Saturday, July 1, 2017

Guest Post: How to Decide What Kind of Elder Care Your Loved One Needs

By Kathleen Webb
HomeWork Solutions, Inc.

There are a myriad of factors to consider when the time comes for you to provide additional support to an elderly loved one. Elder care comes in many different forms, with more options available now than ever before, but that doesn’t mean the decision will be any easier or quicker to make.

The right kind of care will make all the difference to your loved one and the rest of your family. It’s important to begin the decision-making process as an open-ended conversation, preferably before the need for care is acute. Read on to discover helpful ways to approach the issue, as well as the different options to consider.

Conducting a Needs Assessment
Begin your journey by doing a needs assessment with your loved one. A needs assessment will help you get a clear picture of their current requirements and desires. Some of the primary areas to consider include physical, emotional, medical, financial and social needs.

Rather than just assuming the reasons for your loved one’s struggles, encourage them to help you understand the underlying problems of the symptoms. Perhaps you’ve noticed your mother has become more agitated as her dementia has progressed. Make space for an open and judgment-free conversation about this frustration. You may discover that it isn’t only the dementia that is provoking the reaction, but also a lack of healthy social connection with peers. This new information may change your approach to looking for elder care, as social programming and day outings become prioritized to meet your mother’s needs.

What Kind of Care?
Once you’ve carried out your needs assessment, you should have a better idea about the kind of care that your loved one would like, and the kind of care that he or she needs. Their medical requirements will determine the amount of training and skill required of your caregiver.

Elder care is offered by both custodial and skilled workers. Although custodial caregivers are able to support your loved one with day-to-day activities like bathing, eating and dressing, they are unable to provide any clinical support, such as checking on vitals and assisting with medical equipment. If your loved one requires clinical care, at-home healthcare will be a better match.

If you’re still unsure about the kind of support that would best suit your loved one, you can speak with a geriatric care manager, who can be accessed through either public or private means.

There are also digital marketplaces that can put you in touch with a care manager. Care managers, or case managers, as they’re known in the public sector, will assist your family in coming up with an individualized care plan. They can offer the option of arranging and monitoring care services, too.

Working with a care manager can save you time and money, as they’re already familiar with elderly needs and caregiving options. You won’t need to wade through masses of information on your own, and you won’t opt for elder care services that aren’t yet necessary for your loved one. After choosing the kind of care you want for your family member, you will have to decide whether you will hire through an agency or use the services of a private caregiver.

Using an Agency
Hiring through an agency is the least complex of the options, but it also comes with the highest price tag. An agency caregiver will cost you $25-40 per hour, depending on the agency and the part of the country. Usually, agency caregivers have already been run through a police check, and have all the required skills and training to qualify them for their role. What’s more, because the agency is their employer, you are not responsible for payroll, taxes, insurance and maybe even scheduling.

Working with an agency can offer greater convenience, but there are certain restrictions to bear in mind. You may be limited in terms of choice when selecting your caregiver, or you may be given an automatic replacement if your caregiver calls in sick. You may also be locked into a contract with an agency, and have less flexibility with scheduling.

Privately Hiring a Caregiver

If you want a privately hired caregiver to look after your loved one, you will enjoy a larger pool of candidates to choose from, so there’s a better chance of finding your perfect match. Private care also boasts more flexibility when it comes to scheduling, and lower hourly rates of $12-20 per hour.

You’re not limited to an agency’s existing employee base, either. That means you can advertise and seek out a candidate whose skills and training are tailored to your loved one’s needs. Some private caregivers may also offer mobile care, which would allow the caregiver to accompany your family on vacation or help out while you’re away.

New digital marketplaces are making it easier to find the right caregiver, by using robust algorithmic matching abilities. They also offer services similar to that of a geriatric care manager, to ensure you’re matching with the correct caregiver.

Privately hiring a caregiver also comes with unique responsibilities, relative to that of an agency. Because you hire the caregiver directly, you become that worker’s employer. Remember to factor in the costs of payroll taxes and insurance, which is roughly 12-15%. It is also recommended that you provide an employment contract, and negotiate all terms of service, including sick days and back up coverage.

