Sandwiched between caring for my family and my elder

Have you ever received a phone call that suddenly changed your life?

My name is Lizzy* and after that call I felt “sandwiched.” I lived nine hours away from our mom and had two small children under the age of six years old. My sister Lynn* and I both received calls from Mom that she needed help. Mom owned a second floor condo with no elevator and had to move downstairs. Mom needed knee surgery and could no longer continue using the stairs. I hung up the phone I wondered ” how am I going to help with my mother’s care and take care of my own family and children at the same time.” I felt myself “sandwiched” and at the time I had no idea what “sandwiched” would entail.

Our mother had a very interesting personality. She always lived by the seat of her pants, never planned for her retirement needs, healthcare or beyond. Mom lived alone at this time in her life. Mom’s children were; Alan*, Ann* Lynn*, Lizzy*(me), and Lucy *. There was no life plan because she didn’t have a plan with one exception.

The exception was Mom had a will, power of attorney, healthcare directive and healthcare surrogate papers, etc., because it was important to her. Mom made sure that she had these documents drawn up by her attorney. She would talk about her beliefs openly because she did not want life support at the end of her life and she told us so. Mom did not want us to argue about her care. She also had the wisdom to be in control of her wishes because she had the appropriate legal documents until the end of her life.

Lynn* and I arrived to help Mom, because we lived a a driveable distance. We began the clean out process of her condo. During this process I happened to look under her bed. I was shocked to find piles and piles of paperwork under her entire queen size bed. I asked Mom about the paperwork and she got very defensive. Lynn* came in and wanted to know what was going on. Mom only wanted me to handle her paperwork (we still don’t know why). Our mom actually kicked Lynn* out of her condo and emotions were high. I was caught in the middle of it and it was a very unpleasant situation.

I pulled out the documents from under Mom’s bed. I discovered ten years of mail, financial statements, paycheck stubs, and much, much more under that bed. It was apparent that either Mom did not want to deal with this paperwork or thought it would all go away. I sat on the floor of my mother’s bedroom and spent hours on that paperwork, which turned into a full day or more. I shredded most of it by hand and finally kept what was important. My sister Lynn* did come back to the condo later that evening, and was always there for our mother.

A few days later I went home to my husband and my two children and realized I had begun a new phase of my life. I was “sandwiched” between my mother’s care, my sibling’s relationships, my two children’s care and my marriage with my husband. I realized then that elder caregiving would be a long tightrope journey in my life.

*All names appearing in this article/work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author only.

Assisted Living Made Simple is here to help in this situation, you don’t have to feel sandwiched, let us alleviate some of the stress!

Celebrating Thanksgiving and learning to appreciate the role our elders play in our families

Celebrating Thanksgiving and learning to appreciate the role our elders play in our families

This month, as we celebrate Thanksgiving—let’s celebrate and appreciate the role our elders play in our families. This is the holiday when I invite friends and family to join us around our table (and I encourage you to do the same.) I seek out people who would otherwise eat alone; especially, seniors. I love to see how many generations we can gather. Then, as we linger over dessert, the conversation usually includes memories of past holidays and funny events. Our senior family members seem to really enjoy this part and we encouraged them to share the wisdom they have gained over the years.
Together we celebrate elder wisdom. I feel this sets a good example for the younger members of our family, because we all know that sometimes the question runs through younger people’s minds (whether they admit it or not): What are old people good for?

It is very important to emphasize that older people have always played an important role in society as advice-givers. It is only in the recent past that people have turned to their own age groups to solve life’s problems. Our elders are still a unique source of advice for our younger people. I believe we need to encourage this interaction for both our young people and our elders. That is why I am suggesting that we encourage our elders to share their wisdom as a part of our families’ Thanksgiving holiday—and yours!

We usually ask our elders to share stories from their past. But that is different than asking them to share the wisdom they gained from their past experiences. Their wisdom is what we want them to share with our younger generation.

Encourage your young people to ask your seniors questions that are relevant to them. For example, bullying is a hot topic today—but is as old as time. A child may ask an elder how they handled being “pick-on” as a child. A college student may ask a great-grandparent how they found a job during the Great Depression. This is the type of wisdom that should be shared. This is the type of wisdom that elevates the role of elders to true life-coaches to our less experienced youth. Both age groups benefit from this interaction.

This Thanksgiving, gather your elders and ask them to share their wisdom and let me know how it went!

