Caregiving

Minnesota Ranks Top in Long-Term Care

Minnesota Ranks Top in Long-Term Care

As senior population numbers rapidly rise, the need for quality long-term care also drastically increases. This from the report “Raising Expectations: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Disabilities, and Family Caregivers.” The study, which contains statistics from AARP, the SCAN Foundation and Commonwealth Fund, compares the states’ delivery of long-term services and supports (LTSS) to older adults, disabled adults and family caregivers. The state-by-state evaluation ranked Minnesota at the top.

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Projected Caregiver Shortage Cause for Concern

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Many reliable sources are predicting a caregiver shortage that will reach critical levels within the next decade. As the older adult population grows to its highest numbers historically, there will be a shortage of people working in the personal care professions. While unpaid (and paid) family members do make up a portion of senior caregivers, paid workers dominate the field in home health and facility care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which lists occupation growth projections from 2012 through 2022, personal care aide is the number one job at 580,800 new positions. At number four is home health aides (424,200), followed by nursing assistants (312,200) at number six.

That’s encouraging news for those working in the eldercare sector, but there is concern about filling those projected openings for several reasons. Many of the jobs providing direct care services for seniors are low-paying with long hours with very few, if any benefits, and high risk for injury from lifting and transporting patients. Due to these factors, there isn’t much stability in the work force, which will contribute to the shortage. According to other indicators, the unpredictable future of Medicare and Medicaid funding and payment structures will also heavily impact direct care service providers. Because most of the services being provided are paid by these government entities, it’s difficult to gauge how wages will be affected.

While families will continue to care for older adults for financial and personal reasons, the public direct care work sector will need to fill the gaps resulting from an aging population. This is an issue with a broad scope – affecting individuals, healthcare, government and the economy.   Experts, especially those in eldercare, are challenged with coming up with viable solutions for this pending shortage.

What are your ideas for addressing this shortage?

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Four Conversations to Have with Siblings Before Aging Parents Need a Caregiver

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One of the biggest challenge caregivers face is dividing duties and decision-making amongst siblings. An aging parent who needs care can, inadvertently, wreck sibling relationships. And that’s the last thing a parent wants to do in the last years of their life.

Handled properly, however, caring for an aging parent can bring siblings closer together, not rip them apart. Proper preparation is the key. Having crucial discussions before a parent needs round-the-clock care, when you can see the writing on the wall and know the day isn’t far off when you’ll need to discuss care options, can help make decisions easier and keep siblings acting as friends and allies in the fight to keep an aging parent happy and comfortable.

Here are four aspects of senior care to discuss with siblings before it’s too late.

Division of Duties, or Who Can Do What… and When
The title of primary caregiver often falls to the eldest child. But this isn’t necessarily the right choice. Similarly, the burden of caregiving may fall on the sibling who lives closest to the parent, simply out of necessity.

Evaluate your roles in the family before your parent needs care. Even though the oldest may have been the “take charge” type in earlier years, maybe they have young children of their own, a very demanding job, or limited financial means. On the other hand, maybe a younger sibling has the lifestyle and income to be able to take on care of the parent with less disruption to their own life. Don’t automatically assume the eldest should become the decision maker and primary caregiver. The job should fall on the sibling or siblings who can, and is most willing, to provide the level of care the parent needs.

Remember, shared caregiving duties, when possible, can alleviate stress. Having someone to share the workload makes things easier. But it’s important to discuss exactly who will do what, and set the intention to create a schedule when the time comes. Important duties, from lawn maintenance to doctor’s appointments, shouldn’t be skipped just because everyone thought someone else was taking care of it.

Your Parent’s Wishes
Obviously, your parent’s wishes, in terms of where they live and who provides most of their care, must factor into the decision. The time to have this discussion is now while your parent still understands the implications of what you’re talking about and can provide informed opinions and feedback.

Does your parent want to age-in-place as long as possible or would they prefer a nursing home or assisted living community? Is it okay – and is the money available – to bring in home care if they want to age in place, and can you implement technology, from monitoring systems to home automation, to make it easier for the parent to live independently longer?

You’ll also want to have a discussion about money available to care for the parent, and how much of the burden of paying for senior care will fall on adult children. If your parent doesn’t already have a will, this discussion could also include the first steps to drawing up a will.

Who Will Manage the Money and Pay for Senior Care?
While this is part of the conversation you’ll have with your aging parent, you should also have a frank discussion with siblings.

Often, the child who provides care is also the one who manages the money if a parent isn’t able to. This is the child who gets power of attorney for the parent’s affairs. It’s important to honor a parent’s wishes as far as how money is divided, both before their death and after.

