5 Things to Consider During Medicare Open Enrollment

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Each year at this time older adults participating in Medicare drug plans can switch their plan. The open enrollment period lasts between October 15th and December 7th.  Any changes that you make become effective January 1. By now, information from your mom or dad’s current drug plan should have arrived informing them of changes in benefits and costs.  If you can’t find it, call the customer service number located on their current drug plan card and ask for it.

Or, if your elderly parent is living in a care community ask the billing or social service department for help.

You sign up for Medicare Drug Plans (part D) when you first go on Medicare unless you have equivalent drug coverage from another source, such as a retiree plan. I do run in to this from time to time so the best advice I can give you is to ask your elderly parent how they pay for their medication and ask to see their insurance card.

Here’s what you need to know in a nut shell…

There are two types of drug plans to be aware of …

Medicare Advantage Plans: These plans are HMOs and PPOs that will bundle your Medicare inpatient (A), outpatient (B) and drug (D) benefit in to one program referred to as a Medicare Advantage Program (C).  Once you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare services are covered through the private insurer plan instead of traditional Medicare. Some of the more popular ones are Kaiser, Humana and United Health Care. You need to advice your elderly parent to choose these plans carefully as there are advantages and disadvantages to enrolling in these plans.

Medicare Prescription Drug Plan: With this option your elderly parent keeps the drug benefit coverage with traditional Medicare. Most Medicare drug plans under this option charge a monthly premium that varies depending on coverage and income. Again, you’ll need to do some research in to which plan is the best choice.

Here are five things to consider during Medicare open enrollment …

Does your mom or dad take multiple medications on a daily basis? If so you’ll want to check the formulaires of each plan to see if their current medications are covered. A formulary is basically a list of generic and brand-name drugs that the plan covers. Medicare drug plan’s must include most types of drugs that people with Medicare use but you need to check to make sure their drugs are covered.

Does your mom or dad take zero medications? Wow, good for them but don’t overlook future needs for short term benefit. Encourage them to enroll in a plan, for peace of mind, but look for plans with low monthly premiums and keep in mind that every year at this time is a chance to change to a different plan should they need additional coverage in the future.

Is their Medicare drug plan affordable? Consider the cost of deductibles, co-payments and coverage gaps (doughnut hole) to determine financially which drug plan may be more affordable. Some plans have lower or even no deductibles. If money is tight, a Medicare Advantage Plan may be a good option. There will be out-of-pocket medication expenses the question is how much.

Determine the convenience of one plan over another. Check with each Medicare drug plan to make sure your current pharmacy is in the plan’s network. Also, check to see if a mail-order program is an option. It’s always a good idea even if you aren’t changing plans to make sure your pharmacy is still in your plan’s network for next year. If not, it may be time for a change depending on your circumstances.

Ignore sales pitches. This time of the year the direct mail campaigns and TV advertising are everywhere. Please encourage your elderly parent to ignore them. They couldn’t possibly provide all the information you need to make an educated decision about which plan is best for your particular health situation.

 Here’s some resources you may find helpful…

 State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) helps beneficiaries with plan choices and Medicare rights. To locate yours contact 1-800-633-4227 or by visiting here…

Medicare provides lots and lots of additional information that you may need on their website; Medicare Part D plan finders, formulary finders etc… To locate go here…

 

Vulnerability and Aging; What You Need to Know!

Pink orchid flowers on a pastel background. Pink orchid background.

We all have that moment of staring in to our elderly parent’s eyes and seeing them as old for the first time. For me, it was a couple of years ago when I got the call that my dad was in the intensive care unit suffering from acute renal failure. I flew half way across the country and arrived at the hospital at 2 o’clock in the morning.

I’ll never forget walking in to that hospital room and seeing an old man hooked up to all kind of medical gizmos. It took me a second to realize that the old man I was staring at was my dad. It didn’t take any time at all for me to start feeling really vulnerable; that place inside me I’d just as soon ignore!

From my personal and professional experience, I’ve come to understand that that there are three distinct issues associated with vulnerability the mid-life person experiences with elderly parents

  1. The realization that our time with our elderly parents is limited and they are indeed nearing the end of their life. Along with this, the realization that we’re on deck  and our time is limited as well.
  2. The fear that we may not be able to help care for them the way we want to and the way they deserve.
  3. The realization that we can not longer depend on our parents for emotional, financial or “wise counsel” support.

There’s also the vulnerability that’s being experienced from your mom or dad’s point of view. I know it’s hard not to get frustrated with an elderly parent but imagine how vulnerable they are from an emotion stand point.

