Companies Care About Caregiving

Harvard Business School talk on blogging

Why is blogging valuable for companies? I’m speaking at Harvard Business School this week about this topic on a panel about media today and in the future. (One of my areas of expertise is baby boomers—a jumbo demographic boomers are trying to reach. One way is through content writing like a blog on a company website.)

Check back later for more (after my talk) about why blogging can be so effective for businesses. In the meantime, here are three reasons:

  • Positions you as a thought leader
  • Creates a business opportunity to engage readers

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Caregiving and Technology: Can You Say “Cutting Edge?”

Technology allows caregivers peace of mindLots in the press lately about how technology is helping seniors grow old at home and feel safer, more socially connected and stimulated—and giving their boomer children peace of mind. I’ve written my share of stories on the subject, including one recently for AARP they provocatively titled “Is This the End of the Nursing Home?” about the cool technologies that allow people to grow old at home.

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Actors Fake Dementia to Help Family Caregivers

A hospital program teaching family caregivers to be more effective with help of actors faking dementia

Actor pretends to have dementia

Presenting a caregiving program out of New Hampshire’s Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical Center: trained actors pretend to have Alzheimer’s, other dementias, or Parkinson’s in order to teach family caregivers strategies do a better job. Here’s how it works: caregivers are given a scenario to act out–perhaps coaxing Mom to take her medication, get dressed or change clothes. The actor is Mom and you are a frustrated and running-out-of-ideas adult daughter, perhaps. Or, you perform brilliantly.

Either way, the actors and fellow caregivers critique your “scene” and make suggestions so that when that situation really occurs, you have more effective strategies.

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Housing and Caregiving Updates

Just in time for the holidays. . .Five resources for parents and spouses with dementia and Alzheimer’s, then an interview about boomer and senior housing.

  1. The Alzheimer’s Association. Besides a Caregivers Center with educational resources, updates about the disease, a blog, and support groups, there’s a 24-hour helpline (TK), message boards to fit your situation and an online tool called the Alzheimer’s Navigator. It’s a five-minute survey that asks you questions about your specific situation, offers feedback on your answers, and helps you craft a customized action plan. The coolest part: it gives you resources in your local community.
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“If There’s Anything You Need”–Real Help for Caregivers

strategies that caregivers can use to get help from family and friendsYou know that blanket offer: “Call me if there’s anything I can do.” Guess what? There is! But you have to know how to ask to get what you really need. Someone can “help,” however, if you don’t need what they’re giving, it’s not really helping. 

Usually one family member–that may be you–ends up doing the brunt of the caregiving. But, no man is an island, it takes a village. You get the point.

You may be reluctant to request help from siblings, other family members or friends. This should make it easier:

So, why is it so hard to ask?

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Look No Further: The 10 Best Books for Caregivers

books for family caregivers

Terrific resources

My office shelves are bulging with books for family caregivers. Publishers eager to get their authors reviewed keep them coming.

There are so many excellent ones that it’s probably unfair of me to create a Top Ten list. But that’s just what I’m doing! 

The list is in absolutely no order of significance. These books offer coping strategies and resources, explain critical concepts caregivers must know, and provide the information they need to make good choices. They’re worth the read:

  1. The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent, by Barry J. Jacobs
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The 10 Top Caregiving Resources

Other good sources include:

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Tax Tips for Family Caregivers

April 15 is galloping into view. Give me a break! That’s what we all want when it comes to taxes. And this may be your year. Some of the rules regarding tax breaks for family caregivers have changed slightly since last year. I thought I’d do an update.

Software tax programs like TurboTax, TaxAct and H&R Block at Home are easy to use and do many of these calculations for you. It’s still good to know if you qualify.

You might be able to claim your parent, grandparent, stepparent, mother- or father-in-law, sibling, half sibling or step-sibling as a tax dependent even if he or she doesn’t live with you. Here are the rules:

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Forbes Piece On Guns A Loaded Subject

What do you do if your aging parent has a gun? Okay, they've agreed to get rid of it. Now what?I wrote a piece for Forbes on guns and the elderly. I hadn’t realized that so many older people, some with dementia and Alzheimer’s, own guns until I started getting reader comments. What’s an adult child to do if Mom or Dad wants to hold onto their favorite firearm? Even if they’re ready to part with it, where do you take it once it’s out of their house? I thought the National Rifle Association might not like the idea for my post, but I received a letter from them thanking me for the story and letting me know they have a program to dispose of guns. So, if taking them to your local police department doesn’t excite you, you now have another option.

