Monday, December 30, 2013

Guest Post: Coping with Hearing Loss as a Caregiver

By Paul Harrison

When others depend on you, it is essential that you take the best care of your own health. If you are struggling to understand conversations or others complain that you have the television or radio on too loud, you may be suffering from hearing loss.

This can be due to many things, such as an ear infection or simply part of the aging process. The sooner you get it checked out, the better. If your doctor does diagnose you with hearing loss, there are plenty of things you can do to help you continue as a carer.

Find out as much as you can about your condition so that you are well-informed and can plan ahead. Your doctor will send you for a hearing test and may suggest hearing aids. These can take some getting used to at first, especially if you have been losing your hearing for some time. However, they will certainly help you to engage in conversation and avoid much of the isolation of hearing loss.

Tell your friends and family what is happening and tell them what they can do to help. Simple things like making sure they have your attention and looking at you while they are speaking can make a big difference, especially if you have begun to rely on lip reading. 

Things will be much easier for you as a carer if the person you are caring for is able to understand your hearing difficulty. You may be able to teach them some simple signs to make things easier for you. This is often not the case, though, especially with older people or those with short-term memory problems.

You can make things easier by turning off the television or radio when you are talking to them, and making sure you are face-to-face.  If there is a window or lamp behind the other person, the light may dazzle you and make it hard to see their face. Another thing that may make it harder to follow conversation is if the other person is holding their hands in front of their face while they talk. If they don’t understand why this is a problem, you could try holding their hand, or give them something to hold such as a drink.

Just as it is harder to hear people when you are tired, it may be harder for the one you are caring for to speak clearly and understand you, when they are tired. Encourage them to point to things to say what they need. Save important conversations for when you are both alert.

One of the major concerns of carers with hearing loss is that they will not hear if they are needed, making them worry about going in the garden or sleeping in case they cannot hear a call for help.

There are pager systems where a transmitter is placed in the person’s room. When it detects noise, or the button is pressed the pager will sound an alarm and vibrate. Some systems also have flashing lights. You can carry the pager with you around the house and garden and not worry about missing a call for help.

This system can also be linked to pressure mats and door sensors, which will tell you if the person you care for is out of bed or has left their room. You can also get pads to put in your pillow, which will vibrate to wake you when you are sleeping.

Other equipment is now available that can make your own life easier, including extra loud doorbells with flashing lights so you don’t miss visitors. You can even find amplified telephones with a loud ring and caller volume control, as well as specially designed mobile phones or hearing aids with wireless capability so you can take urgent calls when you are out and about.

Paul Harrison has been in the hearing industry for 20 years and has gained experience at both at manufacturer level and retailer level for hearing aids.  Paul studied as an audiologist in Cambridge and now through he company manages a team of hearing audiologists across the UK who support hearing loss sufferers with solutions to their hearing problems.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Guest Blog: Clutter and Elderly Care

By Linda Bailey

I have watched Momma cleaning all my life. My earliest memories were of Momma showing me how to clean something or cooking lessons, even though I was not old enough to participate. She sat me up on the counter as a toddler and showed me how to make a pie crust. It was Momma’s way to communicate with me. She was not a big talker and had grown up during WWII and had to be caregiver to her two siblings because Grandpa was at war and Grandma was at the factory. She held her family together and made sure that the house was always clean and the food they had was always well prepared.

I have literally never seen a person that could outwork Momma. She never stopped; even when we had company and we were all chatting it was almost impossible to keep Momma sitting down. A lot of family members got aggravated at her because of it, especially her momma and her sister because they loved to sit and chat. But when things got out of hand or someone had a problem Momma was the first one to be called to the scene! She could handle anything and not just handle it but handle it with love and kindness. She is also the godliest woman I know and she lives her love for God out through her life and in everything she does.

So, about seven months ago, when they told us that Momma had a blocked carotid artery that had to have surgery, we knew she would be just fine. During their investigation of the artery they also found that she had numerous other blockages that needed surgery: a triple bypass. A couple of days before they told us she needed surgery and was blocked up she was out cutting down a tree at my aunt’s house (who is six years younger than Momma’s 77 years) with a chain saw. Only five feet two inches, and was always as strong as most men.

Within three months, she has had two major surgeries and has been hospitalized for a severe urinary tract infection, which keeps coming back. She has lost thirty-five pounds and has lost her appetite for most foods and is mainly being sustained by a high calorie Boost that we have to special order. She is so very frail and tiny. I know that many of you will understand when I say that there are times I just want to ask “Where did my Momma go?” And all the times I complained that she would never sit down seem to be such a long time ago.

Since Momma was such a worker in the past, the clutter did not seem to be as recognizable. Yes, we knew she kept everything, growing up when she did and living in basements and having nothing made her a keeper of things. But when she was well she was busy cleaning out closets (because of the dust) but not really getting rid of anything. She would just move it all to a different spot. And now that she is unable to clean as she did before, things are noticeable and way out of hand. As a matter of fact, she had been in the process of cleaning out a closet in the upstairs hall and had left half of it in the hall before she went in for her surgeries. After coming home, there was no time to clean it up because of all her care needs.

One morning, I went in to see about Momma and she seemed to not know where she was or what was going on. I got very concerned and when she could not get up and walk, I called 911. When they arrived they had to bring special equipment up the stairs and one of the EMT’s complained about the clutter in the hall and asked me how long it had been there because it looked like a long time! It seemed to me that he was insinuating that Momma was not in a good environment. This is what spurred me into thinking about all the things that Momma was holding on to.

