The American  Association for Marriage and Family Therapy states that “more than ever  before, families are providing long-term care to older adults with limitations  in the ability to perform tasks necessary for independent living. Nearly 25% of  American households are providing care to people age 50 years and over.  Families are the alternative foundation for a stressed healthcare system.  Hospital stays are shorter than ever and family caregivers are often expected  to do what healthcare professionals once did.”

Family caregivers take over various responsibilities for  their elders.  It may be just handling  finances, running errands, going to doctor appointments or taking on full 24  hour care services.  In most cases one  sibling in the family will become the main caregiver, but most successful  ventures are supported by the entire family.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a  child.  This may be true, but it takes a  family to care for an aging parent.  As  seniors lose physical and cognitive function they become vulnerable and unable  to manage their own care.  Who better to  know their needs and desires than their own children.  Even if professional care givers are providing  services, family involvement makes the difference in quality of life for their  parents.

“If one family member has been designated caregiver other members  can give support with respite care, transportation to doctors, etc., everyone  needs to be aware of all that is needed and be in total agreement to do it.”     “The 4 Steps of Long  Term Care Planning

Experience has shown that even families that are close can  quickly grow angry, jealous and hostile towards each other when an aging parent  begins to need long term care. If a sibling moves into the parent’s home,  others can easily be suspicious of ulterior motives and fear to lose their  inheritance. On the other hand, the child doing the entire care taking becomes  bitter and feels there is no support or help from siblings.

One example of a  family misunderstanding is that of a brother accusing his sister of stealing  all of the money from the sale of his parent’s home.

Karen, who was a single mom with two children, moved in  with her parents when her father had a stroke to help her mother take care of  him. Her mother was also disabled. Needing money to pay for a home care  service, Karen helped her mother do a reverse mortgage on the home, which gave  the needed funds. If communication had been open and Karen’s brother had known  the need and been involved with his parents care, he would not have reacted so  negatively when he eventually found out about the reverse mortgage.

Every family is different. Some families are close and some  have never been compatible. If your communication is strained, consider having  a professional  mediator present at a family meeting. The mediator will be able to keep  things calm and running smoothly and help work out each persons concern.

Family matters.  The  experience of working together for their parents care can give aging parents  and family members a peaceful, memorable experience.

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Living Wealthy vs. Real Wealth

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

The Creative Caretaker – Paradise on a Shoestring


Dylan’s “Times Are a Changing” plays on Jack’s IPod and Bose speakers. How could turning 55 a year ago, discovering his retirement plan was somewhat inadequate due to heavy losses in the market, be a blessing? A year ago this bachelor was living downtown, in a big city, in a tall building along with countless others. What to do? Slug it out in the corporate world for another 15 years and make – up his loses? Jack is bored to tears by this prospect. What happens if he is forced to leave the workforce sooner than expected? What to do?

Today he lives outside a small town in the Mountains on ten wooded acres, home to deer, elk, and fruit trees next to a river filled with wild trout. After a quick review of his finances it was clear that unlike Johnny Depp he wouldn’t be buying an island in the Caribbean to “bug out” on (if warranted) anytime soon. Unlike Johnny Depp, he was quite concerned about outliving his money. He decided to get creative. He created options for himself.

First he addressed his housing costs, killing two birds with one stone he also determined where to best live in retirement. Jack’s able to continuously reduce his housing costs to almost nothing depending on how hard he wishes to work at it. He lives in a beautiful guest house and is the groundskeeper of a multi-million dollar property. He’s joined a local farming co-op where he meets new people and works the land a couple of hours a week in exchange for healthy food. He is also considering becoming a WWOOfing (willing workers on organic farms) providing opportunities for him to learn organic farming which he himself will do next spring. He catches trout and hunts elk which he freezes for the winter. He recently began canning and freeze drying. At harvest time, he volunteers at local fruit and nut growers in exchange for fruit that he cans for the winter. Jack has also benefited from local online barter networks, trading his time for tee times as well as membership to a gym.

This approach is really driven by a genuine interest in organic gardening, eating healthy, playing golf and working – out at the gym. It is also a great way to meet people, exercise and learn new things. Jack over – budgets his monthly food expenditures, and still lives well below his means. The fact he saves 20- 25% of his monthly food budget is icing on the cake. The savings is not a factor today but down the road it is nice to know he has these savings in his back pocket should he need it. Jack has created his food & energy emergency fund in which all food & energy savings are deposited for a rainy day.