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Tune In To Music Therapy’s Healing Powers


It’s amazing to see how making and playing music helps both those with Alzheimer’s and their family caregivers. For a story I wrote, I interviewed Gabby Giffords’s music therapist. I also watched a chorus in New York made up of dementia patients and their partners, spouses and kids. A moment of normalcy and pleasure–together–in otherwise very difficult lives.

Here’s a piece I wrote for AARP aptly named “The Power of Music”:

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What Caregivers Don’t Tell Anyone

“Sally Abrahms can take her crown off now!” Ouch. That was one response to my story that recently ran in the AARP Bulletin explaining common emotions (guilt, grief, exhaustion) family caregivers have and strategies for dealing with them.

I was writing about my own experience — I’m a long distance caregiver, not someone who lives 24/7 with a sick or chronically needy parent — as well as what I have observed from my work.

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Caring for the Caregiver–my AARP print piece

I wrote this piece from the point of view of a long-distance caregiver. I can only imagine the added intensity when you are a 24/7 caregiver (and a few nasty emails told me I have no clue what it’s like!) The story has info for both long-distance and ’round-the-clock family caregivers. Let me know what you think:

At age 16 with my mother

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What Long-Term Care Costs (A Lot!)

If you’re considering long-term care, expect to pay more for nursing homes, assisted living communities and homemakers/companions, MetLife Mature Market Institute’s annual 2012 survey reveals. Good news: the study of average national long-term care costs shows they’ve stayed the same for adult day services and home health aides.

Of course, rates and services vary by state and area; those differences are included in the survey. Take a look at national average costs:

  • A private room in a nursing home is $248/day, $222 for a semiprivate versus $239 and $214 respectively last year. That is a 3.8% hike for a private, 3.7% for a semiprivate
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Five Avoidable Caregiver Mistakes

Now there are probably a lot more than just five caregiving mistakes! But in the process of finding out what they were–and please, add your own–I discovered a cool collaborative model I wanted to share. It’s a concept you’re going to be hearing more about. Concentrate!

Here’s what I wrote in my AARP blog:

Trend alert or rather, trend-to-be alert. I recently heard of a new concept that sounds like a caregiver’s dream: a team of professionals from various disciplines (i.e. legal, financial, caregiving) who specialize in aging issues. Someone on the team steers you to other experts you need — and may not even realize you need. These pros confer to make sure all your bases are covered.

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Caregiving Tasks: They Keep Coming

Is  there a doctor in the house? You might as well be one, according to a new AARP study of family caregiver responsibilities. I just blogged about the research and realized how lucky I was that I didn’t have to perform medical tasks with my parents or  mother-in-law. Intravenous feedings? Caregiving is already so complicated emotionally and logistically.


Examine my blog:

Family caregivers: If you’re ever looking for a new career, you might want to consider nursing or medicine. Results from the national survey “Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care,” released this week, suggest your learning curve may not be very steep.

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Another Caregiving Concern?

Eduard Titov via Creative Commons

Here’s a trend with significant implications: Older adults are not just receiving care, but also providing (think sick spouse, a family member, friend, or neighbor). In one of my AARP blogs, I write about a study just released with steep statistics on this phenomenon. What community services do we have, do we need, to address these graying caregivers/care receivers?

Take a look:

A new national survey confirms what some of us already know: Many older Americans take care of others and are not just on the receiving end. Let’s get specific. In this first-ever United States of Aging survey, half of respondents identify someone as their caregiver, while nearly one-third say they care for another person.

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Six Ways Caregiving & Dating Can Go Together

What happened to sexytime and intimate relationships?

If you’re a caregiver who happens to be single (one-third of baby boomers are), there’s probably little time for romance. Nothing like having Mom or Dad to cramp your dating!

When you have other responsibilities—that would be work, boomerang or younger kids, grandkids, your own life—the significant time investment of caregiving can wring out every bit of desire, you have. Who even has time to think about dating?