I began talking to my family about getting rid of some of the clutter. I am not the most organized person in the world myself. I am a minimalist myself because I can handle having a place for everything and everything goes back in its place. But when it comes to clutter and overflow I am completely overwhelmed. I have a daughter, however, who has absolutely no problem diving in and throwing out. Of course, we had to make sure it was okay with Momma. We knew what she valued, like pictures, keepsakes, etc., but there were things which we needed to ask her about and that is where it got a little tricky.

Since her surgery, she has trouble making decisions and even questions seem to overwhelm her. We made a decision to get rid of things we absolutely knew were going to be okay first and things we had questions on, we boxed up and put in storage. We made sure Momma knew that we were not getting rid of her precious keepsakes; we were just putting them out of the way so that she would have more room and have fewer items to collect dust. She hates dust so that made her smile.

We are counting on, by God’s great grace, Momma feeling better day by day and coming back to a place where she can thrive again. In the meantime, we saw the need to get a lot of the clutter gone.  We did not want to make her feel anxious or threatened by just discarding the things that she loved and cherished, though. We told Momma exactly what we were doing, and after collecting things, we showed her what we were going to give away or throw away and what things we were putting into storage. We did not want to go behind her back and make her feel as if we were not acknowledging her feelings. We wanted to honor her by getting her okay.

Momma still has her thoughts and desires and we do not want to take anything away from her. Sometimes, when people get older and sick, their children mean well but they just take over and act as if their parents are no longer even there. This can really be detrimental to an elderly person, making them feel even less like they have worth and value. And it makes them less likely to recover fully because sometimes it makes them feel like giving up because they are no longer able to make decisions.

I understand there are times when someone’s mind is foggy and they cannot understand or they are fighting you about getting rid of anything. In that case, it might be a good idea to just talk to them about putting it all in storage for them to look through later when they feel better. Letting them know that they are still in charge of their lives to a great degree is key in some people’s recovery. I know not every situation is easy but I do know that respect and honor go a long way on the whole.

Before you think, “How do you know how the elderly feel?” I will tell you that I have spent a great deal of time around my great grandma, grandparents, and my aging parents. I have loved the elderly all my life and have spent a lot of time sitting with them reading, threading needles, talking, or just listening. Your body may change, but your heart stays the same. I was also in a serious automobile accident and lost the use of both of my legs and right arm for quite a while. I was put into a rehab center for the elderly and I spent many an hour sitting and listening to their hearts. Many of them abandoned by their children because they were too slow, could not hear well, or were unable to get around as easily. Yet, they were still who they always were.

I am thankful for these experiences I have had with these precious older people because they have made me more understanding and more compassionate in my work of late with my precious Momma.

Author Bio

This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guest Blog: The Special Needs of Family Caregivers of Stroke Survivors

By Kristen L. Mauk, PhD, DNP, RN, GNP-BC

Caring for a family member who has survived a stroke can be intimidating. Stroke can cause a myriad of problems from difficulties with walking and talking to bowel and bladder incontinence. Being a caregiver for someone who needs help with activities of daily living can cause a high level of stress over time. 

Rosemarie King, an expert in family caregiving of stroke survivors, found that there were specific areas  reported by caregivers as causing stress. These included interpersonal relationship issues, sustaining one’s self and family, and how well the stroke survivor is functioning. Stress can come from others not understanding your situation or from lack of support from family members and friends. 

Caregivers of stroke survivors are often married daughters who are balancing their own family responsibilities with the new role of caregiver. If there is a great deal of uncertainty about the survivor’s future progress and outcomes, this can add additional stress to the caregiver. Depression is reported in a majority of caregivers of stroke survivors. All of these factors lead to most family caregivers of stroke survivors experiencing what is known as caregiver burden or caregiver role strain (CRS).

You are more likely to have CRS if you have had issues coping with stress in the past, are caring for a person with more serious and complicated needs, and/or you haven’t had the opportunity to learn about stroke and its aftermath. This type of stress can lead to problems such as ineffective coping, relationship issues, and even your own health problems.

Some key signs that you are experiencing CRS include:
  • Lack of time to meet your own personal needs.
  • Increased emotional ups and downs.
  • Withdrawing from your previous social life.
  • Changes in leisure activities.
  • Increased illnesses or health problems.

What can you do if you are experiencing caregiver role strain? First, recognize that it is normal to feel stress as you learn the role of caregiver. Feelings of stress and being overwhelmed may fluctuate and continue over the entire first year in this new role. You are not alone in these feelings. It takes time to adapt and adjust. You will develop unique ways to be more successful as a caregiver. 

Here are some additional areas to consider, with tips for avoiding CRS.

  • Learn as much as you can about stroke so you can understand what the stroke survivor is going through. The American Stroke Association is an especially helpful resource.

  • Find a stroke support group in your area.
  • Recruit family members to help with the care or financial responsibilities.
  • Let people in your faith community know about your particular needs and let them help.
  • Hire professional caregivers to help ease the care burden.

Have Realistic Expectations
  • While your loved one may not fully recover from stroke, and your life has changed, be willing to accept this.
  • Set reasonable boundaries for what you can and can’t do as a caregiver.
  • Realize that adjustment will take time for everyone.
  • Remember that even small gains can be meaningful to the person who has survived a stroke.
  • Consider yourself an essential part of your loved one’s recovery and adjustment to a new life after stroke.

