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Stay at Home Solutions blogs on topics such as aging in place, universal design, adaptive equipment, home modifications, accessibility, durable medical equipment, legislation, and caregiving.

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Am I Really A Caregiver?

Foreword: I originally published this article in July and thought that it needed another go round on the blog. If you help out a family member, read below and see if you qualify as a caregiver. (More than likely, you probably do!) I want you to know that there are resources available to help you!

Recently, a therapist friend of mine brought up the fact that caregivers do not realize they are caregivers. My mind was blown! She was totally right. It reminded me how I used to not see myself as a caregiver to my grandparents. On a professional level, I have worked with family members in nursing homes who did not see themselves as caregivers. Lots of people do not perceive themselves as caregivers!

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It seems like when people think about caregiving they imagine a kind nurse helping a sick, frail patient with some sort of self care task, like getting dressed or taking medicine. Or people think that a caregiver is a parent raising a child. Both thoughts about caregivers are correct, but let me tell you, the definition of a caregiver expands way past physically helping a person with the intimate parts of everyday life.

I talk about caregivers all the time in my blog, videos, and with clients and their families. It is long overdue for me to break down what a caregiver actually does!

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Pexels

A caregiver is a family member, friend, or paid professional that helps a person with activities of daily living. I understand that is a broad definition, but let me explain. Activities of daily living refer not only to self care tasks like toileting, bathing, grooming, etc., but they also refer to taking care of the home, finances, transportation, community errands, using a telephone, and so on and so on.

If you just sit for a minute and actually think about all of the seemingly small things you do a day, than you will realize that some people need help with all of those things you take for granted. Let me tell you about my first hour of a normal day. I get out of bed, put on my glasses, make the bed, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, let the dog out, make breakfast, eat breakfast, and walk the dog. For each one of those tasks, I could go into even more detail about what I do.

There are some people who need help with every single one of those things that I do in the first hour of the day! My first hour of the day consists of my personal needs and taking care of my dog. If someone helped me with any of those things, they would be my caregiver. Is your mind blown yet?

My personal experience as a caregiver started many years ago with my wonderful grandparents. My grandmother, Granny, would ask me to help out with tasks around the house like changing the light bulbs, taking down the attic fan cover, and carrying the laundry basket up from the basement for her. (By the way, all of those things are caregiving activities!) I did not see myself as a caregiver. I saw myself as helping Granny out! I actually cherished going to my grandparent’s house and reading my list of to do’s. In my mind, that’s what you do for your family: you help your family whenever they need something.

Over time, my grandparents asked for more help around the house and going out in the community. I loved our new weekly ritual of picking them up and driving to the grocery store. Granny would chit chat with the store employees at the front of the store and at checkout. We would take our time walking the aisles while Granny asked me to reach for the products she wanted. I would push the cart and Grandpa helped me load and unload the groceries into the car and house. All of us worked at a furious pace to put the groceries away, “Hurry! The ice cream will melt!”  We ended our grocery run at the dining room table eating donuts and drinking coffee or cappuccino and catching up with each other over the past week. I had no idea that my role as a caregiver would continue to grow.

Eventually, my caregiving responsibilities included managing my grandparent’s medication and finances. I used to work as a pharmacy technician while in school, so it seemed a natural fit for me to make sure their medications were refilled and placed in their weekly medication organizer. Granny trusted me with balancing her checkbook every week and Grandpa knew I would pay the bills as soon as they came in the mail. I always made sure to do the bills and medication how they wanted to give them peace of mind.

The increase in caregiving tasks came with more time spent with my grandparents at their house. My mother and I split caregiving duties to even the load and allow us to attend to other parts of our lives, like work and school. Mom would take my grandparents to doctor’s appointments, the nail salon, the hair salon, and other errands. My grandparents were lucky enough to qualify for a personal care attendant through one of the county’s senior services programs who helped with laundry, cooking, and cleaning the house. We were fortunate to have a team of caregivers for Granny and Grandpa!

Towards the end of Granny’s life, she was able to do many of her self care tasks such as dressing, toileting, bathing, brushing teeth. Sometimes Mom helped Granny put her curlers in her hair in the evening before bed due to Granny’s arthritis in her shoulders. Granny called us when she felt sick and we would give her medicine and contact her doctor. When she passed suddenly in 2016, I felt my world shift. Of course, I missed my role as a granddaughter to Granny, but I also missed my role as a caregiver to her. I loved how Granny was my caregiver when I was a child, and I was able to be a caregiver to her in the last part of her life.

In a way, my role as a caregiver to Grandpa has greatly reduced as well. After Granny passed, Grandpa needed physical help with self care tasks in addition to taking care of the house. Grandpa now requires at least two people to help with sitting and standing during his activities of daily living 24 hours a day. Because of Grandpa’s needs for more help, he now lives in a long term care facility where the nursing staff provides the care he needs. Now, my role is back to being his granddaughter. We still continue our tradition of cappuccino and donuts every Sunday while we visit together.

