Tag Archives: caregiving

Teens and Caregiving-Part One

caregiving tips for the sandwich generation #caregiving #teens #sandwichgeneration #generationgap

An estimated one out of every eight Americans aged 40-60 are caring for an aging family member while still raising children. Chances are the children of this “sandwich generation” are teenagers or close to that age range.

Three Generations Under One Roof

When neighbors and friends hear that I’m taking care of my aunt, their response is always supportive and encouraging. Most say what a blessing it is for the kids to have the example and unique opportunity to help someone they love that’s out of the ordinary. They say things like “they’ll remember this when they get older” or “they’ll always appreciate this experience”.

While all of these comments are well-meaning and hold some truth, they only acknowledge one side of the picture.

Everyone recognizes my sacrifice since I’m providing most of the hands-on care but most people don’t consider the major sacrifice my husband and children have made.

Below are some of the realities of our new life and how it affects the kids. My intention isn’t to complain, but to help others anticipate some issues to help better prepare for caring for an elderly family member while still caring for children at home.

Two generations that are high-maintenance

I know my children will benefit from this experience but I don’t take that for granted. Teenagers can be more needy than younger children.  It’s a notoriously emotionally-charged time with increasing demands at school and in their world.

I minimally prepared my own children for the change due to my aunt’s unexpected fall. I tried to keep them informed of the progress and timeline of my aunt’s arrival but they really had no input into the decision and in many ways, it turned their lives upside-down. Some of those changes have been drastic, others have been subtle.

We all knew the kids would have to shuffle room assignments but it was impossible to anticipate some of the other changes and demands on their time and privacy. Both of which are in high demand during the teen years.

Unexpected Responsibilities

I rely on all of the kids to keep my aunt company if I have to run an errand, make dinner or do work around the house. When this one or that one has a long day at school and just wants to retreat to their room, sometimes they really don’t have that luxury.

When teens help care for elderly relatives #elderly #aginginplace #teenagers

We set up my aunt’s room to include a sitting area with a TV and I really expected her to be in there all the time.  In her former life, she sat at the same table all day and watched her shows. Since coming to live with us, however, she prefers to be where the action is with the family. I think it’s great and a major factor in her improved overall health but it also puts a constant demand on our attention. It’s an unexpected reality of our new life together.

Although this is her home, my aunt’s mobility and cognition is limited so her choices of things to do to occupy herself is also limited. She’s only entertained by 3 shows (which we record for her) and EWTN. The kids are so sweet that they also limit their show selections to her favorites when she’s in the main living area. My aunt doesn’t demand it and tries hard not to interfere with their leisure time but they want to make her feel comfortable.

When the kids disappear into their rooms for long stretches of time, I let them. Luckily, there are enough of us to pick up where someone else left off and my aunt has nearly constant company after school and on the weekends. Giving them some space in this demanding situation is the least I can do.

Inevitable consequences of caretaking

Maybe it’s not a change but since I’m getting up through the night and my introverted self is primarily responsible for providing companionship for my aunt throughout a majority of the day, some days I reserve my patience for my aunt and there’s very little left over for the kids. I have a lot less tolerance for their dependence and I’m a bear if I don’t get enough sleep. You get the picture. In spite of my sometimes shorter fuse, the kids have all been very accommodating and understanding and truly forgive me for snapping at them on days when I’m particularly tired.

Suspended traditions

Our holidays will look drastically different. For one, the piano we got for my aunt is sitting in the only space for a Christmas tree. I have no idea where we’ll squeeze one in, but we will. I’m hanging on to a few abbreviated traditions but some will have to be suspended.

I usually host Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for my parents and anyone else who doesn’t have plans but this year I won’t be able to. Luckily, my children are used to me cutting some of the clutter of the holidays but meals have never been considered clutter.

The only thing I can really do is talk to them about what the holidays might look like and ask what parts are most important to them. I’m sure I can’t accommodate all of their preferences but we can probably preserve a few.

The ultimate test of patience and selflessness

Finally, the kids have been so patient and sweet about repeating things that my aunt forgets due to her short-term memory loss. This is another minor thing but when it’s compounded with all the demands on their time and attention and the tsunami of change in their lives, both inside and outside of the home, it could potentially add to their stress. So far, no one has expressed anything but compassion and sometimes amusement when she asks something repeatedly. She really is so sweet that it’s nearly impossible to get frustrated with her.

Overall, my children have really risen to the occasion and have been patient and compassionate to a person who has loved them for their entire lives. The ways in which my children have served my aunt are humbling. I’m so proud of how they’ve handled everything from my limited availability to the physical changes to our environment.

They’ve been forced out of their bubbles of teen-ager-ness. Their reaction to the situation and the needs of an emotionally, physically and cognitively vulnerable person is an indication of their character. I still think it’s important to acknowledge the stress and to keep talking about it openly in order to identify times when it’s overwhelming and to find creative ways to relieve the stress for them. I’m sure I’ve missed opportunities to reassure them but I’ll just keep trying.

