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Spouses Who are Caregivers

Family caregivers usually are fulfilled by their choice in life to provide much needed care for a loved one who needs that care.

Often we begin caring for our children and then seem to naturally progress to our parents, grandparents or in-laws who may have entered a phase where some level of care from others is required.

It may be something that begins in a small way, such as bringing them food now and then or helping with things around the house. It can quickly progress to more and more tasks and supervision, all the way up to hands on care.

Sometimes, despite all our care and best efforts, it becomes necessary to transition our loved ones in a facility where they can receive more skilled care than we can provide.

Aging in place is a goal for most of us and our senior loved ones and we as caregivers try to do everything we can possibly do to help them make this dream a reality. We will help them create the right living environment with simple modifications and big renovations or even finding a more appropriate home in which to age in place.

Caregivers’ Challenges

Unfortunately, every day is not always the best day. There will be harder days than others, crises that arise along the way including injury and hospitalization. Let’s not forget the occasional (or all too frequent) disagreement about even the littlest thing that soon gets smoothed over when we remember why we are all together.

Caregiver burnout is a reality that we all face. Getting an extra hand, recognizing that we can’t do it all by ourselves day in and day out, can help. Finding respite when you can and an outlet for your feelings will help you be a caregiver longer and better.

I recently came across an interesting poll that found caregiver stress has increased from an interesting source.

Caregivers Who Are Spouses

The Associated Press – NORC Center for Public Affairs Research recently published the results of a recent poll that asked approximately 1400 family caregivers questions resulting in some surprising answers.

They found that most Americans are counting on their families to provide care for them as they age, as they have been doing themselves for other relatives or friends. Unfortunately, not many of us are planning well for our own long term care. We can readily tell you where and how we want our funeral to happen and probably have already made plans and payments for that but we can’t tell you about our goals for day to day care before that happens.

We can’t talk about what kind of a facility we might consider, where we would want to get help, what our care wishes would be, and more importantly have probably not executed any advance directives stipulating our wishes.

This poll found that eight out of ten people found caregiving to be a positive experience but one that is also extremely difficult.

The most stress is being reported by spouses who are now caregivers — not children providing care to parents or grandparents as might be thought. Spouses did promise to care for each other in sickness and in health but find this promise to be stressful to deliver.

Struggling Spouses

Spouses express the struggle that they experience when their relationship changes from companion to caregiver. They deal with not only stress but anger and frustration. It can be hard when hands-on care over grooming, feeding, wound care and other duties are taken on that were once done by nurses now are their responsibility.

While some spousal caregivers report that their marriage is strengthened by their caregiving commitment, which is a welcome outcome in the face of other stressors, spouses were more likely to report that caregiving weakened their relationship with their partner and placed an added burden on their finances.

It is reported that only about 30 percent of those over 40 who may be likely to care for a loved one in the next five years feel prepared to do so. Spouses tend to be older caregivers than those caring for parents and that could make the caregiving more physically challenging as well. The average age of a spousal caregiver is 67, compared to 58 for those caring for parents.

How to Identify and Overcome Caregiver Stress

If you begin to recognize signs that you are having what could be an overwhelming amount of stress that could be harming your health or ability to care for your spouse then it is time to take action.

  • Recognize signs of stress – being tired all the time, having difficulty sleeping, feeling unappreciated with no one to talk to or care about you, feeling depressed or hopeless, not ever feeling like there is a good day, feeling like your own life is not worth living, being ill yourself, crying often or you begin isolating yourself from others.
  • Begin taking time for yourself – sometimes you need to call someone to give you an hour, an afternoon, a day or a weekend off. There are people you can call, such as family members, volunteers from faith based organizations, organizations, home health agencies or friends. Just being alone, taking a breather, shopping, lunch with a friend, sleeping late or seeing a movie can mean a lot to your personal and emotional well-being.
  • Get a medical checkup – schedule a doctor visit for yourself. Get your preventive health checkup or immunizations to help keep you well. You can’t help others if you are not well.
  • Talk to someone – go to a support group locally or online, talk with a member of the clergy, find a friend, or keep a journal so that you can express your feelings and allow yourself to move on past those feelings.

