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

Five Thing’s I’ve Learned as a Caregiver

By Lili Cantu

For Week 2 in our Caregiver Month Blog Series, we are pleased by present the following post by Lili Cantu.

My father was diagnosed with dementia at the end of 2013, though as is often the case, we knew something was wrong for much longer. Now that we have had time to sit with the diagnosis, AGE has given me an opportunity to share what I have learned from my experience as a caregiver over the past year. I actually consider myself the caregiver of the caregiver, as I am walking with both my parents in this journey. If you are reading this, I hope you can glean some insight from Five Things I’ve Learned:

  • There is help available if you look for it. I cannot express enough thanks to the wonderful people at AGE. Getting a diagnosis was very difficult and frustrating, and we went through several medical professionals before we found the right kind of help for Dad. The process took several years and left us feeling pretty shell-shocked, so it has been wonderful to feel heard each and every time we have talked with someone from AGE. Now we have attended CareGiverU, and have signed Dad up to start activities and give my mom some respite. These have been huge steps in our journey.
  • Dementia is not just a disease of memory. It affects all brain functioning. At Savvy Caregiver, I had so many “ah-ha moments” where new light was shed on a behavior that my Dad was demonstrating. So many things make more sense now: he whispers to himself in an attempt to keep his language skills; he wears his raggedy old fleece because it gives him a sense of security; he falls asleep often because he is exhausted from his efforts to “act normal”; he can’t use a key card at a hotel because his spatial reasoning is diminishing. It is nice to have explanations for all his behaviors, and to know it’s not him—it’s the dementia.
  • Expect the unexpected when it comes to how loved ones will react to the news of his diagnosis. The people you think will be the most helpful and supportive aren’t always the ones to step up. We are also discovering that there are cultural differences in the reactions of our loved ones. Dad is from Mexico, where patients and family members are often kept in the dark about their health conditions in an effort to “protect” them. Since Dad is reverting more and more to his native Spanish, and feels more comfortable dealing with people he has known a long time, some of our friends and family (who only see him a few times a year at most) haven’t even been able to see that something is wrong. This has unexpectedly become one of the more difficult parts of this journey. We get a lot of unsolicited and judgmental advice. We are learning how much and how little information we should share in order to protect ourselves emotionally. It’s a fine balance! At the same time, we are learning that sometimes unexpected friendships form or deepen as people step up with appropriate responses and offers to help.
  • Meet him at his level. As a mother and a Montessori teacher, I have found that a lot of the skills I learned in my teacher training and applied in my parenting translate very well to helping my Dad. Montessori teaches profound respect for the child, and reminds us to be respectful of every human being—no matter what capabilities they have. Dad still wants to participate in family life and feel useful, and breaking tasks into steps and giving him clear and simple instructions allows him to do so. We are also reaching the stage where reminding Dad what he has forgotten is no longer helpful, so we are learning to live in the moment with him. When we are able to meet his ability level and be in the present moment with him, we are all happier.
  • There is still a lot to be grateful for. This Thanksgiving will be one of the best ones ever. I know this because I know that Dad is still with us. He still knows who we are, and remembers his life even if he can’t remember his birthdate or how to figure the tip at a restaurant. I am so grateful that I live in the same neighborhood, that I can help my parents, and that my daughter has had many wonderful years with both my parents (I never lived in the same town as my grandparents). More than that, I am finding that Dad is more emotionally available to me than he ever was in my childhood. This has given us an opportunity to heal some wounds and forgive each other for our mutual hard-headedness. He has literally cried and apologized to me for things he said to me growing up. How many men are willing to apologize for anything?!?! It has been such a gift. My hope for you, dear reader, is that you have some things in your life that you can feel grateful for, no matter what stage of the disease your loved one is in. I know that as Dad progresses, this will be harder for me to do, but I will have this blog post to remind me to look for them. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

To learn more about AGE’s resources for caregivers, please visit ageofcentraltx.org or call (512) 600-9286

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

Cold & Flu Prevention for Older Adults

By Diane Walker  RN, MS, CSA

Getting a cold or — even worse — the flu is a miserable inconvenience for anyone. For an older adult, the outcome can be worse than a Flu picturefew missed days at work or the inability to enjoy one’s activities, it can be much more serious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “…90% of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years and older.” Older immune systems tend to be weaker which allows the flu to turn into more serious conditions such as bronchitis and / or pneumonia.

While an illness can hit anyone at any time, there are ways to prevent developing a cold or the flu. The best way to treat a cold or flu is to not get it in the first place. Prevention is key. Seniors and their caretakers should keep the following tips in mind to keep an older adult healthy: 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