The “Questions to Ask Aging Parents” Checklist for the Holidays

happy-senior-lady-drinking-coffeeIt’s been quite some time since you’ve had the opportunity for a nice, long visit with Mom. Now that the holiday season is here, you will have some uninterrupted time to catch up. Of course, you’ll want to make the most of this time together, but it’s also the best time to evaluate how she is really doing, and if you can detect any changes in her health that perhaps have gone undiscovered through phone calls and FaceTime.

To help you think through areas of potential concern to evaluate, we’ve provided a list of questions to answer. Some of these questions you may wish to ask the senior directly, while others may be answered by observing the home environment and the senior herself.

Physical/Mental Health

  • Is she eating more or less than usual?
  • Has she gained or lost weight?
  • Is she having trouble falling or staying asleep?
  • Does she seem short of breath?
  • Do you notice any bruises or other injuries that could indicate a fall?
  • Does she seem happy and content?
  • Is she stumbling or holding onto furniture or the wall to get around?
  • Does the senior seem to be moving more slowly and cautiously?
  • Is she spending time with friends?
  • Is she actively engaged in enjoyable activities?

Cognitive Health

  • Are you noticing any unusual behaviors?
  • Is she misplacing items, only to find them in unexpected places, such as the car keys in the refrigerator?
  • Is she struggling to remember the names of familiar people or objects?
  • Is she repeating questions or statements in conversations?
  • Are there pieces of mail and bills that have not been opened?
  • Does the senior seem more forgetful or confused than usual?

Financial/Elder Abuse

  • Does the senior seem more timid or anxious than usual?
  • Does she suddenly have a new “friendship” with someone whose motives may be questionable?
  • Is she communicating with strangers online?
  • Has she cosigned for a loan for anyone?
  • Are there any changes in her banking activity?
  • Has she provided anyone with personal information over the phone or internet?

Home Maintenance

  • Is the yard maintained?
  • Is there clutter in the home that could pose a fall risk?
  • Are there any hazards you’re noticing, such as scorch marks on pans or the countertop that could indicate inattention to cooking?
  • Is the home cleaned to the senior’s typical standards?
  • Is the laundry clean and put away?
  • Are the bed linens being changed regularly?

If you are in any way concerned about a senior’s safety or wellbeing, regardless of how small, home care can help. Reach out to Generations at Home for more information.

A Guide to Preserving the Relationship While Caring for a Spouse

happy-affectionate-senior-couple

Caring for a chronically ill spouse can change routines and expectations, so good communication and support are essential.

If you are in a successful, long-lasting relationship, you recognize that it requires commitment, compromise, and sacrifice. The happiest relationships are the ones where both parties selflessly take care of each other. This balance shifts, however, if the person you love encounters a serious health concern. And this shift into the role of care provider can have a devastating effect on the dynamics of your relationship if you’re not careful.

Naturally, you want to do whatever you can to help when caring for a spouse. Nonetheless, it is important to ensure you’re not losing your romantic connection along the way. Trying to parent your spouse can cause resentment – for both of you. To keep healthy boundaries, keep the following at heart:

  • Enable your partner to remain as independent as possible. While you undoubtedly have the best of intentions in wanting to help, it is easy to cross the line into more of a parenting role, which can damage a person’s self-esteem. Plan extra time, incorporate adaptive tools, and step back whenever you can to permit him/her to do whatever they can on their own.
  • Convey your love for your partner in ways that have nothing in connection with the care you are providing. Write love letters, provide small, thoughtful gifts, tell the person just how much you admire specific qualities in them.
  • Have an open, honest conversation about how the health changes are affecting you. Brainstorm approaches to find a new normal that will be fulfilling for each of you, and realign new, attainable goals and dreams together.
  • Be deliberate in creating opportunities to focus on your relationship apart from the injury or illness. Continue to participate in the activities and conversations you enjoyed together before the health issue arose, adapting along the way if needed.

