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!

Anne:  How does someone know when it’s the right time to try to bring home care services into the home of a loved one or a parent?

Christine:  The first step is to take note of where you are in the process. Did a crisis just happen? Did your mom or your dad or whoever it is that you’re caring for just have a fall? Did you get a call from the hospital discharge planner that your mom’s getting discharged in two hours?

Or maybe you’re not in crisis but you’re planning ahead because you’re starting to notice certain things. For example, in your last visit you’ve started to notice that some things seemed off and that it’s maybe time to start thinking ahead so you don’t end up in crisis mode. It’s always better if you can start planning ahead rather than go through this in crisis mode.

Anne: What is “homecare” anyway?  I know it can be confusing in a crisis because the Medicare program does have a home health benefit and we’re talking about home care, which is different, right?

Andrea: That’s a good question because as you said there’s home care, home healthcare and there’s in-home care. When you get out of the hospital or out of a rehab you’re entitled to certain services through your insurance provider whether it’s Medicare or another insurance you have. And home care (the kind that we are provide) sort of wraps around what you get. With so many people there’s a gap between what you might get through your insurance and what you need and that’s where home care comes in. As you can see there’s a lot of complexity here.

Home care is for people who might have chronic care needs where there’s not the ability to get better and better and they’re basically living at new normal, with daily needs for help with basic life activities like eating and bathing. Home care tries to figure out ways to help people live productive, wonderful lives.  Even though they can’t do as much as I might like they can do a little bit more. That’s our job. In contrast, Medicare-covered home health is aimed much more at short-term rehabilitation following a hospital stay.

Anne: It’s such a hard thing for a lot of people to understand that Medicare is ultimately a health insurance program. People are always surprised when a crisis happens and they ask, “Oh my gosh, how is my mother going to be bathed every day? How is she gonna get fed? Who is going to supervise if she has cognitive impairment or dementia? How am I going to do my job while all those things are being done?” Those are all home care services but they are not covered by Medicare.

For home care, people pay privately, or they just do the work themselves. Sometimes Medicaid will pay. I think one of the misconceptions among caregivers and older adults is that you’re either getting services at home in your traditional family home OR you’re choosing an assisted living facility or an independent living facility. And I think that it’s important for people to understand that it’s not necessarily an either/ or. But it’s not, right?

Andrea: Independent living or assisted living can also be called “independent seniors housing,” or “senior living,” so I’ll use those terms interchangeably. In independent living, you’re basically getting someone at the front desk and maybe a good emergency call system but no staff that are dedicated to supporting your health care needs unless it’s an add-on. And in assisted living you get a certain amount of service but generally, as people age in place, they end up needing more than senior housing and residence or the independent living can provide.

Companies like mine and Christine’s might be called upon by either the resident, the family themselves or even the senior living resident care director explaining that this resident needs extra care. And if you’re looking at senior living one of the first questions to ask is what accommodations can support my parents as they age in place and what kinds of relationships do you have with home care companies. Because the key to getting great service in senior living is ensuring that there’s a good relationship between the home care company and the senior housing residence. Communications between senior living and home care provider are really important. Christine, what do you think?

Christine: Oh, absolutely the communication piece is critical. Also, I know that this has come up with a lot of our clients: Maybe they move their parents into memory care and then they get a phone call from the senior living community saying “Oh, your mom actually needs more care than we’re able to provide.” So, they bring us in and that’s an additional cost that they weren’t prepared for. Another good question to ask senior living is what is the process after we move when my parents need additional care? Can you provide that? Do you partner with a home care agency? Or am I going to have to find out by myself? What’s the process? 

Anne: What if someone just wants to stay at home. How do you help them do that?