  • Allow yourself time alone, time to rest, time to be refreshed.
  • Don’t neglect your own health, and let your primary care provider know about your caregiving situation.
  • Consider hiring a reliable person to provide care while you run errands, go shopping, or take a vacation.
  • If you feel you need help coping, seek professional guidance or counseling early in the process.

You can visit Dr. Mauk’s Boomer Blog at for more educational resources.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guest Post: Health and Wellness Tips for Caregivers

By Tara Heath

Whether you’re caring for a loved one or you’re a paid caregiver, the job of taking care of somebody on a regular basis can be taxing, both physically and mentally. While it’s important that you give your all when caring for another person, it’s equally important that you take the time to care for yourself.

Images courtesy of Flickr.
Taking care of your own health and making sure you’re leading a balanced life isn’t just good for you, either. It may also give you the ability to provide better care to others when they really need it the most.

Eat Right All the Time

As a caregiver you probably spend a substantial amount of time preparing healthy meals. However, that doesn’t mean that you always eat healthy meals yourself.

In fact, many caregivers tend to eat quick meals and rely on fast food, microwaveable meals, or packaged foods for their own dietary needs. Unfortunately, this can lead to weight gain and decreased health over time.

If you can’t find the time for three healthy meals a day at the family table, take the time to prepare nutritious food you can take with you. Salads, healthy sandwiches and even snacks like raw nuts or fruit are convenient and good for your body, and preparing them won’t take much time at all.

At the very least, plan one meal per day where you can sit, relax, and eat something freshly prepared to nourish your body.

In addition to eating right, getting at least 45 minutes of exercise each day is ideal.

Seek Support When You Need It

Caring for somebody in need is often very difficult emotionally. When you feel like you're in over your head, remember to express your feelings constructively and vent instead of bottling up everything. Not talking about your concerns may result in depression, as well as being too overwhelmed to function properly.

Seeking professional support may be necessary for some, but for others, simply reaching out to a trusted friend or loved one can be helpful. Speaking to somebody who has been through the same situation may also provide perspective on the issue.

Find Time for Hobbies and Relaxation

When you’re caring for somebody that needs a great deal of attention, you may find yourself falling into a pattern common to caregivers: spending every minute worrying about their health and happiness. While you might think that’s making you a better caregiver, the truth is that it could be negatively impacting your life and your ability to effectively care for somebody that relies on you.

To prevent this, devote at least a little time each and every day to things that you enjoy. The hobby that you choose is up to you. Simple things like reading a book, playing an instrument or simply listening to music can be genuinely helpful.

Look for hobbies and activities that are calming, not agitating. That may mean turning off the nightly news and putting on some soothing music instead.

Being a caregiver is a noble task, but rarely an easy one. If you’re feeling the pressure of the job or become too depressed, your doctor may have a few suggestions to get you back on track.

Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She has spent time caring for her grandmother, and knows how demanding the job of a caregiver can be. She contributes health content to the Presidio Home Care blog. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Guest Blog: Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others

By Virginia Cunningham

Anyone who has been alive long enough knows that there often are not enough hours in the day to accomplish the things that need to be accomplished. Even for those of us who are not in a situation where we’re tasked with caring for someone else, time management is tough, and we often struggle to take care of ourselves on top of all our responsibilities.

Add to that the full-time care for another person, and the likelihood that you are going to be able to care for both that person and yourself, is slim to none.

Yet, caring for yourself is actually one of the best things you can do for the person who is counting on you for their care. The healthier, happier, and more self-sufficient you are, the better things will be for them.

If you are a caregiver, there’s simply no way that you’re going to be any good to anyone if you’re constantly exhausted, irritable, unhealthy and unhappy.

Caring for yourself in that kind of life situation is tough, but it needs to be done. It might take some extra effort and some emotional adjustments. Although, ultimately, in the end, both you and the person you are caring for stand to benefit tremendously.

Here are a few ways to care for yourself while caring for another.

1. Controlling your worry – Often times, a caretaker is in the position of caring for a loved one, which can compound the anxiety several times over. Worry and dread about what is happening, or might happen to that person, tends to take over, which can add chronic anxiety to go along with the already demanding task of taking care of another person.

Recognize that worrying about them, though easy to do, does not help them or you. In fact, the more happy and carefree you seem to them, the easier it will be for them to accept your care and not feel guilty about it.

At the end of the day, you can’t control their illness or disability, or the eventual outcome of it, outside of faithful caregiving. Don’t waste time and energy worrying about something you can’t control.

2. Accepting help from others – When you have so many responsibilities piled on you, the temptation to fly solo without any extra help is usually pretty strong.

Most caregivers spend so much time having someone depend on them that they find it difficult, if not impossible, to depend on other people. Recognize that there are others who are willing to help you, and that it’s totally fine to take them up on their offers. If someone wants to bring you a meal, let them. It just means you will have more time to either devote to yourself or to the person you are taking care of.

Don’t take advantage of people. However, if those you love and trust are offering to help, don’t turn them down in an effort to be a superhero. Bless them by letting them help you.

3. Diet and Exercise – It’s tough under normal circumstances, so there’s no question that it’s going to be difficult if you’re working as a full time caregiver. It is still tremendously important.

The best place to start is with your diet. If you are currently making meals for someone, that means you are already in the kitchen, so instead of fast food, make something for yourself, as well. You can even just grab a few things for yourself at the grocery store like fruits, veggies and lean meats. That stuff is quick, easy, and can keep you going throughout the day. Yogurt and cottage cheese are also great choices for handy protein pick-me-ups.

Don’t buy into the notion that limited time means you can’t eat healthy; 15 minutes at the grocery store can have you set for at least a few days.

