Caring for the Caregiver

Senior caregivers, both paid as professionals and family caregivers, are growing as the aging population increases.  In just the last decade, more than 4,000 new senior care agencies have opened their doors, to assist families in caregiving.

The National Alliance for Caregiving conducts research and advocacy for caregiving and pulls together both private corporations and associations who serve caregivers. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees who work for a company with 50 or more employees and are caring for a spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition to take unpaid leave from work.  This means an adult child who needs to assist a parent with caregiving needs may take off 12 work weeks without pay during any 12-month period.

Family caregivers often work full-time, as a the Caregiving Alliance reports:

46% of Caregivers Work Full-time

11% of Caregivers Work Part-time

15% of Caregivers are Retired

10% of Caregivers are Homemakers

7% of Caregivers are Unemployed and Looking for Work

11% of Caregivers are Students or Disabled

Senior care options in the U.S.A. include senior home care, assisted living communities who may charge extra for caregiving and nursing home care.  You may research the costs of nursing homes nationwide on Caregiverlist.  Find the daily costs of a private or shared room in a nursing home and the Medicaid and Medicare nursing homes in your area.


Senior Care: When Moving Requires Downsizing

Senior care requirements sometimes occur suddenly.  As seniors (people age 65 and older), are now the largest group in size and percentage. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, this age group grew at a faster rate than the total poipulation between 2000 and 2010.  It also discovered there are 53,364 centenarians (age 100+). 

The population of older men increased at a more rapid rate than older women which means men are living longer now, too.  Previous generations experienced women outliving men by decades.  Now that women have entered the workforce, this has been changing and the advancement of medical technology has enabled doctors to discover illnesses earlier and successfully treat them.

As seniors are living longer, it has become more acceptable to plan ahead for senior care needs.  And more and more assisted living communities are opening up with all the luxuries you would expect to find on a spa vacation.  Senior care options include senior home care, assisted living, continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes.

Seniors experiencing a medical emergency can find the need to down-size to a smaller apartment in an assisted living community to be overwhelming.  Now there are services which assist with this.  One of my friends who had 2 sibilings, had innovative parents who asked each of them to tell them what items in their home they would like to inherit.  Then they gave them what they could at the time of their downsizing and sold their home and moved into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).  As everyone in the family knew who was getting what for inheritance, that issue was solved.  They were then able to enjoy their retirement years without the added stress of keeping up a large house.  Her mother did die suddenly and her father later developed memory loss and cancer but was able to transfer to the nursing home section of the CCRC and the children can go to work each day knowing he is well cared for (he has even found a girlfriend and is very happy).

Review the costs of nursing homes nationwide as you prepare for our own retirement care.  Nursing homes are often an extension of a hospital stay now (Medicare will pay for up to 100 days) and if you should run out of money to privately pay for care, you may qualify for Medicaid and be able to receive care in a Medicaid nursing home.

MSNBC recently reported on specialists who assist seniors to down-size.  Senior living experts also assist families to find the right assisted living community which will meet their budget requirements and provide the right amenities.  These services are free to seniors as they provide a valuable benefit to the assisted living communities who pay a referral fee to the senior living experts.

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Senior Caregiving Jobs: Employment High in Senior Care

Senior caregivers and Certified Nursing Aides will continue to find job opportunities with positions increasing along with pay.  The minimum wage increased in 8 states in January, 2012, and senior caregivers, even without professional experience, are usually paid above minimum wage and provided with training.

Caregivers for seniors can obtain part-time and full-time jobs with senior care companies.  View a job description and a video about the requirements and benefits of working as a senior caregiver or Certified Nursing Aide and apply for a caregiving job.

Caregiver pay can start at minimum wage or around $9 or $10 per hour, depending on which part of the country you live.  You may view the minimum wage levels in each state in Caregiverlist's "by-state" information section.

Caregiver training involves learning how to intereact with a senior with various age-related illnesses and understanding how to safely monitor changes in health.  Caregiver Certification can be obtained online as part of a 10-hour online course.

Many caregivers become professional caregivers because of personal experience caring for a loved one or family member.  Anyone with a caring personality who also can demonstrate a consistent job history can be considered as a senior caregiver.  Passing a background check is the first step in the process and you can purchase your own background check to confirm it is accurate before applying for a senior care position.

Registered Nurses first become Certified Nursing Aides as part of their R.N. training, which means anyone who would like to become a C.N.A. may advance, if they would like, to become a L.P.N. or R.N.  View Certified Nursing Aide schools along with their admission requirements to consider growing your career in senior care.