If all of this seems easier said than done, there are some specific steps you can take to make sure you’re maintaining appropriate boundaries in your role as caregiver for your partner:

  • Place some favorite memorabilia or photos from prior vacations you’ve taken together in areas where you’ll see them frequently, to remind each of you of the happy times you’ve shared together.
  • Offer hugs, hold hands, give a back rub or shoulder massage, etc. to stay in close physical contact apart from touch that is a required component of care.
  • Keep an active social network, both as a couple and individually. The activities you participate in with relatives and friends may need to be modified, but should never be eliminated altogether.
  • Focus on resolving any conflicts in a healthy way, bringing in a professional counselor for help if required.

An at-home caregiver is a perfect solution to make sure your partner has all the help and support needed, enabling you to focus on spending quality time together as a couple. Contact the care professionals at Generations at Home at 727-940-3414 to learn more about our respite care in Clearwater and the surrounding areas.

How to Take a Break from Caregiving (And Why You Need to)

break from caregiving“You can make it, but it’s easier if you don’t have to do it alone.” – Betty Ford

We all know that no individual can function as an island, something that especially holds true when caring for a parent with dementia. Yet many family caregivers stumble when it comes to asking for or accepting the help they need. As a result, stress is intensified as there’s little, if any, time for self-care – a necessity for anyone in a caregiving role.

Why are we frequently so determined to address such an extraordinary undertaking independently? The following are several common reasons for this behavior and some insight on why we must rethink:

  1. It is too complicated to try and find a caregiver I am able to trust. At Generations At Home, we background check and fully train all of our caregivers, ensuring key character traits such as flexibility, reliability, kindness, and more. Generations At Home is bonded and insured for your additional peace of mind. We also artfully match each client with the ideal caregiver who will be most compatible. Additionally, if a primary caregiver is on vacation or ill, we are equipped to provide an equally qualified replacement caregiver.
  2. Mom would never want someone else caring for her. Many of us would resist if we were told that someone was coming over to give us a bath; that is a very common sentiment. But having someone come and assist with housework and meals is a good approach to introducing a new caregiver, working your way up to additional necessary services after the caregiver becomes a trusted friend and accepted. The wording you utilize will make a big difference as well. Having a “salon day” sounds significantly more inviting, for example.
  3. I’m doing just fine on my own; I don’t need a break. Simply put, science disagrees! A research study shared in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry revealed that a particular stress hormone was depleted in caregivers whose stress was prolonged and chronic – such as in providing dementia care independently – while those who engaged just 2 days each week of respite care realized an increase in the hormone, as well as a brighter outlook and elevated mood.
  4. No one else could care for Mom like I do. While you are most certainly not replaceable, the objective of enlisting help is certainly not replacement, but respite. A loved one with dementia will benefit from the socialization provided by someone besides yourself, while you gain the benefit of a much-needed break – ultimately allowing you to provide better care to the senior when you return.

If you would like to explore in-home respite care for a person you love with Alzheimer’ or other chronic conditions, reach out to Generations At Home to begin the discussion. Our fully trained, experienced, and compassionate caregivers are here to help you reduce stress, improve life for an older adult you love, and provide you with the opportunity to take a brief break from caregiving. Call us at 727-940-3414 to learn more about options for respite care in Largo, St. Petersburg, and surrounding areas!

Effective Strategies to Advocate for Aging Parents

Advocate for Aging ParentsTrusting someone you love to be cared for by someone else is never easy, especially for a senior family member. Whether at home or in a facility, you’ll have questions that need to be answered. You’ll also want to be prepared to advocate for your loved one to proactively manage any potential problems and also to immediately resolve issues that come up.