Image: Creative Commons sources

4. Pampering yourself – Remember, you are still a person with your own needs, wants and desires, so it’s not a bad idea to pamper yourself here and there. Just think about what you enjoy.

Maybe you like going out for ice cream, watching movies or would enjoy a nice spa day. Call up a friend and spend an hour or two getting a deep tissue massage and just enjoying some “me time.”

The Best Kind of Care

There’s only so much of yourself you can give, and rest assured, the best kind of care you can offer is from a position of strength. Make sure that the care you are giving does not cost you that strength. If it does, the quality of your care will decline and the benefit of those who are receiving it will decline, too.

While it’s generous and noble to help the helpless, make sure you always take the time to help yourself.

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer in Southern California. Her life can get busy caring for family, and she knows how important it is to make sure she is also taking care of herself. She looks for ways to do this each day. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A is for Acceptance

You are caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s disease, who sometimes recognizes you as her daughter, but often thinks you’re her sister or maybe the neighbor next door when she was growing up. Now, you can continue to grieve for the loss of your “mother” as you knew her, and feel powerless about helping her in her present condition. Or you can accept this new person in your life, and see beyond the cognitive decline to the authentic self that lives inside her. In that place you can meet and embrace one another for fleeting moments or for a long-term relationship.

Few of us want to confront the reality that illness and death are an inevitable part of life. We live in a culture of denial, pushing away thoughts of our own and our loved one’s mortality. How can we learn acceptance in the face of fear and insecurity? How can we ever accept our own shortcomings: impatience, exhaustion and out- bursts? How can we bear the losses, pain and grief experienced by our patient, a situation over which we have no control? I recommend taking a look at the Big Picture.

We know intuitively some basic truths: we cannot have great joy without profound sadness. Every beginning has an end. Even more, we know we cannot be and do everything. Scale down those heroic gestures. Simply accept that you are only human. Feeling anger, sadness, confusion and resentment are natural responses. In some cases, you may have had to sacrifice your career, your sense of self-worth, active involvement in the community and life as you have known it. These losses can be heartrending for you. Affirm to yourself that you can and will overcome them.

When you open your heart to life’s possibilities and live fully in the moment, you can be better prepared for any eventuality. You can also be a more comforting presence for your loved one. When we learn, truly realize, that Now is all we have, we can let go of our illusions and efforts to be superhuman, and savor the magic of each moment. Try throwing your arms open and embracing the universe, just as it is right now. You can breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t have to change a single thing. 

This may not have been the experience you wanted, but it can prove to be of great value to you. You may not be the person you used to be, but you are more of the spiritual self you are meant to be.

From my book, "The ABCs of Caregiving: Words to Inspire You." To read  more, buy the paperback or get the Kindle edition on

Friday, July 19, 2013

Guest Post: Applying for Social Security Disability as a Caregiver

By Ram Meyyappan

As a caregiver, you can help the individual you are caring for obtain financial assistance from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the form of disability benefits. However, if the individual is already receiving retirement benefits from the SSA, he or she will not be eligible to receive disability benefits.

Who Qualifies for Social Security Disability Benefits?
If the individual is unable to perform any type of work activity whatsoever and they have been unable to do so for at least one year (or their condition is expected to last one year or more), they may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. There are two programs that they could qualify under: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is meant for individuals with a strong work history. In order to qualify for this program, the individual you are caring for must have worked five of the past ten years. This is because you need a certain number of work credits in order to qualify for this program.

For more information on SSDI, please visit:

If the individual does not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, he or she may be able to qualify for SSI. SSI is a needs-based program for low-income individuals. As of 2013, in order to qualify, the individual cannot earn more than $710 as an individual or $1,060 as a couple. They must also not have assets exceeding $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple.

For more information on SSI, please visit:

Common Conditions that Caregivers Face
In its blue book of conditions that qualify for disability benefits, the SSA recognizes numerous chronic health conditions often dealt with by caregivers, such as Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia, Pakinsonism Dementia Complex, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s Disease, Epilepsy, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis and heart problems.

The main question the SSA will consider when considering whether or not you medically qualify is: Is your condition severe enough to keep you out of work for at least a year? The SSA outlines in the blue book exactly how severe each condition has to be in order to qualify for benefits.

For a complete list of conditions and how severe they must be in order to qualify, please visit the SSA’s blue book:

The Compassionate Allowance Program
Often times, it can take more than a year to go through the Social Security Disability application and appeals process. Recognizing that waiting a year is not always feasible for individuals with an especially severe condition, the SSA instituted the Compassionate Allowance program in 2008. Currently, more than 200 conditions qualify for the Compassionate Allowance Program, which speeds up the application process. If the individual you are caring for has one of those 200 conditions, he or she will be approved within a few weeks if you are able to prove that the individual is both medical and financially eligible.

For more information on the Compassionate Allowance Program and a list of conditions that qualify, please visit:

How to Apply for Benefits
You can apply for benefits on behalf of the individual either online ( or you can take them to your local Social Security office to apply for benefits.

When you go to apply for disability benefits, you will be asked to fill out a number of forms. These include the Adult Disability Checklist, the Adult Disability Report, and the Disability Benefit Application. Make sure you fill out these forms in their entirety and answer the questions asked with very detailed answers. The more information you can give, the better. You will also want to obtain copies of all pertinent medical records in order to support the claim for benefits.

In addition to gathering medical records, you should request written statements from the applicant’s treating physicians. These statements can weigh heavily in the decision as to whether or not to approve a claim. You will receive a decision regarding the outcome of the application approximately three to six months after you submit your claim for benefits. If the applicant is denied benefits, you should appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving the notice of denial.