Christine: It takes a team of individuals. The question to ask is what’s it gonna take to safely keep someone at home. What type of equipment is needed? For example, we partner with a durable medical equipment store and supplier. We refer pretty much all our clients to them because we need to make sure that they have the right equipment in place to even stay at home. A good home care agency is going to have these types of partnerships in your local community. They should be able to refer you to all the services you’re going to need. And it’s not just home care. There’s also the financial piece. There’s the elder law attorney and the estate planning attorney.  There are so many different professionals involved when caring for somebody that’s aging or disabled. It’s a group effort, a team effort and you need to tap into those resources in order to keep somebody at home for that long.

Anne: And this is the piece that is so intimidating to the caregivers.

Andrea: Absolutely, when I speak on this topic, I have a big slide on how you need a team to avoid a crisis. When I’m working with a family that I’ve been working with for a while, I think to myself who in the family is best at doing what? Maybe one sibling is really good at dealing with the attorney and putting all the papers in place and one is really good at being the liaison with the home care company. The interesting part is that your family needs to become a team. Sadly, families don’t often work together as a team doing this. The entire family goes back into all their old roles growing up as siblings and it all comes out in crises. The trick is to just figure out the best person to do it and let them do it.

Christine: Yeah, that is probably one of the most common topics that comes up in our Daughterhood circle meetings.  Family dynamics, and sibling dynamics in particular. Over and over, we hear “this sibling doesn’t do anything, I do all of it”.

Anne: What advice do you have for family caregivers who are trying to persuade their parents to accept some help at home?

Christine: Well, it matters who delivers the message. For example, we have some clients that are really, really good patients. They don’t listen to anybody in their family but they’re good patients and so if advice comes from a doctor or a third party (not their family) they might actually listen. So, it matters who delivers that message. It’s just something that’s part of the family dynamics. If it comes from one son or daughter, they might not listen but then another son or daughter says the same thing and suddenly it makes sense. So sometimes it matters who delivers the message. Decide who in your family is best to deliver the message?

It’s also helpful to sometimes start with baby steps. You might feel like they need help eight hours a day but it’s just not gonna happen. Sometimes you just need to start small and get what you can get. So instead of getting them to agree to eight hours a day you might be able to talk to them into letting someone come in for three hours. What has worked a lot with our clients is to say that they’re not getting a caregiver, what they’re getting is a personal driver to drive them to their doctors’ appointment or a personal chef to cook their meals. They’re not getting a caregiver to come in and out.

You see, it might be just the “caregiver” title that’s upsetting because they don’t want to feel like they’re losing their independence. But they still need to be cared for. So, sometimes a little of what we call therapeutic lying is needed. It’s important to be creative on all the titles you’re giving things and individuals coming into the home. In that way your family member still feels like they’re in control. That’s really the biggest thing.

Andrea: That they have a choice.

Christine: Exactly and sometimes you just need to drop it for a little bit.

Andrea: Yeah, it’s a process. For those of us who are type A, which is probably a lot of people on this call, it’s like OK, I’m gonna start to get it done and here we go, and it just doesn’t work that way.

The other thing that I’ve noticed is that in most families you don’t have that conversation. In every family there’s just stuff you don’t talk about. For one because your families never talked about it before. It can be helpful to preface it with “I know this is a hard conversation and I can imagine how hard it is for you to talk about this, but I just have to bring it up.”

So, bring it up and then feel the tension and then drop it. And then just keep bringing it up so it becomes like a muscle, and you get to the point where it’s not awkward and weird. Remember, you’re doing something that you’ve never done before and it’s hard.

Christine:  Even if your parents are not yet willing to accept help, you can at least start making the phone calls before a crisis. That way, at least you’ll then know exactly who you’re gonna call.  It’s kind of like having a car that’s on the verge of breaking down. You don’t want to wait until your car is completely immobile before you start shopping. Again, even if they’re not willing to accept help you’ll at least have a number to call.

I would suggest that even if you haven’t signed up for our service yet.  It’s still a good idea to have our signed service agreement in place. That way we’ll be prepared to do whatever we can to get help to you within just hours’ notice if something happens.

