Leave a comment

Got a Question? Let’s Ask the Hundreds of Readers.

pumpkinsThis year, I realized how thankful I am for the thousands of individuals that have been reading this blog. It has become my own digital caregiving support group. I would like to try to share the power of the support network with all of the readers.  If you have a question, please send it to me at Kay @ MemoryBanc . com and I will post it to the blog for other readers to weigh in.

Since it’s Thanksgiving, and we are moving into the time of year where we spend a lot more time with family. You may be noticing new issues and want a place to turn to ask a question or three.

The feedback and suggestions I get through this blog and the other social media postings are invaluable to me. Keep them coming … and I hope you will consider using what you’ve learned to help the dozens of new individuals who are just starting on this journey.

I will post questions anonymously, and hope you all will take the time to share your thoughts, give some words of encouragement, and even consider asking a question. Thankful. 


Caregiver Alert: Are you experiencing “Compassion Fatigue?”

splatterDid you know that the feeling of anger, poor self-care, substance abuse, and hopelessness could be caused by “Compassion Fatigue?”

Today, I heard Stephanie Chong, LCSW-C discuss this term. I immediately felt a bit of relief knowing that it’s quite common within the caregiving industry.

Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. That is a very basic definition and Stephanie went on to discuss what this fatigue can lead to which includes symptoms of isolation, preoccupation, apathy, substance abuse, poor self-care, hopelessness, physical and even mental exhaustion. Now that I’m in about my 5th year of being the primary adult caregiver to two, then one parent, I’m concerned I am exhibiting some of the symptoms.

While I don’t feel less compassion to my mom or those who care for her, I’m feeling more anger around the need to constantly provide those in her care circle with insight into how my mom wanted to live out her final years. Because the job for caring for others can cause both compassion fatigue and burnout, there is a steady stream of new faces over the course of a year that help care for mom.

My last post “When More Translates to More Options for Failure” sure sounded a bit hopeless. Many of you have helped turn this into a digital caregiver support group for me. Thank you readers and comment-ers alike! Keep it coming.

What has been weighing on me is the constant need to advocate for my mom. I feel like I’m constantly telling a new member of her care team that mom wants to be happy and comfortable, but doesn’t want measures taken to extend her life. It gets uncomfortable when I need to follow-up with specific things to not do for mom, but also make sure they know I appreciate their help.

My mom was quite specific about not wanting to be spoon fed. Telling someone the thing they are doing as an act of care, is not what my mom wishes is painful to both of us in the conversation. While I don’t want to have the conversation one more time, I know I will need to because it is what my mom wanted. I need to be her advocate.

But it’s painful and I’m tired of having the conversation. The last time it happened I didn’t say anything. I started to doubt myself and wondered if I need to let them feed her because she hungry. However, she is totally capable of feeding herself.

I’ve used quite a few of the healthy coping mechanisms. But now that I have an awareness of this I also now have some other tools to help me the next time I need to have the strength to ensure mom’s wishes are being fulfilled. Soothed.


Three Technologies to Share with Family Over Thanksgiving

My in-laws live states away but are very interested in being involved and staying connected to our kids. On every visit with the grandparents, my kids will spend time giving an iPhone or iPad tutorial. However, it’s usually been to answer questions, but this Thanksgiving I’m going to make sure we all set up and run through these three applications.

I asked my kids (13 and 18 years of age), who prefer to type over talking on the phone, which technologies they like to use or would use more often with Grandmom and Granddad. Here are their top three:

  1. FaceTime/Skype

My kids have used both and share that it’s really about the video, which they find more personal and engaging. Thankfully, we all have iPhones, so we can easily use FaceTime to make video calls. This is the leading way my daughter stays connected with her friends. We have also used it to talk with our son who is now away at college. It’s so much more personal to see eye-to-eye as we catch up.

