Mother’s Day is fast approaching and there may be people in your household deciding on a gift for mom — some are even treating their mothers early. If you are one of the many American woman who provide essential senior care for an aging parent, care for your own children, and work outside the home, now is the time to start dropping hints about what gifts would rock your May 10.
I’ll say it — I think those of us who spend the entire year caring for others deserve at least one day of some thoughtful appreciation. Numbers culled by the Family Caregiver Alliance estimates 33.9 million adult caregivers, or 16 percent of American adults provide unpaid care to a recipient aged 50 and older. That informal care is valued between $148 billion and $188 billion annually and an estimated two-thirds of those family caregivers are female. Mother’s Day is the perfect time for some serious payback.
While flowers and jewelry are always appreciated, if asked, consider giving these suggestions for special Mother’s Day gifts.
Mommy's Day Out
About 75 percent of caregivers who report feeling stressed emotionally, physically, or financially are women. When you are making less at work and spending more at home, the last thing you have is expendable income for movies, plays, or concerts. Those important outings are food for the soul. Tickets or gift cards good for nights out (dinner and a movie? cocktails and the opera?) for two makes a great present.
I know spa treatments are are pretty typical Mother’s Day gifts. But how about treatment for two? Mom and grandma can get a home visit from a mobile spas. It's especially decadent as they can bring massages, facials, and mani-pedis right to the home for no muss, no fuss pampering.
Help Around the House
Spring cleaning for family caregivers might mean cleaning two homes. What would make a great gift? How about a cleaning service, just once, for one or, what the heck? both places! Getting a break from my most tedious, back-breaking, time-consuming job would certainly make it to the best-of-the-best gifts list.
A Gift That Keeps Giving
Mother’s Day comes and goes and life gets back to it’s usual routine, but a “gift of the month” membership will make someone feel appreciated for 3, 6, and 12 months. The most popular of the gift clubs is the Wine of the Month Club, of course, but there is a Coffee of the Month Club, Cheese of the Month Club, even a Hot Sauce of the Month Club. Gift of the Month Clubs let the recipient know their contributions are acknowledged for more than just one day.
Can Somebody Else Do This?
Respite care can be for a weekend, a day, or even an hour. Family, friends, or neighbors can certainly provide respite care, but a quality home care agency can provide a fully vetted professional caregiver to step in and relieve some of that caregiver stress and help prevent caregiver burnout by providing support for a senior's Activities of Daily Living.
We at Caregiverlist® wish all the mothers and grandmothers out there a happy Mother’s Day. If you have some special gift suggestions, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Tax day is April 15 and when many low-wage workers look at their year-end W-2 it’s easy to ask, like Rachel (who worked in a coffee shop) did on an early episode of Friends, “Who is FICA, and why is he getting all of my money?” It’s disheartening to open that weekly paycheck to see, after all you hard work, you have barely made enough money to survive.
That’s the impetus behind Fight for $15 — the global protest to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Organizers and protesters are using America’s tax day to highlight income inequality. Both union and non-union home health aides will join fast food workers, big box employees, adjunct teachers, non-union construction workers, airport workers and other low-wage earners in rallies and strikes to demand the nation join cities like Seattle and San Francisco in raising the minimum wage to $15/hr.
In New York, home health aides will rally at 4 p.m. at Central Park West near Columbus Circle, backed by George Gresham, head of the 1199 SEIU health care workers union. “Our sign for this march says ‘Invisible No More,’ Mr. Gresham told the NY Daily News. ” “We’re marching with union and nonunion health aides (because) so many of us rely on or are going to rely on the care these workers provide. We can’t ignore that they have needs, too.” He went on to say that many families are shocked to find out just how much their trusted home care aides make.
But unlike fast food workers, or the employees of Walmart, the employees of quality home care agencies don’t see their bosses on the list of the highest paid CEOs. In fact, most home care agency owners are franchisees, and while profitable, they don’t make the top 10 most profitable franchises — those are primarily fast food restaurants and personal service franchises like SuperCuts and Anytime Fitness.