To help control his energy costs he works from home eliminating his commute to work. He often rides his bike, he also has an electric bike too (charged directly by solar panels).  Jack enjoys moving his body every day. Biking for exercise and sometimes for his food (bikes to the store) motivates him. The mountain scenery and all the folks he meets along the way are a plus. This lifestyle approach cut his gasoline expenses in half. All his lights, heaters, fans, TV’s appliances, etc. are on surge protectors that he can easily turn off in each room when not in use. He has also learned how to make his own solar panels for less than $200.00 each. Jack drives often enough, whenever he wants really but he enjoys biking too.

A wood-burning fireplace offsets much of his winter heating bill. Wood is abundant on the property because trees are regularly trimmed to prevent forest fires. He also collects rainwater,  and can access river water legally easily utilizing a solar pump for his future organic garden.

Jack over – budgets his monthly energy expenditures, and still lives well below his means. The fact he saves 25% – 50% of his monthly energy budget is icing on the cake. The savings is not a factor today but down the road it is nice to know he has these savings in his back pocket should he need it. Jack has created his food & energy emergency fund in which all food & energy savings are deposited for a rainy day. In the event that rainy day never comes these monies will be used to fund the final remaining items on his bucket list.

Jack has baked in the risk of future higher food and energy costs, inflation and a weakened dollar into his monthly budget. This approach still allows Jack to live well below his means. Since he over – budgets food and buys organic today he can always reduce his food expenses in the future before tapping into his emergency food fund.

His focus long-term is simply to keep an eye on whether or not his traditional retirement income streams are keeping up with the inflation rate which is tied to the CPI and does not include food and energy price increases. In the event they are not then he recognizes he may need to add a small stream of informal income from creative work or that he’ll have to get by on the emergency food & energy savings fund or both. Having multiple informal streams of income from performing creative work, and multiple ways to reduce his monthly food, energy and housing expenses has resulted in economic security. His pension benefit has a (COLA) cost of living adjustment so this approach protects his pension since his COLA does not include the cost of food and energy. More importantly it also protects his nest egg which has no COLA. His traditional retirement plan covers all the bases, his creative retirement strategies are in his back pocket if he needs options down the road. Jack has peace of mind.

Jack has created the life he wants for himself in retirement. For Jack the freedom to enjoy outdoor activities and connect with nature is key to his happiness. Trading his time for housing costs gets him exactly where he wants to be. Having the time, physical health, and where – with – all to spend his retirement days having fun surrounded by nature is a blessing. The fact most outdoor recreational activities are inexpensive or free is priceless. Since he lives in the mountains if one day the winters become too much he has an RV down in Mexico he can enjoy during the winter months catching Marlin instead of trout.

For Jack life has become a much simpler equation. Does he want the latest 4×4 SUV, fly fishing, snow skiing cycling, tennis and golf equipment, and all the financial responsibilities that comes with them? Or is Jack happier with the lesser financial responsibilities and the older equipment that comes with that approach? Jack loves fly fishing, snow skiing, cycling, tennis, and golf. Jack finds real pleasure in doing these things. Thanks to planning creatively; Jack finally has the right amount of time, the right amount of money, and he lives in the right place, the perfect place for him. He’s taken the uncertainty out of living in older age.

No one retirement fits all, just as no single tree is exactly the same as another in the forest. Creating a retirement for oneself that is “spot on” is real wealth. The kind of wealth that last’s a lifetime, a lifetime of happiness and economic security.

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Too Much Risk Too Close To Retirement

Straight talk never hurts. Too many boomers are part of the underfunded retirement generation, miss-informed, counting on real estate and stock market investment gains to make up the difference between what one saves and one needs to fund a successful retirement!


Defined Benefit Retirement Plans will likely have difficulty meeting 100% their long – term obligations

Medicare and Social Security could reduce benefits up to 25% over time due to needed reforms

The Great Recession forced future retirees to use their nest eggs as a safety net vs. a retirement fund

Market uncertainty makes investing difficult, too many investors make risky moves to re-coup loses

Boomers and the Great 401k Experiment:

Corporate America was the hands down winner while too many boomers are now the losers of the great 401k experiment.

According to the Federal Reserve most Boomers 401k’s are inadequate to fund their retirements.

Individually managed 401k’s vs. a professionally managed 401k’s resulted in gaps between what is typically saved vs. what is typically needed which has been exasperated by the Great Recession.

Too many Boomers are not all together confident they have enough money saved for retirement and that they will comfortably outlive their money.


Delay retirement, continue working and or perform” Creative Work” reduce expenses,  initiate “Proper Retirement Planning” Build One’s Nest Egg – Protect One’s Nest Egg, plan for” Flexible Frugality” in retirement when warranted.

Less than Ideal Options:

Take on an additional part – time job, down – size today to reduce housing expenses, move locations to secure employment, reduce expenses in retirement and get by primarily on Social Security Income in or outside the U.S.

