Category Archives: Personal care

Time To Hire A Professional Caregiver?

Hindsight is 20/20 but it’s important not to get to that point when it comes to making care decisions for an elderly parent or loved one. Very often, by the time you’ve made the decision to get some help from a professional caregiver, you’re already past the point of burnout. You’re more exhausted than you ever thought could be possible and you wonder why you didn’t get help sooner. Guilt very often plays a part in your delayed decision because you feel it’s something you should have been able to do for your loved one so they could remain comfortably in their homes as they aged. Your role as caregiver slowly and almost imperceptibly increases and perhaps on a deeper level you don’t want to see that your loved one needs more help than you can give. Be careful not to miss the signs that your parent or loved one can’t go it alone.

*How’s their personal hygiene? Do they bathe regularly or is there an odor about them? Is hair combed and are teeth brushed? Are they wearing the same clothes for days on end?
*Is the house clean and being maintained? Is there a lot of clutter or unopened mail? Is the garbage taken out on a regular schedule? Is there an odor of urine when you step inside?
*Are nutritional needs being taken care of? Is there any spoiled food in the refrigerator? Is there food in the cupboard? Have they lost any weight and are they remembering to eat?
*Is your loved one able to drive safely? Are there any unexplained dings or dents in the car? Do they get to where they’re going without incident? Do they get lost in familiar location or when traveling a route they’ve taken many times before?
*Do they miss any doctor or dentist appointments? Are they able to follow the doctor’s directions? Do they take their medications as prescribed? Do they remember to get prescriptions filled?
*Is your loved one maintaining a social life? Do they stay in contact with friends and relatives or have you become their sole source of human interaction? Have old hobbies or interests gone by the wayside?

If you see some of these changes, it may be time to get some help. There is nothing to be gained from ignoring the signs. Getting some help to keep your loved one safely in the home they want to be in, is truly an act of love. Please share your thoughts and experiences below.


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Hiring a Caregiver Privately?

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 65.7 million Americans provide informal care for a family member or loved one. Most of us come by the role of caregiver gradually. We start by “helping out” when we notice a parent or loved one is having some difficulty taking care of some routine tasks they once managed well. In time our list of responsibilities gets longer and our loved one needs much more help. And then it happens….we see there is so much more to do than we have hours in the day for. Perhaps there’s been a medical crisis or an accident. We realize some outside help is needed.

Once you’ve made the decision to get help, it’s easy to believe all you have to do is hire someone. If you choose to hire someone directly to care for your loved one be sure you know what goes with your new role as employer. This means that now you have switched jobs from “caregiver” to “accountant” because you will now have to take care of payroll and tax requirements since the IRS views you as the caregiver’s employer. According to, if the caregiver you hire earns more than $1000 a quarter or over $1900 a year, you’ll have to file payroll taxes including Social Security and Medicare taxes, Federal Unemployment Tax, state unemployment and disability insurance taxes levied on the employer, and advance payments of the earned income credit if your employee is eligible. These thresholds and figures may change yearly so you will need to verify them every year. You also have to know what taxes your employee has to pay and will have to provide a Form W2 to your employee by January 31st of every year. In addition, you’ll need to pay for worker’s compensation and disability insurance in case your caregiver gets hurt while caring for your loved one.

If the caregiver you hire claims to be working as an “independent contractor” and no money should be withheld for any taxes, they are wrong. According to the IRS an independent contractor has total control over their work hours, their responsibilities, and schedules. This does not apply to your employee because the caregiver will be providing the services you want on the schedule and terms you set. Failure on your part to fulfill your accounting duties as the employer of a caregiver will alert the IRS, set you up for an audit, and can even result in compromising your own personal taxes. You’ll have to pay back the unpaid taxes along with interest and possible penalties. Be certain you make the correct decision when hiring a caregiver. Are you prepared to be an accountant in addition to dealing with all the work and responsibility of caring for a loved one? Share below and visit us at

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Isolation In The Elderly

According to the study “A Review of Social Isolation” by Nicholas R. Nicholson, which was published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, over 40% of Seniors who live at home are living in isolation. This is an alarming statistic in light of the fact that there is an increasing trend for seniors to “age in place” and the senior population in the over 65 age group is predicted to more than double in the next 25 years. The alarming part is that social isolation is a major health problem in older adults and is expected to dramatically increase in the near future. Studies have proven that this isolation and resulting lack of social activities can be directly linked to an increase in cognitive decline. In addition, by not belonging to a social network seniors don’t benefit from the positive encouragement of their friends to comply with healthy practices such as not smoking or staying active. Another health risk of isolation is depression which can worsen many conditions that seniors suffer from such as chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease and dementia.