Being a caregiver whether to your spouse, mother, aunt or grandfather not to mention caring for your own children and household will always cause moments of stress. Remember the importance of what you do every day. You are right where you are supposed to be!

Being able to recognize, though, that burnout might be lurking but you can overcome it in order to be the best caregiver possible is the first step in staying well. One smile is all the thanks you need to provide the love and care your spouse or family member needs.

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management in Raleigh, NC  www.rgcmgmt.com

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Long Distance Caregiving

Carol O’dell

If you’re a long-distance caregiver, then you know the drill. You call all the time. You coordinate care from 400 miles away. You spend long weekends or vacation time visiting your loved one and hoping before you open that door that they’re OK. Worry comes with long-distance caregiving, and so does guilt, but you try really hard to make it work — and you dread the day that won’t be enough.

You are not alone. According to a recent Caring.com poll, nearly one-third of all caregivers do not live with or, in many cases, even near their loved ones. Here’s a look at a few challenges long-distance caregivers face, and tips to help manage care from afar.

Feeling emotionally connected to your family members.

Sometimes phone calls or visits filled with doctor appointments and home chores don’t allow for heart-to-heart talks. As much as there is to cover, make the time to just sit for a few minutes and allow a natural conversation to emerge.

Set up a weekly phone-chat date for the times that you’re apart. Have it at a time when you both can look forward to it and nothing competes. After you discuss some of your “to-do” list items, begin to share something personal about your own life. Ask their advice on something — anything — from the color shoes you should wear to your cousin’s wedding to whether you should get a bigger car. Let them feel as if they’re a part of your life as well.

Getting shut out.

Many long-distance caregivers, particularly those helping someone with moderate to severe dementia, find that their visits actually aggravate their loved ones — who are confused and want to “go home” or don’t understand why you keep calling them “Dad.”

Remind yourself that you’re not just there to visit. You’re there to make sure Mom or Dad are being cared for properly. (Having a loved one with moderate to severe dementia increases the likelihood that he or she is living in a care facility.) Stay out of sight if you have to, but visit the staff, have lunch in the cafeteria, and walk the grounds. Talk to the people your loved one interacts with to find out how he or she is doing. It’s painful not to be able to connect, but remember that you’re still needed.

Knowing your loved one is safe and appropriately cared for.

Audrey Adelson, author of “Long-Distance Caregiving,” writes, “Often, long-distance caregivers obtain important information from their elder or secondhand from family members who have spoken with a member of their loved one’s treatment team. This makes it difficult to get a clear understanding of what is really going on.” How do you stay in the loop when you’re not in the area?

How to manage? By having lots of eyes. Whether you coordinate care for your loved one in his or her home or an assisted living facility, start to connect with those who interact with your loved one. Call after an appointment and ask how it went. Let them know you plan to be involved, and be sure to send a thank-you card or friendly e-mail.

Managing insurance and financial needs or making sure you can trust those who do.

Trust is a big issue for long-distance caregivers. When you don’t have people who genuinely care for your loved one and communicate with you about what’s going on, then you begin to worry, and worry, and worry.

Take the time to find professionals who can assist you and your loved one. It’s worth the time and effort. Hire an elder law attorney to make sure their financial assets are protected, or check into local resources designed for seniors and their family’s needs.

Make a plan for whatever comes next.

Long-distance caregivers dread getting “the call.” Whether it’s from a concerned neighbor or from the ER at 4 a.m., it’s difficult to know what to plan for when anything could happen. Try to laugh (or scream, or sob) when all of your planning and hard work takes a dive and you have to come up with a new plan. Change is inevitable, and when we fight that it that causes us pain.

Play “what if.” Come up with the three possible scenarios — a fall, a worsening of a condition or ailment, or a refusal to move even when that’s needed. How will you handle it? Can you go ahead and do some online searches? Can you connect with other caregivers and ask how they handled a big change and ask how it’s going now? It’s easier to face the “what ifs” when you know that somehow, some way, you will get through.

Being a long-distance caregiver comes with challenges you never thought you’d have to face. Sometimes you have to let go, just a little, of all that you can’t control. Caregiving isn’t easy, and there aren’t always solutions, so grab your rearview mirror the next time you’re in your car and look at yourself and say, “You’re doing the best you can.”

