Tips for Family Caregivers: Three Benefits of Family Therapy

With a serious look on her face, the teen girl looks at her grandmother during group therapy.There are certain milestones we might encounter in our lives that, while not fundamentally negative, are known stressors. Losing a job. Starting a new job. Getting married. Getting divorced. And one that individuals in the home care industry are particularly mindful of: the mental and physical impact on family members who are caring for aging parents.

A number of conflicting emotions crop up for people in the role of family caregiver, and these are increased when trying to share commitments with siblings or other members of the family. There are past resentments and hurts that may resurface, disputes pertaining to decision-making, in addition to the stress of trying to navigate what feels like a role reversal with a parent who once took care of us.

For these reasons and more, family counseling tends to be a great addition to a family caregiver’s toolbox to ensure the absolute best possible care for aging parents, as well as his/her own physical and mental wellbeing. Listed below are just a few benefits of family therapy as parents age:

  • It provides care for the caregiver. Agreeing to the role of family care provider may be daunting in and of itself, but factor in additional responsibilities, for example, managing a home and caring for children while maintaining a career, and you’ve got a recipe for stress. Family therapy helps caregivers work through challenging emotions and reach resolutions.
  • It offers support through grief. Grief comes in many forms, and quite often begins in the early stages of being a caregiver for aging parents, as family members work through the inherent changes happening now and also to come. When an elderly parent is identified as having Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia, the decrease in cognitive functioning results in yet another degree of grief. A family counselor can assist all members of the family to work through their grief together.
  • It helps the family as a unit. A family therapist is focused on achieving what is most beneficial for the whole family as well as its cohesiveness, through challenges for example, issues connected to inheritance and other financial considerations, medical decisions, and any challenging family dynamics.

If in-person counseling sessions for your family are not practical because of geographic restraints, continued COVID-19 distancing concerns, or any other reason, phone or Zoom sessions can be every bit as beneficial. One of the keys is for involvement to be a top priority for all family members involved, and to make therapy sessions a consistent, routine obligation.

If you need a partner to provide trusted respite care services while you devote the time necessary for family therapy, call us at 727-940-3414. With both a reliable family therapist in addition to the aging care professionals at Generations at Home on your side, your family can deal with caregiving obstacles and enjoy high quality time together.

Long Distance Caregiving Tips: Assessing an Aging Parent’s Mental Health

Senior couple on a video calling using a digital tablet at homeThe isolation and fear caused by COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of older adults, with nearly half of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their amount of stress and worry was negatively impacting their health. And while it still may be unsafe to visit in person with older adults, it’s crucial to stay in regular and frequent contact, and to watch out for any changes or signs which might indicate a mental health concern.

As stated by psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”

Other symptoms and signs of depression to watch for include sleeping issues, reduced appetite, sluggishness, and complaints about pain, which interestingly, can often be one of the key symptoms of depression in older adults. Take note of anything that is out of normal for a senior’s personality and character.

It is crucial to understand that depression is not just an unavoidable element of growing older, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.

Here are a few further guidelines to help thoroughly assess an older adult’s mental health:

  • Make sure the conversation is natural and organic, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what has been happening in your life this week,” will motivate a senior to open up a lot more than, “Tell me what your doctor mentioned at your last scheduled appointment.” The goal is to be caring however, not condescending, being careful never to try to parent your mother and father.
  • While talking with and seeing the grandchildren on Zoom is an easy way to boost a senior’s mood, make sure to plan for some one-on-one time to talk, sans children.
  • Take notice of what is going on in the background of your video chats for any additional clues, such as whether or not the home looks clean and well maintained, including personal hygiene – unkempt, disheveled hair, for example.
  • Take into consideration whether substance abuse might be a factor. An increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is happening in individuals of all ages, and can be very harmful if there are potential interactions with medications a senior loved one is taking.

If you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in your senior loved one, be sure to get in touch with the doctor right away. Because you are most familiar with the senior, you may be in a position to pick up on signs that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s vital to help make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, connect with the St. Petersburg home care experts, Generations at Home, for additional assistance. We’re able to serve as your eyes and ears when you are unable to be there in person, and offer a wide selection of customized services to boost socialization and quality of life at home. Reach out to us at 727-940-3414 to find out more.