Good News:

Forward thinking folks are simply taking the bull by the horns and creating the life they want for themselves in older age. They have put their financial house in order. They know how to keep their life – long living costs in check. They know how they can outlive their money. They are neither bored nor unprepared nor “needy” the root of unhappiness.

They understand that a leisure retirement (Endless Summer) is not as ideal as it sounds. They’ve found their passion and have made it their life’s work. This type of work keeps their minds sharp all throughout retirement. Performing Creative Work results in play which stimulates more creativity and allows retirees to get lost in what they love doing. They more easily find their natural rhythm in the flow of life. This makes them truly happy inside; and eventually they discover they are content. Through the process of “Creative Retirement Planning” they’ve taken the uncertainty out their older age and achieved their “Peace of Mind”.

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You Can’t Predict the Future, But You Can Prepare for it!

We recently saw yet another “End of the World Prediction“ come and go. What’s the next Y2 event, the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012? Retirees would do well to ignore doomsday conspiracy theorists and the like.

Instead they should listen to state and local authorities. Just as there are basics required for wilderness survival, there are basic items required for emergency situations at home and while driving. I understand It is human nature to be last minute, but please I encourage you to plan properly.

The Facts

The US annually experiences 10,000 – plus severe thunderstorms, 2,500 – plus floods and 1000 – plus tornadoes. Extreme shifts in weather increase the propensity for perfect storms inflicting more severe damage than normal (Katrina, Japan, Sandy).  Consider that the West’s biggest natural disaster threat is fire. The East is typically experiences  brown – outs (The grid). Terrorism can’t be ruled out as a possibility either. Heat waves results in more deaths nationwide than all other natural disasters combined.

Climate Change

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports long droughts of five years or more will occur 40 percent of the time during the next 50 years. Retirees are the most susceptible to harm from heat waves. Heat related deaths (mostly seniors) make up the greatest number of U.S. annual fatalities outpacing all other natural disasters.

This news does not bode well for fighting forest fires in the West, the biggest natural disaster threat. The Western region’s costs associated with fighting fires is significant; especially with already strained state budgets.

The Federal Agency report projects a 9 percent decrease in the Colorado’s Rivers volume annually in the next half decade. This will likely accelerate the increased costs for water across the state of Colorado as well as increase the cost of food production in Colorado and the other seven states that depend on the Colorado River for its water supply. This summers drought will increase the cost of beef next year due to higher feed prices.

Retirees may wonder what is the actual link between climate change and the economy?How exactly does climate change impact their pocketbook? Retirees would do well to ignore doomsday conspiracy theorists and the like. Basically the fact is the combination of explosive population growth and climate change make the cost of food and energy continuously rise. This assertion is based on science.

For example we’ve seen food prices cause turmoil in the Middle East recently which negatively impacts the cost of oil. This results in higher food prices here at home due the trucking industry increased costs being passed on to the consumer.

As food prices rise again and again the cycle repeats itself. “Large Scale Agriculture” depends on oil and water and favorable weather to produce food at a cost the public will accept.

Proper planning adds an additional layer of increased self – sufficiency to their current retirement plans. Many future retirees have awakened to the idea that the only one they can truly count on is themselves. This is prudent given rapidly changing climatic and economic paradigms. The new Mantra is “be prepared for the worst and hope the best”.

Heat Wave Puts Elderly at Risk


It was 3:00 PM when Linda noticed her elderly neighbor had not been out to pick up her paper nor opened her windows. A heat wave had kept temperatures near 100 degrees all week long. When Linda knocked on her neighbor’s door, Megan, 88 years old answered immediately. “Is it morning yet?” she asked confused at why Linda was at her door. Linda noticed that Megan’s eyes were sunken, she was disoriented and dizzy. The temperature in her house was well over 100 degrees. A call for an ambulance saved Megan’s life. She was extremely dehydrated and suffering heat exhaustion.

With the hot summer heat upon most of the nation and temperatures topping 100 degrees, dehydration and heat exhaustion are a high danger for the elderly. Illnesses relating to aging, medication and the body’s aging process cause a quicker reaction to the heat than someone younger.

An elderly person may not recognize what is happening until life threatening conditions have become evident. Family and friends can save the lives of their loved ones and friends by simply checking on them daily during the hot season and knowing the danger signs .

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionlists signs to watch for in elderly with heat exhaustion and fatigue:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Skin: may be cool and moist
  • Pulse rate: fast and weak
  • Breathing: fast and shallow

A few simple steps can help someone suffering from the heat. If they do not have air conditioning, provide a fan to move the air around and see that there is plenty of water within reach of their chair or in the refrigerator. Freeze some bottled water to set on their laps or in their chairs to help lower their body temperature. Encourage them to take a cool shower during the hottest time of day. Take them on an outing to a mall or other air conditioned facility. Check the hours and activities at local Senior Centers where they can spend some time during the day.

