Tag Archives: personal care

A Fond Farewell

To all the Trillium HomeCare staff, clients, fellow bloggers, and extended Trillium family, it’s time to say good-bye. After twelve incredible years, Trillium HomeCare will be closing operations. Making this decision has been extremely difficult but I will always be grateful for the many friends I have made along the way and for the wonderful memories I will take with me. To our clients, it has been an honor to serve you. We feel privileged to have been entrusted with your care. To our employees, your hard work and dedication to our clients have always made me proud to represent Trillium HomeCare. Providing our clients with the best care has been central to Trillium’s mission and couldn’t have been accomplished without your dedication to excellence. Take pride in your special calling as caregivers. I thank all of you and wish you the very best for the future.


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Identifying as a Caregiver

Currently in the United States, over 44 million Americans spend on average 20 hours per week caring for a loved one whether it’s a family member or a close friend. This care ranges from doing a few helpful things like preparing an extra meal or helping with shopping and house cleaning to more personal chores like bathing, toileting, dispensing medications and helping with medical matters. According to AARP, it’s family caregivers who provide over 75% of the unpaid “informal” care to those who need it. This amounts to an incredible 37 billion hours of unpaid care. For many caregivers the journey to caregiving is slow and gradual as they take on more and more of the daily responsibilities of helping a loved one age comfortably in their own home. For others, the route to “caregiver” happens in a tragic instant after their loved one faces a medical crisis. The average caregiver provides personal care and performs household maintenance chores for at least twelve hours a week for an average of 4.3 years. Despite all these figures, caregivers don’t see themselves as such. They view themselves as daughters or sons helping out or temporarily stepping in after some crisis. They’re doing what’s considered to be the norm as a loving family member. Yet this is all done despite the fact that they are juggling their own personal family life and a job. They can be certain of one thing – the caregiving doesn’t get easier. It generally gets more complicated and takes up more and more of their limited time. Eventually there is a price to be paid. The ever-growing burden of caregiving often results in stress related illness, emotional or mental health problems, and stressed family relations. For these reasons, it’s important for family caregivers to identify themselves as such. If you don’t think of yourself as a “caregiver”, you probably won’t take the next step of looking for support and information to help you along your journey. Fortunately, help is out there. A good starting point would be a family meeting to identify your loved ones needs and problems and to develop a plan for sharing responsibilities. There are many caregiver support groups, some of them on-line, that offer educational information and emotional support. You can connect with others who are also dealing with the same issues that you are facing. Adult respite care is available whether through a senior center or a home care agency. This would give you a temporary mental and physical break. So recognize your role and realize you are not alone and know that YOU ARE A CAREGIVER. Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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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 foxbusiness.com, 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 http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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A Test for Alzheimer’s

Earlier this year Ohio State University Medical Center released the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE). This self administered test is meant to identify individuals with mild thinking and memory issues at an early stage. That’s really important because cognitive changes that are caught really early can be treated much earlier and generally have better treatment outcomes. This fifteen minute test can be taken at home and involves simple tasks like making change, listing items, making comparisons, and drawing geometric shapes. These activities test reasoning, problem solving skills and memory. When the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences released the study about the SAGE test, the demand for the test online was so huge it crashed the computer server at Ohio State University. That underscores the need for easily accessible and useful testing for cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Dr. Douglass Scharre, the neurologist who developed this simple test, claims it is just as accurate as other commonly used but lengthier and more complicated cognitive tests.

All this being said, you need to be aware that all the media hype surrounding this test is just that — hype. This test by itself can’t formally diagnose Alzheimer’s disease nor any other forms of dementia. At worst, you could interpret the results as a false positive and panic that you’re getting dementia. At best, it can identify some possible cognitive issues that may be developing. It could then serve as the needed push to have a frank conversation with your doctor. Taking the test can also provide a baseline for comparison with later testing. It can flag problems that can be monitored over time. Your family doctor remains the first and best source of information and evaluation of any cognitive issues that arise. How do you feel about taking a self-administered test for dementia? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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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 http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Resentful Caregiver

Many of us slowly work our way into being a caregiver for an aging parent or loved one.  We don’t realize it’s even happening.  We start out doing a few helpful things like cooking an extra meal or helping with the shopping.  Maybe we come by and cut the grass or offer to do some of the heavy housework.  In time, the list of chores grows…we drive them to appointments, balance their check book and handle some of the financial responsibilities.  Caregiving always gets more complicated and time consuming. The amount of time it takes up and its effect on one’s personal life and work life increases the longer it lasts.

