Tag Archives: future

Surviving the Sandwich Generation

Vantage Point: The Importance of Support While in the Sandwich Generation

My husband and I are starting to talk about future property purchases, which has led to many conversations about what we would want in a house or property. I want land. He wants something that he doesn’t have to fix up. Our conversations have swung from a giant, ridiculous wish list to then coming back to reality about what’s on that wish list.

One theme that I’ve been consistent with in all of our talks is that I want a place to take care of my parents when they get older in the future. This is so true for my mother, as her family has often lived into their 90s.

This notion of caring for them on my property has been solidified even further with how unsure Medicare is, how expensive the healthcare system is, and the fact that I want them to have the best care while staying close to family. I figure I can achieve this by buying a property that’s big enough to parcel out a place for my parents.

I haven’t really thought of all the logistics, but the plan is stuck in my mind, and it’s framing what kind of property and home I want. This type of thinking has also led to conversations with my father about what he thinks they would like and need, if and when the time comes for them to sell their home and live with us.

When this happens, if not a little before, I’ll officially be smack dab in the classification of the sandwich generation, the people who are responsible for not only caring for their own kids, but also for their aging parents. According to the CDC, as of 2008, there were 34 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States. I’m sure that figure is much higher now.

I saw my mother do this with her mother, so I’m not afraid of the season when it comes; I just want to be prepared. Being prepared means thinking now about what will make life easier for all of us in the future.

It’s also about knowing and looking out for the pitfalls. I’ve heard from many others that this season of life can be so rewarding while you’re in it, but it can also be very taxing, so it’s important to be extra vigilant in taking care of yourself. In order to keep loving others, we have to keep loving ourselves.

This means that sometimes you need a break! This break could be a spa day, a long walk, a furious cardio kickboxing session, or just talking to others who are in similar situations. It takes a village, right?!

I’ve compiled a list of some support groups for those who are in this situation. Some support groups are local, and some are virtual, but they are all there as resources for support. And if you want something more local that fits what you’re going through, you can always start your own support group. There are tons of advice and tips online on how to make a new group successful. I think the best advice I saw when researching this article was to keep it simple and to feel accomplished even if only 1 or 2 people show up.

Local Support Groups

Memorial Hospital’s support groups

Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Groups

Granger – For Spanish-Speaking Caregivers – Starting Soon
Estela Ochoa
Call 206-529-3877 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Yakima – For Caregivers
Location: St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
4105 Richey Rd.
Yakima, WA 98908
Meeting Time: 2nd Thursday of the month, 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Contact Elaine Krump at 509-969-3615 before attending.

Yakima – For Spanish-Speaking Families
Call Manuel at 509-833-3334 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Online Support Groups

Caring.com has a broad list of caregiving groups for you to choose from. Access to these groups requires a free member account.

AgingCare.com has some groups for you to choose from, and you don’t have to become a member to access these groups.

Caregiving.com has online caregiving support groups, daily caregiving chats, and blogs written by family caregivers.

 

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.

Your Home Accessibility as You Age

Long View: Making Your Home More Accessible

A beloved family member is aging rather rapidly, not that we’d mention it of course. He already has arthritis in both knees and his left hand. His vision is not as good as it used to be, and we notice his agility just isn’t there anymore.

The problem is that his home has incredibly steep stairs, and the bedrooms and bathrooms are on the second floor. The furnace is in the cellar, which is only accessible through heavy metal doors and down another steep flight of stairs. And of course, the front door has stairs, too. The bathroom needs a lot of work. There’s no shower, just a huge slippery clawfoot tub. Home modification would be great, but a hundred-year-old house will always have its challenges.

These days, some builders are making structures with Universal Design, which focuses on providing maximum accessibility, regardless of a person’s ability to maneuver. Wider doorways, flat thresholds, and grab bars are a few of the tools that can make a home or commercial building more convenient for all of us.

My friend Therese Cardosi is the executive director of the Options Center for Independent Living in Bourbonnais. The mission of these centers (there’s also a location in Watseka) is to provide services, support, and advocacy to enhance the rights and abilities of people with disabilities in order to help them more actively participate in their communities and live self-determined independent lives.

“We are all in the process of creating the future for ourselves and our children, “ Therese said. “We don’t know what that future will bring, but we can predict that many of us will eventually need accessible places to live. The statistical projections are staggering.”

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s mission is to “build the capacity of our members so they can help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.”

Sadly, their many services can’t make up for a home that doesn’t accommodate someone with limited mobility or sensory loss. For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I am the “beloved family member” mentioned at the beginning.

There seems to be some movement in the right direction, but will it be enough or fast enough to support the statistical crush of the Baby Boomers? Probably not, but at least some folks are starting the conversation, and I want to be a part of it.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

Love Story through Alzheimer's

Chasing Health: Member’s Love Story of Caring for Wife with Alzheimer’s

As a writer, I get to interview all kinds of people about all kinds of topics, and sometimes I come across a story that gives me goosebumps.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Cary Ulrich, a member who lives in Washington, for the spring issue of House Calls, one of our Medicare newsletters. This former drafter and current fire photographer was kind enough to share his heartfelt story with me.

Cary’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and passed away after we published this article. But for nearly three years, Cary was her primary caregiver, a tough task for a person watching someone he loves suffer from a disease that does not yet have a cure.

