Monday, March 31, 2008

Things to Do on a Sunny Day

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So many things are going on in our area right now. We live in a state where tourists flock for the winter. Craft shows and special events are held nearly every day.

As we approach April, our visitors will be returning to their homes soon. I hope they have taken advantage of the many health fairs provided free to the public. There are screenings for cholesterol, blood sugar, eyesight, circulation, and others.It is a great way to get a jump on good health without visiting your doctor. Should the screenings indicate you need to check with your doctor,a report will be sent to you.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tax Update

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The weekend is coming to an end and my tax duties for my mother haven't begun. Several things slipped into the 48 hours and no matter what I do, I can't stretch the time! I've looked over the paperwork and it doesn't seem real lengthy and involved. And let's face it, the income of the elderly (at least the ones I'm working with) is not that great, requiring complicated accounting practices. It looks pretty simple and I will get on with it.

That said, this brings me to, once again, sound the "plan ahead alarm" for financial planning . The caregivers of the aging are right at the time when they should be mindful of the performance of their retirement accounts, IRAs, 401Ks, and annuities. Anything with a beneficiary, life insurance included, should be looked at regularly and updated as need be for births,deaths, marriages, and divorces. Plan also for your own care when the time comes. You needn't be a millionaire to apply financial planning. It's all a matter of your money, and where you want it to go. If you need a financial advisor, ask your insurance agent or a trusted friend for a reference.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tax Time

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Income tax preparation time is one of my least favorite times of the year. And I'm 99.9% certain I'm not alone.

I have business expenses and income statements to prepare for my accountant to get the business taxes filed in March, then tackle our personal taxes due in April. The president's tax initiative has put another spin on how I spend my time this weekend. The elderly who don't file tax returns each year have the chance to receive a rebate with one catch. They, too, must file a tax return for 2007. My husband will take care of his parents( currently 87 & 88 years of age) this time, and I will see to my mother's return. I hate to pass it on to my accountant. It can't be THAT difficult...can it? Good luck to you all in the same boat.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's Hard to Find Good Help

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As the months go by, I am encouraged by professionals and organizations sprouting up across the country and taking an active interest in our aging society.

When I left my 9 to 5 job several years ago, I intended to run my business and act as a care coordinator for the elderly. As a long distance caregiver myself, I knew the challenges of finding dependable, honest and knowledgeable help. What I discovered was that everyone thought of me as a social worker and most of the services I provided went unpaid. Geriatric case managers have increased in numbers since then (at approximately $75 to $250 an hour, depending on the location). Many organizations are available for online information as well. But the affordable care coordinator still remains illusive to the majority of families who desperately need the services.

My advice to those searching for affordable care and in home service is to ASK FOR and CHECK REFERENCES. Even if the person or business is just starting out in eldercare, check references from a previous employer, minister or neighbor. Someone must know them well enough to say they are honest and dependable. If not, DO NOT HIRE THEM!
It is sad to say, but too many people take advantage of our elderly or abuse them in physical ways which never get reported until much later. Check on your loved one frequently and if you are unable to do it yourself, ask someone you trust to check on them for you. If you belong to organizations or church groups, ask people you know for referrals. It's one of the best ways to do business and get the best care for your loved one.

Coming Soon: Family & Friends of the Aging Online Support Group. We'll have members from across the country, referrals in all areas and the support you need! Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Returning to Routine

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What a wonderful time my family and I had in the mountains! Reception on my air card wasn't good, but that's the only thing I would complain about. So I apologize to anyone following this blog and will return to my routine post haste!

Update on my mother: She did very well while I was away. Of course, we talked often and she enjoyed going with my inlaws to their church and out to eat on Easter Sunday. I did notice while talking with her, her recall of nouns was as bad or worse than when I left. I'll pay close attention my next visit and see where she stands before she begins a memory class she signed up for with a friend. The local hospital puts on the class and I would like some sort of "yardstick" to measure what I would call improvement. Mother's expectations aren't too high. Mine are still in question.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vacation Update

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Just a quick update on our mountain vacation and how Mom is doing at home on her own.

