Finding Your People: A Guide To Online Communities For Caregivers

A Guide To Online Communities For Caregivers

Caring for someone else’s needs is a lot of work, and at times, a thankless job – even when it’s for someone you love. Learning the ins and outs of the various conditions your loved one may be suffering from, figuring out how to navigate Medicare and hospital paperwork, managing the physical toll, and even the financial strain is enough to make anyone second guess why they took on the job in the first place.

But finding a community of people you can lean on can be a real lifesaver. A great community can connect you with others who have experienced what you’re going through. You’ll find people who can answer the questions you may be dealing with, and those you can just vent to about the rough time you’ve been having lately. They can share tips and resources, knowledge and compassion. 

Living in such an online world makes it easier than ever to find a group you can lean on. Message boards and forums are a great place to connect with a lot of people like you, and to get and share a lot of information in one place. 

So what are you waiting for? Here are some great groups to check out. Most of these allow you to poke around a bit without posting anything, which is a great way to learn a lot and also get a feel for the community.  When you’re ready, share your own voice and start reaping the rewards that come with having a large group of caring people to lean on.

Online Communities For Caregivers:

Agingcare.com

The National Association For Continence Message Boards

The Caregiver Space

Know of some other great forums for caregivers to connect? Share them in the comments!

Online Resources For Caregivers

Online Resources For Caregivers

Choosing to take on the role of Caregiver can be daunting. The paperwork alone is overwhelming, let alone the emotional, physical and financial toll it can take.  Where can you turn for help? Luckily, there are a number of great resources out there to help you navigate the various tasks of caregiving.  See below for a list of organizations that offer help and support.

Useful Online Resources For Caregivers

AARP Family Caregiving

AgingCare.com

AssistGuide Information Services

American Red Cross

ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center

Caregiver Action Network

ElderCare.com

Eldercare Locator

Family Caregiver Alliance

Medicare

National Alliance For Caregiving

National Clearinghouse for Long-term Care Information

Social Security Administration

State Health Insurance Assistance Program

For a more complete list of resources, visit the Caregiver Action Network’s comprehensive list.  

The High Cost Of Caregiving

The High Cost Of Caregiving

Marilyn remembers the day that she toured 3 nursing homes for her elderly mother. “Each one was very functional, but they seemed cold and lonely, institutional”, she said. “At the end of the day I just cried. I couldn’t put my mother in one of those places. And the cost was outrageous. Eventually, I decided to take her in myself.”

What Marilyn didn’t realize was even having her mother home with her would end up being a huge financial strain too.  The extra help she needed from regular nursing aid visits, the supplies – they all added up. “It really put a financial strain on my family”, said Marilyn.

Most family caregivers are unaware of the high cost of caring for a loved one at home. Calculating these costs in advance can help you know more of what to expect, and can help you evaluate if it’s truly something that will work for you.

Out Of Pocket Costs

Out of pocket costs for caregiving can be significant.  A study done by AARP estimated that on average, family caregivers spend roughly $7,000 per year on out of pocket costs related to caregiving. (1)  And if you’re caring for a loved one who lives far away, or one who lives with you in your home, expect to pay more. ($11,923 or $8,616, respectively).  (1)

This can be a huge financial strain on caregivers and their families. The AARP study estimated that caregivers spend on average nearly 20% of their income on caregiving activities. (1) And it’s not all just for medical care – household expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, or home modifications, account for about 41% of spending.  (1) Medical expenses, such as assisted living, insurance, or other medical costs average around 25% of spending. (1)

Lost Wages And Career Advancement

Care for a family member yourself may feel like the best thing to do, but it will cost you in more ways than just out of pocket expenses. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, women who care for their parents lose an estimated $324,044 in lost wages, benefits, and retirement funds. (Men lose $283,716.) (2)

And caregiving can negatively affect work performance and career advancement: 61% of caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving, such as cutting back work hours, taking a leave of absence, taking a demotion, receiving a warning about performance or attendance, arriving late, or even giving up working entirely. (2)

Reduced Savings

Unfortunately, caregiving for a loved one typically comes at a time when the caregivers also need to plan and save for their own retirement. The decision to stop working in order to care for a loved one can jeopardize their future financial security. (3) This is dangerous, since it’s estimated that a couple can expect to pay an average of $280,000 in health care costs alone throughout their retirement. (4)

Plan and Prepare

The best thing to do? Start planning early.  Set up a savings account now for yourself, so that you can be better prepared for the future. Next, talk with your loved one about what they’ve already done to plan for their own long-term care. You may qualify for tax breaks, or credits, or you may be able to utilize an employer FSA (flex spending account) to help cut some costs.

Talk with your employer about your situation too. More companies are starting to offer benefits to caregivers, such as helping to pay for backup care, or advisory services to help you navigate the many aspects of caregiving.

Even if your company doesn’t offer these formally, it’s still a good idea to have a discussion with them about your situation. There may be ways for you to work more flexible hours in order to manage the demands of caregiving, or even take some paid leave to assist with your loved one’s needs. Some big-name companies, such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Deloitte all offer different amounts of paid leave programs to care for loved ones.

