Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More Perspective on Sandwich Generation

Elizabeth at Gen Between commented on yesterday's post at her blog. I think we're all on the same page here.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

A Perspective on the Sandwich Generation

Mark Trost offers an interesting—and valid—point for Gen Sandwichers. A couple of his comments:

The middle ages of adulthood are the moments in our lives when it isn’t about us. It was about us while we were young. Our parents went without so that we didn’t have to do without. They sat on bleachers and folding chairs and in auditoriums while they watched as we participated. They offered us helping hands accompanied by claps and congratulations. And now it’s our turn to sit in waiting rooms and hospital rooms and bedsides while the situations are about them. And we must offer them helping hands of compassion, commiseration, and care.

And claims that we are busier in business than they were in their toils are absurd. Our generation isn’t the first to labor. Throughout all ages the soil was sown. The carcass was carried. The hoe was heaved. And yet the baby was fed and the dead were buried. It’s a sad commentary that we’ve blistered from movement and we’re now cautioned about basking in the sunshine.

A sandwich is an unfilling meal. A sandwich is about speed not substance. It’s a snack not sustenance. And a sandwich without bread is just a filling without foundation. We are building the foundation for a future generation. Our children are watching us as we tend for our responsibilities. Do we intend to offer them an example to emulate?

What are your thoughts?

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Physicians Will Limit Patients if Medicare Cuts Payments

The Medicare funding crisis is heating up. Increasingly, I’m reading reports that physicians will stop taking Medicare patients if the government cuts Medicare payments. According to a survey conducted by the American Medical Association, 60 percent of nearly 9,000 doctors said they would limit the number of new Medicare patients they'd accept if the scheduled 10 percent payment cut is not averted.

The survey also found that if the payment cut took effect:
More than two-thirds of the doctors responding would defer the purchase of needed information technology next year.

Half would reduce their staff.

Fourteen percent would "completely get out of patient care."

Under the Medicare law, payments to doctors are supposed to be reduced to balance increases in the volume of their services. But with doctors repeatedly threatening to reduce access for elderly and disabled patients, Congress has blocked the scheduled cut every year since 2002. Because of that, this year's payment cut is scheduled to be 10 percent. Over the next nine years, the AMA estimates that the reductions would total about 40 percent, even as doctors expect their costs to increase 20 percent.

I know that when I go to Mom’s medical appointments with her, the doctor is always in a hurry, more so than my physicians. He’ll give her five to ten minutes. That’s it. Then we have to make another appointment, which is difficult since I drive four hours to be there.

This problem is serious already, and will only get worse if the pending immigration bill passes. It’s estimated that plan will cost $1.2 trillion! And yet, we can’t provide care that has already been promised to our elderly. And Gen Sandwichers, don’t count on Medicare being there when we are eligible! It’ll be broke long before that.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

The Parent Conversation

A Newsweek article encourages Boomers to begin discussing care issues with their aging parents. According to an AARP survey,

nearly 70 percent of adult children have not talked to their parents about issues related to aging. Some children avoid this most intimate of conversations because they believe their parents don't want to talk. Others think they know what their parents want. And some simply don't want to face the very real truth that if you are lucky enough to have parents who live well into their senior years, chances are good that disease, injury, frailty, even loneliness, will affect a parent's well-being.

Dan Taylor has written an excellent book to promote this process. In “The Parent Care Conversation: Six Strategies for Dealing with the Emotional and Financial Challenges of Aging Parents” he discusses six types of conversations adult children need to have with their parents, and offers sample questions to get you started.

The Parent Care Conversation offers a step-by-step approach for families to follow that will enable them to develop workable plans of action. By first addressing the emotional aspects of long-term care that take into account the parents’ feelings and wishes, and then integrating the practical and financial components, this book can open the door for a critical exchange of information and honest discussion among adult children and their aging parents. Filled with factual information, useful tips, real-life stories, and practical exercises, The Parent Care Conversation provides a proactive and collaborative solution to the long-term care issues that eventually everyone must face.

Although I’ve had most of the conversations with my parents and have opened the door for any type of discussion, I appreciated his practical approach. And if it’s true that 70% of Boomers haven’t talked to their parents, this is a seriously needed book!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Managing Meds from a Distance

Want to know if your dad in another state or across the country has taken his pills? Does Mom need a reminder to take her meds? Here is a summary of smart pillboxes and how they can help Boomers keep track of the medications of their parents.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Caregiver Stress

Statistics from a recent survey indicate that more than three-fourths (76 percent) of the 8,000 family caregivers who took an online caregiver stress test reported that their aging loved one’s needs are overwhelming.

As more adults age well into their 80s and 90s, family members are taking on the role of caregiver. In fact, approximately 33.9 million people caring for someone 50 or older in the United States, according to a 2005 study by the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

While the job has its rewards, new evidence reveals a disturbing trend of debilitating stress for the estimated one in four Americans sandwiched between raising their kids, and Mom and Dad.