Families primarily pay for homecare services out of pocket and are on already moderate or fixed incomes. High caregiver turnover means a disruption to senior care — care that is not a choice (like a hamburger), but a necessity. So what’s the answer to paying home healthcare aides like senior caregivers and CNAs more money without passing that cost on to the consumer? Many minimum wage workers supplement by utilizing public assistance in order to make ends meet. Can and should the government step in to supplement some of that hourly pay? We already know that senior home care is more cost-efficient than institutional care, like nursing home placement. The only way to keep great people in this demanding yet rewarding field is by paying them a living wage.
Caregiver pay is typically more than the nation’s minimum wage, with 30% earning more than $7.25 per hour. But is it enough? According to Fight for $15, the answer is no. The fact that so many American workers need public assistance while still working a 40 hour week means that the system needs a change. Income inequality is at the basis of this fight. And in the U.S., that disparity is the worst in the world. What do you think is the answer?
Sto lat, they sing in Poland for your birthday. One hundred years, one hundred years — may you live one hundred years! What I once thought a crazy birthday wish is closer to becoming reality, especially if you are a woman living in one of the world’s developed countries like Japan or the U.S.
In Michigan, 115-year-old Jeralean Talley takes the title for World’s Oldest Person. She became the oldest person in the world when 116-year-old Gertrude Weaver from Arkansas passed away early in April of pneumonia. Prior to that, a Japanese woman, Misao Okawa was the worlds oldest person. She died on April 1, 2015 at 117-years old. And although she lacks the paperwork to back her assertion, Mexico’s Leandra Becerra Lumbreras claims to be 127 years old.
Life expectancy is increasing around the world due to improved health care (including immunizations,) sanitation, access to clean running water, better nutrition, and avoiding behaviors that are known to increase rates of mortality, such as smoking.
But there’s a difference between reaching the average life expectancy in the U.S. (about 80) and becoming a supercentenarian (anyone who has been validated to have lived to be 110 years or older) — about 30 years. The Gerontology Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles tracks supercentenarians around the world and, as of their last update on April 6 (as of this writing), 52 people (50 women, 2 men) are over the 110 year mark. There are many who claim to be just as old or older than Ms. Talley, but there’s no documentation to prove their birth date.
There is, of course, a difference between living a long life and having a long life worth living. These extraordinary thing about the supercentenarians I’ve researched is that they all seem to be pretty healthy and happy, with sharp minds and disease-free bodies. Thomas Perls, is a professor of medicine and the director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center, the largest study of centenarians worldwide. Their studies show that a combination of genes and a healthy lifestyle contributes to aging well. They have found that among supercentenarians, health span = lifespan. They write that they believe that instead of the aging myth “the older you get the sicker you get”, it is much more the case of “the older you get, the healthier you’ve been”.
So let’s get the long-life tips right from the sources. Here’s what the three oldest living people say have contributed to their long life.
Jeralean Talley, 115, b. 5/23/1899, Michigan
"It's coming from above," she told the Detroit Free Press. "That's the best advice I can give you. It's not in my hands or your hands." She also credits her long life to living by the golden rule.
Susannah Mushatt Jones, 115, b. 7/6/1899, New York
“I don’t have a secret,” Ms. Mushatt Jones told Time magazine. “Believe in the Lord.” And while she never drank or smoked, she eats four strips of bacon every morning, followed by scrambled eggs and grits, and gets at least 10 hours of sleep each night.
Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, 115, b. 11/29/1899, Italy
Ms. Morano-Martinuzzi claims eating raw eggs and avoiding men has kept her young.
Of course, studies show that longevity runs in families, and if your parents lived to be 100, chances are that you will too, as will your siblings and your children. Personally, I’ll be happy to test the daily bacon theory. Do you know any long-lifers? What are their secrets?
The "Caregiverlist" caregivers submit their recent pay rate upon applying for professional jobs on Caregiverlist's Career Center.