For example, review the following common situations and how to most effectively advocate for aging parents and loved ones:

  • You live far away. Thanks to technology, it is easier than ever to stay close to a long-distance relative and to keep a finger on the pulse of how things are going. Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype with the senior regularly to check in. If a family portal is available for the care provider and family members to share notes and comments, make the most of this communication tool. And in case you are unable to visit in person, ask a friend or other member of the family who lives close by to drop in routinely.
  • Your loved one has dementia. A loved one with dementia might not be able to effectively communicate their wishes and needs. For example, a new caregiver may not realize that Dad wears inserts in his shoes and she may put his shoes on each morning without them. Dad may not know how to express this need or could have forgotten about this need and start to become uncomfortable that day. Or he might act out because he is experiencing related discomfort, which may result in other issues. As the older adult’s voice, make certain to share even the seemingly small details about the person’s preferences with the care provider to ensure transitions are a smooth experience for all.
  • You’re concerned about challenging behaviors. In the event the older adult is susceptible to wandering, aggression, angry outbursts, hoarding, or any one of a variety of other difficult behaviors, you might feel embarrassed or ashamed. Though some may prefer not to discuss the issue, it is better to share this openly with the care provider. More likely than not, they have knowledge about effectively working with an array of personalities and personal nuances, and will be able to incorporate strategies that will work most effectively together with your loved one.

Generations at Home partners with families, working together to ensure the highest quality of care and independent living for seniors, through customized services such as:

  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Companionship for enjoyable activities and conversations
  • Running errands
  • Light housekeeping and laundry
  • Personal care for safe baths/showers, getting dressed, etc.
  • Transportation and accompaniment
  • And much more

Contact us at 727-940-3414 for a complimentary in-home consultation and learn more about options for senior care in St. Petersburg and surrounding areas. Please allow us to get to know one another and to develop a care plan to best meet the needs of a senior you love.

What to Do When Guardianship of an Elderly Parent Is Needed

Family caregiver helping elderly loved one with paperwork

In a perfect world, our family interactions would all be helpful and positive. We would handle transitional times cooperatively, smoothly, and without any disagreement. As our parents grew older, it would be a seamless process to meet their needs today and as they change in the future.

The reality, however, is that being an adult child to aging parents can be tumultuous. It’s not easy to discern when to step in and help, and when to step back so as not to step on your parents’ toes. And, there may be times when your efforts to help are met with resistance – even though you know that help is needed for their safety and protection.

A good first step is to ensure the senior parent has designated both a power of attorney and medical power of attorney. The person or persons entrusted with these roles will have the authority to make financial and health-related decisions on behalf of the senior if he or she were to become unable to do so.

However, even if you are the designated power of attorney/medical power of attorney for a senior parent, you may want to consider going a step further and petitioning for guardianship. This is worth exploring if:

  • The senior’s home or other property needs to be sold
  • Medical intervention is necessary
  • Dementia or other cognitive function limitations are impacting the person’s decision-making ability

There is also the option for limited guardianship, if the senior is capable of maintaining control in some aspects of life, while other areas are compromised.

How to File for Guardianship

  1. First, schedule an appointment with the senior’s doctor, who will need to determine if guardianship is necessary and complete a form attesting to the senior’s physical and mental functioning.
  2. You can then file for guardianship at a probate court. The court will run a criminal background check, assess your financial responsibilities, and investigate whether there are any conflicts of interest.
  3. You are then legally bound to notify both the senior and family members (as outlined in the estate code) of your intent to obtain guardianship.
  4. Finally, the court will appoint an attorney to represent the senior, and a decision will be made to determine what is in his/her best interest.

At Generations at Home, we’re here to help ensure all of the needs of your aging parents are met. Contact us to find out more.

Caregiver Anger: The Emotion You May Not Have Expected

If you were to list the top five emotions you experience in meeting the care needs of your aging parents, what would they be? Maybe you would first think of emotions like compassion, love, and sometimes, even frustration or stress. Would anger make the list? In many cases, though family care providers would not wish to disclose it, the answer is a resounding YES. Caregiver anger is common for many family caregivers.

The truth is that a large number of adult children grapple with the fact that their parents are growing older. Growing up, our parents might have exuded strength, health, and control, giving us an underlying impression that they would always be there for us. Watching a decline in their health shatters that idea, which may leave us feeling disillusioned, let down, fearful, anxious, and yes – angry.

