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Dear Carol: My dad is 73. He’s healthy, vital and lives in the same home that I grew up in. Dad volunteers for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and loves it. He even met a woman who is also volunteering and they have fun together. Yet, I have people who ask me when I’m going to make Dad get out of that house and move somewhere safer. I know that many of these people have parents with health problems that affect their ability to live alone. I’m sorry for them all but I’m tired of being pressured to take over Dad’s life just because he’s in his 70s. I’m not neglecting Dad. It’s true that after mom died 10 years ago it set him back for a time, but he eventually moved forward. How do I let people know that I’m sad for them if they have parents with health problems but I’m happy about Dad and not going to try to “make” him do anything he doesn’t want to do. That would, to me, seem disrespectful, to say nothing of the fact that he’d refuse anyway. How do I respond to this pressure? PT Read more →


As you watch your parents or other beloved elders age, sometimes worry becomes inevitable. Should they have housing upgrades? Can they continue to live independently? Your intention isn’t to take over their lives, but you may genuinely want to start the conversation about possible future changes. How do you do this without causing a backlash? Read more →


A recent study found that adult children caring for their parents, as well as parents caring for chronically ill children, may have their life span shortened by four to eight years. Caregivers could conceivably alter these statistics if they practice reasonable self-care. Here's how: Read more →


It’s easy to feel grateful when life is going well and certainly it’s desirable to acknowledge life at its best with appropriate gratitude. What’s not easy is finding gratitude when life hard. Is it even realistic to try? Yes. Discovering gratitude during difficult times can be a giant step toward peace. Read more →


...Yet, when we don't learn to let go of the stress of caregiving once it's over, our physical and mental health may continue to suffer. Adjusting to a new – hopefully better – normal takes courage, insight and time. For me, the road to normalcy meant trekking backward through my mind to keep alive memories of the times before my loved ones became so vulnerable. Read more →


Family caregivers generally earn their job title in one of two ways. The first is what I call the "sneak up mode." The second is "crisis mode." For me, caregiving began with an elderly neighbor who needed some assistance. This "assistance" turned into a five-year stint of elder care, closely followed by the ever increasing needs of six of my own family members. Read more →


Most of us have a hard time finding gratitude in the midst of trouble. That's human. However, I believe in my heart, that gratitude, when sought, can improve our own quality of life whatever the circumstances we are facing. Thanksgiving, a holiday many of us celebrate even if it's by watching a football game and eating too much, is supposed to be a time to reflect upon our blessings. But I've seen some people forget that they have multiple blessings just because "their" team lost the Thanksgiving Day game! While that's a rather silly example of our human ignorance of the range of things we have to be grateful for, it's true that many of us fail to pause and reflect on the good we have in our lives. Read more →


Dear Carol: My mother was diagnosed with mixed dementia (vascular dementia along with Alzheimer’s) at age 67. She’s now 75 and the doctor says she’s in Alzheimer's stage seven. She’s had two strokes and takes medication for high blood pressure. Mom doesn’t know anyone and simply sits and stares into space without reacting very much. All of her doctors are vague about her life expectancy. I don’t expect the doctor to know exactly how long she will continue this way but I’d like some idea. Are they uncomfortable with my question? PT Read more →


Defining the point in time when a caring child or a loving spouse crosses the threshold into being a caregiver isn't easy. That point is different for everyone. Some people will deny the caregiving label entirely because they feel that they are simply doing what a good adult child or spouse is supposed to do. Others will grab onto their new title as soon as they are asked to help unscrew a bottle cap because Mom's arthritic hands make opening certain containers difficult. The point is, how important is defining your role as a caregiver to you, and when is the time to do so? Read more →


...I have known many hospice professionals who have seen their patients rally shortly before death. They have expressed that some patients want to talk. Some become restless and act as if they need to start preparing for a trip. Others will simply become more relaxed, yet tuned in. Still, others will simply show signs of physical stability when, seconds before, they seemed on the edge of letting go. Some of these rallies are momentary, while others can last a day or more. Short or long, these rallies generally have a profound effect on the loved ones sitting vigil. Read more →