  1. The fear of not being able to care for yourself and being dependent on others both strangers and family.
  2. The realization that their time on this earth is limited and the unresolved issues that come with those thoughts.
  3. The realization that they can no longer do business as usual and have to learn new ways of doing things.

Vulnerability researcher Brene Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. When you’re watching an elderly parent decline, the emotional exposure can be overwhelming for both family and the older adult. Along with the internal emotional vulnerability that comes with aging, there’s the external factors that increase our risk for vulnerability.

EXTERNAL FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO VULNERABILITY AS WE AGE

  • Health Status (new diagnosis)
  • Physical Abilities (unable to continue driving)
  • Social Network (a move requires you to make new friends)
  • Family (family not supportive, estranged or living long distance)
  • Long Marriage (until death do us part nor poor health and 24 hour caregiving)
  • Divorce (change in social network and financial stability)
  • Financial (fixed income limits options)
  • Loss (loss of family and friends creates grief)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (reliving trauma and fear over and over)

These external factors can certainly create a vulnerability risk that can decrease the quality of our life as we grow old{er}.  But for today’s post I want us to consider more of the internal vulnerability we feel as we grow old{er}.

SHAME, VULNERABILITY AND GROWING OLD{ER}

Shame is that little voice inside our head telling us that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, healthy enough, rich enough, able to care for ourselves well enough, able to help our mom or dad like we should or the million other things we criticize ourselves for on a daily basis.

As is relates to growing old{er} and needing help, it’s that voice that says “I’m not able to do what I use to do and I’m becoming a burden”.  As it relates to being a caregiver, shame is wrapped around the “nothing I do is ever good enough” syndrome.

We live in a world and we’ve been taught from a very young age that, as Americans, we need to take care of ourselves and our elderly parents; asking for help is a sign of failure and weakness. Depending on others (even for the smallest of things) is a sign that your family has failed. We promise to not put mom or dad in the nursing home (please stop making this promise). We vow to do whatever it takes to care for them.

We set up unrealistic expectations that can’t be met, which ultimately leads to more shame; the cycle continues.

In her research, Brene Brown has discovered that when our belonging is threatened and we perceive a threat to our social connections shame is the typical response. Therefore, it stands to reason that when our status in the family or community is threatened we feel shame. This shame can hold us hostage and keep adult children and their elderly parents from accepting the help that’s  so desperately needed.

Shame is never positive and keeps us stuck in negative sometimes delusional thoughts that can lead to intense anxiety and depression. Vulnerability when embraced for can set us free and make our connections to one another stronger ultimately leading to enriched relationships late in life.

Embrace your vulnerable feelings and kick your shame to the curb…

THE SHAME OF NEVER BEING A GOOD ENOUGH CHILD OR CAREGIVER

There’s nothing like watching an elderly parent’s decline to push our own vulnerability in to high gear. Our fear of loss, making the wrong decision, hiring the wrong help, admitting that we can’t take care of them, moving them to a care community. Time and time again I watch adult children of elderly parents stuck in shame, creating  unrealistic expectations and feeling guilty when they don’t meet those expectations.

This is especially true for adult children of elderly parents that have a complicated history. Maybe your parents were perfectionist when you were a child and you got the daily subtle message that you weren’t “good enough”.

As a caregiver, your shame of not being a good enough son or daughter gets plenty of fuel  on a daily basis because there are no perfect days when it comes to caring for elderly parents. There’s always a missed meal, medication mix ups, appointments missed, more forms to fill out. You get frustrated with them, yourself, your world. Yep, there’s always plenty of fuel to add to your caregiver shame.

This viscous cycle can only be stopped when we face our own feelings of vulnerability and set boundaries that allow us to be connected in an honest and loving way to our elderly parents. Here’s some strategies for coping with your own vulnerability as an adult child of elderly parent.

COPING WITH YOUR FEELINGS OF VULNERABILITY

Explore why you feel vulnerable and identify ways to embrace and understand. For example, you’re told your mom or dad has Alzheimer’s disease. Ask yourself what this means in terms of your day to day life and how having others depend on you makes you feel. Are you starting to feel overwhelmed and helpless? Create strategies to understand and overcome those helpless feelings don’t dig in your heals and pretend your life hasn’t changed.

Be aware of your unique patterns of behavior. For example, do you find yourself isolating because you don’t want to talk to others about your family’s situation? Do feelings of vulnerability create so much stress that you over eat or drink too much alcohol? Are you arguing with your family or strangers on the street? Identify your behaviors that are not healthy and understand how it relates to feelings of vulnerability.

Forgive yourself for not being perfect. By forgiving yourself, you put shame in its place and that shame will no longer hold power over you. Identify your perceived imperfection or action; apologize if you must.  Embrace that you’ve done the best you could. Maybe you’ve made mistakes; you’re only human!

