A guide to the challenges (and rewards) ahead
These tips come to you from Cindy Swanson, a personal advisor for clients of Fairview’s Caregiver Assurance program, which is part of the Ebenezer family.
1. The situation could be more demanding than you thought.
Your aging relative or friend’s need for help has probably been coming on gradually, as they’ve become less capable of managing the demands of daily life–like keeping up the house.
“You’ve been to see your parents and they worked hard to get it ready for a visit,” Cindy says, “but you may not notice that newspaper stack is getting higher and higher, and the recycling isn’t going out. When we’re going to our parents’ home, that’s just the status quo. We’re sometimes not realizing it’s getting less clean and less organized."
It may be hard for them to admit to you they can’t mow the yard anymore or lift the ladder to clean out the gutters. So be prepared, once you’ve committed to start helping a senior, to discover that they may have let things go more than you knew.
2. You may need to set some realistic boundaries.
“A common thing that happens is that someone’s in the hospital–maybe it’s mom’s first fall–and she’ll tell the social worker: ‘My daughter can stop by every night after work and bring me meals.’ It’s not uncommon for someone in the hospital to say they have family that can do all this without talking to the family,” Cindy says. “The daughter will say: ‘I live 30 miles away on the other side of the cities. It’ll take me an hour to get there after work. I can’t do that.’ What a parent sees as realistic may not be the same as reality.’ "
Especially if you’re juggling a career and your own family on top of helping a parent stay in their own home, you may find yourself spread a little thin.
“There’s a point where you become resentful of having to do that,” Cindy says. “You need to figure out how much you can do without creating negativity in your life."
3. Your senior’s new situation may reignite old family tensions.
What’s happening with your parents in their later years is emotional enough, but coming to a consensus about what to do can be rough on even the tightest of siblings.
Cindy describes a typical scenario: “We all know how our family operates. There’s nothing really happening, but there may be underlying tensions that naturally exist. Maybe the oldest son sees the younger son as always getting away with things he can’t. What happens under stress or in crisis is those things blossom.”
Even if you agree to be the main caregiver at the start, you may end up feeling like your siblings aren’t pitching in enough. They may feel like they aren’t getting enough of a say. It’s easy in these situations to revert to old childhood patterns and bring up old hurts.
Cindy or one of our other Caregiver Assurance advisors can help you manage a family conference to work through some of those issues.
4. Caregiving can take a toll on your work life
Cindy knows a thing or two about that. Not only has she helped coach people through this, but she has firsthand experience. She helped take care of her parents and her husband’s parents.
“What happens is, you spend your whole lunch hour calling people, then you go back to work and you’re waiting for those callbacks. If you’re trying to do a report and making calls for your parent, your 8 to 5 schedule might become 8 to 7. Or you say, ‘I’ll do it at home,’ and you’re sitting there doing that report at 11 at night. How much sleep do you get?”
“There I was, caregiving for my in-laws and my parents, all four of them, trying to keep track of doctor appointments, who was needing services, who needed home care,” Cindy says. “And I was holding a mid-management position in a hospital. It wasn’t realistic that I could juggle it all.”
5. You’ll need to learn things you never needed to know before.
At your age, you may not know how often an older person should get a colonoscopy. Adult day care may be a complete mystery to you. And you certainly haven’t spent a lot of time investigating how to buy a Medicare plan. “You’re going to run into a whole lot of things you’ve never dealt with before,” Cindy says. “Things that even a college-educated person is going to have difficulty with: Looking at your parent’s financial situation and how to deal with that. Finding financial planners or attorneys, somebody who understands elder law. That’s why you’d connect with a program like us. I know some things myself, and I know several reputable firms in the Twin Cities.”
6. You’re a giver, so beware of neglecting yourself.
People who take on the role of caring for an elderly relative may naturally be the type of person who thinks of everyone else’s needs before their own. But that can last only so long.
Cindy paints a picture of life as four glasses of water and a pitcher: “Your glasses might be your husband, your son, your 14-year-old-daughter and your parents. You keep everybody’s glass full, but where’s the pitcher for you? People keep pouring, and pretty soon the pitcher’s empty.”
Keeping your own glass full is something the personal advisors at Caregiver Assurance can help with.
