Tips for Managing Difficult Caregiver Emotions When a Parent Has Dementia

Tips for Managing Difficult Caregiver Emotions When a Parent Has Dementia

Dementia is a tough disease for the person living with it and those who love them. There’s no denying the physical and emotional toll it can take on a family caregiver. While it can be rewarding to care for a loved one during this journey, it’s important to acknowledge that guilt and frustration are common and normal emotions, too.

The challenges of the disease itself are what make being a dementia caregiver so difficult. People with Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, can seemingly go for days without sleep. To keep them safe and protected, a caregiver might be forced to stay awake, too. Because of the damage dementia causes to the brain, there are behaviors that are hard to navigate as well. People with dementia often experience agitation, anxiety, and tearfulness.

One of the keys to surviving the emotional rollercoaster family caregivers often experience is learning how to manage caregiver guilt, fear, and frustration. We have some suggestions that we hope you will find useful.

Managing Difficult Caregiver Emotions

Our first piece of advice is to be kind to yourself. Caregiving for someone you love is difficult work, no matter how rewarding it is. When a senior loved one has dementia, the role is exceptionally tough. As the illness progresses, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia rob a person of their independence and ability to communicate. Setting aside the physical demands of care, there is the sadness associated with watching your family member decline.

Other steps you can take to manage the difficult emotional journey of a dementia caregiver include:

  • Journaling: One method of coping with the guilt, fear, and frustration you are feeling is by journaling. It’s an effective solution used by many, including cancer patients, hospice team members, and those in recovery from substance abuse. One practice you might find particularly helpful is known as reflect and release. These tips and prompts for reflective journaling might help you get started.
  • Asking for help: Family caregivers often feel as if they need to handle everything on their own. While it’s understandable to want to help your loved one as much as possible, this can lead to caregiver overload or burnout. Reaching out to friends and family for help, such as assistance running errands or sitting with your senior while you get out for a bit, might ease some of the tough emotions you are experiencing.
  • Utilizing respite: Another option to consider is using respite care regularly. Your loved one can stay at a dementia care community for a few days or weeks while you take a break. You can relax and enjoy time to yourself knowing they are in the hands of expert, professional caregivers.
  • Joining a support group: Finding a group of peers who are walking a similar path with a family member is another good way to help you cope with the challenges of caring for a person with dementia. You could call the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to investigate in-person support groups that meet in your area. You’ll likely find one at a nearby church or senior center. If you prefer an online support group, this resource from the Alzheimer’s Association can help you connect with one.
  • Taking a daily walk: Finally, another good way to clear your head is to take a quick walk outdoors every day. Even if you have to bundle up against the cold or take an umbrella with you, connecting with nature can help boost the spirits and bring a sense of peace.

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Because we understand the challenges living with a memory impairment creates, we created a specialized form of care for older adults living with dementia. We provide an environment that works around disease-related obstacles to help enhance the quality of life for residents.

No detail is overlooked in our Michigan dementia care communities. From an individualized plan of care to dedicated dining and meaningful daily activities, it’s a solution that benefits older adults and their families. We invite you to call the Heritage location nearest you to learn more!

Medicare Basics for New Retirees

Medicare Basics for New Retirees

The Medicare program was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in the summer of 1965. It is designed to provide health insurance to adults aged 65 and over, as well as younger people with disabilities. But the program actually dates back to President Teddy Roosevelt and President Harry Truman.

Roosevelt included Medicare in his presidential campaign platform in 1912. In 1945, Truman unsuccessfully fought for a national health insurance program with a special focus on coverage for older adults and people with disabilities. It wasn’t until President Johnson’s term when Congress actually enacted the necessary legislation and the program kicked off in 1966. President Truman and his wife, Bess, were the first two people to enroll in Medicare.

Today, Medicare gives retirees greater financial security. But it can be confusing for those about to enroll in the program. Let’s take a look at some of the basics you’ll need to know to get started with Medicare.