Don’t bottle things up. If you think you can push the fear deep inside and ignore those feelings of vulnerability; think again! Find a support group,  trusted confidant, friend, family member, minister or counselor and talk through what you’re feeling. If reaching out isn’t your thing, you can at the very least journal what you’re feeling and I highly recommend you read Brene Brown’s book and reflect on how your caregiving role with your elderly parent is affecting you.

Cultivate your courage to feel the vulnerability.  Tap in to your courage to feel the fear and push through it in a positive way. Courage is not pushing the feelings deep inside and denying the vulnerability. Courage gives us the strength to stand up to the shame, feel the vulnerability and keep on keeping on.  Ultimately,  connecting in a way that will ensure that our needs are met and decisions are based in knowledge not fear.

HELPING YOUR ELDERLY PARENT COPE WITH THEIR FEELINGS OF VULNERABILITY

Do not judge them for their lack of insight. There’s a tendency to expect our elderly parents to express themselves and have the same internal understanding of themselves that we do. They weren’t raised in a world of Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Phil and they certainly weren’t raised in a world where you explore that side of life so give them a break. They do the best they can!

Express empathy for what they’re going through. Try to imagine what it’s like to be a 93 year old living in this crazy world today. Especially the world of health care. They are scared so provide a sense of understanding this. “Dad, I know you’re scared so am I but I need you to go to the nursing home for rehabilitation”. Often times this simple statement of empathy is enough to diffuse the anxiety.

Keep it simple and lower your expectations. Cognition and physical abilities may be limiting their ability to understand the world around them and if you keep expecting them to connect and function like they did 30 years ago you are setting yourself up for more and more frustration.

Provide them the opportunity to express their vulnerability. Again don’t expect too much but ask them about their biggest fears and provide a safe environment to express themselves. Again don’t judge them or expect them to see the situation the same way you do. Let them know you’re scared too and see if that doesn’t provide them with the courage to express their own fear and vulnerability.

Be aware of their unique patterns of behavior. I haven’t met an older adult yet that doesn’t have their own way of coping with stress and avoiding vulnerability. Be aware that your mom or dad will fall back on these patterns. When you are aware of those patterns, it’s easier to anticipate their response and intervene. What I typically experience is an older adult that has a coat of emotional armor that looks like denial. “If I ignore what my doctor and daughter are saying, this will all go away”. See that denial for what it is; an emotional protective shield protecting them from the shame and vulnerability they are feeling.

There will be days you connect with your vulnerability and days you understand the vulnerability your elderly parent is feeling. There will also be days you don’t! The important thing is that you allow yourself and them to strike a balance between accepting and giving help. Encourage your elderly parent to remain as independent as possible and remind them and yourself that accepting help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. It takes a lot of courage to face your vulnerability and cope with those feelings…

 Resources————————————————————

Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW 2012: Daring Greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, New York, USA, Penguin Group

Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW 2010: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Center City, Minnesota, USA, Hazelden

How To Pay For A Nursing Home!

The nursing home decision is never easy and often times the financial barriers can create stress and chaos for aging families. I know in our local area it’s not uncommon for the care communities to require you have many months, if not years, worth of private funds before they will accept you as a “Medicaid” resident. It sounds insane; right?

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My friend Ellen Reaves owner of Caregiving Strategies is offering a FREE live webinar on How to Pay for a Nursing Home. It’s hard to plan (I get that) but this is one instance when you don’t want to wait for the crisis to hit before you start educating yourself. Planning and preparing will save you a whole lot of grief and money in the long run. For more information or to reserve your seat, {CLICK HERE}.

Know Your Resources; Area Agency on Aging!

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Welcome to Aging Parents 101: Community Resources where you’ll learn about the multitude of services both private and public available to help you help your elderly parent. Today we’re going to explore your Area Agency on Aging better known in professional circles as AAA!

The Older Americans Act of 1965 helped establish an aging network to assist older adults in maintaining their physical, social, psychological and financial well being but I’m always amazed at how few people know about these resources!

So what does this mean for you as you struggle to help your elderly parent? It means that regardless of where you live or your circumstances there is an agency that can help you, at the very least, get started with local resources and services.

The quality and quantity of services available varies greatly from community to community but the basic structure is the same and it all starts with your Area Agency on Aging …

Area Agency on Aging (AAA)

Sometimes referred to as the Office on Aging or Council on Aging this governmental body is organized by county and acts as a “clearing house” for information, services and legal structure. AAA serves as the advocate and focal point for older adults within that county.

