Holiday Highs and Lows

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Holidays bring their own set of stresses and joys, and this is certainly true for family caregivers.

Between caring for aging family members, nurturing a marriage and maybe even raising children, not to mention a job or career, it might seem like you’ll never be able to manage all that falls to you, but when the holidays bring even more busyness, you might feel like your head will explode!

For the next several weeks Betsy and I will be looking at the holidays from several different perspectives. We’ll consider the stress of the holidays, the joys of the holidays, as seen through young eyes and old, the memories you make each year that will last forever, and the foods of the holidays that will make your mouth water! We’ll post some of our favorite recipes!

One of the things that should not stress you out during the holidays is food! While everyone has favorite holiday treats, don’t go over the top for a dessert that takes days to prepare. Choose something fun and simple, and let others help. The best ways to handle food stress is to choose light and easy, and enjoy the fellowship more than actual food.

Here’s a favorite recipe we’ve used for the past 20 years every Thanksgiving and Christmas. We call it “Cranberry Stuff”. It’s a Cranberry Horseradish sauce that we serve over cream cheese as an appetizer and then straight up as cranberry sauce on the table with the turkey. It takes a little prep, but in 30 minutes it’s ready to enjoy.

We hope you’ll join us at Heart of the Caregiver dot com as we embark on a holiday journey that we hope will leave you feeling filled with holiday cheer!

Cranberry “Stuff”

1 16-oz can whole-berry cranberry sauce
12 cup sugar
13 cup onion   minced
2 tablespoons horseradish   prepared
12 teaspoon salt
1 8-oz package cream cheese
3 sprigs rosemary

Stir together first 5 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat. Cover and chill 1 hour or up to 3 days.

When ready to serve, spoon Cran-Horseradish Sauce over cream cheese on a plate. Garnish, if desired. Serve with crackers.

If you like canning, this cans really well also, and makes a great hostess gift!

 

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How to Supplement Medicare Coverage for Long-Term Care Needs

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This week we are happy to host guest blogger Hazel Bridges, who is the creator of AgingWellness.org, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor, as is Betsy. Hazel challenges herself to live life to the fullest and inspire others to do so as well. Welcome, Hazel!

Medicare is an excellent resource for seniors over the age of 65 in America. This federal insurance program helps cover the costs of healthcare that tend to increase in old age. Medicare covers the costs of hospitalization, outpatient procedures, doctor’s appointments, and preventative costs. Seniors can also invest in additional Medicare plans that help cover things like prescription drugs and other costs.

Medicare is invaluable for many seniors, but it provides little coverage when it comes to assisted living or nursing home care. Seniors end up needing an average of 904 days of long-term care. There is over a 65 percent chance that a senior citizen will become physically or cognitively impaired within their lifetime. One out of three senior citizens will enter a nursing home. The average annual cost of a nursing home in the United States runs around $76,680. These costs have to be covered either by the senior themselves or their family. Some people end up spending their entire life’s savings on the care they need in the last few years of their life.

When it comes to covering costs, you can relieve a lot of the burden off your family by planning ahead of time. While not every senior ends up needing long-term care, having the funds ready and waiting can provide a sense of security when it comes to worst-case scenarios. Knowing all your options can help you save and prepare for these expenses responsibly.

Selling Life Insurance Policies

Many people buy life insurance policies when they have kids as a way to protect their family in the case of their death. When they reach their senior years, a lot of life insurance holders decide to sell their policy as a way to free up funds they can use for retirement. Selling a life insurance policy is also a great way to access funds for long-term care. If you are over 65 or have a serious illness, you are generally eligible for selling a life insurance policy. However, policy values should be at least $100,000 before they are qualified for a cash payout.

Reverse Mortgages

If you own property, taking out a reverse mortgage can leverage that ownership for quick access to cash. Getting a reverse mortgage means you will be borrowing against the equity in your home. The payout can be received as a lump sum, a monthly allowance, or a line of credit. Reverse mortgages are not the best option for everybody — it really depends on the circumstances of the person borrowing. However, in certain situations, borrowing against the value of a house can end up leaving money for your family after you are gone.

Downsizing Lifestyles

In cases where you own property but a reverse mortgage is not a smart financial decision, selling the house and downsizing to a more manageable living situation can help free up a lot of cash for long-term care. Not only does downsizing have a plethora of financial benefits, but living with less can make you happier and relieve stress. If you downsize and get rid of belongings to fit into a smaller place, you are also giving your family members the gift of less stuff to sift through after your passing. Can you really put a price on that?

Medicare is a federal insurance program that helps Americans over the age of 65 pay for the increased costs of medical care. While Medicare is an invaluable resource that saves lives, it doesn’t cover everything. For instance, a lot of the expenses associated with long-term care have to be paid out-of-pocket. Planning for these costs can relieve a large burden off your family’s shoulders. Consider funding your long-term care with tactics such as selling a life insurance policy, getting a reverse mortgage, or downsizing to free up cash.