In the end, making the decision to become a caregiver is a personal choice. The rewards of caregiving can be great, but it can also come at a high personal sacrifice – both financially and emotionally, for you and your family members.  Do your research, and be sure to have an honest and open discussion with everyone involved.


References:

1. Rainville, Chuck, Laura Skufca, and Laura Mehegan. Family Caregiving and Out-of-Pocket Costs: 2016 Report. Washington, DC: AARP Research, November 2016. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00138.001

2. https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-work-and-caregiving

3. The MetLife Market Survey of Long-term Care Costs, 2011:  https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/livable-communities/old-learn/health/the-metlife-market-survey-of-nursing-home-assisted-living-adult-day-services-and-home-care-costs-2011-aarp.pdf

4. The Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, 2018. https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/plan-for-rising-health-care-costs

Patient Perspective: Debbie's Story

Debbie's Story - Supporting Her Husband With Incontinence

My husband suffers from incontinence. He has for years. He never thought I knew, but I noticed when he would rush to the bathroom with a change of underwear. I watched as he consistently sought out the restrooms anywhere we went. And I definitely noticed the changed bed sheets when I would come home from work due to leaks the previous night. 

I wanted so badly to help him. To talk with him about it. To tell him that I understand and that it is ok. But how do you tell an ex-army man whose very core is built on pride and being strong that you’re concerned about him wetting himself?

So, I stayed silent for years, and so did he, until finally he couldn’t anymore. We were out to dinner with friends when he had an accident, and had forgotten to bring along a spare pair of underwear. Panicked, he made up an excuse for us to leave immediately, and finally broke down in the car, telling me what I had known for years.

He was so ashamed, but I did my best to show him that I was supportive and didn’t think any less of him because of it. In the end, telling me was the best thing that could have happened, since I finally was able to help him.

We made an appointment to go see a doctor together, and he learned the many options available to him for treatment. He’s doing so much better now.

And though he still has some occasional leaks, he knows that he has me to lean on and doesn’t have to live with the stress of constantly trying to hide it.

I only wish I could have given him the courage to speak up sooner.
 
Debbie R., Omaha, NE

Patient Perspective: Julie's Story

Julie's Story - Caring For Her Incontinent Mother

I’ve always been close to my Mom, but after my Dad passed away 5 years ago, we became closer than ever. We talked on the phone every day and I checked in with her every weekend. She was still very active, even after Dad passed, and continued to play golf every month, meet her girlfriends for bridge and walk her dog two times a day.  All of this changed when she had a stroke.

Suddenly, my very independent Mother was unable to do most things for herself.  Without a second thought, I took her in and cared for her as much as possible as she began her slow path to recovery. It was a shock to suddenly watch a woman that I always looked to for guidance become suddenly, completely dependent on me.  

I’m not going to lie - it’s been difficult at times.  She has always been a very proud woman and to have to ask for help for things like using the bathroom, or worse, to need help cleaning up after an accident, was mortifying for her and uncomfortable for me.  

After some trial and error, we finally developed a rhythm with each other and learned which products worked best for day and night. Even though it’s hard, I’m so grateful to still have my mom with me, and I can’t thank organizations like NAFC enough for providing education on management options during this difficult time of life. Help is there if you need it - you just need to know where to look.  

Julie F., Tampa, FL

A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

One of the most challenging things about being a caregiver to someone who has incontinence can be the mornings. Waking up each day to your loved one’s wet bed can be both physically and emotionally draining. No one likes to wash and change sheets each day, and knowing the discomfort (and likely embarrassment) that your loved one feels can be disheartening.  In fact, incontinence is often a big reason that older adults are placed into long-term care facilities.

The key to managing this problem is prevention. Having the right tools at your disposal will do wonders to help keep the bed dry and your loved one comfortable.  And remember, layers are your friend. They will help keep any leaks to a minimum and make clean up so much easier.

Here are some of our top tricks for keeping the bed dry and making your life a little easier.

  1. Zippered, Vinyl Waterproof Mattress Cover. This should go on the bed first and will help keep any moisture from getting on the mattress. After all, replacing a mattress is expensive, and getting lingering odors out of them is very hard. If you do nothing else, do this.
  2. Waterproof Mattress Pad. Use this as a second layer – it’s a softer, but still waterproof cover that will go over your vinyl cover.
  3. Waterproof Flat Sheet.  
  4.  Waterproof Underpad. You can use these both under, and on top of a flat sheet if you wish, and they can be disposable or washable. We recommend putting a large, sturdy, washable pad on the flat sheet, then topping that with a disposable pad that you can simply toss in the trash when needed.
  5. Use Layers Of Blankets Instead Of A Thick Comforter. These are easier to wash in the event of an accident.
  6. Disposable Absorbent Products. A good fitting disposable absorbent product is key. Find one for nighttime use (they’re more absorbent) and make sure the fit is good – you don’t want anything too tight or too lose, as it will lead to leaks. For a breakdown on what to look for, see our guide on absorbent products here.
  7. Skincare Protection. While this won’t protect your bedding, it will protect your loved one. Proper skincare protection can help keep skin from getting irritated or chapped due to accidents that happen during the night. 

Try these tips for a drier night, and happier morning. 

What tips do you have for a dry night? Share them with us in the comments below!

