Archive for the ‘Caregiver Resources’ Category

Journaling to Relieve Caregiver Stress

By Elmcroft Senior Living

Alternative therapies are becoming an increasingly common way to manage chronic illnesses, stress and depression.  No longer considered to be experimental, these therapies have gained widespread acceptance.  Art therapy, music therapy and pet therapy are a standard part of life in most senior living communities including the memory care programs like Heartland Village.

Another form of therapy that is gaining in popularity because of its effectiveness is journaling.   The therapeutic power of getting your thoughts down on paper is linked to everything from lower rates of depression to better stress management.   Caregivers of a senior loved one or a person living with a chronic illness, may find writing to be of help in expressing the fears, guilt, sadness and stress.

The Background on Journaling

The Journal of the American Medical Association published an interesting study that highlights the importance of writing about what is really getting you down.  It found that 47% of patients with a chronic health condition like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis saw improvements in their physical and emotional well-being after writing about the most traumatic event in their lives.  

By contrast those who journal only about everyday activities and event had only a 24% improvement.  The message of the study was that while writing about what really hurts can be difficult, it can also have a positive effect on both the physical and emotional health of caregivers and those who are ill.

Starting a Caregiver Journal

Author Dr. James Pennebaker suggests a simple five-step process for beginning journalers in his book, Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval.

His advice is to:

1.     Write for 20 minutes per day for four days.

2.     Write about a major conflict or stressor in your life.

3.     Write without stopping; don’t worry about spelling and grammar.

4.     Write this for your eyes only.

5.     If writing about something makes you unbearably upset, stop.

After you’ve made it through this 5-step process, you can move on to develop your own style of journaling.  Most experts suggest keeping a stream of consciousness journal.  Use a plain spiral notebook to write whatever comes to mind.  Don’t filter your thoughts or worry about polishing your grammar.

When you first start writing each day, you will likely find the first few minutes of your time will be spent documenting the highlights and activities of the day.  Once you relax, your subconscious will take over and you will find yourself writing about your real struggles, fears and emotions from the day.

We hope this information helps you find a healthy outlet for coping with the challenges of caring for a loved one.

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Finding Balance: Advice for Caregivers Caring for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

More and more adult children are finding themselves in the position of caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease.  Juggling work and family responsibilities while trying to keep a loved one with dementia safe and cared for is a very difficult balancing act.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 15.5 million Americans are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.  In 2013, those family caregivers provided a total of 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care.  If families had to pay for that care, the national cost of care would top $220 billion.  That all adds up to a lot of families struggling to find balance.

Balancing Personal Caregiving Responsibilities with Professional Work Responsibilities

A study of human resources professionals revealed just how much work time is lost due to the demands and duties of caregiver for the elderly.  About 21% of employees who take a sick day actually do so to care for the needs of a senior loved one.

If you are finding it increasingly difficult to juggle your professional responsibilities with your caregiver responsibilities, here are a few tips that might be of help:

  1. Call your local agency on aging office to talk with one of their advisors about the caregiver resources for support that are available in your community. There might be an adult day program that offers transportation or a friendly visitor program where volunteers come in to the home to sit with older adults who aren’t safe alone. The National Association of Agencies on Aging can help you locate the office closest to you.
  2. Review your company benefits program to determine if you have an Employee Assistance Program, also known as an EAP. Many of these programs have elder care assistance benefits. These experienced counselors might be able to help you locate support services you may not otherwise find.
  3. Consider using respite care once or twice a month. Many dementia care assisted living programs offer respite. It will allow you time to take a break and know your loved one is safe in the hands of Alzheimer’s experts. Respite can also be a good way to give an assisted living community a trial run.
  4. Join a support group of your peers. It often gives Alzheimer’s caregivers a good way to blow off steam and share their frustrations in an environment where people understand and empathize with your struggle. If the demands on your time won’t allow you to attend an in-person support group meeting, there are plenty of online Alzheimer’s caregiver forums. Members find they offer just as many benefits as personal meetings.
  5. If your aging parent’s condition has reached the point where they require full-time care, you may be able to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It can provide you with up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a family member and assume your caregiver duties and responsibilities. That will give you the time you need to search for a dementia care community for your senior loved one and get them safely settled.

