Kindness and Caregiving 

What does kindness have to do with caregiving? Caregiving is a relationship between two people, both with their own feelings, thoughts and needs. Because of the demands of caregiving, a caregiver often loses sight of the relationship, and caregiving becomes a series of tasks to be accomplished, boxes to be checked on a to-do list. Unlike other relationships in our lives, the relationship between a caregiver and their loved one often lacks reciprocity. A caregiver has the experience of giving, giving, giving, doing, doing, doing without acknowledgement or thanks. Where does kindness come in? 

Caregiving demands kindness and radical empathy… Try to imagine that you have dementia, and in your confusion, you don’t know where you are. The familiar house you have lived in for decades appears strange to you, and you want to go home. You are panicked. Only your long-term memory is intact, and you long for your old room in the house you grew up in. As caregivers, our natural impulse is to say, “Honey, we are home. This is our house that we have lived in since 1986! This is not convincing to a person with dementia.  If you came upon a stranger who told you they were lost, and wanted to go home, how would you react?  Kindly, with reassurance. You might put your arm around them, and tell them that you will help them get home or you might say that you will stay with them and not leave them alone.  To respond with kindness and patience each time you are asked “When are we going to go home?” as if this is the first time you are hearing this question. 

There is nothing worse than feeling alone in a marriage. Because of this lack of reciprocity, a caregiver often feels alone, abandoned by their spouse, even though they know if is the illness that is the cause. As friends, neighbors, and family we are called upon to be kind. Anything we can do alleviate the social isolation of a caregiver is welcome. A card, sending flowers on a birthday or holiday, dropping off a meal, shoveling a walk, picking up some groceries, a gift card for house cleaning, taking the dog for a walk, giving a gift of respite, whether it is you offering to spend time with their loved one with dementia or providing an aid for a few hours these random acts of kindness and 10’s of others, can make a huge difference in the life of a caregiver. 

Kindness begets kindness. The kinder you can be to a caregiver, the kinder they will be to their loved one. Caregiving doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Let us create a community of kindness, one act of kindness at a time. If you want more information on how to support the caregivers in your life, contact Allies in Aging 508-808-3263.

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AARP.org 

It can be challenging to follow the CDC’s recommendations that encourage older adults to limit their travel and close interactions with other people as much as possible. To many, this translates into staying at home for the duration. For those who were starting to feel as if it was safe to venture out again, the surging infection rates have forced many back into isolation, deepening feelings of loneliness and depression. 

Maintaining social connections is key to maintaining health and well-being. Elder care expert and Director of Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions Malka Young suggests, instead of social distancing, think physical distancing + social connection. She was recently quoted in the aforementioned AARP blog, a national organization that advocates for older adults. 

During World War II the planting of victory gardens, and the rationing of gas, food, and clothing connected Americans of all ages, classes, and cultures in a shared effort to save these precious resources for soldiers. Now, mask wearing, sheltering in place, washing our hands frequently, and limiting the spread of the virus allows us to connect to neighbors, friends and family no matter where they are. 

Here are 10 actions that you can do every day to keep your spirits up: Call someone* (keep a list of family, friends, neighbors by your phone) 

    1. Call someone** (keep a list of family, friends, neighbors by your phone) 
    2. Move your body (CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly) 
    3. Straighten up one area in your home 
    4. Eat something healthy and stay hydrated 
    5. Get outside 
    6. Get a good night’s sleep 
    7. Limit how much news you listen to (15 minutes 2x/day is more than enough!) 
    8. Name one thing you are grateful for 
    9. Learn something new 
    10. Do something creative (listen to music, bake, make something, etc.) 

**At Call2Talk 508-532-2255 someone is available to listen 24 hours/day/7 days/week. 

For more ideas, read AARP’s article 6 Ways to Overcome Social Isolation During Another COVID Winter. 

Are you or a loved one struggling with social isolation due to the pandemic? Are you worried about managing the coming months amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis? Contact Malka Young to learn how a Geriatric Care Manager can assess your concerns, arrange services and provide critical support to ensure that you or your loved ones are safe and cared for during the coming months. 

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November is National Family Caregivers Month.  Why do we need a special month to recognize and appreciate family caregivers?

Family Caregivers are the invisible link in our health care system.

   

Christine is an 80-year-old retired lawyer. She had a stroke last year, and is struggling to regain her independence. She lives alone in a beautiful apartment that she and her husband decorated with mementoes from their years of travelling together. He died while she was in the hospital and their daughter lives on the other side of the country caring for a grandchild with special needs. She is now home with 24-hour care.  There is no one person who cares about her, who can be available 24 hours a day who can intervene and be her advocate. She can outsource some of the discrete tasks a family caregiver does, but it is difficult if not impossible to replace a family caregiver who loves and cares about the person needing care and has a holistic understanding of who they are and what they need. 