Ask The Expert: How Do I Talk With My Husband About His Incontinence?

How Do I Talk With My Husband About His Incontinence

Question:  My husband of 47 years has recently started experiencing incontinent episodes. He’s a very proud man and doesn’t want to admit them to me, but it’s starting to become a problem due to the increased laundry, smell and his overall depressed attitude about it. How can I get him to open up and talk with me about it?

 

Answer:  This is a common problem in marriages, especially pertaining to men. Most men don’t want to admit they have a problem with bladder control. They feel ashamed, and hate the idea of wearing protection. He may never come out and admit it to you on his own, so here are some tips to broach the subject with him:

1. Make him feel comfortable.

As you’ve already figured out, incontinence is a very uncomfortable subject for your husband. Make him feel at ease and approach him about his bladder leakage in a way that is not threatening or accusatory. Find some neutral territory and talk to him at a time when he feels good. Don’t try to broach this subject right after he’s had an accident.  That will only make him feel more embarrassed and ashamed.

2. Show him that you are understanding and want to help him with his bladder leakage.

Before you talk with him, do a little research on incontinence and learn what may be causing the issue. Did he just have prostate surgery? Is there something else that has changed recently that could be contributing to his accidents? Read about the causes, and the many different treatment options and management strategies for bladder leakage. Show him that there are ways to manage the condition and that he doesn’t have to just live with it. Let him know that you care about him and want to help. Show him that you are a team so that he doesn’t feel so alone.

3. Encourage him to seek treatment for his incontinence.

Incontinence can often be a symptom of an underlying condition. Let your husband know that you want him to talk with a doctor to make sure that there is nothing serious going on, and to help him get the problem under control. He may be resistant to speaking with his doctor, but press on (slowly). The sooner he confronts his incontinence with a professional, the sooner he can begin treatment and start feeling like himself again. (Find a specialist in your area with our Specialist Locator.)

4. Be his advocate for care.

Because your husband is so embarrassed about his incontinence, you may need to be his voice when seeking out treatment options. Help him research incontinence so that you both can learn more about it. Write out questions that he can bring with him to the doctors office to ensure he doesn’t forget anything important. Be sure to voice any concerns over treatment options. And help him stay the course on his path to treatment.

5. Introduce him to the NAFC message boards.

The NAFC message boards are a great place for your husband to explore and ask questions – anonymously! There are many people on the boards who may be experiencing the same things he is who he can talk to. Plus, with so many people dealing with incontinence in the same spot, there are lots of learnings and tips he may be able to pull from to help his own situation. (As an aside, the message boards may also be a great spot for you to do some research too.  Talk with other caregivers to get some ideas. Or ask other men living with incontinence how you might be able to best approach your husband about the topic.)

It’s never easy talking about incontinence to a loved one – especially men. But by being a caring and supportive spouse, you’ll show your husband that you are in his corner, and that you are there to help. Good luck!

Tech Tips For Helping A Senior From A Distance

Tech Tips For Helping Seniors From A Distance

Tech Tips For Helping Seniors From A Distance

As we age, it’s normal to need a little help. Most seniors function just fine; it’s just that sometimes, support from loved ones can make a positive difference. That’s why you're ready to help your parents or senior friend.

Decades ago, you had to live near a senior in order to offer help. If you lived far away, there really wasn’t much you could do; however, technology has changed a lot since then.
These days, you can provide some form of assistance even if you live on the other side of the country. But before you can delve into tech like this, it helps to understand what kind of help seniors often need.

Problems Faced By Seniors

Lumen Learning has a free online course that describes the unique challenges faced by seniors. Some of these challenges include:

  • Financial problems brought on by less income and more healthcare expenses.

  • Ageism, or discrimination and prejudice based solely on the senior’s age.

  • Mistreatment or even abuse by people who should be providing care.

  • Loneliness and few opportunities to socialize.

  • Depression and similar mental health issues.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges seniors face is health. Thankfully, people are living longer than ever; the consequence of that is having more health problems. As Everyday Health explains, many seniors face the same medical conditions:

  • Arthritis

  • Heart disease

  • Cancer

  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

  • Osteoporosis

  • Diabetes

  • Disability issues

Apps & Sites To Help You Support Seniors

So how can you help your senior loved one manage these challenges when you live far away? With all of the advancement in technology these days, there are tons of apps, sites, and individual pieces of technology that can help you offer assistance no matter where you live.

For example, video chat can help alleviate loneliness and strengthen bonds between a senior and their family or loved ones. Video games can provide the mental stimulation needed to help fight dementia and can be a source of socialization. There are even health trackers that share information in real time. The beauty of this technology is that all of this can be done when you don’t live nearby.

Also, technology like this isn’t reserved just for you. There’s plenty of helpful technology your senior loved one can put to use. Some must-have technology for seniors include:

  • Tablets, smartphones, and iPads for photos, music, video chat, reading, and games.

  • Hearing aids to help with the loss of hearing that often comes with age.

  • Wireless home monitoring systems in case of medical emergencies.

  • Assistive technology such as LED lighting or stove shut-off systems.

  • Smart home technology that gives seniors the freedom to live independently.

Home Services

There are plenty of other ways to help besides providing tangible technology options. Did you know there are a variety of services available online that you can set up from your phone or computer?

