Easing the Anxiety About Senior Living

Category Archives: Family & Caregivers

Easing the Anxiety About Senior Living

Learn more about Sunshine’s Easy Move Program for more ways to make moving easier on seniors

How you can support your parents during the tricky transition phase

Congratulations if you’ve talked about downsizing with your parents and they’re on board with moving to a senior living community. But don’t be doing a victory dance quite yet! Although one set of uncomfortable conversations may be over, downsizing is a huge deal, so don’t be surprised if the process brings up yet more pesky little emotions–like fear, loss, and anxiety–in your parents.

In fact, the real question is not whether mom and dad will have feelings about the impending move, but how can you best support them during this transition.

The biggest mistake you can make is pretending that nothing is happening when you see signs that your parents are feeling upset. Instead of avoiding the issue, offer your parents a listening ear. Give them your full attention as they spill out their anxieties, validating their feelings and acknowledging their concerns. If your parents tend to clam up about their feelings, wait for a calm moment, then initiate a conversation. Let them know the signs you have noticed, and, if they seem open, ask how they are feeling about the transition.

Familiarize them with their options

On a more practical level, ease your parents’ anxiety and help them make an informed decision by asking them about their needs and preferences and involving them in decision making. Help them out by researching senior living options and setting up visits with the various communities. In addition to viewing apartments, drop by for lunch and chat with other residents (be sure to ask them what they like–and don’t like–about the community.) Keep in mind that some places will allow your parents to partake in a recreational class and others can arrange short-term temporary stays, which will allow mom and dad to get a real sense of the community.

When your loved one has dementia

If your one or both of your parents has Alzheimer’s disease, moving into an unfamiliar environment can be even more anxiety-provoking. Unless their dementia is advanced, talk to them regularly about the move, involve them in the planning and include them in visits to the various senior living communities.

Closer to the move, talk to staff about your parents’ background, medical history, and preferences. You can also reduce anxiety by booking the move during their best time of day. Another tip: Try and recreate the home environment in their new apartment as much possible.

Unfortunately, your loved ones may still be reluctant to move when the time comes; in fact, they may be out of sorts for the first few weeks or longer as they adjust to their new living arrangement. During this phase, try to be patient and visit your parents often, encouraging friends and family to do the same. Extra care and attention can go a long way.

Focus on the positive

Finally, no matter your parents’ medical condition, don’t forget to remind them that senior living will improve their quality of life, especially if they can no longer drive and feel isolated. Here is a short list of some of the benefits of senior living:

  • Companionship
  • A wide array of recreational activities
  • Healthy cooked meals
  • Less house and yardwork meaning more time to focus on other meaningful activities
  • No costly repairs to worry about

It may take some time, but once your parents feel part of their senior living community, they may discover that community living suits them even better than home ownership.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, May, 2019

Take the Tension Out of Talking to Mom and Dad About Downsizing: Simple Pointers About Broaching Sensitive Topics Like Senior Living

Learn more about Sunshine’s Easy Move Program for more ways to make moving easier on seniors

If you’re an adult child of aging parents, you may dread talking about downsizing, secretly hoping things will somehow work out if you leave the topic alone. But’s that a risky approach to take, given that an estimated 70 percent of people aged 65 will require some form of long-term care during their lives. It’s a far wiser course of action to discuss downsizing while they are still healthy–otherwise, you may be forced into making a rash, sudden decision when mom or dad has a health crisis, like breaking their hip or developing dementia.

The good news is that talking about downsizing doesn’t have to involve tension, anxiety and family friction, not if you address it the right way, that is.

Aim for a long and slow process

For starters, you may want to change the way you think about “having the conversation.” Instead of viewing it as one marathon session, look at it as a long-term event made up of many micro-conversations. Do aim for a family meeting, but initially, keep the conversations casual and look out for openings that allow you to slip in a few words about downsizing. For instance, you could broach the subject if you notice your parents struggling while walking up stairs or preparing dinner. The time might also be ripe for a small discussion if one of them expresses concern about their living situation. Don’t pester your parents, just keep gently bringing the topic up when the timing feels right.

Always keep in mind the delicate nature of these conversations. Your parents may see downsizing as a loss of independence or control. They may feel scared or angry about changing circumstances and heartsick about leaving a home filled with memories of backyard barbecues, holiday celebrations, and family dinners. They may also worry that they will lose touch with friends and neighbors.

