The Perfect Holiday Caregiver: It’s all a state of mind

The holidays are always a wonderful time of year for family gatherings, reflection on what we have and the spirit of giving. The television is packed with specials showing relationships and families coming together for the holidays.

But the holidays can also be a time of stress and sadness for those who are caring for family members that are struggling with health problems, frailty, dementia and loss. Those who care for these individuals may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed or resentful as they watch “perfect” families enjoying the holidays. There are many surveys and documents that show that caregivers are highly susceptible to these feelings. If you are a caregiver, there are measures you can take to avoid this.

First; Remember, that you are not alone.

If you are new to caregiving or have been caring for someone for a very long time, remember that the perfect family on television is not reality for many Americans. You are not the only one with these challenges. A recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that 44.4 million Americans age 18 or older are providing unpaid care to an adult. In fact according to the survey provided by the National Family Caregivers Association:

• The typical caregiver is a 46-year-old Baby Boomer woman with some college education who works and spends more than 20 hours per week caring for her mother who lives nearby.
• Female caregivers provide more hours of care and provide a higher level of care than male caregivers.
• Almost seven in ten 69%) caregivers say they help one person.
• The average length of caregiving is 4.3 years.
• Many caregivers fulfill multiple roles. Most caregivers are married or living with a partner (62%), and most have worked and managed caregiving responsibilities at the same time (74%).

Second; Find help.

There are many resources available to a caregiver. Some of these include family members, friends, a local religious group, elder care agencies and homecare providers. The internet provides many great resources and help. The National Care Planning Council offers many articles, brochures and local referrals to help caregivers find the help that they need.

“When my husband’s stepfather was released from the hospital in December of 2009, he called us to give him a ride home. Once he was home, we quickly realized that he was not able to care for himself at all. He lived alone and we found ourselves driving back and forth three or four times a day to assist all of his needs. It was overwhelming and frightening to suddenly become a caregiver to a man we weren’t even that close to. With my husband working full time days, I became his primary caregiver. I would pack up my two little girls every day to come with me to take him to the doctor, do his laundry and feed him his meals, do his grocery shopping and help him with his bills. I had no idea what his finances were like or how to pay his medical bills. He was too sick to care or even understand what I was saying to him. I quickly realized I was going to have to find help. First I called his children. They were sympathetic, but gave all kinds of excuses as to why they could not help. Next, I went to the internet. I went to the website for National Care Planning Council and found and contacted a Care planner in my area. The Care Planner came to my stepfather’s house and met with the two of us. They helped me get organized and set up time to meet with someone to explain his Medicare services and what my next steps would be. It was such a relief to have a plan and to know what to do.” MH- Salt Lake City, Utah

Most family members are willing to help, but just don’t know what to do. Many caregivers feel that they are the only one who can give the best care. It is important to communicate with other family members about what kind of help you need and let them know specifically what they can do.

A number of organizations and private companies will give you advice and guidance — many for free. If your care recipient has a very low income, you might get free help from your local Area Agency on Aging. A lot depends on available funds. Click here for a nationwide list of agencies.

A good source for professional advice is the rapidly growing business of non-medical home care companies. Most will offer free consultations and will provide paid aides to help you with your loved-one with such things as bathing, dressing, shopping, household chores, transportation, companionship and much more. These people may also help you coordinate adult daycare or other community services.

You may wish to pay for a formal assessment and care plan from a professional geriatric care manager. Even though it may cost you a little money to hire a care manager, this could be the best money you will ever spend. Care managers are valuable in helping find supporting resources, providing respite, saving money from care providers, finding money to pay for care, making arrangements with family or government providers and providing advice on issues that you may be struggling with.

Lastly; it is important to take care of yourself first in order to give effective and loving care.

Stephen Covey tells a story in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about a man who is sawing a tree. A woman approaches and asks the obviously exhausted man how long he has been sawing the tree. He tells her that he has been there for hours.