Please email any comments you may have about senior living, senior products or senior services to info@eldercaresimplified.com with Comments in the subject line. Or you can contact me or one of the other compassionate senior care advisors at (306) 847-2322 or at ElderCare Simplified Senior Resource Center, 629 N. Dixie Freeway, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168. Either way this is free! Let us help you.

I’m looking forward to your comments.

Sincerely,

Susan Little, Senior Care Advisor
Owner/Operator ElderCare Simplified, LLC

Travel tips for the seniors you care for!

Travel tips for the seniors you care for!

During the Dog Days of Summer, most of us think of vacations. This is a perfect time to plan a trip for seniors and also provide respite for care givers. Therefore, this month I’d like to share some Travel Tips that worked well for me and my mother-in-law. As a full-time care giver, I have been responsible for travel arrangements for her for many years.

One year she decided she wanted to visit her daughter who lives in Arizona. There was some family discussion about whether she needed a family member to accompany her, but with some careful planning we decided she could tackle the trip on her own. The following are the Travel Tips I used in planning her trips and I think they will work for you.

Travel Tip (1) you should book well in advance. By doing this, you can choose seats on the aisle and close to the bathroom. You can also choose flights that go through smaller airports alleviating large busy airport anxiety. For example, she prefers to not go through Atlanta because the airport is so busy, so she flies through Charlotte (a much smaller airport). You also need to plan for a longer layover than young people prefer. Seniors like to have plenty of time to get off the plane, use the rest room, get something to eat and they don’t like to be rushed.
Travel Tip (2) if your senior has limited mobility, the most important thing you should do is request a wheelchair for them. At first you may find they are reluctant to use this service because they may not rely on a wheelchair at home, but they quickly learn that this is the best thing for everyone.

Travel Tip (3) always go to counter check-in where you should eyeball the desk clerk and tell them that your senior is a fall risk! Providing this information makes air travel safer for them and the airlines.

Travel Tip (4) you should make sure they have their cell phone fully charged and easily accessible. This gives them the peace of mind to feel connected with family. They usually will call on their layover to tell someone they have arrived and whether their connecting flight is scheduled to leave on time.

These Travel Tips worked for her and provided her the freedom to feel independent and safe on her trip to Arizona. When she arrived in the Phoenix Airport she was wheeled all the way to her daughter’s waiting car!

Happy Trails to all of your seniors!

Please email any comments you may have about senior living, senior products or senior services to info@eldercaresimplified.com with Comments in the subject line. Or you can contact me or one of the other compassionate senior care advisors at (306) 847-2322 or at ElderCare Simplified Senior Resource Center, 629 N. Dixie Freeway, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168. Either way this is free! Let us help you.

I’m looking forward to your comments.

Sincerely,

Susan Little, Senior Care Advisor
Owner/Operator ElderCare Simplified, LLC

Gifts and ideas to bring a smile to the face of those you care for!

Gifts and ideas to bring a smile to the face of those you care for!

I’ve been learning some things you can do for our seniors to bring a smile to their faces.

First and foremost the thing they crave the most is our time! We are all always in such a rush to get everything done (at least I am) that sometimes we don’t take the time to listen. Most seniors spend a great deal of time just sitting. They love to talk—on the phone or in person—either way, taking the time to listen is a gift they treasure.

Speaking of gifts, what is good to give seniors—especially, shut-ins? Most seniors have more collectibles and knickknacks than they have room for, so adding to a collection may not be your best choice. I suggest that you think about perishables.

What woman doesn’t love flowers? Also, as we age our taste buds change; therefore, most seniors love sweets. Candy and desserts are especially pleasing to most seniors. Watch their eyes light up if you bring them a milkshake or ice-cream on a warm summer afternoon. YUM! Then, if share the moment with them, you may get to hear a life-story about their youth.

Another idea that I’ve learned from my 87 year old mother-in-law, is how much she enjoys thumbing through magazines. She spends hours going through them page by page. What a nice diversion from daytime TV. You can find magazine subscriptions to meet almost every interest—for men and women.
Another thing that you can do for seniors is to help them with doing things that we take for granted. We all know we can get them help with household chores, meals and cleaning but, what about other things?

How about helping them get an absentee ballot? Most seniors still want to participate in the election process, but going to the polls and standing in line may be very difficult for them. Obtaining an absentee ballot for them is easy and appreciated!

