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Archive | Aging Parents

When it isn’t Alzheimer’s—Learn about other dementias

Alzheimer’s disease gets a lot of attention for being the most common cause of dementia in older people. But what if it isn’t Alzheimer’s?

Visit the ADEAR website to learn about other types of dementia, including:

  • Vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal disorders
  • Mixed dementia
  • Other conditions that cause dementia

More information about Alzheimer’s and dementia

-information from the National Institutes on Aging

Race Judicata

The Dutton & Casey attorneys and staff are sponsoring, and participating in this 5K race, which supports Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.

Date: Thursday, September 10, 2015

In connection with the CVLS, our attorneys assist, pro bono, the Cook County Adult Protective Services Agencies with their abuse, neglect and financial exploitation cases.

Exercise for People Who Have Dementia

Exercise and physical activity are important for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise helps with general health, weight maintenance, and good sleep habits. Check out these tips to help people with Alzheimer’s get and stay active:

  • Try several 10-minute mini-workouts if a longer workout is too much.
  • Add music to exercises or try dancing together.
  • Break exercises into simple, easy-to-follow steps.

You can also participate in the National Institute on Aging’s Go4Life Month this September! In collaboration with the White House Conference on Aging, Go4Life Month encourages all older adults to be active every day. Whether you are part of an organization or an individual, there are plenty of ways to participate. Visit the Go4Life Month website for more information.

 

 

Travel Tips for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s time for summer vacation! Taking a person with Alzheimer’s disease on an overnight trip can be challenging, but here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Keep your schedule realistic—allow lots of time for each thing you want to do.
  • Plan rest periods.
  • Follow a routine like the one you use at home. Try to have the person eat, rest, and go to bed at the same time they do at home.
  • If the person is prone to wandering, carry a recent photo of them on the trip.

Get more useful travel information in Alzheimer’s Caregiving Tips: Traveling Overnight.

Marriage Equality and Elder Law: Planning for Your Future

Marriage Equality and Elder Law: Planning for Your Future

Finally, all people can be married.   The implications of marriage, especially for older adults who are planning for their future, should be understood as it can impact you  both financially and legally.  Attend this session presented by Janna Dutton, Certified Elder Law Attorney, who has devoted her entire legal career to elder law, and learn what you need to know in order to make a decision that is appropriate for you and the person you love.

 Date: Friday, August 7, 2015

Time: 1:00pm – 2:00 pm.

Location: SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Bisexual Older Adults) in Bellwood, Illinois

Registration: There is no charge to attend. However, advanced registration is required. Please contact Eric Vironet at eric@wsseniors.org.

Understanding Estate Administration

Understanding Estate Administration

Whenever a person dies, their estate needs to be collected and managed. Estate administration involves gathering the assets of the estate, paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing the remaining assets. Not only are you dealing with the death of a loved one, the estate administration process can be overwhelming. Attend this program, presented by Attorney Hanny Pei-Rodriguez and learn more about preparing for, and managing, this difficult task.

Presented by: Hanny Pei-Rodriguez, JD

Date: Thursday, July 23, 2015

Time: 6:30 pm -7:30 pm

Location: Gilda’s Club Chicago, 537 North Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60654

Registration: There is no charge to attend. However advanced registration is required. Please contact 312 464-9900 to register.

 

 

Attention Grandparents: Watch out for phony debt collectors

My grandma kept an eye out for cheaters. (No, not that kind.) Back in the day, if a salesman knocked on her front door, she waved them off. Before caller ID, she hung up on telemarketers. But a call from a phony debt collector? She might have fallen for that one. Especially if the debt collector said she was responsible for her grandchild’s debt.

 

read more

 

Advice for older people on staying safe in hot weather

Summer weather can pose special health risks to older adults and people with chronic medical conditions. It is critically important that adults particularly susceptible to hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses know how to safeguard against problems. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has some tips to help avoid the hazards of hot weather.

read more.

 

 

Unique interactive map helps meet needs of people with electricity-dependent medical equipment

This unique interactive map helps meet needs of people with electricity-dependent medical equipment

The HHS emPOWER Map, an interactive online tool, launched today to aid community health agencies and emergency management officials in disaster preparedness as they plan ahead to meet the emergency needs of community residents who rely on electrically powered medical and assistive equipment to live independently at home.

learn more.

 

Reverse Mortgage- Caution Needed

You see the ads on TV, in the newspaper, and online. They push the benefits of a reverse mortgage for homeowners over 62: pay off your existing mortgage, supplement your income, pay for healthcare expenses, and more. But is a reverse mortgage right for you? That depends. While a reverse mortgage may increase your monthly income, it can put your retirement security at risk if you’re not careful.

learn more from the Federal Trade Commission

 

Exciting News from Dutton & Casey

Partner Kathryn Casey has completed the long and difficult process to become a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). This certification has frequently been referred to as “the gold standard” for elder law and special needs attorneys.

In our ongoing commitment to provide the highest level of services to our clients and their families both of our Partners, Janna Dutton and Kathryn Casey, are certified.

Please click on the link below to learn more about the process to become a CELA and how this level of knowledge and dedication can better assist you and / or someone you care about.

https://www.duttonelderlaw.com/certified-elder-law-attorney…/

Legal Planning for the Family Caregiver Program = Via Phone – Today

Legal Planning for Family Caregiver

This session will answer fundamental legal questions common to clients and families, such as: What are the duties and authorities under the various healthcare surrogate laws? What are the different types of trusts and how do they work? , How can Medicare, Medicaid, long term care insurance and personal care contracts be used to maximize a person’s quality of life.

Presenter: Janna Dutton, JD, CELA

Date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Time: Noon – 1:00pm

Location: This program is offered via the phone.

Registration: This program is being offered by Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other. There is no charge to attend, but advanced registration is required.  Click here for more information.

Elder Financial Abuse: Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Financial Exploitation

Mistreatment of older adults is not just a matter of neglect or violence. Financial abuse is also all too common—and often, family members and caregivers are the culprits. Elder financial exploitation is defined as “the illegal use of an older adult’s funds or property for the benefits of someone besides the older adult. This includes theft, fraud, and use of influence over the senior to gain control over an older person’s money or property.” Join BMO Harris Bank, Aging Care Connections, and Dutton & Casey to learn to identify key warning signs and how to protect your loved ones from Elder Financial Abuse.

Presenters: Janna Dutton, JD, CELA; Ken Nimmo, Account Risk Services Specialist at BMO Harris Bank, N.A.; and Elizabeth Rivera, MSW, Adult Protective Services Supervisor at Aging Care Connections

Date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: Plymouth Place – Dole Hall, 315 N. La Grange Road, La Grange Park, Illinois

Registration: Please call 708-873-1633 to register.

Hospital Stay – Observation or In-Patient – WHO KNOWS ???