Be Patient
The most important thing to remember is that there is no one solution that works for all older adults. Often a process of trial and error is necessary when looking for a good match, so don’t be discouraged. Be patient with yourself and your loved one as you navigate this new season of life together. Involve them as regularly as possible in all decisions, and give them the opportunity to try things out and change their mind.

Elder care is a shifting series of needs, and though you may find a caregiver who is a perfect fit for a certain period, be prepared to reconsider your care as time goes on. Stay attentive and responsive to your loved one's changing requirements, mobility, and desires. Ultimately, you want what’s best for that family member so they can live life to its fullest.

Additional Resources
HomeWork Solutions Knowledge Base

Long-Term Care

Elder Care Options

Kathleen Webb co-founded HomeWork Solutions, Inc. in 1993 to provide payroll and tax services to families employing household workers. Webb has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and Congressional Quarterly. She also consulted with Senate staffers in the drafting of the 1994 Nanny Tax Law. She is the former President of the International Nanny Association, the leading professional association in the in-home childcare industry. You can contact HomeWork Solutions directly via Twitter (@4NannyTaxes).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Guest Post: Caregiving for Loved Ones with Mesothelioma 

By Katherine Keys

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be difficult for everyone involved. This is particularly true for caregivers, who are bound to face challenges while providing a priceless service for their loved one. Being the primary caregiver for someone with cancer, particularly mesothelioma, is not an easy task and can take its toll, so caregivers should prepare themselves for what lies ahead.

Mesothelioma is a unique type of cancer. It is rare and much more aggressive than other types of cancer; veterans are believed to make up approximately 30 percent of those diagnosed. The most common form, pleural mesothelioma, attacks the tissue surrounding the lungs, and this leads to symptoms like shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and a persistent cough. As mesothelioma develops and spreads, which happens rapidly, these symptoms quickly get worse. They can severely limit mobility, requiring a great deal of physical work on the part of the caregiver. Someone in the later stages of mesothelioma may need help getting around, bathing, and even just getting out of bed.

The daily tasks associated with caring for someone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma can be overwhelming. Along with the day-to-day scheduling of appointments, managing medications, personal care and nutritional needs, caregivers must deal with the patient’s financial and legal affairs. The amount of paperwork can be daunting. And knowing that a loved one faces a poor prognosis can place a tremendous strain on a caregiver’s physical and emotional health. It’s completely normal for the caregiver to occasionally feel frustrated, exhausted or depressed.

Caregivers must learn to take care of themselves. One of the common mistakes that caregivers make is to skimp on the time required for their own personal needs. While it may seem selfish, it is critical that caregivers stay as healthy as possible. The reason is that the level of care they provide is often in direct proportion to how well the caregiver feels. Restful sleep is an essential element to staying healthy and alert. Eating a well-balanced diet provides the vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that help ward off illness. Caregivers can also combat stress with regular exercise.

Caregivers should not be afraid to ask for help and take advantage of any available programs. These include the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, which provides certain caregivers up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for loved ones without the fear of losing their job. If finances are tight, they may be eligible for benefits from asbestos trust funds that have been established.

These trust funds are designed to provide just compensation for sufferers of mesothelioma. Support groups have also been created to help relieve some of the pressure. Home health agencies, such as Visiting Nurses, can provide much-needed support to caregivers who feel overextended.

State and local governments usually have elder care advocacy agencies, as well. It is vital that caregivers make the time to support themselves and take care of their own needs as they attempt to care for their loved one.

When someone is diagnosed with any kind of cancer, providing care often falls on the shoulders of a family member or a close friend. Reaching out for help when needed goes a long way to ensuring that the patient and the caregiver have the best quality of life possible.

