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

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

Tips for Traveling: A Caregiver’s Perspective

[This is the second 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.]

Every work day I eat the very same breakfast—oatmeal, juice, soy milk, and green tea.  Is it because this is a favorite meal choice?  No, it’s because I’m not a morning person, so fixing the same breakfast every morning saves me from thinking.  I do it on auto pilot.  Similarly, an individual with a cognitive disability thrives on using auto pilot.  For them, the brain pathways don’t work as well as they formerly did, so thinking requires more effort.  Staying in a routine and doing things the same way every day requires less thinking.   Traveling shakes up the old routine, and takes away the familiarity, requiring more thinking effort, which increases the stress and anxiety that further impedes the thinking process.  Knowing all this, and experiencing all this, may make a caregiver decide to forgo travel—but not this traveler!  I choose to continue traveling with my dear husband because we have three adult children living in other cities, and spending time with them is very important.  To make travel easier on both of us, I’ve adopted new strategies and continue searching for more good ideas from other caregivers. Continue reading

Keeping Seniors Safe in the Texas Summer Heat

This summer may have started out kinder and gentler than last year, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. The heat makes summer a dangerous season for everyone, but seniors are at a higher risk of suffering complications from the heat. Many seniors take medications that could dehydrate them or make them more sensitive to the sun. For seniors who are not as mobile or depend on others to come by to care for them, they may not be able to move themselves to a cooler spot or help themselves if they start feeling heat-sick when they’re by themselves. And they may have trouble recognizing when they are experiencing symptoms of disorders caused by heat before it’s too late. There are two main kinds of heat conditions:

Heat stroke is a very serious heat-related illness. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, nausea, spots before the eyes, ringing in the ears, bright red dry skin, rapid, strong pulse, and a body temperature of more than 103 degrees.

Heat exhaustion is a more mild heat-related illness, but should still absolutely be treated. Symptoms include cool and clammy skin, a body temperature of up to 103 degrees, weak and rapid pulse, and shallow and quiet respirations.

If you notice someone who has these symptom, get to a doctor immediately!

Below are a few ideas and suggestions to help keep older adults cool:

  • wear light colored or loose clothing
  • use sunscreen, even if going outside for just a short period of time
  • wear a hat that is wide-brimmed to protect the face (but isn’t so tight as to prevent ventilation)
  • stay hydrated with water or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks
  • keep a spray bottle with cool water nearby to lightly spritz the face and body
  • a shady spot outdoors may be cooler than inside, so sitting on a covered porch with a portable or ceiling fan may be a good option
  • if you are inside with no AC, stay on the lower floor of your residence (which is typically cooler)
  • mobile seniors should try to spend a few hours each day in a place with A/C: either a mall, library, a movie, or restaurant

Unfortunately, many seniors either cannot afford or don’t have access to air conditioning to combat the severe Texas heat. Below are a few suggestions to help:

Tips to help cool your home:

  1. When it is safe to do so, leave windows open (even at night) on both sides of your house to get a cross-breeze.
  2. Utilize portable fans and ceiling fans to amplify your A/C’s reach, or help substitute when you don’t have one.
  3. Close curtains or shades on sunny windows, or find a way to cover them if they don’t have draperies already.
  4. Clean and replace air filters regularly to maximize your AC and vent systems.

AGE of Central Texas is a community partner in Family Eldercare’s Fan Drive, so we have box fans available for those who are over 55, disabled, or have children under the age of 18 living in their house. They must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($22,340 annual income for one person or $30,260 for a couple), and be able to provide an ID and proof of income. Call us at 512.451.4611 for more information.

For more information on how heat affects the elderly, click here for resources from the CDC.