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Caring for a family member with dementia can be challenging and the holiday season can add more to an already full plate for many caregivers. The holidays are a time for family and friends to come together, share traditions, and make memories, but for families living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, it may take additional care.

One of the things to consider when planning for the picture of familyholidays with a person with dementia is the stage of the illness. Those family members in the early stages can experience minor changes, and some may go unnoticed. However, the person with dementia may have trouble following conversations or may repeat himself or herself. They may feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, and might withdraw from the group.  Do not point out errors in their conversations or their difficulty recalling specifics. Periodically checking in with them with a simple “How are you coping with everything?” can help you determine their comfort level with the activities.

It is also helpful to inform other family members as to what to expect from their loved one when they arrive. A group text or email explaining changes to memory or behaviors can help the family prepare in advance. In the message, you can explain any unpredictable emotions, memory loss or possible soothing techniques.

As the caregiver, you also need to be good to yourself. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Some variations might need to be made to your holiday traditions. Some things that may assist in lessening the holiday stress are:

  • Adjust your expectations. Talk to family members about your current caregiving situation and make them aware of what you realistically can and cannot do.
  • Ask for help. No one should expect you to be the sole person responsible for maintain every holiday tradition. Have other family members contribute to the meal or even hosting an event at their home.
  • Set limits. Break large gatherings up into smaller visits. Set time limits for visitors to help the person with dementia and yourself from getting overtired.
  • Make some variations. Sometimes evening is a time of agitation for people with dementia. Move the celebrations to mid-day and have a holiday brunch instead of dinner.
  • Mind Your Mindset. Negative thinking actually activates your body’s stress response, so steer your mind to the positives when you start down that slippery slope. Try to stay mindful, concentrating on the present moment. Think about what you can accomplish instead of what isn’t getting done; revel in the holiday joys you experience instead of focusing on those you bypass; appreciate the help you are receiving rather than resenting those who aren’t supportive.
  • Avoid triggers. Be careful of blinking lights and noisy locations as this might exaggerate confusion and agitation.
  • Maintain a normal routine. Keep routines as normal as possible. This will help keep the holidays from being disruptive or confusing.
  • Plan time for a break or rest period. While your loved one may relish in the company and holiday celebrations, he may need a place to retreat. Arrange for a quiet place for your loved one to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday celebration if needed.

Remember that perfection is not the goal of the holidays. There are many factors we can’t control when it comes to our loved ones’ health and abilities, so adjust your view of a successful holiday. Focus on what feels necessary to produce a holiday feeling and create good memories.

For more ideas and support, join ALZConnected, an online support community where caregivers like you share tips on what has worked for them.

 

Writer: Kathy Goins, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, goins.115@osu.edu

 

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

 

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association, (2017). The Holidays and Alzheimers. Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/help-support/resources/holidays

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2018). Helping Alzheimer’s Caregivers. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/alzheimers-caregivers/

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Stethoscope on cashIf you are lucky enough to have elderly parents, you know what a precious gift it is to have them. However, with this precious gift of time, there are some challenges that occur as they age and need your help. It is difficult when the roles of parent and child begin to shift and the children become the caregivers. One of the most complicated issues is when there is a need to take over your parents’ finances. Taking control can be awkward and complicated, but putting it off too long can make it very difficult to sort out all of their accounts and make the necessary legal steps to ensure your ability to successfully manage your parent’s money.

How do you know when it is time to step in? Watch for early signs that your parent’s cognitive ability is declining, and there is a need to step in and take control. If you wait too long, there’s a good chance that significant financial losses have occurred. Some of the signs to look for are:

  • They become forgetful about cash
  • They start getting calls from creditors
  • Their house is filled with expensive new purchases
  • They have difficulty with simple tasks like balancing their checkbook
  • Bills have been paid repeatedly or not paid at all
  • Bills that seem much higher than they should be and cannot be explained
  • Donations to charity that do not match your parents priorities

 

Raising the topic might be difficult. Older adults may be resistant to relinquishing control of their finances. They may see this as the first step of losing their independence, which is one of the top two concerns for older adults. Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families from AARP gives helpful insight on how to start the conversation. They suggest:

  1. Look for an opening: You might use an article you read about or something you saw in the news to raise the topic.
  2. Respect your loved one’s wishes: Your plan must be centered on the person receiving care.
  3. Size up the situation: Figuring out your loved one’s priorities help determine your next steps
  4. Counter resistance: Your loved one might say, “I just don’t want to talk about it.” Some people are private by nature. If your first conversation does not go well, try again.

