American Parkinson Disease Association (http://www.apdaparkinson.org).  Some, like the Alzheimer’s Association, have a 24-hour hotline.

Groups for Family Caregivers

The National Alliance for Caregiving (http://www.caregiving.org) is chocked full of resources, booklets, tip sheets, and webcasts

Caregiver Action Network (http://caregiveraction.org) offers forums, support and advocacy groups, agencies, and the latest news that could affect you as a caregiver. Its website has an ultra comprehensive list of resources.

Family Caregiver Alliance (http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/home.jsp) has free online publications on various topics, caregiving facts sheets, and lots of other info

Well Spouse Association (http://www.wellspouse.org) is a
membership organization that provides support to caregiving spouses and partners of those who are critically ill or disabled

Directories and Resource Centers

Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov) is a U.S. government service for older adults and their families through the U.S. Administration on Aging. It allows  you to search by topic (i.e. “caregiver,” “home repair and modification,” “elder abuse prevention,” “transportation,” “housing options”) for resources in your community and/or have an online chat with a specialist.

The n4a, a.k.a. the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (http://www.n4a.org), administers the Eldercare Locator as well as the National Center on Senior Transportation or NCST (www.seniortransportation.net).  Your local Area Agency on Aging will be a goldmine of information! Staff know about special programs, new initiatives, non-profit and government agencies that offer help, and basically, anything relating to the elderly in your community. NCST steers you to all things transportation-related.

The National Resource Directory (https://www.nrd.gov)
connects wounded and ill veterans, their families with services and resources. It also supports military members who have been killed.

AARP Caregiving Resource Center (http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/) is packed with forums, blogs for family caregivers, articles, work sheets, and tools (like a long-term care calculator)

National Adult Day Services Association (http://www.nadsa.org)
pinpoints adult daycare centers nation-wide



The National Center for Creative Aging (http://www.creativeaging.org)
lists creative arts programs (dance, theatre, writing, poetry, storytelling, museums) around the country for older adults in community settings and long-term care. Some are intergenerational.

End of life

Caring Connections (www.caringinfo.org) has brochures on end-of-life issues such as caregiving, hospice, palliative care, advance care directives, grief and finance

HospiceDirectory.org, (http://www.hospicedirectory.org)
steers you to a hospice near your loved one

National Respite Locator Service (http://www.respitelocator.org/index.htm) is designed for families of kids with special needs and caregivers of adults and the elderly

The Conversation Project (http://theconversationproject.org) helps people have the conversation with their loved ones about end of life. It has a starting kit to get you going, and shares how others have handled the situation

Training for family caregivers:


American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org) puts on programs around the country for caregivers

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why A Geriatric Care Manager Can Be A Huge Help

Here’s a tip for families with a parent, relative or ailing sibling who are overwhelmed, don’t know what community resources are available, or want someone to oversee their loved one’s care. It’s called a geriatric care manager (GCM). 

At a time when you’re already overwhelmed, stressed, and time-starved, a GCM can be a godsend. They do the legwork for you and know the best programs and experts in the senior’s community.

Think of them as a concierge service, but one that coordinates care, advocates for the client, and looks for ways to improve the quality of their life. In hotel concierge terms, they don’t just get you tickets for a play. They also tell you which play is the best, find a way for you to get there, and make sure you have everything you need, including a companion.

GCMs make a home visit and evaluate your loved one. Then they educate you and other experts about what the senior needs, advocate on their behalf, and problem-solve. Most importantly, a GCM comes up with a care plan.

They can be valuable, regardless of your situation--if Mom, Auntie or your sister lives far away, across town or even in the same house.
A GCM can nicely complement a professional caregiver who you hire on your own. And, if staying at home isn’t in the cards, they know about good assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care places.

Here are some of the things GCM’s may do:

  • Steer families to vetted specialists such as a geriatrician, therapist, elder law attorney, elder mediator, accountant
  • Make sure documents are in order (power of attorney, health care proxy, living will)
  • Act as the eyes and ears of the parent/spouse and family so that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Monitor the help. Head off potential problems like exploitation or financial or elder abuse. Give long-distance family members detailed reports from the home front. 
  • Advocate for the client in the healthcare system and within the family. Attend doctor appointments, coordinate care and communication between multiple health professionals as well as families and physicians
  • Address differences of opinion between siblings or members of a family
  • Tackle finances. Explain the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, for example. If they suggest adult day care or respite care, they’ll know if your parent/spouse is eligible for any government reimbursements or payments.


At the home assessment, the GCM determines: What can Mom do independently, what does she need help with? Can she still pay her own bills or make meals, and if not, who in, or out of, the family will do it? Is the place where she’s living safe, set up for her, and appropriate? How is she doing with her medications? Can she take them independently or is there something that can remind her, like a special pillbox with sensors or a talking clock? How is her memory? How will that be addressed?