The following is quoted from the Florida Department of Elections on absentee ballots.
Absentee voting refers to voting on a ballot received by mail or picked up by or for a person who is unable or cannot go to the polls to vote during early voting or Election Day. A person does not have to be absent from his or her county of residence or have another reason to vote absentee. A request must be made to receive an absentee ballot. A request covers all elections through the end of the calendar year for the second ensuing regularly scheduled general election. Contact your Supervisor of Elections to request an absentee ballot . . . in one of the following ways:

• On-line. To submit an on-line absentee ballot request, go to the Supervisor of Elections contact (Click your county on the map or enter your county name. When the Supervisor’s contact information appears, click on the Supervisor’s web address which will take you directly to the Supervisor’s website);
• Other written request (e.g., by e-mail or for military members and their family, and overseas citizens only, by federal postcard and absentee application (FPCA))
• in person;
• by telephone; or
• by mail.

These are just some of my ideas. What have you done to put a smile on a senior’s face? I’d love to hear from you!

Please email any comments you may have about senior living, senior products or senior services to info@eldercaresimplified.com with Comments in the subject line. Or you can contact me or one of the other compassionate senior care advisors at (306) 847-2322 or at ElderCare Simplified Senior Resource Center, 629 N. Dixie Freeway, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168. Either way this is free! Let us help you.

I’m looking forward to your comments.
Sincerely,

Susan Little, Senior Care Advisor
Owner/Operator ElderCare Simplified, LLC

My Life as a Caregiver

My Life as a Caregiver

This month I’ve been asked to write about my life as a care giver. For about two years, I was the primary care giver for my 88 year old mother-in-law. Among numerous other serious ailments, she had limited mobility and required the full-time use of a walker.

I do want to preface this column by saying that I do love my mother-in-law very much and wouldn’t have agreed to have her move in if I hadn’t felt in my heart that it was the right thing to do (for her)—both financially and emotionally. But, I often think—hmmm, how could I have been so naïve?
I could go on and on about my daily routine and all that it entailed, but you should know by now that I try to tackle the difficult information—the things others don’t want to address. Therefore, I’m going to share some things that came up that were unexpected and unpleasant.

First, I didn’t anticipate how much was entailed in providing full-time senior care and how it could turn my life so upside-down. My best analogy is to think about what happened when my newborn baby was brought home. WOW! I remember thinking that I was overwhelmed. It was very difficult to meet all of his needs—and anticipate his future needs. As a full-time senior care giver, I tried to meet and anticipate my mother-in-law’s needs. Let’s just say that is a full-time job alone–but then you add in all of her appointments—who knew she would go to so many different doctors? It seemed like every day there was some new ache or pain and just like I did with an infant, I listened and analyzed every cough, groan, and stumble—is it serious or normal? Should I call the doctor or not?

And just like an infant isn’t happy that they can’t do all that they want to do—and lets you know about it. My mother-in-law was not at all happy that she couldn’t do all that she wanted to do—and she let me know about it. Most of the time I understood and was sympathetic (it is awful to become incapacitated) but it also wore on me as a care giver.

Everything in her life was different and she didn’t like it one bit. The results were hurtful and negative comments. Sometimes they were couched in comments like: Why do you do it that way? I always did it this way and this works better, or this tastes better, or this cleans better . . . or a criticism is said about something I did or have did not do and then she would say something like, Oh, I was just kidding you . . . at first; these comments were easy to accept and try her way, but after time—they have become grating!

She was also reluctant to use her walker all the time. She would much prefer to hang on to things and move around—or bounce from one side of the hallway to the other as she proceeds. Even though this had already resulted in more than one fall, she would give me the disgusted “look” when I remind her to use her walker.

Even going out to eat was hard. The restaurants that we visit weren’t the ones she used go to or have been converted to different restaurants. Her comments included things like: What happened? This used to be a nice restaurant–I don’t like these noisy places to eat. The food here used to be better–this isn’t what I ordered, I don’t like this, etc.

My husband and I are trying to let her maintain her feeling of independence, but she has requested that we handle more and more of her personal affairs. Then all of a sudden, she would want to handle some things herself and she would make a poor decision–like cancelling one of her medications—and then we have to undo and redo what she has done.