Medicare beneficiary’s inpatient or outpatient status in a hospital affects the way that Medicare bills the beneficiary as well as whether the patient qualifies for Skilled Nursing Facility care following the hospital stay, so it is really important for a beneficiary to understand their rights.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy created a handout that describes the issue surrounding observation status, and provides steps that patients can take to try and resolve the issue. Please click on the link below to view the packet: http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/self-help-packet-for-medicare-observation-status/

In Illinois, hospitals are not required to tell a patient if they are being put under observation status or being admitted to the hospital, so it is important for the patient to ask. Please view the fact sheet, created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for more information about the difference between inpatient and outpatient status: http://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11435.pdf

– source Make Medicare Work Coalition http://www.ageoptions.org/services-and-programs_makemedicarework.html

Illinois Expands Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) to Physician Orders on Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

Illinois Expands Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) to Physician Orders on Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

On March 14, 2013, the Illinois Department of Public Health released a revised version of its “IDPH Uniform Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Advance Directive.”  The updated form is subtitled “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” (POLST)  This form represents a widely recognized best practice that documents medical orders for life-extending treatments for seriously ill patients. POLST is now in use in 38 states with adoptions by Illinois and Indiana in 2013.  It is intended to promote more patient-centered conversations between physicians/other healthcare professionals and the patient or legal surrogate.

click here to learn more

YOUR Legal Update from Dutton & Casey – Attorneys at Law (Estate Planning I Probate I Elder Law)

In case you are new to reading our blog, this is the link to read all of our newsletters.

The goal of our newsletter is to provide helpful, and understandable, information on estate planning, probate, and elder law related topics.

Please feel free to share this resource.

February 2013 Issue of YOUR Legal Update

The February issue our of newsletter has been published.

This issue contains helpful articles and information on our educational offerings, for community members and professionals, for Spring.

click here to read the latest issue.

Are You Really “In” The Hospital

If you have Medicare, did you know that even, if you stay in the hospital overnight, HOSPITAL you might still be considered an “outpatient”?

Your hospital status (whether the hospital considers you an “inpatient” or “outpatient”) affects how much you pay, qualification for rehabilitation, and more.

Resource Information –

Next Step in Care, a campaign of United Hospital Fund, provides hospital admission and Emergency Room guides to provide basic information about “observation status” and what to ask. This information is important as it is a rising trend to be in an “observation” rather than “in-patient” in the hospital.

Click here to open the hospital admission guide.

Click here to open the Emergency Room guide.

Click here to read it as a standalone piece.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

For their publication on hospital status (observation or in-patient), click here.

Scam Alert

12-5-12          

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois Commerce Commission alerted utility customers to a recent scam targeting residents in the Chicago area in which someone claiming to be a utility employee asks for immediate payment of a bill either at a customer’s door, over the telephone or by e-mail.

 The ICC has received complaints from utility customers about scam artists claiming to be utility representatives, telling customers that their service will be disconnected unless payment is made directly to the scammers. The scammer may direct the consumer to purchase a prepaid credit card, “Cash Card” and to call them back with the personal identification number (PIN).  The stories can vary, for example, with the scammer saying that the customer’s billing cycle has changed and payment must be made immediately, that the account is past due and payment can be made to them directly to avoid disconnection of the utility service, or the customer’s previous payment was rejected or never received.

 “If someone appears at your door claiming to be from your utility company and asking for immediate payment of your bill, I would slam the door in their face, call the police and contact your utility company directly. Utility companies do not go door-to-door collecting payments,” Madigan said. “Any consumer who has provided their personal information to make an on-the-spot payment to someone claiming to represent a utility company should contact my office’s Consumer Fraud Bureau with the details.”

 ICC Chairman Doug Scott urged consumers to always ask for identification from those who knock on their door offering a “service.” “Scam artists are good at what they do, so arm yourself with information before doing business with anyone who comes to your door or calls you on the telephone.  Ask for identification and if doesn’t look right to you, it probably isn’t.  You don’t have to do business with anyone who shows up at your door or calls you asking for personal information,” Scott said.  “Contact the utility and check it out for yourself.” 

The Attorney General and the ICC offer these reminders to utility customers:

 *Never provide personal information to anyone who comes to the door or calls you claiming to be a representative of the utility.

 *Contact the utility at the phone number listed on your bill to confirm the caller or the representative at your home is a verifiable employee of the utility.  Do not call a different number suggested by the potential scammer.

 *Utility field personnel in Illinois do not take payments from consumers. Be on guard with anyone who asks for your personal information, or says you must pay immediately and suggests a method to get the money quickly.

 If you suspect you have been scammed, have a suspicious incident to report or have questions, contact the Attorney General’s office at 1-800-386-5438 or the ICC at 1-800-524-0795

Resource for Older Drivers

Older Drivers Topic Now Available on NIHSeniorHealth.gov

Site offers information on age-related health changes, safety tips and driving adjustments

NIHSeniorHealth has just released a new topic for older drivers and families seeking information on an often sensitive subject: Is it still safe to drive? The new “Older Drivers” topic, available at http://nihseniorhealth.gov/olderdrivers/howagingaffectsdriving/01.html, gives older adults and their loved ones information to help them address that question and others related todriving in later life.

Key points include:

  • how health and aging may affect driving
  • tips for road safety
  • steps to take when driving skills change  
  • making sure your vehicle is safe
  • regulations affecting older drivers
  • alternative modes of transportation, and more

“Older Drivers” was developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at NIH and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

For more health and wellness information for older adults from the National Institutes of Health, go to www.nihseniorhealth.gov. NIHSeniorHealth is a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health.

 
 

Resource for People who have Parkinsons Disease

AWARE IN CARE KIT

From the National  Parkinson Foundation….  Aware In Care Kit. You can order your free kit by calling their national toll-free Helpline at 1-800-474-4636.  There is almost a total lack of understanding on the part of hospital, rehab, and nursing home staff of the disease itself, the medications used to treat it, and the importance of timing when administering medication.  This kit can make a future hospital stay a success rather than the disaster that many people with PD have endured.

 

TIPS FOR CAREGIVERS OF SOMEONE WHO HAS ALZHEIMERS DISEASE

Every day can bring a new change or challenge for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Now, practical information and advice is at hand with a new series of Alzheimer’s Caregiving Tips from the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, a service of the National Institute on Aging at NIH.

Based on the NIA publication Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease, the tip sheets offer brief, reliable, easy-to-understand information on a range of issues. They can help caregivers of people at any stage of the disease—mild, moderate, or severe.

Topics include:

Read, download, or print the tip sheets at www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/caregiving 
(Available online only)

Resource for Family Caregivers in Chicago Area

Powerful Tools for Caregivers Class

Thursdays, October 4 through November 8, 2012

3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Rush University Medical Center, Tower Resource Center

1620 W. Harrison Street, Suite 04527, Chicago

REGISTRATION REQUIRED

This six-week education program is exclusively for family and friends caring for older adults with long-term conditions. Each weekly class provides family caregivers with the skills and confidence to better care for themselves while caring for others. Many caregivers have raved about the class, including those caring for a spouse or partner as well as adult family members and friends caring for an elder. Class members will receive The Caregiver Helpbook, developed specifically for the class.

Participating caregivers report they:

  • · Are better at caring for themselves
  • · Have fewer feelings of anger, guilt and depression
  • · Have increased confidence and ability to cope with the demands of caregiving
  • · Take more advantage of community services

Skills learned build upon each other from week to week , plan to attend all six sessions.

Rush Generations member: $30 (parking validated and scholarships available)

Non-member: $50 (parking not validated)

Please call 1-312-563-2703 for more information or to register.

