Listening when a loved one is sad

Listening when a loved one is sad

As the saying goes, “A grief shared is half a grief.” Learn to offer comfort to a loved one without jumping in too soon with reassurances or solutions. Such responses typically backfire. While comforting for the listener, they are more likely to close your relative down emotionally.

Choosing a complementary medical practitioner

Choosing a complementary medical practitioner

More and more Americans are turning to complementary and alternative healers such as herbalists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists. Learn the questions to ask as you search for a provider.

Negotiating skills

Negotiating skills

Many situations in eldercare require family decision making. This is easier said than done. Learn how to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution using insights from skilled negotiators.

Is it hearing loss or dementia?

Is it hearing loss or dementia?

To honor Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, we’re looking at the link between dementia and hearing loss. The early signs of both can be quite similar, and, in fact, people with hearing loss are more likely to develop cognitive problems.

“Tech support” scam

"Tech support" scam

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. Financial abuse continues to be the most prevalent kind. Hackers, in particular, are getting very sophisticated. The latest scam is a multilayer effort to con people into transferring their savings into “protected accounts.” Warn the person you care for to be on the lookout for these fraudsters.

What is a hospitalist?

What is a hospitalist?

Patients in the hospital are rarely treated by their primary care physician. Instead, doctors who focus on the care of hospitalized patients have been found to be more effective and more available to answer questions during a hospital stay.

Sadness isn’t all bad

Sadness isn't all bad

Sadness moves us. It nurtures compassion. It can help us feel connected with others. It can also prompt us to reevaluate our lives and make changes. Sadness is not the same as depression. It’s important to know the difference.

When to use “urgent care”?

When to use "urgent care"?

You might want to consider an urgent care center for non-life-threatening conditions. The wait is shorter and the stress is less than in the Emergency Room. On the other hand, the ER is more appropriate for serious conditions. How to know which to choose?

Ride hailing for older adults

If the person you care for does not use a smartphone, with innovative new services, they can still enjoy the convenience of Lyft or Uber, no app—or hitchhiking!—required.

What is “vascular dementia”?

What is "vascular dementia"?

May is Action on Stroke Month. In that light, we look at “vascular dementia,” cognitive problems brought on suddenly by a stroke and/or gradually by “ministrokes” or “TIAs.”

Home visits are in!

Home visits are in!

Do you wish for the good old days when doctors made house calls? Many practitioners, including doctors, psychotherapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists, are now offering home visits (mobile outpatient services) that do not require your loved one be officially homebound.

Adaptive clothing

Adaptive clothing

People with conditions that limit movement, such as arthritis and Parkinson’s, often have difficulty dressing themselves. Dementia also makes dressing a challenge. Adaptive clothing enables your relative to do more for themselves, relieving you of a frustrating task and preserving their dignity and self-esteem.

What is “inflammaging”?

What is "inflammaging"?

When our immune system overreacts, it’s like a house on fire. This is more common as we age. Our immune system continues to tell our bodies we are being attacked, even when we aren’t, or aren’t any longer. Such “inflammaging”—the tendency in our later years to stay in an internally inflamed state—may be a common link between conditions such as cancer, diabetes, dementia, and heart disease.

Before you suggest assisted living

Before you suggest assisted living

While you may feel a move is urgent, the person you care for may not be ready. Don’t push! Instead, do some homework on your own so you are able to act quickly when they decide the time is right.

Choosing a support group

Choosing a support group

Between in-person and online support groups, there are many options to choose from. Make a list of your top priorities and then try out a few to see which one fits best.

Serving as a special needs trustee

If you have a disabled relative, perhaps a sibling, you may be asked to serve as the trustee for their “special needs trust.” While this is quite an honor, it’s an immense responsibility. Be sure you have the knowledge and support you will need.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease

March is National Kidney Month. Fully 15% of Americans have chronic kidney disease. Many are unaware of it. The condition lasts for decades, and symptoms do not appear until it is in the later stages, when irreversible damage has already been done. Should your loved one get checked?

Insomnia in older adults

Insomnia in older adults

If your loved one is having sleep problems, have them keep a sleep log for one or two weeks and then bring it to the doctor. Untreated sleep problems contribute to depression and memory loss.

What is “assisted living”?

These facilities are best suited to older adults who are relatively healthy. They serve as a more affordable alternative to a nursing home for those who need help only with meals, housekeeping, bathing and dressing, and getting around.

Dealing with disgust

Disgust is a natural response to something distasteful. But it can be distressing when it arises in the course of your caregiving duties. You may not be able to get rid of it completely, but there are things you can do to reduce the intensity.

