Welcome ...

All too many times overwhelmed caregivers are physically and emotionally depleted and need to take time to rest and care for themselves. Believing in a holistic approach to caregiver stress and a strong commitment to helping our members find the right solutions, we created this blog to help you connect with others who, like you, may be facing the same eldercare issues and challenges. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and submit articles. Please forward the blog link to your family and friends. They'll be glad you did.

Warm regards,

Patricia Grace
founder & CEO
Aging with Grace

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Life as a Serial Caregiver

by Rita Files

When I tell people my caregiving career and love for the elderly began at the age of six they look at me in disbelief. As unbelievable as it sounds, it is true!

Before that time, my outdoor play had me confined to the front yard of my home. The world of play beyond my gate was something I longed for. When a person walked by I would run to the fence to see who it was and of course to say hello all the while longing to venture out to see the world through their eyes.

Sundays were especially interesting, I would see the” woman who lived down the street” (that is Elizabeth, NJ speak for neighbor) walk by on her way to church. She was a vision dressed in white with her wide brimmed straw hat. The contrast against her dark brown skin was striking and, I believed her to be, the most beautiful person I ever saw. The Lady in white fascinated me and she was 98 years old. I could barely count to 98.

Finally, the big day arrived and I was able to venture beyond the gates. I was able to explore the three short blocks of Geneva Street. Not long after my liberation from the yard, I was walking down the street and, there she was…the Lady in white, working in her garden. Since there is not a shy bone in my body, I walked up to her and said hello, my name is Rita. With that simple introduction, my career in eldercare began. I would visit with Mrs. Akin several times a week and ask a zillion questions, each of which she patiently answered, even if I asked the same question two or three times before. I was fascinated with her stories of the old south and her life experiences. I did not notice the color of her skin or her age. I only knew that she was beautiful and my very best friend.

My circle of friends grew to include two other 80+ year olds on Geneva Street who I visited regularly as well. Little did I know at this tender age, that my “girlfriends” would be the foundation for my future career.

Mrs. Akin passed away at the age of 111. I often think of her and ask the angels to tell her what a profound impact she had on the freckle-faced redheaded kid “from up the street”. She will always be one of my heroes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Music soothes the soul and takes us back...

by Patricia Grace

Recently I blogged on another site that listening to music was a wonderful activity for a person to share with a family member that is suffering with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. Music like Alzheimer's takes us back to a memory that we associate with another time in our life.

As a child growing up (I'm now 59) I always loved the soulful sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Morgana King, Cleo Laine, Shirley Bassey, Etta James and Rae Marnie. Each of these great artist recorded a song that when I hear it, a memory is triggered of an event or a person in my life.

My father has been gone since 1984 and when I feel that my memory of him is not as crisp as I would like it to be I listen to Frank Sinatra (the early years) or Glenn Miller. As I write this I am listening to Moonlight Serenade with tears overflowing...I see that handsome young soldier dancing with the beautiful young woman with the flower in her hair... I will have that picture in my mind forever.

Ms Marnie, thank you for your beautiful rendition of My Funny Valentine. When I first heard you sing this on Valentine's Day, it triggered the memory of my dad singing it to my mom every Valentine's Day...what a wonderful gift you and the other Ladies of Soul have. Thanks for sharing it!

More on Family Caregiving

Informal or family caregiving for an elderly loved one when they are ill or disabled is expected in virtually all cultures of the world and is generally accepted as the “norm” in most developing countries. In the US, family continues to provide most of the care and supportive services to older family members. The family contribution to health care represents between 70 to 80 % of all such care in the form of informal caregiving. Family members provide both short-term assistance (e.g. following surgery) and long-term assistance (e.g. for permanent or extended loss function such as loss of sight, mobility or cognitive impairment). Family members provide direct services (grocery shopping, transportation to doctors), the purchase of services (housecleaning, nursing services) and the management of services (coordinating and overseeing medical/rehabilitative or custodial care) as well as financial, emotional and social support.

Who becomes the primary caregiver for a frail older person? Usually it is the spouse, followed by an adult child, or other such relative such as a sibling, niece or nephew or grandchild. In terms of gender, the primary caregiver is most often female. While it has been observed the world over that women assume the bulk of responsibility in caring for elderly family members, 40% of the current caregivers in the US are men (husbands and sons). Studies have shown that wives, adult daughters-in-law and daughters provide most of the personal care and help with the household tasks; transportations and shopping for the elderly while men are more likely to purchase services or provide the management of services. Women sometimes leave the work force or work part time in order to care for frail relatives (generally spouses or parents) just at a time when they may want to work for retirement benefits in their own old age. Other women have responsibilities for frail relatives while adjusting to their own retirement, widowhood and reduced incomes. Many school age children may have parents or grandparents who provide care to an older relative and may themselves be involved in the caregiving activities such as grocery shopping or providing custodial care after school hours in lieu of extracurricular activities.