March, 2015, survey results are in and the average caregiver pay rate continues to be $10 per hour. Remember, all senior caregivers on Caregiverlist are professional caregivers employed with senior care companies paying all payroll taxes and benefits, as required by law. Employers contribute from $2 to $4 per hour for a caregiver's payroll taxes in addition to providing training, care management and support for the caregiver and the families receiving senior care.
In-home senior care is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. I know because I'm constantly looking at senior care industry trends. This week, there was a new name on the in-home senior care landscape: Honor.
Honor (www.joinhonor.com) recently received $20 million in funding to roll out it’s new service—a high tech way to connect seniors with senior caregivers. Honor is launching Contra Costa County, California this month and then plans to spread to the rest of the Bay Area. San Francisco is the fifth largest metro area for senior care employment.
Helping seniors age in place, at home, is at the core of CEO and co-founder Seth Sternberg’s mission. Like many of us, Mr. Sternberg was confronted with the challenge of long-distance care for his aging mother. He would fly into Connecticut, where his mother lives, hire a caregiver, and be clueless about the care his mother was receiving once he left for home. The idea behind Honor is that, not only could a senior (or their family) hire a caregiver Uber-fashion, but the app would help families monitor that care.
The Honor Frame is a device that sits in the senior’s home and allows a senior or their family to request a caregiver for as little as one hour per week, to help with the activities of daily living, including meal preparation, transportation, or simple companionship. Families can download the Honor app onto their smartphones in order to monitor the caregiver’s time, activities, and to provide feedback.
It will be interesting to watch how Honor approaches the challenges inherent to in-home senior care. We agree that technology can facilitate the connection between senior and caregiver, but building a team of caregivers is different than hiring in any other field because seniors who live alone are especially vulnerable to all sorts of elder abuse. The creators of Honor believe they can build a strong team of professional caregivers by offering them an hourly rate well above the industry standard—$15 per hour instead of the current average of $9.50.
In order to understand the challenges Honor is facing, perhaps we should take a look at just what an in-home care agency provides to a caregiver, their senior client and their family that a direct hire doesn’t necessarily offer. At Caregiverlist, we make sure our quality home care agencies:
- posess a business license and required state licensure
- fully vet all employees by performing a thorough criminal background check
- offer and maintain training for caregivers
- are responsible for paying all employee payroll taxes, as required by law. That includes unemployment insurance tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax and State and Federal withholdings
- provide Worker’s Compensation Insurance
- carry Professional Liability Insurance and Fidelity Bond Insurance (aka “theft” insurance)
- supply active management of the senior caregiver through a direct supervisor and a plan of care
As the population ages, their technology comfort level will increase. Until then, I’d love to take a look at Honor’s interface, knowing that seniors themselves will be using the software to request their caregiver.
We at Caregiverlist wish Honor the most success. We certainly believe in their philosophy, one that Sternberg recently told Forbes. “We do not honor care professionals in today’s world,” he said. “We should. And we should honor our parents.” We couldn’t agree more.
Can senior housing issues stretch across the aisle? The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is banking on it by launching its new Health and Housing Task Force. Leading the effort are democrat Henry Cisneros, HUD secretary during former President Bill Clinton’s administration and republican Mel Martinez , HUD secretary during former President George W. Bush’s administration. Joining them in the effort are former Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Vin Weber.
The task force will look at how senior-friendly, affordable housing might reduce healthcare system costs and, at the same time, allow more seniors to age in place at home. Surveys show that most older Americans would prefer to age in their own communities rather than in institutional settings, such as nursing homes. However, the way things stand now, many homes are not equipped for safe, independent living and communities are ill-prepared to provide much-needed services like transportation for seniors who no longer drive.
At the end of the day, it’s all about potential Medicaid and Medicare savings. The current system won’t be able to sustain the growing elderly population. In-home senior care has proven much more cost-effective than institutional care, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to expand home and community based senior care.
“In 2011, only about half of Medicaid-covered long-term services and supports were provided at home or in the community, even though for most seniors, home and community-based care is preferred and often significantly less expensive,” said task force member Allyson Schwartz, a former congresswoman from Pennsylvania.
The Health and Housing Task force’s one-year effort will:
- Seek cost-effective ways to modify homes and communities to make independent living for seniors available and safe. Finding potential funding sources will be crucial.
