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How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout with Respite Care

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woman experiencing caregiver burnout

Caregivers give so much of themselves, but this can lead to physical and emotional caregiver burnout. When your loved one relies on your care, it is essential to find ways to avoid caregiver burnout. Today, our experts share our tips for reducing the risk of caregiver burnout and finding help through respite care.

Caregiver Burnout Stats

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming and lead to fatigue, stress, depression and poor health.

  • 17% of caregivers feel their health in general has gotten worse as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.
  • The well-being index composite score for working caregivers was also significantly lower than the 70.2 among non-caregivers.
  • 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with about a quarter to half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression.
  • Caring for persons with dementia is reported to impact a person’s immune system for up to 3 years after their caregiving experience ends, thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.

*Statistics from Family Caregiver Alliance

Caregiver Burnout Symptoms

The symptoms of caregiver burnout can include:

  • Withdrawal from activities and social interaction
  • Feeling irritable, hopeless, and helpless
  • Changes in appetite (or weight, or both)
  • Sleep problems/changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often/easily (or taking longer to get better)
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt the person you’re caring for or yourself
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Increased use of alcohol or medications

Solutions for Caregiver Burnout

  1. Support groups and/or counseling can be an important outlet for caregiver to discuss their struggles and work through solutions. It may be difficult to share feelings (especially those that bring up feelings of guilt) with relatives. Caregivers may feel their partner or friends don’t want to hear any more “complaints”, so it’s important to have an outlet to share issues like role confusion, hopelessness and stress.
  2. Education/training can help caregivers handle various caregiving tasks with increased confidence. 78% of caregivers report needing more help and information with a number of specific caregiving topics. We offer special tips in our monthly newsletter and many caregiver organizations offer newsletters, blogs, videos and training courses.
  3. Technology and physical tools (assistive devices, for example) can make the caregiving process easier. Here are a few must-have caregiver technologies and some great caregiver life hacks. A geriatric care manager can evaluate your environment and caregiving situation to make targeted suggestions and help you access tools to make your job easier.
  4. Respite care is perhaps the #1 weapon to fight against caregiver burnout. It is essential that caregivers take a break (and know they can!). Respite care can give you a regular break to run errands, attend medical appointments, continue a favorite activity or spend some time relaxing. Respite care may also be employed for vacations or special breaks, and can be done via in-home caregivers or a stay at an assisted living or nursing facility offering respite care. Get our EasyLiving Respite Care Checklist for help preparing.

Contact our eldercare experts online or at 727-447-5845 for help in fighting caregiver burnout and finding great, affordable respite care!

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Conflicted Over Your Aging Parent’s Romantic Relationship?

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aging parent romance

Do you think Dad is jumping into a new romance too soon after Mom’s death?

Do you feel Mom’s new boyfriend is too controlling?

Do you feel uncomfortable around Mom’s new boyfriend or just find you can’t warm up to him?

Are you conflicted about asking Dad’s new girlfriend to attend family events?

These and many other questions arise when your aging parent gets involved in a new romantic relationship. We all know (intellectually at least) that it’s natural for people of all ages to want love and companionship. We likely want our aging parents to be happy and have someone to spend time with and enjoy. But, the reality may be a lot more complicated. You might be grieving over your deceased parent and trying to deal with those feelings while Mom or Dad is embracing a new relationship. There might be all kinds of family history and emotions involved.

Our feelings about our parents’ sexuality, or sex and aging in general, can make us uncomfortable about issues related to intimacy too. Do you put Mom and her new boyfriend in separate rooms when they come to visit or ask them what they prefer? Do you feel embarrassed when you see Dad being affectionate with his new girlfriend?

Even when family members get along well, new relationships can be tricky. The issues are exacerbated when there’s pre-existing conflict or concerns come up over money, control, care disagreements, etc. When an aging parent decides to get married or make major life changes related to a new relationship, our discomfort might turn to concern.

Here are a few tips when your aging parent gets involved in a new romance and you’re feeling conflicted:

  • Explore your feelings and try to separate your emotions from concerns about the relationship. There are times when you may spot legitimate concerns that an older relative might be in an exploitative or unhealthy relationship (for more on this topic, visit EasyLiving’s article “Exploitation or Love?”). On the other hand, age does not always bring the wisdom we hope and our older loved ones may have every right to make questionable relationship choices.
  • If you are feeling conflicted or struggling with grief over a deceased parent, seek out a support group or counselor. Feel free to contact our team for recommendations.
  • Get an outside party involved with family mediation or moderating discussions about conflicts or big decisions.
  • Question your own beliefs and stereotypes. Are you treating your parent more like a child? What feelings might be impacting the way you perceive Dad’s new girlfriend?
  • Try to get to know the new partner. Keep in touch with your loved one and be welcoming to the new partner. Unless there are signs of mistreatment, you probably don’t want to let your negative feelings cause major damage to your relationship.

At other times, you might be concerned that your aging parent is isolated and lonely. Depression is often misinterpreted as a normal part of aging or grieving. Keep an eye out for signs of depression and encourage your loved one to stay involved in activities and relationships. Check out some of our tips for helping a depressed, isolated older relative. Varied relationships and social engagement keeps us emotionally, and even physically, healthy.

Our team is here to help, whether you just need someone to talk to, a neutral professional to evaluate or mediate, or help with assessments, counseling or professional services. Call us at 727-447-5845.

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2014 Wrap-Up: Aging Wisely Advice

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Aging Wisely Advice: Our Most Popular Blog Posts of 2014

Here’s a wrap-up of our most-read posts in 2014. After many years of blogging, Aging Wisely continues to work hard to bring you both unique content and a focus on the issues that matter most to you. We are always pleased to hear from our readers and would love your feedback (contact us online or leave a comment on our Facebook page) on our aging wisely advice!

Gifts for Seniors: This post wins our award for the most popular topic of all time, proving that gift giving is a tricky business. We’ve put together a practical guide with different categories and specific ideas and we’ve also done a number of follow up posts both here and at EasyLiving on specific gift ideas for seniors and caregivers. Refer back to these posts at the holidays and throughout the year when you need some creative suggestions.

Our Long-Distance Caregiving post discusses what caregivers can do on a visit to out-of-town elder loved ones. We have several great resources on this topic, including our EasyLiving checklist that you can print out before a visit. Give us a call before (or during or after!) a visit to schedule a consultation or even set up a professional assessment to address the concerns you spot (and those our care managers may notice before they become trouble).

We’re thrilled to see What Will Respite Care Cost? among our most popular posts read in 2014. This important topic is essential, as caregivers need to maintain their health and well-being as they care for their aging parents or spouses. Even though the post is no longer brand new, the figures still give you a good estimate of care costs today, along with resources and tips for setting up respite care.

Discharge planning in general is a popular topic that we cover and something that comes up often talking with families. When a loved one is hospitalized, it is an overwhelming experience and many are shocked by the decisions that need to be made quickly and the confusion they feel trying to navigate the system. Discharge Planning: Stroke Care and Rehabilitation offers specific tips and information for families helping a loved one who had suffered a stroke.

For those of you looking for information on other caregiving and aging wisely topics, you might want to start with our Aging Wisely handouts page or our Eldercare Resources page. Both offer a great array of specific information on our most frequently requested topics. For personalized aging wisely advice, don’t forget we offer a complimentary consultation with our Senior Care Consultant to get you the help you need today. Call us at 727-447-5845!

 

 

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Holiday Caregiver Advice: Timing and “The Talk”

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elderly and holidays

At this time of year, families often come together to celebrate the holidays. For caregivers who live at a distance from their aging parents, it may be the first time they have seen their loved one in some time. Caregivers may notice changes and have concerns about how their aging parents are managing at home. Or, you may have limited time off from work and the holidays may be the time when you can fly in to visit your aging parents and handle various tasks.

