When the caregiver needs a caregiver – lessons it taught me.

Recently I took a fall and badly injured the knee I had replaced last fall.  Suddenly, I needed someone to do certain things for me.

It really puts it into perspective how the person we are taking care of feels.  Here are five items that I really never thought much about:

1.  PrivacyI had none.  I had to have someone help with bathing and for some reason that was very stressful for me.  We all have the same parts so what is the big deal?  It is a big deal.  Even though the person we are taking care of might be close family, they might still want privacy.  See what you can do to give them as much as possible.

2.  My schedule – Suddenly I had to do things when it was convenient for someone else.  Everyone was terrific about working with me but it was odd to have to have to have someone take out my dog, cook my meals, etc.  Being independent one day and then not the next was hard.  I will keep this in mind to see if people I am caring for would like things done on a different schedule if I can.

3.  Sleep – I hate to sleep on a schedule.  You get used to getting up and going to bed when you want but when others are helping, you adjust.   I couldn’t get up to get to the rest room so had to watch my drinking habits.  It was hard to move around to get comfortable also but I lived.  This will make me consider ways to make my “patients” more comfortable at night.  When mom was here, we put a baby monitor in her room so I could hear if she needed help in the night.

4.  Irritability – I try to be pleasant all the time but I found out that I can be a real crab when I am hurting.  I have had people tell me that the people they were caring for were real bitchy at time and now I definitely understand how that could be.  Mom never really complained but when she wanted to could be VERY stubborn.  She would just look at me with a gleam in her eye and say “NOPE”!  When she said that, there was no reasoning with her.

5.  Medication – I confess that I am not the best at taking my meds on a strict schedule.  I also take supplements like calcium and vitamins.  Due to outside help, these were looked at very carefully.  I felt like I was a little kids being spied on.  I realize that medications can all have interactions with foods, drinks and other meds but I was on top of that and having someone question it made me irritated.

Now, none of this is complaining.  People have to do what they have to do but it really opened my eyes to how what I was doing might make someone else feel.  It is easy to get in a habit and just do things without really thinking how the other person might feel.  Take time to see how what, how and when what you are doing might be interpreted by the person you are caring for.

Ask them if you could do things differently to help them.  Ask for suggestions but be prepared, you might get them.

 

FLU Shots – Important for both the elderly AND their caregivers.

FLU Shots – A Necessary Evil for Elderly AND Their Caregivers.

I am not a fan of shots, never have been, never will be….BUT shots can prevent a lot of serious problems.  As I am sure you all know, it is flu shot time again.  But there are really three shots you should consider:  Flu, Pneumonia and Shingles. I will cover these in three separate posts.

Remember though it is critical to talk to your medical staff before getting any shot as your situation is unique and they would know best.

THE FLU:

It is impossible to determine what the flu will be like from year to year.  The only thing we do know is that flu kills people every year.  Getting a shot gives you the best protection.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) webpage is full of great information.  Here is a link to what I found helpful about the flu:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2013-2014.htm

The information below is copied from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) webpage.  I think it does an excellent job of explaining the different types of flu and vaccines available.  Make sure you read it carefully and then decided which one is right for you and your loved ones.

Flu Symptoms & Severity

Influenza Symptoms

Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Flu Complications

Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may experience worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.

People at Higher Risk from Flu

Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.

Flu Severity

Flu is unpredictable and how severe it is can vary widely from one season to the next depending on many things, including:

  • what flu viruses are spreading,
  • how much flu vaccine is available,
  • when vaccine is available,
  • how many people get vaccinated, and
  • how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness.

Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

Types of Vaccines

What kind of vaccines will be available in the United States for 2013-2014?

There are several flu vaccine options for the 2013-2014 flu season.

Traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses (called “trivalent” vaccines) are available. In addition, this season flu vaccines made to protect against four different flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines) also are available.

The trivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus. The following trivalent flu vaccines are available:

The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. The following quadrivalent flu vaccines are available:

(*”Healthy” indicates persons who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.)

CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over the other. The important thing is to get a flu vaccine every year.

Getting shots are a personal decision but speak to your physician to see if one would be helpful to you.

Great site to check for benefits – FREE – really free

You see it all the time.  Someone tells you they can help you get the benefits you deserve.  You go there, fill in some forms and then they say for $*** we will get you your information.  Well, this site is free and run by the government.  I tried it about four weeks ago and have not had a call or a spam email about it.  I did check into some of the places they told me to check and they are legitimate.

