Support for Families & Caregivers
More and more families are providing care for an older family member at home for a time, sometimes for financial reasons, sometimes out of a sense of love or even duty. Whatever the reason, it’s a tough job that generally grows beyond what was ever envisioned. For families who must still be in the workforce outside the home, this is an especially difficult situation, essentially turning into a second fulltime job.
Generally, family caregivers have little or no training for the job; therefore, caregiving frequently has a negative effect on both the caregiver’s physical and emotional health. All too often it’s the caregiver who ends up with the medical crisis, and research tells us that long term caregivers are at an increased risk of early death themselves. Taking on the job of providing the care for an adult with increasing needs is no small endeavor. We know.
It is critical to have a support network of some type. If you are in this situation, here are some helpful resources we encourage you to use. Then, when the time comes that caregiving is more than you can realistically do, call on us. We are the professionals who provide the loving care your loved one deserves.
- 12 Resources Every Caregiving Should Know About
- Taking Care of YOU; Self-care for Family Caregivers
- Signs of Caregiver Burnout
- Speaking to Elderly Parents the Right Way
- Is it time to take away the keys?
- Understanding Dementia Behaviors
For early warning signs of memory loss conditions, visit www.alz.org.
Where To Start
Aging and the loss of function can bring about a host of painful feelings and changes for families. Initiating a conversation with a parent or loved one about senior living options can be complicated and emotional. The move to a senior living community can be a difficult transition, but most seniors find that, following the adjustment period, senior living is rewarding, fun, safer, and more comfortable than living alone. If it’s time for your family to broach the topic of senior living with your loved one, try the tips listed in an article from AgingCare.com, below.
An article on AgingCare.com suggests the following to encourage a loved one to consider making a move to a senior living community:
- First, plant the seed. Don’t approach your parent as though you’ve already made the decision for him or her. Just mention that there are options that could make life easier and more fun.
- Next, offer a tour of some local senior living centers, if he or she is willing, but don’t push it. Drop the subject if necessary, and wait for another day.
- Watch for a “teachable moment.” Did Mom fall, but escape getting badly hurt? Use that as a springboard. You may want to wait a bit, or immediately say something like, “Wow, that was close. Once you’re feeling better, maybe we could go look at the new senior living center over by the church. We’d both feel better if you had people around.” Go with your gut on the timing, but use the “moment.”
- Again, don’t push unless you consider this an emergency. It’s hard to wait, but you may need to. Wait for, say, a very lonely day when Mom is complaining about how she never sees her friends anymore. Then, gently, try again.
- Check with your friends and friends of your parents. See if any live happily in an senior living center nearby, or if their parents do. Just like your first day of school when you looked for a friend – any friend – who may be in your class, your parent would feel much better if there were a friend already in the center.
- Even if they won’t know anyone, you can still take your parent to watch a group having fun playing cards or wii bowling. Show off the social aspects of a good center. Keep it light and don’t force the issue. Tour more than one center, if possible, and ask your parent for input. Big center or small? New and modern or older and cozy?
- Show interest in how much privacy a resident has. Ask about bringing furniture from home and how much room there is. Take measuring tapes and visualize, if you can see some rooms, how your parent’s room(s) would look. Show excitement, as you would do if you were helping your parent move to a new apartment, because that’s what you are doing.
- Stress the safety aspects.
- Stress the fact that there’s no yard cleanup, but flowers can be tended to. There’s no need to call a plumber if the sink breaks, but there are plenty of things to do if people want. There’s plenty of freedom to be alone, but company when they desire it.
For additional research, visit the AgingCare.com article: Signs that tell you it’s time for Assisted Living
Warning Signs of Memory Loss
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, here are some differences in normal memory lapses and more serious memory conditions.
Typical Age-related Changes
- Making a poor decision once in a while
- Missing a monthly payment
- Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
- Sometimes forgetting which word to use
- Losing things from time to time
Signs of Alzheimer’s
- Poor judgment and decision making
- Inability to manage budget
- Losing track of date or the season
- Difficulty having a conversation
- Misplacing things and being unable to steps to find them
Seniors and Driving
At some time you will feel concern or even fear that your parents should no longer drive an automobile. This is one of the most important deliberations, considerations and possible actions you will probably face as the family caregiver.
A person’s age is not and should not be the reason for taking away the car keys. There are people in their 80s and 90s who hold licenses and drive actively and safely, while there are others in their 50s and 60s who are dangers to themselves and others when behind the wheel. In fact, the most driving-accident-prone Americans are those aged 15 through 19.