Of course, moving into a senior living community can help ease the pain of leaving a much-loved home and neighborhood, but now may not be the time to highlight the social benefits (like the chance to live in a community of peers, to partake in recreational activities and healthy dining that allow for easy socializing). First, allow time to listen to your parents’ concerns, validate their feelings and give them emotional space.

Your approach needs to empathetic and compassionate. Be sensitive and respectful–never argue, wheedle, cajole or push mom and dad. Speak to your parents with an edge in your voice or saying hurtful words may damage your relationship and you want to avoid doing that at all costs.

Enlisting help

Even if you suddenly realize your parents’ yard is looking unkempt or there are stacks of unopened letters on the kitchen table, avoid forcing conversations. Although you need to be alert and responsive to changing circumstances, a conversation fueled by panic will only aggravate the situation. If you do believe your parents’ health and well-being are compromised by their living arrangement and they are resistant to acting, consider asking a respected family friend or relative or other neutral third parties to speak to them about the consequences of inaction. Sometimes it takes an outsider’s view to shake the illusion that they are coping alright.

While we can’t promise that talking about the sensitive topic of downsizing will exactly be relaxing, it doesn’t have to be a tense scenario if you get a little support and alter your approach.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, May, 2019

For Moms with Alzheimer’s, Mother’s Day is as much about Moments as Memories

If you close your eyes for a moment (after reading this sentence, that is) you should be able to conjure up fond or even not-to-fond memories of your mother – picking you up after a fall, cheering you on at a competition, giving you some timely life-changing advice. Sadly, it wouldn’t be uncommon for your mother to eventually lose all of those same memories to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, if she hasn’t already.

According to recent studies, more than seven million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Nearly two-thirds of them are women.

Needless to say, holidays like Mother’s Day can be a challenging time for a mother living with Alzheimer’s. She may feel a sense of loss because of the changes being experienced as a result of the disease. Beloved traditions may have to be adjusted to accommodate new realities. And at the same time, many adult children and care-givers may not be certain how to celebrate a day that no longer holds any meaning for the honoree.

Yet, regardless of your mom’s particular circumstances, Mother’s Day can remain a meaningful and enjoyable occasion for you and your family. Planning will take more thought and each family’s unique circumstances will need to be taken into consideration. But chances are, Mom willl enjoy spending time with you or anyone who appreciates and pays attention to her.

Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Association that can ensure a Mother’s Day celebration you both will enjoy:

1. Have a Memorable Mother’s Day Brunch

You probably used to take Mom out on Mother’s Day to give her a day off from cooking. That tradition may no longer hold much importance if she lives in a Sunshine Retirement Living memory care community and has her meals made for her each day. If you do decide to go out, make sure she is comfortable with crowds and does well in a different setting than what she’s used to. If she’s agreeable to the idea, consider ordering for her, because she may not remember what her favorite foods are or what’s best for her to eat.

Either way, people with Alzheimer’s do best when following a schedule. So eat at Mom’s usual time, before she gets too hungry, and preferably in familiar surroundings. Sticking to her normal routine will help keep the day from becoming disruptive or confusing. And don’t overdo it. If necessary, plan time for breaks so she can rest in a quiet area away from noise and crowds.

If going out doesn’t seem like a good idea, most Sunshine Retirement communities will be serving special Mother’s Day brunches that you’re both sure to enjoy. Or feel free to bring the meal to her from one of her favorite restaurants. Just don’t be afraid to reminisce about favorite foods and the memories you share surrounding special meals. While you’re at the facility, why not join in one of their group activities?

2. Give Gifts that Encourages Engagement

Your mom may not expect gifts for Mother’s Day any more, but they are always welcome. Especially those that stimulate the senses, such as flowers, a soft blanket, scented lotions, or a photo of the two of you together. Photo albums, ID bracelets and comfortable clothes also make nice gifts. But often, the best gift of all could be a CD or iPod of her favorite music that she can easily play. Music has more power to stimulate positive memories than anything else. Plus, it encourages movement and dancing.

