3 Mantras Every Caregiver Needs

If you are caring for aging parents, there are many websites and books you can use to get smart about how to manage and provide care for them.

But, it’s a good idea to remember that no matter how much planning you do, there’s no substitute for experience. Research is important but it’s overrated as a predictor of success. So, don’t feel bad if you can’t get a handle on all the stuff you feel like you need to know. So much of this work happens by just living it.

Because the cost of forgetting this truth is so high, I need mantras to help me feel less overwhelmed in the face of so much to do and learn.

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What Caregivers Really Want Their Friends to Know

Remember when your first friends entered parenthood and you thought they seemed so boring and self-absorbed.

And, then… you had a baby and you got it?

Well, that’s happening again. Only this time, it’s because some of us have started taking care of our aging parents. And others are wondering what happened to their fun friends.

The truth is, caring for aging parents is an experience that’s hard to relate to unless you’re going through it. None of us can easily imagine just what life is like with a parent who needs help doing the simplest things like eating, getting in and out of bed or god forbid, going to the bathroom.

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Letting Go or “It’s not all about you”…

We asked daughterhood readers recently about the most stressful part of caregiving. Many responded that their biggest struggle is conflict with their parents. When their mother or father disagrees with or ignores safety or health-related directions. Things like not staying off the ladder to refusing to see a doctor.

It’s so hard to sit by and watch when our parents seem to need help but refuse to get it. We feel the full weight of responsibility for what happens to them but, at the same time, we have no control over their choices.

But we try. Women especially are taught that if they just try harder, get smarter, skinnier, dress better and be nicer, they’ll be okay. So it makes sense that this do-more mentality pervades our caregiving too. But this is a mean trap. We are — maybe not entirely consciously — judging our self-worth by whether we can stay in the ring without getting taken out by the realities of aging: mortality, frailty, disease and an upside down, seriously messed up healthcare system. Realities we shouldn’t even pretend to be able to influence.

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6 Must-Know Tips for Making Hard Decisions

This summer at a caregiving event, a man wanted to know if it would be better for his mother, who has Alzheimer’s, to live at home with family or to live in a facility.

He asked me, “What’s the right thing to do?”

More recently, a woman worn out from caring for her husband with Parkinson’s and considering whether they should move to a facility said, “You know what I want. I just want to know the right thing to do.”

This is the conversation I have with caregivers all the time. There are so many decisions to make, from small things like what kinds of food your parent should eat, to the big stuff like whether to take away the car keys, where your parent should live, what kind of medical treatment is best or whether some recommended surgical procedure is a good idea.

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Ending Loneliness in Caregiving

Other than death of a loved one, few things are more disorienting than making the shift from being cared for by your parents to caring for them.

This transition is made even more challenging because it usually comes as such a surprise. And it’s not just the biologically wired blind spot we have against our parents’ vulnerability. It’s the utter shock that, when it happens, there’s no place to turn for help. It’s like trying to climb a rock face without any toeholds or crevices where you can grab on, and then scaling it without a net.

The problem with our aging system is that even though there’s a lot of information out there to help, the situations most caregivers confront are so incredibly complex, unique and specific (e.g., Why won’t rehab providers accept my Dad?) that they can’t find exactly what they need. Or they want the one exact right answer to a very complex question that doesn’t have right answers.

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The Burden of “Self-Care”

Every time I turn on my computer I see some story or advice about the importance of self-care, especially for women.

We read about how Arianna Huffington is on us to get more sleep, which has the effect of keeping me up all night worrying about the bad things that will happen to me if I don’t. Or this doozy from Christiane Northrup where she advises caregivers to be sure to eat a balanced diet, get exercise and “indulge” themselves.

The job of taking care of aging parents can be a total life destroyer. It takes your money, your time, your ability to work, your friends, your relationships, your ability to do the things that you love, or to take a rest.

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Don’t be Surprised by Medicare’s Out-of-Pocket Costs

My friend Quentin Fottrell is the Moneyologist columnist over at MarketWatch. He recently shared with his facebook group a reader question about whether a woman should help her 75-year-old sister with medical-related credit card debt.

Two commenters asked, “Why does she have medical costs? Isn’t she on Medicare?” They thought that Medicare covered most healthcare costs for older adults.

Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. While Medicare is the primary health insurer for most older adults, it only pays a part of the healthcare bill. There are three kinds of out-of-pocket costs that we face!

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Throwing In The Towel: The 6 Most Important Questions to Ask When You Want to Quit Caregiving

I don’t know anyone who feels like they can just up and quit taking care of a loved one who needs it. The very nature of this role is that it’s not something you choose.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t often, or even always, wish we could get off the caregiving train. The work’s not fun. It’s unrelenting, hard and requires tremendous sacrifice.

Often in life, quitting can be a healthy thing to do… ending a toxic relationship, leaving a miserable job, or even moving on from a comfortable career so that you can do something more rewarding.

But, there are also times when we, either can’t or don’t really want to stop. We just need to find some way for the pressure, fear, and exhaustion to ease up a little.

If this is your situation, here are 6 questions you need to ask yourself.

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4 Tips for Talking to Your Parents About Death

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about how important it is to prepare for end-of-life decisions you might have to make on behalf of your parents. I wrote about advance directives, and having important conversations with doctors and family.

I culled so much good advice from books and articles that it inspired me to talk to my own family.

Here’s how that went down.

Me to Dad: So, Dad, I’m writing a blog about preparing for end-of-life decisions and it occurred to me that we haven’t really talked about what you and mom want.
Dad: You think we’re DYING!?
(End of conversation)

Me to Sister: So, I’ve figured this all out. I’ll tell Mom and Dad that you should be the financial power of attorney because you’re good with money and I’ll be the healthcare power of attorney because I’m good with healthcare
Sister: * ? *
Me: Oh, see, I was thinking we should get Mom and Dad to focus on creating their advance directives — you know, end-of-life planning
Sister: Is there a book I can read about this?
Me: You know I’m an expert, right? Don’t you trust me?
(End of conversation)

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