The family and friends arrived Saturday in fine shape. It has been rather chaotic at times but absolutely wonderful. My daughter-in-law and her friend have taken over the kitchen and except for minor contributions on my part, I am totally immersed in getting to know my small granddaughter. What a joy it is to hold her and receive the smiles that are new to her and a vivid reminder of those of her father when he was a baby. Nothing can change the memories I hold in my heart of my children when they were young. I find myself repeating stories to anyone who will listen of their antics and tender moments.

Sometime in each day,I touch base with my mother to assure myself all is well. After babysitting my granddaughter this afternoon while the younger adults went out, I found myself comparing things my mother had told me with the thoughts and feelings I have on this vacation. We're not so different in the way we feel at certain times in our lives. My mother loves to hear the details of this trip and all the things going on. The only difference is whether she will remember what I've reported. But then, who's to say that the memories that live in my heart will be in my mind when I am 85? Here's hoping.

One last note; I've been having rather iffy signals on my computer. So if I am out of touch for a few days, I will be back when I'm able! Thanks for following my blog.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Taking a Break From Caregiving

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Taking a break from caregiving can be a double edged sword, so to speak. In my case, I am at a mountain retreat awaiting the arrival of my children and grandchildren. My oldest grandson is on spring break next week, so the vacation has been scheduled around that time. My son and his wife also have a 3 month old daughter I can't wait to get my hands on! My daughter and granddaughter will arrive later in the week as she is a teacher and their school is not on spring break yet. But we will all be together, enjoying a wonderful time...while great grandma is at home.

While I am physically taking a break from caregiving, my mind is trying to catch up and take a break as well. Yet, my mother is on my mind even though I know she has responsible people nearby and I talk with her daily. I had a few moments before I left where I felt I should take her with me, but several things were against that. The location for one, sleeping arrangements, two, and I needed a break, three.

I'm looking forward to the week ahead and once everyone arrives, surely my mind will store all the joys and happiness in place of the worries about my mother. And throughout the week, when I checkin with her, I can report on the games we're playing, the places we've been, and the smiles on my tiny granddaughter's face. And I'll be sure she knows how much I love her.

More later!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Next Dance Retirement Planning

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I believe that most of us approaching retirement age think of money first, as in, do we have ENOUGH to retire. According to Bill Bryan of Next Dance, "having enough money is crucial to a comfortable retirement, having a lot of money is not."

Next Dance offers psych testing and coaching for retirement planning. Bryan believes self awareness is indicative of successful retirement. The three factors that most affect how a person adapts and enjoys retirement are attitude toward aging, commitment to society and self awareness. He advises to see yourself clearly, know what motivates you and makes you happy. Go to for more interesting ideas on non-financial retirement planning. (I apologize that the hyperlink is not working this evening)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Honor Thy Father and Mother

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How do you honor your mother and father? There is a hunger in the human soul that is unfed even by genuine affection. That hunger is for intimacy. Revealing our true selves to others is giving them the highest gift of all. Intimacy, by its nature, conveys trust, respect and caring.

We honor our parents and other relatives by living rich, growing, abundant lives, when we credit them with wanting that for us. When we are strong, when we work through conflicts, when we follow our own dreams with faith and resolve, we are honoring those who produced us. Our happiness, shared, becomes their happiness. Our success, shared, becomes theirs.

Part of honoring our parents is to help them be loving to us on whatever level they are functioning. We know that at their best, they would have given us the moon and the stars. It is up to us to guide the relationship during our final years together. We may be the only ones who can as our parent may no longer have the necessary range of behaviors.

We honor our father and mother by who we are. We cannot eat for them, smile for them, breathe for them or die for them. But at the end we can help give meaning to all that has gone before.

Monday, March 10, 2008


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My mother seems to spend a lot of time reminiscing about the past. Some of it is self induced, yet at other times, I admit I've asked her to share a story. She loves to talk about her family and their descendants and my father and his history.

