5 Signs of Senior Stress

Stress is a common factor in life. Children experience
stress from school, new social situations, and growing up.  Adults feel the stress of working, paying
bills, raising kids, and maintaining households. Seniors also feel stress even
though some may have retired, raised their children and paid off their homes.
Certain amounts of stress are a part of life for people of all ages.
For seniors, stress has the potential to be overwhelming.
This type of tension in older adults has unique contributing factors, such as
the loss of an elderly spouse or friends. Living alone can increase the sense
of isolation. Sometimes the simple tasks of everyday life can cause stress in
those who experience physical or medical limitations. The effects of stress can
sometimes exacerbate health conditions from which some seniors suffer, causing
additional worry.
Stress can present itself in various ways. Here are five of
the most common ways to detect if a loved one’s stress is cause for concern:
Changes in eating habits, such as overeating or
loss of appetite.
Mood swings due to stress may present in
increased irritability, general sadness or depression.
Memory issues may arise in the form of increased
forgetfulness of names, places, or other things that normally come naturally.
Lack of concentration may become a problem. Some seniors may exercise poor judgment,
such as excessive spending when they are already on a limited budget.
Physical signs of stress can include body aches
and pains or increased episodes of illness.  Changes in sleeping patterns- either trouble
falling asleep or interrupted nighttime sleep can signal significant stress.
Seniors experiencing overwhelming stress often
isolate themselves from others, refusing to socialize or participate in
activities they used to enjoy.
The fact is that stress is a part of life does not mean that
overwhelming stress is a burden seniors have to should all alone. With help,
seniors can combat stress and its negative effects. Spend time helping seniors
determine what burdens they face. Help plan ways suited to their lifestyles
that are not only fun but that can minimize the pressures stress can cause. By
doing so, the quality of life seniors experience can increase, further paving
the way for them to lead independent lives within the comfort of their own

12 Resources Every Caregiver Should Know About

Here’s a list of key
resources to help you in your caregiving role.
Information and
support for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Operates a
24/7 helpline and care navigator tools.
The government’s free
information resource about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Find programs and
services that allow caregivers to get a break from caring for a loved one.
Connects caregivers to
local services and resources for older adults and adults with disabilities
across the United States.
Information, education
and services for family caregivers, including the Family Care Navigator, a
state-by-state list of services and assistance.
Provides information
about the parts of Medicare, what’s new and how to find Medicare plans,
facilities or providers.
A coalition of
national organizations focused on family caregiving issues.
Information and
education for family caregivers; includes the Caregiver Community Action
Network, a volunteer support network in over 40 states.
Information and tools
to plan for future long-term care needs.
Information on
retirement and disability benefits, including how to sign up.
A program that offers
one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and
their families.
Support and services
for families caring for veterans. Maintains a VA caregiver support line.


Devices that Can Help with Daily Tasks

As our loved ones age, it can become more difficult for them
to perform everyday tasks, such as making dinner or climbing the stairs. They
may not see or hear as well as they once did. Or, it may be more difficult for
them to get themselves around.
Thankfully, there are gadgets and assistive devices that can
help with many daily activities, including:
  •          Getting dressed.
  •          Taking a shower.
  •          Reaching out-of-the-way places.
  •          Opening doors.
  •          Reading and writing.
  •          Remembering to take medicine.
  •          Hearing someone on the phone.

These things do not have to be fancy or expensive. Some can
even be homemade, such as using different colored rubber bands on pill bottles
to visually differentiate them. Others can be purchased and your health
insurance may cover the cost.
Here are some gadgets that could be helpful:

If you have trouble
  •          Telephone amplifiers with adjustable tone,
    pitch, and volume.
  •          Flashing-light phones, doorbells, and smoke
    alarm/carbon monoxide detectors.
  •          Cordless headphones for television.
  •          Vibrating alarm clocks you can put under your

If you have trouble seeing
  •          Talking watches, clocks, timers, calculators,
    scales, and indoor/outdoor thermometers.
  •          Talking heart and blood pressure monitors.
  •          Writing aids such as large-grip pens and other
    pen designs that reduce shaking and muscle pain.
  •          Tactile knobs for stoves with raised dots to
    show settings.
  •          Battery-lighted magnifiers for reading.
  •          Magnifiers for television and computer screens.
  •          Voice-activated, automatic telephone dialers.
  •          Remote controls with large buttons and numbers
    for televisions, cable boxes, VCR’s and DVD’s.
  •          Computers with large-letter keyboards, plus
    voice-recognition and speech software.