For example, if your senior has difficulty getting to the grocery store, Caring.com lists meal delivery services that can provide regular groceries or complete meals delivered directly to their home.

If your senior loved one needs some extra help around the house, there are plenty of online options for housekeeping, pet sitting and lawn, and handyman services.

These are only a few of the options available, but they go to show that it’s easy to connect your senior loved one with the right kind of assistance through the touch of a button.

It’s challenging to take care of a senior from afar, but technology truly is making things so much easier. Once you’re familiar with the typical problems seniors face, you can help by providing your senior with technology that can boost their independence, or by using online services to give them some peace of mind and assistance. By incorporating the benefits of technology into your long-distance caregiving, you can stay connected and involved. In some ways, it might feel like you were never gone.

How Can You Show Gratitude Toward Yourself And Others?

Showing gratitude toward yourself and others isn’t just being grateful for positive things and moments in life, but also cutting yourself and others a break from the endless expectations life brings. When you’re dealing with incontinence, it’s even more important to look outside your body’s limitations. Being grateful for the abilities you do have and sharing that gratitude with others is known to increase personal happiness and lessen the chances of feeling depressed.

How To Show Gratitude Toward Yourself And Others

How To Show Gratitude Toward Yourself And Others

We’ve gathered our best practices for living a grateful life below. Share your practices in the comments!

Say ‘thank you’ and mean it. Be specific!

The key to telling people thank you isn’t just muttering the words ‘thank you,’ but being specific about what you’re grateful for. Instead of saying ‘Thanks for helping me today,” say, “Thank you for talking out the trash this evening. Your willingness to chip in on that chore really helped me focus on getting dinner on the table.”

Write yourself a compliment and leave it where you can read it

Showering yourself with words of affirmation and encouragement is just as important as doing it for others.  Self-gratitude and self-affirmation builds confidence and assurance in one’s abilities. Learning how to do this is hard, but start by leaving notes for yourself.

Read one caregiver blogger’s thoughts on the issue here.

Offer your time and skills to a family member

Nothing shows gratitude for someone else more than your time. Use one of your greatest (and free-of-charge) gifts and show your loved ones how much they matter to you by spending quality time with them.

Invite a sibling to coffee or take a parent out to dinner!

Click here to read other ways to express gratitude on a daily basis. 

How To Have An End-Of-Life-Care Talk With Your Parent

End Of Life Care
End Of Life Care

It’s not something we ever want to think about, much less discuss. But we all get older, and sooner or later, there will be decisions that need to be made when it comes to how we, and our loved ones, want to be cared for toward the end of our life.  Talking about dying is not fun, but it is necessary to do it ahead of time to ensure that everyone’s wishes and needs are met – especially in the event that a loved one can no longer make those wishes heard on his or her own.

When talking with a parent, approach them directly, and let them know that you’d like to talk about how they’d like to be cared for as they get older.  This involves asking them questions about how involved they’d like to be in their medical care (do they want their doctors to do what they think is best or do they want to have a say in every decision), how much they want their family involved, what to do in the event of life-support or a terminal illness, etc. Talking about and documenting these wishes early will help prevent confusion later on and can ensure that your parent’s end-of-life wishes are carried out the way they would like.

Need some help getting things going? The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people have discussions on end of life and has a great starter kit available on their website. Download yours here.

Aging is Easier When You Build a Community

They say two heads are better than one. And the old adage of a village raising a child isn’t just made up. Building community is key to longevity, positivity and happiness, and overall health.

People need other people and that need couldn’t be more apparent than during the aging process. Aging is much like growing up. It’s uncharted territory fraught with new experiences and changes in the body. Unfortunately, experiencing aging alone is more common that we realized.

Aging Is Easier When You Build A Community

Aging Is Easier When You Build A Community

The U.S. Census Bureau reported 11 million or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone in 2010. As spouses and family members age and die, the likelihood of living alone increases. Although living alone and spending time alone isn’t a problem in and of itself, it can lead to isolation, which can lead to depression.

Additional strains of loneliness include physical health decline, vulnerability to elder abuse, cognitive decline, high blood pressure, and pessimism about the future. Some experts point to these statistics as reasons for community care with other elders or co-housing.

So how do caregivers or individuals in the midst of aging create or find community? They build relationships and attachments to recurring activities and engagements.

We recommend starting small and branching out. Look around your neighborhood and see if there are opportunities for friendships with neighbors. Or beyond the fence-- go to your local senior center and try a new class.

Building habits around time spent with other people is crucial. The importance of that time can’t be stressed enough. Click here to watch one of our favorite examples of the beauty of community.

How have you seen community benefit the aging process?

Caregivers In An Aging Population

Caregivers In An Aging Population

Caregivers In An Aging Population

Sally was 56 when she first decided to invite her dad to live with her. He was 80 years old and had been suffering with a slight form of dementia for a few years. Recently, his episodes had gotten worse and she decided that the time had come where she simply could not leave him on his own.  