Isolation can happen for a variety of reasons—some by choice and some as a result of unexpected events. The death of a spouse often leaves the mate feeling alone and so sad that they can’t bear to keep up their old friendships with others. It’s also not uncommon for children to live a long distance away leaving get-togethers something that happens during the holidays or vacations. Getting older with now impaired vision or hearing can prevent a senior from driving and thus limit opportunities to get out. Problems with urinary incontinence may make it seem inconvenient to go anywhere and sleeping issues at night may make daytime drowsiness a deterrent from outside activities. If there are any safety issues with crime in the neighborhood, the senior may be reluctant to leave their home.

If you know or care for a senior living alone, there are things you can do to help prevent their isolation from the community. Encourage them to stay connected whether by phone or email or Skype. Make sure to regularly schedule and keep doctor and optometrist appointments so that vision or health problems are dealt with and won’t keep the senior house bound. Encourage involvement with others, whether it’s the local senior center or church group. If transportation is a problem, check into public transportation or community based volunteer drivers.If your senior is capable of and interested in caring for a pet it can give them a sense of purpose. It’s amazing how many people you meet just out walking the dog! You may also consider hiring a companion from a home care agency to assist with transportation and running errands or simply to provide some social contact and interaction. Small changes add up and make a big difference. Social isolation doesn’t happen overnight and can’t be remedied overnight. Do you have any tips on how to keep your loved one involved in life? Share below and visit us at

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Brrrrrrrr! It’s Cold Outside

Now that we’re without a doubt in the clutches of Old Man Winter, we have to be especially vigilant about the problem of dealing with low temperatures while caring for a senior friend or relative. Cold weather can create serious problems and health concerns for seniors. Two very important issues to be aware of are slip-and-falls and hypothermia.

It’s probably best to stay indoors in very cold weather but if your loved must go out, it makes sense to take precautions against falling. One of the most important things your senior can do is to dress appropriately with “sensible” shoes or boots. They need to have good ‘non-skid’ soles and be as waterproof as possible. Wet feet are very quickly cold feet. If your senior uses a cane or walker, this is not the time to leave it at home. Be sure the rubber tips on these devices are not worn down. It’s also important to make sure walkways and entrance areas are shoveled and salted if needed. Even a small amount of slush will make these areas slippery.

Another concern for seniors during cold weather is hypothermia which is an unusually low body temperature which can result in illness or death. According to the National Institute on Aging, over 2.5 million seniors are especially vulnerable to hypothermia. As many as 25,000 of them die each year. Seniors are particularly at risk because they may not feel the cold as easily as younger people do. They end up losing body heat faster than it can naturally be replaced by the body and temperatures do not have to be below freezing for hypothermia to occur. In addition, statistically, seniors take a lot of prescription drugs and these drugs also predispose them to hypothermia. Carefully monitor your senior if they take anti-depressants, tranquilizers, sedatives, or cardiovascular medication. Medical conditions your loved one may have can also cause a lack of feeling in their extremities and they may not realize how cold they are. These conditions include diabetes, arthritis and stroke complications.

Take some precautions with your senior or loved one when it’s so cold. If they live alone, check on them every day. Be certain that the thermostat is set no lower than 68 degrees. Make sure they dress in layers of light clothing and have extra blankets on the bed at night. Hypothermia can develop even during sleep. If you see them shivering or acting particularly drowsy, or they seem unusually confused or fumble with their hands, head for the emergency room. Don’t let your loved one become a statistic. Do you have any other tips for handling all this cold weather? Share below and visit us at

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It’s All About “Me”

The holiday season is finally in full swing and before your know it, we’ll be ushering in the New Year. We’ll be looking at the past year and promising ourselves that this new year will be different. We’ll think of all the things that went wrong and come up with a nice list of changes for the coming year that will make everything so much better. Sound familiar? As caregivers, it’s easy to blame ourselves for anything that might have gone wrong while we cared for our loved one. Did we put our loved one first? Were we attentive to their needs?

I’m sure the list of New Year resolutions will look something like this:
#1. I will get all the sleep and rest I need.
#2. I will do all I can to have a healthy lifestyle.
#3. I’ll ask for and accept all the help I can get.
#4. I will do something every day to de-stress a bit.
#5. I promise to keep up a social life.
#6. I will communicate and share with others who are going through the same experiences I am.
#7. I will use respite care whenever I can.
#8. I will learn all I can about my loved one’s condition.