She says “Well, I see that your saw is dull, if you would just sharpen your saw you would be able to saw it much faster and with less effort.”

He replies, “I don’t have time to stop and sharpen my saw, I need to chop this tree down now!”

It seems pretty silly that the man just doesn’t stop for a few minutes to make the work easier. It is common for caregivers to do the same thing. They focus on caring for their loved one and run themselves down instead of stopping to “sharpen their saw”.

Covey states that “sharpening the saw” is to take care of yourself by keeping your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self balanced. There is joy and respite in balancing all of these areas in our life. This is what makes us efficient and happy. Here are some ways for you as a caregiver to sharpen your own saw:

• Maintain a positive attitude. Take time to be grateful for everything that is good in your life. There is always something. Adjust your expectations for the holiday season. If you aren’t expecting that perfect holiday family picture, then you won’t be angry and frustrated that it isn’t something you have right now. It is always possible to change your attitude and perceptions, but it is not always possible to change your circumstances.
• Eat healthy food and be sure to get some exercise. Do this in small increments if it is too overwhelming to plan menus. Drink more water, cut down on sugary snacks, pick up some vegetables and fruit to grab. Walk or do marching in place. Run or walk up and down stairs if that is all the time you have right now.
• Forgive and let go of frustrations, anger, resentment and guilt. These are common feelings for caregivers. The best thing a caregiver can do for their own emotional health is to clear out these negative thoughts and feelings. Get counseling, talk to a friend or family member or simply write down the negative feelings to get them out of your system. Never take your anger and frustrations out on those you care for.
• Take time to do something you enjoy and give yourself a little bit of rejuvenation everyday. Laughter is a great stress reliever. Find something funny to read or get on the internet and find a funny video to watch.
• During the holidays, be easy on yourself. If you enjoy holiday activities, then get out there and do them. Ask someone to help with your caregiving duties even if it is just for an hour or two to shop or to see a concert or movie. There are day care facilities or home care services available for short term care. See for a service in your area.

Being a “perfect” caregiver during the holidays does not have to look like the perfect on-screen holiday family. How you handle your circumstance will be the key to creating your own peace, happiness and cheer during the holiday season. The holidays can be a time of reflection on good things. Your attitude and a little care for yourself can make a big difference in the care that you give in the coming year.

Robert Jones
Sun American Mortgage
Reverse Mortgages
Reverse Mortgage Purchase

Posted in Planning for Eldercare | Leave a comment

Helping Your Elderly Parent with COPD Related Depression

Experts say that over a million people in the United States have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronic lung condition that includes bronchitis, emphysema or both.

COPD affects the airways and air sacs within the lungs, which makes breathing difficult and can result in a person becoming less active over time. An elderly person who has COPD will easily become depressed, when dealing not only with breathing difficulties but other age related problems.

One example of COPD related depression is Martin, age 72. Martin had lived a busy lifestyle, playing golf, volunteering at the community center and working in his garden. Diagnosed with COPD six months previous, and uncertain how to mange his breathing difficulty and new medications, Martin stopped all his activities. Giving up the things he loved to do and sitting more at home along with improper diet, he became a victim to depression.

Martin’s son Anthony realized that his father could not handle his new situation and depression alone. A trip together to Martin’s physician began the steps to dissipating the depression and enabling Martin to return to his social life.

Anthony received instructions about his father’s medications from the doctor and how they were to be used and consequently could help his father with medication reminders.

The most common types of daily COPD medicines are:

• Inhaler for daily maintenance – Bronchodilators help relax the muscles around the lungs’ breathing tubes. This reduces shortness of breath and makes breathing easier.
• Steroids – Corticosteroids, taken in pill form or inhaler reduce swelling in breathing tubes to quickly make breathing easier. Not commonly for prolong use.
• Oxygen Treatment – Severe COPD will reduce your lungs’ ability to put oxygen into your blood to be carried throughout your body. Martin’s oxygen level was measured to determine if he would need prescribed oxygen therapy. Oxygen is usually prescribed if the oxygen in the blood is low during sleep, exercise, or while not active. A respiratory therapist from an oxygen supply company or home health service can help with learning how to use oxygen.