3. Reminisce about Good Times from the Past

Having a conversation with someone dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia can sometimes be difficult, which often presents a challenge on how to create a special moment. If your mother still has her long-term memory intact, as many people with dementia do, reminiscing about a past you share is a good way to connect. Consider looking at a photo album of a past trip you’ve taken together or some childhood events. Enter her world and share her reality.

If she talks about random things from the past – Elvis Presley, her brother or childhood dog, Queen Elizabeth – go along for the ride and see where the conversation goes. If she doesn’t recognize who you are, but has memories of a son or daughter, invite her to share them without explaining who you are. But if conversations aren’t going anywhere, then just find an activity you can do together successfully and enjoy the moment. Go for a walk. Do some gardening or a jigsaw puzzle together. Read a story or listen to music.

4. Celebrate the Relationship You Have Now

While watching someone you’ve loved all your life slowly slip away from you is understandably traumatic, try to acknowledge that the person who does exist is still a lovable human who needs compassion. Recognize that you still have a relationship with your mother in whatever form it may be. Nurture it and treasure every moment that you have left.

For more information and support, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900. A trained social worker will be happy to answer your questions or concerns. Learn more about Alzheimer’s in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center at alz.org/care. For more tips on supporting a family member with Alzheimer’s, join the ALZConnected online community, and find more information about your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter services and programs.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, May, 2019. Some content was provided by prnewswire.com, yourhub.denverpost.com and seniorplanningservices.com.

8 Tips When Touring an Austin Senior Community on a Senior’s Behalf

If you’ve been recruited to help a friend or family member find top retirement living in Austin’s best neighborhoods, these tips are everything you need to do the job justice.

#1 – Know What They Want in Advance

Spend time interviewing your friend or family member before you start the search. Knowing what matters most to them, why they’re interested in senior living, and their non-negotiables will help you review each community from their perspective. Questions to ask include:

  • What led you to explore retirement community living?
  • What are your top three must-haves?
  • Are there any deal breakers for you?
  • What hobbies are you hoping to continue?
  • What new hobbies or habits are you hoping to start?
  • What’s your budget?

#2 – Check Out The Food. (Literally)

The only way to evaluate dining options in advance is to enjoy them yourself. Schedule your site visit during meal time and come hungry; most communities offer the opportunity for guests to purchase a la carte items, and some offer a free meal for those considering the community for themselves or a friend or family member. You can also better evaluate meal options by reviewing the menu, visiting with current residents, and learning more about dining hours and after-hours options.

#3 – Get a Taste of Austin From a Resident’s Perspective

Ask to take a look at the activities calendar to find out how much of Austin’s culture residents have the opportunity to take in – and which activities they can participate in when they choose to stay inside for the evening. To get an even better feel for the culture and environment, stop by the common areas to observe or participate in an activity of your choice.

#4 – Take Great Notes

As soon as you’re done touring, you’ll want to share everything you learned with the person considering senior living options. Because retirement communities are so vastly different from one another – and offer such an array of amenities and services – it’s nearly impossible to remember everything without good notes. So take great notes, and take as many materials with you when you leave as possible (brochures, estimates, etc.).

#5 – Visit With Community Members

Since you interviewed your friend or family member in advance, you know exactly what they’re looking for in a community. Who better to share whether a neighborhood checks all the boxes than the people who live there? Stop and visit with a few friendly residents to answer your loved one’s questions. Questions to ask include:

  • What do you love about living here?
  • What do you like the least about living here?
  • How would you describe the culture of this community?
  • Can you reach a member of management when you need to?
  • Do you feel safe here?

#6 – Ask The Tough Questions

During your tour and time with staff, find out what happens if your loved one’s needs change after they move in and what happens if they are ever unable to pay their rent. While these questions can be tough to ask – and tough to think about – it’s important to know ahead of time how much notice is given and what other options are offered in challenging situations like these.

#7 – Be Consistent From One Community to The Next

If you ask one community about dining options and ask the other community about security, utilities, amenities, and services, you’ll come up short of information that your loved one needs in order to make an educated decision. Writing down your questions in advance can help you get the most important information from each community and then compare apples to apples at the end of the day.

#8 – Check out the suites in person

While floor plans are helpful, it’s common for prospective community members to identify strengths and weaknesses in the walk-through that they may not have considered from the floor plans alone. Take time to walk through each potential unit to find one that best meets the needs of your friend or family member.