Advice for Becoming a Caregiver for a Family Member

elderly lady having tea with her daughterIt may have come totally without warning: an unexpected fall that led to a fractured hip and the requirement for Dad to have assistance to stay at home. Or, it may have been building up over the years, such as through the slow and incremental progression of Alzheimer’s disease. No matter the circumstances, you have now found yourself becoming a caregiver for a family member, and maybe are wondering what exactly that means and how to navigate these uncharted waters.

First of all, take a deep breath, and a moment to appreciate the selflessness of your decision. Caregiving is an incredibly rewarding undertaking, yet not without its struggles. A bit of proactive planning will go a long way towards an easier transition to care, both for yourself and your loved one. A great starting point is to consider the way you would both like each day to look and to make a simple timeline to record the daily activities and tasks that will need your attention. For instance:

  • 7 a.m.: Help Dad get out of bed, showered, dressed, and ready for the day
  • 8 a.m.: Make breakfast and tidy up
  • 9 a.m.: Take Dad to exercise class and/or physical therapy
  • 11 a.m.: Run errands with (or for) Dad
  • 1 p.m.: Prepare lunch and clean up
  • 2 p.m.: Help Dad get settled set for afternoon activities: a film, reading, puzzles, nap, participating in a well-loved hobby or pastime, etc.
  • 6 p.m.: Make dinner and clean up
  • 8 p.m.: Help Dad with bedtime tasks – a bath, changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, etc.
  • 10 p.m.: Help Dad get into bed

Your list will be different for each day, of course, but this offers a helpful overview to let you know when you could have just a little downtime to yourself, and when you will need to provide hands-on help.

This is also an appropriate time to establish boundaries together – and also to pledge to adhere to them. Again, these will be different for each person as well as on different days, but decide what is essential to each of you: having a specified time every day for self-care and personal time, when family and friends may come to visit, whether or not you want to maintain a job outside of the home, etc.

Recognize that Generations at Home is always here to help while you adjust to your caregiving role with the respite care needed to make certain you are able to take care of yourself, as well – something which is extremely important to both you and the senior in your care. Reach out to us at 727-940-3414 for more information about our senior care in St. Petersburg and other nearby areas in Florida.

How to Free Yourself of Caregiver Guilt

woman on beach in windFamily care providers give a great deal of themselves to take care of their loved ones, frequently surrendering their own desires and needs in the process. It may seem natural to assume then that caregivers would feel good about themselves, with high self-esteem and sense of purpose.

However, the opposite is oftentimes true, with many family care providers struggling with feelings of guilt, wishing they had more patience, a remedy for all of their loved ones’ issues, or the power to do everything on their own without the need for assistance. They may have set unrealistic and unattainable standards, which may lead to:

  • Bitterness
  • Feeling trapped
  • Not feeling good enough
  • Wanting to get away
  • Loss of joy in life
  • Elevated stress
  • Missing out on high quality time together with loved ones
  • And much more

If you’re encountering feelings of caregiver guilt, taking these steps can be extremely freeing:

  1. Admit your feelings of guilt as well as the particular cause of it; for instance, “I feel guilty because I became impatient with Mom’s repeated questions.”
  2. Keep a reasonable perspective, knowing that all family caregivers are encountering challenges. We’re all human.
  3. Replace your internal “should have” dialogues with a more favorable slant: “It is challenging to answer the same questions again and again, and I’m doing the very best that I am able to.”
  4. Switch your focus to a positive achievement. Remind yourself of the joke you told that made Mom smile this morning, or how much she enjoyed the dinner you prepared.
  5. Be sure to put aside enough time for calming, enjoyable and gratifying activities: engaging in favorite hobbies and pastimes, journaling, spending time with family, friends and pets, etc.
  6. Adhere to a healthy lifestyle which includes healthy eating, striving for 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night, exercising, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption.
  7. Find a support partner. To be the best family caregiver you can be requires routine, regular breaks from care assistance to take care of yourself.

Call Generations at Home at 727-940-3414 for trusted respite care which enables family caregivers time to destress and unwind, an essential element of effective senior care. We’re available based on your desired schedule and routine, with as little or as much ongoing support as needed, up through around-the-clock care. Keep in mind that taking the best care of yourself allows you to provide the best care assistance for the older adult you love, and we are always available to help!