Your local AAA is responsible for

  • developing the area plan for comprehensive and coordinated system of services to meet the needs of older adults
  • funding service provider agencies to fill gaps in service areas
  • serve as advocate and focal point for older adults and aging families
  • developing a continuum of community-based services to assist older persons in remaining independent in the community for as long as it is safe and reasonably possible.

{Looking for your local AAA?——————————————-CLICK}

{Looking for what your AAA offers?———————————-CLICK}

You can review the above list of  the services that fall under your AAA, as mandated by the Older Americans Act. Before you get too excited, know that what you see, on paper, is not always what you get {surprise; surprise}!

What You Need to Know About Your AAA …

  • Not all AAAs are created equal! Some are more organized and better funded than others so even though the structure of the AAA networks is the same; quality and quantity of services varies greatly.
  • It all looks good on paper but don’t kid yourself; the AAA focuses on low income and “at risk” older adults only despite what they say. You may not qualify for the services you see on paper {don’t get me started on this subject}.
  • Your AAA is a great resource if you live long distance as they act as a “clearing house” for information for your particular county and should be able {at a minimum} to answer questions and get you to good resources.
  • In most cases, AAAs do not provide services directly but subcontract with local organizations to deliver services. They may rely heavily on volunteers and the number of paid professionals on staff varies greatly from county to county.
  • If you need help resolving issues with your nursing home, please turn to your ombudsman through your AAA first. This is one resource that every AAA has. Your ombudsman may be a volunteer or a paid professional.
  • Older adults refer to persons 60 years of age or older. In some communities, this age specification may vary depending on disabilities.

Elder Care Locator

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Elder Care Locator which is partially sponsored by your Area Agency on Aging. The Elder Care Locator is a nationwide directory designed to help older adults and their families find the care they need. It’s far from perfect but you can use it to help you get started with helping your elderly parent.

Call 800-677-1116 Monday thru Friday from 9:00 am – 8:00 pm {Eastern Standard Time}. You should be able to provide the county, city name or zip code along with a brief description of your problem.

Typically I find that the Elder Care Locator loops me back to the local Area Agency on Aging but you may find differently. You can also access the Elder Care Locator online {CLICK HERE}

I’ve interfaced with several Area Agencies on Aging mainly in rural Indiana, southern California and northern Colorado and have experienced a wide range of information and help. Feel free to leave your experiences utilizing AAA in the comment section. Hearing about your experience could help others …

8 Ways to Develop The Courage You Need to Grow Old!

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Courage is an amazing thing to witness in someone who’s learning to live with Alzheimer’s Disease. The courage to face the facts and plan for the day you won’t remember your family, how to dress yourself or even recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror. Can you imagine?

Courage is what keeps us from losing our dignity as we grow old{er}. Multiple challenges can make the day to day tasks more difficult. If left unchecked, the struggle can consume us; lead us down a path of despair and depression.

My clients that seem to be the happiest with their late life experience are the people who exhibit a tremendous amount of courage and use it daily to face their challenges. And as you can probably guess,  they didn’t just wake up at the age of 80 and tap in to it; they report having lived courageous lives always.

your attention please …

If you’re a baby boomer caring for an elderly parent, now would be the time to get serious about cultivating YOUR courage!

  • Do you wish you could find the courage to do what you were put on this earth to do?
  • Do you worry about your own aging process as you try to help your elderly parent?
  • Is fear getting in the way of helping them while helping yourself?
  • Do you have the courage to set a healthy boundary with your elderly parent?

{More about healthy boundaries here} ——————————–

Courage is our ability to face our fears head on and find a way to grow through them. Courage gives us the strength to stand up and say what we really want. The ability to feel that negative emotion and not let it consume us to the point where we can’t live a happy and purposeful life despite our limitations and the challenges we face.

There’s a lot of anxiety and fear associated with growing old{er}; fear of losing your independence, fear of not being able to make a living, fear of losing our parents and ultimately the fear of our own death! But that fear doesn’t have to hold us hostage and keep us from being the people we were meant to be.

Just as we exercise to increase physical strength we can practice courage on a regular basis to increase our emotional strength to age in a courageous way. It starts with baby steps and can grow in to something really big and powerful!

Ways to Cultivate Your Courage!

Awareness is the very first thing you need to practice in order to cultivate courage. Become aware of your internal dialogue and what’s pushing your buttons. Without awareness, we are destined to make the same mistake over and over again. Awareness is the on switch that illuminates our courage!

Push yourself outside your comfort zone in small ways. You may not be able to run the 50 yard dash like you use to but I guarantee you there is some form of exercise out there for you. Take a class at your local gym that interest you or walk around the block. If physical isn’t your thing, you better find the courage to make it your thing.