GLAM ALERT: Holding the phone down below your chin is very unbecoming … so be forewarned, you may find doing these calls from your iPhone also offers a limited workout for your arms as you try to keep the phone up near your face (and maybe a little higher for a more flattering view to share with kids and grandkids).

If you don’t have FaceTime, you can use Skype. You can use Skype from both smartphone apps and from an internet-connected computer.

  1. SnapchatSnapchat

My son sums up Snapchat as a “better way to send snapshots of what you are doing.” Not only does he find it easier than texting a photo, he showed me how you can easily add words, captions, emojis, and even filters to enhance the image.

I’ve witnessed him take hundreds of selfies and share them with friends. I opened up an account in hopes of making sure I had the opportunity to have him share a few of the good photos with me, especially now that he’s at college.

He’s more apt to respond to Snapchat than return a text.

  1. Words With Friends

wordsWhen we visit the grandparents at their cabin, we are usually huddled around a game of Bananagrams. When we aren’t together, it’s one way my kids can still have fun with Grandmom, who is the gamer in the family.

I hope you will find these suggestions give you some new ways to connect the generations within your own family and shrink the miles that may separate you. Shared. 

NOTE: In a related story that first appeared on Dot Complicated, “Why You Need to Know Your Kids’ Passwords,” I shared that creating a written list might be the only way you would ever be able to access a minor’s online account. What you agree to (usually without reading it) says that no one else has any right to access that account. For this reason, I recommend having your children create a written backup that goes into a sealed envelope I hope you never have a need to open. For free templates to document usernames, passcodes, security questions, and PINs, download a free chapter from the best-selling book MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life at http://www.memorybanc.com/tame.


When More Translates to More Options for Failure

holeinnetI visit my mom in her community two to three times a week. There is usually one medical or care issue to follow-up on or navigate. We’ve been monitoring some minor issues with a focus on keeping mom as happy and comfortable as we can. I was planning on a social visit with mom today but arrive to find that her personal care assistant (PCA) is no where in sight. Mom is sitting in the living room staring at a soap opera on television when I arrive. She is dressed, but her hair hasn’t been combed yet and it’s 1 P.M. I brush her hair and take her into the community room to join in the afternoon activity. After joining in the games, I realize it’s 2:30 and I am concerned that I haven’t heard from her regular PCA and send her a text. She lets me know she’s home with a sick son, and apologizes for not texting me.

It’s not the job of the PCA to tell me mom doesn’t have an assistant today. I call the agency to understand why no one has communicated with me. Excuses are made, but I’m just mad. In addition to having mom in a community dedicated to memory care, we pay for the extra assistant to ensure mom is dressed in the manner she prefers, cared for, and happy. Now it just feels like I have more people to follow-up with to find out why no one seems to be on top of mom’s needs right now.

I follow-up with the community and learn that the agency called the head nurse, but none of the staff on my mom’s hallway knew. I’m not sure I’m okay with them parking her in front of a soap opera. I think they should have gotten mom to the activity room. I check my feelings and let the staff know that they should include mom in the activities.

While I love the concept of “many hands make light work,” today it feels like because so many are involved, no one seems to feel responsible.

Mom was fine. She’s safe, fed, and doesn’t complain. It’s my job to be her advocate and I wonder if this has happened before and I never knew about it. It makes me feel like I’m failing in my duties.

My hope was that more resources would help build a stronger safety net and today it feels like I have one with more places for failure. Disappointed. 

Leave a comment

Caregivers’ Circle – How to organize financial, personal and medical information on behalf of an aging relative

webtalkradioBy: Stephanie Erickson for Web Talk Radio
It is very difficult to get all of the information we need to make the right decisions on behalf or with our aging relatives. How do we organize finances? Manage investments? Gather medical information? Organize personal appointments? This week’s guest, Kay Bransford, developer of MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life offers her personal experience and how this led to the development of a simple method to keep track of all necessary information. She and I discuss all of the essential financial, legal household and personal information that should be collected and organized to assist you in helping another.