Maybe it’s not Alzheimer’s

If you’re worried about dementia, it may be that memory or thinking problems are being caused by conditions that can be treated and reversed. Remove the anxiety by getting a full medical evaluation.

Tech support for your relative(s)

If your older relatives did not learn Internet skills during their work lives, you may be getting calls to provide tech support. It can be frustrating, inconvenient, and perhaps not even the best for your relationship. There are alternatives.

Burn and fire safety

Burn and fire safety

February 4–10 is National Burn Awareness Week, a good reminder to review precautions that can protect your loved one from harm.

Early-onset dementia: Money issues

Early-onset dementia: Money issues

If your partner has received a dementia diagnosis and is still working, consider these resources to help address the impact it will have on your family finances.

Making the most of regret

If you feel guilty and have regrets as a family caregiver, you are not alone. It could be because you are overstressed. Still, regret can be a useful signal that it’s time to do some thoughtful reflection and decide on future actions.

Acting as a “human guide”

Acting as a "human guide"

Learn tips to safely and effectively assist your visually impaired loved one, especially if they are in unfamiliar territory.

Skin care and aging

The skin is the body’s largest organ and its essential “armor.” To maintain good health, skin needs extra attention as we age. The skin has three layers. Working together, they act as the body’s shield by preventing bacteria and viruses from getting into the body and keeping body fluids from evaporating out; insulation by preserving…

Read more …

Positive connections with staff

Help the daily caregivers develop a fondness for your relative and view them as more than “the hip replacement in 210.” Showing a genuine interest in the life and daily experience of the aides will go a long way toward building a congenial sense of teamwork.

Choosing a “senior tablet”

While many older adults do just fine with a regular consumer-grade tablet, others do better with a “senior tablet,” which has safety precautions and a simplified interface. Learn what to look for if you are considering one for your relative.

Dementia: Navigating the airport

Providing comfort and calm is the watchword for the day of travel with a person who has dementia. Take advantage of the help that is available from airport personnel.

Why Mom doesn’t take her pills

Failure to follow medical advice is one of the primary reasons older adults end up in the hospital. What can you do to help your loved one adhere to the doctor’s orders?

How nutrition affects breathing

If your loved one has COPD, it’s important to understand which foods are most helpful and which should be limited. You might be surprised by the difference nutrition can make!

Pacing yourself

As a family caregiver, it’s easy to put your own needs last. You may feel it is a virtue, but actually, you are putting yourself and your loved one at risk. You simply have to take breaks and to safeguard your own well-being. Caregivers who don’t experience significant mental and physical health consequences.

Financial/legal aspects of caregiving

How to pay for care is a big worry for families. Learn about options for financial support, as well as tax and workplace protections to assist you as the family caregiver. There are also legal documents your loved one will need to prepare to be sure their wishes are followed. For that, it’s best to work with an attorney.

Family Caregiving 101

November is National Family Caregivers Month. Whether you are new to family caregiving or have been doing it for a while, we outline the top strategies that will help you navigate the process effectively and keep stress to a minimum. This week we focus on gathering information and finding help.

Flying with oxygen

Flying with oxygen

November is COPD Awareness Month (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). If your loved one has respiratory problems and needs oxygen, they can still travel by plane. You just need to plan ahead.

Curbing your perfectionism

Curbing your perfectionism

Perfectionism is a mental habit that can get in your way as a family caregiver. Your intentions are the best, for everyone. But it will be better for you, and your loved one and family, if you can develop a more nuanced approach where doing the best you can REASONABLY do is the gold standard.

Affordable funerals

Affordable funerals

Many families instinctively feel that the amount of money spent on a funeral reflects the love felt for their departed relative. Not so! That belief can result in unnecessary debt. Consider separating the disposal of the body from the memorial service and focus on what will be the most personally meaningful for survivors.

Physical therapy and pain relief

Physical therapy and pain relief

Pain is no fun, whether in a knee, a neck, or elsewhere in the body. There are drugs that dull pain. But they don’t cure the problem. Plus, prescription drugs usually have side effects or are addictive. Physical therapy (PT) is a proven treatment that can relieve pain and in some instances, cure the problem.

What is hoarding?

What is hoarding?

Perhaps you wonder if your family member is a “hoarder.” (You may even harbor secret fears about yourself!) We all have cherished possessions. From trophies to teacups. Spare buttons to cans of half-used paint. But hoarding is different.