To learn more about living in an Austin senior community or to add The Clairmont to your list, visit us online today and schedule a free tour.

How to Speak with a Loved One with Dementia in a Memory Care Facility

When your loved one is suffering from dementia, you are often struggling alongside him or her, learning how to cope with role reversal and how to communicate lovingly and effectively. Changing your communication style is necessary to maintain positive communication, encourage your loved one, and prevent distress. We hope these tips are helpful as you work to adjust to the new normal of loving somebody with dementia.

Introduce yourself

Nothing hurts more than stopping by to visit somebody close to you in a memory care facility only to find that she doesn’t remember who you are. Not only is it painful, but it can lead to frustration, shame, and embarrassment for your loved one. You can avoid all of these unwanted outcomes by simply introducing yourself right when you get there and often afterward. Try a casual introduction like this: “Hi Mom. It’s me, Jane.” If you can tell she’s confused a few minutes later, you can say it kindly again: “It’s me, Jane.”

Speak slowly

Dementia makes it increasingly difficult to process complex information. When speaking with your friend or family member experiencing memory loss, speak slowly in a regular tone of voice, choosing simple words with fewer syllables. Ensure sentences are short and clear.

Avoid baby talk

Don’t confuse clear, simple communication with baby talk. Older adults can hear lower voices better than high voices, and baby talk can feel condescending to an older adult with rich life experiences, especially if he or she raised you. Treat your friend or family member like the competent, experienced adult they are by speaking your regular tone of voice.

Talk about familiar subjects

Talk about the things your loved one knows and remembers, like their childhood, home, or the occupation they enjoyed when they were younger. Dementia often affects short-term memory without impacting long-term memory, especially in earlier stages of the disease. For this reason, your friend or family member will likely take comfort in memories that happened before the disease struck, while identifying less with memories that have occurred since the diagnosis or symptoms began. He or she may not be able to recall recent events but recall memories from kindergarten or raising their own children when they were young.

Think before correcting inaccurate beliefs

If your friend or a family member has forgotten a painful memory – such as the loss of child or spouse – you may choose not to remind them if will cause them to experience the stages of grief over and over again. It’s important to know that every resident of a memory care facility experiences dementia and memory loss uniquely. In some cases, believing their spouse or child is alive but does not visit is more painful than knowing that they have passed. Use your judgment and rely on the expertise of staff to decide what to share and when.

Don’t quiz them

Acceptance is critical while you grieve the partner or parent your loved one used to be. Asking questions like, “Do you know what day it is?” or “Do you know who I am?” might help you better understand the stages of dementia your friend or family member is experiencing or gauge their level of understanding, but it can quickly lead to confusion and frustration for the person struggling to answer these basic questions. Instead, simply offer love and understanding, providing the information they need. “Today is Monday, March 5th, and it’s 53 degrees outside,” is a great example of a way you can add value.

To learn more about our compassionate Mishawaka retirement community, visit us online or in person today.

The Onset of Alzheimer’s and How to Talk About it

When a senior loved one begins to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, it can leave families feeling worried, confused and downright overwhelmed. Even for spouses and adult children who sense that the diagnosis is eminent, having it confirmed can be heart-wrenching.

Alzheimer’s is a disease with no known cure and it’s difficult to predict how quickly it will progress. That’s why, it is wise to be prepared for what is likely to happen and to be able to discuss it openly with your loved one and family members before it’s too late. At the same time, it’s important to have a resource like Sunshine Retirement which has several communities that specialize in all aspects of Memory Care. They can provide answers to your questions as well as give your loved one the most compassion and best support possible 24 hours a day.

For starters, let’s learn more about the Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s disease and what to expect at each stage. (Keep in mind that many physicians and treatment facilities may condense these stages into as few as three – Mild, Moderate and Severe.)

Stage 1: No Impairment

During this stage, there may be no evidence of memory problems or other detectable symptoms of dementia. However, you may notice your loved one repeating stories and anecdotes, or making the same comments more frequently than normal.

Stage 2: Very Mild Decline

The senior may notice minor memory problems or lose things around the house, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age-related memory loss. The person will still do well on memory tests and the disease is unlikely to be detected by loved ones or physicians.

