Caring for Ailing Parents

portrait of asian father and son.

Parents care for children, and then children grow up to become parents and care for their own children.  That’s the natural order of things—except when it isn’t.

Sometimes parents cannot care well for themselves, and need others to help. This is when children, purely out of love and concern, often begin to care for a parent.  Sometimes the caregiving journey is short-lived, because the need for care is temporary—such as when a parent has surgery or goes through treatment to regain health.  Sometimes it’s a long journey because the parent has a chronic illness such as dementia, or the after-effects of a stroke. When a child cares for an ailing parent, how is the parent/child relationship affected, and what can the child do to make the journey easier?

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8 Unselfish Ways to Put Yourself First

Our CaregiverU Program Director, Faith Unger, has a great mantra: “Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint.”  All too often, caregivers are thrust into the role of taking care of a family member, with little warning and no training.

Wright at receptionAccording to the American Psychological Association, it is estimated that informal caregivers – typically spouses or adult children – provide 80 percent of the long-term care in the case of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  Their 2003 study found that caregivers had a 23 percent higher level of stress hormones and a 15 percent lower level of antibody responses than non-caregivers.

Caregiving also takes a psychological toll. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, the roughly one out of four caregivers who care for a family member for at least 36 hours a week – basically making it a full-time job – are more likely to show signs of depression or anxiety.  Relative to peers who don’t provide on-going care, spouses can be depressed or anxious six times more often; adult children suffer these problems twice as often.

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May Is Older Americans Month

May Is Older Americans Month

prom_luluThe month of May represents national “Older Americans Month,” when communities across the country recognize older Americans for their contributions and demonstrate the nation’s commitment to helping them stay healthy and active.

This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, communities are focusing on how older adults are taking charge of their health, engaging in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.  President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law in July 1965. Since that time, the Act has provided a nationwide aging services network and funding that helps older adults live with dignity in the communities of their choice for as long as possible.

While AGE of Central Texas provides programs, education, and resources to older adults and their caregivers year-round, Older Americans Month offers an opportunity to emphasize how senior adults can access the home- and community-based services they need to live independently.  We are honored to be a part of the live of the older adults and family caregivers of this community, and to join them on their journey.

Thumbing Your Way to Health

large_article_im1466_Top_5_high-tech_health_trends_to_watch_in_2014What is better than learning how to use a smartphone for the first time?

How about learning to make your mind and body healthier with your device? How about taking a class from your peers? Then catching up with them over a cup of coffee after class?

The marriage between health and technology is becoming stronger every day. With the upcoming reign of wearable tech, the relationship between our digital devices and our bodies will grow. The AGE Computer Lab is here to help our community navigate it.  Continue reading

Does a license make a difference?

How does someone go about deciding if an Adult Day Care center (ADC) is a good fit for a loved one? There are many factors, but one important consideration is the question of licensing.

We understand that it’s not easy to entrust a loved one’s well-being to strangers. That is why licensing is important to AGE of Central Texas– we want to do everything we can to reassure family caregivers that our Adult Day Health Centers are safe and held to the highest standards.

In Texas, the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) licenses and surveys adult day care facilities to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and regulations to protect individuals who are receiving these long-term care services.

Some of the requirements that licensed adult day care centers follow include: Continue reading

Helping Caregivers Through the Holidays

When someone in your family has dementia, or really any other chronic condition, it can affect what holiday time and family gatherings look like. There’s no magic solution, but we hope these tips and reminders might help make this holiday season a bit easier and merry as you balance the holidays as a caregiver.

1. Help your family and friends adjust their expectations
If some time has passed since visiting relatives or friends have seen the person who has dementia, there may have been significant changes in that person’s status since the last time friends or family last saw them. It is often very helpful if you update family, perhaps via a mass email or individual phone calls, on what kind of cognitive changes are going on and what they can expect when they arrive.

These changes can be hard for family members to accept. Remind them that changes in memory and behavior are a result of the disease, not the person. Continue reading

Austin Mayor’s Task Force on Aging

Dear Friends,

For the past year, I have had the great honor to serve on the Austin Mayor’s Task Force on Aging. I am very proud to have been part of this effort.