Volunteer services extend extra time in the summer to check on the elderly. Meals on Wheels volunteers in Mid-South make a point to leave extra water with daily meals.

Shelby County Senior Services volunteer staff check on dozen of residents most susceptible to hot temperatures. The Humboldt State University youth volunteer group helps seniors throughout the year.

Neighborhoods are filled with people who are dog walkers, bird watchers, joggers, walkers and baby strollers. This summer let’s add elderly helpers to that list. Just being an alert neighbor may save a seniors life.

It Won’t Happen to Me!

Featured in AARP’s “The Magazine” May/June 2011 edition, THE REAL SOCIAL NETWORK tells the story of Eleanor and her husband Jim both 82 at the time barely surviving a power outage that lasted for nine days. “No heat, no water. Nada, “Eleanor recalls.

It is human nature to be last minute even with 50 plus years to plan for it. A retiree’s current traditional retirement plan should remain status quo. Adding an additional layer of increased self – sufficiency to their current retirement plans is more critical now than ever.

Recently foiled terrorism plots in the US have revealed a growing interest in targets such as smaller cities, electrical power plants, nuclear power plants, waters sources, bridges and trains. Cyber terrorism; a real threat which often times aims to bring down power grids supporting most of America’s electrical energy needs. Bio –terrorism, pandemics, epidemics are not out of the question.

Retirees need not build bomb shelters. Whether it is natural disasters, terrorism or economic issues causing temporary breakdowns in the infrastructure; retirees should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Retirees can have peace of mind no matter what the future holds.

With the advent of the 24 hour news cycle retirees are inundated with disaster news stories. Many retirees are flooded (pardon the pun) by media and consequently they’ve become matter – of – fact about things they shouldn’t be matter – of – fact about. Still others worry needlessly because they are unprepared or feel alone (isolated) with family spread out across the US.

Retirees need to have the basics covered in their current home and vehicle. State authorities recommend retirees be prepared to be self-sufficient for a minimum of 72 hours in the event of an emergency. A week is probably a better goal.

Just as there are basics required for wilderness survival, there are basic items required for emergency situations at home and while driving. Medications, important papers and plans for the elderly, infants and disabled, pets, and livestock are often overlooked.

Please visit  or substitute colorado with the name of the state you live in) it will take couple of hours to knock this out and be a good first step in the creative retirement planning process. If not now, when, If not you, who?

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Low Interest Rates, Good or Bad?

The Fed has committed to keep interest rates low for the next two years. This sounds good to most Americans. Many believe or hope it will help improve the economy and revive the depressed housing market and inspire consumer spending.

Unfortunately these low rates are also a threat to retirees, the savers. First low rates put continued pressure on pensions widening the gap and increasing short falls in terms of what is needed to meet their obligations. For those retirees overly dependent on interest income low interest rates pose a real challenge over the next few years.

In two years the Fed will likely (be forced to) look to create the right mix of inflation and higher interest rates to help pay down the debt.

There really isn’t a U.S. solvency issue. However failure to address the U.S debt long-term creates fear with our foreign investors. We’ve seen recently how the global economy impacts the U.S. economy. If some of these foreign investors say just China and Japan were to sell off their U.S. investments this could lead to a U.S. concern way down the road. The US continues to be the safest place to invest on the planet.

However just a couple of years down the road retirees will likely find that inflation comes into play. Gradually we are seeing food and gas prices rise now which are not calculated in the official inflation rate used for retirement benefit increases.  Imagine a bit further down the road the cost of a gallon of gasoline and a loaf of bread with inflation soaring. For retirees living on a fixed income this presents a real problem.

Living on a fixed income may prove increasingly difficult. Many individuals in their forties and fifties planning for their retirement have come to realize that the equity in their homes is no longer a nest egg for their older age. Consequently, selling their homes and then downsizing with a mountain of cash is no longer realistic. Retirees face a potential $200,000 out of pocket health care bill.  Sending one child to public college for 4 years costs approximately $100,000 of todays dollars, $200,000 private. College tuition and expenses should be broken into thirds in the event a retirees money is tight. I recommend allocating one third  from savings, one from third grants and scholarships, and one third from student loans from the Federal government.  With these and other potential unfunded or under-funded liabilities a retirees nest egg may prove inadequate. Too  many future retirees will work to age 67-70. But what kind of work will they perform?

The Solution

Perform Creative Work. Forward thinking folks are simply taking the bull by the horns and creating the life they want for themselves in older age.  They know how to keep their living costs in check. They know how they can outlive their money. They are neither unprepared nor “needy” the root of unhappiness.

