Barbara's Blog

Leave a comment:

Browse Blog Archives (By category)

Caregiving Advice & Tips
Depression in the Elderly

Depression is often viewed by the elderly as a character flaw. It is an illness that requires recognition and treatment. A common misconception regards depression as just a part of normal aging, but that is not the case. The elderly have only a 1-5% (1) higher incident than the normal population.

It is certainly understandable for the elderly to have periods of sadness because they have experienced the deaths of friends, decreased health, moving from the family home, anxiety about the future, evaluating the past and questioning their legacy. “Younger people think that retirement will be easy with not having the stress of work and family commitments, but often senior citizens have depression that is caused by losses of independence, health, and relationships. Additionally, it is magnified by the isolation and loss of social supports.” (2)

Adult children caregivers often ask the wrong question. “Are you depressed?” is not helpful because the elderly do not recognize the symptoms. They also do not want to admit they have a problem and may also be very private about expressing feelings. More direct and specific questions are needed.

-What did you do for fun today?
-What did you eat for lunch?
-How are you sleeping?
-What are your plans for this week?

Some of the symptoms of depression in anyone at any age, including the Adult Child Caregiver, are:

-Avoiding activities that were once fun and enjoyable
-Stopping being social – isolation
-Avoiding leaving the house
-Losing interest in food – nutrition, hydration
-Having problems sleeping
-Experiencing a change in mood or personality
-Being anxious, suspicious, irritable, or having unusual behaviors
-Contemplating suicide

There are many safe and effective treatment options available. A healthcare professional who specializes in eldercare can prescribe the correct medication and determine the best dosage. Because the elderly have many other illnesses and medications, it is very important to explore the best ways to treat the depression through medicine, change of life style, change of think, and more.

Caregivers are often so busy just getting all the tasks done that are associated with Mom and Dad, that there is little opportunity to assess all the components (aspects) of parent’s lives. Assess all of Mom’s and Dad’s needs so everyone knows what assistance they need. Take time to fill out an objective Needs Assessment Checklist which should include: Finances, Personal Care, Transportation, General Health, Medications, Doctor Appointments, Memory, Emotional Status, and Household Chores. (3)

There are activities that can help alleviate sadness or depression. Whether one is the caregiver or the next door neighbor, everyone can “Just say ‘Hello’”. Oprah started this project when she was informed about isolation and its significance to the well being of all people. Humans are very social beings, and need interaction, hugs, and eye contact. Everyone can make a difference in an elder’s life by just saying “hello” and encouraging them participate by themselves or with others…

-Attend events at local senior center, social club, or church
-Exercise, take a walk, garden
-Reconnect with old friends
-Start a new hobby or revisit old ones
-Volunteer
-Collect coupons to area restaurants
-Eat healthy
-Care for a pet
-Turn on the music
-Watch a funny movie
-Read

Depression and the early signs of dementia may look similar. Jumping to the conclusion that Mom has Alzheimer’s because she seems distracted or depressed is a normal conclusion because of all the attention given to dementias. There are however many other illnesses that look like dementia such as UTI, mourning, vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, dehydration, drug interactions and other treatable diagnoses including depression. Obtaining a complete and thorough check-up and a diagnosis are essential in determining the undying cause of the depression. Depression can be treated. Mom can feel better and reclaim her life!

(1) https://www.cdc.gov/aging/mentalhealth/depression.htm
(2) Donald O. Mack, MD CMD, association professor, The Ohio State Medical Center
(3) A complete list is available in Before Things Fall Apart: the essential workbook on caring for Mom and Dad at www.BarbaraMcVicker.com

Barbara's Blog
Are You Part of the Sandwich Generation?

Are you part of the Sandwich Generation? Most people think of this term as being specific to one particular generation, but it really crosses several generations. You might be in your late 30’s or even in your 60’s and find yourself “Stuck in the Middle” of kids, career, and taking care of aging parents.

Caregiving aging parents is a marathon, not a sprint! We underestimate the obligation of caregiving. Many adult children step up to be the primary hands-on caregiver having no idea of the length of time, the physical and emotional exhaustion, or the financial impact involved. We often feel stressed and overwhelmed because we not only have too much to do, but also too many people demanding too much of us.

In many ways you become the CEO of a very small assisted living facility… juggling multiple health care providers, appointments, services and support staff, hiring and directing care workers, providing transportation and food, managing insurance bills, and administering medications while still trying to be their child. Chronic care maintenance is very complicated, and you do not have the training for all these tasks and issues.

So you think you can burn the candle at both ends—do it ALL! That might work for some months, but you could be caring for your parents almost as long as you spent raising your kids. At a recent workplace Lunch-N-Learn the presenter asked the audience what was the most surprising aspect of caregiving. One man raised his hand and said “The Time!” Someone else exclaimed that it was the financial support. Caregivers are stuck between tuition for kids, funding your own retirement, and providing financial support for your parents.

Often you feel alone, isolated, and without support from your family. Even good families become dysfunctional when presented with the tasks of caregiving. Only 10% of primary caregivers feel that the responsibility of caregiving is equally distributed within the family.

Being a caregiver can be one of the most rewarding jobs, but also one of the hardest. If you are prepared it can be rewarding. If you are unprepared and struggling to understand all the caregiving issues involved, it can definitely be one of the hardest and most mentally and physically draining jobs of a lifetime. Many times the adult child caregiver is referred to as the Hidden Patient. Only 10% of the primary caregivers feel that the responsibility of caregiving is equally distributed within the family.