- Bring attention to best practices on state and local levels for integrating housing, healthcare, and long-term services and supports. The task force will find programs that work and investigate how they can be replicated elsewhere.
- Determine barriers to offering home- and community-based services and supports through Medicare and Medicaid.
- Explore opportunities for further collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services.
America is an aging nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, projections show the population age 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060, from 43.1 million to 92.0 million. The increase in the number of the “oldest old” will be even more considerable— those 85 and older are projected to more than triple from 5.9 million to 18.2 million, reaching 4.3 percent of the total population. The “oldest old” are those seniors who tend to need senior care most.
Caregiverlist believes that a key element to helping seniors age in place is the well-trained, well-paid in-home caregiver. Let’s hope this bipartisan task force takes into account the issue of fair senior caregiver wages in order to help stem caregiver turnover in an effort to provide the best senior home care.
Hilarity for Charity and Home Instead Senior Care has partnered to provide more than 6,000 hours of care in-home support for more than 130 eligible U.S. and Canadian Alzheimer's families in need through the Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Relief Grant Program.
Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller Rogen established Hilarity for Charity to raise money and awareness of Alzheimer’s disease among the younger people. Both became involved in the fight against Alzheimer's disease after Lauren Miller Rogen's mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in her 50s.
In a press release, Ms. Miller Rogen said "My family is so fortunate to be able to provide the 24/7 professional care my mother needs. That care allows me to hold on to the precious moments I have with my mother so I can simply be a daughter and not just a caregiver. Our hope is that every family impacted by Alzheimer's disease can have those priceless moments, which is exactly why we created this tremendous program."
Home Instead Senior Care franchise owners pledged more than 37,000 hours of in-home care services, valued at $740,000. Grant recipients will be connected with a Home Instead franchise in their community, which will provide highly-skilled Alzheimer’s CAREGivers. Grants range from short-term in-home care 25 hours to long-term care, based on the needs of the family.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, friends and family of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care in 2014, and nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high.
Until there’s a cure, there is care. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s other memory diseases can be exhausting and overwhelming. Respite care from a trained in-home caregiver can allow you to take a break and come back to your duties rested and refreshed. But in-home care is not inexpensive and programs like the Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Relief Grant can be a godsend to families who are struggling.
Sylvia Besson and her family received some much-needed respite care for her father. Home Instead CAREgiver Melissa Barnstable is one of the many in-home caregivers specially trained to work with Alzheimer’s patients. “I enjoy bringing clarity, enthusiasm, and kindness into their day.
For more information about the Alzheimer's Care Grant Program, including how you can donate or apply for future respite care grants, visit www.HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com.
The poverty rate among seniors in America is already high and growing. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the poverty rate for Americans 65 and older rose (albeit slightly) from 8.9 percent in 2009 to 9.0 percent in 2010. The growing cost of food, housing, and especially medical care, which tends to increase as we age, adds to economic instability for many of our elderly.
Sure, Social Security is a net to help prevent seniors from abject poverty, but recent economic recessions have forced many older Americans, those without employment income, to live hand-to-mouth. In many instances, seniors deplete their savings to a point that they are outliving their money.
Former Caregiverlist Sherpa Vera Perekoteyeva, who is always on the lookout for ways to help seniors and their caregivers, passed along this link from MOGUL that lists discounts available for older consumers; some discounts apply for those as young as 50 years old.
While senior discounts won’t cure the ill of elderly poverty, every dollar saved is a win. Discounts can be had across the board of consumer goods and services. Many times the only prerequisite for savings (besides age) is you have to ASK for the senior discount.
Senior discounts for restaurants tend to be found in fast-food and chain establishments. Caregiverlist is a great proponent of aging well which includes nutritious eating. Remember that you can find healthy dining options, even at fast-food restaurants.