It is not easy being a family caregiver.  It usually happens gradually. If one partner no longer is comfortable, driving at night it is natural for the other to start to take on the night driving.  The transition between picking up medication at the pharmacy and setting up the pillbox may be next. When someone falls, of course, a person in the same household will try to help them up, and if that is not possible call a neighbor or even 911 to get help. Task after task, incident after incident, occasional caregiving changes into a constant that is part of the fabric of their shared life together. 

Medical care focuses on the needs of the patient.  The working assumption, no questions asked,  is that a family member exists and will be available to help and support the patient. 17-35% of all caregivers report their health as fair to poor. The longer someone is a caregiver, the more likely they are to say their health has been impacted. Caregivers caring for someone with dementia also report worst health outcomes. 40-70% of spousal caregivers suffer from depression.  Family caregivers need help and support. We need to appreciate the amount of care they provide and make sure their needs are being met and they are not taken for granted. JFS Allies in Aging can work with caregivers and their family to put a support plan in place.  

Let us take the time to appreciate and acknowledge the importance of family caregivers in our lives. 

 Click here to learn about JFS’s elder ca

 

 

 

 

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“When talking with my friend Linda the other day, she commented that she feels more alone when she and I talk over Zoom than she does when we just speak on the phone. “Somehow, talking on the phone just seems more normal…”, she said.  

My friend Linda has never married. She hadn’t planned to be alone at age 75, but here she is. These past 10 months alone in her condo have really shown Linda that she is on her own. Linda is part of the more than 20% of older adults in the U.S. who do not have a family caregiver available in case they become ill or incapacitated.

The changes Linda has had to make because of the pandemic will help her as she grows older. She now has her medications and groceries delivered. She’s set up automatic online bill payments for all her regular bills so she can skip the trip to the post office. With no other distractions, she has started to declutter her apartment; getting rid of clothes she doesn’t wear anymore, giving away books she’s already read, and in many ways simplifying her life. 

Before the pandemic, Linda went to the gym most days, was part of a book group and had weekly Friday morning coffees with a past colleague. She feels she has had a preview of what her life might be like if she were to become sick or incapacitated and unable to leave her house.

Things she has not figured out yet:

  • Who should be her emergency contact?
  • Who will be her health care proxy? Durable Power of Attorney?
  • Who would care for her if she needed help?
  • How can she build her social network, so she does not feel so isolated?

 

But, Linda is not alone. The experienced care managers at Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions can help her plan for her future. A year ago, staying at home for 10 months would have been unimaginable. Now Linda thinks about her future and wants to be ready for anything. I am confident she will!

Contact us and get support today! 

 

Ask Ally is written by Malka Young, LICSW, Director of Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions

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Are your parents okay? How are they doing? If I were writing this blog last year, I would have given you this checklist to use when checking in with your parents:

  1. Check the car for dents and scratches
  2. Open the refrigerator and check if food is fresh and in-date
  3. The sniff test–are there any bathroom or mildew odors?
  4. Has the mail piled up?
  5. Are there any signs of poor hygiene?

But how can you know that Mom and Dad are okay when you can’t visit? What can you tell over the phone or a Zoom call?

Technology can be useful to check on parents and gives you alternate ways to communicate

Do your parents answer the phone? Do they call back when you leave a voicemail? Establish a calling routine (weekly, daily, every other day, etc.).These do not have to be long calls, but it is important to check in and establish a pattern of regular communication with your elderly parents.

If your parent uses Zoom–pay attention to their background, appearance and hygiene, and how they are dressed–do you notice anything unusual? Are your parents wearing hats and gloves while inside or are they wrapped in blankets? Is there clutter everywhere? If you notice these things, you may need to call a neighbor or even the local police to arrange a wellbeing visit if you are concerned.

Pay attention to inclement weather conditions. You may need to arrange to have your parents’ driveway shoveled, to hire a dog-walker, or to have groceries delivered. An electrician can check their generator before the next snowstorm.

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Are you worried for your older parents this winter? Are you unsure how to manage the coming months amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis? Contact Malka Young to learn how a JFS Geriatric Care Manager can help you ensure your parents are safe this season.
For more information, please visit: https://jfsmweldercare.org/contact/ 
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Are you a snowbird who normally travels south in the winter for warmer temperatures? If so, check out this AARP article for tips on how to prepare your home, car, and more for the cold weather this season!

In the article, expert Malka Young, Director of Allies in Aging, JFS Elder Care Solutions, offers important advice that can prevent falls and injuries and keep travelers safe during treacherous winter weather.
 
Do you or a loved one need help preparing for winter in New England? Are you worried about managing the coming months amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis? Contact Malka Young to learn how a Geriatric Care Manager can assess your concerns, arrange services and provide critical support to ensure that you or your loved ones are safe and cared for during the coming months.
 
For more information, please visit: https://jfsmweldercare.org/contact/ 
 

 

 

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To JFS of Metrowest, 11/20/2020:

“I am writing this letter to express my gratitude to Mr. Sean Woo from the Patient Navigator Program of Jewish Family Service, and Carol Ju from [the] Framingham Housing Authority.

