Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good Grief! Helping Your Aging Parent Cope With Loss

Your aging parent's losses are legion. (That means many.) But longevity has taught him or her how to cope.

That was the message Chaplain Greg Malone of Providence Hospice of Seattle gave last month to the residents of Evergreen Court, where I work. His topic, "The Care and Feeding of the Human Spirit," explored grief and ways to handle it.

Writing the word, LOSS, on the white board, Malone asked the residents--people in their 70s to 90s--to list the losses they'd faced: mate, mother, father, child, pet, friend, sibling. These elders also mentioned balance, independence, memory, sight, hearing, employment, home.

Wow! Your parent could probably come up with quite a list, as well.

Grieving, though difficult, helps us cope with loss. "If you don't grieve, it sits inside you and comes out in negative ways," said Chaplain Malone.

Singing, crying, telling one's story, participating in counseling, plus praying, writing, and creating are all ways to express grief. The group mentioned they nourished themselves in the midst of loss by serving others, enjoying nature, doing crossword puzzles, and being with people.

We can help our parents deal with their grief by realizing their methods might not be ours. A newspaper food columnist told me she remembered hearing from a frantic reader who had just lost her husband. "I can't find my recipe for apple butter. It was his favorite. And I just have to make it!"

A close relative of mine buried herself in reading while grieving the loss of her husband. In the middle of the night, surrounded by stacks of books, she immersed herself in the words. In the process, she worked through the immense grief page by page.

How has your parent dealt with loss? How do you see your role?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Red Cross Rolls Out New Family Caregiver Training

Are you caring for an aging parent? Whether you share the role with others or shoulder it by yourself, it's not easy. Some say it's a recipe for stress.

Knowledge can help. That's the premise of the American Red Cross' new program, Family Caregiving, being taught nationwide. With eight one-hour sessions, the course covers topics from home safety and general caregiving, to nutrition and personal care, to self-care for the caregiver, to legal and financial issues.

There are two options. Attend a class, led by a Red Cross-certified facilitator, or learn on your own through a modular home study program. Either method allows you to pick and choose any session, at little or no cost.

Are you already involved in a caregiver support group? Family Caregiving can come to you.

I'm personally excited about this program. Evergreen Court of Bellevue, Washington, the retirement and assisted living community where I work, is hosting the Family Caregiving Program, weekly from May 11 through June 15, beginning at 6 pm. A certified facilitator from Always Best Care-Eastside will lead the class.

I plan to publish posts about what we learn. If you'd like to attend, please RSVP by calling 425-455-4333.

To locate an American Red Cross Family Caregiving training, contact their directory.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Penny-wise Advice About Medicap Policies

Suppose your aging parent decides to save money by dropping his Medicare Supplement. What do you do? Joy Nicholson-Kane has a ready answer: "Just say 'No.'"

Nicholson-Kane is a social worker at Skagit Valley Hospital's Kidney Center in Mount Vernon, Washington. Working with elders and their families daily has convinced her of the value of Medicare Supplement plans. They're also called Medigap plans.

"The biggest mistake people make in dealing with Medicare is not buying a supplement. People are sure Medicare will cover all their medical expenses, but it won't," she says.

If people depend solely on Medicare coverage, they could be paying hundreds--or even thousands of dollars out of pocket for things like hospital, nursing home, and home care costs.

Here's how these plans can help your parent.

In the hospital: Most Medicare supplements pay the $1,132 hospital deductible. Without a Medicap plan, your parent is out $1,132.

In a nursing home: If your parent is sent to rehab after hospitalization, Medicare A pays in full for the first 20 days. For day 21 and thereafter, there's a daily coinsurance of $141.50. Most Medicare supplements cover this; without such a plan, your parent pays out of pocket.

For medical appointments, therapy, and home health care: After a $162 deductible, Medicare pays 80%, leaving your parent with 20% unless he has a supplement.

All Medicare supplement plans are not alike, however. Ten plans are categorized from A through J. They vary in cost and coverage. Nicholson-Kane advises her patients to purchase an F plan, because its coverage is the most comprehensive.

For more information about these kinds of plans, contact State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPS). This federally funded national program has trained telephone counselors who can give advice on your parent's insurance options.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Your Aging Parent and the Age-Old Generation Gap

A balanced blog works on a formula: 85% information; 15% sales.

Today I'm pitching me--I love to speak to Boomers on issues relating to their aging parents. If you need a presenter, I'm ready, willing and able!

Now for information. Remember the 60's term "Generation Gap?" Does it generate images of long-haired Hippies and finger-pointing parents? That term came up last week in a presentation I gave to 40 Boomers at First Free Methodist Church in Seattle. We were finishing a series "Understanding Your Aging Parent."

"Does a generation gap exist today?" I asked. Together, in a lively discussion, we came up with the answer. Yes. Fortunately, we're older and wiser now than in the Flower Power Days and more willing to examine the events that shaped our parents' view of the world. With hindsight, we can also better understand ourselves.

Our aging parents want RESPECT. They survived the Great Depression and World War II--both periods of national sacrifice. One 83-year-old resident of Evergreen Court, where I work, told me,"As a kid I remember standing in soup lines. And one day I had a tooth pulled in a government-run dental clinic. Without Novocaine." In the same breath, she said, "My mother did the very best she could."

Later in World War II our parents rallied their support in countless ways. They lost limbs, siblings and friends, while learning respect--for clergy, the military and authority. Afterwards they sacrificed to build longstanding marriages, forge lifelong careers and send us to college. No wonder they value RESPECT, even today.

Our key value as Boomers is APPRECIATION. During our growing up years, unity and respect for authority gave way to change and turmoil, beginning with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy--remember that fateful day?--and continuing with the Civil Rights and Women's Movements, the Viet Nam War and aftermath. We finally calmed down, but even today, we are less committed to the term respect. Our word is appreciation. We want to be thanked for our contributions, appreciated for our good work, praised for our helpfulness. Convinced of its value, we find it easy to give others appreciation.

Our understanding of these values can help bridge the generation gap. We can show respect, our parent's key value, by being on time to appointments or by keeping them apprised if we can't do something we promised. We can keep them in the loop--about medical issues, about income tax, etc. The biggest thing we can do is minimize our expectation about receiving appreciation for our role in their lives. They may not say, "I'm so thankful for all you do for me," or "I truly appreciate you." We can get our appreciation fix from our peers. Our parents just need our respect.
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