Caregivers struggle with knowing what to do when individuals with Dementia present with challenging behaviors and symptoms. There is an APP available that offers step by step interventions to manage a variety of symptoms such as incontinence, bathing challenges, repetitive discussions and aggressiveness. Learn more about Dementia Caregiver Solutions.

About: Stephanie Erickson is a Family Caregiving Expert and has a host of resources. She interviewed me for her show and I wanted to share the conversation with you in case we cover some new tips and resources that you may find helpful. Aired.

Leave a comment

Why 7 out of 10 Couples Don’t Know How to Access Their Joint Accounts

authorstalkDrs. Rob + Janelle Alex, Ph.D. interviewed me to understand why 7 out of 10 couples would benefit by getting their finances and their household on the same page on their program Author’s Talk About It. Five years ago I would have had no idea how disconnected most couples are when it comes to their joint assets.

When I launched MemoryBanc, I did it believing I would be helping other caregivers. However, when the first year of sales ended up being mostly couples between 40 and 60, I realized there was a larger market need for our products and services. We do help quite a few caregivers, but they are dwarfed by the number of couples that use MemoryBanc as a tool to coordinate their shared lives.

Consumer Reports shared that only 3 out of 10 couples could cite and knew how to access the three largest financial accounts of their household–that means 7 out of 10 don’t! Consumer Reports.org went on to share that only 28 percent of couples are completely confident that their partner is prepared to assume responsibility of their joint retirement finances.

Do you know your financial plan if something were to happen to your partner? The last thing you want to deal with is how to access finances, pay bills, or access online accounts if something were to happen to your loved one. This summer when my son broke his phone, the only way to get a replacement mobile phone without a major penalty fee when my husband was traveling was to use his online access to the AT&T account. Not only did I need his passcodes, but I also needed to answer a security question. Thankfully, I had these close at hand.

The reason 7 out of 10 couples don’t have this information is because many of us divide-and-conquer. Our lives are much more complicated and we have to manage a lot more information than we did even twenty years ago. It’s one of the reasons $58 billion is sitting with state and federal treasurers in unclaimed money.

To get a handle on your joint finances and household assets, you can get a copy of MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life from Amazon for $15.33 (plus shipping if you don’t have Prime). That’s a 23 percent discount.

If you aren’t ready to make this leap, but want to get started, you can download a free chapter “Taming the Internet” now. I hope you will at least begin this important conversation. Contributed.


Are Angry Outbursts Normal with Dementia?

angryemojiVery early in my journey into life with a parent who has dementia, I read that “meeting one person with dementia, is like meeting one person with dementia.” We all want rules to follow, guides to help us know how to help our loved ones, and simple answers. That just isn’t possible given all the types of dementia and types of people.

While my mom would become very argumentative, my dad did not and seemed to fade away. As I watched two parents with different dementia’s and managing through varied life changes, the only rule I found was that being calm and positive were the only emotions to bring to a visit.

When mom would get argumentative, initially I would engage, just like I always did. We were able to disagree and challenged each other from silly to serious topics.  When I realized our conversations were only making mom angrier and more agitated, I changed. It was not easy.

I recognized that my mom was losing the ability to change, so I needed to change. My sister-in-law who has been helping individuals with head injuries for over two decades always had good advice. At one point, I realized that if I considered that mom had an external head injury, the changes in her behavior made more sense to me and it was easier for me to change to adapt to the battle going on inside of her that I could not comprehend.

After my dad died, my mom was having a lot of conflict in her assisted living community. I always knew that together my parents were better. Without my dad as her companion, my mom no longer had something that constantly grounded and provided her with comfort. She started to verbally and physically act out. This was one of the reasons I started to search for a new community. Mom was not in a place that could support her needs.

I am not really going to answer the question I posed, because I still don’t know if anything is “normal” with dementia beyond the aching sense of loss we all experience. Changed. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 698 other followers

%d bloggers like this: