Caring as a stepfamily

National Stepfamily Day falls in September. To honor these special families, we are featuring an article about working with stepsiblings. It could be that you have hardly met your “brothers and sisters,” yet you may be called upon to work together in an eldercare crisis.

Managing pain with music

Managing pain with music

September is Pain Awareness Month. Consider addressing your loved one’s pain with tips from music therapy. No drugs. No side effects. Simply drawing on the mind-body connection to lift mood, enhance relaxation, and distract from pain.

When you feel more resentment than love

When you feel more resentment than love

A difficult or abusive childhood makes for a very uncomfortable caregiving situation when your parent begins to need help in their later years. You don’t have to do it all. Consider these strategies for doing what feels right while also taking care of yourself.

Low-vision bathroom

Support your loved one’s independence with simple but important low-vision adaptations in the bathroom: Color contrasts, a magnifying mirror, a shower caddy, etc.

How is your relative’s “social health”?

How is your relative's "social health"?

The U.S. Surgeon General reports we have a loneliness epidemic. Like smoking and obesity, social isolation creates a greater risk for poor health. It’s been associated with a 48 percent increase in “premature death” (a death where a change in lifestyle could have resulted in a longer life). Our social health affects our physical health.

Adjusting to memory care

It will likely take one to three months for you and your loved one to get used to the new living situation at memory care. Strong emotions are to be expected. But there are strategies to ease the transition and promote a resilient recovery for both of you.

When ice cream is better than salad

Have you spent years encouraging a loved one to steer clear of salt or avoid fat? There is no doubt that a healthy diet can promote longevity. But there does come a time when quality of life is more important.

What is “healthy selfishness”?

What is "healthy selfishness"?

Is being selfish always bad? Is it possible to be too altruistic? Take the survey to see where you stand. It could be that you and your loved one would benefit from your being a little more selfish—in a healthy way.

Dementia: Packing for a trip

Once you’ve decided to go, there are a few things you can do weeks ahead of time, and then while packing, that will ease many of the challenges that might arise in the course of your travels.

Bringing the hospital home

If your loved one is frail or has dementia but needs treatment for pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, or a flare of heart failure or COPD, you may be eligible for a Hospital at Home program. A team of professionals mobilizes to treat your relative at home. Popular in Europe, this program provides quicker recovery without the common setbacks of a hospitalization.

Senior bullying and exclusion

For Elder Abuse Awareness Month, we look at the problem of bullying and exclusion in senior housing. It’s surprisingly common. Fortunately, there are things you can do, whether your loved one is on the receiving end or the “bully” themselves.

Meaningful end of life conversations

Meaningful end of life conversations

A relative’s serious illness pushes us to communicate deep thoughts and bring closure to the relationship before we lose the chance. Don’t postpone those discussions! They may be awkward, but they can be profoundly important for all involved.

Preparing for a heat wave

Preparing for a heat wave

Extreme temperatures are especially hard on older adults. There are things you can do for your loved one to reduce the impact of a heat wave this summer, even if you live far away.

Dementia: Is travel realistic?

Dementia: Is travel realistic?

Are you hoping to travel this summer with a loved one who has dementia? New and crowded situations are notorious for creating confusion and outbursts. Take a moment to reflect on your relative’s likely reactions and what you can do to keep them comfortable.

What is “elder abuse”?

What is "elder abuse"?

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. There are seven different ways that elders can be exploited. Learn what they are and how to report it if you suspect a problem.

Tips for vacationing without Mom

Tips for vacationing without Mom

As a family caregiver, you need to take a break now and then. It’s not selfish. It’s essential! But in order to truly rest, you’ll want to be sure your relative is covered.

Cancer screenings covered by Medicare

National Cancer Survivors Day is coming up (June 4), which celebrates the fact that 66% of those ever diagnosed with cancer are still alive five years later. Help your loved one get a jump on any potential cancer by taking advantage of these free screening tests.

Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears

Nearly one in four older adults experiences ringing in the ears, called “tinnitus.” For some, it interferes with concentration and is so severe it leads to insomnia, depression, and anxiety. In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month, we highlight what you can do to help your loved one address this all-too-common condition.

Moving to memory care

Moving to memory care

Once you decide memory care is the wisest path, the next step is choosing a facility and creating a smooth moving day. Many memory care communities have a “move-in coordinator” or other family liaison. Rely on this professional for guidance.

Lessons from the seriously ill

A long-time hospice nurse—someone deeply committed to caring for the seriously ill—created this list of the top five deathbed regrets she frequently observed in her patients. She vowed to take these lessons to heart. Do any of these ring true for you?

The care plan and meeting

The care plan and meeting

If your loved one is admitted to a skilled nursing facility, Medicare requires the staff develop an initial, personalized care plan within the first 48 hours. This describes who should be doing what. Then, within the first 14 days, the staff must assemble a comprehensive assessment, which must include your loved one’s needs and strengths.