In addition to all of the above, I had no idea that being a full-time senior care giver—included being a social director. Now I realize why the good assisted living facilities all have planned activities!
After a lengthy, gut wrenching time, we all decided that she needed to move to an Assisted Living Facility. It was extremely difficult at first, but GUESS WHAT? She is much happier and so are we!
Please email any comments you may have about senior living, senior products or senior services to info@eldercaresimplified.com with Comments in the subject line. Or you can contact me or one of the other compassionate senior care advisors at (306) 847-2322 or at ElderCare Simplified Senior Resource Center, 629 N. Dixie Freeway, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168. Either way this is free! Let us help you.
I’m looking forward to your comments.

Sincerely,

Susan Little, Senior Care Advisor
Owner/Operator ElderCare Simplified, LLC

Having the Talk

Having the Talk – What are your wishes and desires for your sunset years?

This month I’d like to respond to a request from one of my readers. The request is to write about, “Having the Talk.” Yep, the one we all most dread having with our parents. In the manual, I co-authored ElderCare Simplified; we suggest you begin “The Talk” with the following question: “What are your wishes and desires for your sunset years?”

From personal experience I can tell you—and excuse the slang, “It ain’t an easy talk!” I haven’t had an elder in my family that has embraced admitting they need in-home help or moving for additional senior care. For us, this talk was started and continued over several months and done step by step. Fortunately, my elders were more proactive and responsive when it came to prearranging for their own funerals. Even though these talks were emotionally draining; once their wishes, desires and needs were expressed and acted upon, it gave all of us peace of mind.

Some of the business members of Aging Tree were kind enough to offer some additional resources and insight into this difficult topic. Rita Benesch, Community Sales Director, of Atria at Lake Forest, shared a wonderful brochure with me about this topic. The front cover has an elephant in a living room and is titled, YOU CAN’T KEEP WORKING AROUND IT FOREVER. It goes on to say–It’s time to talk with your parent about the elephant in the room. The brochure gives six great answers to some of our parent’s most stubborn comments about wanting to remain living independently even after it is no longer safe to do so. One such answer includes: But what if you fall, or can’t get to the phone for whatever reason? At Atria, help will be a lot closer than I am, from a staff who will know just what to do and be discreet about it. Besides you shouldn’t have to depend solely on me for company. You deserve more. Getting out with folks your own age will be great for you.

Our discussion with families is called the “Conversation” says Tim Wagstaff, Family Service Manager at, and there are two types of conversations that can occur:

The difficult conversation – when no prearrangements are made and a loved one’s next of kin are charged with making over 50+ decisions, often within hours. On one of life’s most difficult days someone will have to make some of life’s most difficult decisions… and they are often left with the uncertainty of not knowing the answer to two important questions: What would they have wanted? Did I do the right thing? The guilt of not knowing can tear a family apart. And lastly, the financial burden of having to secure funds in a short period of time can add enormous stress to any family.

There is an easier conversation – preplanning removes all of the stress decisions that need to be made and having a plan fully funded takes the financial stress out of the process allowing loved ones to spend more to coping and grieving the loss than managing details and the business of a funeral. We plan every day for things that might happen, we have insurance policies to protect us for home, heath, auto and cell phones and yet over 70% of adults do not have a plan for final arrangements. If it makes sense to plan for things that might happen, doesn’t it make even more sense to plan for things that will happen?

If you haven’t already done so—consider having “The Talk” with your family and the sooner the better!

Please email any comments you may have about senior living, senior products or senior services to info@eldercaresimplified.com with Comments in the subject line. Or you can contact me or one of the other compassionate senior care advisors at (306) 847-2322 or at ElderCare Simplified Senior Resource Center, 629 N. Dixie Freeway, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168. Either way this is free! Let us help you.
I’m looking forward to your comments.
Sincerely,

Susan Little, Senior Care Advisor
Owner/Operator ElderCare Simplified, LLC

Assisted Living Made Simple can help you have the talk with your loved one, and we can help you find the perfect assisted living facility when that time comes!

Dementia Assisted Living

[x_section bg_color=”#95d8a8″ style=”margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px; padding: 10px 10px 10px 10px; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px 1px 1px 1px; “][x_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” bg_color=”” style=”margin: 0px auto 0px auto; padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px; “][x_column bg_color=”” type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px; “][x_text]January 30, 2014

tree-97986_640Not all Assisted Living Facilities are the same. If your loved one is in the beginning, middle or end stages of dementia it’s important that you find a Dementia Assisted Living Facility for them.