They get an unusual extension of grace from me. If our family wasn’t in this role, I’d have a lot less tolerance for their moody, self-oriented selves when it’s directed at me or each other. But I’m not lumping that on to their plates because they’ve shown over and over that they aren’t only thinking of themselves.

In the next post in this mini-series, I’ll share the very best piece of advice I received about caring for the kids when I was about to bring my aunt home.

How to Create Boundaries for Visitors When Caring for a Family Member

Boundaries for Visitors #caregiving #elderly

One element of taking care of a sick or elderly family member in your home is the new (and seemingly constant) stream of visitors your family is likely to encounter. From old high school classmates to extended family members, the uptick in company can be both a help and a hindrance. The difference is in establishing guidelines and boundaries that balances independence of your loved one with your own family downtime and sometimes privacy.

It may take a few weeks (or even months) to figure out what boundaries will work best for your circumstances but you should be unapologetic about setting them.  You may need to change things up as your routine evolves, seasons change or schedules fluctuate.

I can share some limits and guidelines that work for my household (at the moment) but your unique family dynamics, routines and personalities will determine what works for you.

1. “Please Call Ahead”

This is pretty obvious but you would be surprised at how unaware people can be about the routines of others. Drop-ins sometimes interfere with meal times, rest times or other visitors.

In my case, my mom and cousin live on my street and I rely on (and welcome) them to pop in without calling just about anytime. That pretty much goes for any of my family members who aren’t offended when I can’t sit and visit with them or if I use their company to run a quick errand, catch up on some housework or just enjoy some alone time. If it ever became a problem, however, I would just send out a text or email asking these people to call ahead and I’m sure they wouldn’t take offense.

Others (extended family and friends who aren’t as close) have been great about calling to see when it’s a good time to visit my aunt and/or family.

If the family member you care for has a phone of her own, it’s important to let people know that visits should be scheduled with you. Although my aunt is almost always available, certain times and days are more convenient than others for her and for me, which she isn’t necessarily aware of.

In the first few days when everyone in my family wanted to see my aunt, they tended to come at once and I really didn’t want the responsibility of managing visiting schedules so I just let it happen. Even now, people occassionally show up at the same time or one after the other. It’s only a problem when my aunt kind of gets trapped for hours and can’t use the bathroom (because she’s a little self-conscious about struggling to stand). When that happens, I text the crowd and ask them to make an excuse to walk over to my mom’s house so my aunt can have a quick break.

Since my husband is an extrovert, he loves to greet extra people when he pulls into the driveway after work. This might not be the case for every member of your family and it’s important to be sensitive about their need for solitude, quiet or privacy. If you or your spouse (or children) need to unwind after a long day, create that buffer for them and restrict visits during the transition time.

2. Be specific about visiting hours that are convenient

What times work best for you will be different than what works best for my family. When people call, I’m clear about the window of time that’s convenient for their visit.

I try to be very specific. “It’s best if you come after 10:00 and leave no later than 1:00” for example. If I say, “between 10 and 1:00 would be fine”, they may think that they can come by 1:00 and stay for a couple of hours after that. See the difference? Likewise on the other end of the day, I tell people, “I need you to say your ‘goodbyes’ by 7:30”.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be completely honest about your needs. It avoids so much conflict and resentment. This is not the time to worry about whether people will get mad at you or get their feelings hurt.

3. No need to host a party every time someone visits

If I felt like I had to clean or prepare a spread every time my aunt gets company, I would be resentful and worn out.

My house is relatively picked up (as much as it can be with 4 teenagers) and it definitely could be cleaner but I don’t worry about that when people come to visit my aunt.

It might seem rude but I also don’t feel the need to put out snacks and play hostess when people come. Everyone close to me understands this. I typically don’t keep sugar beverages in the house because they tend to disappear. My boys have no self-control when it comes to junk drinks so we don’t have them. There’s no way I can guess the personal preferences of different visitors so I don’t try. I offer water and even then, most people help themselves.

This might seem inhospitable but people really understand that because I’m providing round-the-clock care, I don’t need to host a party every time they want to see my aunt. If I felt like I had to, I would have to be more restrictive.

I hope these tips help. It’s impossible to predict how caring for a family member in your home will affect your routine and it’s best to be flexible to accommodate yours and your family’s changing needs.

I would love to hear what type of strategies you use to establish boundaries for visitors when you’re caring for a loved one in your home.

Help for Healing a Wound or Diabetic Ulcer

medihoney wound care #wound #diabetic #ulcer

I’ve been caring for my 78-year-old aunt in my home since early May. Since she isn’t bed-ridden and gets out of bed once or twice through the night, I didn’t anticipate caring for open wounds so soon.

Although my aunt’s a diabetic and in spite of being unable to properly wash her feet for an extended period of time, she didn’t suffer from leg or foot sores before she came to live with me (that we know of) .

She developed dermatitis on her left leg shortly after she came here and an ulcer appeared on her left calf shortly after that. She may have picked up a staph infection at the nursing home where she stayed for three weeks before she came to live with me. Not sure. I treated the sore with polysporin and dressings at first, which I did for a week or so. It wasn’t getting better or worse.