Stage 3: Mild Decline

At this stage, the family members and friends of the senior may begin to notice cognitive problems. Performance on memory tests are affected and physicians will be able to detect impaired cognitive function. People in Stage 3 will have difficulty in many areas including:

  • inding the right word during conversations.
  • Organizing and planning simple tasks.
  • Remembering names of new acquaintances.

People with Stage 3 Alzheimer’s may also frequently lose personal possessions, from small, insignificant items to valuables.

Stage 4: Moderate Decline

At this stage, clear-cut symptoms of the disease are apparent, including:

  • Difficulty with simple arithmetic.
  • Poor short-term memory (may not recall what they ate for breakfast, for example).
  • Inability to manage finance and pay bills.
  • Forgetting details about their life histories.

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline

During this stage of Alzheimer’s, people begin to need help with many day-to-day activities. They may experience:

  • Difficulty dressing appropriately.
  • Inability to recall simple details about themselves such as their own phone number.
  • Significant and frequent confusion.

At the same time, people in Stage 5 maintain functionality. They typically can still bathe and toilet independently. They also usually still know their family members and some detail about their personal histories, especially their childhood and youth.

Stage 6: Severe Decline

People with the sixth stage of Alzheimer’s need constant supervision and frequently require professional care. Symptoms include:

  • Confusion or unawareness of environment and surroundings.
  • Inability to recognize faces and remember names except for the closest friends and relatives.
  • Difficulty in remembering most details of their personal history.
  • Major personality changes and potential behavior problems.
  • The need for assistance with activities of daily living such as toileting and bathing.
  • Frequent wandering.

Stages 7: Very Severe Decline

Because the disease is a terminal illness, people in Stage 7 are nearing death. They lose the ability to communicate or respond to their environment. While they may still be able to utter words and phrases, they have no insight into their condition and need assistance with all activities of daily living. They may even lose their ability to swallow.

Talking about Alzheimer’s

While you and your senior loved one might feel like you have no control over what happens next, there are steps you can take in the early stages that will keep you feeling in charge and empowered. It all begins with communication.

Sit down as a family and give your senior loved one the opportunity to share their wishes for dealing with the difficulties ahead. This will probably take more than a single conversation. But together, you can create a plan, one that may include arranging residency in a retirement home or community that specializes in Memory Care 24/7, such as The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana, The Gardens at Brook Ridge in Pharr, Texas, Windsor Heights in Beachwood, Ohio, The Haven at North Hills in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana.        

Sharing that a Family Member has Alzheimer’s

First and foremost, don’t rush your loved one into a big announcement. They likely need time to digest the news and decide how to proceed. Unless their safety or decision-making capacity is an immediate concern, follow their wishes. They might choose to tell people closest to them on their own, or they might ask you or another loved one to do so.

Needless to say, it’s important to be well-informed about the disease when you talk to family and friends. Many people are well aware of Alzheimer’s disease and can become trusted mentors to help guide you forward. Others, however, will be aware that Alzheimer’s exists, but don’t understand it. It is a complex disease that involves more than just forgetfulness and memory loss.

This link from the Alzheimer’s Association website can be especially helpful for sharing with people as you discuss the diagnosis. It covers topics ranging from symptoms and brain changes to current research.

How to Talk with Someone Who has Alzheimer’s

As you or your loved one begins sharing the news, you’ll likely have people ask you for advice on communicating with the senior. Over time, your loved one’s verbal skills may become impaired, which can be very frustrating to him or her. Here are a few tips to help communicate with loved ones:

  • Approach from the front so you don’t startle them.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Maintain eye contact; sit or kneel if necessary.
  • Smile and use an empathetic tone.

We hope this information makes it easier to understand and deal with the aggressive approach of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as to break the news to friends and family of your loved one who should be informed. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact any of Sunshine’s Memory Care communities.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, March, 2019. Some content was provided by www.sunriseseniorliving.com, www.alz.org and www.alzheimers.net.

5 Common Questions Families Have About Independent Living in Eugene, OR

When searching for the right senior living community, you’ll struggle to find a location that is more suited to active senior living than Eugene, OR. Located right on the Willamette River with a myriad of indoor and outdoor attractions, independent living communities in Eugene are an ideal place to call home. However, if you are just starting your search, it’s common to have more questions than answers. Here, we answer the five most common questions families ask about independent living services to make your search just a little easier.