Again, just be proactive because a lot of times, it’s all gonna fall on your plate anyway. Do what you can do to not get yourself into a crisis. The crisis might still happen but there are things ahead of time that you can do to get yourself out of the crisis.

Andrea: Yeah, that’s a great point.

Anne: Here’s a great question from the chat.  “My mom is afraid of having a caregiver in her home. What if they’re dishonest and can’t be trusted?”

Christine: That comment is about fear, right?  Her mom is afraid that someone is going to come into her home and help themselves to everything in her house and basically steal things. Honestly, that’s one of the biggest selling points to using a professional home care agency versus hiring privately. Because when you use a professional home care agency, protections are in place. Employees are licensed, bonded, and insured.

Professional home care agencies also have workers comp insurance, which is a big deal because the rate of injury for caregivers is humungous. In fact, worker’s compensation is the biggest line item in terms of an expense for a home care agency. By hiring a professional caregiving company that safeguard is our expense not yours. It’s the same thing with bonded insurance.

Also, talking with your mom and helping her understand all the things that a home care agency can offer can alleviate some of those pain points. Just focus on the security and all the different protections that are in place.

Andrea: A lot of times families ask us to interview the caregiver before they actually come. We used to do that in person. We’re looking to resume that now because for a lot of caregivers it’s hard for them in a zoom environment to really express who they are. Sometimes we send along a bio of the caregiver because you basically want to humanize the profession.  We want people to understand that this person is going to the home because they want to. They want to be there.  And they want to do the best job that they can.

But again, that goes back to what Christine said about what makes a good company. Ask them!  How do you introduce the caregiver to my parents? Do you have a case manager that I can call? Who is my point person at the agency?

Oftentimes we think that we put the best caregiver in and it totally works. Other times we think we put the best caregiver in and it doesn’t work because sometimes it just doesn’t work. And if the match doesn’t work, we’ve just got to say “Ok, let’s try someone else”.  You don’t want to erode trust.  You started the process and if you put a person in that doesn’t work you need to move to replace them. And quickly.  I always use myself as a test. I ask myself how would I feel if somebody did that to me? and then I change up everything that I’m doing. There’s an art to the delivery of care. A total art!

Anne: Here’s a really good question from the chat: “How do you talk about cost and finances, especially to parents?

Christine: So, I don’t even know whether to say this because I think it’s so controversial and I know home care is so expensive. But you know what? it’s honestly not expensive enough. And I say that because I own a home care agency and even though I think we treat our employees well and we offer benefits and all of that. At the end of the day, they’re still not being paid enough.

It kind of drives me crazy when I read article after article after article about how home care workers are not being paid enough. It should really be more of a social discussion about how much we value caregivers and what they bring to the table. What if we did pay them for what they’re truly worth? Could you imagine what the cost would be? It’s an absolutely needed profession but they’re not paid enough and that’s the truth. And I’m saying that as a home care agency owner.

Anne: I think it’s important to say that. We have a huge crisis. We don’t have enough workers and it’s a problem. They don’t have this problem in other countries. We’re kind of on our own. Andrea, your thoughts?

Andrea: It still all comes back to thinking about what your choices are and talking to your family about it. This is where you’ve got to pull together your family team and ask questions like who’s going to support this if your parents don’t have enough money? Are family members willing to put in some money? Cause that’s going to determine where your parents are going to be staying. Many families may not be able to afford 24-hour care seven days a week at home and they might have to place their parents into a long-term care facility and you’re gonna want to know when that is.

So, it can help so much to just have a sense of what you’re gonna do and that’s where a good elder law attorney might be able to help. Also, a good financial planner can help as you think through long-term care issues.  Christine said in the beginning about possibly making some home modifications.  I live in a house right now that has four levels and I keep saying to my husband we better do something fast. We need to think about this because otherwise we’ll have to move.  So, you just have to keep having those conversations which are not easy to have, especially with parents. It’s really hard.