Here are the top senior discounts for 2015 making their rounds on the web (caveat — this list is found on many sites all over the web; I have not verified these discounts, if you ask for them and are met with a blank stare, don’t shoot the messenger!):
- Applebee’s: 15% off with Golden Apple Card (60+)
- Arby’s: 10% off (55+)
- Ben & Jerry’s: 10% off (60+)
- Bennigan’s: discount varies by location (60+)
- Bob’s Big Boy: discount varies by location (60+)
- Boston Market: 10% off (65+)
- Burger King: 10% off (60+)
- Chick-Fil-A: 10% off or free small drink or coffee (55+)
- Chili’s: 10% off (55+)
- CiCi’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
- Denny’s: 10% off, 20% off for AARP members (55+)
- Dunkin’ Donuts: 10% off or free coffee (55+)
- Einstein’s Bagels: 10% off baker’s dozen of bagels (60+)
- Fuddrucker’s: 10% off any senior platter (55+)
- Gatti’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
- Golden Corral: 10% off (60+)
- Hardee’s: $0.33 beverages everyday (65+)
- IHOP: 10% off (55+)
- Jack in the Box: up to 20% off (55+)
- KFC: free small drink with any meal (55+)
- Long John Silver’s: various discounts at locations (55+)
- McDonald’s: discounts on coffee everyday (55+)
- Mrs. Fields: 10% off at participating locations (60+)
- Shoney’s: 10% off Sonic: 10% off or free beverage (60+)
- Steak ‘n Shake: 10% off every Monday & Tuesday (50+)
- Subway: 10% off (60+)
- Sweet Tomatoes: 10% off (62+)
- Taco Bell: 5% off; free beverages for seniors (65+)
- TCBY: 10% off (55+)
- Tea Room Cafe: 10% off (50+)
- Village Inn: 10% off (60+)
- Waffle House: 10% off every Monday (60+)
- Wendy’s: 10% off (55+)
- White Castle: 10% off (62+)
RETAIL & APPAREL:
- Banana Republic: 10% off (50+)
- Bealls: 20% off first Tuesday of each month (55+)
- Belk’s: 15% off first Tuesday of every month (55+)
- Bon-Ton Department Stores: 15% off on senior discount days (55+)
- C.J. Banks: 10% off every Wednesday (60+)
- Clarks: 10% off (62+)
- Dress Barn: 10% off (55+)
- Goodwill: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
- Hallmark: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
- Kohl’s: 15% off (60+)
- Marshall’s: 20% off every Tuesday (55+)
- Modell’s Sporting Goods: 10% off
- Rite Aid: 10% off on Tuesdays & 10% off prescriptions
- Ross Stores: 10% off every Tuesday (55+)
- TJ Maxx: 10% off every Tuesday (55+)
- The Salvation Army Thrift Stores: up to 50% off (55+)
- Stein Mart: 20% off red dot/clearance items first Monday of every month (55+)
- Albertson’s: 10% off first Wednesday of each month (55+)
- American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday (50+)
- Compare Foods Supermarket: 10% off every Wednesday (60+)
- DeCicco Family Markets: 5% off every Wednesday (60+)
- Fry’s Supermarket: free Fry’s VIP Club Membership & 10% off every Monday (55+)
- Great Valu Food Store: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
- Gristedes Supermarket: 10% off every Tuesday (60+)
- Harris Teeter: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
- Hy-Vee: 5% off one day a week (date varies by location)
- Kroger: 10% off (date varies by location)
- Morton Williams Supermarket: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
- The Plant Shed: 10% off every Tuesday (50+)
- Publix: 5% off every Wednesday (55+)
- Rogers Marketplace: 5% off every Thursday (60+)
- Uncle Guiseppe’s Marketplace: 5% off (62+)
- Alaska Airlines: 10% off (65+)
- American Airlines: various discounts for 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
- Continental Airlines: no initiation fee for Continental Presidents Club & special fares for select destinations
- Southwest Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
- United Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
- U.S. Airways: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
- Amtrak: 15% off (62+)
- Greyhound: 5% off (62+)
- Trailways Transportation System: various discounts for ages 50+
- Alamo Car Rental: up to 25% off for AARP members
- Avis: up to 25% off for AARP members Best Western: 10% off (55+)
- Budget Rental Cars: 10% off; up to 20% off for AARP members (50+)
- Dollar Rent-A-Car: 10% off (50+)
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car: 5% off for AARP members
- Hertz: up to 25% off for AARP members
- National Rent-A-Car: up to 30% off for AARP members
- Cambria Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