 

Janna Dutton and Kathryn C. Casey Welcome Attorney Helen Mesoloras to the Firm

On June 1, 2012, Attorney Helen Mesoloras joined Dutton & Casey, PC, Attorneys at Law.

Helen concentrates her practice in elder law, with a focus on long term care planning, guardianships, probate and trust administrations, and estate planning. She represents clients in routine guardianship and probate matters, as well as more complex Medicaid and special needs planning cases. She enjoys working with clients and their families to develop and implement plans to achieve their goals, and guides her clients in every step of the plan.

To learn more about Helen Mesoloras, the firm of  Dutton & Casey, and how we can assist you, or someone who you care about, please review our website.

 

Being Prepared for an Emergency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Disability.gov (the federal government website for comprehensive information on disability programs and services in communities nationwide) urge all people, especially older adults and people who have a disability, to plan ahead in case of an emergency.

Not only should the plan include supplies, it should include legal planning such a powers of attorney and other tools. For more information on how Dutton & Casey, PC., Attorneys at Law, can assist you prepare for an emergency, please review our website or send us an email.

Advocacy Needed to Prevent Proposed Medicaid Changes in Illinois

The STAMP Act, HB 2840 just passed the executive committee  of the Illinois General Assembly and will go to the floor next.  If passed, the STAMP Act will dramatically cut the  Illinois Medicaid program. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services proposed many changes  incorporated into the Bill which will significantly restrict Medicaid eligibility of seniors for long term care coverage. 

 Please click here to read more and learn how you can help.

Helping your parents stay out of the nursing home

Aging parents and their children sometimes disagree over the issues of safety versus independent living. Here are steps you can take to make your parents’ home safer.

By Karen Ravn, Special to the Los Angeles Times

February 6, 2012

 

 

Your parents say they couldn’t bear to lose their independence. Their hearts are set on staying in their own home for the rest of their days. And you understand. It’s what you’d like for them too. But they’re not as young as they used to be. Not as strong and on top of things. And you can’t help wondering if their plan is really wise, or even feasible. So you worry.

The question of what’s best for mom and/or dad is one that bedevils many children with aging parents, says Dr. David Reuben, chief of the geriatrics division in UCLA’s Department of Medicine. “One of the things older people want most is to stay in their own homes. But there’s always a tension between autonomy and safety. Children may want to err on the side of safety, but parents may want to err on the side of autonomy.”

Of course, the time may come when physical or cognitive limitations make independent living impossible. But until then, there are steps you can take to make your parents’ home safer, their lives in it easier — and your concerns about them a little less daunting.

To make a home more elder-friendly, a safety assessment is a good place to start, says Myra Hyatt, a specialist clinical social worker at the Landon Center on Aging at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. That means having an occupational therapist inspect your parents’ home for safety concerns and suggest ways to deal with them. These are some of the main issues that often come up in such assessments.

Stuff happens, so be prepared. If they have a personal emergency response system, your parents can call for help, 24/7, with only a push of a button. Newer systems can detect when a person has fallen down, so even if they’re too injured to push the button, the system will automatically alert an operator, Hyatt says.

Being prepared can prevent stuff from happening. An emergency response system is a very fine thing, but in the long run it’s more important to create an environment where such a system is needed as rarely as possible, says Linda Ercoli, director of geriatric psychology at UCLA. “If you fall and break your hip, you might be able to push a button and get help, but the fact remains that you’ll have broken your hip.”

Indeed, your parents’ home may be booby-trapped with all sorts of falls waiting to happen — including slippery showers or tubs (add grab bars), slide-prone throw rugs (get rid of them or tape them down) and fate-tempting steps and stairs (consider installing ramps or even chairlifts). Poor lighting is another open invitation for your parents to take a tumble or bang their heads or stub their toes. With brighter, better-positioned lights, you’ll be sure they can see what they’re doing and where they’re going.

Be an alarmist. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be standard in every home. But your parents might also benefit from other, more specialized alarms, Hyatt says — for example, an alarm that goes off if a pot has been left unattended on the stove for too long, or one that reminds them to take their medications (and alerts someone else if they don’t).

Life-simplifying devices. Clothing that fastens with Velcro — instead of buttons or zippers — can make a welcome difference for fingers stiff with arthritis. And for backs no longer terribly keen on bending, an extra-long shoehorn can be a real blessing. Speaking of recalcitrant backs, a handy-dandy reacher/grabber allows for bend-free retrieval of items that fall on the floor as well as stretch-free retrieval of objects from high shelves.

Staying connected. Isolation can be a problem for seniors, especially as they become less mobile. If their hearing has also gone downhill, talking on the phone may be difficult. But a phone with amplified speakers can help, Hyatt says. And if their eyes aren’t so sharp anymore, big buttons can help too. So can email with big fonts.

Senior centers and adult day care are other good options for those who can get to them — as are pets, at least in the right circumstances. “They make great companions,” Reuben says. “People relate to them exceptionally well.” On the other hand, he warns, “if your parents can’t walk very well themselves, they obviously won’t be able to walk a dog. And pets can get underfoot.” Tripping over a leg-rubbing cat or toy-chasing dog can cause falls. Think goldfish?

Food. Nutrition can be problematic for seniors, Ercoli cautions. “Will they eat right — or even at all?” Perhaps your parents are eligible for Meals on Wheels services. Also, senior centers often offer no- or low-cost lunches. You might even hire someone to shop for groceries and prepare meals.

Professional services. Staying in their own home can be a lot easier for your parents if they don’t need to worry about keeping it clean or keeping the yard looking good. You can hire professionals to do those and almost any other chores your parents might no longer feel up to.

Taking care of business. Maybe it’s time for you to take charge of your parents’ finances — pay their bills, balance their checkbook. And it’s important for them to consult an elder law specialist, Hyatt says. How they handle their assets can have big-bucks repercussions down the road, affecting their eligibility for programs like Medicaid, to name just one example.

Take care of yourself too. Worrying about and caring for your parents can wear you down, Hyatt says. “You can become isolated yourself and find yourself thinking, ‘I want my life back.’ Part of the challenge is the guilt you feel.” That’s where caregiver support groups come in, she says. You can be open and frank there, even about the feelings you’re least proud of. “Everyone there will get it,” she says. “They won’t think you’re a monster.”

Resources. Countless agencies and organizations are dedicated to providing invaluable — but often free or low-cost — senior services. Information about many of these is available from your local Area Agency on Aging, which in Los Angeles County can be reached at (800) 510-2020 or css.lacounty.gov (click on the “Programs” tab). There you can find help with many of these issues, as well as others. Also, for a thorough “Housing Safety Checklist for Older People,” visit and click on the “Housing” tab.

“Find help,” Hyatt says, “because it’s out there. And it can mean you stay the course and keep your parents at home as long as you can.”

health@latimes.com

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For information on how the law firm of Dutton & Casey can assist you assist you, or someone who you care about, plan for today…and tommorrow, please click here.

Illinois Department of Transporation’s Life-Saving Yellow Dot Program

IDOT Unveils Life-Saving Yellow Dot Program

Program Provides Emergency Responders with Crucial Medical Information to Help Crash Victims

The Illinois Yellow Dot program, a life-saving, traffic safety initiative that provides first responders with critical information to improve emergency care for persons involved in vehicle crashes. IDOT along with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Illinois Department of Aging (IDOA) and county health departments across the state are working together to increase awareness of the voluntary, federally funded program, and provide distribution centers and information for interested residents.