I remember talking to one of my wisest friends.  She’s been a discharge planner at Mass General Hospital for so many years. We’ve been friends for 30 years and you know how you have those people who are the wisest person in your life for certain functions. Well, she’s the wisest person in my life about caring for older people and supporting families. Except for you two of course. She said to me you can’t burn yourself as family members by making a promise that you won’t move your parents to a long-term care facility because that’s a false promise.  You don’t know that. A lot of us struggle with “I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I said I wouldn’t” and hopefully you won’t have to.  But we have to rethink all of our assumptions about what we can and can’t do.

This is not an easy world to be living in right now.  But you know if you’re spending the time to be on this call right now it means you really care. So, let’s just take that in.

Anne: We’ve talked about how important it is to vet an agency. But we haven’t really gotten into vetting an agency as opposed to going through one of the registries, the kind of care.com type thing.  Maybe we can just take two more minutes to share some tips on how to pick a good agency.

Christine: There’s 179 in the San Diego market. There are so many ways to answer this question.  I will say that this is the reason why it’s so important to know who is in your network. Because it’s very much about trust, right?  Maybe there are family members or others in your network that have been through this experience before and can recommend somebody.

If you’re in San Diego and you have 179 agencies to choose from. How do you sort and vet through all of that? It can help to just ask yourself who can refer you. Who do you know who has been through this that can help you narrow this down? Who had a really good experience with an agency?

Anne: Andrea, do you have anything that you want to add to that?

Andrea: I have a couple of basic questions that I tell people to ask. And I’ll tell you what those questions are but when you’re listening to their response listen to how they respond.  Don’t just listen to THE response. Because you’ve got to like the person that you’re dealing with. We do a lot of competitive shopping. We call up our competitors and when we get off the phone, we’re just like wow I would never use that agency because of the way the person answered the phone.

But anyway, some of the things that we ask are how long have you been in business? What’s your response time? If I need someone how fast can you provide someone? Do you do home visits? How do you supervise your workers? Ask any of these questions to just see if they have an answer. It’s almost not the answer as much as it is do they HAVE an answer? Do you accept long-term care insurance? What do your hourly rates cover? How do you charge, how do you bill? Tell us how you vet your workers. What are the things you do for your caregivers to make them feel special? Anything that you’re interested in, and I promise you that the answer will help inform your decision. Do you get a live person at the other end of the phone when you call?  Christine, don’t you think that makes a huge difference? If you get a voicemail people are going to move right onto the next company and you should because you want to be talking to a person, right?

Christine: Right! For example, at our company once someone becomes a client we have a dedicated phone number – a dedicated client line and that phone number is answered 24 hours a day. Exactly! Those are things that you want to address.

A lot of these questions come up in Daughterhood circles. I would suggest going to the Daughterhood website to see if there is a circle near you and if there isn’t one in your area check the Daughterhood Website as many circles are meeting on zoom and always welcome everyone no matter your location. Of course, you’re always welcome at the San Diego circle and we’d be glad to have you.

Some in the chat asked If could we discuss the subject of compensation for a family member providing care. That’s a big one. I don’t know what state you’re in, but for example in the state of California we have in-home supportive services for individuals that are considered low income or on Medi-Cal or that qualify for Medi-Cal. They CAN qualify for in-home supportive services and at least in California in-home supportive services can be paid to a family member. However, that’s not the case for all states.

I would also recommend if any family member is going to be paid you should get some sort of contract in place and you should actually pay the money ahead of time to talk to an attorney. I can recommend some that specialize in that type of thing.  But, regardless there should be a contract in place.

Andrea: I agree yeah. We can also put together the list of the vetting questions and tips for accepting the services. Anything that you can use to basically start the conversation.