Because she was an only child, most of the burden of care fell on her.  And while she was happy to do it, it was more challenging than she could have ever realized. Her already busy life was suddenly filled with even more responsibilities: helping him with his daily activities, accompanying him to doctor’s appointments, researching medical needs and performing tasks that were new to her. It didn't take long to reach the point where her career was suffering. While her boss was understanding, she had to reduce her hours just to be available to her father when he needed her. The financial strain was as great as the emotional one.

Sally’s issues aren't unique. So many who find themselves in a caregiver role are forced to make the same sacrifices, and the stresses can be overwhelming. And now that our population is aging quickly, these issues are only going to increase.

 The AARP estimates that by 2050 there will be only 3 potential caregivers for every person aged 80 and above. That’s a drastic difference from today’s 7-to-1 ratio.

Why the sharp decline?  In just 10 years, the oldest of the Baby Boomer generation will be slipping into their 80’s, and with them, the need for additional care. Unfortunately, with the population expected to grow at just a 1% pace over the next several years, the caregiver ratio simply won’t be able to keep up. The AARP estimates that over the next several years we’ll see a steady decline in the ratio of caregivers to older adults, with the sharpest decline happening as the Baby Boomers reach their 80’s.

What are the implications here? In the coming years, caregivers will need more support than ever before.  The greater number of caregivers will create an increased need for nationwide Long Term Services and Support.  And workplace policies will need to accommodate flexible work schedules to allow caregivers the extra time they so desperately need. In addition, care for the caregivers themselves will need to be addressed to ensure that they have the tools to take care of themselves, as well as their loved ones.  Things such as providing extra funding or tax credits to caregivers, creating more resources for caregivers to ensure they have the tools and skills needed to care for their loved ones, adjusting FMLA laws to allow for greater workplace flexibility and time off, and making adjustments to medicare and medicaid to cover caregiver coordination services are just a few of the things that can be done to avert this growing crisis.  Putting these types of resources and policies in place is crucial in the coming years if we want to support the caregiving community and our growing, older population.

How Seniors Can Age-In-Place Comfortably And Safely

How Seniors Can Age In Place Comfortably And Safely

How Seniors Can Age In Place Comfortably And Safely

Many seniors can continue to live vital and active lives well after retirement, but safety is always a concern when a senior is living alone. As our bodies age, the risk of falls, broken bones, and other injuries increases, and for some, staying in the home may not be feasible. This is especially true when the home contains stairs, clutter, or walkways that aren’t accessible to wheelchairs or walkers. That’s why it’s imperative for seniors to assess their home to see what dangers might be lurking, to repair or replace any broken appliances, and take a good look at what their needs will be in the coming years.

Here are some of the best tips for senior safety while aging-in-place.

Update

If you have lived in the same home for many years, it’s possible that several updates need to be made in the kitchen and bathroom areas. Take a look at appliances and fixtures such as the stove, refrigerator, and bathtub and consider replacing worn-out technology with newer models. Many appliances now come with “smart” features--such as alarms and automatic shutoff--that would be extremely helpful for a senior. As for the bathroom, add non-slip rubber mats to the floor and tub, as well as a safety bar and shower seat.

Assess

Take a look at your home through the eyes of an older version of yourself. Will you be able to climb the stairs easily, or navigate through walkways? Remove any clutter, old rugs with turned-up corners or slippery backs, and furniture that could provide a trip hazard. Add lighting to stairwells and main living areas to ensure visibility; nightlights are a wonderful tool to have in every room. It’s also a good idea to make sure bedrooms and bathrooms will be accessible from a wheelchair and that doorways are wide enough, especially in older homes.

Security and home safety

For peace of mind, it’s always nice to have door alarms or motion sensors on the property, but they can also be helpful in reminding you to lock up. Consider investing in an alarm service and having motion sensor lights installed around the perimeter, which will aid your vision at night.

It’s also a good idea to make sure there are up-to-date fire extinguishers in the kitchen and in any living space where there might be candles or smoking. Install carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in living spaces.

Consider getting a pet

Dogs and cats can be wonderful companions, and for seniors, they can also be service animals. These animals do much more than provide loyal company; they also help lower stress levels and can be extremely helpful for individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Aging-in-place may seem like a big undertaking, but if you take it one step at a time and plan well, you might be able to stay in your own home for the rest of your days.

About the Author:  Caroline James is the co-founder of Elder Action, which aims to provide useful information to aging seniors.

NAFC's Top 8 Tips For Caregivers

Top 8 Tips For Caregivers

Top 8 Tips For Caregivers

Being a caregiver to someone you love is complicated work – it can be both rewarding, and draining all at once. The emotional and physical demands placed on a caregiver are many. Add to that the financial strain that many caregivers face and it’s easy to see how caregivers can become a bit stressed out at times.

Read below to learn our Top 8 Tips for Caregivers.

Learn To Take Care Of Yourself First.

Before you can even begin to care for someone else, you need to ensure that your own needs are met. Eating well, getting good sleep, and exercising regularly will help you stay healthy and energized. And don’t forget about taking regular breaks and time outs for yourself – it may seem like an extravagance, but fitting in a little alone time can do wonders for your mood.  You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to take on the daily demands of caregiving.

Get Organized.

Medical files, legal documents, financial information – who knew that caregiving would involve so much paperwork! Get organized right from the start and create a system that will allow you to keep track of all your important records.  Also, speak with your loved one and make sure that you know their wishes for end of life care and make sure you get any paperwork needed in order.