Who Makes Decisions About the Parent’s Care?
Often, the person controlling the purse strings and also providing the most care for the parent feels they have the right to make all the decisions. Discuss how much feedback other siblings can offer and how much say they can have in the care of their parent if they are not the primary caregiver.

This can get especially complicated if children are sharing caregiving duties. Who gets the final say? The possibility of hiring a mediator or arbitrator is always available if siblings can’t compromise or work together to make the decision that’s best for the parent.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Elder Care Back-Up Service Solves One Problem for Caregivers

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Most caregivers of elderly parents have found themselves in this situation at one time or another: A work deadline looms, and the home health aide, nurse, or other caregiver scheduled to look after your parent cancels. Or maybe your parent lives independently most of the time, but a health emergency now calls for her to have round-the-clock care. It’s short notice, you’ve used up all your sick and personal days, and you can’t afford the time off without pay.

Ideally, the agency you work with, if your usual caregiver cancelled last minute, can simply send someone else. But what if you don’t have a usual caregiver and this need for elder care was sprung on you at the last minute?

Two major senior care providers, Bright Horizons and Care.com, are offering solutions. You can contact either company and hire back-up senior care from qualified providers with clean background checks fairly quickly. But if your employer offers “back-up care” it may be even easier, and less expensive, for you to line up help in a hurry.

What Is Back-Up Senior Care?
Back-up senior care is a service offered through a provider and paid for, in part, by your employer. The same way you receive medical benefits and then get health care from a service provider, your employer pays into a plan through Bright Horizons or Care.com so you can take advantage of the company’s back-up care services.

If your regular senior care provider falls through, calls out, or is unavailable, or if you don’t normally require senior care but circumstances arise that make it necessary, you can call to set up emergency help, even that morning.

How Much Does It Cost?
Costs vary but, like a healthcare plan, your employer pays for a portion of the benefit and you pay the balance. Unlike healthcare, you only pay when you use the service. No money is taken from your paycheck to subsidize the benefit.

The cost to use back-up care through your employer is much less than it might be if you were to hire back-up care on your own. And you have the peace-of-mind of knowing that all providers are working through a licensed, insured company and have passed background checks and a rigorous hiring process. That’s a lot better than asking your unemployed neighbor to “check in on Dad” every few hours.

Steps Toward a More Family-Friendly Workplace
For several years now, employers have recognized the value of providing childcare options for employees in homes where both parents work. But adults caring for aging parents do not always receive the same understanding or support.

Back-up care benefits are an important first step, not just for the families it will help today, but as part of a movement toward employers recognizing that the need to make senior care easier for working adults is as important as providing fair maternity leave or accommodating parents with children when they need time off.

If your employer doesn’t offer back-up care benefits, it’s possible they aren’t aware of how easy and affordable it is to do so. You can make a difference, not just for yourself but other adult children of seniors, by letting your HR department know how back-up care benefits can reduce stress and improve productivity in the workplace.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

How to Transition from Hospital to In-Home Health Care

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While a hospitalization is common for older adults, it is still a scary and stressful situation for seniors, their families, and caregivers. As we age, our bodies take much longer to heal and discharge is often followed by extended periods of rehabilitation, either in skilled nursing facilities or at home. One of the most troublesome areas of seniors’ hospitalization is the transition period between leaving in-patient care and going to aftercare.

According to an Inside Elder Care article, Medicare statistics report that one in five senior patients will be readmitted to the hospital within thirty days of discharge. To prevent this and ensure a smooth shift to rehab, the proper preparation and attention to detail will make all the difference in a successful outcome.

If a home-based recovery is planned, as the patient’s discharge is discussed, the doctor, nurses, and other healthcare providers will begin planning what will be needed at home. Arrangements for obtaining medical equipment, such as oxygen or assistive devices for showering and using the toilet can be made early on in the patient’s care. Any accommodations to the patient’s living quarters will also need to be addressed, like making room for a hospital bed.

Medications and Necessary Care
Medication management is another area of prospective risk to older adults. Understanding any new medications and/or dosage requirements is critical. New treatments, such as physical therapy will have their own special requirements. These services are a key part of what is offered by home health care agency professionals. The in-home care required for the patient will vary per the doctor’s plan. Some older adults will only need nursing and therapies several times a week while others will require 24-hour care.