If you have trouble
  •          Electronic pill boxes with an alarm signal to
    take medicine.
  •          Telephone with memory dialing and spaces for
    pictures of frequent callers.
  •          Timed faucets that automatically turn water off.
  •          Electric appliances with automatic turnoff

If you have trouble getting
around and performing everyday tasks
  •          Long-handled “reachers” for retrieving items on
    low or high shelves.
  •          Gadgets that help you put on socks or stockings.
  •          Lever-styled adapters that make turning door
    handles and faucets easier.
  •          Widened tub edges and grab bars to ease getting
    in and out of the bath.
  •          Clothing and shoes with Velcro fasteners.
  •          Specially designed cooking tools, such as
    cutting boards with finger guards and can openers that won’t leave sharp
  •         Rails and platforms that make it easier to get
    in and out of bed, chairs, or cars.
  •         Kitchen gadgets with large, easy-to-hold

Source: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-05-2012/caregiving-gadgets.html

Handling a Hospitalization: Planning ahead for a more manageable experience

A loved one’s hospitalization can evoke fear and uncertainty
on the caregiver. With little planning though, you can make the experience more
manageable for both you and your loved one before, during, and after the stay.

Before a
Whether your loved one has a scheduled surgery or ends up in
the emergency room unexpectedly, he/she will need to have certain information
handy so the medical team can provide effective care. Help him/her create an “in
case of emergency” card that can he/she can keep in a wallet or purse with the
following information:
    o    Name.
    o    Date
of Birth.
    o    Doctors’
names and numbers.
    o    Any
allergies (medication, therapeutic dyes, food, etc.)
    o    Current
medications and dosage information for each.
    o    Current
or past medical problems.
    o    Previous
    o    Health
insurance information.
    o    Contact
information for primary caregiver(s) as well as a relative, friend, or neighbor
who lives nearby and can help with home or pet care, if applicable.

If your loved one has named a health care agent (also known
as a health care proxy or power of attorney) to make medical decisions should
he/she become incapable of making such decisions, include that person’s name
and contact information on the card. If he/she has not named a health care
agent, encourage him/her to do so. He/she may also want to complete a living
will. In the meantime, include the name and contact information for one or two
other emergency contacts. At least one contact should live near your loved one
and have HIPPA clearance.
Make sure to keep a copy of this information in y our own
purse or wallet as well.
Once your loved one has been admitted to the hospital, find
out the name of the attending physician who will coordinate his/her care and
ask what’s the best way to reach him. Also make sure that your loved one’s
chart includes your phone number.
It is important to remember that as long as your loved one
is capable of making decisions and understanding the consequence of those
decisions he/she have the right to decide courses of treatment and even refuse
treatment, even if you, his physician and other family members disagree with
his/her choice. If your loved one is incapable of making decisions and you must
act as his/her health care agent, use his/her living will as a guide to ensure
that his/her wishes are followed through. Your role as a health care agent is
to voice your loved one’s wishes, not
your own.

Hospital discharge
As soon as possible after admission to the hospital, speak
with the nurse, social worker, or other professional responsible for helping
you with discharge planning. Don’t wait until the day your loved one leaves the
hospital. You, your loved one and the discharge planner should work together to
decide if he/she should go to his/her own home, a relative’s or friend’s home,
a rehab facility or a nursing home as well as who will provide the necessary
Make a list of everything that needs to get done in the days
and weeks ahead, and enlist friends’ and relatives to help.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. You will need
plenty of rest and time to de-stress in order to remain a caregiver.
Source: www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving-resource-center/info-08-2010/pc_handling_a_hospitalization.html

Family Caregivers for at Home Care Facts

A national survey reports that 46% of family caregivers are
performing medical/nursing tasks for a family member. These tasks include
managing medications, wound care, special diet food preparation, and operating
medical equipment such as a ventilator. Most of these caregivers said they had
little or no training to help them perform these tasks for their family member.
  •          6 out of 10 family caregivers learned about at
    least some of the medications on their own.
  •          4 out of 10 family caregivers doing wound care
    had to learn at least partly on their own.

This is not acceptable.
Family caregivers who take on these “medical/nursing tasks” need
and deserve clear, written, instructions, training, practice, and encouragement
to call professionals who can answer questions and offer more support along
with their contact number.
What family caregivers can do is expect and demand more from
their doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others.
  •       Do not sign the pharmacy form that says you have
    been counseled on the prescription if you really do not understand the
    medication, or how to give it and what to expect.
  •          Ask for help.
  •          Don’t tell the hospital that you and your family
    member are ready for discharge if you do not feel safe to do the tasks you have
    been told you need to do.
  •          Tell the doctor, nurse, or social worker you
    need more instructions.
  •          Ask for a referral to home care for follow-up
  •          Tell the doctor you are worried and need more

Family caregivers are now doing more than ever before. We
need to make sure we can help them do this crucial work.
Source: blog.aarp.org/2013/09/13/susan-reinhard-training-caregivers-for-at-home-care/

The Art of Caring for a Loved One

Balancing care for a loved one with medical professionals,
residential staff, or home health employees can get complicated quickly.
Defining your role as a caregiver can be difficult. How do you know when to let
go and trust the professional? How do you know who should take the lead and
It is important to remember that although the professionals
have special training, they do not know your loved one like you do. They don’t know
the little things that can make a big difference for example, what is “normal”
for them? What do they like and dislike? Your role as a caregiver is a critical
one because your knowledge can make a difference.
Families and professionals working as a collaborative team
must have a care plan that includes the following:
  • Allowing
    the person you are caring for to be part of the conversation.
  • Keeping
    your loved one’s needs first.
  • Communicating
    openly and honestly in a respectful manner.
  •  Having
    a clear understanding of the lines of communication:

The chain of command- within the family and the
professionals you are working with.
Agreed upon communication modes- phone, email,
fax, video, letters, etc.
Timelines for communications.

Remember in order to come through difficult decisions with positive
outcomes for your loved one, you and the professionals should have mutual goal.


Six Caregiving Stress Busters

Caring for a sick and/or elderly loved one can take a
huge toll on your health. Here are 6 tips on how to take better care of YOU:
      1.      Make the freezer your friend
Caregivers usually know what to eat, but
they just do not have time to cook healthier meals. 
The answer: batch
cooking, which lets you freeze portions that you can eat during the week. Try a
hearty, all-in-one meal like soup with meat, beans and veggies, or stew.
      2.      Meditation
Twelve minutes of daily meditation can
dramatically improve the mental health of caregivers according to UCLA
      3.      Healthy snacks
Nutritious foods you can grab on the run
help keep blood sugar levels on an even keel and energy levels from flagging.
Try to opt for protein, such as a handful of almonds or a PB&J sandwich. Plus,
healthy snacks are a good way to add more fruits, veggies, and fiber to your
      4.      Slow Down
When you are stressed and distracted,
you are more prone to having accidents. As a caregiver accidents can be a warning
sign that you are at your limit.
      5.      Volunteer
This may seem counter-intuitive since
you are doing so much already, but helping out in a different way, in a
different setting, can be gratifying and therapeutic.
      6.      Improve your sleep habits
Disrupted sleep saps your energy for
dealing with the demands of caregiving. 
Some good sleep habits to adopt are to make sure the room is dark and have
fewer distractions in the bedroom.