Get The Help You Need.

There are lots of services out there that can help you manage the load of caregiving. Finding extra medical support, meal assistance, or even having a friend or family member help out for a few hours each week can help shoulder a lot of the burden of caregiving.

Simplify Your Own Life.

Taking care of someone else can make your other daily chores seem harder. Outsource what you can and automate everything else. Hire a cleaning person. Sign up for a food service like Blue Apron. Have your groceries delivered or set up an auto grocery list online for things that you purchase regularly. Set up automatic bill pay for your fixed expenses. Simplifying these things can help free up some of your precious time and energy, and help keep you from becoming overwhelmed.

Connect With Others.

Things are always easier when you have someone else to talk to. Sign up for one of the many online networks available to caregivers and chat with others who understand. You may even be able to find a local support group in your area. Here are some great networks to check out:

Find Ways To Connect With Your Loved One Daily.

With all the routine demands of caregiving – bathing, feeding, managing medications – it can be easy to forget one of the most important things an aging loved one needs – human connection. Don’t get so caught up in the daily demands that you forget to spend quality time with your loved one. Taking daily walks, reading or listening to audio books, playing card games, looking through old pictures or even just watching a favorite television show together can help make your loved one feel loved and connected. And telling them how much you love them will never get old.

Learn About Your Loved One’s Condition.

Learn as much as you can about any conditions that your loved one may be dealing with. Knowing what to expect and how to handle it can make a world of difference.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes.

Caregiving can sometimes be a thankless job, and it’s easy to see how frustrations can morph into feelings of bitterness or resentment toward your loved one. But the saying “Treat others how you would like to be treated” applies in this situation as well.  Think about how you would like to be cared for and try your best to understand your loved ones feelings and what they are going through.

Choosing The Right Long-Term-Care Facility For Your Loved One

Choosing The Right Long-Term-Care Facility For Your Loved One

Choosing The Right Long-Term-Care Facility For Your Loved One

Making the decision to place a loved one in a long-term care facility can be difficult. Feelings of guilt and sadness are often present, despite how necessary the decision may be. But there are many situations where a long-term care facility can provide more help to a loved one than you can – and it doesn’t have to be as grim as many imagine it to be.  In fact, there are many wonderful facilities in the US that provide excellent care.  Be sure to visit the home, or have a trusted friend visit one if you are unable to, and keep this list of things to consider when reviewing your options. (Summarized list from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Your Guide To Choosing a Nursing Home or Other Long-Term Care)

Things to Consider When Choosing A Care Facility

Quality of life

  • Will my loved one be treated in a respectful way?
  • How will the nursing home help my loved one participate in social, recreational, religious, or cultural activities that are important to him/her?
  • Do the residents get to choose what time to get up, go to sleep, or bathe?
  • Can the residents have visitors at any time?  Can they bring pets?
  • Can residents decorate their living space any way they want?
  • What is privacy like?
  • Are the residents able to leave the premises?
  • What services are provided? Are they the services my loved one needs?
  • Can we get a copy of any resident policies that must be followed?

Quality of care

  • What’s a plan of care, who makes it, and what does it look like?
  • Will my loved one and I be included in planning my care?
  • Who are the doctors who will care for my loved one? Can he/she still see their personal doctors?
  • If a resident has a problem with confusion and wanders, how does the staff handle this type of behavior?
  • Does the nursing home’s inspection report show quality of care problems?
  • How often are residents checked on and what is the average wait time if they need assistance?

Location & Availability

  • Is the nursing home close to family and friends?
  • Is a bed available now, or can my loved one’s name be added to a waiting list?

Staffing

  • Is there enough staff to give my loved one the care he/she needs?
  • Will my loved one have the same staff people take care of him/her day to day.
  • How many Certified Nursing Assistants are there and how many residents is a CNA assigned to work with during each shift and during meals? (Note: Nursing homes are required to post this information.)
  • What type of therapy is available at this facility?
  • Is there a social worker available? Can we meet him or her? (Note: Nursing homes must provide medically related social services, but if the nursing home has less than 120 beds, it doesn’t have to have a full-time social worker on staff.

Food & Dining

  • Does the nursing home have food service that my loved one would be happy with and can they provide for special dietary needs? 
  • Does the nursing home provide a pleasant dining experience?
  • Does staff help residents eat and drink at mealtimes if needed?
  • Are there options and substitutes available if they don’t like a particular meal?

Language

  • Is my loved one’s primary language spoken by staff that will work directly with them? If not, is an interpreter available to help them communicate their needs?

Security

  • Does the nursing home provide a safe environment? Is it locked at night?
  • Will my loved one’s personal belongings be secure in their room?

Preventive Care

  • Do residents get preventive care to help keep them healthy? Does the facility help make arrangements to see specialists? (Note: Nursing homes must either provide treatment, or help make appointments and provide transportation to see a specialist.)
  • Is there a screening program for vaccinations, like flu and pneumonia? (Note: Nursing homes are required to provide flu shots each year, but residents have the right to refuse if they don’t want the shot, have already been immunized during the immunization period, or if the shots are medically contraindicated.)