Managing your own finances can be challenging enough, and you aren’t excited about taking on the task of managing your parents finances as well. Addressing the topic can be awkward, but if no one steps in to help, the assets that your parents spent a lifetime accumulating could be lost.

 

Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County

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Mcaregiverany women find that taking care of others – family, friends, and neighbors – becomes part of their normal day to day schedule.  While this can provide us with a great sense of fulfillment by helping others who need us, it often adds stress to our lives.  We find that we are not only cooking, cleaning, shopping, and care giving for our own family but many days doing these tasks for others.  This may include running errands and transporting them to doctor visits.

If you feel overwhelmed by all of the directions you are being pulled, I want you to know you are not alone and help is only a few paragraphs below.  There are many resources that can assist you with your tasks.

Be Prepared

  • All medicines should be locked up and out of the reach of children, teens and older adults who can be harmed by taking medications not prescribed to them.  This FDA video points out the dangers in having medicines accessible in a home.
  • A list of medications that can be accessible at any time. This list should include prescriptions, dietary supplements, vitamins and over-the-counter medicines.  You should take this list to all doctor visits and hospital visits.
  • Be sure you are giving the right amount of medicine. Follow the directions on the prescription and/or medicine.  You can also ask your physician about the dosage, especially when you are administering medicine to children.  Always use the measuring cup or device that is provided with the medicine.
  • Make a plan for how you will care for others in case of an emergency. This plan should include medical information and back up supplies.
  • Looking for guidance when it comes to eldercare? Try this Eldercare Locator link http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx which will help you connect to services in your area for older adults and their families.

The FDA is a great resource to help you manage the care of your loved ones.  These resources provide a wide range of information to assist with those working with young children, teens, older adults, and those with special needs.

As you are doing all of the things you do, it is easy to forget about your own needs.  It is important that you take care of your own health.  With so many others depending on you, don’t let your personal care go to the bottom of your list.

  • Take time to care for yourself
  • Schedule a yearly exam and mammogram
  • Talk to your physician if you are having feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Manage your stress

We are connected to others and being a caregiver affects us emotionally.  How to better handle these emotions can be found at Tips for Caregivershttps://livehealthyosu.com/2016/01/11/tips-for-caregivers/.  Read What Caregivers Need to Knowhttps://livesmartohio.osu.edu/family-and-relationships/holmes-86osu-edu/what-caregivers-need-to-know/ to learn more about recent data and respite care.  When it comes to caregiving there is so much to learn and know.  So remember information, support, and resources are out there…you are not alone.

Writer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Reviewer: Candace J. Heer, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Morrow County, heer.7@osu.edu

Sources:

Eldercare Locator, http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx

FDA, http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/FreePublications/UCM246541.pdf

FDA, http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm272905.htm

FDA, http://www.fda.gov/EmergencyPreparedness/Counterterrorism/MedicalCountermeasures/MCMIssues/ucm464122.htm

FDA, http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/byaudience/forwomen/womenshealthtopics/ucm467701.htm?utm_campaign=%2B+Health&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=2&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_Y4J3BMiSD44Iv5Wf-OeFKCMm3G9IsHIHLfi_LU71U4gD95VBVlbkDV25j7yohcOjodImzviFnIA7LTl1-Bf1IHtUeTA&_hsmi=2#TipsForAllCaregivers

Office on Women’s Health, https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/caregiver-stress.html

References:

Tips for Caregivers

https://livehealthyosu.com/2016/01/11/tips-for-caregivers/.

What Caregivers Need to Know

https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/family-and-relationships/holmes-86osu-edu/what-caregivers-need-to-know/

 

 

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With advances in medical care, longer life expectancies, and more people living with chronic disease more of us will be participating in the caregiver process. If you find yourself in the caregiving role, you may be experiencing a variety of feelings. Here are some feelings common among those caring for a family member.

Anxiety and worry – about additional responsibilities and expenses, the future…

Anger or resentment – toward the patient or the world in general…. Or even toward friends or others who don’t have the responsibilities of caregivers.

Guilt – You may feel like you should do more, or have more patience, or be more available.

Grief – You experience loss with the caregiving role… the future you envisioned, the health of the loved one you’re caring for… the eventual loss of your loved one if he or she is terminally ill.

Accept your feelings and know you are not alone. Find someone you can confide in to share your feelings and help you deal with them. You could seek additional support from other family members, friends, church, caregiver organizations or therapists.

caregiver-helping-elderly-woman-350

HelpGuide.org offers these tips for caregivers:

Learn about your family member’s illness and about how to be a caregiver. Knowing more will lesson your anxiety and increase your effectiveness.

Seek out others who are caregivers. It’s always helpful to know you’re not alone and others experience similar things. Is there a support group in your area? Family Caregiver Alliance offers resources for caregivers.

Trust your instincts when it comes to sorting through doctor’s treatment suggestions. You know your family member the best.

Encourage your loved one to be independent. Explore technologies or adaptive equipment that will allow your loved one to be as independent as possible.

Know your limits. Be reasonable about how much or your time and of yourself you can give. And communicate those limits to others… doctors, family members, extended family members. Ask for help or respite care when you need relief.

Caregiving comes with a lot of responsibility and burden at times, but can also be rewarding and satisfying knowing that you are sacrificing for a family member to help them feel more comfortable and loved.

Sources:

HelpGuide.org http://www.helpguide.org/articles/caregiving/caregiving-support-and-help.htm

Family Caregiver Alliance https://www.caregiver.org/state-list-views?field_state_tid=94

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County

 

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Walk with others

Walk with others

“The police called; they have Mom.  It’s the third time this month that Mom got mixed up and was found in the neighbor’s house.  Mom is getting more and more confused.  She doesn’t prepare healthy meals and often forgets to turn the oven off when she cooks.  She misses doses of her medicine because she forgets.  I feel like she needs daily assistance, but I have to work…  What can I do?”

Does this scenario sound familiar?  It is difficult to think about the possibility that someday one or both of our parents won’t be self-sufficient and will develop an increased dependency in meeting his/her daily needs.  Situations such as these are becoming much more familiar to many working adults.  The percentage of the U.S. population over the age of 65 continues to increase, so does the number of adult workers who are involved in caregiving.  In addition, there has been an increase in persons providing care to disabled children and veterans.

The month of November is National Caregiver’s Month which gives us an even stronger reason to reflect on the stresses and strains associated with the responsibility of providing care for a loved one.   These strains can be particularly difficult for mid-lifers juggling work, marriage duties, caring for their aging parents and the needs of their own children.  Along with the physical demands, it is also difficult to see the loss of independence of our parents.  However, many Americans see the time spent caring for their aging parents as only a small sacrifice.  During this process, caring for an elderly parent can be satisfying and enjoyable often resulting in an improved relationship for both parties. Most children help their parents willingly when needed and feel a sense of satisfaction by doing so.

Some ways to reduce the stress and increase the satisfying aspect of caregiving are some simple ideas that can make the experience more enjoyable.

  1. Set realistic goals and expectations and know your limitations.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Reach out to other family members and friends who can reduce the load of responsibilities.
  3. Remember to take care of yourself.  Losing yourself during the process or not seeing to your own health demands, nor maintaining your own health will only be harmful to both you and your family.  And lastly, involve other people by holding a family conference, seeking professional assistance, and using community resources.

Many communities have resources available to assist in those facing caregiving issues. Contact your local Center for Aging or Board of Disability Services to find more information.

Writer:  Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Science, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County

Reviewer:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region

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