“There was a time when it wasn’t accepted that you would put yourself first,” Cindy says. “It’s not about putting yourself first, but doing your caregiving AND knowing how to take care of yourself.”
7. Caring for a senior may be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.
That reward could be as simple as spending more time with your loved one and finally hearing the story behind that one photo in the dining room. It can be the peace of mind knowing that they’re safer when you check on them every day. It can be giving back to somebody who has given so much to you.
“My dad never wanted to go into a nursing home,” Cindy says. “Feeling that I was honoring his wishes, I look back at it and I feel lucky.”
No matter how frustrating or rewarding it is to help an aging loved one, you don’t have to do it alone.
“There isn’t a classroom you can go to and learn all of this,” Cindy says. “Whatever the journey is, there’s help. If you have to make a right turn, there are people who are able to help you along. That’s what we’re trying to do here at Caregiver Assurance.”
Fairview Caregiver Assurance
For more information visit:
fairview.org/Caregiver-Assurance or call 612-672-CARE (2273) to speak with one of our Caregiver Advisors.
As we approach the holidays, we realize how much we have to be thankful for in our lives.
Thanksgiving in my house growing up usually involved us traveling to see family. My grandpa was a great cook and would always make the turkey just right! For me, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. Nowadays, my husband does not like turkey, so he ends up getting some steak (more turkey for me!). Turkey is a good source of lean protein, vitamin B-6 and niacin which are essential for protein, fat & carbohydrate metabolism to produce energy in the body.
Another Thanksgiving staple, pumpkin pie, also yields some health benefits, Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium and fiber. Pumpkin also contains carotenoids which include beta carotene and lutein which is important for eye health. You can control the amount of sugar and fats in pumpkin pie by using plain pumpkin puree and evaporated milk instead of heavy cream.
While our main focus on the Thanksgiving meal is to enjoy it with friends and family, we should pay attention to the safety of foods during preparation and storage. Stuffing (or dressing) is unfortunately a cause for food poisoning if not cooked correctly. When stuffing the Thanksgiving bird, a general guideline is to plan for about 1 cup of prepared stuffing per pound of uncooked turkey. Use a food thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. Store leftover stuffing in a separate container than turkey when finished.
And now, a recipe:
Pumpkin Pie Dip (adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)
This dip would be great to have available as guests arrive and start mingling, watching football and waiting for the main event!
Happy Thanksgiving to All!
Rebecca Kapsen, RDN, LDN
Ebenezer Corporate Registered Dietitian
Studio apartments are most often linked to young adults without children. But there is another generation that is now choosing studio apartments. With the senior population on the rise, it’s time to take a look at how to downsize and live well in a studio apartment.
Many seniors are not able to maintain, and afford larger units for an extended period of time. Studio senior apartments are much more affordable and can help you extend your private pay finances should you need financial assistance down the road.
The main benefit of studio apartments for seniors is reducing the amount care of belongings and the costs associated with it. In communities like ours, there is no yard to maintain and we do all the maintenance. Additional benefits include more opportunities for socializing, relationship building, engaging activities and lower overall housing costs.
Decreasing Space, Increasing Life
Our community’s amenities and maintenance free lifestyle provide many residents a high quality of life. We’ve had new residents express that they love they can have great meals (they get served and don’t have to cook) and have great outdoor spaces, many activities to do if they choose and the peace of mind to have care if, and when, they need it. It’s a great place to live, no matter how much space you have.
What is important to you?
That is one of the first questions that you’ll hear from us. Usually the answers are: safety, quality care, that my loved one can live here forever, your staff care for them like family. Then, after we have the conversation of what’s important and they see the studio apartment, they have a moment of shock. Yes, it’s small. But think back to the conversation of why your loved one needs a senior community (falls, isolation, not eating right, needed care), none of those reasons involved having a large 1 or 2 bedroom apartment. Plus, they have the whole community as their home. With less stuff and home to deal with, more focus can be put toward living a better quality of life and a wonderful lifestyle.
We understand that making the decision to move yourself or a loved one into a senior living community, as well as smaller space, is hard; that’s why we’re here. To help support you, guide you and let you know that it’s okay. It’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to let go of the guilt. So we urge you to try a studio first, and if it doesn’t work, you can always go bigger.
Ways to Live Well in a Smaller Space