I don’t know if I could handle it, but Cary did. And he even found a way to make something positive out of it. Today, Cary leads caregiver support groups and is writing a book to capture how grateful he is for the time he spent with the love of his life.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, and with Thanksgiving coming up, I think it’s the perfect time to share Cary’s story of being grateful while making sacrifices. Maybe it’ll inspire you to join the cause to end Alzheimer’s or thank a caregiver.

Take a Minute to Care about Caregivers

Cary Ulrich, a second-year Health Alliance Medicare member, likes a challenge. The one-time drafter and surveyor at an engineering firm went from designing layouts for Wenatchee Valley’s buildings and subdivisions to taking photos on the frontlines of wildfires.

The toughest challenge he faced wasn’t learning the art of drafting by hand before the drafting world went digital, and it wasn’t going out on his first fire call to take pictures of people putting their lives on the line to save others. It wasn’t even a challenge he enjoyed, but it was his most important, being a caregiver for one of the people he loves most, his wife.

Sharon Ulrich was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (a type of dementia) after showing some confusing symptoms, like having visions of everything from Old English-style visitors to spies and people trying to break into her home.

At first, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was it depression? Dementia? And if she had dementia, what kind was it? At 63 years old, she seemed too young for that.

While doctors looked for answers, Cary stayed by his wife’s side. From her earliest symptoms and first diagnosis in March 2010 to moving her to an adult home in February 2013, Cary was a caregiver. And he quickly learned that being a caregiver can take its own toll.

“I was on the outside going through everything,” he says. “I was very frustrated and angry at the situation, not at her. I had all those feelings, and no one seemed to care about me.”

He watched his wife’s health get worse while knowing he couldn’t help her get better. The woman who’d walked past his back-row church pew almost two decades ago, the one he thought was way too classy to ever even talk to him, now needed him to be her caregiver.

Cary and Sharon

“It’s a hard process,” he says. “I don’t exactly know how I did it, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve had to let go of what was and just totally accept her for the person she is now.”

Cary never backed down. Instead, he used his experience of caring for a loved one with dementia to help others do the same, turning his negative situation into something positive.

Today, Cary helps run two caregiver support groups, one specific to dementia at the Grief Place of North Central Washington and a more general one at Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington in East Wenatchee. In both groups, Cary gives support and tips to other caregivers because he believes it will help them feel better and make smarter choices about their own loved ones.

“The more you know when these things happen, the more you can kind of accept them,” he says. “You know you’re going to have to change because your loved one has changed and can’t go back the other way.”

He also talks to nursing classes at Wenatchee Valley College and to first responders in different fire districts to help them know how to work with people with dementia and the family and friends who care for them.

Cary takes on other challenges, too, like helping put on the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Wenatchee. Last year, he lined up sponsors, set up, and took photos for the 2-mile event that raised money and awareness.

Wenatchee's Walk to End Alzheimer's

Cary’s selflessness shines through in everything he does, and the man who likes to take on challenges and still goes out on fire calls hopes to make caregivers’ lives less challenging in the future.

“As a caregiver, you have the memories of what was, but all you have is what is. It’s a very difficult place to be. I know what these caregivers are going through, though. And I want them to know they are valued and can still enjoy life.”

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Hoarding Warning Signs

Warning Signs of Hoarding

What Is Hoarding?

Lately, it seems like almost every cable TV channel has a show about hoarding and people who live in less-than-great conditions because they can’t let go of anything, even trash.

While these people represent extreme cases, even mild hoarding can be a problem. As we get older, we tend to hang onto things. This often creates dangerous living areas, especially for seniors who have issues with balance and falling.

Clutter can also lead to other problems. It makes it harder to keep track of things you need like bills, meds, keys, and contact info for your friends and loved ones.

People with hoarding disorders usually save things because they believe these things will be needed in the future, they have emotional significance, and because having these things makes them feel safer and more secure. Because of this, it’s very different than collecting, when people careful find and display special items, like stamps or model cars.

Hoarding animals is one of the most dangerous forms of hoarding. Pets in these situations often aren’t cared for properly, which is dangerous for them and for you because of the unsanitary conditions this can lead to.

Signs of Hoarding

    • Cluttered living spaces, especially when it stops you from being able to use rooms for their intended purposes, like not being able to cook in the kitchen.
    • Extreme attachment to unimportant objects.
    • Letting trash build up to an unhealthy level.
    • Keeping stacks of newspapers and junk mail, or collecting lots of useless items.
    • Moving items from one pile to another without ever throwing anything away.
    • Trouble making decisions about and organizing your stuff.
    • Having a hard time letting others touch or borrow your things.
    • Embarrassment over your home.
    • Limited social interactions.

Getting Help

But hoarding is a treatable mental illness. Therapy where you talk with a doctor and certain drugs, usually ones used for depression, can help. Sticking to a treatment plan made with your doctor and support groups can also help you avoid hoarding.

You can also get help cleaning out your home with organizers, local assistance, or your friends and family. And you may find you have a lot of great things that you could donate to make someone else’s life better.

If hoarding affects you or someone you love, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. They can help you find a therapist who can work with you to make a treatment plan and recommend resources to help you clean up the clutter.