What My Dad’s Death Taught Me About Dying

Three years ago, my father and I rode horses together for miles and miles of trails at a Florida state park. Two weeks after that, the world shut down and two years later, he died. His dying was my first very close-up experience with serious illness and death.

If we’re lucky, we learn something from our parents about how to face the end of life. Maybe they talk to us about how they want to spend their last days, what they most fear, how they feel about us, and what they believe about an afterlife. But for my dad and me, it didn’t go down like that.

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Navigating Home Care

On August 16th we hosted our 6th Daughterhood conversation on Zoom focused on Navigating Home Care for Your Parents. I was joined by Andrea Cohen, founder, and CEO of Houseworks and Christine Lee, founder and CEO of Companion Home Care Solutions, an agency that provides in-home care in San Diego California and San Diego Daughterhood Circle leader.  Both women are owners and operators of top-notch, amazing home care companies that deliver and provide home care services, and both are also deeply involved in caregiver advocacy and support.

Please feel free to DOWNLOAD this tip sheet that Andrea Cohen has made available that can help you select an agency.

Here are some highlights from our conversation!

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Navigating Medicare and Medicaid

If you’re caring for someone over the age of 65, chances are that you know something about Medicare, the health insurance program that covers nearly all older Americans. But there’s another really important program that you need to know about: MediCAID.

Medicaid is important because it’s the safety net when everything falls apart. When your frail mother has been caring for your dad at home alone for five years and she can’t do it any longer. When 24 hour a day home care is too expensive, and still not enough to keep your dad safe. And, then when his nursing home care quickly depletes their savings.

Maybe you’ve only heard about Medicaid as a program that provides health insurance under Obamacare. Well, for much longer than we’ve had Obamacare, Medicaid has been paying for nursing home care and in-home care for people who are very frail or disabled and whose income and assets are low or have been depleted by the costs of care.

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Daughterhood in a Time of COVID: Our History and Our Future

As the first nursing home and assisted living facility residents get their COVID-19 vaccines, I feel like I’m seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been quiet on the blog this year because I’ve felt speechless – empty of any information, advice or even reassurance I could provide the millions of caregivers doing a hard job during the most difficult of times. I felt helpless as I watched the deaths mount and read story after story of isolation and disconnection.

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Caring for Aging Parents Under the Reality of COVID-19

I travel on airplanes a lot. Or at least I did before two weeks ago! Usually, my primary focus is on whether I can get a coffee refill and how much longer I can procrastinate doing work. So, basically, exactly the same as when I’m home minus the barking dog.

A big gust of turbulence can quickly change everything.

A bumpy ride doesn’t scare me, but it does refocus me, shifting my attention to the fact that I’m actually sitting in a tin can flying at 200 plus miles per hour 40,000 feet in the air and that there are other human beings with me. On the rare occasion we drop altitude suddenly, the worst-case scenario of plummeting out of the sky seems like a real possibility.

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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.

Let’s be real for a moment. 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 you love, or even to take a rest.

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5 Common Misconceptions About Medicaid

I have a confession. I’ve been avoiding writing about Medicaid. It’s just so complicated it scares even me the expert. But Medicaid can be really important to daughterhood.  Someday you might have to decide if it’s right for your parent. So, you have to get smart about it.

Why Medicaid is important? It’s important because it’s the safety net when everything falls apart.

When your frail mother has been caring for your Dad at home alone for five years and she can’t do it any longer. When 24 hour a day home care is too expensive, and still not enough to keep your dad safe. And, then when his nursing home care quickly depletes their savings.

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It’s Not Your Fault

The emails come into our inbox. “Please help,” is usually how they start.

What so often follows is the same story with only slightly different details. A 90-something parent, living on social security, has fallen, gone to the hospital and now needs rehabilitation to get up and walking again. And Medicare – the health insurance program that covers nearly all older adults – would pay for the skilled rehab care but for one thing. The hospital never admitted the parent as an “inpatient”, despite a multiple night stay. Instead the parent was admitted under “observation,” which doesn’t count as an inpatient hospitalization. And without three nights of inpatient care, Medicare won’t pay for the subsequent skilled facility services.

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When Your Parents Won’t Listen

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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Caregiver’s Holiday Survival Guide

Let’s face it. Caregivers don’t get to participate much in the holidays. While everyone else is planning trips and parties, shopping for gifts or decorating the house, caregivers are still muscling through their daily grind.

If you’re taking care of a parent or loved one, you know what I mean. It’s hard to avoid feeling especially deprived this time of year. Whether you’re sitting in the ER again, dealing with frustrating dementia behaviors, or worrying about your mom’s depression, the misery of it is all just magnified this time of year. One of the hallmarks of caregiving is that it leaves you feeling like you’re missing out. Missing out on fun everyone else is having, missing out on your old life – before you were a caregiver. Of course, Holidays make this feeling even worse.

The simple fact is, whatever makes us sad, makes us sadder in December. Everything hard is harder. We feel the passage of time more acutely and our losses more profoundly. If your family member has dementia, it’s extra painful. This time of year is, after all, loaded with memories.

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