For a loved one living in Raleigh, NC, contact Raleigh Geriatric Care Management to assist with your family member. www.rgcmgmt.comRaleigh ,NC

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A sibling’s guide to caring for aging parents

BY BONNIE LAWRENCE

Caring for an aging parent alone is complicated. When your brothers and sisters are also involved, and when care, medical and financial decisions must be arrived at together as a team, caregiving can become even more complex. Your siblings can be enormously helpful and your best support. But in many families, they can also be a source of stress. No two families are ever alike.

In this column, we’ll talk about how to identify the family dynamics that can impact shared caregiving, ways your siblings can help, how to increase your chances of getting that help, and how to deal with emotions that arise.

A visit home. Often, around this time of year, adult children returning home for a visit realize for the first time that their parents are far more frail than they expected. Although Mom or Dad always report they are “just fine” when you make those weekly phone calls, during a visit, you realize that this is not the case. Your parents suddenly seem much older, and you see the memory lapses, or shortness of breath, wavering balance, multiple prescription containers, or other signals of waning health.

Reactions differ among your siblings. Perhaps your sister, who lives two hours away, is angry that her mother is not the source of emotional support she used to be and doesn’t want to accept what she sees; your brother, who lives across the country and only gets home once a year, is stunned by changes he didn’t expect.

You and your siblings talk in whispers about what should to be done to ensure Mom’s safety and care. There is no money for assisted living, even if your mother would agree to it. Someone needs to step up, to see what can be done, to make decisions, to find some help, or even to live with your Mom to keep her as safe and healthy as possible. And it’s determined, often by default, that one person — perhaps the one who lives the closest, or doesn’t have kids, or is the oldest — will take on the role of primary caregiver.

Why sibling tensions can surface as parents need care

People are living longer — but not necessarily in good health. Their adult children may be caring for them for years or even a decade or more. Siblings or step-siblings are coping with a major emotional passage that stirs up childhood feelings and conflicts. But it’s made more challenging when there’s no model for working together as a team to handle the practical, emotional and financial issues that go with caring for someone who is no longer able to be independent. Some families are able to work out differences; many others struggle.

Consciously or unconsciously, needs arise for love, approval, or being seen as important or competent as a sibling. The disagreements now are over care for your parent: who does or doesn’t do it; how much; who’s in charge. At the same time, your parent is very aware — and most likely not happy — that he or she has become so dependent on you.

To help your family navigate through this situation, we offer this advice:

1. Think about, and talk about, family history and dynamics, and how they might affect caregiving. When we get together with our families, many of us tend to slip into our old roles. Maybe one person was the “responsible” one, one was the “social” one, one was the “helpless” one. But do those roles define you today? And more importantly, can you take a fresh look at who your siblings are now in the context of how these roles and assumptions can affect care for your parents?

2. Consider that care for a parent is a shared responsibility. A key concern is who will be the primary care provider(s) and what support other family members can provide. Since this is a role that can progress to more than a full-time job, this is an important decision. Rather than letting assumptions become default decisions (e.g., Barbara is oldest so she will be in charge, or Max needs a place to stay, so he’ll take care of mom), really consider who is most able, willing, skilled, and emotionally prepared to fill this role. Then consider what other family members can contribute in time or money.

3. To help reach the goal of effective shared decision-making, hold a family meeting. Family meetings are a way for siblings, parents and other concerned relatives or friends to try to clarify the situation, work out conflicts and set up a care plan that, ideally, all can agree upon. If the meeting is likely to be contentious, or if you want an experienced, objective voice to guide it, involve a facilitator such as a social worker, counselor, geriatric care manager or trusted outside party who will ensure that all participants have a chance to be heard. You may need more than one meeting. And although emotions might run high, it’s possible to conduct a productive meeting by following a few guidelines:

  • Set an agenda for the meeting and keep to it.
  • Focus on the here and now. Try not to bring up past or unrelated issues.
  • Share your feelings with siblings instead of making accusations.
  • Listen and respect the opinions of all participants. Give everyone time to speak.
  • Share all information. If possible, get a professional assessment of your parent’s condition from a doctor, social worker or geriatric care manager and send the report to all participants before the meeting.
  • As time goes by, use email, online care-sharing tools, conference calling and/or in-person family meetings to help keep everyone abreast of care issues and information.4. Understand and respect that your brothers and sisters might have different ideas about the care your parent needs. It’s hard to accept that your parent now need your help. Unless there’s a sudden crisis like a stroke, adjusting to this new reality takes time. Some adult children have to work through their denial that anything serious is wrong. Others might feel reluctant to get involved, fearing they are “meddling” in their parent’s life.