Physical and mental condition and ability are the first factors to consider.
Vision: Conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can hamper driving ability. Your parent’s optometrist or ophthalmologist can identify vision problems, limitations, concerns and cautions. It is possible that some limitation in vision can be accommodated by not driving at dusk or night. Some conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma, can be corrected surgically. If your mom or dad wears glasses, schedule an annual eye and vision examination.
Physical ability: Driving takes dexterity, ability and strength in both arms and legs/feet to control the vehicle at all times. Consider any physical limitations. Consider, too, if he or she has shrunk a bit in physical size, where the solution may be to move the driver’s seat forward and upward for both better control and vision over the hood of the car, and/or adding a pillow.
Physical activity: Mature adult drivers die in auto accidents at a rate higher than other age bracket because, at home, many do little or no exercise, not even a daily walk outside. Therefore, if your parent currently does no physical activity to maintain or build strength, agility and aerobic ability, this should be a concern. Importantly, it is probably correctable by introducing him or her to less television time and more physical activity.
Diseases: Patients with Alzheimer’s disease can become disoriented almost anywhere, and a severe diabetic may fall into a coma. The parent’s physician can advise of such possible problems and risks. But, don’t assume that your parent has Alzheimer’s if he or she forgets momentarily the location of a wallet, purse or newspaper.
Medications: Prescription drugs are chemicals designed to produce specific and desired changes or functions within the body. But, as in the law of physics, for every action there is a reaction. That reaction may be drowsiness and/or a slowing of the person’s reaction time. In the field of medicine these are identified as side effects and may affect, even seriously, a person’s ability to drive.
A patient taking several different prescription drugs, particularly if they are prescribed by different doctors who don’t have updated knowledge of other drugs being taken, may have even more serious side effects as each of the drugs creates its own side effects plus conflict with other drugs to cause even worse reactions. The latter is identified as polypharmacy.
Your parent’s physician(s) can advise of the side effects of each drug plus the added conflicts through polypharmacy. You may also take all the prescription containers to a friendly pharmacist who can quickly do a computer-based analysis.
The American Medical Association has published a detailed report and recommendation to all of its physician members that they assist caregivers, answer their questions, and present their recommendations regarding the elder’s physical and medical conditions. The report also recommends that the physician be actively involved in counseling the patient to hang up the car keys.
Here are some hints for determining your mom or dad’s ability to drive:
Ride along: Take a ride or three with your parent and observe his or her physical ability in controlling the vehicle, staying within the lane, how turns are handled, the driving speed, ability to scan from left to right, any visual susceptibility to glare, and for any possible confusion in traffic. Do your observations simply, without nagging or distraction. Make notes upon return, for you may need to share them with an expert.
Check the vehicle: Periodically and without fanfare, check the outside of the car for any possible dents or scrapes.
Accompany your parent at least once to every medical specialist and service or treatment center and, and have him or her sign a release of confidentiality form naming you as a relative with whom they can share any and all medical and mental information without their violating federal confidentiality laws. If your relative is on Medicare, you can check the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements he or she receives after each medical visit or payment. This will ensure that you are aware of every one and service involved medically. These steps will guarantee that you can ask questions and express concerns privately as well as invoke professional assistance.
Research other available transportation for if and when mom or dad must quit driving. A call to the local Area Agency on Aging can learn about Dial-A-Ride, public transit, specialized transit (door-to-door service typically by minibuses) and even volunteers who provide chauffeur service. And talk to your siblings, children and other relatives to be volunteer drivers when in need.
If you determine that mom or dad is still capable of driving, suggest they enroll in a Mature Driving course. Such enrollment may even qualify your parent for a discount on auto insurance.
Here is why you should not jump to a decision or conclusion that mom or dad should no longer drive.
Taking the car keys removes the parent’s independence, the ability to drive to the market or to meet friends for coffee, to church and the senior center, the library or to visit friends. The experience can be traumatic.
As the caregiver, you may also have to deal with other relatives who may be too quickly judgmental and even emphatic that the keys must be taken.
Involve mom or dad in the consideration and decision. You may find a positive reaction when talking candidly with them, and they will understand your care and concern for their safety.
If you feel that it is time for them to hand over the keys, recognize that you may run into resistance. This is understandable. However, if that is the case, there are several ways to legally revoke your loved one’s license. You just have to find a tactful, loving way to approach this topic.
This information is reprinted from Agingcare.com.