“Roadway safety is always a top priority at IDOT, and the Yellow Dot program can help improve roadway safety by providing first responders the crucial medical information they need to treat injuries and save lives, beginning at the scene of a crash,” said Acting Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. “This important program gives IDOT and our partners another important way to improve our exceptional record on traffic safety. I encourage all motorists to participate in this unique and effective program, which could make the difference between life and death for individuals involved in crashes.”

Because the first hour following an injury is the most crucial, the Yellow Dot program provides essential personal health information to emergency responders in order to promptly care for a crash victim. This ‘Golden Hour’ is critical in the treatment of crash victims, and the medical information provided through the program could be a lifesaver.

When a crash occurs, emergency medical first responders such as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians are immediately dispatched to the scene. These responders usually have basic information such as the location of the crash and the number of victims. Frequently, minimal personal information is available during this early, most critical time period.

“This is a great opportunity for older drivers to update their medical information and have a voice in their emergency treatment in the event of an accident,” said John K. Holton, Ph.D., director of the Illinois Department on Aging. “The Yellow Dot program will serve as a lifeline to alert first responders of crucial medical information which can help the victims who may be unable to communicate at the crash site or may have forgotten to share the information.” Yellow Dot participants are supplied with a simple, bright yellow decal for their car and a corresponding yellow folder. The decal is placed in a conspicuous and consistent place – in the lower left-hand corner of the rear window, driver’s side. The yellow dot signifies there is a folder in the glove compartment containing the following medical information about the motorists: participant’s name, close-up photo, emergency contact information, patient’s physician information, medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies and a list of current medications. Having access to this information allows first responders to make important decisions regarding emergency treatment and can better prepare emergency hospital staff in the receiving room.

“Time is critical in an emergency situation. If paramedics and emergency medical workers know what medications a person is taking, if the person has allergies or a chronic condition, they can make better decisions about treatment,” said Acting IDPH Director Dr. Craig Conover. “Delaying treatment can mean the difference between life and death in some cases. Something as simple as having your medical information on a yellow card in your glove compartment can potentially make a big difference in the emergency care you receive.”

The Yellow Dot program, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, was originally introduced in Connecticut in 2002. For more information on the program and to find a distribution center near you, visit www.yellowdotillinois.org.

 

Resource from National Stroke Association – Careliving

National Stroke Association is pleased to announce the official launch of Careliving Community, a new online social network designed exclusively for caregivers and family members of stroke survivors.

This free private space allows caregivers and loved ones of stroke survivors to connect, share advice and swap stories through a discussion forum. Careliving also offers a blog written by fellow caregivers and live chats with experts on caregiving.

Careliving was developed based on a serious need among caregivers for a private online support space where individuals can find peer-level support and also learn to take better care of themselves.

Caregivers can join the Careliving Community at www.stroke.org/careliving.

Making Sense of Memory Loss – 5 Part Educational Class

 Some memory loss is normal as we age, but some older people experience more than occasional forgetfulness. What should family members know and what can they do to help someone who is beginning to experience memory loss or other difficulties with thinking?

A five-part educational program has been developed to help family members of someone in the early stages of memory loss or with early stage diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. This special program is taught by Michaela Hoffman, MSW of Catholic Charities Northwest Senior Services and Bonnie Scherkenbach,MS, LPC of The Barrington Area Council on Aging.

The class includes the following topics:

ü Overview of Memory Loss & Related Symptoms

ü Communication Strategies

ü Making Decisions

ü Planning for the Future (Attorney Kathryn Casey will be presenting)

ü Effective Ways of Coping and Caring

 

WHEN: February 14 through March 13th, 2012

                   Every Tuesday from 1:00 to 3:30 P.M.

 

WHERE: The Community Church of Barrington

                    301 East Lincoln Avenue, Barrington IL

 

FEE:  $15 includes five, two and one half hour weekly sessions and the book “Alzheimer’s Early Stages” by Daniel Kuhn, MSW

 

To register or for more information please contact

Michaela Hoffman, MSW at 847-253-5500 ex. 333 or

Bonnie Scherkenbach, MS, LPC at 847-852-3890

 

American Parkinson Disease Association

In the current issue of their newsletter, dealing with Social Security and nutrition for someone who has Parkinson’s Disease are discussed.

How Social Security Evaluates Parkinson’s Disease

If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), are currently going through the application process, or have previously applied and were not approved, this article will help you to understand how Social Security evaluates each case.

Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease

Good nutrition is important for everyone, but especially for someone with Parkinson’s disease.  A healthy diet can help people with PD achieve or maintain normal body weight, increase energy level, boost their immune system, decrease risk factors for certain conditions or illnesses, and reduce constipation

To view these articles in their entirety or to subscribe their e-newsletter, please contact the APDA Young Onset Center at (877) 223-3801 or visit www.youngparkinsons.org.  

New toolkit helps baby boomers transition to Medicare coverage

New toolkit helps baby boomers transition to Medicare coverage

“The Medicare Rights Center and AgeOptions announce the release of “How Medicare Works With Employer-Based Insurance: A Guide for Employers, Professionals and Consumers-”

(By Targeted News Service, December 20, 2011)

http://insurancenewsnet.com/article.aspx?id=317345

 

Tools to Help Choose a Good Nursing Home

By Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.

December 6, 2011

Finding a high-quality nursing home for a family member is a daunting task.

Many people have not had to make this decision before. And it’s often made under stress, when asking good questions and thinking carefully about your options are harder than usual.

Fortunately, more information is available that can help you learn about nursing home quality and prepare you to make a well-informed decision.

Start this process with an online tool from the Federal Government called Nursing Home Compare. This lets you look up nursing homes in your area by name, city, county, State, or ZIP Code. First unveiled in 2009, Nursing Home Compare has detailed information on every nursing home certified by Medicare or Medicaid.

Nursing homes are rated using a 1- to 5-star scale, with those earning 5 stars being rated the highest. Ratings are based on how many and what type of staff members they have, how well they perform on health inspections, and how they rank on quality measures. Ratings for each measure are given individually and are also combined into an overall rating.

Starting in 2012, Nursing Home Compare will include a new measure that includes input from the nursing home residents. This new information will take the place of the quality measures that currently appear on Nursing Home Compare. Findings will be part of the ratings starting in April 2012.

Staffing and health inspection data add important information and will continue to be a factor in each nursing home’s overall rating. The staffing measure tells you the average staffing levels—such as the number of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants—for each resident each day. This is a good benchmark, but it has limits. It does not show the number of nursing staff present at any given time or describe the amount of care give to any one resident. The health inspection measure looks at many major aspects of care in a nursing home. This includes how medicines are managed, whether food is prepared safely, and whether residents are protected from inadequate care. Inspections take place about once a year, but they may be done more often if the nursing home has several problems to correct.