I am 82 years old, living alone by myself, and speak only a dialect from China. I am very lucky to be one of the customers of JFS since 2014. Recently my health condition has been getting worse, therefore, I have to go to the hospital frequently for doctor visits, follow-up appointments, and various treatments. Thanks God that I have JFS providing me with worry-free service.

Ms. Carol Ju is always thee to help me out and get me a patient navigator, even in short notice. I once sent her a message late at night about a coming appointment, and she replied promptly to comfort me and kept me updated the next day.

I have known Mr. Woo for a couple of years from JFS. He is really impressive for his kindness and professionalism. He calls me a couple of days before each appointment to know about my medical condition and history. His calls put my mind at rest, and he is always punctual and prepared for each appointment. I had a couple of appointments at Tufts Medical Center where the office are very confusing to locate [because of the many] different entries, elevators, connectors, and wings. I would get lost in the building and most likely be late or even miss the appointment without Mr. Woo’s help.

It is greatly appreciated and I can’t thank them enough. I love JFS. Thank you again and may God Bless all of you!

Sincerely yours,

N.Z.

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The CDC warns that older adults are at higher risk for dying if they catch COVID-19. To reduce risk of catching COVID-19, the CDC encourages older adults to limit their interactions with other people as much as possible, which means, we are mostly at home for the duration.

Instead of social distancing, think physical distancing + social connection. Isn’t that a contradiction, you ask? During World War II the planting of victory gardens, and the rationing of gas, food, and clothing connected Americans of all ages, classes, and cultures in a shared effort to save these precious resources for soldiers. Now, mask wearing, sheltering in place, and washing our hands frequently, and limiting the spread of the virus connects us to neighbors, friends and family no matter where they are.

Try practicing these 10 actions everyday to keep your spirits up:

  1. Call someone* (keep a list of family, friends, neighbors by your phone)
  2. Move your body (CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly)
  3. Straighten up one area in your home
  4. Eat something healthy and stay hydrated
  5. Get outside
  6. Get a good night’s sleep
  7. Limit how much news you listen to (15 minutes 2x/day is more than enough!)
  8. Name one thing you are grateful for
  9. Learn something new
  10. Do something creative (listen to music, bake, make something, etc.)

*At Call2Talk 508-532-2255 someone is available to listen 24 hours/day/7 days/week.

For more ideas about taking care of yourself during the pandemic —

Please contact Malka Young, LICSW, CCM at JFS Allies in Aging at (508) 655-9553

 

 

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Ask YOUR Ally in Aging: A Series

Question:

“Dear Ally, I have been all by myself for several months now. Since I retired and my partner died, I live alone. Before COVID, I would go out, see friends, go to movies, my book club, volunteer — I was always busy. Now it’s just me, myself and I. Am I crazy to be thinking of moving to a senior community? What do you think?”

— Lonely Threesome

 
 

Ally Answer:

Dear Lonely 3,

No, it is not crazy to rethink your choices considering how the world has changed. It will be a long time before activities happen in the ways they did before. The new normal for many older adults will continue to participate in virtual activities, remote meetings, and at the most limited contact with others for short periods of time during senior shopping hours, essential errands, and social distance walks. Many retirement communities and assisted living residences have found new ways to provide creative programs. They have had to develop approaches to health and safety that were not relevant before. There is more availability and more incentives for moving in.

The questions you need to ask yourself, are the same ones you need to be thinking about whether you stay where you are or choose to move to a senior community:

1) If I became sick, how would I get the care I need?

2) How can I be assured of safe access to healthy food, prescriptions, and medical care?

3) What resources are available to prevent me from becoming socially isolated?

4) How can the “safer-at-home” life be made interesting and meaningful?

Setting up a virtual consultation with a skilled care manager can help you imagine your future in different settings and understand your choices.

 

There is not one right decision.

Contact your Allies in Aging Care Manager today, and you can make a plan together.

 

Ask Ally is written by Malka Young, LICSW, Director of Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions

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Caring for our parents as they age can come with many challenges. It’s important to be able to read the signs and spot the differences between normal symptoms of getting older, indicators of a more serious illness, and knowing when to ask for help.
Here are seven warning signs that your parent may need help:
  1. Becoming lost while driving or walking.
  2. Dents and scratches on your parent’s car as a sign of minor accidents
  3. Declining or poor personal hygiene
  4. Mail and overdue bills piling up
  5. Forgetting how to use their telephone, TV, or other devices
  6. Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  7. History of falls, difficulty walking, or unsteadiness

Certain things you notice may be signs of normal aging — like occasional forgetfulness, forgetting names or a particular word — but if your once-open parents are now secretive, or not forthcoming about their lives, pay attention. If your parents were very proud of their home and their yard and are now neglecting it, pay attention. Any change in weight, personality, or confusion may be a sign of serious illness.

When you need expert guidance navigating the challenges that come with aging, the elder experts of JFS Allies in Aging can help.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your loved one live better, longer.

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