- Clarion Motels: 20%-30% off (60+)
- Comfort Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
- Comfort Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
- Econo Lodge: 20%-30% off (60+)
- Hampton Inns & Suites: 10% off when booked 72 hours in advance
- Holiday Inn: 10%-30% off depending on location (62+)
- Hyatt Hotels: 25%-50% off (62+)
- InterContinental Hotels Group: various discounts at all hotels (65+)
- Mainstay Suites: 10% off with Mature Traveler’s Discount (50+); 20%-30% off (60+)
- Marriott Hotels: 15% off (62+)
- Motel 6: 10% off (60+)
- Myrtle Beach Resort: 10% off (55+)
- Quality Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
- Rodeway Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
- Sleep Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT:
- AMC Theaters: up to 30% off (55+)
- Bally Total Fitness: up to $100 off memberships (62+)
- Busch Gardens Tampa, FL: $3 off one-day tickets (50+)
- Carmike Cinemas: 35% off (65+)
- Cinemark/Century Theaters: up to 35% off
- U.S. National Parks: $10 lifetime pass; 50% off additional services including camping (62+)
- Regal Cinemas: 30% off Ripley’s Believe it or Not: @ off one-day ticket (55+)
- SeaWorld Orlando, FL: $3 off one-day tickets (50+)
CELL PHONE DISCOUNTS:
- AT&T: Special Senior Nation 200 Plan $29.99/month (65+)
- Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service (50+)
- Verizon Wireless: Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plan $29.99/month (65+)
- Great Clips: $3 off hair cuts (60+)
- Super Cuts: $2 off haircuts (60+)
The serious issue of senior poverty won’t be resolved with 10 percent discounts. If you are in or near Chicago over the next few days, The Aging in America Conference will be held from March 23-27 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, where over 2,500 attendees from across the nation and abroad will discuss issues of aging and quality of life for older adults. On Thursday, March 26, from 9-10am, Paul Nathanson, JD, Special Counsel, National Senior Citizens Law Center will present Let’s Talk Senior Poverty: What Are We Doing About It? Learn more about ASA’s Aging in America Conference here.
I’m part of the “Sandwich Generation,” a term that is used to describe those of us who care for their children as well as their aging parents. According to the Pew Research Center, 47% of American adults in their 40s and 50s are raising a young child or children (or financially supporting a child over 18) and have a living parent age 65 or older. Longer life expectancies and delayed childbearing means we baby-boomers experience the emotional, physical, and financial challenges of family caregiving across generations.
Since there’s just no getting around my double-whammy caregiving situation, I (uncharacteristically) try to keep an optimistic attitude and a little sense of humor when I feel pulled in so many directions at once. Caring for children is not all that different from caring for seniors and as care-recipients, they have a lot to learn from each other.
Patience, patience, patience
Are you trying to get out of the house on time? Start an hour early. Trying to decide on which cereal to buy? Be prepared to look at every box. Whatever time you think you need to complete a task, double it. That’s just the way it is. If you as the caregiver begin to show signs of stress and impatience, those in your care will respond with agitation and frustration. Those tasks that seem to take an interminably long time will take even longer. There have been times when I’ve been pushed to my limit, and here’s something interesting — if I raise my voice to my mother, she gets the same look on her face as my children do when I yell at them — and it’s not a good look. I’ve learned to breathe deeply, count to 10 (or 100), smile, and go scream into a pillow.
You can be active without being at a full-run
There’s nothing wrong with watching television or (more in the case of kids than of mom) playing video games. Sometimes we need that passive entertainment. But it’s important to balance those things with mind-engaging activities. Puzzles and games help with logic, thinking, and memory. Meandering strolls in the park not only help with your large motor skills (and I’m there to make sure you don’t fall!), but it gives us the opportunity to get away from all of life’s distractions, look at the world around us, and maybe have some great conversations.
