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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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Caregivers New Year's Resolution

by Kristine Dwyer, LSW

In this new year, I will……….

Learn to take one hour out of each day just for myself to read, enjoy a hot bath, journal my thoughts or call a friend.

Attend at least one caregiver support group to realize that I am not alone and that I can learn from others.

See my doctor for a physical exam and give my own health needs more priority.

Use respite care at least once a month so that I may get a break and be refreshed. I will consider using the time I have to discover the benefits of massage therapy, the joy of a musical concert, self expression in a painting class or a day at the spa to find stress relief.

Eat a balanced diet and exercise at least 20 minutes three times a week even if all I can do is walk around the house, up and down the stairs or exercise from a chair.

Seek out one new resource to support my caregiver role such as chore services, housekeeping, home care programs or delivered meals.

Try to find a way to laugh or find humor in the day amidst the sadness or discouragement I may feel.

Reach out to my family and friends to help with my loved one so that the weight of my responsibility can be lifted and shared. One way I can do this is to keep a list of needs handy so that when help is offered, I can be ready with an answer.

Seek spiritual support or personal counseling to gain perspective of my life, clarity of my role and keep my mental health in check.

Finally, by focusing on these resolutions, I will be able to reap the rewards of caregiving, maintain balance in my life and provide care longer for my loved one.

Kristine Dwyer is a Caregiver Consultant for Carlton County Public Health and Human Services in Cloquet, Minnesota. She is a licensed social worker certified in gerontology and is a past and current caregiver for her family.

Assisted Living: Back to the Future


It’s right in my neighborhood, so I’ve probably driven past that gracious Victorian house, painted a dusty rose, a zillion times. But because it looks like many other houses in Montclair, N.J. — big old trees, nice landscaping, wraparound deck — I never realized that it was an assisted living facility.

Ever since a 1990’s building boom, the term “assisted living” has conjured up mental images of a three-story stucco building on a highway, with a brass chandelier in the lobby and a “concierge” desk. But long before those places began popping up, many owned by regional and national chains, lots of smaller, homier residences for seniors were tucked into ordinary neighborhoods. Read full article

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Light Up The Holidays For Aging Parents

by Kaye Swain

~~Frosted window panes, candles gleaming inside, Painted candy canes on the tree… It's that time of year when the world falls in love, Ev'ry song you hear seems to say "Merry Christmas~~

Ahhh, one of my favorite Christmas songs. :) And it carries with it a delightful reminder that one of the fun signs of the season are all the lovely Christmas lights coupled with Christmas carols and Christmas praise and worship songs. So far this year, my grandchildren and I have enjoyed a myriad of delightful displays as we've driven back and forth on errands. In addition, my senior mom, some of the grandkids and I have enjoyed a delightful outdoor display put on by the city they live in. This particular one is set up for you to park and walk around in the middle of the lights. I wasn't sure how well my senior mom would do since it was a particularly cold night. I should have remembered this is the same mom who tries to walk every single day no matter how cold it is! She did great and enjoyed it very much! Of course, the grandchildren found it the most magical, but we grownups loved the twinkling lights as well. My favorite part was the big tree that was set up to twinkle to the Christmas carols that were playing. Deee-light-ful! Full article and videos

On the Lighter Side:

Rita's Holiday Eating Tips:

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly! Like in single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-aholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the
mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards!!

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. ENJOY!

Remember this motto to live by:

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of
arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "WOO HOO what a ride!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tips for Helping Mom and Dad with a Later Life Move