The big takeaway from this is that anything that you can do before a crisis occurs is the best. Sometimes however, I have been working with families that are really, really complicated and there’s really nothing that you can do until something happens. Don’t beat yourself up as a family member with I should’ve, I could’ve, I would’ve, I can’t. Just allow yourself to sit in that. You must know that you’re doing everything you can and sometimes you just can’t fix everything. I’m sure you guys talk about that in those Daughterhood circles. I can’t even imagine that it doesn’t come over and over again. I just have so much incredible respect for family members and everything that they do.

Anne: I think that what we’ve always tried to do since Daughterhood was founded. What we want people to understand is that they aren’t failing, there is a systemic failure. As Americans we tend to assume that we have this individual superpower that we should be able to overcome and solve all problems that we’re just like smart enough or skinny enough or rich enough. I don’t know.

But there’s things about the way we’ve organized all these services, in part historically, because we haven’t had people living until they’re 82 or even 95 on average. So, we’re just a little bit behind in catching all that up. That’s why many of you are experiencing so much friction, a lot of suffering and in so much pain because you’re coming up against something that is kind of an immovable object. As Andrea said you’re doing the best you can. And home care is just part of it, just a piece of the puzzle which is why we’re talking about it today. I really really appreciate Andrea and Christine. You guys are amazing. Thank you SO much. There are no words for how helpful this was.

Christine: Thank you. I haven’t met Andrea in person but just from what I’ve gotten from Anne about her and then what I know about her business I’m kind of a super fan. I’m a fan girl now.

Andrea: Aw, just stop it. I just have to say that I feel really lucky to be able to do what we do and be part of this profession.

Anne: Thank you, you guys are superstars. So, thank you so much. And thank you to this incredible audience with all these great and interesting and challenging questions. We’ll be in touch with some follow up and look for the next conversation. And we welcome any and all feedback through the website if you want more information. Thanks everybody. Bye.

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.

Read: 5 Common Misconceptions About Medicaid

Currently, there are over 8 million Medicare beneficiaries who are also eligible for the full Medicaid benefit package, which includes varying degrees of LTC (long-term care) and coverage of their Medicare Part B premium, as well as deductibles and coinsurance. There are also another 4 million or so Medicare beneficiaries whose income is too high for the full Medicaid benefit package but who get some help from Medicaid paying Medicare out of pocket costs.

If you’re a caregiver for one of these 12 million folks, you don’t need me to tell you how confusing this all can be. For those of you who aren’t, think about how hard you’re already working to manage Medicare and now imagine layering another completely different program on top of that. It’s a full-time job in addition to all your other full-time jobs.

What’s especially confusing is that Medicare is basically one program that’s the same for everyone in the country, but Medicaid is different in every state. Each state has different rules about who qualifies for Medicaid and the available benefits, and some states are more generous than others. So, for example, one state will practically guarantee home-based services and supports for in-need older adults with monthly incomes as high as about $2500, while another state sets the income threshold much lower AND has a long waiting list for services.

A big issue is that, even if you qualify for both programs, they are rarely coordinated with each other. Family caregivers are faced with navigating two different sets of program rules and requirements, on top of coordinating all the other services their loved one needs and uses. Usually, for example, doctors, who are paid by Medicare, have no idea about the Medicaid long-term care services someone might be receiving at home to help with such things as bathing, dressing, or eating. These providers don’t talk to each other, in part, because the programs aren’t coordinated.

The good news is a few states are very organized. They’ve worked hard in collaboration with federal government staff to create a “one stop shop” where you can choose for both Medicare and Medicaid. These programs often assign the participants a care manager or case worker who helps coordinate everything. For example, Minnesota offers the Minnesota Senior Health Options program that “combines separate health programs and support systems into one health care package.”

The bad news is that a lot of states are still struggling to make the programs work better together and some states haven’t really tried. On the bright side there are a lot of philanthropies, experts and policymakers working to fix this. But they need our help. The solutions they develop MUST REFLECT your experience and SOLVE YOUR problems.