They understand that a leisure retirement (Endless Summer) is not as ideal as it sounds. They’ve found their muse or passion and have made it their new life’s work. This type of work makes them happy inside providing moments of quiet reflection in which they happily discover they are content. Through the process of performing creative work all throughout their retirement they’ve taken the uncertainty out their older age and achieved their “Peace of Mind”.

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Healthy Aging – Physically, Mentally and Financially


WebMD‘s online magazine’s feature article by Matt McMillen focuses on the “National Theme” with “tips to stay at your peak!”

1. Get moving
Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy body and brain.

2. Stay social
Take a class, volunteer, play games, see old friends, and make new ones.

3. Bulk up
Eat beans and other high-fiber foods for digestive and heart health.

4. Add some spice
Add herbs and spices to your meals if medications dull your taste buds.

5. Stay balanced
Practice yoga or tai chi to improve agility and prevent falls.

6. Take a hike
Brisk daily walks this September can bolster both your heart and lungs.

7. Sleep well
Talk to a sleep specialist if you don’t sleep soundly through the night.

8. Beat the blues
If you’ve been down for a while, see a doctor. Depression can be treated.

9. Don’t forget
To aid your memory, make lists, follow routines, slow down, and organize

Opportunities for seniors to use their work experience and talents in volunteer work benefit not only them but their communities as well. Many seniors take educational courses to improve their minds and seek out opportunities to use this newfound knowledge in productive ways. In another direction, senior sport programs have been developed that encourage those who miss their days on the basketball court or playing other sports to take it up again. The National Senior Games Associations sponsors a competitive Senior Olympics.

There is no limit to what a healthy attitude can accomplish.

100-year-old Virginia, who suffers from glaucoma, received her first computer, an iPad. With the zoomable screen it is ideal for her to read books (she’s read 2 already) and write limericks (she’s composed 12).

An article this month on the Mayo Clinic website titled “Healthy Retirement” states that:

“Most adults spend years looking forward to a healthy retirement. Whether you’re still planning your retirement or you’re ready to make the change, there’s much you can do to ensure a healthy retirement.

Start by learning what to expect as you get older, from changes in muscle mass and sex drive to vision and cardiovascular health. After all, your dreams for a healthy retirement likely depend on good health. Then consider ways to maintain a healthy retirement, from reducing your risk of falls and staying safe behind the wheel to improving your memory.

Another important aspect of healthy retirement is long-term care. Consider your options now — including type of long-term care, as well as how to pay for it — to help prevent hasty decisions later.“

A new population of seniors and those nearing senior status are looking for some type of financial support to maintain their quality of life and pay for eldercare during their final years of life. The need for some form of long-term carewill happen to 3 out of every 5 people. Paying for this care can be devastating for those who are not prepared.

Planning for the final years of life by dovetailing government programs, with your assets and other funding sources is a vital, yet complicated necessity. The National Care Planning Council’s “Life Resource Planning System” relieves some of this burden by providing recommendations pertaining to any or all of the items below that may be important to your living out the rest of your life in dignity.

  • Identify government income and care support programs
  • Protect and preserve assets
  • Facilitate favorable outcomes for health, medical issues and final preparations
  • Maximize family and community support
  • Find the right living arrangements

Healthy aging – physically, mentally and financially – is a definite “can do” with all the resources available to seniors and a little planning for the future.

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No Wonder I’m So Happy In Retirement

According to a recent study reported by Susan Turk Charles , PhD, of the University of California, Irvine, at the 117th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, emotional happiness improves with age.

Laura Carstenson:  Happiness improves with age

Video: Laura Carstenson: Happiness improves with age

“We know that older people are increasingly aware that the time they have left in life is growing shorter,” said Charles. “They want to make the best of it, so they avoid engaging in situations that will make them unhappy. They have also had more time to learn and understand the intentions of others which help them to avoid these stressful situations.”

Research shows that older adults exert greater emotional control than younger adults, meaning that older adults are more likely to actively avoid or limit negative, stressful situations than do younger adults. “Life expectancy changed because people changed the way they lived,” said Laura Carstensen, PhD, psychology professor at Stanford University and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity . “Now that we’re here, we have to keep adapting. We are in the middle of a second revolution and it’s up to us to make adulthood itself longer and healthier.

How to Achieve Happiness all Throughout Retirement New Information From Multiple Studies May Shock You!

AS Seen in “AARP THE MAGAZINE” November 2011 Issue “The American Psychological Association, recently published an analysis of multiple studies. Researchers from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand analyzed questionnaires from 420,000 people in 63 countries. “Having the freedom to change careers or pursue our passions makes us happier than does a hefty bank account.” “So while wealth can provide you with more choices; it is really having the ability to realize your dreams that leads to greater happiness,” says study coauthor Ronald Fischer, Ph.D.”

