Your Senior Parents and the Holidays.

New Year Resolutions for Caregivers.



(pictures from 'A Place for Mom')

'A Place for Mom' sent an email regarding some new plans that caregivers may want to think about. It talks about how to visualize your goals for the year, maybe share them (if you feel the need) and mentions some 'tech' help out there.

1) One thing that seems to run through all the caregiver talk, especially if you are part of 'The Sandwich Generation', is that there never seems to be enough time to do all you need to do. Caring for parents takes up about as much time as caring for young children. I never knew there was 'tech' help. I have not tried any of these. From their websites, it does seem something that I would consider now. Please take a look to see if they may help your family.

From the 'Caregivers Blog', Ann Napoletan writes of an app called 'Evernote' to keep a list of things she needs do handy and synced on all her devices. 'CareZone', 'Caregiver's Touch', and 'Personal Caregiver' are all apps which can manage medications as well as files, contacts, and organize with other caregivers.

2) Again, the big thing is to talk to your parents. It is not easy; at least my mom was open to it. My in-laws (90 & 91), not so much - they work on an 'as need to know basis'. My husband who is executor of their wills doesn't know much. There are 10, what 'A Place for Mom' calls 'essential questions' - and they are!! But not an easy conversation to start since it can deal with mortality. You should try and find out: is there a durably power of attorney, what are your end of life wishes, do you have a will or living trust, do you have long term care insurance or something else if needed, are these documents current/up-to-date and where are they if I need them, if you cannot take care of yourself where would you like to go, do you see your doctor regularly, do you understand why you are taking the medications that have been prescribed.

3) Plan for long term care costs. There is a 'cost of care calculator' (again something I did not know) and learn about what insurance covers and does not cover. REMEMBER - Medicare is not long term care insurance and will not cover long term nursing home care or assisted living. According to the article, long term costs are rising faster than inflation so it may be best to talk to a professional financial planner.

4) Help your parents eat well. Another app, 'MyNetDiary', helps to track your elderly parent's diet with special versions for diabetes, heart conditions. Make sure you understand their dietary needs and talk to their doctors if need be. The dietician at mom's dialysis center was a BIG help in planning meals.

5) Get to know your parent(s) better. Get them to tell you about times past. Maybe make a book of memories. If they have dementia, learn ways to get around it. Again they come up with 10 tips: recognize what you are up against; avoid distractions; speak clearly and naturally in a warm, calm voice; refer to people by their names; talk about one thing at a time; use non-verbal cues (smile, eye contact); listen actively; don't quibble; have patience; understand there will be good days and bad days.

Test the waters with the parents. Sometimes their doctors can help them understand that it is time to have the kids help - if you have a good relationship with their doctors, ask them to talk to the parents on their next visit. Any and all help is greatly appreciated and chances are, the doctors have done this before!!


Having Trouble Finding a Gift for the Older Folks in the Family?

(Picture from 'A Place for Mom')


As we count down the days to the holidays, we may be scrambling for a gift for mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, etc. What do you get someone who may not need much in terms of 'physical things'? But there are some things that can be a hit and can be made personal so that they stand out among the other things they may have. 'A Place for Mom' came out with a list of '10 practical yet fun' gifts to think about for the elderly:

1) Blanket or throw - everyone loves to cozy up to a warm blanket, throw, quilt. There are probably some that can be customized. According to their list, Costco and Shutterfly have photo throws.
2) Custom gift baskets - not only can you do bath soaps, colognes, etc., but also foods, or special snacks to make it personal. Mom enjoyed having a variety of greeting cards at home, in case she needed something fast - how about a few boxes of variety cards; throw in some stamps for good measure. How about a basket of small games to play - whether something they can do alone, while waiting at the doctors or something to play at a family game nite?
3) Tablets and iPads - if they are adventurous enough. There are social connections, medication reminders, games. Most have large print and touch screen might just work well for him/her.
4) Kitchen and bath towels that can have a monogram put on or match their decor. Always something that can be put to good use.
5) Gift certificates to grocery stores and local restaurants. The restaurant one is good because maybe, just maybe, they'll take you along - mom did!! As for the grocery store, it may help them buy a nice assorted group of foods to help keep themselves healthy - it's like extra money.
6) Smartphones - for safety. They have large buttons, photo speed dial, visual rings, etc.
7) Clothes - a lot of time, seniors on a fixed income will not spend money on new things -- too frivolous, they fix what they have. Find a category of clothing that would work for them (sweatpants, cardigans, sneakers) and buy a few. Maybe there is a special event coming up that they could spruce up for and may not have the money like a wedding, shower, anniversary. Go shopping and buy a nice outfit.
8) Kitchen essentials - there are kitchen sets that are made specifically for people with arthritis or limited hand strength. Check out 'OXO Good Grips' and 'Arthritis Supplies'for different choices.
9) Photobooks, videos, and scrapbooks - great for all the family photos, old and new. Bring back memories; with a video you can also incorporate favorite music.
10) Health management and fitness options - find time to talk to nutritionists, dietitians, or a 'naturopathic physician'. Find one that specializes in senior health who can possibly find ways to make food more enjoyable. I know that by talking to the dietitian at mom's dialysis center, we were able to find substitute foods to make and gain insight as to what herbs were good to use; so we were able to keep her on her diet and ALL of us enjoy the meal because of the seasonings.
11) One thing we did for my in-laws when they were sick, was to give a local catering company enough money for a few nites of food. My in-laws received the selection of meals/menu and all they had to do was call in the order and it was delivered to them. They could get the food low-sodium or salt-free or adjust it as needed. This way - no one had to cook.

