Caregiving in Retirement? You’re Not Alone.

Written by James Fleming

Many seniors who invest time in planning and saving for retirement often think about their own longevity and incorporating money into the mix for long-term care they might need down the line. Instead of requiring your own care, however, have you thought about what you would do if you became a caregiver in retirement?

How Many Seniors are Caregivers?

For many seniors in their “golden years”, caring for a family member like a spouse or parent, is a very real and prevalent situation. In fact, the latest report from the National Caregiving Alliance and AARP shares that 34 percent of caregivers in the U.S. are 65 years of age or older. Older caregivers often devote more hours of care to their loved one than the average caregiver, often because it is a parent or spouse with whom they live.

Caregiving duties can range from managing prescription refills and providing transportation to appointments, to more skilled nursing care like administering medicine, changing dressings, and assisting with ADLs. Activities of daily living (or ADLs) include personal tasks like bathing, getting dressed, using the toilet, eating, and transferring out of bed or into a chair.

Over one-third of caregivers in the U.S. specifically provide care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. For senior caregivers, this ratio is even higher as older adults (like spouses and parents) are much more likely to develop dementia as they age.

In addition to performing typical caregiving duties, caregivers of an older adult with Alzheimer’s also manage a unique emotional toll that comes with watching a loved one lose their basic faculties, memory, and so forth. A large percentage of seniors with Alzheimer’s experience “sundowning” where they exhibit signs at the end of the day including irritability, confusion, and aggression. This can be exceptionally challenging for caregivers.

Tips for Retired Caregivers

While caregiving does provide fulfillment and a sense of purpose to people who have the means and capabilities of being able to provide care for a loved one, it can also be a physical, emotional, and financial burden which sidelines your retirement dreams. If you have taken on the role as caregiver in retirement, keep these tips in mind:

Ask for Help
Are you worried about being a burden on your own friends, kids, or siblings? If you are caring for a spouse or parent and experiencing age-related health issues yourself, the caregiving role can seem even more daunting. Asking for help is tough, however, it is necessary. Instead of hiding the extent of your loved one’s condition, be willing to share it and ask for help.

It can be hard for people outside of the caregiving bubble to understand how they might assist you so request help with specific tasks, i.e. “Can you bring dinner over on Wednesday?” or “Can you stop by the pharmacy and pick up your Mom’s medicine this afternoon?”.

Listen and Learn

Caregiving is as much about getting educated as it is about physical tasks. Learning about your loved one’s condition and training with nurses at the doctor’s office or via home health will go a long way in equipping you with the knowledge and skills to make caregiving easier (and boost your loved one’s quality of life). Not sure where to start? Try:

  • Looking online at high-quality medical information and caregiving sites like MayoClinic.org, Health.Harvard.edu, and DailyCaring.com
  • Writing a list of questions and concerns before each doctor’s appointment that you can take with you and add notes
  • Searching for caregiving classes at your local hospital, Council on Aging, or senior assistance organization.

Practice Self-care
Easier said than done, sure, but self-care is a must as a caregiver. Caregiving is often linked to chronic stress which can manifest itself in a multitude of physical and mental symptoms including headaches, back pain, digestion issues, and depression. Self-care can range from activities like taking a daily walk for exercise to getting a massage, practicing yoga, having friends over for dinner, or taking a relaxing bath before bed.

Local respite services may offer some relief as well, allowing you to take a break from caregiving temporarily to relax and reset. See if there are adult daycare programs available near you or if local resources offer longer-stay respite services (i.e. for a whole week).

Additional Thoughts

The financial burden associated with caregiving can seriously impact retirement savings as well especially if you develop health issues yourself as a result of caregiving. Look into long-term care insurance, set aside enough money to hit prescription plan deductibles each year, update life insurance policies, and make sure you have all your legal documents in place including financial and healthcare powers of attorney. A little forethought goes a long way!

Affordable Ways to Increase Mobility

Written by Becky Wilcox

Do you have problems with mobility? Maybe a stroke or accident has left you with some balance or strength issues, or maybe severe pain or arthritis has been holding you back from getting around the way you used to. If so, you’ve likely been looking at assistive devices to help you get through your daily tasks. One thing is for certain, many high-quality power wheelchairs and lift chairs are priced accordingly, while most of them are not covered under most major insurance plans. So the next step is finding ways to fit a power chair or other piece of durable medical equipment into your budget. Here are a few ways to avoid breaking the bank.

Saving on Your Own or Using a Payment Plan

If you’ve found a scooter or power chair that you really like, the next thing you need to figure out is how to pay for it. Because insurance generally doesn’t cover motorized power scooters and wheelchairs, you’ll have to finance it on your own. To make it easier to save up the money you need, try using an online budgeting software program to help you tag and organize your monthly funds. This will allow you to save specifically for your power chair or other out of pocket health expense. You can start saving but that may take months to get the amount you need, but there is another option. The good news is that most power chair and scooter companies offer flexible payment plans and they accept credit cards. This allows you to make monthly payments that won’t break your budget. If you choose in-house financing option through the power chair company, you can avoid placing the purchase on a credit card. Ask your power chair company what type of financing they offer and if you can obtain a fair interest rate based on your credit rating and their loan criteria for new customers.