Senior move managers

Senior move managers

Does your loved one need to downsize? Move? Does the prospect seem overwhelming? Perhaps not just physically, but emotionally too? Enter the senior move manager: Part mover, part interior decorator, part compassionate friend. These professionals take a holistic approach. They handle the physical logistics. They are also skilled at assisting older adults with the emotional side of a move.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)

This is World FTD Awareness Week. People with FTD often exhibit sudden changes in behavior or personality. FTD is frequently misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, or some psychiatric disorder. It is the most common form of dementia for people under 65 (early-onset dementia).

Caring as a stepfamily

Caring as a stepfamily

National Stepfamily Day falls in September. To honor these special families, we are featuring an article about working with stepsiblings. It could be that you have hardly met your “brothers and sisters,” yet you may be called upon to work together in an eldercare crisis.

Managing pain with music

Managing pain with music

September is Pain Awareness Month. Consider addressing your loved one’s pain with tips from music therapy. No drugs. No side effects. Simply drawing on the mind-body connection to lift mood, enhance relaxation, and distract from pain.

When you feel more resentment than love

When you feel more resentment than love

A difficult or abusive childhood makes for a very uncomfortable caregiving situation when your parent begins to need help in their later years. You don’t have to do it all. Consider these strategies for doing what feels right while also taking care of yourself.

Low-vision bathroom

Support your loved one’s independence with simple but important low-vision adaptations in the bathroom: Color contrasts, a magnifying mirror, a shower caddy, etc.

How is your relative’s “social health”?

How is your relative's "social health"?

The U.S. Surgeon General reports we have a loneliness epidemic. Like smoking and obesity, social isolation creates a greater risk for poor health. It’s been associated with a 48 percent increase in “premature death” (a death where a change in lifestyle could have resulted in a longer life). Our social health affects our physical health.

Adjusting to memory care

It will likely take one to three months for you and your loved one to get used to the new living situation at memory care. Strong emotions are to be expected. But there are strategies to ease the transition and promote a resilient recovery for both of you.

When ice cream is better than salad

Have you spent years encouraging a loved one to steer clear of salt or avoid fat? There is no doubt that a healthy diet can promote longevity. But there does come a time when quality of life is more important.

What is “healthy selfishness”?

What is "healthy selfishness"?

Is being selfish always bad? Is it possible to be too altruistic? Take the survey to see where you stand. It could be that you and your loved one would benefit from your being a little more selfish—in a healthy way.

Dementia: Packing for a trip

Once you’ve decided to go, there are a few things you can do weeks ahead of time, and then while packing, that will ease many of the challenges that might arise in the course of your travels.

Bringing the hospital home

If your loved one is frail or has dementia but needs treatment for pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, or a flare of heart failure or COPD, you may be eligible for a Hospital at Home program. A team of professionals mobilizes to treat your relative at home. Popular in Europe, this program provides quicker recovery without the common setbacks of a hospitalization.

Senior bullying and exclusion

For Elder Abuse Awareness Month, we look at the problem of bullying and exclusion in senior housing. It’s surprisingly common. Fortunately, there are things you can do, whether your loved one is on the receiving end or the “bully” themselves.

Meaningful end of life conversations

Meaningful end of life conversations

A relative’s serious illness pushes us to communicate deep thoughts and bring closure to the relationship before we lose the chance. Don’t postpone those discussions! They may be awkward, but they can be profoundly important for all involved.

Preparing for a heat wave

Preparing for a heat wave

Extreme temperatures are especially hard on older adults. There are things you can do for your loved one to reduce the impact of a heat wave this summer, even if you live far away.

Dementia: Is travel realistic?

Dementia: Is travel realistic?

Are you hoping to travel this summer with a loved one who has dementia? New and crowded situations are notorious for creating confusion and outbursts. Take a moment to reflect on your relative’s likely reactions and what you can do to keep them comfortable.

What is “elder abuse”?

What is "elder abuse"?

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. There are seven different ways that elders can be exploited. Learn what they are and how to report it if you suspect a problem.

Tips for vacationing without Mom

Tips for vacationing without Mom

As a family caregiver, you need to take a break now and then. It’s not selfish. It’s essential! But in order to truly rest, you’ll want to be sure your relative is covered.

Cancer screenings covered by Medicare

National Cancer Survivors Day is coming up (June 4), which celebrates the fact that 66% of those ever diagnosed with cancer are still alive five years later. Help your loved one get a jump on any potential cancer by taking advantage of these free screening tests.

Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears

Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears

Nearly one in four older adults experiences ringing in the ears, called “tinnitus.” For some, it interferes with concentration and is so severe it leads to insomnia, depression, and anxiety. In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month, we highlight what you can do to help your loved one address this all-too-common condition.

Moving to memory care

Moving to memory care

Once you decide memory care is the wisest path, the next step is choosing a facility and creating a smooth moving day. Many memory care communities have a “move-in coordinator” or other family liaison. Rely on this professional for guidance.

Lessons from the seriously ill

A long-time hospice nurse—someone deeply committed to caring for the seriously ill—created this list of the top five deathbed regrets she frequently observed in her patients. She vowed to take these lessons to heart. Do any of these ring true for you?

The care plan and meeting

The care plan and meeting

If your loved one is admitted to a skilled nursing facility, Medicare requires the staff develop an initial, personalized care plan within the first 48 hours. This describes who should be doing what. Then, within the first 14 days, the staff must assemble a comprehensive assessment, which must include your loved one’s needs and strengths.

Do you strive for perfection?

Do you strive for perfection?

It’s important to do the best you can when caring for a loved one. But aiming for perfection can bring on problems. For yourself, in terms of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. And for your relative and other family members, who may feel burdened by living under the stress of constant measurement and judgment.

Pillbox 2.0

Pillbox 2.0

For many people, a pillbox is just the ticket. But as we age, we may take more medicines. Filling the box requires more concentration. Remembering to take the meds can become more challenging. Many families turn to technology to help an aging loved one.

Gather important documents

Gather important documents

If you are the person most likely to step in if your loved one is unable to get to the bills—a hospitalization, dementia—you need to get oriented. And organized! It’s easy to lose track of paperwork, especially someone else’s. Professionals recommend gathering important documents in a file or binder for safekeeping. Put that in a locked and fireproof location. Consider a small home safe. Or a safe deposit box at the bank.

Calling a family meeting

April 10 is Siblings Day! How are things going with your siblings? Does everyone in your family participate in the care of your loved one? Is there agreement on the problems? The solutions? If not, you aren’t alone with this issue. But you could probably use a family meeting or two to get everyone rowing in the same direction.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s

If your spouse is younger than 65 and has received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you may feel in a world all your own. You probably don’t know anyone else in this situation and may sense a social stigma. It can be scary. Lonely. And feel just not fair!

Choosing a meal service

Food is so profoundly linked to health and love, it can be distressing to realize that someone you care for is missing meals or otherwise eating poorly. There are many services available to help, each with their own special procedures. Learn about the questions you’ll want to ask.

Is it time for memory care?

People with moderate dementia are rarely aware of their need for help. It will be the family members who make any placement decisions. How do you know when this option should be explored?

If you are not the primary caregiver

If someone else in your family has primary responsibility for the care of your loved one, that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to contribute. Far from it! Caring for an older adult is more than one person can do alone. There are many ways to lend a hand (even if you don’t live nearby).

Addressing fatigue in heart failure

Addressing fatigue in heart failure

February is Heart Month. If your loved one needs frequent naps and gets out of breath easily, he or she may need a daily life energy budget. (This is especially true for people with heart failure.)

Home modifications for vision loss

If the person you care for has a low vision diagnosis, three types of modifications to the home can make life easier: Lighting, glare control, and the use of color contrast. Fortunately, these strategies are relatively inexpensive.

Where are the paid caregivers?

Frustrated in your search for a paid caregiver? You are not alone. There is an extreme shortage of helpers right now. Even before COVID, the demand for aides was greater than the supply. The “Great Resignation” hit the caring professions hard. Caregivers close to retirement left early. And many younger workers decided to opt for safer, less demanding jobs. In some states, as many as 38% of direct-care workers chose other occupations last year.

Long-distance caregiving

Long-distance caregiving

Caring for a parent long distance brings its own challenges. With planning, organization, and frequent communication—plus a little help from technology—you can provide effective support.

The yearly “Wellness Visit”

Catching things early is big with Medicare. Every year, all Medicare enrollees are eligible for a free “Wellness Visit” with their primary care doctor. This is NOT an annual physical, so don’t use that term when making the appointment. Beyond basic vitals—height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse—there is no physical examination. If a physical exam is done, your loved one may have to foot the bill.

Are you the primary caregiver?

Being primary can be quite a job. In many cases it involves driving to the doctor and managing medications, handling finances, providing for daily needs, coordinating care services, and keeping the elder’s spirits up. If you are that person, don’t try to do it alone—even if it seems like that’s the only choice.