 

What’s Scary about being a Family Caregiver?

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When we are little, it’s the unknown in our world that scares us. As a young child, Betsy would take a flying leap from the door of her room to get in bed, because she was afraid some monster would grab her ankles and pull her down if she got too close. My fear was the dark. My family lived in the country when I was growing up, and at night it was very dark outside; I was afraid of what hid in the woods just beyond our yard. My fear and Betsy’s was driven by what we didn’t know but could only imagine… dangerous things that lurked in the dark, just beyond our view. These things didn’t even have faces, but they certainly made my heart race!

Some family caregivers are well equipped and prepared for the task of caring for an aging family member, but for others, the role might come shrouded in mystery. The unknowns may be found in techniques of providing care, the changing aspects of a developing disease or chronic ailment, and how long care will be needed. While all of these considerations should give one pause, it just might be what you do know as a family caregiver that scares you the most.

 Family caregivers know that their loved one needs their help, giving rise to doubts of their own ability to provide the required care. Here are tips from AAR for overcoming those doubts.

 Family caregivers know their own needs and responsibilities must also be met, and wonder where they will find the energy to handle everything. Click here for ideas on how to manage the energy challenge.

 Family caregivers know there will be added costs incurred by themselves and their loved one during this time, leading to worries about money management. Cost management suggestions will be addressed in next week’s blog.

 Family caregivers know their boundaries and borders are about to change dramatically, and this stretching is always frightening! But if we aren’t stretching and growing, we are dying, and with stretching comes expanded flexibility and better health. Here are tricks  for handling tasks outside your comfort zone.

 Most of all, family caregivers know they must commit themselves to the task before them. This commitment requires courage, which leads to new competencies and more confidence in providing care. These are the 4 “C”s of caregiving.

 Don’t let fear of the known or the unknown dissuade you from your calling as a family caregiver during your caring season. Embrace it entirely and watch to see how God works in surprising ways in your life and in those around you. He truly is miraculous!

 Betsy and I hope you’ll join the conversation below and share your heart about the scary parts of caregiving.

Options in Care: Palliative Care

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Are you caring for someone who has a terminal condition? Medical advancements have come a long way.  Even so, your doctor may be forced to sit down with you, your loved one, and other family members to consider the possibility that the best course of treatment going forward is to keep the patient comfortable. Free of pain and discomfort, your loved one can enjoy their remaining days and weeks with loved ones. This option of care is called palliative care.

Palliative care is a type of specialized medical care that focuses on the comfort of a person who has a severe illness or disease. The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for the patient and their family in their remaining days, weeks, or months. Provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who are trained in this method of care and work alongside the patient’s regular medical team, palliative care may be used alongside curative medicine, or it may be chosen in place of painful or unpleasant restorative treatments. One is never too old or too young to receive palliative care. Click here for more resources to help you better understand how palliative care works.

Palliative care teams often work alongside hospice at the end of life to give the patient relief from pain and discomfort related to their disease as it progresses. Such symptoms as fatigue, depression, and shortness of breath may be improved through the use of palliative care practices.

As with hospice services, palliative care should not be frightening or even discouraging for one who has faith in an afterlife with their risen Savior. With an enhanced quality of life and pain managed, your terminally ill loved one might have the time and opportunity to say important things to those around him or her. These final days and weeks can create beautiful memories with children, grandchildren, and others when the patient is in no discomfort but still able to engage with others.

Chris and I hope you will join our conversation this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how palliative care practices have enhanced the life of someone you know.

 

The Pit Falls of Family Caregiving

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For family caregivers, no two days are the same, and yet every day may feel like every other day. The reality of your life during this season of caregiving is that you cannot count on the sameness of days, but your routines will help you maintain your sanity and your quality of care.

In order to succeed at family caregiving over an extended period of time, you must operate under a plan and a set of routines that will ward off depression and manage physical disability for you as well as those you care for. Whether you care for one individual or several family members, these strategies can help you avoid falling into the pit of despair as you move from one day into the next. Your health and resiliency are critical to maintaining during this challenging time. Be sure to go out and take a walk, even if it’s only a trip down the driveway to get the mail or paper. If you have longer, go for a walk around the block or through the neighborhood. Breathe deeply and savor the fresh air and sunshine. Thank God for the beauty of His creation. Feel His love for you and your loved one.

Be sure to eat healthy meals and snacks; don’t let your hunger undermine your healthy eating plan because you forgot to pack meals or snacks. Plan ahead and your plan will succeed! Also remember, several small meals throughout the day are better than three big meals. This can help you stabilize your blood sugar and avoid an afternoon crash or slump.