Medicare 101 for New Enrollees

First, it helps to understand how the Medicare program is organized. There are four parts and each is assigned a different letter: A, B, C, and D. Here’s a quick overview of each:

  • Medicare Part A: Often referred to as the “hospital benefit,” part A covers part or all of hospital stays, short-term rehabilitation at a skilled nursing center, hospice care, and skilled home health services.
  • Medicare Part B: Medicare Part B is designed to cover two primary types of care: medically necessary services and preventative services. That could include doctor visits, outpatient therapy, mental health treatment, laboratory testing, cardiac rehab, mammograms, flu shots, and more.
  • Medicare Part C: This part of Medicare is comprised of Medicare Advantage plans. Through these replacement plans, private insurance companies contract with Medicare to provide health care coverage to seniors. These plans may have lower out-of-pocket costs and may even include prescription drugs.
  • Medicare Part D: If you opt for traditional Medicare instead of a Medicare Advantage plan, you can sign up for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D. In most cases, you need to sign up for drug coverage at the time you enroll in Medicare. If you don’t, you’ll pay a penalty when you decide to sign on. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to explore drug plan options in your zip code.

Answering Commonly Asked Questions About Medicare

If you are like most adults preparing to sign up for Medicare, you have many questions. Here are the answers to two of the most common.

Q: How much does Medicare cost?

A: Because most seniors (or their spouse) pay into Medicare through their employer, Part A of the benefit is usually free. But there is a monthly premium for Part B coverage and, if you opt for it, Part D. In 2024, Medicare Part B is $174.70 per month. While Part D pricing varies, the average monthly cost for basic benefit coverage in 2024 is $34.50.

Q: Does Medicare pay 100% of an enrollee’s health care expenses?

A: Unfortunately, like all health care plans, Medicare has deductibles and limits. The exception may be if you choose a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t have deductibles. Adults who select traditional Medicare might want to consider purchasing what is known as Medigap insurance. It helps pay for those expenses Medicare doesn’t. 2024 Choosing a Medigap Policy can help you learn more.

Finally, if you need more clarification between Medicare Parts A and B, this article might be of interest. It covers everything from coverage and costs to open enrollment.

Vacation Ideas for Seniors with Mobility Challenges

Vacation Ideas for Seniors with Mobility Challenges

Dear Donna:

My mom and I have both had a pretty tough year. My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and battled it for six months before his death. The two of us are pretty worn out and in need of some fun and relaxation. I would like to take my mom on a real vacation, but she has some mobility challenges. She can walk only for short distances before she needs the assistance of a walker or wheelchair.

We are open to traveling by car, plane, or even a train. The key is to make our trip as easy as possible for my mom. Do you have any suggestions? We live in southeast Michigan but are open to going anywhere!

Sincerely,

Anna in Midland, MI

Vacation Destinations for Older Adults with Limited Mobility

Dear Anna:

My condolences on the loss of your father. Caring for a loved one with a life-limiting illness can be mentally and physically exhausting. It seems like you and your mom could definitely use a vacation!

Since it sounds like your mom’s mobility issues are understandably a worry for you, I’m sure it’s tough to figure out how to plan your getaway. With that in mind, here are a few tips that might help you narrow your choices:

  • Consider taking a cruise: While cruise ships can be large and require a considerable amount of walking, they also have accessible options for those who require it. Most have wheelchairs that can be rented for the duration of the trip, as well as accessible cabins and physical environment. Features often include wider doorways with no sills or lips, raised toilet seats, handrails along hallways, accessible balconies, lower rods in closets, and benches in the shower. On-board restaurants and theaters have designated seating for those who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. This article ranking the best cruise lines for people with limited mobility might be a helpful read.
  • Explore a national park: After the tough months that you and your mom experienced, connecting with nature might give your spirits a boost. Fortunately, America’s National Park Service has a variety of options for people who struggle with mobility. Many have accessible trails and scenic drives that are great for people of all ages who have limited mobility. Some of the parks also offer educational programs and tours led by park rangers so you can learn about the natural history and the diverse wildlife. A few senior-friendly parks include Acadia National Park in Maine, Yosemite National Park in California, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii.
  • Travel by train: If busy airports, long car rides, national parks, or large cruise ships don’t appeal to you, maybe taking a train trip will. Among the many benefits of rail travel is that you can sign up for a trip that includes your own sleeping space. You’ll avoid having to unpack and repack your suitcase at multiple locations. Train travelers over the age of 65 often receive special discounted pricing, too. The Accessible Travel Services page on Amtrak’s website has some great information you’ll want to review if you decide to hit the rails for your vacation.