When she ended up in the hospital for a stomach virus, they sent her home with wound care supplies, including a substance called “Medi Honey” to treat the wound.

I read some information and reviews about it and by all accounts, it comes highly recommended by wound care specialists. According to her doctor, it minimizes the risk of infection and keeps the wound moist, encouraging new skin growth.

The discharge nurse at the hospital suggested that the dressing should be changed every 3 days (woo-hoo!). Depending on the form of “medihoney”, though (paste, pads, gel), dressing changes will vary.

The stuff looks just like honey and largely consists of it. It’s FDA-approved for all stages of wound treatment.

I learned that I was probably putting the stuff on too large an area and it was likely breaking down the healthy skin around the wound. I adjusted my method and it definitely helped. I’m still waiting for the wound to disappear but it has steadily improved over the weeks.

I learned that it’s available without a prescription and is relatively affordable if you just want to try it, especially if you’ve been dealing with a persistent wound at home. I ordered a tube of the paste to see if it had different results than the strips that the hospital gave me. I found out that the dressings needed to be changed more frequently (daily) which is fine but I can’t tell whether there’s a difference in their effectiveness.

Compared to the terrifying leg ulcers I saw on the internet, my aunt’s sore is relatively manageable and small. I don’t have before/after photos because, well, they’re gross. I do wish I had taken photos for my own use but overall, the sore has improved. It’s more shallow, the new skin looks healthy and it hasn’t increased in diameter.

If you’ve been dealing with a persistent wound or ulcer and haven’t tried medihoney, you might have some success. If so, please let me know.



 *Please note, this post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase a product through one of the links, I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
*Disclaimer: The information in this post is about my experience using medihoney. Your results may be different.

5 Tips for Caregivers to Minimize Wasting Energy on Critics

Tips for Caregivers, Quieting the Critic #eldercare #caregiving

In my last post, I cautioned against wasting energy on people who don’t support your decision to care for an elderly family member.

Criticism or lack of support when you’re caring for anyone, especially an elderly family member, comes in various degrees and forms.

It can range from well-meaning family and friends who are concerned for your health and ability to take on a huge task to self-oriented people who seem to be concerned about how the change will affect them……and everything in-between.

Once you assume the responsibility, however, it’s critical to focus your energy on the person needing care, your immediate family (children and spouse) and yourself. Anything that distracts from that is a waste of emotional currency.

How can you combat the “tune virus” in your head that wants to justify your decision to take on a primary caregiving role or the manner in which you do it? These strategies might help.

1. Limit or eliminate communication with (and about) the critic

Resist the urge to continue to justify your decision. Accept that you may never convince the critic or other unsupportive person that your intentions are good (assuming they are), that you’ve made an informed decision and that you believe that it’s the best option given the present circumstances.

Engaging with the non-supportive person unnecessarily will use up valuable time and emotional  energy better spent on keeping everyone under your roof healthy. Tempting as it is, don’t go there, I promise, you won’t be satisfied and you’ll likely churn up more conflict.

Best to be silent. It will allow your brain to move on to more constructive matters. There’s a lot of truth to “out of sight out of mind”.

2. Journal if you must

If you find that you spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about your critics, journal about it privately if you have time. Your caregiving responsibilities may not permit time for journaling. Dedicating a few minutes to it, however, will help you in two ways. Putting your thoughts on paper (or in a word doc) may quiet that self-talk and allow your brain to move on.  It will also be a record of what’s going on during a stressful time in your life.

It might remind you of how strong you never thought you were.

3. Pray

Or if you’re not a praying person, meditate. Either practice will turn negative thoughts or energy into positive action.

4. Don’t take anything personally

Even if criticism is directed at you, the source of it likely has more to do with the other person’s unresolved issues or life circumstances. Now isn’t the time to guide others through their own emotional baggage. Again, best if you limit contact  (as much as is practical).

5. Don’t reread old emails, texts or voicemails

You may be tempted to reread old email exchanges or texts if you’re doubting the course of events. Taking the time to reread old emails and texts not only distracts from your responsibilities, it puts the issue back in the forefront of your consciousness and recycles those same negative feelings.

That trash icon is your friend. Unless you need the written communication to protect yourself legally, delete it.

Maybe you’re still receiving emails, texts or phone calls from a person who you know is still trying to have their way. That’s what Caller ID is for. Unless the person is abandoning their protests and extending an offer to help, I’d delete them, perhaps without reading or listening, with no reply.

“DELETE!” It literally wipes it off your “TO DO” list (don’t you have enough to do already?)

These strategies may seem harsh and are likely very different from how you normally respond to people and handle conflict. This is a time of intense self-preservation, though, when norms of appropriate social interaction are suspended.

Your closest family and friends will forgive you and are likely being proactive to protect you. In the next post, I’ll tell you about some strategies I’ve learned along the way to manage the stream of visitors when you’re caring for an elderly parent or relative.