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I hope my personal experience as a caregiver allows you to see your role as a caregiver to others. Do you take out your neighbor’s trash? Do you mow your uncle’s lawn? Do you show your grandma how to take a selfie or post on Facebook? Do you take down your mom’s curtains to be washed? Guess what? You’re a caregiver.

As a fellow caregiver, I salute you. Caregiving is an unpaid, invisible, incredibly important job that almost all of us do and are not recognized. Caregiving is one of the hardest experiences we encounter as human beings. It demands patience and dedication to our loved ones or people we provide services to. I would like to end this article giving you a few resources because I want to make your life easier, friend!

Here are a couple of short videos to brighten your day and show you some caregiving tips: 3 Free Tips for Millennial Caregivers, How to Install a Motion Sensor Light.

Click on these links to learn how to help yourself as a caregiver: Alzheimer's Association, AARP, Caregiver Action Network, and National Alliance for Caregiving

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day! Time is precious when you help a loved one! Please comment down below with any caregiving tips you would like to share!

Seven Tips to Make Your Home Friendly for the Holidays!
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Pexels

During this time of the month, most people are starting to plan for Thanksgiving. Do you find yourself with the luxury (or the curse) of hosting the Thanksgiving meal?

Whatever your perspective, there’s no doubt there’s excitement over the holiday!  

We all spend time with our loved ones. The people who bring meaning to our lives. It may be family and friends gathering in our homes or families of choice.

The point is this: whoever’s coming over probably means a great deal to you.

So in addition to putting up pretty fall decorations and dreaming about cooking and baking, I need to bring up an important factor for consideration in your holiday bliss. Older adults often have a difficult time moving around in other people’s houses.

Sad, but true.

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I’m sure you’ve seen Grandma struggle to step up the two stairs into your front door. Great Uncle Tito tripped on your hallway rug and accidentally kicked your Maltese who happens to look like he blends into the carpet.

We don’t want our loved ones to encounter holiday hazards in our home! The idea of someone needing medical attention on Thanksgiving may strike fear deep into the heart of every host or hostess! Unfortunately, I have worked with quite a few clients who became injured while visiting their relative’s house.

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When I worked in nursing homes as an occupational therapist, I remember one particular client. She visited her granddaughter’s house for Thanksgiving and had a lovely evening with the family. As she went down the stairs from the front door to the driveway, she tripped and fell down the stairs resulting in a broken hip. This client rehabilitated in my facility and returned home. Astonishingly, this same client ended up coming back to rehabilitation because of an infection in the new hardware in her hip. She celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Day in rehab instead of at home with her family.

What can be done to prevent ruining this joyous time of year?! I’ve got seven simple tips to make your holidays visitor friendly for everyone!

1) Install more lighting at your main entrance. No matter what time you end up having Thanksgiving dinner, double check your lighting by your main entryway. My main entrance is the back door. We have motion sensor lights that easily light up our stoop, sidewalk, and driveway. Everyone can see!

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Pexels

Take a look at your main entryway. What lighting do you currently have? Are there spots that seem darker than others? Are the stairs well lit? If it’s dark while you’re reading this article, go outside right now! Take note of how comfortable you feel moving around the entryway with the current lighting situation. If you’re not comfortable, then something needs to be adjusted before your family comes on Thanksgiving!

Bonus tip: If you wanted to go above and beyond, install handrails on the right and left of stairs to help your family members feel confident in their balance.

2) No slipping on ice! Who knows what the weather will be like on Thanksgiving! If there is ice, take care of it right away with ice melt or kitty litter! Don’t let Aunt Rita skate into the house. She was never gifted in the sport of ice dancing to begin with.

3) Allow family members to wear their shoes inside the house for extra support and balance. Don’t be that person. You know, the one who thinks they have the cleanest carpets on the planet and absolutely cannot have people keep their shoes on. Thanksgiving is the day you let your older adult relatives wear their shoes while they teeter around in your house. Let it go! Your carpet can be cleaned and has no feelings if it’s injured!

4) Keep an armchair handy. Your squishy couch feels amazing. You sink into it at the end of a long, hard day. It’s so squishy you practically have to roll out of it!

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Well guess what Grandpa has to do to stand up from your squishy couch? He has to roll off of it too, but crawling on his hands and knees kills his joints! Offer your older adult relatives a firm armchair to easily sit down and stand up. You are maintaining their dignity and saving their arthritic joints!

5) Bathroom Tips! Hopefully, you have at least a half bathroom on the main floor. If not, give me a call. But at the very least please clear clutter on the bathroom floor. You don’t need to have a bathroom scale out (It’s Thanksgiving for Pete’s sake!). You don’t need a magazine rack. You don’t need a decorative pot in every corner. Please give your relatives room to safely maneuver while using the toilet!

Also, put toilet paper in reach (and extra on hand) so they don’t have the risk of falling off the john. Do you really want to go in the bathroom and rescue Nana from the floor?