Having dealt with this issue personally and professionally, I know that it is extremely important to find a special care facility appropriate for Alzheimer/Dementia sufferers. As their advocate, you should check to make sure the facilities are safe and secure.

Also, make sure they are staffed by professional caregivers who are trained to meet the specific needs of these individuals.

The following article by the Alzheimer’s Association provides some very valuable information on this topic. I found the section on Alzheimer special care units (SCUs) also call memory care units to be particularly informative.

www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-residential-facilities.asp[/x_text][/x_column][/x_row][/x_section]

How to stop the elderly from being scammed

[x_section style=”margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px; padding: 45px 0px 45px 0px; “][x_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” bg_color=”” style=”margin: 0px auto 0px auto; padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px; “][x_column bg_color=”” type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px; “][x_text]March 21, 2014

road-sign-464653_640I’d like to share a concern I have about the elderly being scammed by solicitations.

I think everyone should be kind and contribute to the causes we truly want to support; but, we also have an obligation to protect our seniors from being taken advantage of.

You may not be aware of the problem but, because our seniors have been so generous in the past—their information is now being shared (electronically) and they are solicited to give, give, give and buy, buy buy!

My elderly mother-in-law receives approximately three phone calls daily requesting she contribute to some “worthy” cause or another. She also receives at least that many requests through the mail. She donated to quite a few organizations within a short period of time. When she was asked about these contributions she replied,

“Well, they make me feel so guilty”!

Other caregivers have shared many similar situations. One of my friends shared that her mother felt an obligation to make a donation whenever she received something in the mail from an organization. So, every time she got address labels, greeting cards, or nickels in the mail—she reciprocated with a check. Even if she didn’t know what some of the recipient organizations represented. I tried to explain to her that items received in the mail should be considered gifts.

Our seniors also are prey to unethical or even illegal business practices. A physical therapist friend, who works primarily with seniors, stated that while she was visiting one of her elderly patients, the patient received several calls within one hour encouraging her to purchase internet services. The patient didn’t even own a computer! She shared that she has also overheard unsolicited telephone requests from businesses urging her patients to purchase all types of products including: new credit cards, medical supplies, and insurance.

Her big concern is that most of these people have no need for any of these things and many agree just to get off the phone. Some are also suffering from dementia and don’t even realize what they are agreeing to purchase.

How can we stop the elderly from being scammed

The National Council on Aging states that most seniors need help keeping their finances straight. Therefore, many seniors run out of money and quit paying their bills. When their bills aren’t paid, seniors run the risk of having their utilities shut off or worse.

To avoid having a beloved senior victimized, have them designate a power of attorney for finances. This person should sort through the mail, pay bills, balance the checkbook and carefully monitor financial accounts regularly. This could save your senior from financial nightmares.

Has your loved one been scammed? If so, how did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments below so we can add it to this post. It will help others that might find themselves in this position.[/x_text][/x_column][/x_row][/x_section]

Assisted Living Testimonial

[x_section bg_color=”#99b3cc” style=”margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px; padding: 10px 10px 10px 10px; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px 1px 1px 1px; “][x_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” bg_color=”” style=”margin: 0px auto 0px auto; padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px; “][x_column bg_color=”” type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px; “][x_text]May 6, 2014
susie-susan2I am so humbled by the many testimonies that I receive here at Assisted Living Made Simple. When I first started this Assisted Living Referral Service I had know idea the amount of families I would be able to help. It always warms my heart when these families are so appreciative and it brings a smile to my face that I can offer these services FREE of charge to them, especially at such a crucial time.

I am equally overwhelmed by the response I receive from the Assisted Living Facilities themselves. Most of the gracious owners are so friendly and eager to sign an agreement with me that I am continuously humbled.

I was very moved last week that two of our larger ALF’s contacted me and asked me to meet with them. They said, “I’ve heard about you and Assisted Living Made Simple and I want to work with you.” WOW, what a compliment!!!

Speaking of compliments, I am especially proud of the endorsement I received from Susie Etheredge, owner/operator of Marchman Manor a senior living facility.

Susie is such a wonderful person, professional health care provider, and passionate senior care specialist–that her endorsement speaks volumes.
Susie Etheridge[/x_text][x_text style=”border: 1px solid black; padding: 15px; “]assisted-living-testimony[/x_text][/x_column][/x_row][/x_section]