How to Respond When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Has Loss of Inhibitions

caregiver comforting senior womanAwkwardness. Discomfort. Disbelief. Shame. Most of these feelings can cycle through a family caregiver’s heart when your family member with Alzheimer’s disease displays disinhibited behaviors, such as:

  • Rude or tactless comments
  • Unacceptable sexual advances or remarks
  • Removal of clothes at improper times
  • And other socially unacceptable actions

The complex changes that occur to the brain in dementia can result in a complete turnaround in an older adult’s personality and behaviors, such as a formerly genteel grandmother suddenly cursing like a sailor. For somebody who is uncomfortable, disoriented, confused, or has simply forgotten social skills and graces, these behaviors are actually quite common; therefore, it’s important to figure out how to best manage them if and when they develop in someone you love.

Generations at Home’s dementia care experts highly recommend trying the following tactics when a loved one with Alzheimer’s has loss of inhibitions:

  • See if there is a solvable problem evoking the behaviors, such as a physical illness, medication complications, the need to utilize the rest room, environment-induced anxiety, etc.
  • Remind yourself that the Alzheimer’s disease is to blame, and respond gently and patiently, without overreacting or lashing out in anger.
  • Help the older adult remain involved in appropriate activities based on his or her individual interests. If the senior becomes agitated with a particular activity, change to something different, or relocate to another room in your house or outdoors whenever possible.
  • Pay attention to clothing choices, if removing clothes at inappropriate times is an issue. If the senior has been wearing pants without zippers for ease and comfort, you might switch to something a little bit more difficult to remove when out in public, for example.
  • Be sure that all the individual’s physical needs are met to circumvent problematic behaviors. Maintain a comfortable temperature in your home, keep numerous healthy snacks and drinks handy, and support regular physical activity and movement.
  • Provide appropriate physical contact often in the form of hugs, holding the person’s hand, or rubbing his/her back, when welcomed by the senior, communicating reassurance to alleviate anxiety.

It’s also beneficial to ensure you have enough time for regular breaks to tend to your personal self-care needs and ease the stress that is commonly inherent in caring for a cherished older adult with Alzheimer’s disease. Generations at Home’s caregivers are highly trained and experienced in effective, compassionate dementia care, and are here for you with as much or as little respite care as necessary. Call us at 727-940-3414 for additional helpful resources and to schedule a free in-home consultation for more information about how we can assist throughout the St. Petersburg, FL area.

How to Handle False Accusations When Caring for Someone with Dementia

caregiver consoling senior womanIt may come seemingly out of thin air: you put your loved one’s favorite tuna sandwich in front of her – light on the mayo, no onions – something which usually brings her enjoyment. But today, she forces the plate away and refuses to take a bite, insisting that you’ve poisoned the sandwich.

Or, you’ve presented your loved one with a meaningful activity that links her to a significant time in her past career, organizing paperwork. Out of the blue, she accuses you of meddling with the documents in order to steal funds from her banking account.

How can you most successfully diffuse situations such as these, which are resulting from the delusions or hallucinations which can be so frequent in dementia?

  1. Maintain a controlled, gentle, understanding tone. It may be instinctive to become defensive and argue, but recommended replies may include something such as, “I realize that you are feeling frightened, but I won’t let anything bad happen to you. Let’s enjoy this sandwich together,” or, “Oh no, have you lost some money? Your bank is not open at this time, but let’s go there right away tomorrow and get it straightened out.”
  2. Move into a welcomed diversion. After sharing in the older adult’s concern, transition into a pleasurable topic or activity that your loved one enjoys, or move to another area. With regards to the suspected food poisoning, you can engage the senior in going into the kitchen and helping her make a fresh sandwich. If you’ve assured the person that you’ll visit the bank together tomorrow, a walk outside to view the flowers and birds, or playing some favorite music, could help.
  3. Never argue or try to reason. These approaches very often increase agitation in someone with Alzheimer’s. It could take some trial and error to develop the approach that works best, and that approach may have to change from one day to the next. The aim is to stay calm, patient, and empathetic, validating the older adult’s feelings and supplying comfort.

Generations at Home’s care professionals are fully trained and experienced in effective, creative Alzheimer’s care techniques, and can help with managing difficult behaviors and situations, enabling a senior loved one to enjoy a greater quality of life, and providing family caregivers with peace of mind and relief. Call us today at 727-940-3414 to learn more or to request some additional resources which will help you better care for a loved one with dementia.

How to Handle Aging Parents Who Expect Too Much

senior woman looks disparagingly at the cameraIn an ideal world, we could perfectly compartmentalize our caregiving duties, sticking to a routine that met the needs of a loved one, while enabling enough time necessary to handle our myriad of other responsibilities. But of course, life does not adhere to our desired script, and conflicting needs are common when caring for an older adult. Many seniors balk at the need for help, while others can come to rely too greatly on an adult child, leading to unfulfilled expectations and ultimately disappointment for both parties.

Generations at Home’s senior care experts provide the following tips to help explain objectives and communicate effectively:

  • Focus on empathy. Rather than drawing away from a senior loved one whose expectations seem unreasonable, pause and empathize. Think through the problems your senior loved one is facing, and how it would feel to be in his or her shoes. Then voice your genuine concern and desire to help.
  • Permit each other to be heard. Initiate a dialogue with your loved one, encouraging her or him to talk about how it feels to be in need of care, and what type of care is necessary. Determine what the senior’s expectations are, and then share your own expectations and limitations in being able to fully meet his or her needs.
  • Compromise to arrive at a solution. Finding a resolution that works well for both of you might be easier than you think. For example, if the senior expects assistance with transportation in accordance with a particular schedule several times a week, perhaps you can provide that assistance one day, while recruiting assistance from others to cover additional days. This allows for improved socialization for the older adult as well as the healthy life balance you need.

Generations at Home is available to partner with family caregivers with highly skilled, carefully matched care experts who are passionate about making life the very best it can be for older adults. Working together with Generations at Home enables adult children to ensure their aging parents are well taken care of all of the time, whether by filling in with respite care where needed, through around-the-clock live-in care, or a variety of solutions in between. Just some of the countless ways we can help include:

  • Safe, accompanied transportation
  • Running errands
  • Planning and preparing nutritious meals
  • Keeping the house clean and neat
  • Offering friendly companionship to brighten each day
  • Creative and highly specialized care for individuals diagnosed with dementia
  • And so much more

Contact us online or call us at 727-940-3414 to discuss the challenges you are facing, and to let us share more about how we can help.

Top Tips for Managing Stress for Caregivers

senior man relaxing and listening to headphonesStress is inevitable, and actually, not necessarily always a bad thing. After all, as the saying goes, “A diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well.” Yet especially when managing stress for family caregivers, it can quickly escalate and become overwhelming, and if not managed effectively, lead to serious health concerns.

Try these tips to minimize stress and achieve a healthier and more relaxed lifestyle – both for yourself and those you love:

  • Change your self-talk. Throughout the course of your day, you may find yourself entertaining thoughts such as, “I can’t do this!” or “Everything is going wrong!” Pause when negative thinking begins to intrude, and say to yourself instead, “I can handle this, one step at a time,” or “Help is available to me whenever I need it.”
  • Take a break. Deescalate stress through any or all of the following techniques:
    • Breathe deeply (inhale to a count of 4; hold for a count of 4; exhale to a count of 4; hold for a count of 4; repeat as needed)
    • Take a walk or engage in some other physical activity
    • Pray or meditate
    • Play favorite music
    • Write in a journal
    • Call a friend
  • Try a stress-busting activity. There are a variety of enjoyable activities that can distract your focus away from whatever was causing stress and onto something more positive, such as creating art, reading, playing with pets or children, working in the garden or on a DIY project – the ideas are limitless, and even as little as 10 or 15 minutes spent on the activity can help.

There are even apps specifically created with family caregivers in mind to help reduce stress and restore calm. Find five that are especially helpful here from DailyCaring.

Caregiver stress is particularly common for those who feel as though they have no support system, and have to manage everything independently. Thankfully, we have a solution! Call Generations at Home for a free in-home consultation to learn how we can share in your caregiving duties, allowing you the necessary time away to destress, with services such as:

  • Planning and preparing nutritious meals
  • Assistance with personal care and hygiene
  • Taking care of housekeeping chores and laundry
  • Running errands, such as grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions
  • Accompaniment to medical appointments and enjoyable outings
  • Companionship to brighten each day with stimulating conversations, games, puzzles, hobbies, etc.
  • Medication reminders
  • And so much more

Contact us online or call us at 727-940-3414 and discover how a partner in care can make a world of difference in reducing caregiver stress and restoring a healthy life balance.