6) Remove rugs in the house. I understand that you may need a rug for people to clean off their shoes. But do you REALLY need other rugs in the house? You’re the only person who knows where all of the rugs are. I can’t tell you how many rugs I’ve tripped on in other people’s houses because I was distracted! I’m not the only one!

7) Move Fido or Fluffy into a closed off part of the house. Although animals are a huge part of the family, they may be hard for your older relatives to notice.

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Help your relatives feel confident about coming to your house for Thanksgiving. It’s worth it to include these tips to prepare your home for guests to celebrate. This will make the visit more enjoyable for everyone! I am thankful every year for everyone gathering and leaving completely intact and non-injured.

If you have any questions on how to make your home visitable for your family, contact me. Please comment below on how you make it easy for your relatives to come visit during this special time of year!

Preparing for the Costs of Long-Term Care: Tips for Seniors
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Foreword:

The goal of Stay at Home Solutions is to do everything in our power to help you make changes in your home in order for you to live safely and independently for as long as you would like. However, the reality is sometimes “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, meaning that you can make as many changes as you would like to your home, but you may need 24 hour personal care that your family cannot help you with.

None of us like to think that we could end up in that situation. Since we are practical people, we like to share additional information on what else you can do to prepare yourself. Luckily, we found someone who enjoys helping people do the same.

Hazel Bridges is the creator of AgingWellness.org, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor and challenges herself and others to live life to the fullest. Hazel contributed the information below for you to make the best decisions for you!


Preparing for the Costs

of Long-Term Care: Tips for Seniors

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It’s important to plan for your long-term care needs even if you don't end up needing it. You can never be sure if an unexpected illness or accident will suddenly change your ability to care for yourself. Though Medicare is valuable to seniors, it provides little coverage for the extensive costs of long-term care. The best thing you can do is prepare for the possibility of long-term care while you’re still able to make important decisions and look into your funding options.

Know What Types of Costs to Expect:

There are three main options for long-term senior care: nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in-home care. According to A Place for Mom, a private room in an assisted living center costs about $90 per day while a private room in a nursing home costs $205 per day for the more intensive levels of care. In-home care costs anywhere from $112 to $192 per day, depending on the amount of time that care is required. If you have family members that can step in and help out, you can cut out some of the costs of in-home care. If you’re looking for the most affordable facility options, consider a care center in a non-urban area rather than one in the city.

Understand What Medicare and Medicaid Cover:

Long-term care services include assistance with daily living tasks such as dressing, cleaning and eating. Although Medicare can help seniors out with their required medical services, it does not cover any other aspects of long-term care. For example, Medicare covers doctor's visits, prescription drugs and hospital stays. It may also pay for a portion of the costs for short-term care in a certified nursing facility following a hospital admission, which can be helpful if you just need to recover from an accidental injury. Other than this, the program does not help with personal or long-term care services.

Unlike Medicare, Medicaid can help you cover some of the costs of long-term care, but only if you are low-income with few assets. Medicaid does pay for long-term care services in nursing homes and at home. However, states have different eligibility requirements and differ according to which services they cover.

Consider Funding Long-Term Care Yourself:

Of course, you are welcome to self-fund your long-term care if you have the means. This is a great way to avoid paying expensive premiums for insurance and have the flexibility to put your money exactly where you need it. However, this is difficult to do unless you have substantial savings built up or assets that can be liquidated. Selling your home can be a viable option if both you and your partner are moving out of the house. Before you sell, make sure you're up to date on the current home sale trends in your area. For example, homes in Smithville, Missouri have sold for an average of $215,000 in the last month.

Know About Your Insurance Options:

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According to Mariner Wealth Advisors, there are two main types of long-term care insurance. These are the stand-alone policy and life insurance with an accelerated death benefit rider. Stand-alone long-term care insurance covers the expenses that aren’t taken care of by either Medicare or Medicaid. This includes assisted living, nursing homes, and at-home care. However, if you don’t end up needing care, you don’t get any benefits from the insurance. On the other hand, a death benefit rider on a life insurance policy allows you to receive benefits if you end up needing care while any unused benefits will be paid to your beneficiaries. This type of policy is more flexible but tends to have higher premiums.

Many Americans' greatest fear about aging is requiring long-term care and not being able to pay for it. This is no surprise since costs can get as high as $100,000 to $250,000. Although government programs can be valuable to seniors requiring medical services, it's important that you make alternate plans to pay for possible long-term care needs in your future.


Afterword:

Although planning long-term care has its benefits, this can be a difficult topic to discuss between family members. No one enjoys thinking about the possibility of needing long-term care in the future. It’s easy to put this topic on the back burner.

Some tips to make long-term care planning easier include:

  1. Reflecting on what you want if you needed long-term care

  2. Identifying family and social supports

  3. Organizing information you gather to help you make sense of everything

In my experience, families who do talk about long-term care planning do not appear as stressed or frantic when their loved one needs it. They know what to do, where to go, and how it’s being funded. Peace of mind comes with planning your long-term care needs. It’s a lot of work, but consider the process as a gift to you and your family!