    Yet, to the primary caregiver, the person who is present day-to-day, it’s clear that his or her parent is less and less able to handle everyday needs. They see that Mom requires assistance with grocery shopping and cooking, that transportation and bill paying are problems, or advancing memory loss or fading eyesight or painful joints keep her from normal activities. Her needs are evident and most likely will become more intense.

    Working through differences: communication plays a critical role.

  • If you’ve held family meetings, everyone concerned should have a clear idea of the medical status of your parent. Focus on the facts.
  • REALLY listen to what your siblings have to say. Be willing to compromise and to try new solutions, as long as no one’s safety is jeopardized.
  • For the doubters, it may be helpful for them to spend a weekend or even a day as a sole caregiver, to get a first-hand view of the issues.
  • Be straightforward about financial issues. Finances are a key component in long-term caregiving, affecting where your parent lives, whether paid outside help is available, whether placement in a facility is a suitable or desirable option, or whether home care is manageable with family support. Overseeing bill-paying and dealing with Medicare and other health care bills is a job in itself, and can be delegated as such.
  • Let your siblings know that their help is needed and wanted (if, in fact, it is — see below). Be direct and specific about what tasks you need help with. Even if they live far away, siblings can help with finances, can provide virtual companionship to your parent with frequent phone calls and Skype, or can provide occasional respite or substitute care.
  • Keep communication lines open.

Tips for gaining the support of your siblings

  • Accept your siblings for who they are. Not everyone thinks, feels or acts the same way, especially when a situation is this emotionally charged. Try to keep your own expectations and expressions of “should” in check, and instead, strive to accept and work with your siblings’ personalities and abilities.
  • Be aware of how you ask for help. If you’re angry and frustrated when you’re talking with your siblings, it will come through in your voice. Their reaction will be defensiveness or anger. Likewise, making siblings feel guilty may lead to resentment and tension that will not be productive in solving the problems at hand.
  • Figure out what you really expect from your siblings. Do you think they should provide more hands-on care? Help with errands? Visits? A day or week of respite? Financial support? Help with decision-making? Analyze whether you’re able to give up control to allow a sibling to help you, or if you’re unconsciously communicating that you don’t trust the care that someone else provides.Some caregivers really don’t want help, or can’t rely on help from siblings who are undependable or unavailable. If you’re in this situation, admit it to yourself, accept that you’re on your own, and work to make the care as efficient as possible while still attending to your own health and well-being. If other relatives or friends are willing, ask for help from them or from religious communities your parent might have been involved in. Check for resources in your community. When people offer to help, say yes.
  • If what you really want is recognition and appreciation from your siblings for all that you do, you can ask for that. (You also need to express your own gratitude when you do get some help.)
  • Seek advice from someone outside the family. A mediator, social worker or geriatric care manager may help get past long-standing emotional roadblocks, family competition, controlling behavior, denial, or other issues interfering with successful resolutions.

Conflicts over legal, financial and inheritance issues.

With Durable Powers of Attorney or an Advance Health Care Directive, your parents can designate who will be in charge if they become incapacitated. Sometimes this creates tension among the adult children. If at all possible, this should be discussed at a family meeting and clarified for everyone concerned. An advance directive will outline the types of care that your parent desires at end of life. With this information in writing, a difficult situation is made a little more tolerable.

Some families compensate the primary caregiver for their work, particularly if he or she has cut back on employment to care for their parent. How much the compensation is and who pays it can be covered in a Personal Care Agreement, which is a written contract. This can be reviewed periodically to ensure it reflects any changes in care.