Hope some of these ideas can help. Seniors can be tough to buy for but seem to appreciate the effort. Bottom line though - the best 'present' can be your 'presence'.




Planning On Making Resolutions for the New Year? Maybe These Will Be Good.

Frank and I were talking the other morning about how crazy this past year has been. As per usual, we plan on trying to do things differently in the new year. We all make resolutions - go on a diet, be more organized, exercise, try to stay in touch with family and friends who may not be close by, etc. All good ones - we all try.


For some strange reason, we started talking about doing more and what came up in the conversation was the book "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum (1986). Along with the ads for Ann Curry and her "26 ACTS OF KINDNESS", I started thinking that maybe we all should concentrate more on resolutions for our hearts, minds, and souls. Let's work on the emotional. If this past year has taught us anything, the world needs people to concentrate on the soul.

For those of you who have not read the book (it's a great book), or it's been a long time since you read it, here is the list:

-- share everything
-- play fair
-- don't hit people
-- put things back where you found them
-- clean up your own mess
-- don't take things that aren't yours
-- say sorry when you hurt someone
-- wash your hands before you eat
-- flush
-- warm cookies and cold milk are good for you
-- live a balanced life: learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some
-- take a nap every afternoon
-- when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together
-- be aware of wonder


When you thing about it, life's rules can be applied to anything you do or are involved in. From your kids - telling them about how to treat people and live a clean life, to our parents - treating them with respect and as they age (and some become like children again), how to get along with them. As we do with all our children, we live in wonder as they grow up and explore the world; sometimes with our elderly parents, we live in wonder as they can remember 20, 30, even 40 years ago with minute detail but cannot remember when you stopped by earlier in the day with the groceries. Put things back where you find them - so we ALL can remember where, what we need to survive the day, goes. Naps are good for us - the medical community even says that a good sleep can help you lose weight. Plus it makes us less irritable to handle situations.

Always flush - not only in the usual way but I think that can go for the past -- get rid of all the old baggage and hurt feelings. It does not help anyone or anything (sometimes this is a tough one for me). Share everything - don't hide physical things, don't hide emotional things. I wish I had told mom more about how I felt about her - said "I love you more", offered more hugs. Of course - say sorry when you hurt someone. This is a big one since there is sooooooooo much hurt out there.
You don't know when you'll see that person again, as the past news reports show us.

I could go on. I think if we work on our own little place in the great big scheme of things, we can all make an impact. Just like the "26 ACTS OF KINDNESS", a little kindness goes a long way. I really think that even as our usual original resolutions come up - it is a good idea to eat better, exercise, be more organized, etc - doing all these things WILL make you feel better physically and as you feel better physically you can move onto the emotional. Making someone else's life better will make your heart feel better; seeing a smile on someone else's face, will put a smile on yours. You may even sleep better! So remember:

"when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic (my version of what life throws at you), hold hands, and stick together."



End of the Year / Beginning of a New Year Things to Consider.

The end of the year, as we look toward a new year, time to assess what the year has brought us: what happened and what we did about it as well as what we need to do again or change in the upcoming one. Our family situations change, health needs change (sometimes even mental health needs), legal responsibilities change. Maybe it is time to talk to a legal professional.

If you choose to speak with an attorney, make sure you find one who is versed in the type of legal issues you need help with: elder care or special needs child, healthcare Power of Attorney or Social Security -- you get the picture.

On ElderCarelink there is a page on the link - 'Ask the Expert Elder Law Page'. The article shows things to discuss (some of these pertain to both categories of those we care for):



*estate planning
*Medicare/Medicaid
*elder abuse
*age discrimination
*guardianship
*end-of-life documents

The Holidays Are A Great Time to Make Your Own Family Legacy.