Even with so much good information, the Nursing Home Compare tool and rating system won’t answer all of your questions. For example, the ratings won’t tell you if the nursing home has improved, or gotten worse, in certain areas since it was rated. That’s why it’s important to visit any facility you are considering. Be sure to ask questions of the staff, especially people who provide care to residents. It’s also a good idea to visit a nursing home a second time on a different day of the week and another time of day. You may get a better idea of changes in staff, activities, and other factors that could make a difference in your choice.

An excellent list of questions to ask during such visits is available from a nursing home checklist (PDF File; PDF Help) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). And a new handbook (PDF File; PDF Help) from CMS explains how to pay for nursing home care, describes residents’ rights, and gives alternatives to nursing home care. Another good resource is your State ombudsman; select to find yours.

click here to read more.

Educational Video about the Medicare Program in ASL

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has a new educational video about the Medicare program in ASL for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The video gives an overview of the Medicare program, including what Medicare is, who qualifies, the four parts (A, B, C and D), new preventive services under the Affordable Care Act, and help paying Medicare costs.

click here to learn more.

National Caregiver Support Line for Veterans

The Veterans Adminstration has established a National Caregiver Support Line for Caregivers of
Veterans — spouses, children, other family members and friends of Veterans as well as Veteran themselves.  

for more information on the program, please go to https://duttonelderlaw.com/resources/articles.html

Lewey Body Dementia Association Survey

The Lewey Body Dementia Association (LBDA) is conducting a survey to assess if there are differences in how grief is experienced by caregivers for individuals with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease with and without dementia, and frontotemporal degeneration.  The survey will also assess the well-being and quality of life for caregivers of individuals diagnosed with the neurodegenerative diseases. Internet access is required to participate in the study, and LBDA needs 500 caregivers who are currently providing care for each different disease that is being studied. 

http://www.lbda.org/go/caregiversurvey

Health Literacy and Older Adults

Health Literacy and Older Adults

CDC Releases Practical Advice on Developing Materials to Match the Health Literacy Skills of Older Adults. CDC’s health literacy web site (www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy) has a new section to help health and other professionals develop materials that will communicate more effectively with older adults and their caregivers. The web site includes self-assessments, background information on health literacy, steps to improve materials and links to resources about older adults and caregivers. The new content builds on CDC’s expert panel report on older adults and health literacy issues. 

www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/DevelopMaterials/Audiences/index.html

 

Four Drugs Cause Most Hospitalizations in Older Adults

Blood thinners and diabetes drugs cause most emergency hospital visits for drug reactions among people over 65 in the United States, a new study shows.

Just four medications or medication groups — used alone or together — were responsible for two-thirds of emergency hospitalizations among older Americans, according to the report. At the top of the list was warfarin, also known as Coumadin, a blood thinner. It accounted for 33 percent of emergency hospital visits. Insulin injections were next on the list, accounting for 14 percent of emergency visits.

Aspirin, clopidogrel and other antiplatelet drugs that help prevent blood clotting were involved in 13 percent of emergency visits. And just behind them were diabetes drugs taken by mouth, called oral hypoglycemic agents, which were implicated in 11 percent of hospitalizations.

All these drugs are commonly prescribed to older adults, and they can be hard to use correctly. One problem they share is a narrow therapeutic index, meaning the line between an effective dose and a hazardous one is thin. The sheer extent to which they are involved in hospitalizations among older people, though, was not expected, said Dr. Dan Budnitz, an author of the study and director of the Medication Safety Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We weren’t so surprised at the particular drugs that were involved,” Dr. Budnitz said. “But we were surprised how many of the emergency hospitalizations were due to such a relatively small number of these drugs.”

Every year, about 100,000 people in the United States over age 65 are taken to hospitals for adverse reactions to medications. About two-thirds end up there because of accidental overdoses, or because the amount of medication prescribed for them had a more powerful effect than intended.

As Americans live longer and take more medications — 40 percent of people over 65 take five to nine medications — hospitalizations for accidental overdoses and adverse side effects are likely to increase, experts say.

In the latest study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Budnitz and his colleagues combed through data collected from 2007 to 2009 at 58 hospitals around the country. The hospitals were all participating in a surveillance project run by the C.D.C. that looks at adverse drug events.

A common denominator among the drugs topping the list is that they can be difficult to use. Some require blood testing to adjust their doses, and a small dose can have a powerful effect. Blood sugar can be notoriously hard to control in people with diabetes, for example, and taking a slightly larger dose of insulin than needed can send a person into shock. Warfarin, meanwhile, is the classic example of a drug with a narrow margin between therapeutic and toxic doses, requiring regular blood monitoring, and it can interact with many other drugs and foods.

“These are medicines that are critical,” Dr. Budnitz said, “but because they cause so many of these harms, it’s important that they’re managed appropriately.”

One thing that stood out in the data, the researchers noted, was that none of the four drugs identified as frequent culprits are typically among the types of drugs labeled “high risk” for older adults by major health care groups. The medications that are usually designated high risk or “potentially inappropriate” are commonly used over-the-counter drugs like Benadryl, as well as Demerol and other powerful narcotic painkillers. And yet those drugs accounted for only about 8 percent of emergency hospitalizations among the elderly.

Dr. Budnitz said that the new findings should provide an opportunity to reduce the number of emergency hospitalizations in older adults by focusing on improving the safety of this small group of blood thinners and diabetes medications, rather than by trying to stop the use of drugs typically thought of as risky for this group.

“I think the bottom line for patients is that they should tell all their doctors that they’re on these medications,” he said, “and they should work with their physicians and pharmacies to make sure they get appropriate testing and are taking the appropriate doses.”

link to original posting in the New York Times.

 

Medicare D

Just a reminder, Medicare beneficiaries have until December 7 to enroll in, or change, Medicare D coverage.

For Resources on Medicare D, please go to www.medicare.gov; www.medicareinteractive.org; www.insurance.illinois.gov/ship

Who Are We?

Dutton & Casey, PC (Elder and Disability Law)

Advocates for Elders, Persons with Disabilities, and their Loved Ones.

The law firm of Dutton & Casey, P.C., is committed to serving our clients with the comprehensive and personally tailored service they need and deserve. With 50 years of combined legal experience, we have acquired the depth and breadth of knowledge necessary to address the full scope of elder law and disability issues. 

Our Areas of Concentration:

  • Medicaid Eligibility
  • Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation Litigation
  • Estate and Disability Planning
  • Guardianship
  • Litigation
  • Mental Health Law
  • Probate Administration
  • Public Benefits
  • Special Needs Planning
  • Trust Administration

* Full Time Social Worker/Certified Care Manager On Staff

Office Locations:

Arlington Heights, Chicago, Skokie, and Vernon Hills, Illinois.

Phone / Video Conferencing  Appointments are also Available.

Contact Information:

Telephone:      312-899-0950 or 847-261-3584

Website:          www.duttonelderlaw.com 

 

-please click here for a flyer on the law firm.

Internet Scams

The Family Caregiver Toolbox

Don’t Become the Victim of a Scammer ToolBox

If you have a telephone or an e-mail address, you have no doubt been the target of a scammer. No one is immune from these criminals, who are using more sophisticated techniques every day. Some e-mail scammers have even learned how to make their correspondence appear as if it’s coming from a trusted government source, such as the IRS. The victims of Internet crime alone lose millions of dollars each year.