Unfortunately, the holidays can be the worst time for having serious discussions about your eldercare concerns. Our caregiver advice is generally to avoid timing these conversations at the holidays. You can read more about the alternative approaches we suggest for caregivers at the holidays.

Why do we advise caregivers to avoid “the talk” at the holidays?

First and foremost, our caregiver advice is not to think of care conversations as one “talk” but an ongoing conversation that evolves over time. When broaching delicate subjects, everyone needs time to process and not feel rushed about decision-making. The best approach is to be proactive. Of course, we know that many families attempt to talk about these issues but get rebuffed. If you are having difficulty, we suggest a few resources: our guest blog post on Inside Eldercare, Seven Ways to Talk to Your Aging Parents about Home Help; our eldercare communications tips, Help! Mom Won’t Listen to Me! and a few of our caregiver reading suggestions cover this topic in-depth. You can also schedule a consultation with one of our caregiver coaches for a customized approach.

What’s a better approach to eldercare issues at the holidays?

Holiday family time is precious, especially with older loved ones who you don’t see often. In our rush to get everything done, we can cause great damage to the relationship and make things harder in the long run. If possible, schedule visits at other times in the year/more frequently or plan a longer visit this holiday so that there is time for both visiting and handling tasks.

Emotions tend to run high during the holidays. Stress and grief feelings may come to the surface. You may need to reset your expectations about the holidays, but you can still try to maintain aspects of traditions and enjoy time together.

In the course of spending time together, you can perhaps have smaller conversations about some of these issues. With a relaxed atmosphere it may be an ideal time to discuss general thoughts and desires related to aging. It is also a good time to observe how your loved one is managing.

We know ideal is not always possible, but planning can help you to have a smoother journey as a caregiver. Talk about an approach with other family members and set up a schedule for visits. Consider hiring a geriatric care manager to help you monitor the situation. Talk about how home caregivers might help, before there’s a crisis.

And, while you’re in town visiting, if you notice concerns, give us a call (727-447-5845). We’d be glad to talk through eldercare options and share our caregiver advice!

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Simplify Your Life: Caregiving Life Hacks

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caregivers: simplify your life inspiration

Visit our EasyLiving Facebook page this week for “Simplify Your Life Week” daily tips and share your suggestions!

Today, we are sharing some “life hacks” for caregivers. According to Wikipedia, a life hack is a term for “any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.” If you are caring for an aging parent or senior loved one, you need these shortcuts more than anyone!

TechTime: Apps and Online Tools

Use caregiver apps or other scheduling and time-saving apps. Here are a few we recommend checking out: Caregiver’s Touch (this is the app our care managers use to coordinate care and communicate/store vital information), Caring Bridge (to record journal entries to keep others updated and communicate easily), Balance for Alzheimer’s Caregivers (specific to Alzheimers: coordinate care, track meds and get the latest dementia information).

Other related apps that may be useful include: WebMD mobile, various “to do” list apps (see this Forbes article for a list of their top 9 suggestions), Medisafe (medication reminder app), MyActionPlanner (a goal setting tool developed by Stanford to help with a healthy lifestyle), and iRelax (relaxing soundscapes to keep you stress-free).

Meals Made Easy

Between all the busy tasks of caregiving, it can be hard to find time to prepare healthy meals. Consider using a meal delivery service or even hiring someone to prep meals to freeze (our EasyLiving caregivers can help!). Keep healthy convenience foods on hand (nuts, canned beans, cooked chicken, pre-cut vegetables and fruit, healthy snack food). There are also great apps for meal planning (with help creating shopping lists, searching by ingredient and more). Here’s a great list of apps that assist with special dietary requirements. Check out these “21 Cooking Tips That Will Change Your Life” too!

It Takes a Village

Taking the best possible care of your loved one means not doing it all alone. Think about tasks you’d be better off “outsourcing” such as meals and cleaning so you can have more quality time to dedicate to your loved one. Consider the emotional discomfort that can come with performing personal care tasks for a parent. Maybe having a trained caregiver to help with bathing and toileting would make sense?