How to Weather the Storm as a Family Caregiver in a Time of Crisis

happy senior woman making a heart shape with her handsTimes of crises can bring out both the best and the worst in us. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve heard stories of people hoarding products and selling them to make an outrageous profit, along with stories of heroes who selflessly met the needs of others in spite of their own fears.

The key to weathering the storms that are bound to come up in our lives in a healthy way is resiliency. Mia Bartoletti, clinical psychologist for the Navy SEAL Foundation, works with families of those serving in the military, and offers suggestions that can help build resilience through any time of crisis.

  1. Communicate your reactions. It’s normal to experience a range of responses to a crisis: flashbacks to other difficult situations, dreams and nightmares, avoidance and withdrawal, difficulty sleeping, irritability, problems with concentration and focus, and hypervigilance. What’s important is to ensure these responses are short-term, and don’t progress into longer-term psychological problems. Acknowledge your feelings, and share them with a trusted confidante, or write them in a journal.
  2. Maintain social connections. While your instinct may be to pull away from friends and family during a crisis, staying in touch on a regular basis with those you care about is crucial. Finding a support group, whether in person or online, is another great way to ensure you’re forming and maintaining social ties, allowing you to talk with others in similar circumstances.
  3. Take time for self-care. This means something different to each individual, but should include relaxing activities, engaging hobbies and interests, healthy meals, plenty of sleep, and physical activity. If you find it hard to carve out time for yourself due to caregiving duties, Generations at Home is always here to partner with you to provide trusted respite care. Taking care of yourself enables you to take better care of those you love.
  4. Realize what you can control – and what you cannot. Letting go of what is out of your control and focusing instead on what you CAN control is one of the foundations of resilience. Psychologist Mary Alvord, who founded Resilience Across Borders, explains, “Depression is hopelessness and helplessness, and so resilience is the opposite. No, you’re not helpless; you do have control over many aspects of your life.”

It’s always a good idea to seek professional counseling when your reactions to stressful situations are impeding your ability to maintain a sense of calm and to tend to the necessary daily activities of living. And, watch for signs that elderly loved ones are experiencing undue levels of stress so that you can obtain the help that they need as well.

Know that whatever life may bring, you can count on Generations at Home to walk beside you with dependable, professional aging care services that empower seniors to remain resilient and independent. Call us at 727-940-3414 to learn more.

A New Disease That Mimics Alzheimer’s: LATE

An individual who exhibits memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, repetition, and challenges with performing daily activities has the telltale symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, right? As a matter of fact, what seems to be an obvious case of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a recently discovered dementia.

Known as LATE, or limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, this condition presents with almost the same symptoms, but the root cause is another story. Rather than the buildup of amyloid plaques and tangles inherent in Alzheimer’s, LATE is distinguished by deposits of TDP-43 protein, as reported by Dr. Julie Schneider, associate director for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

And TDP-43 protein troubles are in fact quite common in elderly people, with as many as one out of four older people over age 85 affected enough to cause obvious cognitive and/or memory problems. Nevertheless, it remains an under-diagnosed condition, which could lead to misdiagnoses, and consequently, inappropriate treatment plans.

The most up-to-date recommendations call for those who have been diagnosed with LATE to be removed from Alzheimer’s medication research, focusing research alternatively on establishing biomarkers to better detect LATE, to locate therapeutic intervention methods, and to increase testing to include a broader array of diverse populations, in an effort to increase both prevention and treatment.

Understanding the differences between both types of dementia is paramount to the best treatment, and per Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, “This evidence may also go some way to help us understand why some recent clinical trials testing for Alzheimer’s disease have failed – participants may have had slightly different brain diseases.”

Key aspects of LATE include:

  • Generally affecting older adults over age 80
  • A slower progression than Alzheimer’s
  • Typically only affects memory
  • May be accompanied by Alzheimer’s disease, which leads to a far more rapid decline

Whether Alzheimer’s disease, LATE, or some other form of dementia, Generations at Home offers the highly customized, skilled and creative caregiving that can help seniors live the highest possible quality of life where it is most comfortable: at home. Our care aides are thoroughly trained and experienced in helping those with dementia, along with helping family caregivers, to more fully manage the varying challenges experienced in each stage.

Call us any time at 727-940-3414 to inquire about further dementia care resources, find answers to the questions you have, or to schedule an in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help a family member you love with dementia.