A GCM helps with other issues: Does Dad need transportation to appointments or someone to take him to the movies or out to lunch? Is there a senior center nearby where he can discuss current events, play cards, listen to music or just stay socially connected?

The background of a GCM varies (typically nursing, gerontology, psychology or social work). Some GCMs charge for an initial home visit and overall assessment, which might range from $250-$1,000, and then an hourly fee of $75-$200. How and what they charge depends on the person or company they work for. You can use this professional a couple of times or as often as you want. Medicare won’t pick up the tab, but some long-term care insurance companies do.

If you’re think of going the GCM route, be certain the person belongs to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (http://www.caremanager.org) and that she (or he) is certified. You must use a certified geriatric care manager and someone who can step in 24/7. And speaking of stepping in, don’t wait for a crisis to start your search. Help you find a GCM the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers




Sunday, December 8, 2013

Caregiving Tips For The Holiday Season

You’re already overwhelmed by the pressures of caregiving. Now add the holidays. It can be a bit much—stress times two. So how, then, do you make family get togethers more enjoyable? You do your homework.

Here are a few simple assignments (they don’t take long, really!):

1. Be honest and face the facts. Discussing a loved one’s changing needs or decline is never a comfortable conversation.  But it’s not going to get better on its own. You might want to approach one family member first rather than them en masse. Pose a question: “How do you think Dad is doing?” “Did you notice Mom has a lot of unopened mail?” “Is this the best possible situation for them now?” “Should we be thinking of something else?” You don’t want to make the holidays only about these conversations, but you need to address it. Or, if the family isn’t in the same place for a sit-down, take notes on what you’ve observed and follow up later. You’ll feel relieved , once you share your thoughts, hear others’, and start creating an action plan.

2. Put that hostility in check. While you may feel resentment towards a certain family member who “forgets” to pull his or her weight, don’t make a scene during the holidays. If humanly possible, bury the hatchet so your family will have fond memories, not those of a blow out. If you think it will be constructive, clear the air before you get together.  Rather than make it a you vs. then, collectively brainstorm.

3. Do a dress rehearsal. Whether you are hosting this year’s festivity or headed to someone else’s home, preparing your loved one for the big day or longer is crucial.  Talk to them about what you’re planning before hand and get their input.  Can they help with decorations, make their favorite soup, or act as a sous-chef, giving you instructions on how you can make it? People like to feel they’re making a contribution and are needed, not just on the receiving end.

4. Expect the unexpected. The holidays can be overwhelming for everyone, especially you.  If it makes sense, keep the plan simple. Be flexible. That original plan may need to change depending on how your loved one is feeling and reacting to the situation.


5. Take a breather. And, don’t forget some deep, relaxation breathing. Try to do something special for yourself before the big day(s). Spring for a facial or a blowdry? Go for a hike? Take a nap? Read a couple of chapters of a book? You’ll have a lot more energy—and perspective—if you are relaxed and good to yourself.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Five Tips For The Holidays (Hint: Relax!)



Doesn’t the holiday season always come faster than you expected? The crowds. The in-laws. The never-ending cooking. It’s tough to keep up your stamina when it’s your turn to be the host. 

Here are ways to limit the stress and the scrambling so the holidays with family are really relaxing:
  1. Plan Ahead.  Can you prepare meals, or parts of them, ahead of time? Set the table in advance? Think about what your parents or older visitors might need: a portable toilet seat?  Are they on a special diet? Find out what movies are playing in your area, or if there are events they might like and get tickets. Going out may break up all the togetherness!
  2. Shop Early—and Often. A good grocery list and not waiting until the day before can limit your stress levels greatly.  This leaves you with time to send out the kids for any forgotten items but still have the essentials already in hand. 
  3.  Let others help. Most people feel good about being part of the process. Don’t be too proud to dole out assignments if family members “forget” to offer their services. Can someone pick up Mom at her place or an adult child at the train? Play to people’s strengths: does your aunt make a mean apple pie? Is your cousin good on the guitar? Have him bring it! Can someone take your dog for a long walk and tire her out before company comes? Or, give them a choice of a few things you need done and have them pick one. You do not want to burn out! When everyone contributes, it makes the holidays that much more special.
  4. Go To Sleep Already! With all the doings during the day, a good night’s sleep is crucial for limiting your stress levels.  Do something relaxing before bed. Rather than watch TV or be on your computer, how about listening to soft music or reading? 
  5. Lighten Your Mood With Exercise. Take a step back from the frenetic holiday regimen and go for a walk or hit the gym. Get those endorphins flowing! Taking a break can instantly lighten your mood and give you a fresh outlook on your holiday duties.
Even when the get together doesn’t play out exactly how you planned, let it go. Soak up the time with your family, the good laughs, and the memories you are making. Get real! All families have their issues. The holidays are unlikely to be absolutely perfect. If you want that, there’s always next year!