Will my loved one really be able to maintain independence?

Independent living means exactly that: your loved one can continue doing things for themselves like cooking, cleaning, or managing appointments and medications. Most importantly, while they’ll have access to a myriad of activities, events, and amenities, they’ll choose which amenities to take advantage of and which to bypass.

Most people find that independent living communities simply offer resort-style retirement with access to beautiful outdoor space and walking paths, a state-of-the-art fitness facility, gourmet dining options, much more predictable expenses, and a plethora of opportunities for friendship and adventure.

Is Independent Living Affordable?

The more potential residents learn about the resort-like amenities available in some of Eugene’s independent living communities, the more curious they become about its fit within their budget.

No matter how simple or luxurious of a retirement community you seek, meet with a financial planner or a community director to discuss feasibility. Most find that independent living (even resort-style independent living) is well within their reach – and many find that the fixed, predictable monthly expenses are easier to manage and afford than their previous living arrangements because so many utilities, services, and amenities are included in one low monthly fee.

Make sure to request a full list of all costs and expenses so you can get a complete understanding of the costs of independent living. This ensures you can do an “apples to apples” comparison of Independent Living versus at-home living as well as comparing each senior living community to one another.

Which amenities will residents have access to?

Independent living residents typically have access to a variety of amenities and programs which may include:

  • Help with moving
  • All-day dining options
  • Door-to-door transportation for appointments and shopping
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Concierge services
  • Housekeeping
  • Maintenance and Landscaping Services
  • Robust activity and event schedule
  • Full wellness program
  • Access to fitness facilities
  • and more

Your loved one should be able to pick and choose which amenities fit their needs and enrich their life.

What happens if their needs change over time?

Should a resident ever need a higher level of care than independent living can provide, a care planning professional should discuss living options with the resident and their family to determine appropriate placement for the best care possible.

Some independent living communities may offer varying levels of care on site while others can offer a 3rd party care provider to help supplement the resident’s increase care needs until independent living is no longer a suitable option for them.

How do we stay involved in our loved one’s life?

Retirement living can be an upgrade from living at home, and yet, not so different from home. You’ll be able to maintain a close relationship with your loved after they move in, taking advantage of family dining rooms, meeting spaces, and common areas to share time together. Independent living means your loved one is free to have family over or spend time with family off-site whenever it’s convenient for them.

Additionally, staff members will often share as much information with you as your loved one desires.

About Garden Way Retirement Community

While there are a variety of independent living options in Eugene, few offer the luxury of Garden Way, a 118-unit resort-style senior living community. We are committed to providing a warm, comfortable atmosphere for our Eugene-area residents who have access to beautiful gardens, private event rooms, grandkids playroom, movie theater, and a multitude of activities and events to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

With 24/7 dining, as well as an optional Gourmet Food Program, door-to-door transportation, and indoor-outdoor living that is ideal for the active senior, Garden Way is the perfect choice for senior independent living in Eugene.

We encourage you to schedule a tour and enjoy lunch for free, with the engaging team at Garden Way Retirement Community or give us a call at 541-359-3208 today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, January, 2019.

Five Simple Tips to Take the Stress Out of Long-Distance Caregiving

Have you been troubled since your last trip home to visit mom and dad? When, say, it dawned on you that your father was increasingly unsteady on his feet or that your mother could no longer shop alone. Although the exact scenario may differ, the point is you now realize they need more support, and you are the logical one to provide it—even if you live 800 miles away.

Yes, you may soon be joining the ranks of the estimated five to seven million long-distance caregivers in the U.S. Luckily for you, we’ve come up five tips to guide you through what might be challenging times ahead.

1. Increase Your Contact

As your parents grow older and frailer, they will surely appreciate some extra attention from you. Check in with them regularly by phone or Skype at least a couple of times per week and be prepared to fly home if their situation takes a turn for the worse. You should also set up periodic conference calls with your parents and other siblings to discuss important decisions like finances or end-of-life care wishes.

2. Talk to Your Employer

If you work outside the home, let your employer know about your situation as you may need to miss work, rearrange your schedule or cut your hours should your parents’ needs increase. Informing your boss beforehand may help smooth the process should you need future accommodation.