Barriers to Overcome when Applying for Benefits
Most people generally find the application process to be rather confusing and tedious. You will have to fill out numerous forms and provide adequate medical/financial information. If you are uncomfortable going through with the process by yourself, be sure to seek assistance. You can visit your local SSA office and seek the assistance of an SSA employee when filling out the application. You can also consult with a disability attorney or advocate. There is no upfront cost to hiring an attorney. The attorney will only be paid if the individual is successfully awarded benefits.

You and the individual you are applying for should not get discouraged if the application is initially denied. Almost two-thirds of applications are initially denied. Most applications that are denied are eventually approved during the hearing stage of the appeals process.

Social Security Disability Help, founded in 2009, specializes in information on how to apply for disability benefits. The Boston-based organization also offers free case evaluations from a local attorney or advocate if the claimant would like to speak with one.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Guest Post: How to Stay Positive as a Caregiver

By Stewart Probert

Acting as a care giver for a loved one can be a rewarding role, but, at times, the pressure can sometimes make it very difficult to stay positive. The stress of a long-term illness is very hard on a patient—and can also be a turbulent emotional roller-coaster for a carer. The most common emotions often described by those who are long-term carers are feelings of sorrow, despair, guilt, irritation and fear. These emotions can easily impact the life of the carer, leading to feelings of tension and stress.

These feelings are not unusual! Watching pieces of a loved one that you cherish slip away to illness is one of the most drawn out and painful experiences.  Sadness is common when facing the loss of a person you love or are very fond of.

Many people feel extreme guilt at the irritation they feel, adding to the pressure. Although these emotions can prevent you from feeling positive about your care role, there are many more times that you will feel greatly rewarded. If it is a parent that a carer is looking after, many people cherish the opportunity to show their parents how much they love them.

The type of relationship you, as a carer, share with the person that you’re caring for can impact how positive you feel about the role. For example, it could be a role reversal. Perhaps you are caring for a husband or wife, someone who once cared for you. As a carer, you are probably the closest person to your loved one, which means you experience the ups and downs of their illness. Staying positive is no easy feat.

In order to combat this negativity, examine exactly which negative feelings are making you unhappy. This might sound very vague… try to dig deep down into its roots. It might be quite painful to examine your feelings in this manner. Yet, it really is worth it!

Once you understand what it is that’s making you upset you can seek the necessary help you as a carer need to carry on in your role. Just because you’re a carer now doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have anyone look after you!

The first step in turning this situation around? Share your feelings with someone who will truly listen. Sometimes it helps to just get things out in the open, and could instantly make you feel more relaxed. If you don’t have anyone close to talk to, you could contact one of the many professionals available to help, from nurses to social workers. You could also contact a helpline specifically designed for carers, such as the Dementia Helpline (in the UK), which is available 24/7.

Alternatively, it can be useful to join a support group. Sometimes, a couple of hours a week sharing your experience with others who understand can be of great help. It’s not uncommon as a carer to feel totally isolated and alone, and realizing others are out there, who share your struggles and pain, can be an amazing gift. Medical professionals in the community or helpline staff can recommend how to go about finding relevant groups for you to attend.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Any other person in a caring position has probably experienced exactly the same emotions as you and suffered in the very same ways.

Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved!

Stewart Probert is part of Caring Homes, a UK-based company specializing in award-winning retirement, nursing and dementia care facilities, including the historic Bradbury House in Essex.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Must-Have for Family Caregivers: The Senior Care Organizer

Claudia Rumwell, a trained nurse, knows a thing or two about caregiving, having looked after her elderly parents for more than a decade. She saved every form and took every note, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t.” And now, she’s ready to share all that she learned on her “adventure” with those in the trenches.

Was your mother just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? Has your husband’s Parkinson’s disease gotten so advanced that he can no longer dress himself? Not sure where to start or how to manage? Claudia’s Senior Care Organizer has what you need… without the information overload.

Think of it as your “problem-solver” when you’re wondering...

  • Where do I start?
  • What information should I have readily available?
  • Who can help me locate a place for my wife and me to live?   
  • How can I tell when a senior needs more help?
  • What if I need in-home care for my husband?
  • What are some ways to improve safety around the home?

The Organizer lays it out step-by-step.  It provides quick access to important information alphabetically. The included worksheets can be filled out or easily revised, then printed for storage in your own notebook.  It also provides you with resources, ideas and information for answering many of the questions you’re likely to have related to senior care. And talk about easy. All you have to do is download the interactive PDF file to get started.

Finally, a simple tool to help you get all of your ducks in a row.

No one can know what the future holds in terms of your loved one’s medical or physical needs. The Senior Care Organizer will allow you to be ready in the event of health care changes or an emergency. And, as Claudia points out, people who anticipate stepping into a caregiver role and having a plan of action feel less burdened during a crisis than those who have made no plans at all.

To purchase the Senior Care Organizer and read more of Claudia’s tips for your caregiving journey, visit You can also connect with her on Twitter (@seniorcareorg).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Friend Wonders Where to Begin When Her Loved One Needs More Help

Dear Nanette,

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but my father-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease. My husband and I are working full-time with young children and can’t take on the responsibility for his care. Worse yet, none of my siblings can help with cash outlays. What do you suggest? Hope you are well.



Dear Lorraine,

Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of options. If your father-in-law is not too medically disabled and doesn't require 24/7 nursing assistance, assisted living is your best bet. It's half the cost of a nursing home. And, here are a few ways you and your family can pay for it.