Dry eye syndrome

Our eyes show us the world. If something goes wrong with them, it can affect our total well-being. Dry eye syndrome makes eyes feel gritty, burning, itchy, and sensitive—discomforts that are hard to ignore! It typically manifests with age and affects as many as 30% of older adults.

Cold weather safety tips for indoors

The dangers of cold weather are obvious outdoors. But there are dangers indoors, too, most often because the house thermostat is set too low. People can die from being too cold. Older adults are especially at risk.

Healing torn relations

Take any roomful of people and likely two-thirds of them have relatives who aren’t talking to each other. Families are messy. Hurts abound. Some people wait until a serious diagnosis to reconcile. They often regret the years of separation they can never retrieve. Others try forgiveness earlier in the process. There’s no right or wrong.

Dementia and small children

The grandparent–grandchild relationship can be precious, like no other. But even young children notice if Grandma or Grandpa isn’t acting the way they used to, or the same way others do. And they will have questions.

Is your home safe for older guests?

If you expect older visitors this season, check your home for hazards. Older adults often have impaired balance and vision. This makes them prone to falling, especially in new surroundings. And fragile skin and bones can mean double trouble if someone does take a spill.

Not taking meds as directed?

Taking the right medicines at the right time is extremely important to health management. But 75%–96% of older adults admit that they frequently make mistakes with their medication. Is your loved one among them?

Gifts for those with memory loss

Gifts for those with memory loss

Deciding what holiday gifts to give a person with memory loss can be challenging. From seasonal activities to digital picture frames or fuzzy robo-pets, we’ve got suggestions!

Honoring family caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month. We want to express our gratitude to you, who are part of the 40 million people (one in six Americans) who care for an older adult friend or relative. So many family caregivers feel invisible, we thought we’d give you some perspective on the scope of family caregiving across the country.

Suppose they don’t get better …

Are frequent visits to the ER a significant part of the past six to twelve months? Does your loved one seem more fatigued? Less interested in eating? Perhaps a bit withdrawn? These symptoms may be hallmarks of a serious illness your relative will overcome. But it’s also possible that these signal that your family member no longer has the reserves to beat their condition.

Palliative care for seriously ill veterans

Palliative care for seriously ill veterans

If the person you care for is a veteran and is seriously ill, they may qualify for a VA program designed to control symptoms that cause pain, discomfort, or mental or emotional distress. Called “palliative care,” this program is available even if the problems are as a result of treatments, not just the medical condition itself.

Putting anticipation to work for you

Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand for more joy? Patience? Optimism? Motivation? Maybe less irritability and stress? It’s actually accessible now, no wizardry required. Just a shift in attention. Welcome to “anticipation.”

What is Lewy body dementia?

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are many other conditions that also bring on memory problems. It is important to accurately identify the cause, even if there’s no cure, because this will shape the best strategy for addressing difficult symptoms.

October is National Crime Prevention Month

It’s unpleasant to imagine that your loved one might become the victim of crime, but it’s worth considering. There are valuable preventive steps to take. Unless your relative lives in a high-crime neighborhood, their greatest risk is a property crime in or around their home.

Who is who in skilled nursing facilities?

Who is who in skilled nursing facilities?

If your loved one is discharged from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility (SNF), their care will be in the hands of a team of specialists. It’s a good idea to understand the players’ roles so you know whom to call upon for what.

When your loved one is depressed, suggest exercise

When your loved one is depressed, suggest exercise

Depression is common in older adults. It’s long been known that brisk exercise can help reduce depression. But it turns out that exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous to make a difference. Even mild exercise can be effective.

Are you prepared for a disaster?

No one likes to dwell on the possibility of disaster. But we all need to prepare for one, just in case. Help your relatives gear up for safety. Whether you live across town or across the nation, the action items are the same.

Could medicines be the culprit?

If your loved one has balance problems, the culprit may be in the medicine. Many common medicines have side effects that can impair balance and lead to a fall. Over 40% of persons age 65 and older take five medications or more. This increases the chance that at least one of the drugs has side effects of dizziness, blurry vision, drowsiness, or muscle weakness.

Caring with a stepparent

Has your parent remarried? If so, you may be sharing the caregiving with a person you don’t know very well. Biological families often encounter tensions when it comes to eldercare. Add a stepparent and the challenges can grow exponentially.

Noncancer screening tests

Noncancer screening tests

Medicare pays for many screening exams, and even counseling sessions, to help nip common illnesses in the bud. Screening tests are designed to identify problems before symptoms emerge. They are usually for people who are considered to be “at risk” for getting a specific disease. Here are some of the most common noncancer preventive services that Medicare covers. Ask the doctor if your loved one should be tested.