3. Collect Health Info

Like any family caregiver, you’ll need to know as much as possible about your parents’ health. So, ask them for details about their medical conditions, their prescriptions and their insurance coverage. Also ask them to email any relevant medical reports as well as contact numbers for their GPs and specialists.

4. Invest in Technology

Although caregiving from a distance can be nerve-wracking, technology may allow you to breathe easier. For instance, a personal emergency response system (PERS) can ensure your parents get help in an emergency while smart homes go a long way towards keeping your parents safe. Smart technology includes stoves that automatically shut off when there’s no one in the kitchen, sensors that control climate and detect fire and flooding, and motion sensors that can prompt you if mom or dad has stopped moving. Also talk to your parents about wearable devices like watches, smart activity trackers and smart clothes, which can record heart rate, blood pressure or stress level, automatically alerting you if their measurements get out of whack.

5. Seek support

Sometimes it takes a village to help with caregiving. Don’t be shy in contacting the local Area Agency on Aging to find out about community resources like Meals on Wheels. As well, the non-profit organization Caring from a Distance can provide support and resources. And tap into to local family members, friends or neighbors who could take mom and dad shopping or to medical appointments and the like. Bolster this support by hiring a home health aide or a geriatric care manager, who can evaluate your parents’ needs and begin a plan of care.

Has your parents’ needs increase, though, aging in place might become untenable, making assisted living the logical option given that it offers individualized care round the clock. For an extra sense of security, some senior living communities, including those at Sunshine Retirement Living, regularly check in on residents, notifying family if they feel anything is amiss. For example, staff are trained to notice if regulars are missing from breakfast or from other daily routines. Some Sunshine communities have even set up a resident buddy system (also known as a “Resident Ambassadors” program), where residents check on each other. (Families are also welcome to call Sunshine communities daily if they like, and staff will check on their loved ones).

Of course, not all older adults need (or even want) a lot of assistance. Luckily, senior living offers communities that meet every lifestyle. The truth is many older adults who don’t require a high level of care choose this option, because they love being surrounded by people and having activities galore to choose from.

For more information:

How caregivers can let go of the burden of guilt Senior living: A guilt-free way to get your life back

You’ve always been a woman of your word. So, when you told your mother you’d take care of her when she grew old, you meant it.

But, now, your words are coming back to haunt you.

If truth be told, back then you had no idea how fragile your mother would become or how much support she would need. Or that looking after your mother’s house, health and finances, would cut into your own health, career and family life so much.

Before your own life unravels something’s got to change. And luckily, amazingly, you’ve hit upon an answer you both can agree on–namely, moving your mom to a senor living community.

There’s just one problem. Instead of feeling relieved, you feel twisted inside after listening the self-critical voices that are screaming: You didn’t do enough. You’re letting her down. You’re asking Mom to leave her home, make new friends and trust new caregivers, when she’s at her most vulnerable.

If this is where you’re heading, put a brake to the self-condemnation now.

Guilt helps neither you nor your mother, and the consequences of indulging in it can be devastating to your health and your life. (For starters, studies have found that feeling guilty can lead to a decline in concentration, productivity, creativity, and efficiency, according to this article from psychologist Guy Winch in Psychology Today.)

So, how can you rid yourself of guilt?

There’s no magic solution to absolving yourself of guilt, but a good start is to recognize that you are only human. Try to forgive yourself for your imperfections. And, as the Family Caregiver Alliance advises, consider changing guilt into regret. For instance, reword “I feel guilty over my impatience” to “I regret that I am impatient sometimes, like all human beings.” Remember that providing elder care is such a demanding, complex job, Mother Theresa herself could not do it perfectly.

It also helps to know that you are not alone. Try talking about your feelings with supportive friends or book a session with a counsellor. Attending an online or in-person caregivers support group can also provide huge relief as it allows you to talk with people who understand and empathize with your situation. (Check out the Family Caregiver Alliance’s Caregiver Connect page, which provides links to support groups as well as caregiver stories.)

You can also counter guilt by taking actions that boost your physical, emotional and spiritual self. Try walking in a park, taking an aerobics class or practicing yoga poses. Other activities include meditating in the morning or journaling about troubling feelings like guilt or fear.