Get comfortable with a “care team” before you are in a crisis. Use respite help or take a break once/week and have a quality caregiver assist so you are able to maintain some balance and have familiar help when needed.

Seeking help from a geriatric care manager is much like seeking help from a CPA with your taxes or a financial advisor with your investments. Rather than try to learn all about the eldercare system, aging issues and healthcare for elders, seek someone who is educated, trained and experienced to be your guide.

It Doesn’t All Have to Be Done Today

When your loved one faces a crisis, you get a lot thrown at you at once and can feel pressured in to major decisions. This is an ideal time to get a professional care management assessment to help you prioritize. What decisions need to be made immediately (and what are the best options) and what can wait? What issues are most urgent for your loved one’s safety and what long-term planning can be done as time allows to avoid future crises?

It is also okay to say no and reduce other obligations when you are focused on caregiving. But, make sure to maintain at least one (preferably daily) activity that provides you pleasure or relaxation, and do not neglect your health.

Automate

Use the apps we mentioned above to store information and keep schedules updated. Set alarms and reminders so you won’t forget important appointments and to-dos. Automate bill paying and other basic tasks. Schedule appointments at your previous appointment, and set your reminders.

Little things around the home, such as leaving an extra trash bag in all your cans for replacements and these 45 amazing little tricks, can remove hassles and save you time.

Give Aging Wisely’s Senior Care Consultant a call at 727-447-5845 for more great ideas to make caregiving easier! You can contact Aging Wisely’s geriatric care management team in Tampa Bay/Pinellas County, Florida online.

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Simplify Your Life: Spend Less Time on Paperwork

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Coming up in the first week of August, we will join others in celebrating Simplify Your Life Week. Join us on our EasyLiving Facebook page for daily tips to make life simpler (and share yours)!

When a person has multiple medical conditions or a chronic disease, paperwork really piles up and dealing with medical bills, records and correspondence becomes a big part of life. Caregivers often find themselves spending a lot of time dealing with mail, bill paying and contacting insurance companies or providers.

caregiver stress; medical advocacy

Our patient advocates are experts at dealing with this type of red tape. Today, we’ll share some of their tips to simplify and spend less time (and hassle) on paperwork.

  1. Start by getting organized with a system. This will help you easily access what you need at any time. Create a logical filing method and consider using an online system. There are great caregiver systems and electronic medical/personal record systems that allow you to store key information and have the details that providers will need, which will reduce errors and future problems. We use Caregivers Touch for our clients and you can read our review about choosing an electronic personal health records system.
  2. Make sure you have the key documents and information you need. Check out our Document Locator list for an idea of some of the most important financial/life documents (if you are healthy right now and mange everything on your own, let your designated representative know where to find these documents at least). In addition, you should keep a medical record that includes information such as: medical providers and contact information (plus specialty/what they are treating you for), diagnoses (and when diagnosed), medications (including allergies and medications that did not work or caused significant side effects, surgeries/medical history, immediate family history, allergies, and current treatments. Many people have not kept track of this information over the years and caregivers may find it hard to piece together a history and current picture. If you need help, our care management assessment can solve this issue for you!
  3. Keep good records so you can respond effectively to inquiries, bills, etc. The more information you have, the better you can identify errors and provide needed information to keep billing accurate and ensure better insurance coverage, etc.
  4. Know what to disregard, and prioritize. Learn to distinguish between bills and explanation of benefits/statements. Or, hire a patient advocate to help you on a regular basis to simplify and get you the best results. This may also allow you more time with your loved one and a better ability to balance. Some tasks are best delegated. Also, during a crisis, it is okay to let some things slip. You will never regret the time you spent by your loved one’s bedside, but you might regret spending time away from him/her to deal with paperwork or call the insurance company.

explanation of benefits (EOB)

Need help? Our patient advocates are here to assist with anything from a comprehensive assessment and creating an organized caregiving system to advocating with Medicare, insurance companies and medical providers. Call us at 727-447-5845 for a free needs analysis and caregiver tips today!

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Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.