Listening: The other half of the conversation

Listening: The other half of the conversation

Good communication requires both speaking and listening. Oddly enough, if you make a specific effort to listen, it can open doors. Once “heard,” the other person may be more willing to hear your point of view. Deep listening is more difficult than it sounds. It’s not passive. It requires concentration. It also takes humility and empathy.

The doctor interview

The doctor interview

After you have scoured the Internet to help your relative find a potential new doctor—someone on their plan and with no obvious red flags—it’s time to get more specific. The doctor’s website may provide some descriptive information, but most likely, you’ll want a conversation.

Caught in a cycle of negativity?

Caught in a cycle of negativity?

For most family caregivers, frustration and guilt are common, as is anxiety and resentment. These feelings are normal and reasonable under the circumstances. It’s not realistic to eliminate negative emotions. Caring for an ailing family member IS emotionally taxing, especially in the case of memory loss. But sometimes the negativity can feed on itself.

Senior centers: Worth a fresh look

Senior centers: Worth a fresh look

Even pre-COVID, many 90-year-olds adamantly refused to go to a senior center, saying they didn’t want to be around “all those old people.” (!) Does this sound like your loved one? Admittedly, the senior centers of the past tended to focus on bingo and crafts. These activities are of limited interest to the newest generation of older adults. Happily, senior centers have been updating. Bingo and crafts are still there. But the upswing in technology use during COVID catapulted many centers into the 21st century

Combatting dehydration

Combatting dehydration

With summer’s warm weather, be on the lookout for dehydration in your loved one. The signs include confusion, fatigue, weakness, and sleepiness. Some people become dizzy and their balance is thrown off. Dry mouth, headaches, and muscle cramps are other symptoms of dehydration.

Dementia and finances

Dementia and finances

If the person you care for has dementia—memory or thinking problems from a condition such as Alzheimer’s, a stroke, or Parkinson’s—unpaid bills or a messy checkbook may have been your first sign that something was amiss. Certainly, in the later stages of dementia, your loved one won’t be able to manage their finances. But what about the in-between?

The “Sandwich Generation”

The "Sandwich Generation"

Elderly parents are living longer. Children are often dependent for more years than expected. Add to this the ongoing responsibilities to spouse/partner and jobs, and there is little wiggle room for the millions of family caregivers who find themselves squeezed in the middle as the “Sandwich Generation.”

Swollen legs and feet

Swollen legs and feet

Many older adults experience swollen legs and feet. For some, it’s because of sitting a lot and leading a sedentary lifestyle. For others, it’s the water retention side effect of a medication. And for others, the swelling—called “edema”—is a symptom of a chronic or even serious illness such as heart failure or liver or kidney disease.

Does brain training work?

Does brain training work?

The brain is another organ to keep fit, and regular workouts are a good thing! Our brains enable many types of thinking: Problem solving, planning, attention, and memory. They manage our emotions and help us understand the emotions of others. Our brains also control movement (balance, speed, and coordination). And it’s where we process our spatial awareness—used for packing a suitcase or reading a map.

Understanding the rhythm of a disease

Understanding the rhythm of a disease

Much of the strain of caring for a loved one lies in the loss of a predictable routine, a sense of “normalcy.” Understanding the course of your loved one’s condition—the rhythm of how it unfolds—can empower you to respond more flexibly to its challenges.

Text message scamming: “Smishing”

Text message scamming: "Smishing"

Your loved one may be watching for phishing scams on email, but now there are scams carried out by short message service (aka, texting). “Smishing” scams rose 58% in 2021. Nationwide they cost victims over $10 billion. Seniors are a prime target, as three out of five now own smartphones. While convenient, smartphones present new opportunities for getting scammed. Time to alert your relative to smishing.

Caregiving with kids

Caregiving with kids

Children generally like to feel included. But they may not know how to relate to an ill family member with limited abilities. Here are some ideas for home-based activities with elementary-age children.

Living with cancer as a chronic condition

Living with cancer as a chronic condition

Has your loved one been diagnosed with cancer? The vast majority (67%) of people with cancer live for another five years or more. A cancer is considered “stable” or “controlled” when tumors shrink or at least temporarily stop growing. This is not the same as being cured—no tumors—but it does make cancer more of a manageable chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma.

When you envy others

When you envy others

Do you ever look at friends and find yourself mad or upset because they have free time? They don’t have a relative that needs help? You might even wish they had it harder, had some real challenge in their life. And then you feel guilty. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Envy is a natural human emotion.