Finally, if you decide you’d like to include younger family members in your travel party, we have some information that might help you plan. “Intergenerational Summer Vacations” contains more helpful destination ideas.

Sending you and your mom best wishes for a great vacation!

Kind regards,

Donna

Does My Mom Need Independent Living or Assisted Living?

Does My Mom Need Independent Living or Assisted Living?

Dear Donna:

I’m hoping you can help me determine what type of care might be most beneficial for my mother. My dad passed away last year after a long battle with cancer. During his final years, she was very busy caring for him and had little time for herself. Now that he is gone, she doesn’t seem interested in reconnecting with friends and family. She’s also lost weight and experienced a few falls.

Her primary care physician thinks it’s just part of the grieving process. As her daughter, I think there is more to it. She and I have discussed how lonely she feels, and I’m pretty sure she is willing to consider moving to a senior living community. I started doing some research. However, I can’t figure out the difference between independent and assisted living or which one might be the best fit for my mom.

Can you help clarify what these types of care entail?

Sincerely,

Beth in Saginaw, MI

Independent Living Versus Assisted Living

Dear Beth:

Great question! I can definitely help explain a few similarities and differences between these two popular types of senior living.

Let’s start with independent living. These communities are often a good fit for seniors seeking freedom from the burdens of homeownership and/or an opportunity to be more social. Because housekeeping tasks and maintenance chores are handled by staff, residents have more time to pursue their interests.

These communities often plan and host travel groups, life-enrichment activities, continuing education classes, and wellness programs. They also make it easy for residents to connect with volunteer opportunities on-campus or in the local area. Some additional benefits include:

  • Healthy meals: Cooking for one can seem like too much work for many single seniors. It can lead to a reliance on unhealthy convenience foods or skipping meals entirely. In an independent living community, chef-inspired meals are usually included.
  • Wellness: Staying active and engaged is easier for residents because a variety of physical activities are offered each day. These often include walking groups, yoga, Zumba, weight training, stretching classes, and workouts in an on-site fitness center.
  • Friendships: As you mentioned, adults who live alone often feel isolated and lonely. With a move to an independent living community, a resident usually expands their circle of friends. Residents have a chance to meet new people through both formal and informal gatherings.
  • Transportation: While these services vary by community, most have either on-site transportation staff or team members who can help coordinate transportation needs. That’s a helpful service for adults who’ve limited or given up driving.

The Benefits of Assisted Living

In addition to the benefits outlined above, assisted living communities offer residents a helping hand to live their most independent life. By providing support with the activities of daily living (e.g., grooming, bathing, and medication management), the staff at these communities helps protect resident health and safety.

Common services found in assisted living communities include:

  • Support with personal care, such as bathing, grooming, and dressing
  • Assistance with toileting and continence care needs
  • Medication management
  • Housekeeping, laundry, trash removal, and maintenance

It’s important to note that an assisted living community isn’t the same as a nursing home. Assisted living residents need help with personal care and daily tasks, while those in a nursing home usually have more complex medical needs. In a nursing home, skilled care is typically delivered by nurses, physical therapists, and other medical professionals.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the basics of independent and assisted living, Beth! Please call a Heritage community near you if you have any questions or would like to schedule a private tour for you and your mom.

Kind regards,

Donna