By Claire LeSage
Whenever I give a talk on downsizing and decluttering the first thing I emphasize to the audience that you do not need to be moving to downsize or declutter. This is the truth! Maybe, if we downsized and decluttered more frequently then the thought of moving would not be so stressful.
I use the KISS Theory– Keep It Simple Silly! Do not make this process more complicated and cumbersome than it needs to be. Start small, keep it simple, and just start!
Let's get started with a closet – any closet! Here are four steps:
These are the same 4 steps you need to do for each and every item in the any closet you have. If there are any items not decided on ask the following questions:
If you don't know the answer to these questions or others you might come up with, then you do not need the item, so either throw out or donate it.
At the end of your allotted time, you should have a clean, decluttered, and downsized closet. The KISS theory works every time. Never allow stress to be part of the process.
By Mary Lynn Pannen
According to AgingCare.com, 34 million Americans are personally providing care for older family members. As an aging society, more and more adult children are meeting the challenges of elder care by opening their homes to aging parents and in-laws. Whether it is for a holiday vacation, a short-term solution, or a long-term plan, here are a few important tips for making a home within a home, reducing conflicts, and setting expectations:
1. Sacred Space: Make sure your elderly loved one has their own defined space. Much of the house will be common area, but it is a crucial part of autonomy to have your own sacred space that you have control over and can go into at any time.
2. Personalize Space: Help your loved one feel at home by adding photos and objects that are special and important to them. Every space should tell the story of the individual living there. A few well-chosen objects such as a piece of art, a family quilt, or favorite books, can really redefine a room.
3. Family Dynamics: Setting up ground rules, boundaries, and a schedule such as quiet hours, family dinners, and expectations of how spaces will be used is really important for navigating the transition. Especially if you are part of the sandwich generation and still have children at home, posting expectations will help them adjust to the changes.
4. Meal Planning: Allow input and make sure expectations are set around food preparation including dietary restrictions. Setting expectations of who will be contributing financially will also help reduce stress and conflict later. Often tasks of daily living are difficult for aging adults to give up. Compromise and look for ways they can make decisions and contribute.
5. Common Spaces: Set expectations for common areas such as laundry room, kitchen, TV room, garage, outdoor spaces. Placing simple instructions around the house on new appliances such as the washer/dryer or TV remote/ etc. can help orient an aging loved one to the new space.
6. Safety: Making small changes to the home dramatically reduces the risk of falls and injury in the home. Consider the following modifications: Remove small area rugs, Install grab bars and anti-slip mats in the bathroom, make sure walkways are free from clutter, furniture arrangements should accommodate mobility devices, and repair outdoor areas with loose handrails or walkways that are uneven and cracking.
7. In-Home Care & Care Management Services: Create a plan for increased care needs and relief care for adult children providing care and household management for loved ones. Often it is not apparent what the role will entail or feel like until you are in the middle of it. Make a plan if care becomes too much or if an emergency arises before you need it.
8. Taxes: If your aging loved one is staying long-term, consult your tax advisor to ensure that you're taking advantage of appropriate tax deductions such as claiming a parent as a dependent or deducting other expenses related to care.
9. Open Dialogue: Impacts on relationships and dynamics within the home are inevitable. Make sure that you have a regular family meeting to discuss concerns and questions with everyone living in the home. It is important that relationships with your own family members do not come at the expense of helping mom and dad.
10. Asses Care Needs Regularly: Make sure that you plan for changes and discuss wishes and options before they are needed. It is crucial that you create a plan for difficult decisions such as driving, end-of-life care, and setting up a Durable Power of Attorney. Consider keeping a simple journal to track changes in behavior, habits, mobility, and other observations that may change over time.
11. Storage: Discuss what will happen to items that will not be coming into the home. A combination of storage, purging, gifting, and donations can be important during any transition. Help a loved one choose a few items to have around them at any given time.
12. Finances: This can be the most crucial aspect to discuss and set expectations for when considering moving a parent into your home. Discuss expectations of who will contribute to care costs and how finances will be managed. It can be very difficult to surrender control of finances to an adult child, but it may be necessary if bills are going unpaid or late.
13. Dementia: If your loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's or other dementias it is crucial that you equip yourself with appropriate communication training and education to understand expectations of care. Close monitoring by a physician will be important for optimum safety for your loved one. Consider joining a support group and be open with your workplace about your changing responsibilities.
By Suzanne Perkins Newman
This experience can be a gift to each one of you. It is an opportunity to reminisce and share with each other about your childhood memories. It is an opportunity for closure, for healing, and for a deeper understanding of one another. How?
Remember, it is normal to have many mixed feelings at this time. Don't be surprised at the emotions that get a hold of you and your family members. Learn to be patient and allow them to be what they are. Keep your hearts open to one another, and as you do, it just might be a new way for you all to be enriched together.
By Mary Lynn Pannen
Giving up driving is usually an emotional issue for seniors because driving often signifies independence. As difficult as it may be to bring up the issue of a parent's driving, it sometimes becomes necessary. When we think of advanced care planning or having 'The Conversation', end-of-life wishes come to mind, but those conversations should expand to talk about more than just the very end. On average we have had 30 years added to our life expectancy. As such, we have to plan for what those years will look like. It can be a gift to families to have difficult conversations before they become a problem so the elderly loved one can participate in the conversation and decision-making process. A simple question to start the conversations is, "In the future, if we ever noticed that you were endangering yourself and others by driving, what would you want us to do?"
How do I know if a parent's driving is a problem?
It is usually recommended that you ride with the individual to observe their driving at least every six months, as long as you feel comfortable doing so.
Here are warning signs to watch for:
What can I do if I see evidence of a problem?
Talk with your parent. The sooner you begin the conversation, the better. Tell them that you need to bring up a difficult topic. Describe what you have seen in specific, objective terms. It can sometimes help to write this up beforehand.
It can be helpful to have researched alternate forms of transportation that can be presented during the discussion. These can include rides from family and friends, public transportation, para-transit services, or taxis. Many communities have volunteer transportation programs for seniors. (It is a good idea to accompany someone when they first use alternate transportation.)
If the driving problem is minor, a refresher course can be suggested. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has a Driver Safety Program, or you may find other programs in your community.
In some cases driving can be limited rather than stopped. For example, some elders may do alright on residential or frequently traveled routes, but not on highways or unfamiliar roads. Some may have night vision problems, in which case they may still be safe driving during the day.
If your parent will agree to a driving test, consult with their physician for a referral for testing. Many outpatient occupational therapy clinics, particularly those associated with a hospital or medical center, test the physical and mental skills needed for safe driving, such as reaction time. The occupational therapist will usually send a report with the results to the physician.
If your parent is going to have a road test, it is important that the tester makes it a priority to help them feel comfortable, and to have them drive their usual routes.
What if my parent refuses to be tested or give up their driving?
If the problem warrants more than a refresher course, and your parent refuses to be tested or give up their driving, you can ask their physician to tell your parent they need to be tested (or limit or give up driving). Physicians will sometimes write a "prescription" for testing or for the elder to stop driving. A physician can also notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the problem, which will generally result in the DMV requiring a re-test of the driver.
If you are unable to enlist the help of a physician, you can notify the DMV of the problem. In most cases they will honor a request not to mention to the elder that you called.
If you absolutely have to, you can also remove the distributor cap or have a notch put in the car keys so they won't work. Allowing the elder to keep their keys may help them feel more secure.
Courtesy of FirstLight Home Care
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