Accept yourself right now exactly as you are. No thoughts of “I’ll feel better when I get this weight off, finish my degree, recuperate from this surgery”. Self acceptance will put you in a position to let go of imperfection and  understand that perfect has never existed so get over it!

Throw your mirror away; especially the 10X magnified one.  I’m not kidding here. What if you went a week without looking at yourself in the mirror? Focused on how you feel versus how you look. Tap in to the person you are inside and I bet you find the courage to let go of the superficial and focus on the internal wisdom that WE ALL HAVE.

Be honest with yourself about the vulnerability you feel. As we start to help our elderly parents, we are faced not only with the sad thought of losing them but also with our own fear of growing old{er}. Denying this vulnerability doesn’t lessen the burden on our loved ones or make us stronger; it actually has the opposite affect. Express your vulnerability and witness your courage unfold.

To hell with the critics in your life, including that little voice inside your head. Ignore that internal voice telling you that you’re too old, not good enough or smart enough. At this stage of our life, do we really need people around us that are anything less than supportive? Let go of relationships that aren’t supportive and people that don’t have your back.

tweet-graphic-3Today’s Tweetable! Ignore that internal voice telling you that you’re too old, not good enough or smart enough. Cultivate your courage!

 

Find your voice and trust yourself in that voice. It takes a lot of confidence to stand up to growing old and in a way that works for you. Do you find yourself shying away from asking for what you want, or voicing your opinion?  If so, you better identify why and tap in to your internal wisdom to create ways to overcome this. With a confident trusting voice, your courage will thrive!

Be grateful for what you have and learn to express it every day. If you constantly see your glass as half empty versus half full, you will struggle to tap in to your courage. Negativity and judgement will create a barrier to courage that only gratitude can break down.  Practice gratitude and the courage will follow; you’ll find yourself participating in activities and feeling emotions you thought were impossible.

The bottom line is this …

Change is never easy and there’s a myth out that that as we grow old{er} life slows down and is much simpler. We have fewer decisions to make; fewer choices. I’m here to tell you that’s not the case …

I find in my professional life as well as my personal life the opposite is true. We are inundated with decisions that have to be made; difficult choices that will make a huge impact on our families and ourselves.

Cultivate your courage and let it provide you with the foundation to face mid to late life challenges in a way that puts us in the driver’s seat. Aging courageously is the single most important legacy we can leave for our families and communities.

Homework Assignment….

Instead of going back and writing a letter to your 20 year old self {a very popular thing to do these days}; I want you to write a letter to your 80 year old self and express your hopes for you at that age! Read that letter and stand in the presence of your courage…

 

Leave additional ways to cultivate courage and your thoughts in the comments section below …

Is It Time To Simplify Your Elderly Parent’s Life? 5 Simple Ways To Do Just That!

Family caregivers spend a significant amount of time each week managing doctor appointments, finances, medicine and running basic errands. This is on top of the many hours a week spent assisting with bathing, dressing and answering the same question a million times over. Maybe you can identify!

Hamster in a wheel

If you’re struggling to manage your elderly parent’s life, here’s some ways you can simplify their life so you can have more time for your own…

5 Ways to Simplify Your Elderly Parent’s Life

1) Coordinate as much as possible online. 

Online banking, including direct deposits, and prescriptions can be managed online, which not only saves you from having to run around all over but it allows you to work and coordinate at a time of day that’s convenient for you. You can even purchase incontinence supplies online.

2) Hire someone to help with bookkeeping.

Let’s face it the Medicare paper work, insurance reimbursements, doctor’s bills, lab bills, radiology bills are endless and it takes time to coordinate and manage it all. You may be surprised at how low cost a bookkeeper can be and the pay off can be HUGE.

3) Discontinue unnecessary medications. 

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the insane amount of medication that many older adults take.  Ask the physician if any can be safely discontinued. Along with this, ask if dosages can be lowered or given fewer times a day to alleviate multiple daily dosages.

A quick side note on this one. I recently asked one of my clients to call their dad’s doctor to ask if we could reduce the amount of times per day he was to receive his eye drops. We were able to reduce the amount of times per day the drops were given from 5 to 2! What a HUGE difference this made in simplifying his life and providing him the ability to mange life in his home.

4) Put an end to multiple physician visits.

Primary care physician, cardiologist, nephrologist, pulmonologist etc. Again, ask your primary care physician if there is a way to cut down on these visits. Is there really anything those specialists are doing that your primary care physician can’t do? These visits will wear you both out and you have to ask yourself if the cost outweighs the benefit.