Katherine Keys is an Outreach Specialist with the Mesothelioma Lawyer Center. The Houston, Texas-based organization provides advocacy and resources to those facing the disease.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Guest Post: Facing the Challenges of Alzheimer's Disease

Samantha Stein

Alzheimer’s disease has the power to alter the dynamics of the family. As the progressive brain
disorder targets memory, thinking and behavior, this condition can change the roles within the family quickly. Adult children become the primary caretaker of their parents and spouses shift to caregivers instead of partners. These unplanned role reversals can take a drastic toll on all involved.
As family members assume the role of caregivers, they begin to take responsibility for the financial, physical, emotional and mental well-being of their loved ones—while simultaneously trying to maintain their own. And trying to do both requires herculean strength.
Many caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s are at a higher risk of depression. Moreover, if we take a look at the cost of long-term care by state, we can easily see how their finances can also take a huge hit.
Anyone can see how overwhelming the responsibility is. As shown in 18 Enlightening Facts about Caregivers, these individuals sacrifice so much, and they should be appreciated and supported more. It can be emotionally, physically, and emotionally taxing for anyone. Add the various symptoms of Alzheimer’s into the mix, and the situation can turn disastrous.

My Mom, My Shadow
Many caregivers find it especially difficult to cope with shadowing, one of the more pronounced
symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The stories vary: caregivers share how terrifying it was to wake up in the middle of the night to find their loved one inches away from their faces, with eyes bulging as they watch their caregivers sleep. Others feel suffocated and frustrated to find their loved one following them at every turn.
Typically, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease shadow their caregivers because of anxiety and uncertainty. It is a fear-driven act, where they feel that their caregivers are the safe and known aspect of their lives. As they increasingly become disoriented, they may cling to what is only familiar and safe to them and that often means trying to stick like glue to their caregivers.

Dealing with Shadowing
The first step that caregivers need to take? Understanding and acceptance. Remember that reality is a gray area for individuals with Alzheimer’s, and it can be a terrifying situation for them. How a caregiver interprets this behavior can make a big difference. Recognize the reason behind the act, and know that it is not an action done to annoy anyone purposely.
Often, caregivers simply must take a much-needed break and collect their thoughts. Yes, the shadowing makes it challenging to do so, and can leave the caregiver feeling guilty for wanting to make an escape. Caregivers may have to ask for help from other trusted family members or friends. Additionally, they can incorporate engaging activities into the daily routine, designed to capture the attention of their loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Care for the Caregiver
Caregivers should remember to make their well-being a priority, no matter how impossible it may seem. The quality of care depends on the how healthy and happy the caregiver is, and that’s why they must take measures to secure their present and future. That could mean considering long-term care planning for themselves. After all, no one needs and deserves financial security more than these unsung heroes.

Samantha Stein is an online content manager for Association for Long Term Care Planning. Her works focus on long-term care information that covers long-term care insurance, financial planning, elder care and retirement. In line with the organization’s goal, Samantha creates content that helps raise awareness on the importance of having a comprehensive long-term care plan not just for the good of the individual but for the safety of the entire family.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Guest Post: Enjoying Life While Getting Older

By Daniel Lewis

Aging triggers some of the most visible changes in our bodies. The older we get the bigger the changes, meaning that it’s critical to enjoy the process and do what we can to make our later years comfortable. Aging is inevitable. However, we can take steps to live a fulfilling life.

Our minds, bodies and, of course, our metabolism, change as move past the mid-century mark. Common health concerns include arthritis, short-term memory loss, brittle bones and a loss in skin elasticity, among others. While sometimes frustrating, these changes are perfectly normal.

Healthy Living
Taking supplements can help, although these should only be taken under the strict supervision of your physician. Sadly, vitamin deficiencies are common in seniors. Some don’t spend enough time outside, may not be physically active and may even forget to eat or drink water.

It’s never wise for anyone, especially an older adult, to start popping pills at random to fill in the gaps, though. For example, simply because we’ve heard about a magic elixir with 50 vitamins and minerals, it doesn’t mean that it’s what our body needs. And, don’t forget – hydration is paramount. As we get past our 50s, we may not feel hunger or thirst the same. Just because we don’t feel thirsty doesn’t mean our bodies don’t need water.

Drinking eight glasses of water every 24 hours might seem like mission: impossible. Try to keep things interesting while staying hydrated. We can eat more watermelon, or “spice” up” our daily water with fresh strawberries to give it a more pleasant taste.

