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…

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the Difference Between Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Care? Let’s Talk About It!

As a geriatric care manager, I’m often asked this question. I spend a lot of time assessing, educating and facilitating conversations about which is the best fit for my clients.

Mature couple talking seated on bench in park shot with tilt and shift lens

There are times when it’s very clear which level of care community is the best fit but seldom is this an easy conversation!

Is your elderly parent struggling with daily tasks  such as shopping, driving, meal preparation, medicine management, money management, telephone usage, housekeeping, laundry? Do they require minimal to moderate assist with dressing and bathing? If so,  assisted living is for you.

But wait a minute…

Let’s say that the answers to those questions indicate assisted living is a good solution but there are still other variables to consider. What if your dad requires medical monitoring that requires an RN around the clock? Does your mom’s dementia related behaviors  interfere with her ability to accept help? Does dad become combative at times?

Then a skilled nursing home may be a better fit…

I want you to consider these 3 areas of your elderly parent’s functioning before you start making this decision… 

1) Functioning: Exactly how much help does your mom or dad need throughout the day. Are they able to ambulate independently with a walker or do they need a wheel chair? If they utilize a wheel chair, are they able to transfer themselves in and out without assistance? Are they incontinent? If so, are they able to manage this independently? Consider all aspects of activities of daily living: bathing, dressing, grooming, eating. Know before you start shopping what their specific needs are and have clarity around how much help they need day to day.

2) Cognition: The vast majority of individuals living in assisted living have some type of cognitive or memory impairment. The thing to consider is how does it affect them day to day. Do they become combative at bath time or refuse help with personal care? Are there behaviors related to dementia such as combativeness?  If wondering is an issue, you’ll need to consider a secure dementia care program, which is available in both assisted and skilled nursing settings. Are they safe to be in a setting with assisted supervision or do they need 24 hour “eyes on the prize” kind of supervision?

3) Medical Complexity: There are times when a person is completely intact from a cognitive perspective, needs minimal assist with activities of daily living but they are requiring an RN for 24 hour medical treatment and/or a certified nursing assistant that has been trained on safe transfers, feeding assist, positioning and vital sign checks. Sometimes this can be a short term stay in rehab but it can also be long term skilled nursing home care. Multiple medical conditions, daily weighing and changing of lasix dosage, diabetes that requires close monitoring and insulin dosage changes.

The ultimate question you need to ask and answer is how much help does your elderly parent need on a day to day basis, how does cognition interfere with functioning,  AND how complex is their medical care?

Professionals know that the lines between assisted living and skilled nursing homes are becoming blurry and as a consumer  advocate for your elderly parent you need to understand the differences…

Major Differences Between Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Homes

1) The cost of an assisted living community is significantly less than a nursing home. There is variation depending on where you live and the type of care needs your elderly parent has. A nursing home will charge you a flat rate that typically includes all basic care needs and assisted living will charge you a flat rate and add on for care that’s needed. Just be aware that the cost of assisted living will climb as their care needs become more intense.

2) Assisted living facilities are typically a more home-like atmosphere with more privacy than a nursing home. Space is more likely an “apartment” versus a room and residents are given more autonomy. For example, assisted living tends to have bathing options in their apartment where the nursing home will have a centralized bathing area. One exception I see to this is assisted living communities that are Medicaid certified; this tends to be a 2 to a room situation and more institutional.

3) Assisted living communities are full of great people but they are not as highly trained and educated as the staff in a skilled nursing home. A nursing home is staffed by certified nursing assistants, registered and licensed nurses, social workers, life enrichment coordinators, registered dieticians. Therapy teams physical, occupational and speech are available on an “as needed” basis in both settings. The assisted living community is limited in terms of skilled care provided; please don’t let some slick sales person convince you otherwise!

4) The nursing home business is a highly regulated environment where the assisted living business is not. The nursing home is regulated at the federal level so you’ll see consistency from state to state. Assisted living businesses are regulated via state government and you’ll find differences from state to state. There are pros and cons to this aspect so you’ll need to do some soul searching to see how this plays out for you. Regulations do not necessarily equate to better care. On the other hand, they provide consistent oversight.

More about nursing home regulations here…

5) Assisted living is an easier pill to swallow than the nursing home and it emotionally feels better. Let’s face it, it’s easier to discuss moving to assisted living versus the nursing home. I caution you against making your choices based on emotions and fear. The last thing you want is to move your mom or dad to the assisted living facility only to be asked to leave because it’s not a good fit. If you’re being fuelled by negative emotions about the nursing home, take a step back and make your decision based in knowledge and clarity…

There are many variables to consider and many differences from community to community in terms of assisted living versus nursing home communities. If you have additional experience and insight that can help others,  leave a comment and make a difference!

I hope this information helps you with your care community decision but I know there’s still a lot more to consider for your family. If you find yourself overwhelmed with this decision and continue to have more questions than answers, a one-on-one coaching session can help…

 

 

 

 

Has Your Elderly Parent Become Your Midlife Crisis?

Midlife crisis has typically been defined as a period of emotional turmoil in middle age that generally hits around the ages of 40-60. This transitional period is characterized by a strong desire for change. There’s some question as to whether mid-life inevitably equates to a midlfe crisis but we can all agree that in your mid life you start to question what it’s all about…

Bad news phone call

This time of reflection comes at a time when the nest is emptying out, our hormones are changing, we’re struggling to maintain our careers, worries about retiring …

For some, this time does become crisis time and can lead to depression or major life changes.

But more and more baby boomers see midlife as a time for transformation. A time we start exploring the possibilities of our lives and taking time for us. Perhaps it’s our last chance to transform ourselves, have a baby (my midlife crisis),  change careers, go back to school, travel around the world … We start exploring the possibilities!