Primary care providers

Primary care providers

A primary care provider (PCP) is charged with monitoring and treating a person’s whole body. Specialists abound and indeed are important. But we are more than the sum of our organs. Your relative’s PCP helps ensure that specialists are not doing things that counteract each other. If you are looking for a new PCP, there are several types of providers to consider.

Cooking tips for the visually impaired

Cooking tips for the visually impaired

Is low vision making it harder for your loved one to cook? If food preparation has been one of their pleasures, they are probably grieving not only the change in their eyesight, but also the loss of creating and serving delicious meals. Even if cooking has not been a passion, the ability to safely prepare food for oneself is critical for maintaining independence and self-esteem. Fortunately, there are ways to empower your relative with simple strategies and inexpensive tools. Here are some techniques that augment and use all the senses. They also protect safety.

Interrupt the stress cycle with deep breathing

Interrupt the stress cycle with deep breathing

We’re breathing all the time. But when it comes to stress relief, not all breathing is equal. Our bodies are built to handle periodic crises. When we sense danger, our bodies release “stress hormones” that enable us to respond powerfully and fast. When the crisis is over, those hormones are no longer released. The body returns to relaxed, “normal” mode. But chronic stress is damaging. When we’re stressed every day, the “fight-or-flight” hormones keep running. Not a lot, but enough to upset the body’s balance and undermine physical health and mood. The body is distracted from its routine tasks of repair and maintenance. This can result in significant consequences.

Poetry and dementia

Poetry and dementia

If the person you care for has dementia, you may have noticed their withdrawal from conversations, movies, even from reading books or the newspaper. Anything with an involved plot line is now too difficult for them to follow. Poetry, on the other hand, involves rhythm and images, which can stimulate memories of experiences, emotions, smells, tastes, and other sensations. All quite accessible by persons with dementia. Plus, many older adults went to school when poetry was an active part of the curriculum. Exploring fun poetry together may tap into positive memories from the past.

Organ donation

Organ donation

Those who donate organs, eyes, or tissue leave a tremendous legacy, often the gift of life itself: Allowing someone a steady heartbeat. Or the vision to see a grandchild. Or healthy skin to cover a burn or cancer site. National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16) is when everyone is encouraged to create or update their advance directive. These end-of-life documents include a section for letting family members and healthcare providers know whether you choose to be an organ donor.

Should Dad move in?

Should Dad move in?

Combining households has many benefits: Less hassle running back and forth between two residences, less worry about Dad eating well and remembering his meds, more family social time for him, cost savings on rent and utilities, etc. But if things do not work out, disentangling could cause hurt feelings and damage your relationship. Consider these questions before you move in together.

The journey of late life

The journey of late life

Families spend three to five years caring for an aging relative. At first it may be light chores or small errands now and then. But over time, health challenges emerge and needs grow. In his book, My Mother, Your Mother, geriatrician Scott McCullough outlines eight “stations” in the journey of late life. For each one, he offers insights and tips to help you counter the modern system of “fast medicine” with personalized solutions he calls “slow medicine.”

“Chemobrain”

"Chemobrain"

People who go through chemotherapy for cancer often complain about “chemobrain.” If your loved one is under treatment and is having trouble with memory, thinking, and concentration, it is likely from the chemo drugs. The fuzzy thinking may not go away right when chemo stops. But it usually recedes over time.

Caregiving apps

Caregiving apps

Juggling multiple schedules, keeping other relatives informed, ensuring prescriptions are filled … these are but some of the many duties you may face as a family caregiver. In some instances, a simple spreadsheet can do the trick. But an app makes it easier to coordinate with others.

Psychological first aid

Psychological first aid

Anxiety and stress commonly accompany family caregiving. The ongoing pandemic and its stream of variants are only adding to that. Perhaps you could use a little “psychological first aid.” These are skills or techniques first responders are trained to teach or apply to distressed persons after urgent physical issues have been addressed.The goal of psychological first aid is to help people feel safe (physically and emotionally), calm, and hopeful. Connected to others. Sound good? Try these strategies on yourself.

When your relative has money questions

When your relative has money questions

Is Dad asking if he should sell the house now that Mom is gone? Or perhaps Aunt Mary is anxious about her stock investments. Even if you are good at managing your own money, helping a relative make financial decisions can bring a lot of pressure. Consider hiring a professional to advise you.