Responses gathered through the Home Instead Senior Care site also showed that 91 percent of family caregivers have episodes of feeling anxious or irritable, 73 percent have disturbed sleep patterns, and 56 percent seem to become ill more frequently.

Home Instead offers these caregiver survival tools:

Work out: Exercise and enjoy something you like to do (walking, dancing, biking, running or swimming) for a minimum of 20 minutes at least three times per week.

Sit still and breathe deeply with your mind as “quiet” as possible whenever you feel overwhelmed.

Ask for help: Enlist the help of other family members, friends and professional caregivers for assistance.

Take a break: Don’t feel guilty for wanting some time away. Use your support system so you can schedule breaks.

Eat well: Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins, including nuts and beans and whole grains.

Take care of yourself: Get your annual check-up. Being a caregiver provides many excuses for skipping necessary exams, but don’t compromise your health.

Indulge: Treat yourself to a foot massage, manicure, nice dinner out or a concert to reward yourself.

Support: Join a local caregiver support group to get advice and to help you understand that what you are feeling is normal.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Financial Power of Attorney

About a month ago I wrote about the problems of managing Mom’s finances with the durable power of attorney that we had. When I went to Mom’s this week, we met with her attorney and he added me to the trust as co-owner. He said he’s seeing more requests for this type of change as more financial institutions are requiring more than they used to. It was easy—just added my name, reprinted the page, and had it notarized. Our attorney doesn’t even charge for minor changes like this.

Of course, in order to do this, your parent will have to trust you implicitly, or as one of my commenter mentioned, not care. It’s a huge responsibility, but it will certainly make managing Mom’s finances easier.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Caring for Mom

I’m at Mom’s today. Came over for a follow-up doctor appointment. She had been having abdominal pain for months, and every visit the doctor would poke around and say he didn’t feel anything. Finally last visit he agreed to a CT scan to rule out any number of possible culprits. I know Mom was worried about it being something serious, so I drove over today to be with her—just in case.

The good news is that that CT was clear. No problems. So what’s causing the pain? The doctor thinks it’s probably adhesions from surgeries many, many years ago. The bad news is that there is nothing that can be done for those, so she will continue to live in pain.

I’m realizing that as she ages, there will be more and more that medicine can’t fix. Aches and pains that she will have to live with. She has terrible problems with her feet, and although she’s seeing a good podiatrist, there’s little he can do. She’s suffering from peripheral neuropathy, but again, what can be done?

I confess, I expect medicine to be able to fix and cure and make life better. The reality is that the older we become, the less likely it is to make a measurable difference.

I also think that with Mom there is a bit of the victim mentality. Although she says she doesn’t need me to come all the time, I think she is enough of a drama queen to make sure I have reasons to come back fairly regularly. She wants to be independent, but she also wants to know that someone cares.

I try to get her to exercise, which I think is perhaps the most effective thing she can do. Just keep moving. But she hates exercise—I knew I came by that dislike honestly! It’s so easy for her to procrastinate until it’s too late. Her mobile home park has a pool, so she should be able to get some good water aerobic exercise this summer—if she’s willing to change her clothes and drive to the pool… When I’m here we always go to the pool and she always admits it feels good. But if no on is here to push, she’s too tired… I still haven’t learned to motivate her.

I spent the evening filling out forms for insurance, change of beneficiaries, change of title, and all the other legal mumbo jumbo that we have to do. The good news is that I think we got it all done. At least the pile she had saved for me. Tomorrow we’ll meet with the attorney again and do more paperwork, and then it’s home for a busy weekend.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Protecting Parents From Telephone SCAMS

Eldercare has another article reminding Boomers to remind their parents to not give out personal information. Telephone scams abound and the elderly are ripe for pickin’. I know it gets old, but tell ‘em again.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

In Search of The Perfect Caregiver

Do you ever feel inadequate as you care for your aging parents? The writer at A Blog of Thinking Allowed ponders the question of how to make a wise decision in the midst of uncertainty and indecision, knowing that whatever we decide, it will never be (or seem) good enough.

At some point you will have to make a decision that is only the best of choices. There might not be a “good” choice available. Odds are, your parent will reach a point when no decision you make will be satisfactory to him/her! If they already had a habit of disapproving your actions, it will be an even tougher path. If they are also in denial about the level of care they need, it will oft times feel like the parent-child roles have been reversed. It’s almost too easy to fall into the scenario of them stomping their feet that they don’t want to, and you, stomping your feet that you don’t want to either but have to!

Do your best. Give a good effort. Make the decisions that are foisted upon you. Then step back and tell yourself, “You’re doing a good job.”

Boy can I relate to this! I have felt for the past two years that I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know how to do it. Every decision seems to be a new one. Few problems have “good” answers—just the better of two “not-so-good” answers. I grow weary of the task of parenting my parent, especially given the prospect the it won’t get better—only more complex. The perfectionist in me wants to do it right. After all, the stakes are high. But I seldom feel that I’m scoring above a C+.

So, each day I can simply do my best. Give an effort. Make the decisions I have to make with the best information available at the time. And then tell myself I’m doing a good job. Sort of like raising kids, isn’t it?

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