Do you strive for perfection?

Do you strive for perfection?

It’s important to do the best you can when caring for a loved one. But aiming for perfection can bring on problems. For yourself, in terms of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. And for your relative and other family members, who may feel burdened by living under the stress of constant measurement and judgment.

Pillbox 2.0

Pillbox 2.0

For many people, a pillbox is just the ticket. But as we age, we may take more medicines. Filling the box requires more concentration. Remembering to take the meds can become more challenging. Many families turn to technology to help an aging loved one.

Gather important documents

Gather important documents

If you are the person most likely to step in if your loved one is unable to get to the bills—a hospitalization, dementia—you need to get oriented. And organized! It’s easy to lose track of paperwork, especially someone else’s. Professionals recommend gathering important documents in a file or binder for safekeeping. Put that in a locked and fireproof location. Consider a small home safe. Or a safe deposit box at the bank.

Calling a family meeting

April 10 is Siblings Day! How are things going with your siblings? Does everyone in your family participate in the care of your loved one? Is there agreement on the problems? The solutions? If not, you aren’t alone with this issue. But you could probably use a family meeting or two to get everyone rowing in the same direction.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s

If your spouse is younger than 65 and has received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you may feel in a world all your own. You probably don’t know anyone else in this situation and may sense a social stigma. It can be scary. Lonely. And feel just not fair!

Denture care

Did you know “false teeth” need to be brushed daily, just like “real teeth” do? Learn how you can help your loved one avoid infections, maintain good nutrition, and extend the life of their dentures.

Choosing a meal service

Food is so profoundly linked to health and love, it can be distressing to realize that someone you care for is missing meals or otherwise eating poorly. There are many services available to help, each with their own special procedures. Learn about the questions you’ll want to ask.

Is it time for memory care?

People with moderate dementia are rarely aware of their need for help. It will be the family members who make any placement decisions. How do you know when this option should be explored?

If you are not the primary caregiver

If someone else in your family has primary responsibility for the care of your loved one, that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to contribute. Far from it! Caring for an older adult is more than one person can do alone. There are many ways to lend a hand (even if you don’t live nearby).

Addressing fatigue in heart failure

Addressing fatigue in heart failure

February is Heart Month. If your loved one needs frequent naps and gets out of breath easily, he or she may need a daily life energy budget. (This is especially true for people with heart failure.)

Home modifications for vision loss

If the person you care for has a low vision diagnosis, three types of modifications to the home can make life easier: Lighting, glare control, and the use of color contrast. Fortunately, these strategies are relatively inexpensive.

Where are the paid caregivers?

Frustrated in your search for a paid caregiver? You are not alone. There is an extreme shortage of helpers right now. Even before COVID, the demand for aides was greater than the supply. The “Great Resignation” hit the caring professions hard. Caregivers close to retirement left early. And many younger workers decided to opt for safer, less demanding jobs. In some states, as many as 38% of direct-care workers chose other occupations last year.

Long-distance caregiving

Long-distance caregiving

Caring for a parent long distance brings its own challenges. With planning, organization, and frequent communication—plus a little help from technology—you can provide effective support.

The yearly “Wellness Visit”

Catching things early is big with Medicare. Every year, all Medicare enrollees are eligible for a free “Wellness Visit” with their primary care doctor. This is NOT an annual physical, so don’t use that term when making the appointment. Beyond basic vitals—height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse—there is no physical examination. If a physical exam is done, your loved one may have to foot the bill.

Are you the primary caregiver?

Being primary can be quite a job. In many cases it involves driving to the doctor and managing medications, handling finances, providing for daily needs, coordinating care services, and keeping the elder’s spirits up. If you are that person, don’t try to do it alone—even if it seems like that’s the only choice.

Palliative care for seriously ill veterans

Palliative care for seriously ill veterans

If the person you care for is a veteran and is seriously ill, they may qualify for a VA program designed to control symptoms that cause pain, discomfort, or mental or emotional distress. Called “palliative care,” this program is available even if the problems are as a result of treatments, not just the medical condition itself.

Putting anticipation to work for you

Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand for more joy? Patience? Optimism? Motivation? Maybe less irritability and stress? It’s actually accessible now, no wizardry required. Just a shift in attention. Welcome to “anticipation.”

What is Lewy body dementia?

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are many other conditions that also bring on memory problems. It is important to accurately identify the cause, even if there’s no cure, because this will shape the best strategy for addressing difficult symptoms.

October is National Crime Prevention Month

It’s unpleasant to imagine that your loved one might become the victim of crime, but it’s worth considering. There are valuable preventive steps to take. Unless your relative lives in a high-crime neighborhood, their greatest risk is a property crime in or around their home.