If an inheritance is in question, or if someone feels they should get a larger portion of an inheritance because of their caregiving duties or other reasons, this is another source of potential conflict. Be aware that your parent’s will is his or hers to direct as they like, and is not necessarily representative of who was the “good” son or daughter or who did more or less for their parents.

Sharing care among siblings is a reality that millions of Americans manage on a daily basis. By taking steps to foster positive communication and support one another as much as possible, the challenging role of providing care for elderly parents can be a fulfilling, rewarding experience, which ultimately can bring siblings closer together.

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Holiday Family Gatherings: A Time for Enjoyment & Meaningful Discussions

Once again we’re preparing for families to come together over the holiday season. We long to see how our seniors are doing, especially those who are far away from us and living independently.

Are they ok? Have they been eating well? Is the house in good repair? Are they paying all the bills on time? Have they been keeping things from us?

Hopefully, during our visit with them to celebrate a time of family sharing we will be able to observe them for any signs that they need a little bit more help. There are many things we should be on the lookout for in their home, their own health and appearance, the car, the home and the yard.

Another important thing we should do while we are visiting our senior loved ones is talk.

“Talk about what specifically,” you ask?

Serious Discussions with Parents & Other Senior Loved Ones

We might find some discussions hard to begin and others may be taboo in your family or culture. Unfortunately, once your parents reach a certain age (and you as well) it is recommended that these uncomfortable discussions happen and the answers clearly brought out into the open.

Whether you want to or not, some things are just better to know.

  1. Do they have any advance directives? Is there a living will created about which you should know? What are their wishes for end of life care? Do they have a DNR or a healthcare proxy to speak for them if they can’t? It is important to hear directly from them what they anticipate their end of life to be. What if they get into an accident or have a medical emergency? If you don’t talk openly about this eventuality it will be more difficult, especially if you are at a long distance, to make decisions in an emergency without prior knowledge. Do they have burial plans already?
  2. If they have executed these documents, where are they kept? Can you get a copy? Does the doctor know about them and do they have a copy on file? Do they need to be updated?
  3. If they don’t have them created, can you do this during your visit so all their wishes are documented in case of an emergency? Now is a good time to get important documents executed while you are there to get the necessary information. These decisions must be made before your senior is no longer competent to make his wishes known legally.
  4. Do they have a will? Who is the executor? Where is the will kept – who is the attorney? Where are the contact numbers for lawyers, doctors, and other people if you need them?
  5. Are they still competent to drive safely? Has the car been damaged since your last visit? Take a ride as a passenger to test them, even if it is without them knowing your purpose for going for an ice cream cone together.
  6. Are they declining in functional status? Does it look like they are having difficulty keeping themselves neat and tidy? Are their clothes clean and in good repair? Are they shaving? Do they have unexplained bruises? Are they appearing thin or weak? Are they having trouble balancing themselves when they walk or get up from sitting? Do they need more help?
  7. Is their home still adequate to age in place? Is it where they want to be or would they rather come closer to you, go to a senior living area or move to a smaller home that is easier to care for alone? Some seniors enjoy living in an assisted living facility where they have less responsibility and more opportunity for social engagement. Is their current home accessible to transportation services if they can no longer drive? Is their home in good repair with adequate safety modifications to prevent accidents? Can you work on some modifications while you visit and schedule other more involved upgrades for when you are not there?
  8. Are they depressed or isolated? Some seniors choose to stay home and reduce their visits to places, people and events that they once frequented for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they are afraid to drive, don’t want to go alone, can’t leave the house for too long for fear of needing a restroom quickly, or have side effects of medications that keep them from being active. Seniors need to be social, mentally stimulated and engaged to prevent boredom and loneliness. It might be a good time to get them reconnected, take them to the senior center and arrange transportation if necessary. Find things for them to be active and involved from home. Set up some technology and teach them to use it so they can use social media, Skype or Facetime to engage with distant family and friends.
  9. What about their finances? Do they have enough money to meet their needs? Are they paying their bills? Do they have a supplemental insurance policy or long term care policy which you should be aware? Are they struggling to make ends meet? Are they getting the benefit of all — well — benefits to which they are entitled?