As a young boy I was privileged to live in various colonies of retired Americans all throughout Mexico. I learned early on the importance of performing creative work in retirement for compensation or not. In my view discovering one’s passion (s) and making it one’s life’s work all throughout retirement is personally meaningful; sometimes profound. This notion has now been validated in these recent studies. Lifestyle Is Main Influence on a Sharp MindA study, conducted by research teams in the UK and Australia, combined DNA analysis with data from around 2,000 participants who were asked to take intelligence tests at age 11, and again aged 65 to 79. The study, funded by the charity Age UK, is published in the journal, Nature.”

Study Conclusion “The way in which a person’s mind ages, is largely down to lifestyle factors, not genetics. Researchers found genetic factors only account for 24% of changes in intelligence, suggesting environmental factors have the biggest influence on whether a person’s mind remains sharp in old age.”

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Recognizing the Need for outside Help in Caregiving

Caregivers often don’t recognize when they are in over their heads, and often get to a breaking point. After a prolonged period of time, caregiving can become too difficult to endure any longer. Short-term the caregiver can handle it. Long-term, help is needed. Outside help at this point is needed.

A typical pattern with an overloaded caregiver may unfold as follows:

  • 1 to 18 months – the caregiver is confident, has everything under control and is coping well. Other friends and family are lending support.
  • 20 to 36 months – the caregiver may be taking medication to sleep and control mood swings. Outside help dwindles away and except for trips to the store or doctor, the caregiver has severed most social contacts. The caregiver feels alone and helpless.
  • 38 to 50 months – Besides needing tranquilizers or antidepressants, the caregiver’s physical health is beginning to deteriorate. Lack of focus and sheer fatigue cloud judgment and the caregiver is often unable to make rational decisions or ask for help.

It is often at this stage that family or friends intercede and find other solutions for care. This may include respite care, hiring home health aides or putting the disabled loved one in a facility. Without intervention, the caregiver may become a candidate for long term care as well.

With the holiday season upon us, caregivers feel even more stress — with planning, shopping and participating in holiday activities. This is a perfect time for family and friends to step up and provide some respite time and caregiving help. Whether it is provided personally or arranged as a gift of services to be provided by a professional respite company or home care provider, it is a welcome gift.

An article in “Today’s Caregiver” states:

“Nearly one in four caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias provide 40 hours a week or more of care. Seventy-one percent sustain this commitment for more than a year, and 32 percent do so for five years or more. One of the best gifts you can give someone caring for Alzheimer’s is something that relieves the stress or provides a bit of respite for the caregiver.
The Gift of time: Cost-effective and truly meaningful gifts are self-made coupons for cleaning the house, preparing a meal, moving lawn/shoveling driveway, respite times that allow the caregiver time off to focus on what he/she needs.”

It is also important to note that hiring professional care provider services can provide valuable ongoing support to an overloaded caregiver. A financial planner, care funding specialist or a reverse mortgage specialist may find the funds to pay for professional help to keep a loved one at home. A care manager can guide the family and the caregiver through the maze of long term care issues. The care manager has been there many times — the family is experiencing it for the first time.

An elder law attorney can help iron out legal problems. And an elder mediator can help solve disputes between family members. There are also cash benefits for Veterans, who served during a period of war, that pay for home care or assisted living.

If you are the one providing daily care for a loved one, you owe it to yourself to seek help.
Take care of yourself and your needs, both physically and mentally. Seek out professional help that will ease your burden and look for community service organizations that offer respite help.

The National Care Planning Council’s website contains hundreds of articles with tips and advice for caregivers and their families. Take a few minutes to find the help you need and enjoy this holiday season.

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The Perfect Holiday Caregiver: It’s all a state of mind

It’s all a state of mind. The holidays are always a wonderful time of year for family gatherings, reflection on what we have and the spirit of giving. The television is packed with specials showing relationships and families coming together for the holidays.

But the holidays can also be a time of stress and sadness for those who are caring for family members that are struggling with health problems, frailty, dementia and loss. Those who care for these individuals may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed or resentful as they watch “perfect” families enjoying the holidays. There are many surveys and documents that show that caregivers are highly susceptible to these feelings. If you are a caregiver, there are measures you can take to avoid this.

First; Remember, that you are not alone.