Another key to a long and happy life is directly linked to diet. We need to keep our metabolism going full speed ahead. The best way to do that is with healthy food. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet, keep your meat lean and avoid fried and salty foods.

Say Yes to Change
The passing of the years can bring about major shifts in mind, body and spirit. We may have moments of joy, sadness or clarity. The key is acceptance. There’s little more you can do in the present than to live it. Why not make every moment count?

When we focus on what we have right now, we don't let worry ruin our present. Many seniors have difficulties expressing their emotions because they don’t want people to perceive them as being helpless or weak. But hiding vulnerabilities can do more harm than good; eventually seniors may end up developing acute anger, anxiety and depression.

Accept and Move On
Just because we can’t remember where we put our glasses or house keys doesn’t mean we’re suffering from dementia or some other debilitating disease. Forgetfulness is common among older adults. Having trouble getting around the house? Might finally be time to ask for assistance. There are excellent caregivers out there; first, we have to be willing to accept we can’t do it all anymore.

Our bodies are not invincible, no matter how healthy we eat or how much we exercise. The sooner we understand that, the better. We all must accept our own limitations. We shouldn’t feel bad if we need a hand or want the kids to stop by and help around the house every once in a while.

We can’t stop the march of time. But we can make the most of the time we have. Sometimes, we may feel low, or be looking at a period of rehabilitation after a setback, such as a stroke. These are only temporary. With the right mindset and healthier choices, life at 70, 80 and beyond can be nothing short of great!

Daniel Lewis writes about health and fitness-related issues. He has a deep knowledge of the field and is a regular contributor to, which focuses on elder care homes and retirement villages in the UK.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Falls Are the Leading Cause of Death Among Elderly People [Infographic]

By Derek Eastwood
Hussey Fraser
The life of a perfectly healthy older person can be ruined by a single fall. Older people will generally have a few more aches and pains than younger people but falls can still be avoided. As the infographic below outlines, elderly people fall at far greater rates but only around half of these are linked to intrinsic risk factors, such as attenuated vision or foot problems.
Simple things in a household can cause someone to fall. For example, it’s so easy to trip on any electrical cords that are strewn across the floor or loose rugs. Potential hazards are everywhere. Of course, elderly people find it more difficult to retain their balance if they stumble on something, which is why it’s so important to be vigilant around the house.

Derek Eastwood serves as the Business Development Manager for Hussey Fraser. The organization, based in Dublin, Ireland, offers technical and legal advice to people on a wide range of personal injuries.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Guest Post: Alzheimer's Disease Checklist for Caregivers

By Leandro Mueller

Caregivers watching over individuals living with Alzheimer’s Disease need to take into consideration certain aspects of this form of dementia. The progressive march of Alzheimer’s can result in a devastating and emotional burden for caregivers and their families. As such, a checklist of common Alzheimer’s symptoms may prove handy for the potentially long journey.

More on the Memory Loss
Typical memory loss associated with aging involves forgetting names or remembering to stick to a routine or schedule. However, with Alzheimer’s Disease, information recently learned by an individual may seem akin to a blur. Consistent assistance is typically needed for the care recipient to maintain quality of life and mobility.

These types of assistance range from the daily tasks of money management, cooking and driving to bathing and eating. A disassociation on time and location may also be observed with persons living with Alzheimer’s. Loved ones often forget where they are, what time it is, or even what day of the week it is. The distant past can become the present in a flash. 

Severing Connections
The loss of memory caused by Alzheimer’s may result in withdrawal from social relationships, as well. Both work and personal connections may be at risk, which further isolates the individual from reaching out. Mood swings and abrupt changes in personality are not uncommon, either.

What Caregivers Can Do to Help Cope with Dementia
Caregivers can be all too aware of just how much they are needed, once the extent of their loved one’s memory loss becomes apparent. Emotions can be particularly impacted. In the blink of an eye, the stress of caregiving can change the dynamic with partners or even complete strangers. Everyday tasks can become infinitely more difficult. The key to looking after a dementia-afflicted individual is love, and, of course, preparation.