~by Kathy Birkett

Assistance is offered with Raleigh Geriatric Care Management in North Carolina www.rgcmgmt.com to help you and your aging loved ones navigate the myriad of senior resources and services.  lwatral@rgcmgmt.com for more information. 

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Caring For An Elder From Far Away: Geriatric Care Managers

by Terry Weaver

As an adult, balancing work and elder care can be a challenge whether your parent lives next door or out of state. Add children to this, and the situation becomes compounded. Legal, financial and long-term planning for elder care is crucial, and long distance caregivers need to prepare for travel and time off from work. Face the facts, most older adults want to stay right where they are. They do not want to relocate, even if it means being closer to family. If this is what the elder wishes, as the child, you must respect their wishes.

For people who work and care for an aged family member, (particularly when that family member lives far away), one solution is to hire a professional geriatric care manager. A geriatric care manager is a professional who specializes in assisting older people and their families with long-term care arrangements. Care managers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or substantial equivalent training in gerontology, social work, nursing, counseling, psychology or a related field.

Prolonged illness, disability or simply the challenges of aging can significantly alter the lifestyle of older adults. Daily responsibilities can become difficult. Efficient coordination of medical, personal and social service resources can enhance the quality of life for older adults and their caregivers.

Geriatric care mangers assist older adults in maintaining their independence at home and can ease the transition to a new setting, if needed. Geriatric care managers also help:

  • Conduct care planning assessments to identify problems, eligibility for assistance, and need for services.

  • Review financial, legal, or medical issues and offer referrals to geriatric specialists to avoid future problems and conserve assets.

  • Act as a liaison to families at a distance, making sure things are going well and alerting families to problems.

  • Assist with moving an older person to or from a retirement complex, assisted living facility, or nursing home.

  • Offer counseling and support.

  • How do you know when it is time to call a professional? Look for these signs.

  • Is your loved one losing weight for no known reason? Do they fall?

  • Is the home unkempt and becoming unsafe? How are meals made? Who pays the bills?

  • Are they able to(and do they) maintain a neat appearance? Has drinking become a problem?

  • Is it safe for your parents to drive? If not, who does the driving for them?

  • Has there been a sudden memory loss or increased confusion?

Of course in order to answer these questions, you’ll have to pay a visit to your long distance loved one, or rely on information from a relative or friend who is close to that loved one.  There is no reason to feel guilty about being far away as long as you are doing everything that you can to help.  In Raleigh, NC, visit Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, www.rgcmgmt.com 

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The Workbook for Older Drivers and Their Families

Do you wonder if the older driver in your family may be experiencing diminishing driving Keeping us Safe Beyond Driving with Dignityskills as a result of the natural aging process?

Has your parent become lost recently while driving on an otherwise familiar route? Have you noticed mom bumping into curbs, mailboxes, or scraping the side of the garage when she backs out? Are there unexplained scuff marks on the corners of dad’s bumpers? Has dad been involved in a minor parking lot fender-bender recently, or does he complain about being honked at all the time? Do either of them seem easily confused or more forgetful when you talk with them on the telephone?

If so, don’t panic; you are certainly not alone. The most important thing to remember is that the time to start addressing your concerns over driving is now, before “concerns” turn into “tragedies”.

Facts: According to AARP, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day for the next 18 years! Tragically, an average of 15 people ages 65+ die in car accidents every day in the United States

The issue of taking the keys away from a parent can be extremely sensitive and emotional. Having this discussion has been likened to trying to throw a diplomatic hand grenade at your parents and the “talk” has been known to divide entire families. Adult siblings, otherwise close to each other their entire lives, can end up at war with each other (and/or with their parents) on how best to address the driving issue.

There is a solution; Keeping Us Safe has developed a workbook titled “Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families”.

The workbook employs a very user-friendly, uncomplicated method and is designed to be used in the comfort and confidence of the family’s home. It has been designed to remove the family’s emotion, opinion and speculation from the decision making process, and reduces everything to simple fact so that appropriate decisions can follow.

More specifically, the workbook helps the family and the older driver better recognize any deficiencies in the following dimensions:

Vision
Hearing
Memory
Reflex and reaction time
Strength and flexibility
Medications, and
Overall health concerns
“The workbook was written to help families (or professionals working with families) by providing them with a ‘roadmap to success’ in their quest to overcome the challenges of an older driver’s safety” explains Matt Gurwell, founder and CEO of Keeping Us Safe.

