Category Archives: Aging in the Workplace

The Importance of Education for Informal Caregivers

Members of the First United Methodist Church in Arlington Heights, IL attend an Eldercare Educational Program about Understanding the Continuum of Eldercare.

Today, family members and other private individuals provide the bulk of care for frail older adults. According to The National Alliance for Caregiving, approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months.  The assigned dollar value of unpaid caregiving is a staggering $470 billion.

Informal caregivers are a critical link in the system of eldercare. The care and support that is provided delays, and may even prevent the need for institutional care. Equally, we must acknowledge the financial impact that the informal caregiving system has on our nation. Consider the increased stress on the Medicaid system without these caregivers.

The American Association of Retired Persons offers a terrific directory of resources available to family caregivers. There are many agencies, both public and private, that exist to provide resources for family caregivers. To that end, caregivers can access website links, pamphlets, resource guides, and a plethora of other informational sources.

Importance of Education for Caregivers

Yet, with all of these resources, so many family caregivers still feel lost and overwhelmed. I have observed many caregivers who don’t know what they don’t know.  In addition, it is paralyzing for them to know where to start.

Caregiver education should be a more robust component of our eldercare system.  Education that leads to increased knowledge is necessary so that people can feel empowered and access the correct resources.

Caregivers need to understand the process of aging.  As astutely stated by The Age-u-cate Training Institute, it is hard to care for someone that you don’t understand.  Consequently, when caregivers feel like they are in the dark, stress, and frustration ensues.  Therefore, helping caregivers to understand what is going on will better equip them to find the right resources and ask the right questions.  Knowledge is empowering.

To list, a sample of educational topics for caregivers:

Creating opportunities to provide knowledge will increase understanding and compassion, reduce stress, and strengthen the process of caregiving.  In addition, it will improve the relationships between caregiver and receiver.

 

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Sandwich Generation Realities

The sandwich generation reality is in full force as more men and women are caught in the middle of work, raising a family, and caring for their parents.

My friends and I often contemplate how we got to this point in life so fast. It wasn’t that long ago that we talked about babies, toddlers, and teenagers. Now, we find ourselves in that sandwich generation place. Our kids are older, and so are our parents. Caught in the middle of work, young adult children’s life events, and aging parents.

The aging-brain is complex, and my friends scramble to keep ahead of the curve-ball.  There are good days, and then the bad days for no apparent reason. A solution that works one day doesn’t work the next. They work hard to anticipate and prevent the next crisis.

I am often baffled to find the right words to help my friends. It is not easy to explain-away their parent’s irrational behaviors and illogical thoughts. The guilt that my friends experience as they try and make things OK for their parents is so hard to see.  My heart aches for them because they feel like they should be doing more despite the fact that they are extraordinary caregivers.

Always Parent and Child

I know from my own experience that parents don’t wish this for their children.   Parents who once provided the caregiving are now the care-receiver, however, the roles are not reversed.  My friends know that they will always be their parent’s child, and their parent isn’t a child.

Anger can also be a factor in this turbulent time. My friend shared today that her mother yelled at her for not understanding what she is going through.  That doesn’t feel good, for sure.

The remarkable thing is the resilience that my friends demonstrate. They are grateful to still have a parent in their life.  Frustration and exacerbation are factors, but bitterness and anger are not.

So what can we do for the friends among us who are in this role of elder-caregiver?  The Alzheimer’s Association has a long list of suggestions, and here are mine.

    • Listen. Let them tell you their stories- sometimes venting is just what they need
    • Avoid issuing unsolicited advice
    • Support with words of affirmation that they are doing a good job
    • Be a friend, not an expert (my lesson)
    • A brownie delivery every once in a while doesn’t hurt!

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving to private and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Ushering in a New Culture of Change at Pioneer Network

We are honored to be a part of the National Pioneer Network Conference kicking off today in beautiful Denver, Colorado.  Ushering in a New Culture of Change promises to be an enlightening and invigorating educational and networking event for participants and those serving the elder care industry.  AGE-u-cate® Training Institute will be offering it’s internationally acclaimed Dementia Live® Experience and Compassionate Touch® Program to innovators

Pioneer Network was founded in 1997 by a small group of prominent professionals in long-term care who were pioneers in changing the culture of aging. These forward thinkers developed the mission and vision, as well as the values and principles, that continue to guide their work to this day.  Today, Pioneer Network is a large, diverse group of passionate individuals from the entire spectrum of aging services. Most are engaged in some aspect of senior living or long-term care which includes nursing homes, assisted living, and other providers of services and supports for elders, as well as the generous supporters, including people that work, live in or visit these settings.