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Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee for Caregivers

Senior caregivers usually have very busy schedules.  Professional caregivers have the added challenge of needing to be sure to arrive 5 minutes early for their senior care jobs.  As seniors will quickly become distressed if a caregiver is not on time, most companies require early arrival.

This means coffee-drinking usually comes with the territory of senior care.  In addition, sharing a cup of coffee with a senior also can be part of a daily routine.  And now that there is a Starbucks on nearly every corner of major cities, stopping in for a cup of joe can also be enticing, even when you weren’t planning to do so.

As everyone is focusing on new goals for the new year, there is good news that coffee does have some health benefits.

Coffee’s Health Benefits

·         Memory Enhancement:  3 or more cups of coffee a day can reduce the threat of Alzheimer's and dementia by up to 65%. Coffee releases a substance called GCSF which assists to clean away the plaque build-up that is present in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients.

 ·         Heart Health:  1 to 2 cups daily makes your blood vessels expand and contract better with each heart beat.

 ·      Fights Diabetes:  as coffee consumption goes up, diabetes risk goes down.  Drinking 4 four cups daily improves insulin's effects and reduces your diabetes risk by 1/3rd.

 ·         Prevents Strokes:  Drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day may cut your stroke risk by up to 19%.

 ·         Reduces Cancer Risk:  Research is showing that coffee is a really potent weapon against cancer. For women, the latest research suggests drinking 4 cups of coffee a day may lower their risk of endometrial cancer by up 25%. Postmenopausal women who sip at least 5 cups a day may cut their risk of certain types of breast cancer in half.   For men, both caffeinated and decaf coffee may fend off prostate cancer. And for both sexes, 3 cups of coffee a day may help fight the most common skin cancer, basal cell.

If you received a new coffee maker for Christmas, or maybe have one of the Keurig K-Cup brewers in your office (which can definitely become addictive), this means even drinking 3 cups of coffee, or more, each day will be perfectly fine.  In fact, it will be good for your health according to this latest research.

Caregivers usually have coffee included as a free benefit by their clients, so drink up and enjoy and explore new varieties and flavors.

Remember that coffee is considered a “natural” drink and because of this, has advantages over other unnatural ways of obtaining caffeine, such as drinking carbonated soda pop (some people call it "pop" and some people call it "soda", I am from a soda drinking area, but just wanted to make sure you know I am referring to Diet Coke, Rootbeer, and you know, soda........we always have fun teasing our Minnesota cousins who ask for a "pop", which to us is the same as a spanking, not something you drink).

Enjoy a cup of coffee while studying for Caregiver Certification or obtaining your Certified Nursing Aide certification as you develop your career as a senior caregiver.  As senior care companies are constantly hiring new caregivers, you may also apply for a senior care job near you.  And remember, a cup of coffee a day, or 2 or 3 or 4, may keep the doctor away. 

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Wage and Overtime Protection Proposed for Home Care Workers

As the U.S. population ages, and the senior demographic expected to double in the next 20 years, home caregivers are going to be an increasingly invaluable resource to help the elderly age at home.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama, along with a, Department of Labor and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, announced plans to update the laws to extend minimum wage and overtime coverage for home health-care service providers. Currently, home care workers are exempt from the 1974 minimum wage law and are classified as “companions” even though the field has evolved to include other types of duties such as providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). These duties can include tube feeding, physical therapy, taking the correct medication and getting cleaned and dressed.

“The care provided by in-home workers is crucial to the quality of life for many families,” Solis said. And President Obama stated that, “Today’s action will ensure that these men and women get paid fairly for a service that a growing number of older Americans couldn’t live without.”

Industry figures show that while the majority of home care aides employed by Senior Home Care Agencies are paid above federal minimum wage, many do not get paid overtime for a longer than 40-hour work week.

States’ regulations vary in their minimum wage and overtime provisions. Only 22 states extend minimum wage to at least some in-home care workers, and 12 states have a minimum wage that is higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. According to the administration, this initiative would “level the playing field” and ensure that home care that exceeds “companionship” would have the same legislative protection as other healthcare professions.

In my Labor Day blog post, I outlined the protective legislation challenges faced by home care workers. And while no one doubts the need for these professional in-home services, many question whether this proposed legislation will benefit the home health aide or the elderly client.