5) Organize your elderly parents vital information

Organize their records so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you need it. Powers of attorney, advance directives, Medicare and insurance cards, medication lists, pharmacy information,  family contact information should all be stored in an easy to reach location so you don’t have to search every time you need this information.

Unless you’ve done it day in and day out, it’s hard to understand just how complicated and busy the life of an elderly person can be. Simplifying their life is not only wise but essential if you’re going to have enough energy left in the day for yourself and for them.

Like anything, simplifying your elderly parent’s life will take some work and creativity but it’s well worth the effort to free yourself up. Free yourself up to do more of what you enjoy with them instead of running, running, running.

3. Set up automatic refills for important prescriptions. Pharmacies like Walgreens and Walmart will allow patients to set up email alerts for prescription refills and even allow patients to order refills online. Using convenient tools like these will allow you to make sure important medications are always there for your parent. – See more at: http://newportnewshomecare.com/blog/2013/08/03/how-to-simplify-life-for-an-aging-parent/#sthash.m8Y3WN14.dpuf

 Question: What are the biggest obstacles you face in organizing your elderly parent’s life? Do you have any tips that can help others?

3. Set up automatic refills for important prescriptions. Pharmacies like Walgreens and Walmart will allow patients to set up email alerts for prescription refills and even allow patients to order refills online. Using convenient tools like these will allow you to make sure important medications are always there for your parent. – See more at: http://newportnewshomecare.com/blog/2013/08/03/how-to-simplify-life-for-an-aging-parent/#sthash.m8Y3WN14.dpuf
3. Set up automatic refills for important prescriptions. Pharmacies like Walgreens and Walmart will allow patients to set up email alerts for prescription refills and even allow patients to order refills online. Using convenient tools like these will allow you to make sure important medications are always there for your parent. – See more at: http://newportnewshomecare.com/blog/2013/08/03/how-to-simplify-life-for-an-aging-parent/#sthash.m8Y3WN14.dpuf

 

 

Cultivate Your Self-Awareness! True Confession Time…

Healthy boundaries are key when it comes to coping and surviving the stress of caring for an elderly parent. Boundaries are also key for “helping professionals” working with aging families and the frustrating world of elder care: nurses, social workers, care managers, therapists etc….

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Many times  boundary setting needs to take place inside our head in the form of self-awareness. Of course, the tough thing about self-awareness is that it’s about the self.  Only YOU can figure out your issues and set boundaries that ultimately help you cope and manage your stress.

The bottom line is this …..

The needs of the elderly are endless.  There is always one more phone call to make, one more issue to address and one more form to fill out. As helpers and caregivers, we tend to over help, which isn’t helpful. All this does is create an unrealistic world of expectations that can never be met. Then the frustration starts to rise; we find ourselves complaining about doctors, the system, demanding clients/parents/patients/residents; the list goes on and on!

Self-awareness can set you free…

Self-awareness can set us free and help create a boundary that says “good enough is good enough” and it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can’t take on the weight of the world, expect perfection and engage with your clients/parent/patients/residents in any meaningful way.

Explore your internal workings and identify what “pushes your buttons”.

For me, it’s taking on the weight of the world and trying to make life “perfect” for my clients. I start by working every little detail to death. I work and work until I feel like I’ve repeated myself a million times. Then I become so emotionally invested in the situation that I can’t see straight and my head feels like it’s about to explode.

It’s time for some healthy boundary setting…

I struggle when I’m feeling like I’m carrying the weight of the world both physically and emotionally; I take it on, take it on, take it on. I wont go in to the ugly details as to why I do this but let’s just say it pushes my buttons in a BIG way.

I’m so grateful for the self-awareness that helps me recognize this pattern so much quicker than I use to. I then detach and set a boundary. Once self-awareness kicks in I get clear on my part in feeling this way and the messiness that I’ve created inside my head.  I’m then able to move on and be much more affective and empowered to do a better job for my clients.

It’s taken me many years of therapy, self reflection and experience to get to the point where I can identify “my stuff’ and I’ll admit I don’t always get it right. But,let me tell you, when I get it right it makes for a much more heartfelt helping experience for me and my clients.

My advice to you…

Whether you’re a family caregiver or helping professional, cultivate self-awareness so you can set healthy boundaries inside your head. In turn, you can create better coping skills and help in a more meaningful and wholehearted way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed With Worry? 5 Tips to Sanity!

Ever feel so much worry for your elderly parent that you want to cry? Do the multiple road blocks you face leave you feeling like your head is going to explode? Are you at the end of your rope?