Due to increased longevity, many caregivers are now finding themselves in the position of becoming “serial caregivers” – providing support to a parent, then a spouse and in many cases to a functionally impaired adult child, or to grandchildren. An older adult caregiver may spend many decades in caregiving activities.

For many people, the overwhelming anxiety of eldercare issues may appear suddenly after an accident or unexpected illness. Having access to the right information and knowledge of available services and governmental resources can reduce the stress on the entire family at a time when quick decisions, with little or no preparation are necessary.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Are you a "serial" caregiver?

Many caregivers are now finding themselves in the position of being a "serial caregiver"—providing support to a parent, then a spouse, and in many cases to a functionally impaired adult child, or to grandchildren. An older adult caregiver may spend several decades in caregiving activities

Help with Caregiving Responsibilities

What’s a good response to the statement, “Call me if you need me?” Despite the fact that family caregivers are drowning in responsibility or may be confused about what to do next, they find it so hard to ask for help. Even when help is offered, often they respond “no thanks”.

Here are six steps to getting help…

  • Recognize that care giving, like any job, is made up of lots of individual tasks, not all of which are of the same importance.
  • Recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength and not of weakness.
  • Create a list of the tasks that need to get done in any given week.
  • Group your tasks into categories such as personal care tasks for your loved one, transportation, household chores.
  • Write down your care giving worries. Seeing them in black-and-white helps diffuse some of their emotion.
  • Share your lists with someone you trust before you actually reach out for help.

Then take a deep breath and actually ask someone to help with one of the tasks on your list, or seek guidance in resolving your most persistent worry. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Senior Communities & Resident Rights

One of the most difficult aspects of being an administrator in a senior living community is having to move a resident due to a change in care needs or "level of care" as it is often called.  As hard as it might be for staff to deliver the news to a resident and their family, it in most cases it is devastating for the person who receives this news.  Recently, in California, a resident of a continuing care retirement community sued the facility for the right to remain in her apartment in the independent area of the community with 24/7 private care.  The following article relates to the courts ruling on this matter. Like me, you may be surprised with the outcome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Seniors have wishes too.

For several years now, Aging with Grace has been a proud supporter of a wonderful organization whose mission is to honor and enrich the lives of deserving seniors through wish granting celebrations connecting Generations. Their belief is that it's time to say "thank you" by bringing smiles and joy into quiet, humble lives. They celebrate the life of someone special by giving a "thank you" they never expected in the form of a wish come true. Twilight Wish also honors seniors with formal certificates stating their life accomplishments. Cass Forkin, Executive Director, started the program after a life changing encounter with a group of seniors having lunch in a diner. We you encourage to visit their web site to learn more and get information on their DUTY program to begin making a difference in the lives of seniors today.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's Valentine Day

We want to wish all of our caregivers a Happy Valentine Day! We hope you take a few minutes for yourself as a reward for sharing your "hearts" with the ones you care for all year long. In case you don't hear it quite enough, THANK YOU for all you do.

We would love to hear about any special ways you celebrate the day. I for one will be having way too much chocolate.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"The Call" - Gail Sheehy

"The Call" is the shock that ushers us into the first phase of caregiving: Shock and Mobilization. A stranger's voice informs you that a family member has had a fall. Or your dad has gotten lost while driving and doesn't know where he is. Or you're told that your husband—like mine—has a tumor that is not benign. Read full article

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Financial 911

Mom or dad is having medical problems; maybe she has taken a fall or he is in rehab following a hospital stay. But now, it is apparent that she cannot stay home alone. You’ve decided on home care or an assisted living facility where he can be safe. During all of the turmoil and emotional upheaval, the one thing you didn’t consider is how will she pay for the care that she needs?

Faced with this situation, there are 4 steps you should take. First, locate all of his assets. This is often not as easy as it seems. For whatever reason, seniors like to spread their assets among multiple financial institutions. The second step is to determine how much income she has. Check her annual social security and pension, if any, statements. Check his bank and brokerage statements for interest and dividends. If he filed a tax return, cross check it with the statements.

The third step is to investigate any sources of funds for which she may be eligible, e.g. Veterans/Widows Pension, Medicaid, state and county programs.

The fourth and final step is to prepare a cash flow projection in order to forecast how long his assets will last. You will need to make assumptions about interest rates and increases in cost of care over time.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Family Conversations with Older Drivers

We need to talk ....

For older adults, limiting driving presents practical problems and can cause strong emotions, from sadness to anger. Family members themselves may feel angry, frustrated, or guilty about depriving their loved one of the freedom of driving. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., and the MIT AgeLab developed information to help families initiate productive and caring conversations with older adults about driving safety. Read more

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Helpful Resources

Low Vision Therapy Services

Children of Aging Parents (CAPS)

Well Spouse Association

U.S. Administration on Aging


Nursing Home Compare

Senior Safety Online

Mature Market Institute

Connections for Women

50Plus Realtor

Alzheimer's Speaks

Official VA Website