Communication between healthcare personnel, the patient, and family is especially important. If you are assisting in the care of the patient, be sure you understand the scope of that care and what will be involved. Ask questions and contact the home health care coordinators with any concerns. If there are any changes made in the patient’s care plan, ask to be informed of the details and purpose.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

5 Ways Seniors and Caregivers Can Beat Winter Depression

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Feeling the winter time blues? Depression is common in the winter months for both seniors and their caregivers. A percentage of the population suffers from an affliction called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD. In people with SAD, the lack of natural sunlight in the winter time upsets the sleep-wake cycle and other circadian rhythms, as well as the release of serotonin, one of the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. Fortunately, SAD is less common in seniors over 55, but the senior population may still suffer from depression at this time of year, and sundowning in patient’s with Alzheimer’s can lead to increased stress for caregivers and Alzheimer’s patients alike.

Whether you’re a senior or caring for a senior loved one, these five tips can help you beat true seasonal depression or depression that just happens to occur during the holiday season.

Get Outdoors
If you’re truly afflicted with SAD, getting outdoors and soaking in whatever natural sunlight you can will help. For seniors, outdoor means a change of scenery and environment that can stave off winter doldrums of feeling cooped up indoors. Just stay inside if the wind chill makes it feel below freezing. If you have to venture outside, bundle up. Don’t leave any part of your body exposed, since seniors are especially susceptible to frostbite.

Exercise
If you can’t go for a walk in the great outdoors, the next best thing is a regular indoor exercise routine. Caregivers can even try working out, whether it’s mall walking or a beginning Zumba class, with the senior in their life.

Volunteer
From soup kitchens to mailing packages to soldiers or distributing toys to children in need, there are many charity organizations in need of help this time of year. Seniors and caregivers can volunteer together and both parties will get a tremendous emotional boost and a beautiful bonding experience.

Engage in Social Activities
Caregivers, even if you have to hire in-home help for a day, a night or a weekend, say “yes” to some of those social invitations, whether it’s your office holiday party, a tree-trimming gathering with friends, or a soiree with your significant other. Seniors can get involved in daycare programs and other activities at a local senior community or a local church.

But Don’t Do Too Much
While it’s important to stay socially active, the holidays can also get overwhelming. Don’t take on too much. Prioritize and decide what you can outsource or skip altogether. Do you really need to bake four different varieties of cookies, host Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas day? Choose the activities you love, and see where you can enlist the senior in your care to help, and create beautiful holiday memories together.

Similarly, don’t force the senior in your care to attend too many social activities, and be careful about how many events you plan in your own home, where they may feel overwhelmed without an easy escape. Now more than ever, the holidays are all about balance.

Speak to a Professional
There are many different levels of depression, from the holiday blues or just feeling sad this time of year, to SAD, to clinical depression. If you or the senior in your care feels hopeless, has a significant change in eating patterns, has difficulty concentrating, and is fatigued, irritable or restless, it could indicate clinical depression. Speak to a professional about treatment options so you can begin to enjoy the holiday season again.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Five Reasons It’s Great to Be a Caregiver

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As we get closer to a new year, it’s natural to take a retrospective look at the events of the prior 12 months. For caregivers busy providing care and love, it’s even more important to reflect on why it is, in fact, great to be a caregiver. Here, five reasons for you to relish…

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Under One Roof Shares the Story of an Unlikely Caregiver

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Every once in a while, a book takes you completely unaware and causes a shift in your perspective. I had no idea what a life-changing journey this unassuming plain white book would offer. Under One Roof: Lessons I Learned from a Tough Old Woman in a Little Old House by Barry Martin (with Philip Lerman) altered my views on life, friendship, and old age.

As a blogger here at SeniorLiving.net, I had professional curiosity about the book based on the back cover notes: “The inspiring true story of the bond between a feisty octogenarian and the man in charge of building an enormous shopping mall around her home.” Hmm, I thought. This may help me grasp an older person’s perspective a bit better, to really understand people in their later stages of life.

Little did I know.

In the same way Barry Martin had no idea how the three years he spent caring for Edith Macefield would completely change his life, I had no idea this book would keep me up several nights in a row, and help me understand, not just on an intellectual level, but deep down inside, what it’s like to be both a caregiver and the person being cared for.

The book has mystery, intrigue, business, politics, family relationships and, most of all, friendship and love. Certainly, books about younger people befriending older people are not new. If the movie Up makes you cry every time you watch it and you still remember Tuesdays with Morrie, this is the book for you.

The narrator, Barry, begins as a reluctant hero, a construction foreman with the thankless task of letting an 80-something-year-old woman know that they will be building a shopping mall around her house, because she refuses to sell.

Over time, Barry becomes friends with Edith. Eventually, he becomes her primary caregiver as her health deteriorates and visits from her friends become exceedingly rare. Something more than a sense of duty keeps Barry coming back; he’s captivated by Edith’s stories, her history, and her personality or personal energy, if you will. Frankly, he’s not sure if a lot of her tales are only in her head, but he doesn’t care, either. He has to learn more, until he becomes so entrenched in Edith’s life, it doesn’t matter if the stories are true or not.