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It’s VITALLY important that as helpers and caregivers we learn to deal with the demands of helping others before we ourselves become burnout or worse yet our own health suffers; leaving you unable to help…

When overwhelm strikes and burnout ensues feelings of guilt and failure can take over and keep us stuck unable to ask for the help we so desperately need.

Caring for and managing the life of your elderly parent can consume you to the point where you feel like you’re going to have  a stroke.  The screaming, anxiety and high blood pressure; it can leave you feeling like you are being sucked in to a vortex with no life of your own.

RELATED ARTICLE: Health Boundary Setting

I meet a lot of people in your shoes and my heart really goes out to them but when you’re in that moment of chaos and confusion there are some simple things you can do to help yourself and ultimately your elderly parent.

Below are some simple ways to deal with overwhelm and some simple steps you can take to stay sane, happy and stress free as you help your elderly parents.

Get up and walk away; yep that’s right walk away. I want you to come back, of course, but get out and take a walk. It doesn’t have to be far: around the block, the yard or even the house will do but get up and move. I wont lie, a walk around the block is not going to solve your elder care problems or aging parent crisis of the day BUT it will help clear your head and help with those overwhelming feelings.

Make a list; don’t check it twice. Make a list of all the things that are on your mind. All the things you have to do for them; all the things you fear. Look at each item on the list and ask yourself a simple question, is this in my control? If the answer is no, check it off the list? If the answer is yes, then do the best you can and know that good enough is good enough!

Get over yourself and understand that you are human. There is absolutely  no way you can do it all so if you want to let go of worry and stop feeling overwhelmed reach out and ask for help.  Find professionals to help you and I don’t want to hear “my mom wont let anyone else help her”.  Don’t think for a second the professionals haven’t heard that before; they know how to work around this.

Take a deep breath; again and again. We all forget to breath during stressful moments. If you feel your head spinning, get somewhere quiet (I prefer the bathroom) and take three deep cleansing breaths. Even if you quiet yourself for only 30 seconds, it will make a difference for YOU. Feel free to stay in the bathroom for as long as you like or until someone barges in and interrupts you…

Check off non-essential items on your to do list. Seriously, does your mom need to go to the dentist this week? Unless it is urgent, cancel all appointments that you are managing this week. NO, not your massage appointment. Even if you have to lie, yes you have my permission; “sorry mom but your hairdresser called and she is sick and can’t do your hair”. I realize this option is not easy but my point is to do whatever it takes to get some things off your list.

You work hard, you do your best but the overwhelmed feelings come when we’re tired and pushed to the point of exhaustion. Your parents need help but the system is complex and confusing. It’s hard to know what to do at times but you can’t help them if the overwhelmed gets in the way!

Do yourself (and them) a favor and keep this list handy for when you’re at that breaking point.

If you’ve been overwhelmed and had to pull yourself back from the brink, how did you do it? How have you coped with the worry and stress of an elderly parent? Your tip or comment could possibly help someone else in your shoes…

 

 

5 Ways to Stop Sacrificing Too Much For Your Elderly Parents

Whether you are a 24 hour caregiver or cheering your elderly parent on from a distance, sacrifices will be made to see that they receive the help they need. Sacrifices in and of themselves are certainly not a bad thing. HOWEVER, when we sacrifice too much and it creates burnout and resentment it’s time to take a step back and think twice about what we’re doing…

Yes, without a doubt, you have to give up things to care for and help your elderly parents but you don’t have to give up the essence of who you are and what you believe in. In other words, don’t lose yourself in the process of caring. Sacrifice at the cost of losing yourself is not helpful it’s self-destructive.

sacrificeThe trips across the country, the missed vacations, the financial and time commitment are all sacrifices that are made across this country every day to care for elderly parents.

What I want us to consider is the way in which we sacrifice and the intent of our sacrifice. Sacrifice can be made in a way that promotes health and wellness not resentment and frustration.

 

Here’s 5 strategies that can help…

 

#1 Stop the Comparisons; someone is always doing more and some are doing less.

 

Stop comparing the sacrifice you are able to make to your peers or worse yet siblings. As adult children of elderly parents, we all have different lives, resources and abilities. Don’t compare what you’re able to do for your mom or dad to what your RN friend is able to do. As I like to tell my kids, there will always be people who can do more and there will always be people who can do less. Comparing your sacrifice to other’s sacrifice puts you on a hamster wheel you can never get off of.

 

#2 Set a boundary; know when to say yes and how to say no.

Do you know anyone that would work at a job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days out of the year without a break or pay? If you don’t learn to set a boundary, you will lose yourself in your sacrifice for your elderly parent and your relationships {I’m sure you have others}will suffer.You need to know they are cared for and are safe but by setting a boundary and defining what your sacrifice will be you free yourself to love your elderly parent in the best way possible.