As the tables turn and aging parents become the ones in need of care, family dynamics can become complicated. And the negative stereotype within our culture towards aging informs us that growing older is something we need to resist or deny – something that can have an effect on how both aging adults and their adult children handle age-related decline.

Add to that the compounded stress experienced by people who are part of the sandwich generation – taking care of children at home and aging parents simultaneously. Nearly one in three adults with senior parents believe their parents require some amount of care along with emotional support.

So, how might you shift to a more positive mindset?

The most crucial step is coming to a place of acceptance. Laura Cartensen, Stanford University psychology professor and director of the Center on Longevity, explains, “The issue is less about avoiding the inevitable and more about living satisfying lives with limitations. Accepting aging and mortality can be liberating.”

Honest, open communication is also important. Family caretakers and their parents should express their thoughts about what is working well in the relationship, and what needs to be altered. Sometimes just learning the other person’s perspective makes all the difference. For instance, a senior parent may exhibit irritation with being reminded to put on his/her glasses. An appropriate response might be to clarify the reason for the reminders – because of a concern that the parent may fall, for example. A compromise can then be reached.

Focusing on the quality time your caregiving role gives you with your senior parents, while balancing your parents’ needs with your own, is key. Among the best ways to achieve this is by selecting a dependable care partner to help. Connect with Generations at Home at 727-940-3414 to learn more.

The One Phrase to Avoid When Caring for Elderly Parents

daughter talking to elderly parentAs our parents age, it’s not necessarily simple to know exactly what our role as adult children must be. We’d like what is best for them, but if we’re not cautious, we’ll overstep our boundaries and find ourselves attempting to parent our parents.

This is also true when safety is a concern. There’s a thin line to walk between ensuring senior parents are safe, and supporting the independence they want and deserve. All things considered, it was not all that long ago when our parents were meeting not merely all their own needs, but ours as well. The change from care provider to care recipient can be frustrating and painful for seniors.

With this thought, there are a number of elements of independent life that a senior may now be lacking. And if we aren’t careful in how we approach these losses, it may lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and fractured relationships.

For example, one part of senior independence that’s often jeopardized is in others stepping in to take over tasks that could now be a little more challenging and take a bit longer for an aging adult to perform. Even though intentions are certainly good, it is actually bad for a senior’s self-worth and self-esteem. A much better approach would be to allow extra time, and to only offer assistance when truly necessary.

Yet one of the greatest indicators of freedom is the ability to drive, to go wherever and whenever we please. When driving is no longer safe for an older adult, it’s essential to approach the topic with tact and empathy. Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez explains that too often, adult children lose patience with their older parents, resulting in hurtful comments that may be truly traumatic.

He recommends avoiding phrases such as, “You’re not allowed to drive anymore!” It is much kinder and more effective to give elderly advice with choices, and to engage them in brainstorming a potential alternative. An example of this could be, “I’m sure it’s getting much harder to be able to see clearly now, which must make it challenging to drive. Let’s talk about some options that will allow you to go wherever you want safely.”

Together, then you can come up with an idea that’s agreeable to everyone. When it comes to choices, take into account that Generations at Home’s caregivers are available any time, day or night, to provide safe transportation and accompaniment for seniors. Our services are available in accordance with each senior’s wishes and timeframe, whether that involves a weekly lunch date with a friend, medical or salon appointments, attending religious services, or simply a Sunday afternoon drive to get out of the house and relish the scenery. Call us at 727-940-3414 for details.

Tips to Help Overcome Family Caregiver Dread

caregiver in deep thoughtWhat are your first thoughts as soon as you wake up each morning? Are you looking forward to what the day holds, or would you like to crawl back underneath the covers and stay there? If you are feeling more dread than delight as you think through your family caregiver responsibilities for the day, you’re not the only one.

