Tag Archives: elderly

Teens and Caregiving Part Three

Sandwich generation #teens #caregiving #elderly #strategies

If you’re one of the millions of Americans with parents over 65 and children still at home, chances are you’ll likely be facing a decision about whether to provide care for your parent or another aging relative.

While most children are adaptable and will pitch in wherever they can, many kids are dealing with overwhelming stress from school, friends and other demands in their world.

What can you do if your child doesn’t agree with your desire or need to take on a primary caregiving role?

In spite of the added demands on your own time, your first priority is to your family. If you have a choice and a careful consideration of the situation points to another option (assisted living, nursing home or hiring care and service providers from an agency or the community) sometimes you’ll have to go with that. I’m not suggesting that you cater to a whiny or self-oriented young person but I do think you should carefully consider whether the decision will lead to irreparable harm to your family.

A number of factors could lead to a teen’s inability to cope with another person under the roof. Feelings of grief or loss of the family member who needs care is a possibility. If the person suffers from severe dementia or extreme health conditions. If the person is scared, mean or confused. A recent death in the family or other crisis from which the child must still recover or intense situations at school could be other reasons that your child might be unable to cope. Whatever the reason, it’s not productive to judge it but you should consider any such factors when weighing your decision.

Here are some suggestions to help a child who can’t or won’t cooperate if you’ve already taken on the responsibility.

1. Adhere to familiar routines as much as possible or create new ones

Predictability is extremely comforting to most young children. Some kids continue to rely on familiar schedules and knowing what’s next depending on their personality type.

Even if the routine will change, preparing everyone ahead of time should minimize the stress.

2. Carve out chunks of time to connect with your child

You’ll both appreciate your efforts to do so and you can create memories you might not have had otherwise.

3. Talk talk and talk some more

Communication can be difficult with teens but talking about what seems like an outside topic (your relative) can help form a habit. Don’t wait for your child to complain or break down. Be proactive about bringing up any subject and make it clear that resentments are normal and you won’t be angry with him for expressing frustrations with the situation or the person your caring for.

4. Point out some benefits of the new situation

It may be that having your loved one in your home is easier than trying to manage her care in a nursing home, for example.

In my case, my aunt lived 4 hours away and in the weeks leading up to the decision to bring her to my home, I had to travel there at least five times in as many weeks with my mom to take care of issues that were popping up. Including an extended stay over Easter without the kids. That situation wasn’t sustainable and was extremely disruptive to our family life but my mom wasn’t able to manage the responsibilities and decisions on her own (she’s also in her 70s).

5. Look forward to something fun and positive with your children.

Make a bucket list of things that you might like to do when things return to normal. If you don’t want to wait that long, enlist the help of family and friends to get to it soon. Time spent just dreaming about fun things will be productive.

6. Be vocal about your appreciation when your child shows kindness, compassion and helps in any way

Even if that help isn’t directed to the person your caring for, let your child know that you noticed and that it helped you.

7. Seek counseling if necessary.

Kids process things very differently than adults and other kids. If you observe drastic changes in behavior, you might need the help of a professional to give your child an objective listener and some tools to manage the new situation.

Some of these suggestions seem obvious but they’re easy to forget or put off when you’ve added a full-time job to your already-busy schedule.

I would love to hear some other strategies for helping to minimize the impact of caregiving on children.

This is part 3 in a series about caring for teens and a sick or elderly family member simultaneously. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.


Teens and Caregiving Part Two

 Tips for Caregivers-4

Inevitable Changes With a New Role of Caregiver

When you accept the role of primary caregiver for a sick or elderly relative, your family takes on the responsibility too. If you still have children at home, the addition can be both a blessing and a stress.

Children of all ages and stages can be notoriously self-oriented but having a human under the same roof who’s relatively helpless and vulnerable is a constant reminder NOT to think of themselves first. Even if the children aren’t responsible for the manual tasks of providing personal care, they’re on-call to provide companionship and attention and to help the person in other ways around the house.

It’s important to be sensitive to signals when the kids in the house are feeling the stress of the new situation. Even seemingly minor adjustments (like having to change where you sit at the dinner table) can trigger a meltdown when combined with the compounding changes like modifications to environment, schedule, routine, traditions, a likely increase in visitor traffic through the house, equipment in the home and possibly a shuffling of room assignments.

Best Advice To Date

The most profound advice I got was from a friend who took care of her dying mother in the last 6 months of her life. Stacey has 4 children about the same age as my own. When she learned that I would be caring for my aunt in our home, the only advice she gave was to attend and to drive my kids to as many activities as possible. I was surprised since transportation might be the easiest thing to delegate to friends and family members who want to help in this new situation but she was right.

Three Reasons This Advice Was So Great

1. Time and Attention is at a Premium

My (or my husband’s) presence at a game during an otherwise chaotic time provides a measure of security to the child, even if they’re unaware of it. My time is not my own and there’s less flexibility to make it theirs. Carving out time to spend time with any of the kids makes a difference. If you make this point non-negotiable with your family and support network, it creates some predictability in an otherwise unpredictable situation. Practices and games are usually scheduled well ahead of time which gives everyone plenty of notice that you’ll need help at home during those times.

2. Car Rides Can Be Quiet and Private

One-on-one time can be difficult to find and time in the car with you gives a kid a chance to talk about things that are on his mind. Even if you don’t talk about the subject of your new circumstances, it can help you gauge your child’s mood and pick up any underlying concerns.

3. A Mini Respite

Committing to this simple, routine chore forces you to physically remove yourself from your environment which allows you to decompress and take a break. Arranging time away from the house (and your added responsibilities) for other events might be a hassle so you probably have a tendency not to. Practices and games are relatively predictable so they’re also easier to plan for.

Whether it’s a 15 minute run to the field for a practice drop-off or sitting in the stands for a two hour game, the time can provide a much-needed but efficient respite for you since you’re also supporting your child.

Even if I’m not always able to arrange it, I’m grateful for my friend’s advice and believe it’s been key to keeping us all moving forward during a major change in the household.

I would love to hear your tips for caring for teens and a sick or elderly family member simultaneously.

This is part 2 in a series about caring for teens and a sick or elderly family member simultaneously. You can read part 1 here.

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.

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.