Sometimes you need a little help
There’s no shame in asking for help now and then. It doesn’t mean you are weak or needy, it means that with someone’s help, you can do essential tasks quicker and safer. Both children and the elderly need help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene (I swear if he doesn’t do it more often, I’m going to floss my son’s teeth for him.) I stoop to tie shoes and a climb to reach things that are too high. My children feel no loss of dignity when they realize they need my help, neither should my mother.
There’s nothing that a hug won’t help
Hugs can’t fix everything, but many studies show that there’s a physiological change that occurs when someone gets a supportive touch. Hugs and hand-holding have been shown to help release a person’s oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, known as the “feel good hormones.” Touch has been known to lower blood pressure, lower the risk of heart disease, and alleviate anxieties and fears. And remember, as you are giving, so are you getting. Hugs work both ways.
I don’t know how much longer I will have to care for my mother, and my children will grow up and away from me before I’m ready. Yes, multi-generational caregiving can be exhausting and stressful, but it doesn’t last forever and I need to remind myself of that every day. I’ve chosen the child-rearing, parent-caregiving path (or it chose me) and strength of character is often determined by how one handles challenging situations. And when my “strength of character” threatens to bail (as it does for everyone), babysitters and professional senior caregivers are there to provide respite and help me keep sane.
Daylight Saving Time — every year I hear more and louder voices insisting we do away with springing ahead, when we are forced to lose that precious hour of sleep. I don’t hear quite so many voices in the fall, when we “gain” an hour, except for many of my friends in the senior caregiving community.
Sundown Syndrome occurs in approximately 25 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. When someone is “sundowning”, they can become hostile and agitated, angry and confused. Experts speculate that Sundowner’s can be triggered by end-of-day exhaustion, when all the stimulus from the day overwhelms the senses. In institutional settings, like nursing homes, Sundown Syndrome can occur during evening shift change, when there is a lot of commotion. Although the causes of sundowning are largely unknown, it seems to happen to many late in the day, when afternoon turns to dusk. In the evening, shadows can be confusing, and people can become upset when they can’t see in the dark.
Spring Daylight Saving Time means there’s an extra hour of light at the end of our day. I wonder if this is helpful to caregivers working with those who experience Sundowner's. Even though I couldn’t find any data to suggest that Sundowners experience fewer symptoms when we “spring ahead,” I found plenty of anecdotal evidence that those with Sundown Syndrome experience it more acutely during the fall time change, when it gets dark much earlier.
In any case, Daylight Saving Time messes with the natural rhythm of sleep, which can also trigger or exacerbate Sundowner’s symptoms and the stress they cause in elderly and caregivers alike.
The idea of Daylight Saving Time has roots in ancient civilizations, where the sun’s schedule set daily routines. Benjamin Franklin in 1784, proposed the notion jokingly to the editor of The Journal of Paris in “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” pointing out that Parisians could save money on candles by extending the hours of natural daylight. The U.S. implemented DST on and off since 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. But it wasn’t until Congress established the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that America reached a DST standard. Today, over 70 countries have adopted DST, including the United States (except for Hawaii and most of Arizona.)
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are some coping strategies you can employ if you care for someone with Sundowner’s:
- Keep the home well lit in the evening.
- Keep the sleep environment comfortable and safe. The temperature should be comfortable and nightlights provided for safety when a person gets up in the middle of the night.
- Maintain a consistent schedule of waking, bedtime and meals.
- Avoid big dinners, nicotine, alcohol, and restrict sweets and caffeine so as not to interfere with restful sleep.
- Plan more active days and discourage afternoon naps..
- As a caregiver, if you are feeling stressed late in the day, the person may pick up on it. Make sure you get respite help.
- Share your experience with others.
For those of you who care for Sundown seniors, do you find that extra hour of sunlight helpful? Have you found any sundowning therapies particularly useful? Share your caregiving strategies for coping with Sundown Syndrome in Caregiverlist’s Caregiver Stories or in the Comments section below.