Most of the time people focus on the patient and not the caregiver. The adult child caregiver is the lynchpin in keeping Mom and Dad safe and well. Think about the flight attendant who stands at the front of the crowded airplane and addresses everyone, “Remember to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others around you”. This does not seem like something one would do in a crisis, but it really is the right action to take. If you are not breathing, how can you take care of others? I might also add, “Buckle up. You are in for a bumpy ride!” Take care of yourself…walk, read, soak, socialize, and breath.

Barbara McVicker is an author, national speaker, and PBS-TV special Stuck in the Middle: caring for Mom and Dad. For more tips and information visit www.BarbaraMcVicker.com.

Depression in the Elderly

Depression is often viewed by the elderly as a character flaw. It is an illness that requires recognition and treatment. A common misconception regards depression as just a part of normal aging, but that is not the case. The elderly have only a 1-5% (1) higher incident than the normal population.

It is certainly understandable for the elderly to have periods of sadness because they have experienced the deaths of friends, decreased health, moving from the family home, anxiety about the future, evaluating the past and questioning their legacy. “Younger people think that retirement will be easy with not having the stress of work and family commitments, but often senior citizens have depression that is caused by losses of independence, health, and relationships. Additionally, it is magnified by the isolation and loss of social supports.” (2)

Adult children caregivers often ask the wrong question. “Are you depressed?” is not helpful because the elderly do not recognize the symptoms. They also do not want to admit they have a problem and may also be very private about expressing feelings. More direct and specific questions are needed.

-What did you do for fun today?
-What did you eat for lunch?
-How are you sleeping?
-What are your plans for this week?

Some of the symptoms of depression in anyone at any age, including the Adult Child Caregiver, are:

-Avoiding activities that were once fun and enjoyable
-Stopping being social – isolation
-Avoiding leaving the house
-Losing interest in food – nutrition, hydration
-Having problems sleeping
-Experiencing a change in mood or personality
-Being anxious, suspicious, irritable, or having unusual behaviors
-Contemplating suicide

There are many safe and effective treatment options available. A healthcare professional who specializes in eldercare can prescribe the correct medication and determine the best dosage. Because the elderly have many other illnesses and medications, it is very important to explore the best ways to treat the depression through medicine, change of life style, change of think, and more.

Caregivers are often so busy just getting all the tasks done that are associated with Mom and Dad, that there is little opportunity to assess all the components (aspects) of parent’s lives. Assess all of Mom’s and Dad’s needs so everyone knows what assistance they need. Take time to fill out an objective Needs Assessment Checklist which should include: Finances, Personal Care, Transportation, General Health, Medications, Doctor Appointments, Memory, Emotional Status, and Household Chores. (3)

There are activities that can help alleviate sadness or depression. Whether one is the caregiver or the next door neighbor, everyone can “Just say ‘Hello’”. Oprah started this project when she was informed about isolation and its significance to the well being of all people. Humans are very social beings, and need interaction, hugs, and eye contact. Everyone can make a difference in an elder’s life by just saying “hello” and encouraging them participate by themselves or with others…

-Attend events at local senior center, social club, or church
-Exercise, take a walk, garden
-Reconnect with old friends
-Start a new hobby or revisit old ones
-Volunteer
-Collect coupons to area restaurants
-Eat healthy
-Care for a pet
-Turn on the music
-Watch a funny movie
-Read

Depression and the early signs of dementia may look similar. Jumping to the conclusion that Mom has Alzheimer’s because she seems distracted or depressed is a normal conclusion because of all the attention given to dementias. There are however many other illnesses that look like dementia such as UTI, mourning, vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, dehydration, drug interactions and other treatable diagnoses including depression. Obtaining a complete and thorough check-up and a diagnosis are essential in determining the undying cause of the depression. Depression can be treated. Mom can feel better and reclaim her life!

(1) https://www.cdc.gov/aging/mentalhealth/depression.htm
(2) Donald O. Mack, MD CMD, association professor, The Ohio State Medical Center
(3) A complete list is available in Before Things Fall Apart: the essential workbook on caring for Mom and Dad at www.BarbaraMcVicker.com

Searching for someone who truly understands

I recently received an email from a lady who was searching for someone who really understands the challenges of caregiving elderly parents. It was sad that her parents were her greatest supporters, her cheerleaders while growing up, and now they are not capable of telling her those encouraging words. She misses that so much.

After she looked through my website she thought that the 2 most important items to her were (1) to have a network and (2) for parents to share their information with their children. I personally would add that caregiving impacts all 3 generations.

She goes on to say, “As one doctor has said to me - it is like a marathon…however, I would call it more like a triathlon – Ironman. Also, it feels like a rite of passage. This time in my life has been extremely challenging. Most of my peers (including my husband) have not been through this, so, it has made me feel lonely at times. Not to mention you are faced with figuring out who you really are. You are taken away from the life you consider “normal” with the hopes that you will be able to come back to it again – living in a little fear and knowing you will most likely not have that “normal” feeling again.

Please feel free to email me directly your comments so I might share your insights with others. Barbara@BarbaraMcVicker.com

Video
Sandwich Generation (Video)

Many Baby Boomers find themselves “stuck in the middle” caring for elderly parents, taking care of their own kids, and maybe working full-time. Barbara McVicker presents 5 advice tips for coping with caring for your parents.

Oxygen Mask (Video)

The adult child who is doing most of the caring for elderly mom and dad is often running on empty. Caregivers many times do not take care of themselves. As the airline attendant states at the beginning of each flight… “First take care of yourself so you can then attend to those around you”.

Only Children (Video)

In the middle of caregiving aging parents, is it better to be an only child or have siblings? I often ask my audiences and they just start to laugh. Even good families become dysfunctional in the middle of caregiving!

Order Barbara's books and videos online.
Sign up for Barbara’s Free Weekly Tips

I am interested in these topics:
Interested in having Barbara speak to your group about eldercare?