Written By: Margit Novak

Senior moves are stressful for the entire family. Conflicts sometimes develop between siblings over who bears which portion of the burden, or over the disposition of material items. As you work with your parents and siblings, keep three objectives equally in mind — caring for your parents, taking care of yourself, and maintaining harmony in the family.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind if you planning a move with a older loved one:
  • Let your parents’ emotional and physical comfort guide the process
Your parents’ priorities may be different from yours. For example, if books were very special to them, they may need to determine what will happen to the volumes not going with them before they are willing to focus on other issues. Attempting to force your parents to proceed in a sequence that doesn’t address their priorities may result in your winning the battle but losing the war. Your parents’ perspective may differ from yours. They may prefer old and worn objects to newer items that are in much better condition. Seemingly insignificant items may be loaded with personal meaning and memories, while objects of great material value may be less important. Allow them to make the decisions.
  • Accept their gifts
Your parents may want to give you items, including some you may not wish to receive. Take them anyway. Store the items in your basement if you must, but accept them graciously. Knowing that cherished objects are with family can bring comfort and peace of mind to your parents.
  • Be Tactful
Often poor health and failing eyesight result in housekeeping practices that are less stringent than they once were. Tactfully offer to clean things as you help them sort. Avoid making your parents feel badly about the home they are leaving.
  • Focus on sorting, not packing
Preparing for a move is a major organizational challenge at any age, and doubly so if you are downsizing as well. It’s not uncommon to have items going to your parents’ new home, to an adult son in Maine, a daughter in Illinois, the Salvation Army, the neighborhood consignment shop, and the local dump. Attics, basements, garages, closets and cupboards....there may be forty years of belongings to sort through. Many people feel overwhelmed. It’s here more than anywhere else that you are needed, not in the packing process. Helping your parents sort and organize their belongings is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the stress of moving, ensure a smooth move, and save money in the long run.
  • Let your parents say goodbye
When you work with your parents, keep sorting sessions brief (2-3 hours at most). Constant decision-making is emotionally exhausting. Accept that some days you will accomplish less than you had hoped. The sorting process brings up lots of memories. Stories and reminiscing are natural. It’s all right to be directed in your goal, but let your parents enjoy their recollections. Don't forget the need to say goodbye to their home, as well. Particularly if they raised children in the home there will be many memories which are important to recall, even record, in order to say goodbye.
  • Try to replicate the old environment as much as possible
Your parents will be experiencing a lot of change; it will be comforting to have some things stay the same. Photograph each shelf in the china closet, the arrangement of pictures on walls and items on bureaus. The photographs help recreate the feel of the former residence with amazing accuracy and speed.
  • Keeping your eye on the big picture will help maintain harmony in the family
You have many concerns for your parents, but may be unable to provide the support you would like. A professional Senior Move Manager can fill the gap. Contact Aging with Grace by calling 800.626.9440 for more information about the services of a professional senior move manager and to identify move managers in your area.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Taking Charge Without Taking Over: Five Tips For Helping Your Aging Parent

By: Sheri Samotin

Whether you are teaching your young daughter how to knit, or helping your aging mother balance her checkbook, how do you take charge without taking over? How many times have you found yourself “showing” someone how to do something by doing it for them? It’s human nature. But while it might make sense to show by doing when you are “teaching” someone younger or less familiar with a particular topic than you are, it usually leads to anger when you do this when you are “assisting” someone with a task that he previously has been perfectly capable of handling himself.

It was probably hard enough for your mom to agree to let you help her pay her bills and balance her checkbook. And even once she agreed, it wouldn’t be surprising if she told you that she didn’t know why you were insisting on helping her since she is perfectly capable of doing it herself. The truth is that acknowledging that you need help with the business of life is really, really hard for most seniors. If they come to the point where they need your help, they are confronted with their own limitations. And those limitations won’t “get better” in most cases. Deep down, your mom knows that this is the beginning of the end of her independence as she has come to know it.

So, how do you take charge without taking over?

1. If possible, do the tasks alongside your mom rather than doing it for her. While this approach might take longer than doing it yourself, you allow mom to retain some self esteem by letting her take the lead.

2. Let your dad tell you what aspects of a particular activity he needs your help with, and if possible, try to limit your assistance to just those things, at least for now. Of course, if your dad doesn’t have a realistic picture of what he can do for himself, you will need to gently find a way to help him see your perspective.

3. Be respectful, and ask permission before you just jump in. For example, when you take your parents to a doctor’s appointment, don’t just assume that they want you to come into the examining room with them. Instead, ask them if they’d like you to be there the whole time, or if perhaps you can just be called in toward the end of the visit to make sure that YOUR questions are answered.

4. Set up invisible safety nets. For example, if you come every Sunday and set up your mom’s medications in a weekly medication management system, you can have some expectation that she will take the correct medications at the right time. But it wouldn’t hurt to also have a way of checking that once or twice during the week. This might take the form of a medication management visit by a home care company or trusted friend or relative or perhaps daily medication reminder phone calls from you.

5. Make a distinction between safety and everything else. When your dad’s safety is on the line, you might just have to take charge by taking over. On the other hand, if you’d just prefer that something be done a certain way or at a certain time, there might be an opportunity to loosen the grip a bit.

Your job as your parent’s caregiver is to keep them safe, comfortable, and happy. As long as you keep that in perspective you should have no trouble taking charge without taking over.

Visit the Family Transition Blog at www.LifeBridgeSolutions.com/Family-Transition-Blog
©2009 LifeBridge Solutions, LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Who Was Supposed To Be Watching Grandma?

There is a popular tune played this time of year called “Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer” which relates that Grandma -- after drinking too much eggnog -- went out into the winter cold to get her medication and was run over by a reindeer. The question is, “Who was supposed to be watching Grandma?”