You can protect yourself and your loved ones. A variety of reputable agencies and organizations have compiled resources and tips that are a must-read for anyone who uses a telephone or computer.

A new toolkit from the National Council on Aging (NCOA), produced in partnership with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation — “Savvy Saving Seniors: Steps to Avoiding Scams” — is helping to educate older adults and their caregivers about how to protect themselves from financial abuse and scams. The toolkit includes a list of signs for caregivers to look for when concerned about their loved ones. Go to www.ncoa.org/assets/files/pdf/Steps-to-Avoiding-Scam-Handbook-10-12-11.pdf.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center, provides helpful “Internet Crime Prevention Tips.” Go to www.ic3.gov/preventiontips.aspx#item-16. View more tips at www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/internet_fraud.

for more information on resources for family caregivers, go to thefamilycaregiver.org

Family Caregiving and Ambiguous Loss

   
 
 
 
Caregiving and Ambiguous Loss
 

Introduction

Caregiving for a loved one can cause stress in many ways. To manage the stress—which we know can be dangerous to a caregiver’s health—we must first know what the problem is. Surprisingly, many caregivers of individuals with memory disorders or dementia report that the main problem is not the illness itself, but the ambiguity and uncertainty it causes.

It’s a difficult challenge to care for someone who is here, but not here—here physically, but gone mentally and psychologically. You feel alone, and in some ways, you are. For many caregivers, it’s as if there’s a stranger in the house.

Adding to the stress, disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or traumatic brain injury cause unpredictable memory loss that comes and goes—one moment here, the next moment gone. This roller coaster of absence and presence is a very stressful kind of loss—what author Pauline Boss calls ambiguous loss. Unlike death, there is no closure, no official validation, and sometimes little community or religious support. You feel you are left to cope on your own; even the strongest caregivers feel anxious and depressed. The challenge is to learn strategies to cope with this ambiguity that is so much a part of memory loss.

 Symptoms of Overwhelming Stress

Caring for someone with a cognitive impairment—and the ambiguous feelings that arise—can create a constancy of sorrow that can immobilize caregivers. For example, decisions are put on hold, tasks pile up, chores delayed. Doubt, confusion, helplessness and hopelessness set in, and caregivers can feel anxious and depressed. Friendships are in limbo as caregiving takes more and more of your time. Conflict increases with spouse, children/stepchildren, siblings. Family gatherings and rituals that were the glue of enjoyable family life are cancelled or changed. When a caregiver feels increasingly isolated, the possibility of depression, anxiety, abuse, guilt, shame, lack of self-care, illness or substance abuse increases.

 Tips for Coping with the  Ambiguity of Memory Loss

To manage the stress of caregiving, try to connect with other people: if possible, join a support group either in person or on the Internet, attend a book club, social event, or faith-based group. Here are some ideas, questions and tips to help: 1. Name your problem.
Know that one real culprit causing your stress is the ambiguity from a loved one being here, but not here. Call it “ambiguous loss.” It is neither your fault nor the patient’s. It is caused by an illness.

2. Practice both/and thinking.
It helps to think “both/and” rather than in the extremes of “either/or.” Instead of thinking the care recipient has to be either here or gone, think of him or her as both here and gone. This means balancing two different ideas at the same time—present, and also absent. Both/and thinking is less stressful than continuing to search for an absolutely perfect solution.

Here are some examples:

“I am both a caregiver—and a person with my own needs.”
“I take care of both him—and myself.”
“I both wish it was over—and that my loved one could keep on living.” 
“I am both sad at my loved one’s illness—and joyful with my new grandchild.”
“I am both sad about my lost hopes and dreams—and happy about some new plans and goals.”

Now add your own examples. “Both/and” thinking may come faster if you practice with another person.

3. Know your “family” and community information and support systems.
You need predictability (not ambiguity) about whom you can talk to and count on for help. Have some other people become “like family” to you? Does your community offer help and social support? Spiritual support? Recreation and respite? Information support? Talk with your Caregiver Resource Center about what help is available to you. Check the web—a quick online search for “caregiver” offers a wealth of information and online communities. If your biological family offers no help, perhaps you can create a “psychological family” that will be there for you when you need help. Talk about how to divide up the work among a “care team.” Make a written plan to know who will do what and when. Who will come once a week so that you can take some time off to do as you wish? Who will come for a week twice a year so that you can take a vacation from caregiving? Several websites can help you establish your caregiving community (see Resource list below).

4. Continue—but revise—family holidays, celebrations and rituals.
Do not cancel, but rather, simplify the gatherings with the people you care about to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and religious events and rituals. Families, friends, and communities connect to celebrate life’s transitions. Human connection can help lower your stress in times of sadness. It can help you and a person with dementia feel the spirit of life around you. This is essential to staying strong when the person you care for is not able to connect fully with you. Think and talk about this: what family rituals did you celebrate as a couple or family before the memory loss? Now? How can you simplify your family rituals and celebrations to fit the circumstances now? Young people can be especially helpful in answering these questions, because of their strong imaginations and new perspectives.

5. Revise family roles.
To manage the stress of caring for someone with severe memory loss, alterations are needed in what you and other family members previously did. There are changes in family roles as a result of the memory loss. What tasks are you now responsible for? What tasks have you lost? How do you manage these changes? What would help? Is there agreement in the family about who should do the caregiving? Are you resilient enough to change or do you feel you have to do  it all as before? Talk about who plays what roles in  the family.

Finally, based on roles, think about how you see yourself now. You might ask: Is it right for me to take time off to go out with friends when my spouse is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease? Do I still feel like a son or daughter or more like a parent to my parent? If my spouse has memory loss, do I still feel married? How should I act?

6. Be aware of family rules.
 Who is allowed to do what in your family? Is there a team approach or are you expected to do all the work alone? Become aware of your family’s rules and question them. They can change. Do your family’s rules about race, religion, class, age, or gender get talked about? For example, is there an unspoken rule in your family that only females can be caregivers? Are certain people excused from helping? Why are they excused? There may need to be a new family rule about “teamwork” so that caregiving does not fall to one person alone. Include children and teenagers in the circle of information about the illness, its effects, its unclear prognosis, and your need for help and teamwork.

7. Understand that anger and guilt are normal, but avoid harmful actions.
While mixed emotions are an understandable outcome of memory loss, the negative feelings can come out as anger or, worse yet, abuse—and that is not acceptable. Talk with someone—a professional or another caregiver—about your negative feelings to prevent acting out your anger. Remember, feeling angry about the ambiguity in memory loss is normal, but acting out that anger against the patient or yourself is not.

8. It seems contradictory, but imagine something new to hope for.
To stay healthy, everyone needs hope. When your loved one is ill, and you are tied to caregiving, you must discover new hope. It helps to talk about this with other people—and again, with young people. They might help you imagine new dreams for your future—new connections, new hobbies, new travel plans, new skills, new relationships.

Given the stress from caregiving and the ambiguity of memory loss, what can you plan for the future that is clear and certain? How about an outing, a firm date for dinner with a friend, a hobby that has clear outcomes, a TV program that you clearly enjoy? New hopes and dreams will emerge when you can balance the ambiguity with some activities that have clear outcomes, no matter how small.