Gurwell adds “If driving restrictions or even a complete retirement from driving are deemed appropriate, the ‘Limit Driving, Not Living’ chapter of the workbook helps the family identify and implement alternative means of transportation for the retiring driver.”

Working through this instrument will help concerned families make appropriate driving-related decisions that are not only in the best interest of the older driver, but simultaneously find themselves in the best interest of highway safety in general. This workbook was designed to be used by the family in the confidence and comfort of their own home, most likely seated right at the family’s kitchen table.

To purchase a workbook or to learn more about how the workbook can help your family or client, visit the Keeping Us Safe website at www.keepingussafe.org . In Raleigh, NC, contact Raleigh Geriatric Care Management

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A Retirement From Driving Does Not HAVE to Equal House Arrest

~Matt Gurwell, Retired Highway Patrolman, founder of Keeping Us Safe

It goes without saying that for any of us, driving represents freedom, control, and of course, a degree of personal independence. But this is particularly true for the older driver. Here are five reasons a senior driver may not be willing to retire from driving, despite what may be obvious and quantifiable safety reasons:

1) For a senior driver, losing the ability to drive can be an obvious emotional set-back. In some cases, this set-back can be even more complicated when combined with recent losses such as the death of a spouse, a close friend, or a recent diagnosis of a serious health condition.

Imagine for a moment that only months ago your spouse of 50+ years died unexpectedly, and now your adult children are trying to take your car away from you. Or that just last week you were diagnosed with cancer, and today your family doctor compounded your anguish by suggesting that for safety reasons you stop driving, effective immediately. The recipient of all of this wonderful news would certainly feel like a tsunami of doom has just reached their beach.

2) A senior driver may believe that if he/she can no longer drive, they will become a burden to others. This may be the furthest thing from the truth, but it becomes very real in the eyes of the beholder. Imagine for just one minute that you can suddenly no longer drive…ever. Although completely unwarranted, it is human nature to feel at least somewhat burdensome asking others for help getting you to and from your doctor’s appointments? Taking you to get groceries? Driving you to the hairdresser or barber? Taking you to visit an old friend?

3) Many seniors see a surrender of their driver’s license as an acknowledgement that their physical wellness, agility, mental sharpness, reflexes, sight, hearing or memory are beginning to deteriorate. Or that an illness or pre-existing medical condition is “getting worse”.

4) Many older drivers believe that if they give up their driving, they will have fewer social opportunities than what they are accustomed to.

5) Despite everyone’s best efforts, driving cessation can sometimes trigger depression in elderly people which, in turn can cause a noticeable deterioration in your loved one’s physical health.

There are obviously many, many more examples of the emotional distress driving cessation can cause for an older driver. The good news is; a retirement from a long and successful driving career does not have to be all doom and gloom, and does not have to be the equal of “house arrest”.

The Beyond Driving With Dignity Program is offered in parts of North Carolina.  contact, lwatral@rgcmgmt.com of Raleigh Geriatric Care Management

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Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families

As a way of providing an additional tool for families working with an older driver, Keeping Us Safe has developed the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” workbook.

It was specifically designed to help your family by providing you with a “roadmap to success” in your quest to overcome the challenges of an older driver’s safety. It is designed to be used by families as a tool to meet the demands of a potential problem when you become suspect of the senior driver’s ability to remain a safe driver.

Timely and appropriate use of this workbook and of all available resources will help keep families from making many of the common mistakes encountered by others as you move toward a possible driving retirement for your loved one.

