Showing posts with label Elder Care. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elder Care. Show all posts

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tips for Elder Care | The Sandwich Generation

One out of every eight Americans is currently caring for aging parents and raising their own children at the same time--this is known as the Sandwich Generation.  Millions of children are even caring for parents from a distance.  As a person providing care to my mom, I know it is easy to forget our own needs or enjoy the simple things.  Even the happy times can become one more thing we have to take care of in a day.

Navigating health care systems, financial systems, housing and trying to take care of oneself is a daily balancing act that can make a person feel sandwiched between enormous responsibilities with no help. It is often one person in the family who takes on all, if not most, of the responsibility of caring for elderly parents.

As an empathetic person coping with aging parents, I would like to share some of the resources I found most helpful to learn how to help elderly parents.  Think of them as sandwich ideas to make you successful as you are taking care of parents while you are in the Sandwich Generation.

Caregiver Support
Elderly caregivers
Elder care is a family affair! Thomas Gatsby loves his grand mom.
AgingCare.com is one of my favorite resources for caregivers.  For those of us providing aging parent care, it is impossible to leave our parents alone.  Therefore we need home care resources we can tap into online.  Going to an aging parent support group meeting is not something I can do since I cannot leave my mother alone.  Taking her along with me would make her feel like she's the cause of all my stress.  Online support groups have been a great resource I can utilize on my own time.

This website has a great forum with stories from other adult children who are providing care for elderly parents.  They have experience with the daily challenges I face and it's nice to relate to someone who is going through the same thing.

There is a link to tips for daily care, such as showering and dressing and other aspects of in home elder care.  I'm new to this and never had children, so helping someone else to dress, shower, brush their teeth was a whole new skill I needed to develop.  A person with dementia can forget to bathe, become afraid of water, the tub, etc.  I found that my mom can take sponge baths instead of full showers, which helped me tremendously because I was struggling trying to shower her every day.

AARP's Caregiving Resource Center online connects to the Take Care Blog with stories from other children dealing with elderly parents, as well as web chats and webinars with experts on caring for parents.  AARP can also be reached toll free at 1-866-389-5654, 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday should you need to reach out to them.

F.R.A.N.K. (Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, Neighbors and Kids)
Make contact with friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors and people you know through your children. Look for people who have either cared for an elderly parent or are now doing so.  They will be a great support to you, and are probably looking for support, too.  You can support each other through phone, email or even helping with watching kids or parents while one person has to take care of other responsibilities.

Reaching out to neighbors and even doctors who dealt with my mom prior to her dementia was a valuable resource for emotional support and it could be the same for you.  Sometimes family members are afraid to become involved because they realize their loved one is preparing for the end of life and can be too hard to face.  My siblings have a hard time with this and are often afraid that I will expect something from them that they cannot do or do not want to do.  I needed to let that go and not worry about it.  I have realized I cannot change the people around me and mom doesn't have time for that now.  We need to surround ourselves with people who can help when needed.  My aunt and cousin are great resources as they also provide elder care in their home, so we can support each other.  Don't give your up valuable time to worry about who isn't there and take time to analyze why siblings or others don't help out more.  Nothing escalates a burn out quicker than negativity and disappointment.

Governmental/Social Services
Each state has its own department of aging.  These government run programs offer many online links and phone numbers for resources including long term living, affordable healthcare and prescriptions, advocacy, health, and wellness.  The National Care Planning Council provides a list of each state's agency for aging.

Information Online
The National Council on Aging's caregiver website contains links that direct you to financial help, employment resources, information about scams directed at the elderly and resources for Medicare information. NCOA can also be contacted toll free at 1-800-677-1116.

FamilyWize Discount Prescription Card is a free prescription drug card to help with the prescription medicines often needed in caring for elderly parents.  The card is accepted at more than 61,000 participating pharmacies and can help anyone who is uninsured, if medications aren't covered, for high deductible periods, and Medicare patients who are in the donut hole.  The card is free and can be printed right from your computer or one can be sent to your phone if you don't have access to a printer.  There is no waiting period and no eligibility requirements and the savings are up to 75% on all FDA-approved medications.

Don't Do It Alone!

Meeting the daily challenges of caring for elderly parents, children and working can be a struggle.  At times, we feel helplessly sandwiched between all those who need us with no time to take care of ourselves.  But there are many resources available that can make this experience easier to manage.

Taking care of my mom for the last two years has been the biggest challenge I have ever faced, but it has also been the most rewarding.  I used to worry that I didn't have an important job title, like CEO of "something".  I relentlessly pursued higher education to "better myself".  Now I know the most important job I've ever had didn't require experience or a college degree.  I'm not the manager or director of anything.  I'm proud to say that my title is Caregiver and member of  The Sandwich Generation.  I'm also relieved to know that I don't have to go through this alone. Neither do you.

Caroline Carr
Caregiver and Contributing Writer

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Sandwich Generation - A First-hand Perspective

Caught in the Middle

The Sandwich Generation  is a growing situation.  It describes a generation of people who find themselves caring for elderly parents or relatives while still raising their own children.  In a difficult and uncertain economy supporting one's own children is challenging enough.  Adding the care and expense of an elderly parent or parents can be both heartbreaking and financially challenging.  It's often easy to lose ourselves in the myriad of people that surround us.

Aging Parents - A Growing Dilemma
The  Pew Research Center reports:
Elderly Parents Care
Between 7 and 10 million adults care for an aging parent long distance.
  • 1 in 8 Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 are adult children caring for an aging parent and raising own children.  
  • Between 7 and 10 million adults care for a parent long distance.  
According to the U.S. Census Bureau the number of Americans 65 and older will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million.

Carol Abaya, nationally recognized as an expert in eldercare, breaks down the sandwich generation into three categories:
  1. Those who care for their own children and care or help with their aging parents as well.
  2. Those in "their 50's and 60's caring for elderly parents, their grown children and their grandchildren. Adults in their 30's and 40's who care for their own small children, elderly parents and grandparents."
  3. Any one else involved in elder care.
Living with Elderly Parents

It is often unexpected and can turn your life upside down.

My story:  After a frantic search for my keys, tripping over my cats to the front door, and already late for work, my phone rings.  It is my mom's car dealership. "I hope I'm not overstepping anything here, but we just took your mom home."  My heart is in my throat thinking something terrible has happened.  Well, yes and no. Mom was not hurt or in an accident.  However, she took her car over because she thought she had gotten a call that it was due for maintenance.  The dealership had not called.  But when she arrived, the agent noticed that she seemed confused and could not get her car to shut off.  Worried that she should not be on the road, they told her they would look the car over for her and change the oil and shuttle her home.  Then they called me.  My mother never drove again after that.  After a few weeks and an escalating issue with her breathing, she was hospitalized for pneumonia.  During that time, a CAT scan revealed that she had suffered several mini-strokes.  She was developing Dementia.  I suddenly found myself sandwiched between my own home in the city, hers in the suburbs, a two-hour drive in traffic, and a job that did not allow employees to call out sick. 

I quickly realized my mom would not be able to live on her own, which meant drastic changes to life as I knew it:
  • I had to rent my house, quit my job, and move in with her. 
  • I also realized that I was going to need a lucrative income without leaving my home. The challenge was to find other, less conventional ways of earning a living from direct sales to consulting and writing. 
  • I also need flexibility for doctor's appointments, my mom's ups and downs and my need to include her in my travels outside the home because she cannot be left alone. 
Elder Care - A Family Affair

Sandwich Generation
Elder care is challenging, but the rewards are great for the family.
The responsibility of caring for an aging parent or spouse did not single me out.  Both my aunt and my cousin joined the sandwich generation together.   On Thanksgiving night about six years ago, my cousin showed up at my house with suitcases in hand and her young son. Normally she showed up with a side dish, this year she brought a family!  My aunt found herself joining the ranks of the Sandwich Generation when she had to care for her disabled husband, her daughter and grandson. And her daughter raises her young child while sharing in the care of an elderly parent.

Both women work full time jobs and struggle with the demands of their careers.  Sharing in the daily care of my uncle, they are challenged with navigating the ever-changing Medicare system and his worsening condition.  Neither of them thought they would be in this situation.

Common Eldercare Situations
  • Recently, my uncle chose to stay late at elder care, without notifying my cousin who needs to take her son to team practice.  Because she had to wait for her father's bus to help him into the house, her son was late. Dementia has diminished his ability to use a house key to let himself in.
  • I have experienced this with my mother. She knows how to lock a door, and has often locked me out! But unlocking the door is a challenge.  My mother sometimes stands at the window, smiling at me, but doesn't understand that I need her to let me in.  In this situation, it's really important to remember your key at all times!
My cousin and I laugh at the numerous times we've been locked out and our parents don't answer the door.

Elderly Parent's Care
My one friend who is dealing with elderly parents has the additional pressure of caring for her aging parents from a distance.  We often miss the simple things like children or grandchildren's events due to travel, appointments, and the unpredictability of dealing with an elderly parent.  Despite the sacrifices, we consider it a privilege and agree that there is nothing else we'd rather be doing than caring for elderly parents.

As the population ages, and more adult children dealing with aging parents join the sandwich generation, the need for resources that can provide emotional support, financial, medical, and other social services will also grow.  Tomorrow's article, The Sandwich Generation - Tips for Living with Elderly Parents will provide links for resources that can help us build healthy sandwiches, filled with ingredients that aid us to meet the challenges of the most important job we'll ever do.

Caroline Carr
Full Time Caregiver and Contributing Writer