Though this little tune is just for fun, it may very well raise alarms to many caregivers of the elderly. Caregivers know that even at a holiday party they cannot let down their diligent watch over their elderly loved one. As far-fetched as it may sound, with all the people and noise, an elderly family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s may be enjoying the family gathering and then suddenly become confused and walk to the door and leave.

For family caregivers the added stress of the holidays with decorating, shopping, parties and keeping up with all the family traditions is an overwhelming quest. Feelings of isolation, depression and sadness come with this added stress. There are millions of Americans who are caring for elderly frail loved ones and most of these caregivers will go through some of these emotions, especially this time of year.

There are some things you can do as a caregiver to help you and those you care for enjoy the holiday season.

First take care of yourself. Try to eat right, get plenty of sleep and exercise. This will help reduce stress and strengthen your ability to cope with caregiving responsibilities.

Prioritize your holiday traditions. Perhaps instead of cooking a large family dinner, have everyone bring his or her favorite dish. Use paper plates. Forfeit the traditional outside light decorating for a lighted wreath on the front door. Choose one or two parties or concerts to attend instead of trying to do it all.

Arrange for help. Call on other family members to help with the caregiving while you do your shopping or go out for the evening. If family is not available, ask your church group or a neighbor if they would donate a few hours.

Use community services. Many senior centers provide meals for the elderly and supervised activities, onsite, at no charge or a minimal charge. For locating senior services in your state, call your state Area Agency on Aging or check the national locator website at http://www.n4a.org/

Use adult day care services. Some assisted living facilities provide day activities and meals for seniors on a day by day basis. Other organizations called "adult day service providers" specialize exclusively in this sort of care support at a reasonable cost. These support services provide respite for caregivers from their caregiving responsibilities as well as social interaction for their elderly family members. There is a cost for adult day services, but the benefit for all is worth it.

For example:

Jean had brought her mother into her home to care for her when mom's Alzheimer’s made it impossible for her to be alone. When the Christmas season approached, Jean realized she had to make some choices. She did not want to give up the traditions she had set with her daughters in shopping and lunches, but it wouldn’t be possible with her caregiving responsibilities. In searching for a solution, Jean visited an adult day services facility near her home. She found she could schedule the days she needed off for her mother to come in. The adult day services company also provided transportation and would pick up mom and bring her home in the evening.

Although Jean's mother was not sure she would like to go at first, she found she enjoyed the programs, meals and conversation with new friends and the activities provided.
The time it gave Jean to have for herself was worth the extra cost for the day care.

Technology to the rescue. Here is a solution that would have kept “Grandma” from going out in the winter cold and getting run over by a reindeer. Companies that have created monitoring systems, security alarms and other safety equipment are “tweaking” them to adapt to the needs of seniors and their care givers.

Here are a few examples:
• Ankle or wrist bands that monitor location and alert the provider when a person has gone beyond the designated perimeter, such as out the front door of the house.
• Motion detectors. Set throughout the home, motion detectors allow someone outside the home to follow a senior as he or she moves through the house.
• Smart medication dispensers. Live monitoring and dispensing of pills.
• Emergency response alert. At a touch of a button on a desktop monitor, bracelet or necklace, emergency help is summoned.

Whether providing care in your home or helping senior family members in their own homes, your use of monitoring and “tech” help aids can provide extra safety for your loved ones, and peace of mind for you.

You are not alone. Join a caregiving help group. Your local senior center may have one or go on the internet to find one. Hearing about other caregivers' problems and solutions and being able to share your own and ask questions is a great way to relieve stress and gain a new perspective. Check out websites like the National Family Caregivers Association at http://www.nfcacares.org/

Work with a Senior Care Professional. Recognize that you are doing the very best you know how. You are not a geriatric health care practitioner, geriatric care manager, home care nurse or aide, hospice provider or family mediation counselor, nor do you have the years of training and experience these professionals have, but you can definitely use their experience. In fact, using a senior care specialist will make caregiving easier for you and more beneficial for your elderly family member.

As an example:

Mark stopped by his father Dan’s home every night after work to help with any errands or things he needed around the house. He began to notice that Dan was not showering, dressing or even fixing meals some days. Another concern was his father's growing confusion and disorientation. A trip to the family doctor only brought more concern to Mark, since the doctor claimed it was just the aging process that caused the confusion.

Wanting a second professional opinion on what was best for his father, Mark hired Shelly -- a Professional Geriatric Care Manger -- to do an assessment. Shelly arranged for Mark and Dan to see a geriatrician, who advised that proper meals and an increase in some vitamins, would help clear up the confusion and disorientation. Shelly arranged for a home care company to come in daily to help with personal needs and prepare meals.

Soon Dan was back to his old self and able to function on his own.