Creating steps toward a safer living environment for the care recipient should be one of the top priorities. Caregivers should consider rearranging the furniture for maximum safety in the home and keeping care essentials at arm’s reach. Arrange installation of safety fixtures wherever possible, such as rubber matting in the shower, to help prevent injuries from occurring.

Additionally, caregivers and receivers alike should take the time to talk about insurance policies to cover health and financial needs during the years ahead. One particular plan worth considering is a Medigap policy, to help pay for out-of-pocket costs not covered by original Medicare plans. Opting for this type of plan can mean one less worry for the caregiver, allowing him or her to focus more fully on their loved one.

Please let us know below if you have other suggestions.

As the Online Content Director of, Leandro Mueller aims to push for awareness and promotion of the many benefits of Medigap insurance plans in the market. He hopes that his work will help boomers and retirement industry experts alike in their lives.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Guest Post : The Autumn Years...Understanding the Challenges of Aging

By Jim Raychrudhury

From greater need for specialist care and more frequent doctor visits to mobility and cognitive challenges, growing older comes with its own unique set of concerns. However, taking the time to understand some of the biggest issues that seniors face as they age can help significantly in dealing with the hurdles that lie ahead... and make life easier and more comfortable for our elders. Here are five challenges that seniors frequently face.

Mobility Issues
As seniors age, they slow down - partly due to entropy and waning physical strength, and partly due to conditions that mainly affect the elderly, such as arthritis, bursitis, and osteoporosis. While such conditions can very often be treated, the impact can be slowed or delayed but not put off indefinitely - and even absent mobility-threatening conditions, seniors simply don't move as quickly as they used to.

Mobility problems are one of the top concerns of most people when they think about getting older. Mobility challenges can be lessened by working to maintain good health, especially through diet and exercise. Older adults already experiencing mobility issues can work with physical therapists or personal trainers to increase mobility, and with physicians experienced in elder care. Their friends and family should encourage them to remain as active as possible, and to pay careful attention to their medical care as the years progress.

Cognitive Challenges
Memory and learning ability tends to naturally decline with age, and older people can experience more cognitive disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease. These challenges frustrate many seniors, particularly those who were more cerebral when younger.

While many elders who were mentally active in their younger years tend to remain so, greater levels of cognitive activity and social engagement are recommended for seniors, especially those suffering from conditions such as dementia. Intellectually stimulating activities such as puzzles, language learning, and music may lessen the impact of cognitive decline and may slow the onset of dementia-like illnesses. In addition, regular exercise can help to improve cognitive function.

Isolation & Grief
Many experience isolation when they get older. The children have long since grown and gone about establishing households and families of their own, their spouse may have passed away, and close friends may have, as well. Isolation can result in depression, cognitive decline and even suicidal ideation. The risk of suicide is substantial for elderly widowers.

Older adults should try to remain actively involved in their community as much as possible. For example, those with specialized skills may choose to teach classes at the local library or community center, or do volunteer work in the community that utilizes their unique skillset. Enrolling at a local senior center and attending events there several times a week can address not only social needs but physical and cognitive ones. Dances, game nights, and the like can go a long way to lift spirits. The families of elders should also try to visit their elders whenever possible to reduce the level of isolation.

Elders and their families must work to safeguard against these dangers by ensuring that both physical and mental health are being looked after. Elders should feel free to communicate their goals for their care to their physician, and their families should encourage them to seek out a mental health professional to assist them in constructively coping with the unique challenges of aging.

Financial Planning
People are living longer and longer, but the challenges of aging have not diminished - particularly for those who require specialist or in-home care. Elders and their family should make it a point to make financial planning a priority both before and during retirement to ensure that the costs of living and health care can be met adequately. Investment returns should be carefully considered, as should regular income (i.e., Social Security, pension funds). And, insurance policies should be very carefully planned and monitored.

While the challenges seniors face are many, the help of their families and communities can assist them in continuing to live rich and fulfilling lives... all through their autumn years.

Jim Raychrudhury is a freelance writer and passionate blogger, who focuses on health, life and family related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his family. He can be followed on Twitter (@JimRaychrudhury).