We all struggle to know ourselves, and a large part of doing this is in knowing our family's past. Seniors are our most valuable source of untapped resources this country has, and when one shares a story, history comes alive. The smallest things can make interesting stories. Looking at a photograph of my grandmother holding my mother on her lap, I wondered how she felt in that long black dress, buttoned high on her neck with ruffles and long sleeves, the style of dressing in her day. Oh! And laced into a corset all day, everyday! And how did she fix her hair that way? And how did grandpa make money back then? So many questions and my mother is the only one left who can answer them.

There are many ways to go about recording the history of your family. Physically writing down the details as the seniors speak is one way. Using a voice recorder is another, then transcribing the stories. A video recording is a wonderful way to record not only the story but a photo of the family member who is speaking. I can't think of a better gift for the family than to hear about their past through the memories of the seniors in the family. Do it before time runs out. I intend to and I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Sandwich Generation

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The Sandwich generation is the name by which family caregivers my age are known. Personally, I'm not one of them. I married young, and had my children at a young age. But so many of my generation waited to marry and their families were not grown and out of the house before their parents started needing help due to issues of aging.

An article on tells the story of one woman's roller coaster ride as one of the sandwich generation. Understanding and accepting what is happening doesn't change the emotional ups and downs of pain and joy and being in the middle. For a good read, see the article at

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Safety Planning for Wanderers

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When the diagnosis of Alzheimer's is made, the patient may be experiencing early stage mild memory loss and confusion. Challenges arise when individuals progress to the middle stages. Wandering is a classic behavioral symptom in the middle stage, and one which often becomes a safety issue. The question for caregivers is how to ensure safety without limiting mobility and freedom.

While there are common symptoms that characterize Alzheimer's disease, each person experiences the illness differently. Therefore, wandering may be a more serious issue for some than others. Steps should be taken to implement a safety plan. A very important step to take is enrolling the person in an identification bracelet program. Check with your local Alzheimer's Resource Center if you have one, or the Sheriff's Department in your County. The ID bracelets are registered with the Sheriff's departments, so they should be able to give you information on who to see for a safety program kit. Tragic outcomes can be avoided and lives can be saved with planning.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Look Who's Moving In

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More baby boomers are preparing to care for their aging parents by remodeling their living accommodations. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, boomers are remodeling or building new homes to accommodate parents now or in the future. From efficiency apartments to entire suites with elevator access, children of aging parents are accepting responsibility in providing a suitable living arrangement for their family.

Not all adult children can or will accept the additional financial burden to the budget. And this is acceptable but should be discussed between the family members BEFORE the need occurs. If children remain at home, they should be considered in the equation and not be expected to shoulder a major portion of care for the elderly family member. Privacy for all is an important component. No matter what age, children should, however, be expected to contribute their share to household maintenance as usual, and, in my opinion, companionship to the grandparent on a regular basis should be STRONGLY encouraged.

This type of living arrangement is not for every family. But more American caregivers are finding it may be the only realistic way to provide care for their aging parents.

Can't Sleep

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Once in a while my mother will talk about waking in the night and not being able to go back to sleep. Her mind just keeps going from one thing to another, she says. Tonight is my night.
With so many things going through my mind, what better time to get up and work!

I am making my first attempt at putting a website together and have found learning piecemeal is not easy. The website is for this blog's namesake, Family & Friends of the Aging. We're a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, newly organized and funded, so far, by me. Now, that was alright until the bottom fell through in the housing market, which in turn, affected my "real job". Being self employed, plus my clients in some part of the construction industry, equals very little work for me since July of 2007. Thus, the reason I am doing the website!

I invested in Microsoft Expression Studio, thinking it would magically put a site together for me. I was so wrong! I think I may be making it harder than it has to be, and while I AM making some progress, it just isn't coming together fast enough to suit me.

I admit, I have another motive for successfully getting FFAI online. As a caregiver, a 9 to 5 job is out of the question. I must have flexibility in my hours and being self employed has worked beautifully to this point. For myself and other caregivers who need to pay the bills, I am investigating internet marketing. Making money online has taken a pretty bad wrap from what I've read, but there are some legitimate ways out there. Once I sift through a few more "opportunities", I hope to use what I've found for myself as well as pass on the information to the caregiver community. If anyone out there has any information on online money making scams, please let me know so I can avoid them in my search. On the other hand, if you know of any legitimate ways to make money online, please let me know that as well.