If you are new to caregiving or have been caring for someone for a very long time, remember that the perfect family on television is not reality for many Americans. You are not the only one with these challenges. A recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that 44.4 million Americans age 18 or older are providing unpaid care to an adult. In fact according to the survey provided by the National Family Caregivers Association:

  • The typical caregiver is a 46-year-old Baby Boomer woman with some college education who works and spends more than 20 hours per week caring for her mother who lives nearby.
  • Female caregivers provide more hours of care and provide a higher level of care than male caregivers.
  • Almost seven in ten 69%) caregivers say they help one person.
  • The average length of caregiving is 4.3 years.
  • Many caregivers fulfill multiple roles. Most caregivers are married or living with a partner (62%), and most have worked and managed caregiving responsibilities at the same time (74%).

Second; Find help.

There are many resources available to a caregiver. Some of these include family members, friends, a local religious group, elder care agencies and homecare providers. The internet provides many great resources and help. The National Care Planning Council offers many articles, brochures and local referrals to help caregivers find the help that they need.

“When my husband’s stepfather was released from the hospital in December of 2009, he called us to give him a ride home. Once he was home, we quickly realized that he was not able to care for himself at all. He lived alone and we found ourselves driving back and forth three or four times a day to assist all of his needs. It was overwhelming and frightening to suddenly become a caregiver to a man we weren’t even that close to. With my husband working full time days, I became his primary caregiver. I would pack up my two little girls every day to come with me to take him to the doctor, do his laundry and feed him his meals, do his grocery shopping and help him with his bills. I had no idea what his finances were like or how to pay his medical bills. He was too sick to care or even understand what I was saying to him. I quickly realized I was going to have to find help. First I called his children. They were sympathetic, but gave all kinds of excuses as to why they could not help. Next, I went to the internet. I went to the website for National Care Planning Council and found and contacted a Care planner in my area. The Care Planner came to my stepfather’s house and met with the two of us. They helped me get organized and set up time to meet with someone to explain his Medicare services and what my next steps would be. It was such a relief to have a plan and to know what to do.” MH- Salt Lake City, Utah

Most family members are willing to help, but just don’t know what to do. Many caregivers feel that they are the only one who can give the best care. It is important to communicate with other family members about what kind of help you need and let them know specifically what they can do.

A number of organizations and private companies will give you advice and guidance — many for free. If your care recipient has a very low income, you might get free help from your local Area Agency on Aging. A lot depends on available funds. Click here for a nationwide list of agencies.

A good source for professional advice is the rapidly growing business of non-medical home care companies. Most will offer free consultations and will provide paid aides to help you with your loved-one with such things as bathing, dressing, shopping, household chores, transportation, companionship and much more. These people may also help you coordinate adult day care or other community services.

You may wish to pay for a formal assessment and care plan from a professional geriatric care manager. Even though it may cost you a little money to hire a care manager, this could be the best money you will ever spend. Care managers are valuable in helping find supporting resources, providing respite, saving money from care providers, finding money to pay for care, making arrangements with family or government providers and providing advice on issues that you may be struggling with.

Lastly; it is important to take care of yourself first in order to give effective and loving care.

Stephen Covey tells a story in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about a man who is sawing a tree. A woman approaches and asks the obviously exhausted man how long he has been sawing the tree. He tells her that he has been there for hours.

She says “Well, I see that your saw is dull, if you would just sharpen your saw you would be able to saw it much faster and with less effort.”

He replies, “I don’t have time to stop and sharpen my saw, I need to chop this tree down now!”

It seems pretty silly that the man just doesn’t stop for a few minutes to make the work easier. It is common for caregivers to do the same thing. They focus on caring for their loved one and run themselves down instead of stopping to “sharpen their saw”.

Covey states that “sharpening the saw” is to take care of yourself by keeping your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self balanced. There is joy and respite in balancing all of these areas in our life. This is what makes us efficient and happy. Here are some ways for you as a caregiver to sharpen your own saw:

  • Maintain a positive attitude. Take time to be grateful for everything that is good in your life. There is always something. Adjust your expectations for the holiday season. If you aren’t expecting that perfect holiday family picture, then you won’t be angry and frustrated that it isn’t something you have right now. It is always possible to change your attitude and perceptions, but it is not always possible to change your circumstances.
  • Eat healthy food and be sure to get some exercise. Do this in small increments if it is too overwhelming to plan menus. Drink more water, cut down on sugary snacks, pick up some vegetables and fruit to grab. Walk or do marching in place. Run or walk up and down stairs if that is all the time you have right now.
  • Forgive and let go of frustrations, anger, resentment and guilt. These are common feelings for caregivers. The best thing a caregiver can do for their own emotional health is to clear out these negative thoughts and feelings. Get counseling, talk to a friend or family member or simply write down the negative feelings to get them out of your system. Never take your anger and frustrations out on those you care for.
  • Take time to do something you enjoy and give yourself a little bit of rejuvenation everyday. Laughter is a great stress reliever. Find something funny to read or get on the internet and find a funny video to watch.
  • During the holidays, be easy on yourself. If you enjoy holiday activities, then get out there and do them. Ask someone to help with your caregiving duties even if it is just for an hour or two to shop or to see a concert or movie. There are day care facilities or home care services available for short term care. See for a service in your area.