Hospitals

  • Is there an arrangement with a nearby hospital for emergencies and can personal doctors care for my loved one at that hospital?

Licensing & Certification

  • Is the nursing home and current administrator licensed in my loved one’s state?  (Have they met certain state or local government agency standards?)
  • Is the nursing home Medicare- and/or Medicaid-certified? (Note: “Certified” means the nursing home meets Medicare and/or Medicaid regulations and the nursing home has passed and continues to pass an inspection survey done by the State Survey Agency. If they’re certified, make sure they haven’t recently lost, or are about to lose their certification.

Charges & fees

  • Will the nursing home tell me in writing about their services, charges, and fees before my loved one moves into the home? What is included and what is extra? (Note: Medicare- and/or Medicaid-certified nursing homes must tell you this information in writing.) 

To read the full guide, click here.

Compassionate Care: How To Take Care Of An Aging Loved One

Caring for an aging loved one.

Caring for a senior--whether it’s a loved one or a client--can be an overwhelming task at times. It’s a stressful job, to say the least, and it can take a toll on your mood, your mental and emotional health, and your physical well-being. If you’re caring for a loved one, there’s added pressure due to your ties, and if you’re caring for a client, it’s important to make sure they’re well taken care of and that their family is satisfied with your work.

"There's a continuum of ways people become caregivers. Often a loved one suffers a stroke, accident or fall or a chronic condition worsens, and people are thrust into a situation. But few plan for it as well as they could," says director of operations for the Family Caregiver Alliance: National Center on Caregiving Leah Eskenazi.

Here are some simple things you can do to make sure you give the most compassionate care possible to the senior in your life.

Consider your options

When a family member needs assistance, it can be difficult to think about all the options available to both of you. Is it financially viable to keep them in their own home? Will they require 24-hour care? Moving a loved one into your home is a huge step and could have repercussions on your relationships with your family members and your own financial status. Lay out all the possibilities and give it some thought before committing to a decision

Lay down some guidelines

Whether you’re caring for a family member or a client, it’s important to have boundaries. Both of you will benefit from setting some rules, such as what you can and can’t do physically, what your schedule will be like, and what you expect from both the senior and their family members. This can help keep your relationship respectful and will ensure you don’t experience burnout.

Ask for help

If you’re caring for a loved one and most or all of the responsibility is falling on your shoulders, it’s time to ask for help. Keep in mind that you are just one person and it’s impossible to do it all alone without experiencing exhaustion and stress; don’t allow guilt to stand in the way of asking for assistance. Let your family members know that you need someone else to step up and help, and make an effort to support one another as much as possible.

Do some research

There are several groups around the country that will assist seniors who are ill or unable to leave their home; church groups, senior centers, and caregiver programs are all great resources to access when you need a break. Some of these will provide rides to doctor appointments, help with grocery shopping or bringing meals in, or even do light housework. When you need to take a breather, let one of these groups come and help you out.

If you’re going to be caring for a loved one in your own home, you’ll need to prepare the environment first. This can be very involved, so do some research or seek the guidance of professionals.

If you’re caring for a parent or other loved one, it may become necessary for you to become power of attorney at some point. Discuss the possibilities with your family and find out what your loved one wants when it comes to hospital stays; seek the counsel of a lawyer to draft a living will. This will be invaluable should the unexpected occur.

How To Talk About Incontinence With Your Loved One

How To Talk About Incontinence With Your Loved One

Talking about incontinence is never easy.  Whether you are the one experiencing it, or someone close to you has been exhibiting symptoms, it is a conversation that most dread.  However, sharing this struggle with a loved one is perhaps one of the best things you can do in your path to recovery.  With a little advanced planning, a deep breath, and some honesty you’ll be able to get past this and move on to the next (and more productive) phase of this struggle – treatment.

How To Talk About Incontinence With A Loved One

When you’re the one struggling with incontinence.

Believe it or not, you may actually be on the easier end of this conversation. As embarrassing as it may feel to open up to someone about this, if you are ready to do so, you have likely accepted that this has become a problem and are ready to receive support. And who better to provide that support than a trusted friend or loved one? 

Opening up to someone may not only provide you with the physical help you need, but also lift an emotional weight off your shoulders. You don’t have to suffer through this alone.

When your loved one has incontinence.

If you’ve been noticing that a loved one seems to be having problems with incontinence, it may be time to talk with them about it to see how open they are to treatment. This can sometimes be difficult – it is very likely that the person knows they have a problem, but may be too embarrassed to talk to anyone or do anything about it. 

Depending on your relationship, it can also be hard for your loved one to admit. For instance, a father who is cared for by his son or daughter may feel too proud to discuss this with his kids. Start the conversation slowly by asking them about their general health, then move on to some of the signs of incontinence that you’ve noticed.

Be prepared – they may get defensive and try to hide the problem. If that happens, try again. Be patient with them and try to be as accepting and understanding as possible. In time, they will likely open up to you once they see that your intentions are good and you are there to support them.

Our last tip?  Get some advice from those who have been there and understand.  As life changing as it may be, you are not the only one in the world who has ever struggled with this condition.  Whether you are looking to reach out to others who are experiencing it, or others who care for an incontinent loved one, there are many people out there who are discussing their problems on message boards and online forums.  Check out the NAFC message boards to get some tips on how others have touched on this delicate subject.