9. Check on your own health.
Seek professional help if you:

  • Feel depressed, physically sick or hopeless.
  • Feel like hurting yourself or hurting or yelling at the person you care for.
  • Depend too heavily on alcohol or recreational drugs.
  • Fight with your spouse, children, stepchildren, or other family members and friends.
  • No longer take care of yourself.

When you are a caregiver for someone with memory loss, the stress of ambiguity adds to the usual pressures of caregiving. You have a duty and a right to take care of yourself.

 Summary

This Fact Sheet is a caregiver’s guide to managing the extra stress from ambiguous loss. To sum it up, think of managing the ambiguity as learning to walk in the fog. Keep moving forward, despite the stress of not knowing what lies ahead. But at the same time, reach out for support and human connections to stay resilient and strong.

 Credits

About Ambiguous Loss. See www.ambiguousloss.com/about_ambiguous_loss.phpBoss, P. (2000, paperback). Ambiguous loss. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Boss, P. (2006). Loss, trauma, and resilience: Therapeutic work with ambiguous loss. New York: Norton.

 Recommended Readings

Bayley, J. (1999). Elegy for Iris. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

McKeithen, M. (2006). Blue peninsula: Essential words for a life of loss and change. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Schulz, R., & Beach, S. (1999). Caregiving as a risk factor for mortality: The caregiver health effects study. Journal of the American Medical Association, 282(23), 2215-2219.

Sparks, N. (1996). The Notebook. New York:  Warner Books.

Film adaptation: Cassavetes, N. (Director), Harris, L. (Producer), & Johnson, M. (Producer). (2004). The Notebook [Motion picture]. New York: New Line Cinema.

TeleCaregivingsm Workshop Audio Archive

Here but Not Here—Finding Hope When Your Loved One Has Memory Loss (Podcast)
http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=2061

Caregiving and Depression
http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=393

Caregiver Health
http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=1822

Caring for Adults with Cognitive and Memory   Impairments
http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=392

Dementia
http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=569

Grief and Loss
http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=404

Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family  Caregivers
http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=847

 Resources

Family Caregiver Alliance
180 Montgomery St., Ste. 900
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 434-3388
(800) 445-8106
Web Site: www.caregiver.org
E-mail: info@caregiver.org
Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) seeks to improve the quality of life for caregivers through education, services, research and advocacy.

Identifying Family Caregivers

Identifying Family Caregivers

Suzanne Mintz
2011-NFCM-Sm

There are more than 65 million family caregivers in America. Some are just beginning the caregiving journey while others have been providing care for five, 10, 15, even 20 years or more. It’s hard for those who are just beginning to help Mom and Dad with a few activities each week to relate to those of us who are providing more than 40 hours of care a week to a spouse/ partner, child, or parent who is severely ill and/or disabled, who lives with us, and who needs help with virtually all the ordinary activities of daily living such as dressing, toileting, eating, etc.

Those at the beginning of the journey don’t interact with the healthcare system as much as “high-burden” family caregivers — those of us who are putting in more than 40 hours a week helping a loved one. I fit into the latter group and I suspect that most of you reading this article do too. When there is talk about family caregivers needing help, about the nation’s most vulnerable citizens — and those who require the most resources — we and our loved ones are the people being discussed.

Within the caregiving community, advocates, scholars, researchers and others have all lamented the fact that as a rule, family caregivers don’t self-identify and that is the reason it is so hard to reach us with information and support. People at the beginning of the family caregiving journey are less likely to self-identify as family caregivers and that may be OK, but it is very important that high-burden family caregivers self-identify, or are identified as such by others.

The other day I had one of those “I should have had a V8” moments. I realized that it is less important for family caregivers to self-identify than it is for healthcare providers and the healthcare system to identify who are family caregivers. How can our healthcare system provide patient- and family-centered care, as we are told it should, if it doesn’t identify half of the equation? It doesn’t make sense really, and it certainly isn’t respectful. I have an idea about how family caregivers can be identified through their interaction with the healthcare system, an idea that is easy to implement and will cost virtually no money at all.

We’ve all filled out countless medical intake forms that become part of the medical record. They ask about our health history and even that of our parents, but they never ask, “Do you provide care for a family member or friend who is chronically ill and/or disabled?” or, “If you have a chronic illness or disability, is there a family member or friend who provides care to you or helps you manage your illness or disability?”

How can doctors, nurses and others pay attention to us, find out what care we provide at home, and keep an eye on our own health if they don’t know who we are? It’s important that they know exactly what type of care we provide our loved ones.

Do you do any of the following: take a loved one to the doctor regularly, manage his/her medications, or help him/her get in and out of bed and to the toilet, or eat or dress? How long have you been providing care? Do you have chronic back pain or feelings of depression? Knowing this type of information can impact the plan of care that healthcare professionals recommend and it can alert them to any problems you might have as well. While in some cases it’s obvious that there is a family caregiver, if it isn’t in the record, it isn’t official; consequently, we are truly invisible to the healthcare establishment, the government, and private insurers, despite the rhetoric to the contrary.

Given all the talk about patient- and family-centered care, not identifying family caregivers is at best an oversight and at worst hypocritical; either way, we need to correct this glaring omission. It’s important to inform healthcare professionals, key healthcare decision makers, the government, and private insurance companies that “family caregiver” is not just a term to pay tribute to, but, rather, that we are real people who provide long-term care for millions of Americans.

What you can do to ensure that family caregivers are identified in medical records:

  1. Attach a piece of paper to every intake form you fill out for yourself or your loved one. Put your name and your loved one’s name at the top and then write: “I am John Smith’s wife and his primary caregiver,” or, “My daughter, Nancy Dale, is my primary caregiver,” or a similar phrase. List the top five to 10 tasks you do and note the impact on your health and well-being (chronic back pain, depression) and your life (having to cut hours at work). Save this information on your computer and print it out each time you take Mom to the doctor or visit your own.
  2. Talk about the idea with your pharmacists, nurses, or others you come in contact with who have some connection to the healthcare system. They have probably never thought about the idea of identifying family caregivers on medical records.
  3. Write to your insurance company. Tell them that knowing who among their beneficiaries are family caregivers, and/or who have family caregivers, will provide them with an opportunity to find new ways to improve care and cut costs.
  4. Use social media to spread the idea. Talk to family, friends, and even clergy.

The goal is to create a buzz so that family caregivers and everyday people, as well as providers and decision makers, realize that something is missing on medical records: information about whether someone is or has a family caregiver. November is National Family Caregivers (NFC) Month. Let’s make NFC Month 2011 the time we began the movement to identify family caregivers in medical records.

 Click here for more information on the National Family Caregivers Association.

How to Tell When Your Parents Need Help…

How Do I Know When My Parents Need Help?

As your parents age, you may begin to wonder or worry: “Are they safe at home? How can I tell if they need help?” Your parents are independent, private people who are not going to share with you incidents that make you think they are not okay. They do not want to go to a nursing home and lose their independence. They love their home and enjoy being in it. So they are not going to tell you the things that happen that may send them to a nursing home. As a matter of fact, they will hide these issues from you. They are afraid of going to a nursing home, and this is a rational fear. They have seen their friends and neighbors placed into facilities when their health begins to decline. All of their possession are sold or given away, the home they have spent years in is sold, they can no longer sleep in if they feel like it or eat whatever and whenever they want; their losses are great. You need to acknowledge that this is a rational fear, something that may happen to them that can be unpleasant.