And then one day you wake up and find you’re feeling resentful.  There may be a lot of reasons to feel this way.  Maybe you’re the only one taking care of your loved one because there’s no one else or maybe there are other siblings and relatives who choose to not help.  Maybe you’ve had to put plans for your life on hold and you resent having to set your goals aside.  You worry how you’re going to handle the ever increasing list of duties and fear for the future of your loved one.  You hope nothing ever happens to you for your loved one’s sake.  And in the deep recesses of your heart, you may even resent the one you care for.  Although you feel trapped, you’re ashamed to say so — you’ll just look heartless and petty. Nonetheless, your life is no longer your own.

All these feelings are normal, especially in caregivers who are handling this responsibility for any length of time.  They’re actually a manifestation of the fear and stress you deal with on a regular basis in addition to handling all the “regular” complications of your own life.  If you’ve reached this point, you definitely need some relief.  Make some arrangements for respite:  ask family and friends to give you a needed break, check out local community resources such as senior day care centers and meals on wheels.  Look into getting some home care services even if for a few hours a couple times a week.  You need to lighten your load.  Writing in a journal will give you a place to vent your feelings and joining a caregiving support group will connect you with others who are also dealing with similar problems and feelings.  Remember, you are not alone.  Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com



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The Silver Alert

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone these days who hasn’t heard of the “Amber Alert” which requires law enforcement to issue public bulletins to the media as soon as a child is reported missing.  If an adult is missing, the family has to wait 24 to 48 hours before they can even make a missing person’s report.  If you care for someone who has Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia, you know the first 24 hours your loved one is missing can be the most critical.  There are almost 275,000 people in Michigan with some form of dementia and this number is expected to sky rocket as baby boomers age.  More than 60% of them will wander at some point.  This wandering will result in serious injury or death to almost half of them  within the first 24 hours they are missing.  Time is critical here and waiting 24 hours to report your loved one is missing will just stack the cards against their safe return.


Now there is hope.  In 2012, Governor Snyder signed the Mozelle Senior Or Vulnerable Adult Medical Alert Act into law.  It requires the police to take a report of a missing senior or disabled adult as soon as the department is notified. 

Before this law was enacted, the police were required to obtain documentation and signatures from appropriate people to verify that the missing person had dementia or was on life-sustaining medication.  This caused a delay in getting the name into the Law Enforcement Information Network system.  Now the word of the person reporting the missing senior is enough to get things rolling. The police are required to immediately forward all the information to all the law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction in the area where the person disappeared.  This information also has to go to at least one media outlet in that same area.  With this new law  the search for a missing wanderer can begin well before that first 24 hour critical time period has passed.  For a caregiver faced with a missing wandering loved one, the odds for a safe return have just gone up.  Have you ever had to deal with a missing loved one?  Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com


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Dealing With Caregiver Stress

If you care for someone who has a chronic illness or is an elderly friend or relative, you’re probably also dealing with “caregiver stress”.  That’s perfectly understandable.  There’s a lot on your plate.  Everyone’s life is full. Add caring for someone to the mix and you will soon realize there just aren’t enough hours in the day. As a caregiver, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and trapped.  You’re powerless to change your loved one’s situation or illness.  All you can do is make life for your loved one easier and safer and as close to “normal” as possible.  In order to be of any help to anyone else you have to learn to take care of yourself and constantly de-stress. Remember, you are not alone and there are things you can do to help yourself.

First of all accept that there are some things you can’t fix and that you can only do what is humanly possible.  Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not a miracle worker.  Be realistic about what you’re trying to accomplish. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.  By all means, don’t try to do everything by yourself — use and ask for all the help you can get.  Tap family and friends for any help they can give no matter how incidental it may seem.  If they can save you a trip to the store or fix a meal…that’s great! Maybe they can relieve you for a few hours so you can have some “me time”.

Take care of yourself physically.  It’s especially hard to care for someone when you have your own health problems to deal with.  See your doctor for a physical and follow any recommendations. Don’t smoke, limit your alcohol and caffeine intake, and exercise regularly. Make sure you get enough sleep.  Try to keep up a social life and keep up with family — the goal is to not isolate yourself and to  give you the opportunity to enjoy the company of others with an outlet to share what you are feeling and experiencing. Talking things out is a stress reliever.

