Helpful tips for family caregivers
Summertime! In this issue we help you with thoughts for reviewing financial documents and tips for activities when family comes visiting. We also continue our series about preventing injury and loss of independence as a result of a fall. Share this newsletter with a caregiving friend.
Are financial documents up to date?
If your loved one has created a will or living trust, you can breathe a big sigh of relief. These documents clarify who will get what after your relative passes away.
But life is always changing. Periodically you should review the following:
Who is in charge of distributing the assets? In a living trust, this might be called the "trustee." In a will, it is the "executor." Is the person named still the most appropriate person for the job?
What if the trustee or executor has become unable to fulfill the distribution duties? He or she might have moved or might be ill. It's wise to be sure that an alternate is named to address that possibility.
Are all the current assets included? For instance, has Mom sold the house and downsized her living arrangements since Dad passed away? Have there been any new purchases or sales of inheritable property? Whose name is on the title or deed(s)?
Are all the accounts listed? From bank accounts to investment plans, it's wise to have them all noted in one central place.
Is the list of beneficiaries current? Who is to receive what in terms of financial assets? What about personal belongings with sentimental meaning?
Is the list of charitable contributions accurate? With the passage of time, your loved one's interests may have changed.
You should consult with an elder law attorney when family or financial circumstances change. Death of a spouse or key caregiving family member, diagnosis of a serious illness, marriages, divorces, or a new birth in the family are important triggers. So are sales or purchases of major assets. It is especially important to have an elder law attorney review legal documents if your loved one is considering application for Medicaid, veterans benefits, or long-term care.
At a minimum, estate plans should be reviewed every five years.(Return to top)
Easy activities with guests
Summer is often a time when relatives take advantage of good weather to come from afar to visit an ailing loved one. They might not be prepared for all the changes that have happened since the last visit. You may wish to read our article about making the most of family visits. It offers tips for setting expectations and maintaining routines.
Beyond preparing the emotional stage, it's nice to have some special activities planned. Here are some simple options to consider:
Look at old photograph books together. Listen to stories. Make a small project of writing the names of key people on the back of photos.
Draw a family tree. Your loved one may or may not remember all the branches. But you can have many hours of interesting conversation learning what he or she knows about long-lost relatives. You may not have many opportunities left to explore this aspect of your family history.
Enjoy a pet or other animal. If there is a household pet, spend some cuddly time with the animal and ask your loved one to tell stories. Even just stroking the pet or watching it eat can bring out moments of tenderness and wonder. Consider a field trip to a local dog park. Dogs are naturally joyous. Bring some lawn chairs, find some shade, and laugh together as the dogs frolic and chase.
Put together a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes talking can be wearing. But a quiet camaraderie builds when a puzzle is pieced together over several days. A shared purpose and gentle concentration on the pieces can bring soothing moments of comfortable silence.
Visits to a sick or ailing loved one are about making memories together. If you keep activities simple and adjust them to your relative's abilities that day and that hour, you can indeed make this a summer to remember.(Return to top)
Reducing the risk of falls
One-third of older adults who live at home fall at least once each year. That makes falls the leading cause of injury for elders. The most severe consequences include injuries that can be life changing: a traumatic brain injury or broken hip. These can lead to the need to move to a setting with more assistance.
Your relative is considered “high risk” for falling if he or she has fallen twice in the past year, has balance or gait problems, or has just had a severe fall.
To be safe, ask your family member’s doctor to do a "fall risk assessment." This includes a review of
- underlying medical conditions. Many chronic diseases affect balance and mobility.
- the home environment. The doctor can write an order for an occupational therapist or other trained professional to do a home assessment. (You might also review the tips offered in our article about making your home safer.)
- medication use. Some types of drugs, or daily use of four or more prescription drugs, increase the risk for falling.
Encourage your relative to get more exercise. Exercise has been shown to reduce fall risk. Check with the doctor to see if your loved one should start by working with a physical therapist. Otherwise, recommended activities include
- balance exercises three times a week. For instance, walking backwards, walking sideways, and standing from a sitting position.
- strength-training exercises twice a week. Usually this involves lifting weights of some kind. Think in terms of strengthening legs, back, chest, and arms.
- aerobic exercises. Moderate-intensity exercise causes the heart and lungs to work harder. This is important for increasing stamina. It also helps build muscle tone. Although the recommendation of 30 minutes five days a week can seem like a lot, that can be spread out in 10 minute intervals two or three times a day.
In November 2012, Senior Solutions merged with Morningstar Senior Living to join two companies that have similar histories and visions to be able to provide even more services to seniors. The business is known as Senior Solutions Home Care and Care Management. Our staff and services remain the same.
Please Note: Senior Solutions does not specifically endorse the activities of any organizations mentioned here, but offers their information as a sample of the kinds of materials and services that are available.
"Good thing we met with the elder law attorney. There were some changes in the tax laws that made a big difference for Dad's trust."