Did your father-in-law serve in the Armed Forces? Veterans' Benefits can definitely take a while to get going, but an assisted living facility may be able assist you with filling out the paperwork. If he qualifies for Veteran Benefits, a facility will take him in with his Social Security, and the government will pay retroactively if more money is necessary.

What about a life insurance policy or drawing on an annuity? If his house is paid for, you could go with a reverse mortgage, and he could be taken care of in his own home. Or, you could look at renting out the home, using the proceeds for his accommodations.

You might also consider an adult family home, which typically houses about six to 10 older or disabled persons. While they lack the staff, separate apartments and fancier décor of assisted living facilities, the cost is considerable lower. Dad's Social Security and rent from the house could cover this. Dad will be in a safe place (we have three in our neighborhood) and be taken care of in a family environment.

No family resources? This is typical. Avoid taking on the financial responsibility, even though the state sets us up to take on the whole enchilada. Now, in Canada, it's all paid for through taxes…what a concept, huh? No wonder you were feeling so anxious. If you've been working without any professional assistance, you must be feeling more than a little anxious…desperate even. We supported my late husband’s mother for over a decade in the late 1950s and 1960s. She was penniless. She always came before our own children in terms of her needs. There was absolutely no assistance at that time. Always the family; only the family.

One other option exists. If any of your siblings are unemployed, maybe they could take care of Dad in their own home, using their father’s Social Security money to help with costs.

Seem overwhelming? First, contact your local Area Agency on Aging for free help navigating through the maze of signing up for public benefits (if eligible). A geriatric care manager could also be invaluable in finding a suitable place for your father-in-law.

This must be such a sad time for you and your family. It seems to be happening everywhere we turn. Parents age, dementia sets in, and they're like children, and must be cared for by their own adult children. Who's prepared to take this one on? Well, no one really, to be perfectly honest!

But there you have it. When it comes time for one generation to take care of another, you’ll have to follow the old adage and “just roll up your sleeves and get on with it.”

Please let me know how your situation unfolds. My very best wishes—I'll vision you and your family finding the strength, courage and unity to give loving service to Dad —and may you all prosper!



Sunday, May 5, 2013

Guest Post: A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Entire Caregiving Journey

We know that family caregivers are the backbone of senior care in the US – providing more than 80% of all care to the nation’s 39 million seniors. We also know that caregiving often takes a significant toll on the health and finances of the caregiver, and often leads to poor health for our seniors. 

Why is this?  In more than 100 conversations with family caregivers, we found that caregivers had great trouble determining what to do for their loved one, when and how to do it, and identifying what resources were available in the community to help.  Furthermore, caregivers lacked technological aids to help make caregiving tasks simpler and less complex, and to give them the peace of mind that they were doing everything that they could to make their parent healthier and happier.

Hopefully, that’s all about to change with the launch of CareSolver, a free online and mobile care management tool that creates and delivers a step-by-step guide to the entire caregiving process, alongside the information and tools that caregivers need to provide better care with less stress.

CareSolver starts with a personalized care plan for the caregiver and their loved one. Based on the senior’s specific health conditions, CareSolver generates a customized care plan covering the health and non-health aspects of providing care, ranging from diabetes care to legal and financial steps. Each task comes with how-to videos, instructions and links to helpful information, and caregivers can browse a marketplace of local companies, products and services that can help with the selected task.

CareSolver also provides a host of doctor-approved health risk assessment tools, covering everything from dementia to falls, which screen for risks before they occur and update the care plan accordingly. CareSolver’s optional home monitoring base station collects readings from a range of wireless medical devices and transmits them back to CareSolver’s servers, updating the care plan and notifying caregivers of urgent problems. Finally, a host of other care management tools like medication management, calendaring, team task and note sharing, and budgeting make caregiving much easier. Through these capabilities, CareSolver is able to direct family members to provide high quality, low-burden care to their aging loved ones.

CareSolver is the first solution of its kind. Where other caregiving tools provide information to family caregivers but leave the caregiver to determine what to do and how to do it, CareSolver actually provides a personalized, step-by-step guide to providing high quality care along with the information, tools and links to service providers needed to take action. CareSolver takes the guesswork out of caregiving, reducing the time that caregivers must spend researching and taking action while improving the quality of care that seniors receive.

CareSolver is free to family caregivers, and you can easily set up an account within a matter of minutes. All data is securely and privately stored within a HIPAA-compliant, encrypted database.  Learn more about CareSolver here:

About CareSolver: 

CareSolver’s mission is to improve the health and happiness of seniors and their family caregivers by providing action-oriented content, tools and resources that will help caregivers provide better care with less burden. CareSolver was launched by two Harvard Business School students, Arick Morton and Shana Hoffman, and a serial entrepreneur, Grant Hamm, who share a personal history of caring for an aging Loved One. CareSolver has won the Harvard Business School Rock Center MVP Award, was featured in Business Insider, and was recently named a finalist in the Harvard Dean’s Health & Life Sciences Challenge.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Memory Care Enhances Quality of Life for Residents and Their Families

By G. Eric Walker
Executive Director of Sales and Marketing

Memory Care communities offer vibrant, warm, and welcoming environments focused on the unique needs of each resident so they can live life on their terms.

Often, we forget that memory loss, whether it’s from Alzheimer’s, Dementia or another medical condition, isn’t a prison sentence for our loved ones or just something to “deal with.”  These misperceptions can make the decision to move your loved one into an assisted living facility difficult.