The Lawrence and Alves Families

Looking back, it is at this time of year I wish I had paid more attention to all the family food traditions that my mother's side had (my dad's family was in Portugal). I talk to my cousins, who also have some of the recipes, and we all remember trying to cook or bake with my grandmother and godmother who could 'show' you and tell you 'about this much' as they poured something into the palm of their hand, or 'the dough should feel like this' and they let you put your hand in it. Now we try to copy those recipes using what we translate into actual cups/ounces/spoonfuls. Sometimes we can only hope the Cuisinarts can mirror what they did with their hands -- usually the hands in the batter is the only way to go!! Then at dinner, we would hear all the stories, usually the same ones year after year, about other family members, what it was like to grow up in the early 1900's, school vs no school, traveling on the boat between here and Portugal, etc.

Now this holiday is different with more family members passing on; we won't hear the stories. As I read an article that came to me from A Place for Mom, I think back - I should have preserved more stories. I did find quite a few old pictures when I went through mom's things - some have meaning but a lot don't. So if you want this holiday season, when sitting with the family - the older folks, ask questions, ask for pictures. The kids might not find it fascinating but you can learn a lot. Here are some suggestions from A Place for Mom that might give you some ideas:

** collect recipes and put them in a book of some sort so they can get passed down. make copies to share with other relatives. try cooking them - the smell of grandma's kitchen can be a wonderful memory.
** make a video recording of the older folks talking about their family. most love to talk about where they grew up, what they did, how they came to America (if that is the case). I understand from this article that there is an iPad app called 'StoryPress' which turns audio stories into a book.
** make a family tree. be sure, not only to include the genealogy of everyone, but also any medical information that might help the younger members of the family as some diseases and or traits can be passed down. maybe even tell how people died - unless you think this part may be too morbid!!!
** make a family time capsule. gather some items from the different generations, place them in a container and everyone decide where it will go, when to be opened and by whom, and consequences should someone get too curious and cannot wait!!
**write about and describe favorite memories. this is wide open for anyone to do. it would make a great scrapbook with pictures taken from vacations, parties, weddings, etc.
** dedicate something, like a park bench, a tree, something in a church, memorials. In other words, be philanthropic. Check out Charity Navigator which identifies legitimate non-profits and lists 4-star charities.

So as the term 'legacy' can mean leaving a monetary contribution or inheritance, it is also true and much more meaningful to leave a legacy of history and sense of where you are in the world, where you fit in. We can all attest to our past relatives working hard, long hours for their families, not making much money but usually enough to put food on the table. But these same relatives had a great social society - working for churches, working in their cultural social clubs, being the first ones there to help a neighbor in need. And MAYBE being the first one in the neighborhood to have a BLACK AND WHITE TV!!! With all of 3 channels!!! With rabbit ears that you had to move around - of course you needed an audience to tell you when they were in the right spot. THE KIDS TODAY ARE CLUELESS!!!! These can be the best stories and get the best reaction and maybe the ones they too will remember the most.




As I mentioned, some of the above can pertain to our special needs children. You may want to check out the U.S. Department of Education site and see if anything can help. Laws vary by state but you may see something there that can help. Talk to their teachers too - they can put you in the right direction.

Most of all remember - as I remember being told when I was growing up: 'the only stupid question is the one not asked'.





The Holidays Help You To Keep An Eye on Your Parents.

This time of year is a great time to see where your elderly parents are with their health and living conditions. For those of us who live right in the area or with their parents and see them on a consistent basis, it can be hard for us to differentiate any changes. We see them in all their ups and downs, from stomach aches, back aches, headaches; not being hungry, not being thirsty, no sleep, hours of sleep. It is just another day - sometimes.

During visits from siblings or relatives and friends who are NOT around all the time, take the opportunity to allow them to spend time with the parents. Let them see them for a few hours; whether you leave the house or not, let them cater to the folks. This way they can gain a perspective of how they are - they may see things you can't. Then sit and discuss how they find the parents - how they have changed between visits. I would find that sometimes my mom would do better with someone else -- I probable drove her crazy at times. She would be able to remember different things and carry on better conversations with someone different. She would be more apt to say 'yes' to tea and a snack, walk a little more. On the other hand, some would comment on how often she repeated herself, would lose herself in a conversation, wouldn't remember a recent visit or appointment. So I would just put all the information together in a diary for the doctor to help me see what could be going on.



The ElderCarelink has some easy things to look for while visiting.

1. Do they seem depressed? If your parents are sleeping too much, have no interest in their hobbies, or have a decreased appetite, they may be suffering from depression. Ask someone who sees them frequently about their moods when you aren't there.
2. Are they having balance problems? If a parent is walking unsteadily, insist they see a doctor. Balance problems could be an early sign of an inner ear infection, bad joints or even dementia.
3. Have they lost a lot of weight? Look in their refrigerator and pantry to make sure they have nutritious food on hand. If eating isn't the issue, suggest they get a complete physical to discover the reason behind the weight loss.


I used to keep in mind that the holidays were tough on mom since dad and my grandparents had all passed and no matter how we tried to keep things light and busy and festive, there were always incidents that brought back memories - even as simple as one of the boys doing something that my dad used to do or seeing old pictures.



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