You can find a wide variety of care professionals in your area on the National Care Planning Council website at www.longtermcarelink.net or by contacting www.agingwithgrace.net.

One more thing to remember. As a family caregiver, the greatest gift you are giving this holiday season is “Love.”

NAC Releases 2009 Caregiving in the U.S. Survey

Caregiving is still mostly a woman's job and many women are putting their career and financial futures on hold as they juggle part-time caregiving and full-time job requirements. This is the reality reported in Caregiving in the U.S. 2009, the most comprehensive examination to date of caregiving in America. The sweeping study of the legions of people caring for adults, the elderly and children with special needs reveals that 29% of the U.S. adult population, or 65.7 million people, are caregivers, including 31% of all households. These caregivers provide an average of 20 hours of care per week.

Caregiving in the U.S., which was funded by MetLife Foundation and conducted for the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, is the result of interviews with 1,480 caregivers chosen at random. The study was designed to replicate similar studies conducted in 2004 and 1997 and includes, for the first time, a sampling of those caring for children as well as those caring for adults over the age of 18.

Caregiving in the U.S. Executive Summary

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Home for the Holidays

By: Patricia Grace, National Senior Care Examiner

You were just home for Thanksgiving, the start of the holiday season, and spent time with your family. If you are like many Americans, it may have been weeks, months or even years since you have seen some of your older family members. As you and they grow older, holiday reunions grow more and more special each year.

For most of us, the holidays are a time to gather with friends and family, celebrate, reflect on the past and plan the future. For the elderly this festive time can trigger a mourning period for spouses, siblings and friends who are no longer here. Read full article

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Senior Holiday Gift Ideas

Aging with Grace want you and your family to enjoy the holidays and make it a special time for our loved ones without feeling overwhelmed and drained. With this in mind, we are sharing our tried and true suggestions for great senior gifts this holiday season:

1. Senior Fast Food Holiday Basket which contains food items which are quick and easy for the senior and also fast and nutritious.

2. Health and Beauty Basket: an assortment of the vitamins that they may take on a regular basis, Tylenol, soaps, hand creams, shampoo, etc.

3. Pre-pay telephone and or cable bill for a few months. The payment will go as a credit on their bill.

4. Large face clocks or telephone with oversized keypads and adjustable volume (pre-programmed of course by a family member with all the most frequently called numbers.)

5. Gift certificates for the barber or hairdresser’s, neighborhood grocery store.

6. Memory Box filled with pictures and mementos of significant events in the senior’s life.

7. Home Safety Box with Batteries for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, night lights with built in sensors and don’t forget to include a supply of replacement bulbs.

8. Video tapes of old TV shows such as I Love Lucy, Carol Burnett, Golden Girls, Milton Berle or tapes of old movies. Lawrence Welk is always a big hit!

9. Dinner for One (or Two) Club: prepare several dinners complete with dessert, freeze and place in their freezer for their future use. Be sure to mark what is in each container.

10. Make a “Family Memory” video. This is a wonderful gift that reminds the receiver how much they mean to the family and a chance to thank them for all they have contributed over the years.

Of course the best gift we can give our loved ones (and ourselves) is meaningful time spent together. It only takes a moment to create a lasting memory.

Caregiving, From Both Sides Now


Susan Katz thought she knew all about caring for old people. Trained as a social worker, she had spent more than 15 years working for home care agencies and for assisted and independent living facilities. So when her own parents began to falter in their mid-80s – her mother had Parkinson’s disease, and her father was debilitated by the aftereffects of prostate cancer treatment – she felt prepared to step in and help.

The reality has proved very different. Ms. Katz and her family are in some ways fortunate: her parents managed to sell their Long Island home, though not before the housing market had nose-dived. They moved into a continuing care retirement community near her home in Middletown, N.J., and hired an excellent home care aide to assist them four hours a day.

Yet Ms. Katz has found the past year and a half an eye-opening experience. Below, in an excerpt condensed from a conversation we had, she relates how her professional experiences in caregiving diverge from her personal ones. Read full article

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The road to Alzheimer's disease might start with diabetes

By: Patricia Grace, Senior Care Examiner

Today's obesity epidemic might be tomorrow's Alzheimer's disease epidemic.

Most Americans are aware of the direct connection between obesity and Type II diabetes, however many of these same Americans, are probably not aware of the link between obesity, diabetes and dementia.

A new study by Dr. Margaret Gatz, Gerontology Professor, University of Southern California, has shown a surprising connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Her study published in the January 2009 journal Diabetes, tracked the rate of Type II diabetes and dementia. She and her team discovered that developing Type II diabetes before the age of 65 increased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 125%. Read full article

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