Memory loss doesn’t define your loved one. He or she shouldn’t be treated like a lost soul, but as a treasured individual with plenty of life ahead. That’s why IntegraCare modeled our Pathways Memory Care program after a community or neighborhood where everyone depends on each other to improve quality of life. Our memory care includes six vital objectives to ensure your loved one enjoys their new residence:

Focus on his or her remaining abilities and skills
Provide meaningful activities to promote a quality of life
Create environments that give your loved one a sense of belonging
Help residents purposefully use their time
Provide avenues for non-verbal and verbal communication
Support positive behaviors and reduce the risk of negative behavior

How are these objectives achieved? Since the Memory Care program is modeled after a community, everyone has a role in making the community successful. At IntegraCare this means living our mission to improve the quality of life for our employees, residents and their families.

We do so by including recreational, sensory and memory activities into our residents' daily routine. We encourage residents to participate in productive work that resembles the typical work they did in their prior lifestyle. Family members help in this area by providing a resident profile, which we use to create the activities.

The Memory Care program has a caring staff, which is specifically trained to work with the challenges of memory loss.  When you move your family member in, the staff becomes an extension of your family. Our staff not only listens, but they also make sure your loved one receives the help, time and attention he or she needs.

Moving your loved one into an assisted living facility is a difficult decision. You may feel like you’re giving up or upset because you know your loved one wants to stay at home. But often, it’s the best decision for you and for them.  It’s our goal as senior living providers to ease this decision. Your family is our family.

For more information about Dementia, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and memory loss, please visit You may also follow the company on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Generation Squeeze: Caught Between Parenting and Caregiving

Despite the fanfare about the recovering economy, one significant group—Baby Boomers—have lagged behind. In fact, the age group of Americans in their 50s and 60s may be the greatest victims of the recession and its sad aftermath.  Caught between supporting their college age or unemployed adult children and caregiving their elderly parents, boomers are reeling from the devastating impact of the financial squeeze.

Let’s look at the reality of being an older worker in this post-recession period. Sentier Research, a data analysis company, shows that they have lost the most earning power of any age group, with household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began three years ago. Add to this, their retirement savings and home values fell sharply at the worst possible time before they needed to cash out for retirement. Even worse, new research suggests they may die sooner, because their health, income security and mental health were pounded by recession at a crucial time in their lives.

Older workers also face being laid off from industries that are downsizing, such as manufacturing. Their mobility, though, is limited because they are more likely to own their own homes, unlike renters, who can more easily move to new job markets. Once unemployed, access to medical care for older workers dries up. Despite their greater likelihood of being disabled, older workers not yet qualified for Medicare, may have an extensive waiting period before they receive health benefits.

Displaced boomers face age discrimination when seeking new, typically lower paying jobs than their old positions. Employers evaluate the lethal combination of grey hair, aging and potential health risk of this age group, and often choose the younger, more recently trained job seeker. Just one in six older workers laid off in the recession has managed to find another job, and half of that group had accepted pay cuts.

Early applications for Social Security shot up sharply during the recession as people sought whatever income they could find. The penalty they will pay is permanent and substantial, as much as 30 percent less in each month’s payment, compared with those who could wait until full retirement (66 for those born after 1942).

Will boomers be able to adapt and succeed in overcoming this generational squeeze, or will their declining income and status simply be a chapter in the history books?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Guest Post: A Better Way to Manage Medications

By Brian Gough
Beelines Medication List

I was surprised and unprepared when I had to become a caregiver for my elderly mother.  She fell and broke her leg when she was 78. During surgery to repair her leg, her doctors discovered serious heart issues. She came home with handwritten directions for taking 17 different medications, most on a daily basis. My father, who could help with many of her daily needs, is legally blind. Managing her medications was overwhelming for both of them. This event is not unlike other situations that thrust sandwichers like me into becoming caregivers for their aging parents, and was the catalyst for what became the Beelines Medication List.


I needed a simple tool that would help me record and organize my mother’s medications. Reading the undifferentiated information on the handwritten list was stressful and time consuming. My first thought was to design a version presenting the same information in a format that was clear and unambiguous. For the last 2 years, I have used the Beelines MedList to fill my mother’s pill box and take to all her doctor’s appointments. This list has given all of us confidence and reassurance that the medications she takes daily are dosed correctly and comply with her doctor’s orders. It has been so successful for my family that I wanted to make the Beelines MedList available to anyone who needs a more user-friendly tool to manage their medications.

Why create and use a medication list? There are many reasons that have been well documented about why it is important to use a medication list. The benefits for patients include:
  • Reducing their risk from medication errors;
  • Becoming more engaged participants in their own healthcare;
  • Improving clinical outcomes;
  • Gaining knowledge regarding safe medication management and effective communication with their healthcare providers; and
  • Becoming advocates for themselves and others regarding safe medication management and communication with healthcare providers. (1)


A medication list can save your life. As you may have already read on this blog regarding dementia and delirium, without clear medication records, there is a higher risk of adverse drug interaction in patient care. “Bring a full medication list to any new health professional. Many drugs that act on the brain can cause delirium, including narcotic painkillers, sedatives, stimulants, sleeping pills, antidepressants, Parkinson’s disease medication and antipsychotics. Even antihistamines and some drugs for digestive problems, allergies and severe asthma can contribute to delirium. Additionally, all medications should be reported because they could interact with drugs given in the hospital.” (2)

At home, my mother’s Beelines MedList has served many of the roles listed above. One other effective use, I have found, is to post her medication list on the refrigerator in case of an emergency. (Emergency medical teams will look for critical information on the refrigerator if they are responding to a call for help.)