Finally, if you need more information to help you in your search for a dementia care community, the Assisted Living Federation of America developed this Guide to Choosing an Assisted Living Community.  It offers advice on what to look for and ask when you visit senior living communities.

What is the Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefit?

As we prepare to honor our veterans on November 11th, we wanted to take time to share important information about veterans benefits for assisted living with their adult children and family caregivers.  Families of older adults are often surprised to learn that the Veterans Administration has a program that can help provide financial assistance for senior care for a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran.  The program is known as the Aid & Attendance Benefit. It is part of a veteran’s pension.

In 2014 a veteran is eligible to receive up to $1,758 per month to help pay for care, and their surviving spouse is eligible for up to $1,130 per month.  If a veteran and their spouse both need care, they are eligible for up to $2,085 per month.  If a veteran’s spouse is the only one who requires assistance, they can receive up to $1,380 per month.  The veteran must first meet the benefit eligibility guidelines established by the Veteran’s Administration.

Determining Aid & Attendance Benefit Eligibility for Veterans

To be considered for veterans benefits for assisted living, the veteran first needs to have served a minimum of ninety days of active military service with at least one day during a period of war.  The VA defines wartime periods as:

  • World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918)
  • World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam era (February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation)

Once that criterion is satisfied, the veteran is then required to meet one of the following conditions:

  • You require the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment
  • You are bedridden, in that your disability or disabilities requires that you remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity
  • Your eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less

The last criterion the veteran must meet is financial eligibility.  The veteran’s yearly combined family income and net worth must be within guidelines established each year by Congress.  How to Calculate Veterans Pensions can help you make that determination.

Watch the Enhanced Veterans Benefit Video

Finally, this video presented by the Veterans Administration can give you a quick but comprehensive overview of the veteran benefits for assisted living and home care program.


Father’s Day Gift Guide for Assisted Living Residents

With Father’s Day just around the corner, many adult children may be wondering what gift to buy for a Dad who calls an assisted living community home. Their basic needs are taken care of by the staff at the community; life enrichment activities often keep them busy and engaged; and they have limited space in their apartment for new treasures. All of these things combine to make gift giving more challenging. To help give you some ideas, we’ve pulled together a few gift suggestions our staff has noticed are a big hit with residents.

Gifts for Fathers in an Assisted Living Community

Here are a few ideas your senior loved one might enjoy this year:

1. If your budget permits, a tablet device like an iPad will likely be appreciated. The touch screen and easy internet access allow older adults to check their email, send messages to family members, join a conversation on Facebook, read the latest novel from their favorite author, and even Skype with grandchildren.

2. Bird watching is a favorite pastime for many assisted living residents. Most communities allow residents to have a bird house or bird feeder right outside their window. Some feeders can even be attached by suction cups to the window to allow residents to watch their feathered friends close up. Keeping the feeder full is a great activity for grandchildren to do when they visit. You might also consider adding a book that helps your senior loved one identify what kind of bird is visiting their window.

3. Gift cards to local restaurants and shops or even their favorite online stores are great choices for gifts. The assisted living community’s Healthy Lifestyles Director can share suggestions on what restaurants or local hot spots they routinely take residents to on outings. Gift cards to those venues will no doubt be a hit!

4. Put together a gift basket of games and puzzles. Large print crossword puzzles, dominoes, cribbage boards, puzzles with bigger pieces, and even a non-breakable magnifying lens can help them enjoy a game on their own or with a few friends.

5. Gifts from the heart will always be welcomed by senior loved ones. Depending upon your technology skills, you can create something as simple as a family scrapbook or calendar with family photos to a full-blown family video set to their favorite music.

6. Finally, don’t overlook the gift of your time. As we grow older, spending time with loved ones is more meaningful than ever. If it is difficult for your senior loved one to get out and about, plan your family Father’s Day celebration at their assisted living community.

Here's to Life.