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August 12, 2011 Newsletter Archive

Caregiver's Need Care Too

Managing stress may be tough at any age and stage. Students stress about achieving their school and employment goals, while parents stress about meeting their children's needs. Those of us still in the work place stress about saving or protecting our nest eggs and about the state of economy and our current political gridlock. Later we stress over our fixed incomes and managing our health. Yet, if you are in the role of giving care to a loved one, then your stress is probably at a whole new level.

A recent segment on the radio talk show On Point cited that a whopping 62 million people are providing care to loved ones in the United States. According to a new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute called "Valuing the Invaluable: The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving, 2011," family caregivers provided the equivalent of $450 billion worth of care to their adult parents and other loved ones in 2009, an amount that makes caregivers one of the largest and most overlooked pillars of the U.S. health care system..."

Most of these care givers are family members who work a "day job" while providing care for a frail, elderly parent. Typically they are daughters, are on average about 49 years old and provide this care for about 20 hours per week, for five years.  However, care givers can be sons and spouses too. Sometimes it becomes a person in a family with a specific skill set, such as a nurse. Sometimes, care is divided among several family members.  Tasks of care givers often include driving, particularly to and from doctor's appointments, shopping, cooking, bathing, dressing, and coordinating medical care.

If you are familiar with the On Point program you will know that it is a call in format. During this segment, those who called in were almost exclusively children who cared for their frail parents at their home or in their parents' homes. Most stated that they would do so again, although the care giving truly took a physical, emotional and often financial toll on their own lives.

Manage Your Physical and Emotional Stress

In order to manage that physical and emotion stress, if you are in a care giver role now, you should understand some of the basics of taking care of yourself in this role so that it doesn't take a toll on your own well being. In the early stages it may be easy to underestimate just how much stress there will be. Often care givers just try to manage it as it comes. However, there are some steps to take to help you care for yourself so you do not burn out caring for others.

Create a Network of Support.

A support network may include other family members and/or friends. It may also include people that can help you with house-keeping and cleaning, running errands, mowing your lawn and other yard work, and it may also include social workers, nurses, doctors, attorneys, financial advisors, accountants and insurance agents. Importantly, you should also consider finding someone to provide you with the respite you need, to stay with your loved one so that you can have some time for yourself to do something you love to do, not just need to do.

There are a growing number of iphone apps that are designed to help caregivers manage such as Care Connector which helps you keep track of personal medical information for multiple people all in one place and ipills which tracks pills you need to take regularly and it shows you what you need to take, and what you've taken. And along with these apps there are growing numbers of web sites that can provide a care giver with inspiration, support, and ideas for taking care of yourself. We list some of these below.

Another way you can get respite is to call for professional reinforcements. Life Care Coordinators, like our own Jane Stephenson [see inset] can relieve some of that day to day anxiety, especially when your caregiving begins to feel overwhelming. A life care coordinator or elder care manager can help you locate and coordinate the help you need so you can begin to think about taking some time off or away guilt free. Life care coordinators can also help you navigate through the myriad community resources available to the person you are caring for, as well as yourself.

Manage Legal and Financial Stress

The ideal way in which to relieve yourself from financial stress is to make sure that the person for whom you are caring has their legal and financial documents in order. If the person you are caring for has capacity and does not have a will, financial power of attorney or health care power of attorney, seek an estate planning or elder law attorney to help get these documents in place. Even if an individual has these documents they should be thoroughly reviewed and understood.  Agents should be contacted and understand that they may be required to act if necessary. AARP has some specific long-term care calculators and articles about planning for your long term care needs, finding professionals, and preparing your documents at www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/long-term-care/?cmp=RDRCT-DECIDE_BMWM.

Besides your estate planning documents learn about health insurance, long-term care insurance, and the differences between Medicare and Medicaid.

Naturally, if you are a caregiver and are out ahead of the person you care for's needs, the more predictable and manageable your legal and financial issues will be. The earlier all of us engage in the discussion about end of life wishes, planning ahead for the future, and preparing our wills and powers of attorney, the better off both we and our caregivers will be.

For more information check out these links:
You can find resources for caregivers here
You can read the AARP report here.
Yet more resources for caregivers here atcaregiver.org.
To listen to On Point's segment about caregiving go to onpoint.wbur.org/2011/07/28/the-costs-of-elder-care


We're Growing: Meet Our Newest Staff

Jane Stephenson, Life Care Coordinator

We are proud to introduce Jane Stephenson to our team. Jane worked as a clinical social worker at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center for thirty-eight years before retiring in 2010. She was the social worker for neurology, neurosurgery and orthopedics, and provided counseling, support and information to patients and families facing major life changes and challenges. Jane coordinated discharge planning, so is knowledgeable about levels of care, local rehabilitation and assisted living facilities, home care options, and insurance coverage. She has expertise in all aspects of care management.

Jane assists you in all of the life care coordination needs, including helping you understand your options for care arrangements, discussing care for frail elderly, assisting in finding and paying for the right care.  Jane offers support to those who are aging at home, linking you with community services and serving as your advocate.

To learn more about Jane:

To learn more about Life Care:

Melendy Moritz PLLC is a client centered boutique firm. We focus on your unique needs by providing the individualized legal counseling and advising tailored to your specific situation.

We concentrate on the planning that matters to you.
Call us at 603.643.6072 or 802.457.9492


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