So tell us what you think. Is this a good move by the Obama administration to improve the quality of life for many home health care workers, even if it means higher costs for the aged and infirm? Or do you believe that this will be a detriment to in-home workers, forcing agencies to schedule maximum 8-hour shifts, eliminating full day-rates in order to prevent any overtime charges? And if you are an agency owner, are you afraid this regulation has the potential to drive an underground unskilled and unvetted workforce that a family would be forced to hire in order to save costs? Do you now pay overtime in order to keep a better-skilled workforce?

There will be a 60-day public comment period and the new rules may take effect early next year, so now is the time to make your voices heard.

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Caring for the Caregiver: Holiday Gift Ideas for the Family Caregiver

Holidays afford you the ability to show your family caregiver how thankful you are for the service they provide. They perform the tireless job so that you don’t have to. Here are some gift ideas to show you appreciate them and all they do.

Spa treatment. Give the gift of a massage, manicure, pedicure, facial—some or all of the above. Family caregivers are, by definition, always caring for others. The holidays are a perfect time to pamper them.

Dinner and a Movie (for two). No doubt the family caregiver deserves some time off, and nothing beats dinner and a movie—it brings to mind the best of date nights. A big complaint among family caregivers is the isolation they sometimes feel. Give gift certificates for two so the caregiver can do the asking.

Goodie Basket. When you’re working with a fixed income, as many family caregivers do, chocolate truffles, a nice bottle of wine or the occasional pomegranate are luxury indulgences. Put together a nice basket full of items the caregiver wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. Build the basket around a theme like An Afternoon in Provence, Escape to Tuscany or a Chocolate-Lover’s Basket.

Medical Alert System. Sometimes a family caregiver is afraid to step away from their charge for even a few hours. The fear is that something awful could happen the moment the caregiver closes the door. A Medical Alert System affords the caregiver peace of mind that the elder loved one could get outside help during an emergency if they themselves are not present.

Cash or Gift Cards. Let’s face it, family caregiving is not a lucrative profession. Many family caregivers take unpaid leave or cut down on their work hours to help care for a senior loved-one. Gift cards and cash are well earned, always welcome and are always the right size.

Gift Certificates for Classes. Family caregivers often give up the outside activities that once gave them joy. What do they love (and miss) doing? Tennis? Yoga? A gift of a class will not only give them some much-needed time away from the routine of caregiving, but also give them a new social outlet.

Time. Give your family caregiver a few hours to themselves. If you can’t provide the respite care yourself, turn to a trusted Home Care Agency to provide a few hours of relief for the family caregiver. Family caregiver burnout is a real problem, no matter what time of year. You can give your family caregiver some downtime and breathing space with the gift of a reprieve.

And remember, these gifts are not only for the holidays...your family caregiver can use these thoughtful offerings all year long.

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Caring for the Caregiver: Family Caregiving During the Holidays

Family caregiving can be stressful during the best of times. Holidays can prove to be especially challenging for even the most stalwart of caregivers. And unlike decorating, shopping and wrapping, caregiving doesn’t afford the ability to step back at a point and say, “Well, at least that’s done!”

During holidays especially, there’s the added stress of juggling more activities and undertakings than usual. As family and friends find themselves caught up in the whirlwind of their own holiday activities, the family caregiver may feel more isolated in their responsibilities.

If you feel the burden is too much, now is the time to bring it up and discuss it with other family members. They may not realize just how much work goes into the care of a senior loved one. The trick is—how does one do that in a non-judgemental, nonconfrontational way?

Our friends at Lotsa Helping Hands are offering a free webinar –Caregiving During the Holidays– on Thursday December 15 at 2 pm EDT.

As you gather to celebrate with your family this holiday season, it is the perfect opportunity to sit down and have conversations about caregiving for aging parents or other loved ones—whether you have already started your caregiving journey or will be in the future. The webinar will be especially focused on “caregiving conversation starters.” This is a great opportunity to learn ideas for holiday caregiving and planning ahead as well as useful tips and features of Lotsa Helping Hands. You can register at

This may also be the time to bring up the possibility of hiring respite care from a quality senior home care agency. Most family caregivers spend 20-40 hours per week caring for their loved ones. The holidays are a perfect time to gift yourself or someone you love with much-needed help.

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Assessing Senior Caregiving Needs During Holiday Visits

As you gather for Thanksgiving dinner, remember to take time to really talk with the seniors in your family and notice if there are any changes they are experiencing as they age. Use this opportunity to think about how you can help them age well.