If possible, try joining a caregiver support group. It’s an opportunity to learn from others who are in the same position you are while being a great source of encouragement.  There are many groups on-line and at local senior centers and hospitals.  There are classes available through the Red Cross and the Alzheimer’s Association that can connect you to local resources for caregivers.

It’s important to give yourself a break. When you get a break you will be able to handle your tasks with a fresh perspective.  You don’t need to be responsible for all things at all times.  You aren’t alone.  Utilize the services from your community whether it’s an adult day care center or a homecare agency.  Don’t feel guilty about getting some help. For more information visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com




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The True Cost of Care

When a family member or friend of ours becomes older or disabled, we may find ourselves in a new role as a caregiver.  According to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, over 44 million people are unpaid caregivers to older people and adults with disabilities.  This is a challenging role taken on by family friends and relatives as an act of love and kindness.  We do this because it matters to us that our loved ones have the best care they can get. No doubt being a caregiver is a very rewarding experience but it comes at a high cost to us and to our families on many different levels.

According to AARP, the unpaid family caregiver spends an average of $2,400.00 per year on the person they care for.  The caregivers’ expenses often include the purchase of personal items, over the counter medications, or household supplies for the loved one.  There may be purchases of household goods or payment for modifications to the home for safety reasons.  Transportation costs for running errands and going to the doctor are a frequent expense along with money spent on food and meals.  As a caregiver, you generally don’t think of what appears to be minor expenses incurred during a labor of love but minor expenses quickly add up.  Other financial expenses come from lost time and wages at work due to the time we may have to take off to care for our loved ones as emergencies arise or problems occur.

Perhaps the highest cost of care we pay as caregivers is the high level of stress felt as a direct result of this labor of love.  The typical caregiver has to juggle a job, family life and personal health issues with being both a care coordinator and a service provider to their loved one.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done.  This chronic stress level leads to another set of issues. As a result of this chronic stress, over 70% of caregivers deal with some degree of depression. In addition, the stress is a major contributing factor to a variety of health issues such as a weakened immune system, hypertension, diabetes, and acid reflux.  This is all compounded by the fact that the time we spend on giving care is generally the time we would have spent on taking care of ourselves.

As caregivers, we need to know our own limits. We’ve taken on a job we probably were not trained for and surely found ourselves in a position we never expected to be in.  We need to understand how much of ourselves we can actually give without hurting ourselves beyond the point of being useful to our loved ones.  The lesson to be learned is to recognize when we need help.  Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Beat The Heat

Winter is finally over and warm summer air has returned.  We can open windows, enjoy the warmth and shed our extra layers of clothing.  If you care for a senior, this is also the time you need to be vigilant about hyperthermia or as it’s commonly called – overheating.  Seniors are particularly vulnerable to overheating.  In a younger person, the body naturally cools itself by producing perspiration.  In the elderly, this mechanism may not work as well because of some medications they may be taking, in particular, antihistamines, antidepressants, motion sickness medications, anti asthma drugs, and some heart medications. These drugs slow the body’s ability to produce sweat which is the natural air conditioner for the body.  In addition, these same drugs can cause confusion and memory loss in seniors. If you have an elderly person who already isn’t sweating enough and throw in some confusion, you have a recipe for problems. It may not occur to your loved one to drink extra fluids or take off that sweater.  If there are any problems with mobility, your loved one may not move out of a hot sunny location or may not be able to open the window for fresh air.  If your senior’s body temperature becomes high, there is a risk for damage to the brain or other vital organs.

Extra measures need to be taken when it gets hot. In regards to overheating, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.  Make sure there are plenty of fluids available and encourage your loved one to drink them even when they don’t feel thirsty.  Stay away from caffeinated beverages and alcohol because they are actually diuretics.  If there is no air conditioning, be sure there are fans in use to circulate the air. Keep windows open at night and the shades drawn during the day.  Make sure your senior spends the day relaxing   this is not the time for overexertion.  If your senior must venture outdoors in the heat, keep the time and distance travelled to a minimum and make sure your senior is not overdressed.  This is not the time for layers of clothing. If you want to take an outing, pick an air-conditioned place like a movie theater or mall. Remember…the best way to treat hyperthermia is to prevent it! Share any tips you may have for surviving summer heat below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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