I was interested on page 1, but by page 17, the story had me hooked with this passage:

Someone in the office showed me the article, and when I read it over, I was struck by the ending of it, what the guy wrote about Edith. He said, “How she lives and the choice she made to stay put seems to spark powerful feelings in total strangers. It did me, yet I’ve spoken to her only three times. I think it’s because she’s genuine. Authentic. She’s living the life she’s got and not asking for help, pity or money.
What does it say about us… that we find that so remarkable?”

Throughout, Barry’s voice is equally authentic and honest. For a supposed “bad guy” on the side of the “evil” real estate developers, he is imminently likeable, a family man, a hard worker, and your typical father of teenagers, wishing he could be closer to his children but not sure how. Watching Barry’s journey and inner struggles is truly inspirational.

If you’re looking for an uplifting, relate-able tale just in time for the holidays, pick up Under One Roof. Get one for yourself and, after reading it, you’ll want to buy a host more as holiday gifts for your favorite seniors, caregivers, and anyone who appreciates a good story about the human condition. That plain white cover with the black title text could look quite classy wrapped in a big red bow.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Feeding Alzheimer’s Patients: Tips to Make Sure the Senior In Your Care is Eating Enough

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When you’re caring for an aging parent or another senior loved one, it’s natural to be concerned about whether they are eating enough. We recently discussed the optimal dining experience for seniors in a nursing home or assisted living facility. But how can you ensure the senior in your care gets enough to eat at home, whether it’s a small weekday meal or a large holiday gathering?

Obviously, you want to replicate the calming atmosphere you’d look for in a nursing home dining hall. At home, the onus is on you as the caregiver to make sure the senior gets enough nutritious foods. The good news is that you have the freedom and flexibility to create an environment where your loved one will thrive. Follow these tips to make mealtime pleasant for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Serve food quickly.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s tend to have short attention spans. It’s not fair to expect them to sit and wait or make small talk before dinner. Make sure the food is served before you call everyone to the table. For Thanksgiving or other holiday celebrations where food is served family style, prepare the senior’s plate first so it’s ready when they sit down and they don’t have to struggle with passing dishes.

Create a routine.
Familiarity helps alleviate anxiety and agitation. From the choice of place settings to the senior’s seat, as well as the times meals are served, the more factors you can keep the same from day to day, the better your loved one with Alzheimer’s will thrive.

Create a calming atmosphere.
Soft music may help keep seniors calm during mealtime, but some research shows that slow music may actually cause people to eat less. You can also create a calming atmosphere through the colors in your dining room or kitchen, relaxing and scenic artwork, and quiet conversation.

That doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, enjoy loud, boisterous conversation with other relatives during holiday gatherings. Just be respectful and keep an eye on your loved one with Alzheimer’s to make sure they are handling the situation okay.

Clear the clutter.
Remove any unnecessary serving bowls, decorative table centerpieces, and extra utensils. Experts recommend plates and bowls in bright, bold colors, and a place mat to clearly delineate the senior’s space and help eliminate confusion.

Remind your loved one to eat.
You may have to remind your loved one to take small bites, chew their food, and even to swallow. Monitor them throughout the meal. You can model eating tasks for them so they will follow, promoting independence. If your loved one seems to have trouble manipulating utensils, serve finger foods or even give them permission to pick up certain foods (like cut-up pieces of chicken or chunks of vegetables) with their fingers.

Be aware of medical risks.
As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s patients may have trouble swallowing, which leads to choking risks. Again, remember to cut food into very small pieces and remind your loved one to eat slowly. Learn the Heimlich Maneuver so that you can act fast if your loved one begins to choke.

Learn from experience.
At mealtime, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work. For instance, if a variety of colors and textures on the plate confuses your loved one, serve only one food at a time.

If your loved one becomes overwhelmed by large portions and won’t eat if there is too much food there, or if he or she tends to overeat in an effort to clear the plate, dole out much smaller portions. You can always offer a second helping.

Most importantly, stay upbeat, yet soothing throughout the meal. A large part of being an effective caregiver is watching the signals around you and how your loved one with Alzheimer’s reacts in different situations, so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. By following these tips, mealtime can continue to be a pleasant family bonding experience for you and your loved one even as the disease progresses.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.

Seven Fun Activities for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

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Seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia need activities, stimulation and exercise. While keeping busy won’t necessarily alleviate symptoms or stave off the progression of this deadly disease, it can help ward off depression and vastly improve the quality of life of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.

What activities can help give the senior in your care a sense of purpose and accomplishment, without frustrating them? Here are a few suggestions, which can be tailored or modified based on their interests and ability levels.

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