An important factor in Martin’s depression and COPD management was his diet.

“A Healthy diet can play an important role in the management and treatment of COPD. Finding the right diet can be tricky for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), since they need to eat a healthy diet and maintain their optimal weight to keep COPD symptoms in check.” (Krisha McCoy, MS, Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH)

Maintaining the right nutrition and taking vitamins not only keeps the body healthy but heals the mind, providing emotional well being. Fad diets or extreme dieting are not appropriate for COPD patients. Extreme weight loss can be as much a hazard as being overweight. A home care nutritionist can help establish a healthy menu and diet plan.

With medication and diet under control the final steps to overcoming Martin’s depression were to return to his daily activities. With COPD, an elderly person is more hesitant to leave home, especially if that person’s breathing capacity is not as it used to be. There is a lot of available mobility support for the elderly with small portable oxygen units, walkers, electric scooters and other supportive equipment to help these disabled people move about in the community.

With the help of mobile services and his son at his side to start with, Martin returned to the golf course and community activities. His new diet and return to previous activity helped Martin overcome his symptoms of depression.

Studies show that the intervention of family and friends in helping and supporting elderly people with COPD results in a decrease of depression and a healthier outcome for the patient.

The Oxford Journals Medicine and Ageing states

If you are helping an elder parent with COPD related depression there are community and professional services to help you. Start with your parent’s physician. You can also find resources for oxygen therapy, homecare respiratory treatment, home nursing, home medical equipment and mobile services.

The National Care Planning Council promotes eldercare resources and lists eldercare services throughout the United States.

Robert Jones
Sun American Mortgage
Reverse Mortgages
Reverse Mortgage Purchase

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Purchase a New Home Using the HECM for Purchase Program

Purchase a New Home Using the HECM for Purchase Program.

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Purchase a New Home Using the HECM for Purchase Program

The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage “HECM for Purchase” can help you buy a new home without the monthly mortgage obligation!

Baby Boomers are the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S. and they’re changing the face of the reverse mortgage industry by selecting reverse mortgages in greater numbers than their elders. And now, this HECM Purchase program allows them to purchase a new principal residence using loan proceeds from the reverse mortgage.

Enjoy the following benefits:
• FHA-insured loan – client’s loan and home are safe
• Non-recourse loan – This means, there is no recourse to the borrower, their estate or heirs if the HECM loan balance exceeds the home’s value at maturity as long as the borrower or their estate sell the property to pay off the debt. If the borrower or their estate want to retain the property, the balance must be paid in full. Any equity remaining in the property after the reverse mortgage is retired belongs to the borrower or their estate.
• No monthly mortgage payments – cash flow is preserved*
• Senior enjoys just one set of closing costs
• Potentially allows client’s additional savings for retirement needs
• Homeowner retains title*

* Homeowner continues to pay insurance and property taxes, live in and maintain home. Home must be primary residence. Program not currently available in all states.

Some powerful features of this program include:
• Downsize for more affordable living
• Relocate to be closer to family
• Purchase a single level, more accessible home
• Buy or sell a condo
• Purchase a more expensive home without incurring a monthly mortgage payment*

• Homeowner must be 62 years of age or older
• No second/vacation or investment homes
• Present home must be in name of client and primary residence
• Must have considerable home equity or must provide monetary investment at closing from allowable funding source
• Home meets minimum FHA property standards
• Only HECM first and second liens against property
• Occupy property as primary residence within 60 days
• Mandatory Counseling Session
• Taxes & home insurance are paid by your client and not escrowed

For more information on the HECM for Purchase program please visit or call Robert Jones at Sun American Mortgage at 480-467-1107.