Enter the Elderly Parent

 

Just as we start to find time for our own lives comes the realization that we can’t rely on our parents for advice and a shoulder to lean on like we use to. That in fact our roles have reversed and they are leaning on us emotionally, financially and physically to get around. Our midlife plans get put on hold.

When we first realize our elderly parent needs help, we are confronted with our own mortality. We look in the mirror and see our wrinkles, gray hair and age spots. We start to reflect back on how well we have lived our life so far. We see our elderly parents struggle day in and day out; we worry about our future. We want to make changes…

The constant phone calls, trips to the doctor, worry over if they should move, long distant treks across the country to check on them. It all starts to wear us down and we hit crisis mode. The next thing you know our elderly parent’s lives have become our midlife crisis.

Some Helpful Tips…

 

Do what’s right for you and that will be what’s right for them. My clients get so sick of hearing me say this  but it’s the foundation of my work. As an adult child, you must care for your elderly parent in your own unique way. You may get looks from others and your  love may be questioned.  But this is not the time to overcommit to something you’re not capable of!

Avoid becoming enmeshed with their problems by setting healthy boundaries. It’s real easy to become so busy dealing with your elderly parent’s day to day life that it becomes hard to tell where their life ends and yours begins. If you can’t learn to set a health boundary with them, you will hit a brick wall and their life will become your midlife crisis.

More about healthy boundaries here…

Be aware of the sadness you feel around them growing old and dying. Along with this, be clear on how you feel about your own mortality and your vision for the rest of your life. These two emotional pieces can collide and become messy in a big way. If these issues are bogging you down, I would recommend counselling or spiritual support.

Don’t use your elderly parents as a scapegoat to avoid working on your own life. Are you using your eldrly parents to avoid making some tough decisions about your own life? Is it easier for you to play the martyr versus be responsible for your own happiness in life? This is an easy trap to fall in to so be keenly aware when you are avoiding your own problems.

Don’t do it alone. Whether it’s deciding to get help with your recent arthritis diagnosis or help caring for your elderly parent, this transition will require help or it will become a crisis for you and your elderly parent. The ability to reach out and get help requires awareness, acceptance and flexibility. Start practising these attributes on a daily basis.

Chances are your midlife transition will coincide with your elderly parent needing more of your time and help. It can be overwhelming and challenging but it can also provide you with the opportunity to explore your own aging process and get clear on how to envision your late life.

Your time of midlife transition doesn’t have to be put on hold completely as you care for your elderly parent. Take take the time to be clear on your own intentions and emotional transitions; don’t let your elderly parent become our midlife crisis!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Ways to Help Your Elderly Parent Navigate the Health Care System! Start Today…

 

Health Care Navigation and how best to help our elderly parents traverse the confusing world of health care is an issue we all have to deal with eventually. Like it or not!

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We don’t usually worry about health care navigation until we get that call from the hospital emergency room or we’re setting in an intensive care unit trying to make sense of it all. It’s at that point, the chaos and confusion ensues and we find ourselves frustrated with our inability to help our elderly parents…

I’ll be honest, the system is not designed for patients and families. It’s designed for the BIG corporations (both public and private) that run them as well as BIG government regulators. We, the consumers, come in a distant third.  I hate to sound cynical but that’s been my experience over the past couple of years both professionally and personally.

Related Article: More Ways to Help with Health Care Navigation

Cynicism aside, there are three things you can do right now to prepare yourself and your elderly parent to navigate the health care system and advocate for better care and solutions that work for you and your elderly parent…

1) Designate someone in your family to be the point person and the person to be by your elderly parent’s side. If your mom or dad is hospitalized for long,  you’ll need to work in shifts and call in back up. Without a family member, trusted friend or professional by their side advocating for them, your elderly parent is at risk of becoming lost in the system. Your point person doesn’t have to be the power of attorney but obviously needs to be geographically near by and someone that can be trusted.

2) Your designated person  needs to have a grab-and-go file ready with the copies of the following: Advance Directives, Consents, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, Medication List, Medial History, Family Contact Information, Medicare and Insurance Cards.  Hopefully your hospital or health care system has most of this information on file but DO NOT take that for granted. When you’re in that hospital emergency room and the staff is asking about current medications, you’ll be glad you have your grab-and-go file!

3) Understand how your health care or hospital system works in terms of connecting families to information. Do consents need to be signed? Is there a phone code that needs to be established? Can information be shared via e-mail alerts? Thankfully hospital systems are starting to catch up with technology but there is always lots of “bugs” in the system. Knowing before hand how the system works, will empower you to connect to the information you need to help your elderly parent.

As a geriatric care manager, a big part of my job is to be that person that helps navigate the confusing and overwhelming world of health care. What I want you to know is this…

With 35+ years of experience, a degree, certificates and strong communication skills I struggle to navigate the system as well. It is not easy but when I feel prepared I, in turn, feel confident and clear to help my clients.

You can do the same for your elderly parent…

It’s always interesting to hear from people around the country about their health care navigation experiences. If you feel your experience may help others, leave a comment…

 

 

 

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…

 

 

Aging and Happiness; Growing Older and Wiser!

aginghappinessetsyThere are two ways to get your hands on my Aging and Happiness Guide.

ONE: sign up for my weekly tips, advice and support and you’ll receive a FREE copy. TWO: I know some of you are tired of signing up for email lists so you can purchase your Aging and Happiness Guide for a low-cost in my etsy store.

Your guide includes information and examples about each key to happiness, questions to provoke thought, worksheets to journal insights and information to inspire your journey!

It’s a simple yet powerful guide to get you to thinking about your own aging or share it with your elderly parents to get them thinking about growing older and wiser…

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

~LuAnn