Whether you use the free Beelines Medication List at or another medication list tool to organize medications for daily dosing and compliance, don’t wait to take this important step in caring for yourself or others.

(1) "How to Create an Accurate Medication List in the Outpatient Setting through a Patient-Centered Approach." Kathy Leonhardt, MD, MPH; Deborah Bonin, RHIA, CPHQ; Patti Pagle, RN, BSN; Aurora Health Care / Walworth County, WI, 2007.

(2) "Dementia: When a Hospital Visit Becomes a Medical Emergency." Nanette J. Davis, Ph.D.;; Sunday, September 2, 2012.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Guest Post: Tips for Hiring an In-Home Caregiver

By CareSimply

As your parents and other loved ones get older, your top concern becomes providing them with the care they need in a comfortable environment. A comfortable environment for aging Americans increasingly means remaining in their own home, rather than moving to a retirement home or other institution. In a 2005 survey by AARP, 89 percent of people age 50 and older said they would prefer to remain in their home indefinitely as they age. Aging at home gives adults more independence in a comfortable, familiar environment. Family members of aging adults want to respect their wishes to remain at home, but also make sure they receive the care they need. Hiring an in-home caregiver is a great solution, but many families have a difficult time finding adequate help.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the process of hiring care, especially if you’ve never been in a hiring position before. While the process may be stressful at times, it’s certainly not impossible. You are more than capable of managing it when armed with the right information. We’ve come up with CareSimply’s Guide to Hiring an In-Home Caregiver to help you navigate the process and point you to helpful resources. In this blog post, we summarize our comprehensive guide by covering the five basic steps for finding and hiring an in-home caregiver.

(1) The first step in finding a caregiver is to assess the caregiving situation. It’s important to evaluate your loved one’s needs before beginning the hiring process. Signs that your loved one may need help at home include difficulty with everyday activities, such as household chores, personal hygiene, and running errands. You should consider the following four areas when assessing your home care needs:

        Personal Care: Personal hygiene, bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, etc.

        Household Care: Cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping

        Health Care: Medication management, physical therapy, operation of special medical equipment

        Emotional Care: In addition to all other types of care your loved one needs, the caregiver you hire should provide companionship for your loved one. This includes engaging in conversations and participating in meaningful activities together.

(2) Once you’ve assessed the caregiving situation, it’s time to clearly define your needs to ensure you’ll be able to find a qualified worker for the job. When defining your needs, you’ll want to write a job description to lay out your caregiving expectations. Your job description should include the types of duties the caregiver will need to perform, any special skills or health care training required, and hours the caregiver will be expected to work. You’ll also want to start thinking about how many caregivers you should hire. For full-time care, we recommend 3-4 caregivers. If your loved one only needs care for a few hours each week, 1-2 caregivers will work great. When writing a job description, it’s also important to determine your budget for caregiving. For helpful budgeting resources, visit Medicare,, and the Paying for Senior Care guide.

(3) The next step in the process is to decide how you want to hire a caregiver. Depending on your budget and care needs, there are typically two ways to go about hiring an in-home caregiver - going through a traditional home care agency or hiring a caregiver independently. Home-care agencies handle all caregiver screening, hiring, payroll, and taxes, but they are the most expensive option for hiring care. Agencies offer limited control in the hiring process, making it more difficult to ensure that the caregiver is a good match for your loved one. On the other hand, hiring independently gives you more control over the process, but it requires more time and effort than going through an agency. Hiring independently is less expensive, since it requires you to take on the entire searching, hiring, and payroll process.

There are other services that assist you in hiring your caregiver directly. Websites like CareSimply let you browse online caregiver profiles for qualifications, reviews, and availability, giving you control over the hiring process, while eliminating the headache of payroll and tax paperwork.

(4) After deciding on a hiring method, the next step is to choose your caregiver. It’s important to speak with your caregiver before they begin the job, either in person or over the phone. Start the conversation by describing the details of the job, then, to further gauge compatibility, ask them about their background and interests. If you’re hiring through an agency, they will most likely handle the more formal interview questions, but if you are hiring independently, the full interview will be your responsibility. See CareSimply’s Interview Guide for a list of questions to ask. Once you narrow your selection down to 2 or 3 candidates, the next step is conducting reference checks. Ask each candidate to provide 2-3 work or personal references for you to contact. When calling the references, ask about their relationship to the candidate, their overall experience working with them, and if they would recommend the candidate as a caregiver.

(5) Once you’ve found the right caregiver for your loved one, you’ll want to continuously evaluate the experience to make sure everything is still going well. A good way to do this is to schedule regular meetings with the caregiver to discuss their responsibilities and any concerns or changes. 

Most importantly, sit down with your loved one to make sure they are satisfied with the person providing care. Ask them whether they feel comfortable with their caregiver, and if not, have them identify specific problems or concerns. If your assessment uncovers any problems, it may be time to revisit the hiring process. Finally, if your loved one’s care plan is going well, tell your caregiver they are doing a great job. Caregiving is not easy, and it’s important for your caregiver to feel appreciated! 

Founded in 2012, CareSimply is the easiest way to connect caregivers with people that need local, quality in-home care. It is an incredibly reliable, affordable and simple way to hire quality care services and manage household employees. CareSimply services range from companionship to Alzheimer's care. CareSimply is backed by seed investor Right Side Capital Management and start-up foundry Sandbox Industries.