The goals of Pioneer Network have and continue to be a model of care that supports and makes possible for our elders these elements:

Life-Affirming, that is promoting a positive outlook that encourages optimism about life; one that is hopeful and ultimately enjoyable.

Satisfying, meaning that desires, expectations, and needs of the individual are being met so that the person has a sense of contentment.

Humane, which is characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for our elders and those who are suffering.

Meaningful, which simply is having a sense of purpose and a meaning in their lives.

Pioneer Network was started by pioneers and to this day continues to lead the way for a culture of change in elder care around the world.  We face many challenges ahead in meeting the needs of the fast-growing elder population,  but it is through the efforts of organizations such as this and many others, collaborating with passionate-life minded people that we have a future for elders that can usher in new opportunities for personal growth, improved care, and certainly a life worth living.  Thank you to the leaders at Pioneer Network for the hard work you do every day to improve the lives of our elders and those who serve them.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and their caregivers.  Pam is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live® Simulation Experience and other innovative dementia programs.  Pam may be reached at pam@AGEucate.com.

 

 

Why Aging Well is Everyone’s Business

Having a sense of purpose and a community network in which to provide these avenues seems to be important for brain health, an important component of aging well. But aging well starts with more basic work.  Some of these include:

  • Stay positive
  • Get physically active
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat well
  • Connect with other people
  • And take care of your spirit

Why is Aging well everyone’s business?

According to research from Mental Health America, the population of people over age 65 in the United States is projected to double between 2000 and 2030, from 35 million to 70 million. While mental illness is not an inevitable part of aging, and older people actually experience fewer mental health conditions (excepting cognitive impairment) as they age, approximately 6.9% of people aged 65-74 experience “frequent mental distress, and many experience mental health and substance use conditions associated with loss of functional capacity even though a formal diagnosis may not be justified. Anxiety and depression and the psychotic symptoms of dementia in all its forms must be addressed for people to age well, and MHA envisions a supportive, integrated system of both psychosocial and medical care that encourages people to meet such challenges as they occur.

Older people with mental health problems are a diverse population including:

  • people with lifelong serious and disabling mental illnesses;
  • people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia (often with co-occurring episodic anxiety, depression, and psychosis);
  • people with severe depression, anxiety, and emotional and behavioral problems that contribute to high rates of suicide, social isolation, and preventable institutionalization;
  • people with less severe disorders that nevertheless limit their ability to age well; and
  • people who abuse substances, primarily alcohol and pain medications, but increasingly including people with lifelong addictions and those who use illegal substances recreationally.

As stated by Deborah Padgett in the conclusion to her Handbook on Ethnicity, Aging, and Mental Health, aging need not be a time of “irreversible decline and loss,” and depression and emotional distress can be mastered. She concludes: “Declines usually associated with aging are quite malleable and influenced less by aging per se than by a host of psychosocial and lifestyle factors such as stress, diet, and exercise. Among the [most important] psychosocial factors associated with successful aging are a sense of control and autonomy and social support.” So “positive aging” can bring about overall wellness for individuals, focused on their personal goals and current place of residence, social support system, and community. The primary method is by strengths-based therapies that build the healthy habits that MHA refers to as “wellness.” These strengths and supports are critical to aging well.

Still, nearly half of people over age 65 with a recognized mental or substance use disorder have unmet needs for services. Older adults with mental health or substance use conditions often do not seek specialty mental health care. They are more likely to visit their primary care provider– often with a physical complaint.  And though treatment can be an important component of aging well, misdiagnosis, especially by non-specialists, is a significant concern, as is an overreliance on drugs rather than psycho-social treatment. The interaction among physical, emotional and behavioral conditions is complex in older people.

Aging well may seem simplistic in practice, but for society at large, we must integrate collaborative initiatives among public and private sectors that offer multi-level approaches to reaching our aging adults and their families with education, resources, and support.   Eldercare providers, aging and mental health public service organizations, faith communities and member associations must prioritize this agenda as we enter an era of extreme aging.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  Pam is the creator of the internationally recognized Dementia Live Simulation experience, helping caregivers to understand first-hand what life with dementia might be like.   This program is transforming training for law enforcement, first responders, healthcare and long-term care professionals and families and anyone who works with aging adults and their families.  

http://www.AGEucate.com