But studies galore show that caregivers’ health often suffers. One way to take the sting out of caregiving is to take care of yourself. And this may include having a love life.

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Eldercare Finally Recognized by Feds


Wahoo, eldercare has arrived! The latest federal survey, which tracks how much time people spent per day working, performing household tasks, engaging in leisure activities, and taking care of children in 2011, has a new category: Eldercare.

This entry into the annual American Time Use Survey (ATUS), put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reflects the deepening responsibilities Americans age 15+ have for providing unpaid care to someone over age 65–perhaps a parent, spouse, relative or friend.

And just wait: Nearly 10,000 people a day in the United States will turn 65 in the U.S. for the next 20 years. As the 78 million baby boomers age, those number of hours are going to escalate big time.

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Do You Mind? Meditation for Caregivers

Grand Velas Riviera Maya via

It’s time to take up meditation. A new UCLA study shows it’s a great stress-buster for caregivers–better, in fact, than a relaxation CD. Participants were taking care of family members with dementia, but it could really apply to any group–and not just caregivers. Who wouldn’t want to feel less depressed and have a sharp brain?

Here are the details from one of my weekly AARP blogs:

For dementia caregivers, it seems that daily meditation can lower depression, improve cognitive functioning—yes, we’re talking about the caregiver here—and even reduce cellular aging caused by stress.

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No Kids, Who Cares?

Excuse the flip title,”No Kids, Who Cares?” The question is, who will care for the one out of three folks ages 65+ who live alone when they need help? I know many single, older women who anguish over this question.

Many women never married, or are married without kids. Or, they may have children who live far away or from whom they’re estranged. It’s those adult children, if not a spouse, who usually wind up doing the bulk of the caregiving.

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Cool Technologies for Caregivers

The new technology for caregivers would make The Jetsons proud. Ever heard of GPS safety technology or wireless sensors that can notify a caregiver if Mom’s activities don’t make sense–she isn’t leaving her bed, or is leaving the house at an odd hour, for instance? It may sound Big Brother-ish, but it can be a godsend.

There’s lots for the active set, too: mobile PERS (Personal Emergency Response System)

A mobile PERS from MobileHelp

–think Medic Alert on the go–that Dad can use on the golf course, take the dog for a walk, or when out with friends.

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Bring on the Caregiving Talk!

The email is intriguing: My friend is gathering a group who are grappling with caregiving issues for a brainstorming dinner at her home. She feels overwhelmed, with a job and husband in Boston and very ill parents in Connecticut.

Not only do I write about caregivers, but I’ve been one for 14 years straight (first my father, then my mother, now my mother-in-law).

I’ve never met the others at the dinner table. At 58, I’m the baby, while one of the guests is turning eighty. Some of us have downsized, others have big houses they vow never to leave (that would be the 79-year-old who works full-time).

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When You Don’t Want to Be the Caregiver

We’re supposed to want to take care of our parents or aging relatives. And, if we don’t want to, we rarely admit it.

But what if they treated you terribly (i.e. critical, controlling, demanding) and now you are expected to treat them well? Perhaps you’re no longer close or there’s an unresolved conflict (your father, let’s say, cheated on your mother and doted on his new wife and kids rather than you or there was blatant sibling favoritism.)

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Drawing Comfort from Museum Programs

Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

Do you know that many museums around the country, including the Museum of Modern Art, offer fabulous programs for caregivers and those with Alzheimer’s? I visited one at MoMA–incredible! Here’s a bit about it and others I wrote about in my AARP blog. Participants on both sides of caregiving were enthralled. And check out the Degas in that photo!


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Caring for the Caregiver

Palliative care can be a godsend. I discovered it when my mother was in her final days last summer. My AARP blog on caregiving this week talks about how helpful it was not just for my mother, but for me. For anyone at the end of life (or suffering from medical treatment or a disease), palliative care is a terrific resource. Have you ever used it? What kind of experience did you have?

Whoever says that older adults tend to disengage from social activities and responsibilities as they age is dead wrong, according to a new study from the Boston College Sloan Center on Aging & Work. Well-being, it shows, is linked to active engagement in paid work, education, volunteering, and, yes, caregiving.

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