Working through this instrument will help your family make driving-related decisions that are not only in the best interest of the older driver, but simultaneously find themselves in the best interest of highway safety in general. This workbook was designed to be used by your family in the confidence and comfort of your own home, most likely seated right at your family’s kitchen table

Here is the table of contents:

  1. Beyond Driving with Dignity
  2. Introduction
  3. Welcome to “Beyond Driving with Dignity”
  4. How to use this workbook
  5. The Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professional
  6. Older driver demographics
  7. Initiating driving-related conversations
  8. The Older Driver in Your Family
  9. Understanding an older driver’s fears
  10. Understanding a family’s fears
  11. Working the Plan
  12. Where do we start?
  13. Vision concerns
  14. Hearing concerns
  15. Memory concerns
  16. Reflex and reaction time concerns
  17. Medication concerns
  18. Strength and flexibility concerns
  19. General health concerns
  20. Let’s take a ride
  21. Making Tough Decisions
  22. Coming to a risk-reducing decision
  23. Dimensional Performance Recap
  24. When dementia is making the decisions
  25. Maintaining Independence
  26. Vehicle adaptations
  27. Limit driving, not living
  28. Appendix Title
  29. A note about diabetes and driving
  30. A granddaughter’s essay
  31. Resources
  32. Endnotes and Bibliography

To order inquire at Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, http://www.rgcmgmt.com, or email, lwatral@rgcmgmt.com.

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“Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers ”is now available in Raleigh, NC

May 20, 2013 – RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh Geriatric Care Management http://www.rgcmgmt.com is pleased to announce that they have partnered with Keeping Us Safe http://www.keepingussafe.org and are now an authorized distributor for the nationally-recognized “Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families”.

The workbook was specifically designed to help families by providing a “roadmap to success” in their quest to overcome the challenges of an older driver’s safety.  It is designed to be used by families as a tool to meet the demands of a potential problem (tragedy) as they become suspect of a loved-one’s ability to remain a safe driver.

The workbook is quickly gaining popularity across both the United States and Canada as an invaluable tool in helping families (and geriatric professionals) deal with what can be a very emotionally charged and daunting family concern.

Timely and appropriate use of this workbook and of all available resources will help keep families from making many of the common mistakes encountered by others as they move toward a possible driving retirement for their loved one.

Lauren Watral, Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professional and owner of Raleigh Geriatric Care Management, explains that “Working through this instrument will help your family make driving-related decisions that are not only in the best interest of the older driver, but decisions that simultaneously find themselves in the best interest of highway safety in general.  The workbook was designed to be used by your family in the confidence and comfort of your own home, most likely seated right at your family’s kitchen table.”

Keeping Us Safe is an international organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families.  Their programs are designed to save lives while simultaneously helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with this very challenging issue.

To learn more about the workbook or to place an order, contact Lauren Watral (lwatral@rgcmgmt.com) at 919-803-8025 or visit the Raleigh Geriatric Care Management website at http://www.rgcmgmt.com/.

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When to Stop Driving from Raleigh Geriatric Care Management

Families are constantly asking about when to take away driving privileges from their aging parents.  This chore is often difficult for the adult child;  but,  with the guidance  of a geriatric care manager, the family will find comfort and support when facing one of the most challenging, painful, but necessary tasks. 

The information in this article is from http://www.alz.org.

Driving demands good judgment, quick reaction time and split-second decision making.  Because of the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s, a person with the disease will eventually not be able to drive.  It is often difficult to decide when to stop or limit driving.   

Warning signs of unsafe driving:
The following behaviors may be signs that it is time to stop driving:
•Forgetting how to locate familiar places
•Failing to observe traffic signals
•Making slow or poor decisions
•Driving at inappropriate speeds
•Becoming angry and confused while driving
•Hitting curbs
•Using poor lane control
•Making errors at intersections
•Confusing the brake and gas pedals
•Returning from a routine drive later than usual

 

Tips to limit driving:
Losing the independence driving provides can be upsetting, and it may be hard to give up the car keys. If the person with dementia insists on driving, caregivers, friends or family members may need to take extra steps:
•Encourage law enforcement to issue a citation.
•Ask a doctor to write the person a “do not drive” prescription.
•Control access to the car keys.
•Disable the car by removing the distributor cap or battery.
•Keep the car out of sight. Seeing the car may act as a visual cue to drive.
•Have the person tested by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
It is important to learn about other modes of transportation before it is time to stop driving. Make plans for other modes of transportation, such as rides from family members, friends or community services. 

 

The geriatric care manager at Raleigh Geriatric Care Management can assist with “having the conversation” about when to stop driving, an often daunting and difficult task for the adult child.

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