Focus on the positive

As well, it’s crucial to remember the many benefits that a move to senior living will bring. For starters, think of all the social contacts your mom will make (which can especially boost her spirit if she has lost a partner) and the many activities she can enjoy on-site. Not only that, at a community, like those offered by Sunshine Retirement Living, you can rest assured that your mother will receive three nutritious meals each day plus round-the-clock individualized care, if needed. To top it off, she (and you) will no longer have to deal with home maintenance, and time will be freed up that you can devote to your much-neglected family and career.

What’s more, at Sunshine Retirement Living, you can get involved at your mother’s community, an enjoyable way to support her and to see for yourself the advantages of independent and assisted living. You could help with daily activities like museum trips, art classes and exercise programs or you could share your special skills or knowledge with residents at a special workshop.

Furthermore, whether your mom plans to move to independent living or assisted living, Sunshine’s “Easy Move Program,” provides advice on downsizing, moving companies, even loan applications. Additionally, the community’s move-in coordinator will ensure your mother knows where the dining room, activity room, movie theater and other community amenities are located and has everything she needs to feel at home. The community’s resident ambassador will also make sure she has a special place to sit with other welcoming residents in the dining room for her first week.

No one’s saying senior living will erase all your ugly emotions, but if you give it time, you and your mom may be surprised at how sweet the transition can be.

How To Help Your Elderly Loved One Keep Socially Connected. Growing Old Doesn’t Have To Mean Growing Lonely

Ah, loneliness, an emotion so painful the very thought of it may make you squirm. Nevertheless, when you are a caregiver of an elderly loved one, it’s one condition you may have to look square in the eye.

The fact is that older adults are often susceptible to isolation. When someone is 80-plus, chances are good they have lost lifelong friends and relatives. And when you add in the loss of a beloved partner, they may be left feeling alone in the universe.

What is more, declining health can also play a role in loneliness. For instance, if your parent has dementia, or hearing or vision loss, it may be harder for them to connect with others. If they suffer from a chronic condition like arthritis, the associated pain and fatigue could throw a wrench into their social life. And, if they need a mobility aid, the logistic issues that come along with this could also hamper their socializing. Indeed, simply losing the ability to drive is enough to keep some seniors homebound, especially if there are few transportation alternatives in their area.

The profound impact of loneliness

Although the affect of loneliness can easily be downplayed, the reality is, it’s no small issue. It may be no surprise that isolation is associated with depression, but did you know that it can harm one’s physical health? In fact, one meta-analysis of research into loneliness found that people who were socially isolated have a higher mortality risk than those who are obese or inactive. On top of this, loneliness is linked to decreased resistance to infection, dementia, and increased emergency admission to hospital, according to this review of research on seniors and isolation.

Mitigating the loneliness factor

So, is there anything you can do to lessen your loved one’s seclusion? The answer is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. In the best-case scenario, it might simply be a matter of encouraging your mom or dad to volunteer for a cause, sign up for a class, or join a book club. Likewise, adopting a pet might provide much needed companionship–and taking a dog out for a walk is an almost surefire conversation starter. (if your loved one has health and mobility issues, a robotic pet that doesn’t need any feeding, toileting or walking might do the trick.) Another step would be increasing your in-person, phone or Skype contact with them, though you’ve got to make sure you’re not already giving more than you’ve got.

When your loved one needs more support

If your loved one does need more social engagement than you can offer, you need to look at other alternatives. For instance, consider an adult day care center, which provides transportation, meals and social activities, ranging from group conversations to movies and stretching. Many adult day programs operate within senior centers, medical centers or in senior living communities such as Sunshine Retirement Living.

Finally, if your loved one wants to be surrounded with like-minded companions on a more regular basis, moving to a retirement community might be the most attractive option of them all. Senior living would allow them to live in a community where they can regularly mingle with peers over meals or in common areas, a natural way for friendships to develop. These communities typically provide special social events as well as group activities, all of which offer excellent opportunities to bond with others. Sunshine’s retirement communities, for example, have daily calendars that include activities like games, social hours, outings to parks and restaurants, Tai Chi and other exercise classes, and more (These programs are either included in the resident’s monthly rent and free or low cost to the public).

Although living alone is trending in America, the truth is, humans are very social animals and living with a community of people might add years to your loved one’s life.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, December, 2018.