Robert E. Jones
Sun American Mortgage
Reverse Mortgages

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Reverse Mortgage or HECM Home Purchase Financing

Information on why a Reverse Mortgage is a great financial tool to help purchase a new home and not have a mortgage payment.

For more information visit:

Robert E. Jones
Sun American Mortgage
Reverse Mortgages

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Getting Your Affairs In Order

If we had a crystal ball and could see into the future, we would not need to prepare ahead for end of life decisions.

James was 62 years old when a stroke made it impossible for him to communicate with his family. Neither his wife nor children knew anything about his financial or medical information. James had always taken care of things himself and left no written directives in his behalf. Besides having to locate important documents, the family was left to make their own decisions about James long term care.

The National Institute on Aging gives three simple, but important steps to putting your affairs in order:

– Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. You could set up a file, put everything in a desk or dresser drawer, or just list the information and location of papers in a notebook. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in a file at home. Check each year to see if there’s anything new to add.

– Tell a trusted family member or friend where you put all your important papers. You don’t need to tell this friend or family member about your personal affairs, but someone should know where you keep your papers in case of emergency. If you don’t have a relative or friend you trust, ask a lawyer to help.

– Give consent in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your caregiver as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get needed information. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a form. National Institute on Aging

Preparing Advance Directives or Living Will

Advance directives are legal documents that state the kind of medical care or end of life decisions you want made in your behalf. It is a way for you to communicate your wishes to family or health care professionals. Emergency response medical personnel cannot honor Advance directives or living wills. They are required to save and stabilize a person for transfer to a hospital or emergency facility. Once at the facility a physician will honor the directives.

The Living Will as part of your directives gives your consent or refusal for sustained medical treatment when you are not able to give it yourself. If this document is not in place then a family member or physician will decide such things as:

– Resuscitation if breathing or heartbeat stops
– Use of breathing machines
– Use of feeding tubes
– Medications or medical procedures

Advance Directives and Living Wills are legal throughout the United States; however, some states may not honor other states’ directive documents. Be sure to check with the state you live in for their requirements.

Review your directives periodically. They do not expire, but your wishes may change.
A new or revised Advanced Directive invalidates the old one. Be sure your family member or healthcare proxy has a current copy.

Choosing a Power of Attorney

General Power of Attorney – authorizes someone to handle your financial, banking and possibly real estate and government affairs as long as you remain competent.

Special Power of Attorney – authorizes someone you designate to handle certain things you cannot do yourself for a period of time.

Durable” Power of Attorney -The general, special and health care powers of attorney can all be made “durable” by adding certain text to the document. This means that the document will remain in effect or take effect if you become mentally incompetent.

Many people do not know the difference between a general and a durable power of attorney. A general power of attorney is a document by which you appoint a person to act as your agent.

Agents are authorized to make decisions for you, sign legal documents, etc. Many people are unaware that a General Power of Attorney is revoked when the person granting that power becomes incompetent or incapacitated.

It is the “Durable” Power of Attorney that allows for an agent to continue making decisions on your behalf no matter what happens to you. A responsible adult child of an aging parent would be given a “durable power of attorney” to act on behalf of the parent. This provides broader authority than just adding the child’s name to bank accounts and documents.

You may choose to produce notarized power of attorney documents on your own. If your estate is large and real estate or business is included it is advised to secure a reliable attorney.

National Care Planning Council

Robert E. Jones
Sun American Mortgage
Reverse Mortgages

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Reverse Mortgage Home Purchase Financing – HECM for Purchase

A reverse mortgage has just become a more viable product because now it can be used to purchase real estate. If you’re a senior who wants to down size into something smaller, more updated with new appliances and fewer chances of repairs a reverse mortgage might be a great financial tool to help enhance your retirement years. Visit or call 480-467-1107 for more information.

Robert E. Jones
Sun American Mortgage
Reverse Mortgages

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