Being a “perfect” caregiver during the holidays does not have to look like the perfect on-screen holiday family. How you handle your circumstance will be the key to creating your own peace, happiness and cheer during the holiday season. The holidays can be a time of reflection on good things. Your attitude and a little care for yourself can make a big difference in the care that you give in the coming year.

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Invisible Heroes

family caregivers

They live in your city, perhaps on your street or even next door.

They serve with courage, perseverance, patience and love. Some give 24 hours a day, with days blending into weeks, months and years.

They are family caregivers; heroes quietly caring for loved ones at home.

There are over 66 million family caregivers in the United States, taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia or who have physical inabilities. The overwhelming responsibility can be very difficult and emotionally wearing on the caregiver. Without some type of support the caregiver may end up with his or her own health failing. Stress, guilt, anger, depression and withdrawal from family and friends are some of the emotional feelings that leave these people feeling helpless. Many caregivers give up employment to attend to their loved ones’ needs, causing financial stress as well.

National Family Caregivers Month was established in November to draw support for caregivers across the nation. In addition, November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. In the United States alone, there are nearly 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers.

Emphasis from support organizations is put on helping caregivers by educating them on resources available to them to help provide care to their loved ones and in the process take care of themselves. Government and private companies have added many programs that help caregivers. By providing education, services, health counseling and respite care for caregivers they are making available the helping hand that is very much needed.

The Area on Aging Caregiver National Caregiver Support Program extends throughout each state to provide local services.

“The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP), established in 2000, provides grants to States and Territories, based on their share of the population aged 70 and over, to fund a range of supports that assist family and informal caregivers to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.”

Medicare’s website offers education and resources for caregivers offered through Medicare.

“Medicare toolkit offers informational resources that can be printed directly from this Web site and provided to caregivers. The resources are designed to help caregivers address challenging issues and work effectively with Medicare to ensure their family members and friends receive the best possible care.”

Whether it is senior centers, local church groups or community groups that reach out with hands-on support; volunteers are found in every community. Private care providers can also help caregivers with the day-to-day responsibilities, enabling them to have time to spend on their own needs. There are large numbers of Home Care companies across the nation that provide medical and non-medical care as needed by the family caregiver.

Whether it is senior centers, local church groups or community groups that reach out with hands-on support; volunteers are found in every community. Private care providers can also help caregivers with the day-to-day responsibilities, enabling them to have time to spend on their own needs. There are large numbers of Home Carecompanies across the nation that provide medical and non-medical care as needed by the family caregiver.

The National Care Planning Council of which I’m a member provides a website of resources for caregivers.

National Care Planning Council and our web site ““, the most comprehensive resource for Eldercare (Senior Care) and Long Term Care Planning anywhere.”

Become a Member of the National Care Planning Council

Join the NCPC

Seniors and caregivers search online everyday for eldercare services and frequently find our web site. Last year, averaged over 60,000 unique visits per month. We have become an important resource for people looking for help.

We invite you to become a member of the NCPC. Your membership will include an advertising listing(s) on our site, your own personal sales (web) page, and access to the member section.

Eldercare Services

Long Term Care

The National Care Planning Council is dedicated to helping the American public with senior care and long term care planning. Use the following link to locate eldercare services & help in your area.

Some of these services include Care Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Funeral Planning, Home Care, Medicaid Planning, Placement, Reverse Mortgage, and Veterans Benefits.

Books on Eldercare, Veterans Benefits, and Long Term Care for Seniors

The National Care Planning Council is a leader in providing books on timely subjects for long term care planning. Below are five of our popular books.

How to Apply for the Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefit

The Aid & Attendance Handbook for Professionals & Consultants

The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning

Protect Assets from Nursing Home Costs: Medicaid Secrets

Veterans Benefits Consultants Package

National Care Planning Council

  • The National Care Planning Council and its affiliated members are dedicated to helping families recognize the need for long term care planning and to helping implement that planning. Integrity, honesty, and a genuine concern for those who are in need of (or may need) long term care are at the heart of our services.
  • Our Statement of Purpose:
  • (1) To promote a public awareness of the need for long term care planning(2) To provide materials to educate the public on how to plan for long term care(3) To provide support to member eldercare experts who help the public plan for long term care

    (4) To promote the services and expertise of our members

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