The following is a list of indicators for change. Observing any of these things happening does not mean your parent cannot live at home. What it does mean is the situation needs to be assessed. Professional or informal and volunteer services can be put into place to allow your parent to stay in their home safely.

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Falls, accidents or bruises
  • Forgetting food on stove (look for burned or scorched pans)
  • Unpaid bills or utilities being shut off
  • Housekeeping decline: dirty walls, floors, windows or bathtub
  • Unable to maintain home; broken items not being repaired over long time
  • Refrigerator and cabinets empty; not enough food
  • Unable to recognize or react to danger
  • Getting lost or locked out of the house
  • No longer able to transfer independently from bed to wheelchair
  • Incontinence
  • Lack of social support
  • Decreased interest in fun or social activities
  • Medication errors
  • Increased emergency room visits
  • Wearing dirty clothes
  • Needs to reminded to bathe; has dirty hair or personal odor

For more infomation, please click here

Family Caregivers: How to Avoid Holiday Traps

Family Caregivers: How to Avoid Holiday Traps

Caregivers can rewrite the holiday rulebook to reduce stress, increase joy

From Vicki Rackner, MD, 

Holidays, meant to be a celebration of shared joy and connection with family and community, can quickly become a time of burden and a reminder of alienation and loss.For caregivers, holidays can bring an extra measure of activities and caregiver stress1. “I wish the calendar would flip directly from November to January,” said Fern, 67. “We just got settled into a routine now that Mom moved in with us, and all I see are a longer to-do list and disrupted schedules.”Holiday celebrations can destabilize any family, and family caregivers know this better than most because people who attend to the needs of aging parents, a sick spouse or family friend already live on the edge of a delicate equilibrium. As Gary, 59, so colorfully said, “Since Dad had his stroke, my life is held together with rubber bands and bubble gum. I’m concerned that Christmas will herald its collapse.”

For self-preservation, many caregivers let go of rules about how holidays should be celebrated. “Being a caregiver for my sick wife offers many gifts,” said John, 73. “Maybe the most important is the invitation to look at our life in a new way. Almost out of necessity, I stripped down our holiday celebrations.”

5 Holiday Traps for Caregivers
There are several common holiday traps that family caregivers fall into, but they can be avoided. Just follow a simple concept: Free yourself from ideas about what shouldhappen, and give yourself permission to celebrate holidays in a way that works for you and your family.

    • Trap #1: Planning for the worst. Many caregivers think, “This could be Dad’s last Christmas, so I want to make it really special.” Wouldn’t it be great if we came into the world with an owner’s manual that included the expiration date! We do not. I have seen patients defy all medical odds and laugh about the doctor who gave them six months to live—20 years ago. Then there are the tragic untimely deaths. We should all celebrate as if this is our last holiday season!
  • Trap #2: Creating Norman Rockwell scenes. The idea of a picture-perfect holiday has an emotional tug that’s particularly seductive to family caregivers who may long to return to earlier, carefree days of health and vitality.While there is no perfect holiday celebration, you can create holiday rituals that are perfect for your family. Say at a family meeting, “Our lives are different this year, so we need to think about how our holiday celebration will be different. What are the two or three things that make the holiday special for you?” For most people, it’s the little things that make a big difference, like the Russian Tea Cakes, the special hand-embroidered tablecloth, or playing board games. Create a montage of your family’s perfect holiday.
  • Trap #3: Buying your way out of guilt. For people in the sandwich generation2, caring for both children and parents, the guilt that someone is getting shortchanged looms large. Who doesn’t wish for more hours in the day so that children and friends, even the person in the mirror, would get more time and attention? The life of a caregiver leaves big gaps. If you try to fill the gaps with gifts, you will undoubtedly find that it does not work very well.All family members, including children, need to know they are loved and treasured. Gifts are one way to say this, but what most kids of all ages really want is more of you. Consider a different kind of holiday gift, like a coupon for 10 minutes of undivided attention each day, a trip to the ice cream store, or a visit to the zoo.During a holiday dinner, how about shining a “spotlight” on each person at the table, with each guest offering a story that demonstrates why this person is special? You could write the comments on 3×5 cards and give them wrapped in ribbon or mounted in a collage.

    Consider inviting your kids to give rather than receive by touching the lives of those less fortunate. Serve a meal at a shelter. Invite a lonely neighbor to your house. Look for a chance to give a stranger a $20 bill, or whatever you can afford.

  • Trap #4: “Smile!” This instruction, given before every photo, captures the tone for holidays. Over and over, we’re told there’s a right way to feel during a holiday, and that’s happy. Family caregivers have a spectrum of feelings that rise to the surface during holidays, like sadness or anger or disappointment. It is sad that it’s not safe for Dad to live alone any more, so set aside some time to acknowledge those dark feelings. Suppressing the feeling does not make it any less real, and adds to your holiday burden. [Note: For help with handling feelings of grief and loss, see 5 Steps to Help You Through the Grieving Process3]
  • Trap #5: Party On!If you are an extrovert—someone who gets recharged from being in the presence of others—you are in your element during holidays. Party on!For introverts who get recharged by spending time alone, or those who have limited pep because of illness, holidays can be emotionally depleting. There is still hope for a joyous holiday celebration, it just requires some advanced planning.Plan a social calendar that’s reasonable for you as a caregiver and for your loved one. Be realistic about your energy limits before you make endless commitments, and ask family members to do the same. If either you or your loved one is an introvert, it’s perfectly reasonable to respond to some invitations with, “Thanks for the lovely offer. Unfortunately, we have other plans. I’m sure you’ll have a terrific time, and I’m sorry to miss it.” The host does not need to know that your other plans are a nap.

Your life became different when you became a family caregiver, and it’s time to do things differently. Free yourself from the idea that there’s a right way to celebrate a holiday. Look at your family and decide how to make holidays work for you, and then adjust the family expectations. That’s the recipe for celebrating the blessings in your life, and the joy and love you share with others.

Vicki Rackner, MD, FACS, is a surgeon who left the operating room to help patients and family caregivers enjoy better health. A noted expert on the doctor-patient relationship, Dr. Vicki serves employers through Medical Bridges4, and welcomes everyone to join her Caregiver Club5.

National Council on Aging

National Council on Aging has updated its website to be more user-friendly and helpful.

Click here to read more about the National Council on Aging and its efforts. While you are on the site, make sure to look at benefits check up to learn about federal, state, and local programs for yourself, or someone who you care about.

National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month.

 

In addition to providing emotional and physical support, family caregivers often give much more to those in their care. Nearly 40 percent of family caregivers reduce their work hours or quit their jobs, plus spend an average of more than $5,500 of their own money annually to help provide the care they give. Yet amazingly, unpaid family caregivers provide 90 percent of the long-term care provided in the U.S. So this November, be sure to remember and recognize the family caregivers you know. For more details, visit

 

 

www.thefamilycaregiver.org.

 

 

-We, at Dutton & Casey, thank the family caregivers, who we are privileged to assist, for your efforts to support your family members.