Many people like having a to-do list and checking off things when each task is finished. A to-do list gives your day a framework by which to identify your accomplishments, even if that accomplishment is as small as baking a batch of cookies or changing the sheets on the bed.

Without some way to measure your progress, you might lose yourself in the void of a seemingly meaningless day to day existence.

Making some opportunities for “Me” time can also be of real benefit here. Don’t feel embarrassed or inadequate to admit that you can’t do everything by yourself. Ask trusted friends, church members, or family to step in and help you out periodically so you can keep yourself healthy and give better care to your loved ones.

For more tips on how best to take care of yourself and avoid some of the pitfalls of family caregiving, check out these suggestions from the Family Caregiver Alliance

Chris and I hope you will join our conversation this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how you avoid the pitfalls of family caregiving.

Necessary Conversations

Having necessary conversations about End-of-Life issues shouldn’t be difficult.adult elder elderly enjoyment

As we age, we think about how we might like our last days to be. Have you given this any thought? How about your aging parent or loved one? Have you talked together with them about their wishes for end-of-life care or the legacy of memories and experiences they will leave after they are gone?

According to a 2017 Home Instead survey of seniors and middle-aged adult children whose parents were still living, nearly 90% of seniors knew how they wanted their final days to look and feel, but less than 70% of adult children were comfortable talking about their parents’ end of life planning. Also, nearly half of the adult children surveyed were more fearful of when their parents could no longer care for themselves than they were concerned about a parent’s death.

My mother was particular about her final wishes. She put everything in a large 3-ring binder that I called her “Death Book.” In her last decade, she would pull the book out once or twice a year and review its contents with me. Upon her death, everything I needed to know was in that book. My brother, on the other hand, was unwilling to go through the book with her. Each time she tried to share it with him, he would respond by telling her he didn’t want to look at that right now. It worried her that he wouldn’t let her talk about those things that were so important to her.

Conversations about final days don’t have to be difficult. Especially for people of faith, death should not be frightening, because it is a homecoming into the presence of God. But for surviving family members who are unclear or uncomfortable about a loved one’s last wishes, this time can be stressful and overwhelming. Some tools can help family caregivers overcome the discomfort and find ways to begin and even end these difficult conversations, but the trick is to take the time.

Begun in 2010, The Conversation Project helps families start and finish conversations to define last wishes. The goal is to have every person’s preferences for end-of-life care expressed and respected. Here’s a link to the Conversation Starter kit. The kit is a digital document you can save to your computer or tablet and type directly into the record.

CaregiverStress.com offers tips for end-of-life care here, and a Life Legacy Worksheetas well that you can print out and invite others to build a memory collective or other relevant information.

Chris and I hope you will join our conversation this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about having difficult conversations that can lead to observing and respecting last wishes.

5 Things Family Caregivers Don’t Want to Hear

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Caregiving is hard work, and it takes a special person to be the hands and feet of Christ when you are caring for your aging parent or family member. People mean well when they offer words intended to compliment, recognize or encourage you, but these expressions might just come at a wrong time or hit you the wrong way. If you know a family caregiver, consider these things to avoid when offering encouragement. If you ARE a family caregiver, maybe you need to share these thoughts with others.

  1. “God won’t give you more than you can handle,”or “You will be richly rewarded in heaven!”

When you feel you are at a breaking point, it really doesn’t help to hear words like these. Spiritually encouraging words may fall on deaf ears to a believer who wonders where they will find strength for today.

  1. “You’re looking tired, you need to take a break.”

I remember trying to fix myself up when my mother was dying. Her friends would come to visit her, ask how I was doing, and then tell me I looked tired. I knew I looked tired, I didn’t need them to remind me! Sometimes their words discouraged and disheartened me in those difficult days.

  1. “It must take a special person to do what you are doing. I’m sure I couldn’t do it!”

Well, it’s nice to know that someone thinks you are unique, but not so sweet that they find it so overwhelming, distasteful, discouraging, or any other negative descriptors. This phrase makes you feel even more alone on your care journey.

  1. “Why don’t you do that differently?”or “You should…”or “You should NEVER…”

These words are judgmental and cut deeply. Never compare yourself to someone else’s caregiving situation. Every family caregiver must walk their own road, and if they are not asking for help or advice, it’s not your place to offer it. If they DO ask for help, however…

  1. “Let me know if I can do anything to help.”

When you make this offer, be ready to receive a list of suggestions for how you can help. Maybe you can stay with a friend’s dad for an hour while she goes for a walk. Offer to shop for groceries and ask if you can bring things by tomorrow or the next day. Bring a cup of coffee or tea to share when you come by for a visit. Put legs on your offer and watch a support team take shape alongside you!

For more ideas on what not to say to a family caregiver, and what to say instead, click here.

For things not to say to a family caregiver dealing with Alzheimer’s, check out these ideas.

We hope you will join our conversation this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about things a family caregiver doesn’t want to hear.