After looking at all of these resolutions, you can see a common thread. They can all be replaced with an attitude adjustment. As caregivers, we need to shift our concerns to caring for ourselves! Somehow it seems wrong to even say that. We’ve spent an awful lot of time putting someone else’s needs ahead of our own and just thinking about yourself seems so selfish. The thing to remember is that if we aren’t in good shape physically and emotionally, we’ll be ineffective as caregivers and end up being useless to those we care for. This year my goal is to wake up every morning and remind myself that it’s all about me. What resolutions are you making for the new year? Share below and visit us at

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Give the Gift of You

It’s that time of year when we wrack our brains trying to select that perfect something to give the special people in our lives. If there is a caregiver who helps us or who cares for a family member or loved one, this is an especially difficult decision to make. What can we possibly get them that would be both meaningful and helpful? What could the caregiver in your life use the most? It seems to me that all caregivers are short of one special thing — time. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to go to work, care for one’s own family, and care for a loved one. Don’t even mention having a social life or time for simple personal interests. If you think about it, anything you can do to free up some time for the caregiver would be appreciated. You can volunteer to do some grocery shopping or you can provide some meals. Better yet, you can stay with the loved one for a while to free up some time for the caregiver to do something for themselves. Volunteer to do some household task like doing the laundry or cleaning house. If you personally don’t have time to do these things, perhaps you could arrange to pay for some of these services to be provided.

It’s important for caregivers to know they are not alone. Providing an opportunity to vent without being judged or criticized can be an invaluable gift. Caregivers often have to deal with family members who provide little help but lots of ideas on how things should be done. Just lending an ear can help relieve the constant stress they are under. In that same vein, a gift certificate for a day at a spa or for a relaxing massage while you take over the caregiver duties would allow for some much needed “me time”.

If you’re more inclined to giving tangible things as gifts, you might consider gift cards for restaurants, grocery stores, or services. Anything that would help defray the costs of living would surely be appreciated. Caregiver reference materials like books or caregiver magazine subscription can help provide tips and advice on how to ease the burden of their duties. Paying for a personal emergency reporting system for their loved one can provide some piece of mind for the caregiver when they are not there. The bottom line is, give the gift of YOU. They surely don’t need another knickknack. Do you have any other caregiver gift ideas? Share below and visit us at

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The Real Work Begins

Once you’ve made the decision that you or a loved one is going to need some help to remain independently at home, the real work begins. Selecting an agency for yourself or your loved one is not an easy job. There are a lot of options out there but be aware they are not all the same. Before you make your choice, be sure to get the answers to some very important questions.

Are the caregivers who come to your home employees of the agency or are they merely referred by the agency and employed by you? If they are employed by the agency, their employer will take care of collecting all taxes and remitting them to the government. The caregivers will be covered under Workers Compensation insurance if they are hurt on the job. If they are simply referred by the agency, all of these bookkeeping and payroll responsibilities will be yours to handle.

Are the caregivers bonded and insured? Do they have background checks performed on them? Are they screened for drug use? What if you don’t want a smoker in your home?
It’s very important to feel safe when you have someone come into your home. After all, you letting someone into your personal life and you need to feel secure in the knowledge that safety isn’t an issue with them.

How experienced are the caregivers? Do they have any ongoing training? Who does the training? Is there any oversight while they are in your home? Are they supervised by a trained medical professional such as a Registered Nurse? When a caregiver comes into your home you’ll surely want some things done to your own specifications but do you really want to or have time to train someone? If there’s a problem, can you reach management or do you have to wait for regular office hours? Does the agency provide continuity of care by regularly scheduling the same caregiver to your home? What if your caregiver can’t come due to illness or vacation time off? How flexible is the agency with scheduling? If your needs change, will scheduling someone to come to your home be a problem?

When you’ve decided it’s time to get some help, don’t settle on simply checking prices and rates. Go the extra step and do the real work of asking specific questions. The more information you have, the more comfortable you’ll be while making your decision. You won’t regret going the extra mile. What method did you use to select your in-home care? Share below and visit us at

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The Price of Informal Care

As our population ages and our lifespans grow longer, most of us will have to decide if we are ready to become an informal caregiver. An informal caregiver is someone who provides care for a sick or disabled parent, spouse, child, or relative without being paid. The U.S. Bureau of the Census predicts that by 2020 the number of people over 80 years old will increase by more than 50%. That’s an awful lot of people who will be needing some sort of long term care. Couple that with the current trend of shorter hospital stays and the increase of medical procedures being performed on an outpatient basis, and you quickly realize there will be many people needing help to function independently.