I'm going back to bed.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fund Raising in 2008

Tonight I attended a major fundraiser for The Soup Kitchen in my city. The affair is casual, attended by a list of who's who mixed with the regular "joe", all of whom care about the poor and economically depressed in the city. The funds raised at this event serve the needs of the homeless and unemployed as well as Meals on Wheels, a service to the elderly and homebound who often have to choose between buying medication or food to survive.

I am proud to serve on the Board of Directors of CCMI (Community Cooperative Ministries). CCMI operates the Soup Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, Hands and Hearts Montessori School, and Faith in Action, transporting the aging to appointments, grocery shopping and other errands. Our number of individuals served is showing phenominal growth. Currently, this is affected by the economic conditions in our area, and while I am pleased we are able to meet the challenge of steadily increasing meals to serve and increasing food and fuel costs, it is a sad commentary on the state of our local economy.

Thank you to all who contribute to our community and to our cause. God Bless you.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Verdict on Coffee

It looks like the verdict is in on coffee. Coffee is good for some ways. While coffee has been much maligned in the past, it appears to have some health benefits according to recent research.

It is one of few drinks these days that doesn't come loaded with sugar and calories. The experts say it may guard against gout, diabetes, and alzheimers among other health problems. Studies have also suggested coffee could lower the risk of Parkinson's disease, depression and suicide.

That's quite a list of possibilities for something that is still considered a guilty pleasure. Coffee consumption has picked up in the last 10 years or so. With the explosion of Starbucks and other coffee chains, more than half of Americans are drinking coffee regularly. The problem comes when cream and sugar is added to coffee along with whipped cream and flavorings that add up to hundreds of calories.

Doctors haven't gone so far as to prescribe coffee, but they aren't telling people to give it up, either. Two cups a day is considered okay for most people. Everything in moderation.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Daughter Needed

I've not always responded well when abuse of the elderly or neglect by adult children has appeared in our news. I and many others are encouraging adult children to plan with their parents how and where they will age. As the number of our elderly increase, care by the children and other family members, not neglect, is growing in the United States despite the distances between the family. And I'm proud of that fact.

In a recent Newsweek edition, I read an article on the aging population in China. Many, through no fault of their own, have been left to age alone and lonely. The sons, so prized for many years, have gone off to other countries to find work and improve their lives. Most families in China had been limited to one child. And like the elderly in our own country, they prefer to remain at home. But now, they are wishing for daughters.

Daughters most often are the ones who care for the aging parents. In China where a couple do not have a natural daughter, they are advertising for one! It seems it is still considered shameful to go into a nursing home, even if one is available. The government is working on a system of care, so the article says. But it could be a while putting a system in place. In a country with as great a population as China, I hope the elderly find a daughter to "adopt" and receive the care and love they deserve.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What is Long Distance Caregving?

Long-distance caregiving takes many forms—from helping manage the money to arranging for in-home care; from providing respite care for a primary caregiver to helping a parent move to a new home or facility. Many long-distance caregivers act as information coordinators, helping aging parents understand the confusing maze of home health aides, insurance benefits, and durable medical equipment.

Caregiving is often a long-term task. What may start out as an occasional social phone call to share family news can eventually turn into regular phone calls about managing health insurance claims, getting medical information, and arranging for respite services. What begins as a monthly trip to check on Mom may turn into a larger project to move her to a nursing facility close to your home.

If you are a long-distance caregiver, you are not alone. Approximately 7 million adults are long-distance caregivers, mostly caring for aging parents who live an hour or more away. Historically, caregivers have been primarily mid-life, working women who have other family responsibilities. That’s changing. More and more men are becoming caregivers; in fact, men now represent over 40 percent of caregivers. Clearly, anyone, anywhere can be a long-distance caregiver. Gender, income, age, social status, employment—none of these prevent you from taking on caregiving responsibilities.