Announcing NAFC's New Dry Night Solution Kit: A Treatment Option For Adult Bedwetters

We are thrilled to announce a new offering from NAFC, in partnership with HDIS, for the many adults who struggle with bedwetting.

Over 5,000,000 American adults of all ages experience bedwetting.  This problem can be isolating and embarrassing, and can lead to many frustrated mornings.  Many people with this condition keep it a secret, and struggle with finding the right products or solutions to help them. Fortunately, there’s no reason why anyone should have to wake up wet.  

The new NAFC Dry Night Solution Kit provides education and customized products to fit your specific needs.  When you sign up to get your kit, you’ll get immediate access to educational brochures chock full of great info on what causes bedwetting and what you can do about it.  You’ll also receive a number to call, where you’ll have the chance to speak with a qualified professional who will assemble a custom kit full of products that will help you wake up dry.  

Kits are available for a limited time.  To learn more about the kit, and to order yours, click here.  You’ll then receive an email with access to digital bedwetting brochures, and a phone number and promotion code to use to get your Dry Night Solution Kit.  

Order your kit today!  

Tools to keep around if you care for someone with incontinence

Tools To Keep Around If You Care For Someone With Incontinence

If you are a new caregiver to a patient with incontinence or your family member just recently developed bladder and bowel problems, you’ll want to consider keeping supplies at the ready to help you address this condition.

In many cases, your family member or patient won’t be entirely comfortable with their situation and may attempt to thwart help or assistance. If that engagement leads to leaks or uncomfortable situations, it’s your job to be prepared and help them clean up in a dignified way.

We recommend having the following supplies ready or knowing where to get them easily:

  • Rug pads: Individuals with nocturia or overactive bladder are very susceptible to falling from incontinence in an effort to get to the restroom quickly. Make sure the rugs in the house and bathroom are padded underneath to avoid slippage.
  • Absorbent products: Many times, leakage or bladder spasms occur when the individual is in transfer, or is moving from place to place. Be at the ready to respond to these needs with an appropriate product.
  • Water: Dehydration can be a catalyst for frequent urination and in some cases, urinary tract infections. Avoid your patient or family member experiencing either by encouraging and modeling enough water intake. Click here for guides on how to drink more water.
  • Protective Bedding: Waterproof mattress covers, bed pads, and extra sheets can all make a huge difference when cleaning up a wet bed.
  • Bladder or Bowel Diary: Managing physical and dietary responses to bladder and bowel concerns is a proven way to help manage incontinence. Help your loved one or patient track their urination, bowel movements, and intake of food and water by keeping the diaries available and ready for updates. Download the diaries here.

We hope these tips can help you be the best assistant in their journey. Are there any tools you’ve already found helpful to have?

Handling The Added Tension Of Incontinent Visitors Over The Holidays

Caring For Incontinence Visitors

Caring For Incontinence Visitors

The holidays are upon us (already!) and while this is often a time of joy and thankfulness, it can also be a time of stress if you are hosting festivities at your home or having overnight guests.  This is even more so if you have a guest who experiences incontinence.   

We’ve compiled some tips below to help you deal with the added tension of having visitors with incontinence over the holidays. 

Tips For Hosting Incontinent Visitors In Your Home

1.  Preparation is everything. 

An old manager that I had used to recite this saying to me before every sales meeting:  “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”  I have found this to be true in many aspects of life, and preparing for a visitor – especially one that may suffer from incontinence – is no exception.  Find out what they like to eat (or, maybe even more importantly, what they don’t like to eat) and have healthy snacks on hand that won’t aggravate their bladder/bowel.   Buy a plastic or waterproof mattress cover to ensure that if an accident happens, no serious damage is done.  Have extra bedding and towels available to make any cleanup needed easy, and prepare the guest bathroom with appropriate cleaning supplies – flushable wipes, soap, air freshener, etc.   Ensuring that the appropriate tools are ready before an accident happens makes it so much easier to take care of when something unexpected occurs.

2.  Make things easy for them. 

Make things as simple as possible for your guest.  Give them a tour of the house when they arrive so they know where all the restrooms are.  For overnight guests, try to have them sleep in a room that is close to a bathroom.  Place extra supplies in their room so that they have easy access to them when they need them.  If it makes sense for their visit, provide them with an itinerary of what they can expect when they visit – places you will go, company you will be having, etc.  Knowing what to expect ahead of time may give them more peace of mind when traveling to and staying in an unfamiliar place.

3.   Be understanding if an accident happens. 

This is probably the most important tip that we can offer to you.  While we know that it can be frustrating to make extra stops to use the restroom, clean up messes, and change bedding, you can be sure that the embarrassment that your guest feels from these things far outweighs any inconvenience they may cause you.  No one wants to be incontinent and making someone feel bad or ashamed of something they cannot control will put a damper on the whole trip.  Be understanding with your guests, and if an accident does happen, don’t act frustrated or make a big deal about it.  Help them as much as they will allow, and leave it at that.  They will greatly appreciate your discretion and kindness toward them.

Do you have any tips for caring for a visitor with incontinence over the holidays?  Share them with us in the comments below!