Understanding Long-Term Care Insurance: Qualifying For Benefits, Coverage Exclusions, and Waiting and Elimination Periods.

Qualifying For
“Benefit Triggers” are the conditions that must occur before
you start receiving your benefits. Most companies look to your inability to
perform certain “activities of daily living” (ADLs) to figure out when you can
start to receive benefits.

Generally, benefits begin when you need help with two or
three ADLs. Requiring assistance with bathing, eating, dressing, using the
toilet, walking and remaining continent are the most common ADLs used. You
should be sure your policy includes bathing in the list of benefit triggers
because this is often the first task that becomes impossible to do alone.

You should pay close attention to what the policy uses as a
trigger for paying benefits if you develop a cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s
disease. This is because a person with Alzheimer’s may be physically able to
perform activities but is no longer capable of doing them without help.
Mental-function tests are commonly substituted as benefit triggers for
cognitive impairments. Ask whether you must require someone to perform the
activity for you, rather than just stand by and supervise you, in order to
trigger benefits.

Coverage Exclusions
All policies have some conditions for which they exclude
coverage. Ask the agent to review these exclusions with you. Most states have outlawed
companies from requiring you to have been in a hospital or nursing facility for
a specific number of days before qualifying for benefits. However, some states
permit this exclusion, which could keep you from ever qualifying for a benefit.

Coverage exclusions for drug and alcohol abuse, mental
disorders, and self-inflicted injuries are common. Be sure that Alzheimer’s disease
and other common illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes or certain form of
cancer aren’t mentioned as reasons not to pay benefits.
Waiting and
Elimination Periods
Most policies include a waiting or elimination period before
the insurance company begins to pay. This period is expressed in the number of
days after you are certified as “eligible for benefits,” once you can no longer
perform the required number of ADLs. You can typically choose from zero up to
100 days. Carefully calculate how many days you can afford to pay on your own
before coverage kicks in. Choose a policy that requires you to satisfy your
elimination period only once during the life of the policy rather than a policy
that makes you wait after each new illness or need of care.

Many policies allow you to stop paying your premium after
you have started receiving benefits. Some companies waive premiums immediately
while others waive them after a certain number of days.

Understanding Long-Term Care Insurance: Long-Term Care Policies & Pre-existing Conditions and Covered Services

Long-Term Care
Policies & Pre-existing Conditions
Insurers often turn down applicants due to pre-existing
conditions. If a company does sell a policy to someone with pre-existing
conditions, it often withholds payment for care related to those conditions for
a specified period of time after the policy is sold. Make sure this period of
withheld payments is reasonable for you. If you fail to notify a company of a
previous condition, the company may not pay for care related to that condition.
Covered Services
Some insurance companies require you to use services from a
certified home care agency or a licensed professional, while others allow you
to hire independent or non-licensed providers or family members. Companies may
place certain qualifications such as licensure, if available in your state or
restrictions on facilities or programs used. Make sure you buy a policy that
covers the types of facilities, programs, and services you will want and that
are available where you live. (Moving to another area might make a difference
in your coverage and the types of services available).
Policies may cover the following care arrangements:
Nursing home: A
facility that provides a full range of skilled health care, rehabilitation
care, personal care and daily activities in a 24/7 setting. Find out whether
the policy covers more than room-and-board.
Assisted living:  A residence with apartment style-units
that makes personal care and other individualized services such as meal
delivery when needed.
Adult day care
A program outside the home that provides health, social and other
support services in a supervised setting for adults who need some degree of
help during the day.
Home care: An
agency or individual who performs services, such as bathing, grooming and help
with chores and housework.
Home modification:  Adaptations, such as installing ramps or
grab bars to make your home safer and more accessible.
Care coordination:  Services provided by a trained or licensed
professional who assists with determining needs, locating services, and arranging
for care. The policy may also cover the monitoring of care providers.
Future service
If a new type of long-term care service is developed after you
purchase the insurance, some policies have the flexibility to cover the new
services. The “future service” option may be available if the policy contains
specific language about alternate options.