Contacting a Home Health Agency

If you feel like you have limitations on your mobility or you’re unable to meet your ADLs, or activities of daily living, consider home health care. Initially, you’ll have to talk to your doctor about your health care needs and then get a referral for home health care. From there, the agency will come to your home and assess your needs. They may help you with things like:

* Showering and bathing

* Preparing food and meals

* Running errands for household items and driving you to doctors appointments

* Perform routine household chores

* Dressing and assisting with transferring from chair to standing

* Other personal care and toileting

A healthcare professional will be able to analyze your situation and find out if you qualify for any DME, or durable medical equipment, to assist you around the home. In some cases, these items, such as a walker, handrails and shower chair may be covered under your insurance. If not, a home health care may offer these items free of charge to help assist you around the house.

Looking for Used Items

If you’re in need of a power chair or scooter to help assist with daily living, one way to cut back on costs may be to find used items. Many power scooters are available locally through DME companies or sold by public sellers. In many cases, you can obtain these items at well below retail costs, depending on their condition. If you’re in need of a bargain, you may want to shop local classifieds or contact the manufacturer directly for used or refurbished power transportation.

Making Your Home Handicap Accessible

Making life easier if you have some limitations means making your home as accessible as possible. One place to start is with a wheelchair ramp. This type of ramp is not just for wheelchairs, but for power chairs and scooters as well. This makes it easier to get in and out without having to worry about leaving the machine outdoors. Widening your doorways is another way to make your power chair or scooter accommodate you throughout the home. The problem with that is it can be expensive to completely remodel your home. If you can’t obtain a second mortgage or personal loan to pay a contractor, reach out to local community agencies for possible assistance. Many charity organizations have funds set aside for low-income individuals who are struggling with household updates. Keep in mind that if you do qualify, you may be put on a waiting list to receive assistance.

No matter what your physical limitations are, know that there are devices and accessories available to help make your life a little easier. All it takes a little budgeting to access the machine or device that’s right for you.

A Reason to Get Out of Bed

Sometimes nothing feels better than lying safely tucked in bed under those snuggly warm covers. Peacefully content in the moment you savor a nirvana like freedom from all responsibility. Let the world run its course – you are having no part of it. And if you are one of those lucky retired folk you have the option to enjoy your down time for as long as you want. No job draws you away, no children require dressing, no time sensitive projects burden the calendar. In many ways it is a wonderful thing.

After five years adjusting to and learning to appreciate my retirement I savor my option to rise and shine or remain in place. The best thing about it is I am the decider. I need not get to it until I am good and ready. I do find it interesting that while “on the job” I typically struggled to get started in the morning. Perhaps it was what lay ahead that sucked the motivation right out of my bones. These days I find I am ready to go earlier and easier than ever. Even with nothing on the agenda I cannot resist the sunshine calling me to welcome the new day. Sleeping in these days means seven am. With so much out there I just want to get to it!

Not all retirements are the same. Retirees can find it challenging to get a move on when the new day rings in. With nothing that must be done they lack motivation to do anything. The responsibilities and recognition that came with the job are no more. In its place remains a void, an emptiness some find hard to fill. If your work identity defines who you are, what happens when you no longer have a job?

Now throw into the mix the effects of aging on body and psyche. A tiring yesterday can put a drag on today. Back and knees, neck and elbows – not all of our parts are necessarily excited about participating in a new dawn. Sometimes it takes extra effort to roll out of the sack. Sometimes it feels like just too much.

Why leave the safety and comfort of bed?

We have been watching an entertaining series called Alone where a group of ten people are dropped in the wilderness of Vancouver Island to survive on their own. As things become overwhelming participants tap out and are picked up by boat. The last one standing wins a cool half million dollars. For most of the numerous physical challenges such as bears, cougars, hunger, and cold, the survivors seem pretty well prepared. What ends up causing the most distress and eventually drives individuals to call it quits is the loneliness, the lack of companionship and specifically missing family.

As one season comes to an end the daughter of the winner suddenly appears on camera and sneaks up to surprise her dad. The intense hug that follows as the two silently embrace is a real tear jerker. If the participants learned nothing else each returned home with a new respect and appreciation for their spouse and family. I like to think they will carry these memories forever to help sustain the love they so missed while in the bush.

Getting out of bed is not always just about you. Think about all those who are impacted by what you say and do. Perhaps an aging parent waits in hopeful anticipation for your evening call. A daughter may benefit from your insights in regards to her current life situation. What of that solemn neighbor who lights up when he sees your smiling face. And what spouse wants to regularly find you still in bed after she/he has gotten under way.

I am a list person. As I tell my wife, if something gets on the list it gets done. Creating a list the night before might provide a little incentive to get up and start the next day. The contents do not have to be complex – just putting it in writing can help trigger action.

Sometimes all it takes is a little thing to inspire your start. If I am in the middle of a good book I am often ready to follow where the plot will take me. Changes in the season often require your attention in the garden or about the house. A jigsaw puzzle may call to you as its secret unfolds under your skilled hands.

Even if no specific chore or activity or inspiration requires your attention, starting with a positive outlook can kick you into gear. If you hope for good things to happen you are more inclined to launch the day. If your curiosity stirs to discover what may be around the bend you look forward to a new day. If you believe future moments might hold some special significance you may find yourself more anxious to get started.

I like to think each new day has new potential. How exactly that will look I cannot guess. But I know the best way to find out is to get outta bed and see for myself.

LoveBeingRetired.com