At this time of year, with holidays and family gatherings, we often notice things in an elder’s daily life that we may not have noticed before. Perhaps you are visiting and notice dents or scratches on the car your parent drives. Or they’ve had a recent medical event and you wonder if the driving should stop. There are numerous ways to approach the conversation, and one that I noticed about a year ago on a popular TV show – Blue Bloods, was especially good. The episode – “Greener Grass” – included a storyline about this subject. Henry, the patriarch of the family, had some dents and scratches on his car and his son, Frank (played by Tom Selleck), brought it up. He was obviously uncomfortable as he did this, and it wasn’t long before the conversation erupted into a shouting match. There was no resolution that day, and after much worrying, Frank brought his daughter into the discussion with Grandpa. They all sat down again and with Erin’s help this time, were able to get through the discussion. It was a touching scene, and one that is worth looking up for some ideas about discussing this subject. The episode is “Greener Grass,” which is from Season 3, Episode 6 of Blue Bloods on CBS.
This is National Family Caregivers Month, a month we stop to remember and honor those who give tirelessly on behalf of a person needing care. They may be caring for an elder, a child or adult with special needs, or an injured veteran of a recent war. National Caregivers Month is a small way to celebrate their work on behalf of those who need daily assistance. Here are some interesting facts and figures from the National Alliance for Caregiving:
There are an estimated 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S;
They work an average of 20 hours per week providing care;
Thirty percent of the U.S. population is providing care to a family member or friend at any given time;
U.S. families are collectively spending $450 billion annually to support their care recipient family member or friend.
Move Over Nursing Homes – There’s Something Different
Ever heard of the Green House Project? If not, you may be pleasantly surprised by this great alternative to a nursing home.
How to Cut Your Family’s Elder Care Bills
A few things to consider and steps to take to get the cost of elder care down.
Mother – Daughter – Me: a Memoir by Katie Hafner
A great summer read for boomer women and their elderly mothers.
A look around the web uncovered these three resources for caregivers.
America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker Being Sought
Experience Works, the nation’s largest organization serving older workers through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), has announced its search for America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker for 2012.
The deadline for nominations is April 15, 2012. To download the nomination form and to learn more about the award, including information on the 2011 winners, go to www.experienceworks.org.
Next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day: April 28, 2012
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has scheduled another National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 10:00 am. to 2:00 pm. This is a great opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted, unused prescription drugs or other medications.
To date, Americans who participated in the DEA’s three prior Take Back Days have removed 995,185 pounds (498.5 tons) of medication from circulation in a safe manner.
To learn about how to help older adults remove unwanted or expired medications from their homes, please visit: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html
Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for When I Leave the Hospital Is Now Available in Spanish
The guide—Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for When I Leave the Hospital—is now available in Spanish. Cómo Cuidarme: Guía Para Cuando Salga del Hospital can help reduce readmission rates by better preparing patients for self-care and follow-up appointments before they leave the hospital.
For a copy of the guide in Spanish, go here.
The English version of the guide is available here.
To order print copies, email your request to AHRQPubs@ahrq.hhs.gov or call 800–358–9295.
For the brochure in Spanish, please reference AHRQ Pub. No. 10-0059-C. For the brochure in English, please reference AHRQ No. 10-0059 with your request.
November is National Caregivers Month, a month that is meant to be a tribute to family caregivers, and a time to bring awareness to the day to day heroic role they play in the United States. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP estimate there are 65 million family caregivers in the U.S. This number includes caregivers of the elderly, chronically ill, disabled and aged family members or friends. It is estimated these caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.
There are many studies about caregivers that include their demographics, economics, health and employment related issues. Among them:
The typical family caregiver is a 49-year old woman caring for her widowed 69-year old mother who does not live with her. She is married and employed. Approximately 66% of family caregivers are women. More than 37% have children or grandchildren under 18 years old living with them. (National Alliance for Caregiving & AARP, November 2009).
47% of all working caregivers indicate an increase in caregiving expenses has caused them to use up all or most of their savings. (National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare, March 2009).
Six in ten family caregivers are employed. 20% of employed female caregivers over 50 years old report symptoms of depression compared to 8% of their non-caregiving peers. (National Alliance for Caregiving and MetLife Mature Market Institute, February 2010).
73% of family caregivers who care for someone over the age of 18 either work or have worked while providing care; 66% have had to make some adjustments to their work life, from reporting late to work to giving up work entirely; and 1 in 5 family caregivers have had to take a leave of absence. (National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, November 2009).
American business can lose as much as $34 billion each year due to employees’ need to care for loved ones 50 years of age and older. (MetLife Mature Market Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving Business, July 2006).
Caregivers caring for elderly loved ones cost employers 8% more in health care costs
estimated to be worth $13.4 billion per year. (National Alliance for Caregiving and MetLife Mature Market Institute, February 2010).
While caregiving is very rewarding, it is also tiring, overwhelming, and under-appreciated. In homor of the 65 million caregivers in the U.S., the posts on this blog during the month of November will be all about you, and the work you do.
Geriatric Care Managers are often called upon by family and caregivers to conduct an assessment of the older adult, part of which includes assessing the home for safety. There are many useful lists out there, and one of them is from the US Office on Aging. Below is a summary of their checklist, which can be used to assess one’s home for safety, and reduce the risk of any falls by our loved ones.
• Make sure all handrails are not broken and are securely fastened. • Both sides of the steps should have handrails.
Floors and rugs
• Make sure all floor boards are even and rugs, including area rugs, are secured to the floor with tacks, non-skid pads or double-sided tape. • Use non-skid floor wax.
• Be sure that your loved one can move safely in bathroom area, and in and out of the tub or shower. • Remove soap build-up in tub or shower on a regular basis. • Place non-slip strips in bath/shower. • Install adjustable height shower heads. • Mount grab bars at the toilet, bath and shower on walls with secure reinforcements, to prevent the bars from coming loose. • Secure bath mats with non-slip, double-sided rug tape.
• Items used frequently, such as dishes and food items, should be easy to reach.
• If a step stool is necessary, make sure that it has a bar at the top to hold on to. (Note: Better yet, put every item that is needed on a regular basis in reachable height, and put the step stool away.)
• Place nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and stairways. • Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairs. • Place a lamp (and telephone) near the bed. • Keep lighting uniform in each room and add lighting to dark spaces.
• Check whether hallways and rooms have obstacles to safe movement. • Move newspapers, boxes, electrical and phone cords, plants, and furniture out of traffic areas. • Store clothing, bed coverings, and other household items where your loved one can reach them comfortably.
Outside of the home
• Repair holes, uneven joints on walkways. • Arrange to have leaves, snow, and ice removed from stairs and walkways. Use salt or sand throughout the winter months. • Make sure outside lighting is working in entryways and other walk areas. • Check that handrails are not broken and are securely fastened. Both sides of steps should have handrails.
Kathleen S. Allen, LCSW, LICSW, C-ASWCM, is a Geriatric Care Manager and Elder Care Consultant based in Northern Virginia. She works with seniors and their families, and with organizations and their employees or members to help guide them through the challenges of aging and caregiving.