When someone you care for reaches the point of needing some help, for financial reasons, your first instinct may be to take on the role of caregiver. Before making that important decision you need to think about the price you may be paying. Make no mistake, there will be changes you never even considered. The first thing you’ll notice is how much time is taken out of your day. Whether your caregiving consists of housekeeping chores, doing laundry, running errands, performing home maintenance, providing transportation, or providing personal care, it will translate into taking time away from your job, your family, and your own personal life.

Your caregiving will eventually have an effect on your own finances when you need to take days off or perhaps a leave of absence to deal with your loved one’s needs. Maybe your full time job will have to become a part time job or an early retirement will be necessary to give you time to provide care. You may face out of pocket expenses for food or medications. Transportation costs will arise for trips to the doctor or running errands for your loved one. These changes will all affect your wallet directly.

Most significantly, your own personal well-being will pay a price for the care you provide. You will notice a change physically, psychologically, and socially. Your stress level will rise as the demand for your time increases. Headaches and fatigue will be your new companions and a good night’s sleep will be a thing of the past. As your loved one’s needs take up more of your personal time, you’ll reduce your social events and give up once enjoyed leisure activities. And then the self-doubt and guilt feelings will come into play. Juggling two lives makes you feel like you aren’t handling either of them properly but you don’t have time to do more! Are you truly prepared to be an informal caregiver?
Are you prepared to pay the price? What roadblocks have you met on your journey to care for a loved one? Share below and visit us at:

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Commission On Long-Term Care

The concept of “aging in place” is one of the driving forces in the projected caregiver shortage we will soon be facing in America. Based on a survey conducted by AARP in 2005, over 85 percent of Americans who are 50 years of age and older, want to remain in their own homes as they age. More than anything, they want to keep that sense of independence that comes with the familiarity and routine of being in their own environment. Seniors aging at home have more control over their own lives and a greater say in care they may need as they age. They have a greater sense of community and the ability to stay connected with neighbors and friends. Most seniors see aging in place as a happier, safer, and healthier lifestyle.

Combine this desire with the changing face of the American population and you will see some problems ahead. In the year 2000 there were approximately 35 million baby boomers in America. By the year 2030, that number is expected to double to more than 71 million according to the latest survey by AARP. At this time as much as 80% of the extra care provided to seniors living at home as they age is being provided by unpaid friends and relatives. The problem is that the pool of unpaid workers is getting smaller and smaller because baby boomers didn’t have as many children as earlier generations did. There will be fewer family members to take on the task of caregiving. According to AARP, by 2030 there will be only four potential caregivers for each senior 80 years old or older.
In short, there will be more aging people needing help in their own homes and fewer people available to provide the care.

The federal government has recently appointed a “Commission on Long-Term Care”. The commission has been given the assignment of coming up with a plan to ensure the availability of long term services and supports for people with disabilities and for seniors needing care. By mid September they will need to address the shortage of caregivers and come up with a plan on how to provide and pay for long term care. Stay tuned for updates and visit us at

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Bathroom Safety

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) almost 22 million people a year are injured in bathrooms.  The bathroom is an especially dangerous area for seniors and the disabled because of the moisture, slick surfaces, and generally small size of the room.  If you want to safely age in your own home there are things you can do to cut down on the safety hazards in the bathroom.

In the tub or shower, make sure there is a suction-cup bath mat or non-slip strips.  Adding a shower seat will make it easier for anyone who can’t stand for any length of time to take a shower comfortably.  In addition, a hand held sprayer will make it easier for your senior to take a shower sitting down.  Grab bars to hold on to while getting in or out of the shower will help with stability – don’t count on nearby towel bars which can’t support any weight. Shower doors can be replaced with curtains to provide easy access to the bathtub. Make sure the water temperature is not set over 120 degrees and that the hot and cold water handles on the faucets are clearly marked and easy to use.

Many seniors have difficulty getting up or down from a seated position. This includes while using the toilet.  If the toilet can’t be replaced with an elevated one, you can purchase a portable seat or riser.  Grab bars in the toilet area will give your senior something to hold on to while steadying themselves. Make sure the toilet paper dispenser can be easily reached and is in a convenient location. 

Provide a bench for the vanity area and it may be helpful to remove the door from the bathroom vanity to allow space for your senior’s knees.  Make sure items used frequently are conveniently located and easy to reach without requiring a lot of bending or stretching.   Remove anything breakable or made of glass and be sure to install a night light.

The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the home.  Just making these few simple adjustments can help prevent accidents and make aging in place a much more reachable goal.  What changes have you made to increase bathroom safety?  Share below and visit us at

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