The recommendations from the Task Force include the following focus areas:

  1. Healthy Living
  2. Independence
  3. Informed Community

We are especially thrilled that under the focus area of ‘independence’, the Task Force specifically highlights the need for critical support and training for family caregivers. One of their recommendations is to expand CaregiverU, a collaboration that AGE is honored to coordinate with the generous support of the St. David’s Foundation. Continue reading

The “Sandwich Generation” should be called the “Hero Generation”

(Guest Post by Caregiving Cafe)

According to Pew Research’s report titled “The Sandwich Generation,” 47% of US adults in their 40’s and 50’s have a parent who is 65 or older and are caring for a child 18 or younger, or are supporting a grown child.  Many are providing caregiving as well as financial and emotional support.  [Pew Research, January 2013]

With advancing age, the likelihood of an aging parent needing help by the time a child becomes a young adult is rather great.  The picture becomes a bit more complex as grown children experiencing hardship (financial or emotional) pull at their parents’ heartstrings (and wallet).

I have had a taste of this dubious “sandwich” while caring long-distance for my mother and raising our daughter.  Mine was actually loaded with the “extras,” as I also began to care for my husband when our daughter had just turned 13.  He became disabled as a result of CRPS, a painful and debilitating neurological disease. Continue reading

Spring Lawn Care: Or When His (Or Her) Jobs Become Your Jobs

[This is the fifth installment of posts from Faith, AGE’s CaregiverU Coordinator and personal expert on being a family caregiver – you’ll continue hearing from her on a range of topics once a month.]

Lawn care.  Hmmm, not my expertise.  I do enjoy the sight of a well tended lawn, though.  Thick green grass, nicely edged, pretty stones in a ring around each tree, neatly trimmed trees, front flower Green Lawnbed blooming.  All very nice, but I am clueless as to how to create that, and probably not much better on knowing how to maintain it.  You see, I’ve been married close to 45 years and we’ve had a system called ‘his work’ and ‘her work’.  I took care of the inside of the house and he took care of the outside.  The work inside of the house and all my other responsibilities took up all of my time and then some, so I paid little attention to the work in our yard.  Seven years ago when we moved into our current house, I was eager to learn how to do yard work and hoped to work together with my spouse to plan the landscaping and share in the labor.  My dear husband was insulted by those plans—refer back to ‘his work’ and ‘her work’ above.  The yard was definitely his domain and I’d best remember that.  In the name of peace and harmony, I took my rightful place, and simply enjoyed the loveliness.

I enjoyed it until now.  Now my spouse is not so capable of planning and organizing the yard work.  He sometimes forgets how to start the lawn mower and claims it doesn’t work.   Our good neighbor comes over to get it going, and tells him the mower just needed an adjustment.  Helpful friends give him bedding plants for the flower beds, thinking he would enjoy digging in the dirt again.  He enjoys the digging and puttering, but then becomes very anxious because the plants aren’t thriving.  That’s when he asks me what to do, and, I’m –clueless.   He worries about the bald spots in the front lawn and then I worry.  Surely bald spots are not a good thing, but what does one do? Continue reading

Making the Most of the Holidays: Helpful Tips for Caregivers

[This is the third installment of posts from Faith, AGE’s CaregiverU Coordinator and expert on being a family caregiver – you’ll continue hearing from her on a range of topics about once a month.]

We all carry visions of what the holidays should look like and often those visions don’t jibe very well with reality! At this time of year, many of us visualize a Norman Rockwell type scene with everybody gathered happily around a perfectly laid holiday table. Reality is often a bit different!  In addition to that image, I also carry around in my head visions of previous holidays when life was different.   That is, when the kids were younger and my spouse was cognitively able to partner with me in all the holiday preparation.  Today my husband has a cognitive disability and the children are young adults with spouses and responsibilities of their own.  Part of the holiday experience is traveling to their homes for visits and hosting them in our home, all the while helping my spouse cope and have a good time.  As a caregiver, managing the holidays has come to mean managing many different issues—disruptions in schedule and routine, traveling, adapting to new surroundings, decorating the home, shopping for gifts, and preparing food, to name a few. Continue reading