 

#3 You don’t always have to be the hero; give somebody else a chance.

 

Many adult children of elderly parents want to be the one that comes to the rescue for every single problem. This is particularly true if this is your role in the family dynamic. This works well for us overachiever Type A personalities TO A POINT. Unfortunately, it can become a dynamic that’s main purpose is to sooth your ego not truly help your mom or dad. Come down off your high horse and get clear on what your need to be a hero is all about. Consider that too much of anything can be a bad thing.

 

#4 Acceptance of the inevitable; your elderly parent is going to die.

 

 Your elderly parent is going to pass away and it is going to hurt like crazy. No form of denial and no amount of sacrifice is going to help you avoid this hard cold fact. If you are using your sacrifice as a way of avoiding the emotional pain, your sacrifice is out of balance and unhealthy for both you and your parent. Be aware of your emotional status and get clear on how you are feeling about your elderly parent passing on. By accepting the inevitable you open your heart to resolve old conflict, forgive and release while you still have them with you.

#5 Don’t be afraid to fail; it’s a crazy imperfect system.

 

If your elderly parents were over critical of you as a child, you may find yourself afraid to make a mistake. Your instinct is to try harder and make more sacrifices in hopes of receiving their blessing and grace. Trust me when I tell you, there is no perfect in the world of elder and health care. Many decisions need to be made and you can second guess yourself all day long but I guarantee you every decision you make is good enough.

 

Have you ever felt like your sacrifice is too much for your elderly parent? How do you balance caring for them and caring for yourself?

 

Tell us your experience in the comment section and share as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing. Your thoughts could help someone out…

 

 

Aging Parents and Tough Love; You Can Do This!

toughlove

Adult children of aging parents often struggle when the time comes to step in and assist with decision-making. The moment you realize your roles have reversed and you need to provide your aging parent with the support and care they need versus what they want.  Sometimes this happens gradually; sometimes the hospital is asking where you want your mom or dad discharged to and you haven’t a clue what to say.

It’s not easy…

It’s not easy when you know in your heart that your aging parent needs more help. Their home is a mess and you detect the smell of urine or their doctor is indicating a move to assisted living or worse yet the nursing home, is in order. Of course, your aging parent will have nothing of it and you’re left holding the bag of worries.  It’s difficult to balance their safety and their wishes when the two don’t coincide. The denial runs deep and you want to scream at the top or your lungs. You beg; you plead but it all falls on deaf ears.

I’ve been there…

Last year about this time my dad was in ICU in acute renal failure. it was clear to me early on that discharging right back to home was not going to be a good choice {read about the dirty details here}  yet that’s all he talked about; going home. I knew in my heart that if he didn’t get some inpatient rehab { i.e. nursing home care} that he would be back in the hospital within 2 weeks, if not 2 hours. I also knew in my heart that he was going to say “thanks but no thanks” to the nursing home idea, which he did.

Presenting it with clarity and compassion…

I was brutally honest {choosing my words very carefully} with my dad about what was happening and very clear about why he needed to go to the nursing home for a while. This piece of the tough love equation is easier for me because of my background but, with all my years of experience and know how, this was truly bringing me to my knees and pushing my inner child buttons like you wouldn’t believe. But I stayed the course by remaining clear and compassionate. I told him I loved him, I knew he was scared but that he’s was going to have to trust me on this.

Tough love doesn’t always feel good…

I will never forget the day my dad was wheeled out of the ambulance and brought in to the nursing home. The look on his face brought tears to my eyes and I seriously wanted to run away. Instead I ran to the door he was coming in so he could hear my reassurance that he was going to be in and out of there before he knew it. To be honest with you, I wasn’t convinced that was true but he needed to hear those words. Even as I write this, there’s a knot in the pit of my stomach and I’m tearful.

Tough love sometimes feels good…

My dad did make it out of skilled rehab {the nursing home} and continues to live at home with the support of his grandson. By stepping in and making that decision to strongly influence {force} my dad to spend time in the nursing home, I made sure he got the care he needed to be as independent and self-sufficient as he can possibly be at this stage in his life. When he talks about being in the nursing home, he admits he didn’t like it one little bit but he also doesn’t express any resentment about the experience; this is all I ask for.

I want you to know this…

Tough love is an issue of setting boundaries with our aging parents and doing what we know is right for them. It’s not always easy but if done with clarity and compassion tough love can make the difference between your aging parent being in a position that puts them at risk versus them getting the care they need so you can both sleep at night…

 

RELATED ARTICLES AND RESOURCES

Clarity Session to Help You Help Your Aging Parent

Aging Parents: My Personal Story