Distinctly different from anxiety, depression, or even burnout, caregiver dread is an exhausted, heavy feeling of obligation. It stems from feelings of overcommitment as well as the need to escape from obligations. While possible to push through and carry out necessary tasks in spite of these feelings, there are methods to conquer them instead – and regain the joy that comes from making life better for someone you love. For starters, try these techniques:

  • Release the guilt. Meeting the caregiving needs of someone can feel unimpactful, mundane, and simply downright tough. It takes selflessness, which can feel burdening. Yet dreading the daily tasks you’re requested to do by no means reflects the way you feel about your senior loved one. Acknowledge to yourself that your role is not easy, and it’s okay to wish you could be doing something different.
  • Intentionally search for joy. The tiny pleasures each day holds may be diminished by the difficulties. Make the effort every morning to identify five small things that make you smile. Keep a journal of each day’s finds and refer back to it at the end of each week. Engage all of your senses while you seek out the day’s joys: the smell of freshly baked cookies; the beauty of the sunset; the sound of your cat purring; the invigorating feeling of a hot shower.
  • Set boundaries. Designate time every day to spend on pursuits that you enjoy independent of the senior in your care. Plan and look forward to this time when your caregiving tasks start to weigh you down. A dependable care partner is vital to make sure nothing interferes with the important time of taking care of yourself.

Remind yourself that the work you’re doing in caring for your loved one is vitally important. Yet also keep in mind that nobody can do it all, and in order to provide the most effective care for the senior and for yourself, frequent breaks from care tasks are needed.

Connect with Generations at Home’s aging care experts at 727-940-3414 to arrange for regular Pinellas Park respite care services and release the burden of caregiving dread. We’re here for as much or as little assistance as you need to help you enjoy quality time along with an aging loved one and also to rediscover joy in your own life as well. Reach out to us today to find out if our expert respite care services are available in your community.

Balancing Family Caregiving and Work Responsibilities Post-Pandemic

family caregiving while working on laptop at the dining table and sons having lunchIf there is one particular positive after-effect of the pandemic, it’s the attention generated for family caregiving. Managing work and home life has long been a tremendous challenge for anyone caring for a senior relative. As Lindsay Jurist-Rosner, CEO of Wellthy, explains, “Caregiving went from a silent struggle to being in the spotlight overnight.”

Employers were unexpectedly placed into the fire of navigating an environment of balancing the safety of staff with the necessity to uphold productivity. Here’s what we discovered – and what we can expect for the future:

  • More telecommuting. People who began working from home over the last year have, in many cases, proven their ability to be more productive. As a result, it’s predicted that nearly 25 – 30% of the workforce within the United States will continue telecommuting at least several days weekly this year.
  • Lower stress. Doing away with the daily commute opens up additional time for self-care for family caregivers, while boosting peace of mind. This is particularly true for individuals who relied on public transportation and were concerned about compromised health safety. To help boost mental health, many employers are providing subscriptions to meditation and mindfulness applications.
  • A corporate culture of caring. Working from home has exposed the personal components of our lives to employers. Zoom meetings share our living spaces with each other, including the appearance of children, pets, and other family members. Because of this, the workplace has become more humanized, resulting in a more empathetic working environment.
  • Emphasis on mental wellness. Along those lines, there’s also now increased understanding of the need for tending to our mental wellness. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed that nearly 45% of adults experienced negative mental health effects as a consequence of the pandemic – and an even greater percentage in people who serve as family caregivers for older family members. Many employers have started implementing strategies to care for the mental health of their employees, such as offering virtual trips and adventures to give the opportunity to escape and relax.

Let Generations at Home further help cultivate an improved work-life balance with our trusted respite and senior care services in St. Petersburg and the surrounding communities. Regular, ongoing respite care is key to the overall wellness of family caregivers. Our skilled and compassionate home healthcare team is on hand to help with anything from just a couple hours every week up to and including around-the clock care. Give us a call at 727-940-3414 to ask about a no cost in-home consultation to get started.

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.