Reducing the nausea of chemo

Reducing the nausea of chemo

If a loved one in your life is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, very likely they are dealing with the common side effects of nausea and vomiting. Not fun. Encourage them to follow these tips.

Protecting the house from Medicaid

Protecting the house from Medicaid

Care in a nursing home is expensive. For an extended stay, most people will need to pay quite a bit out of their own pocket. If there are no savings, Medicaid—the joint state-federal health insurance for low-income individuals—will step in.

Signs of an online “sweetheart scam”

Signs of an online "sweetheart scam"

Romance crime is on the rise. Over 25,000 people reported a sweetheart scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2019, a threefold increase since 2016. Individuals age 65 and older were the hardest hit, with a median loss of $9465 (across all ages, the median loss was $2500 per individual). If your loved one has been taken advantage of, they are not alone! Romance scams are the second most common crime reported to the FBI.

Subtle signs of a heart attack

Subtle signs of a heart attack

We all know the classic heart attack portrayed over and over again in movies and on TV: Someone writhing in sudden, severe chest pain.

But many heart attacks aren’t like that at all. Instead, they start slowly, typically with some mild, on/off pain or tightness in the chest. These signs are so much less dramatic than what people expect, they too often are ignored. The result, sadly, is often fatal when in fact a prompt response could have saved a loved one’s life.

When your relative is actively dying

When your relative is actively dying

In the last two weeks, as a loved one is nearing death, it is natural to want to be at their side. But then, what? Especially if you have never been in this situation before, you may feel uncertain—even awkward—about what to do. The ideal is to be a calm, reassuring, and loving presence focused on keeping your relative comfortable. Here are some tips.

Need a new doctor?

Need a new doctor?

The pandemic has brought on a wave of physician retirements. Perhaps one of your relative’s doctors has sent a letter announcing the close of their practice. Yikes!

When choosing a new physician, it’s worth the time to do some research. The right fit is critical to your loved one’s health and well-being.

Friends? Who has time?

Friends? Who has time?

If you are like most family caregivers, your social life has dropped in priority as you juggle your loved one’s needs. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up all your friendships in addition to your family responsibilities.

A spouse’s grief in the face of dementia

A spouse's grief in the face of dementia

Grief is the expected response to a loved one’s death. We expect to mourn, and we receive comfort from others. But in the context of a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the loss is not as clear cut. Your partner is “here but not here.” And you do not receive the same support or acknowledgment for the very real losses.

Making the best use of your time off

Making the best use of your time off

Time off from caregiving is precious. But after a break, many family caregivers find they don’t feel as refreshed as they hoped they would. Current research provides insights about how to get the most from a respite break.

Writing the last chapter

Writing the last chapter

If your loved one has health challenges, they may be feeling a loss of control. Add to that a terminal diagnosis and a sense of doom may prevail. But recognizing that life is coming to a close does not have to mean one waits glumly for the end. Following are some of the many ways hospice patients have chosen to take action and purposefully write their own “last chapter.” Perhaps one of these might appeal to your loved one:

Private pay services for care at home

Private pay services for care at home

Typically, it’s family members who fill in to perform the necessary tasks. But for many, perhaps including you, there are obstacles to helping on a regular basis. (Quitting your job to provide care is risky. Leaving work midcareer jeopardizes your retirement options and savings.)

Hearing the TV better

Hearing the TV better

Is your loved one having trouble hearing the television? Closed captioning isn’t helping enough? Check out these possible solutions.

Engaging activities for persons with dementia

Engaging activities for persons with dementia

It is usually obvious what a person with dementia is no longer able to do. But finding things your loved one CAN do may feel like a challenge, especially if memory loss is severe. Here are some tips:

Help at home: Community programs

Help at home: Community programs

For nonmedical support, check out community programs. Many are provided by nonprofit organizations. Others by faith communities. And still others by local government. Most offer discounts or a sliding-scale fee.

Holidays without your loved one

Holidays without your loved one

The holiday season is a festive time of year, but it may not feel much like a celebration for people grieving the loss of a loved one. Holidays are an especially tender time for missing those who are no longer with us.

The special needs of Vietnam-era vets

The special needs of Vietnam-era vets

Almost 3.5 million members of the military served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1975. Was your relative one of them? This group of veterans continues to face physical and mental health problems.

Repetitive questions

“When are we going out?” A reasonable question under normal circumstances. But if the person you care for has dementia, you may get this question multiple times in an hour. Aargh! Indeed, repetitive questions are one of the top irritants mentioned by family caregivers whose loved one has dementia. The repetitive questioning isn’t done intentionally,…

Read more …