To that end, a wonderful foundation, Arnold Ventures, wants to hear directly from you about your current care experiences with the many services you might be arranging and managing. Services such as medications, medical equipment, physician services and in-home care and behavioral health services. They’re hosting a series of focus groups where I will be leading an hour-long confidential conversation about the care you provide and how well you are supported.

Arnold Ventures, together with my team, will use this input to recommend solutions to policymakers. If you are interested in participating, please go to this page and share your contact information so we can send you more information.

In the meantime, if you’re taking care of someone who is enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, here are some tips for getting the best support you can.

The “PACE” Program. The Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is a great program that many states offer through which very frail older adults who live in the community and are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid can get services bundled into one package and delivered through adult day services. The program is widely seen as the gold standard for care coordination and integration. Unfortunately, not all states offer PACE but there may be one in your area. To check, you can consult google or go to the PACEFinder resources on the National PACE Association website.

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). Some states contract with AAAs to help manage access to Medicaid resources. It’s worth checking out. Call your local AAA – which you can find here – to see what kind of information and support they provide.

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs. These programs are funded federally but available locally to help you navigate Medicare. It’s free — You can find out more here.

Daughterhood Circles. Don’t forget to check out whether there’s a Daughterhood Circle operating in your area or your state. Many meet virtually so you can join even if you’re not in the same neighborhood. The listing is on our website here. If you’d like to start a Circle and become a Circle leader, get in touch with us here.

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

‘Daughterhood Circles’ offer family caregivers a way to connect

(Article Reposted with permission from Memorywell.com)

Think of it as a mom’s group for a different and less joyful chapter of life.

One woman struggles to understand why her mom won’t leave her room. Another woman, whose mother now lives with her, wonders on really bad days how this became her life. A third is determined to remember her stepmother from a different time, before the disease that recently took her life made her so angry.

It’s a Tuesday evening at a tapas and wine bar in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb outside Atlanta, and seven women have gathered to honor one another.

“Here’s to caregivers,” says the organizer, as they raise and clink their glasses.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

It’s All About Connection: Caregivers Survival Guide

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 care 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 (such as, why won’t rehab providers accept my Dad?) that they can’t find exactly what they need. Or they want the exact right answer to a very complex question that doesn’t have right answers.

Read More

Making Medicare Choices for Your Parents

“My dad doesn’t have Medicare!” A friend said to me recently.

“What?” I responded. This seemed unlikely. Pretty much everyone over age 65 has some form of Medicare and my friend’s dad is at least 90 years old.

Then he explained, “Dad has something called ‘Blue Cross advantage.’”

I explained that his dad does have Medicare but it’s a particular form of Medicare that private health plans (like BlueCross BlueShield) offer. It’s called “Medicare Advantage.”

Read More
[gravityform id="1" title="false" description="false"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper home-name-email-optin_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_1' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_1' class='home-name-email-optin gform_legacy_markup' action='/category/uncategorized/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_1' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_1_1" class="gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_hidden_label field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_1_1"><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' >Name<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name no_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_1 ginput_container_name' id='input_1_1'> <span id='input_1_1_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_1.3' id='input_1_1_3' value='' aria-required='true' placeholder='First name' /> <label for='input_1_1_3' class='hidden_sub_label screen-reader-text'>First</label> </span> </div></li><li id="field_1_2" class="gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_1_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_1_2' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_2' id='input_1_2' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Email address' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_1_3" class="gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_1_3"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_1_3' >Email</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_3' id='input_1_3' type='text' value='' autocomplete='new-password'/></div><div class='gfield_description' id='gfield_description_1_3'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_1' class='gform_button button' value='Subscribe' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_1"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_1")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_1")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_1"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_1"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_1")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_1")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_1"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_1").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_1' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_1' value='WyJbXSIsImEwOGJlZWNjNjQ3NjYxMTliMjY1ODdiM2VhZWRjMjA0Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_1' id='gform_target_page_number_1' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_1' id='gform_source_page_number_1' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_3" name="ak_js" value="197"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_3" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>