Medical Issues: Remember that some age-related illnesses, if caught and treated early, can be given the proper medical attention in order to slow progression. Take the time to think about any care needs your senior relative may need as their health conditions change. It is sometimes easier for those who do not see their parents and grandparents often to notice changes than for those who have daily interactions with them. Take the time to notice hearing and vision. Are your elder relatives taking care with their hygiene and appearance? Are they taking their medications at a regular time each day? Are they incorporating physical exercise into their daily routine? Do they employ a nutritious diet?

Social Issues: Ask your senior family member what their week is like. Are they maintaining social activities? Healthy aging requires maintaining physical and mental exercise and socialization. Do they belong to any clubs or church groups? Many health clubs offer senior discounts. Warm-water pool aquatic classes provide the opportunity for socialization combined with low-impact exercise. Win-win! There are a number of adult day care centers that afford older adults a chance to get out of the house and enjoy both mental and social stimulation.

Caregiving Issues: Many seniors will find it necessary to change their lifestyle some to make sure they are keeping up with both health needs and social needs as they age. Sometimes it is necessary to involve a family member or caregiving service to assist with care needs, at least part-time, as abilities change. If you live far away from senior family members, take the time to investigate senior care options in their town when you are visiting. Find out what quality Senior Home Care Agencies are in their area and learn about senior service programs. Obtain names and numbers so you will be able to contact someone to assist if the need should arise.

Most of all, use the time to really connect and enjoy the holiday together.

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Technology and Senior Caregiving

Not surprisingly, tech-savvy web users are increasingly turning to the Internet for information and tools to help facilitate their family caregiving needs.

e-Connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century, released in January 2011 by the National Alliance for Caregiving and UnitedHealthcare, found more than two-thirds of family caregivers who already use some form of technology would find web-based senior care tools to be of great benefit.

The study revealed the applications with the greatest perceived potential and helpfulness included web-based systems for caregiver coordination, caregiving decision support and caregiver training simualtion.

According to UnitedHealthcare, “Caregivers were most receptive to technologies that help them deliver, monitor, track or coordinate their loved one‟s health care.” Most would welcome technology that would better allow them to care for their seniors at home.

The most requested services with the lowest perceived barriers include:

  • Personal Health Record Tracking: Caregivers reported that a website or computer software that could help them keep track of their care recipient‟s personal health records, including his or her history, symptoms, medications and test results, would be helpful to them.
  • Caregiving Coordination System: Caregivers indicated that a shared electronic log for their loved one’s doctor appointments and other caregiving needs would be helpful. With this tool, caregivers could request support in their duties, and friends and family members could sign up to help on certain dates and times.
  • Medication Support System: A device that reminds the patient about his or her prescription medications and dispenses pills when they should be taken. This device would also provide directions on how to take each pill and alert the caregiver when the dosages were not removed from the device within a certain time period.

“Caregivers know that technology can be used to help them understand their loved one‟s conditions and find resources and even support,” said Gail Hunt, CEO and president of the National Alliance for Caregiving.

And although more than three quarters of those surveyed said that they are most likely to trust a medical website, like WebMD or, for recommendations on caregiving technology, caregiving websites and caregiver forums on the Internet were also listed as credible information sources. You can read more about Caregiverlist’s mission to provide trusted caregiver support here.

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Siblings Caring for Aging Parents

When my mother brought my brother home from the hospital for the first time, she joked that she had had another child so I wouldn’t be alone in taking care of her in her "old age". Now that she needs the assistance, I am grateful for a sibling who shares the responsibility of caring for our elderly mother.

Not all families are so lucky. Simple geography might determine which sibling is best able to provide face-time with the senior parent. Long-time family dynamics can be challenging when siblings revert to old childhood roles. Some may find the stress of juggling work, raising children or caring for spouses limits their ability to help with parental support, so the family member with the fewest perceived obligations winds up providing the lion’s share of care. Some siblings may feel they are doing too much while others feel they do too little.

Feelings of frustration, anger, guilt and resentment do nothing to help with caring for an elderly parent.

In her book and her blog, They’re Your Parents, Too!, author Francine Russo explores and helps navigate the oftentimes tumultuous landscape of sibling tensions when dealing with eldercare. She covers topics ranging from acknowledging and accepting your parents’ aging, family decision-making and sustaining the family connection into the future.

Ms. Russo recently appeared in a video segment on the ABC News Special Series on Eldercare with Diane Sawyer. In it, she acknowledges that “the (families) who got along best accepted that they all had different relationships (with their parents), but they were in it together.”

And when the family caregiver needs a break, consider utilizing the services of a quality senior home care agency for respite eldercare.

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