The site is www.benefitscheckup.org.  It asks you questions to personalize your report.  It also asks your zip code so that it makes sure the benefits are available in your area.  It took me less than 10 minutes to answer all the questions and did not ask for any identifying information (Social Security number, name, address, etc)

When I was done, it gave me a report that I could either print out or save.  I saved mine onto my computer so I could look at it several times as I do not have a printer.  Also, with the computer file, I can click on the sites to fill in information if I feel I would qualify.

In my case, some of the suggestions were things I personally don’t want but it was interesting to find out what all is available.

This would be good for anyone that might need help regardless of age.  I realize a lot of seniors are suspicious of putting personal information on a computer (and they should be if it asks for social security numbers) but since this doesn’t, I felt confident doing it.

 

Having the talk – What to do when your parents should no longer stay home alone.

nursign hoFor the sake of these posts, I am going to post as if the person(s) we are talking about are your parents.  Naturally they don’t have to be.  It could be a family friend, other relative, etc.  More specifically, I will be referring to ‘she’ as this is mostly coming through my experience with my mother.

Additionally, I am not a lawyer or doctor so make sure you double check all I talk about here with your legal or medical team.  The laws in my state may be different than in your state.  This is all meant to be a guideline, not a rule.

Talk……sounds simple right.  But, how do you talk to your parents about what is going on in their private lives without sounding like you are interfering?

My mother was always a private person.  We could discuss kids, work, home life, etc. but we really did not talk about what she wanted for the future.  When she started to get older, it became necessary to discuss some very sensitive subjects.  For me, the easiest way was just to ask.  Depending on your family situation, this could be done at a family meeting or just one-on-one.  I would definitely let them know if you are going to discuss this with all family members as your parent might want to be ready.

What did she want done when her health got so she couldn’t stay at home?  Of course, she said this would never happen.  I told her that I would like it if I could move her in with me as long as our health allowed it.  She didn’t say yes or no, just ignored it.  She did say she didn’t ever want to go to an ‘old folk’s home’.  In her mind that was a place that people went to die.  The very word made her think of the sights and smells that use to be in some facilities.  I told her that nursing homes and/or assisted living facilities were much improved from what they were.  She still insisted that she did not ever want to go to one.  I promised her that if it was in my power, she never would go to one.

Where she wanted to be buried at?  This was easy as my father was buried in a double plot that already had a headstone on but I live in a different state so I wanted to make sure she wanted to be brought “home”.  It just made sense that she did but she flatly refused to make any funeral arrangements or discuss it at all.  This is understandable as it means thinking about dying.  I think the older you get, the harder that is.

Who did she want making decision for her if she could not make them herself?  Since Mom had gone through a very serious illness previously, I suspected she would want me to do this as I knew her medical conditions but I did not want to assume something so important.  Also, due to a health condition I had, I wanted to make sure who would be second in line.

Would she want to be kept alive if there was no hope?  This one was very difficult.  No one wants to think of this possibility.  This took a lot of thought as to what no hope meant.  To some it might mean if they were hooked up to a breathing machine, dialysis, feeding tube, etc.  After much talking, we decided that if there no way she could live without all that machinery and no hope that she would ever be off it, that she would rather not be here.  She had seen her own mother being kept alive during a fight with cancer when there was no hope and she didn’t want the family to go through that.

Who should make her financial decisions?  Due to her earlier illness, I was already on her checking account and safety deposit box but I wanted this to be clear.  I was not on her savings account, my oldest brother was.

Where all her financial papers are?  Does she have multiple checking and savings accounts?  Where are they?  Does she have life insurance?  Where is her health insurance through?  Does she have both Medicare and secondary insurance or Medicaid?  Does she have CDs, IRAs, etc?  Are there any other assets that you need to know about?  Where is the deed to the house, title to car, etc?  What all automatic deposits or withdrawals come out of her account.

Of course, just talking about all this did not make it legal.  We would have to go see a lawyer and get both financial and medical powers of attorneys,  a living will and a regular will.  More about that later.

The most important this is to start talking about this BEFORE it is too late.

Starting with the facts.

People age.  That is a fact.  How you take care of yourself and others during that time can make a world of difference.  You can hide your head in the sand and think other’s will do all the work or you can do everything you can to make this a good transition.

My mother was under the assumption that Medicare would pay for her nursing home expenses so she did not worry about it.  That was not correct.  Medicare does not pay for nursing home expenses unless you are there for rehabilitation following a hospital stay. Then, they will pay for the first 21 days at full cost and from there it goes to a co-pay.  IF at any time during that first 100 days that Medicare is paying a portion of it and the nursing home decides that you are not progressing, you go to 100% payment on your own.

There are many ways you can avoid a nursing home as much as possible.  During the coming months, we will look into many of these ways.