Tag Archives: caregiving

Protecting Your Loved Ones with Caregiving Planning

Vantage Point: Looking to the Future

Meet Jessica Arroyo of Wenatchee

Being born and raised in the small town of Wenatchee, surrounded by my family, has been such a blessing.

I grew up seeing my mother and father go out of their way to take care of my grandparents, taking them to doctor appointments, picking up their prescriptions, and making sure they always had everything they needed. Fortunately, my parents have never been in the position of having to make life-changing decisions for my grandparents.

As I get older and my parents start to age, I know it will be my duty to care for them as well. And now that I have a child of my own, I think of the future more than ever.

We don’t like to think about bad things happening, but they still happen. And once an unexpected event happens, our world as we know it can start to disappear. The future is coming for each of us, and we all need to have a plan. We can help you start making that plan.

At my first event at the Central Washington Health and Wellness Expo in September, I got to share our Planning Ahead Guide. This is a wonderful resource for everyone, but especially for our Medicare members. This guide has answers about Washington’s living wills and power of attorney to help you plan for all situations.

I also had the pleasure of meeting another great resource for our members, local ombudsman Shawna Pringle from Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington. As an ombudsman, she works to protect, defend, and advocate for residents of long-term care facilities.

Doing the research you need to plan ahead is an important first step, but focusing on setting these plans into motion is key to preparing for the future.

Meet Joy Stanford of Olympia

After my father had lived in California for more than 60 years, I moved him to Washington in 2008. It was somewhat traumatic for him and for my husband and me.

Not knowing a thing about caring for the elderly, we spent many hours on research. One day, a friend of mine reminded me that my dad has veteran benefits. It turned out, he could live at the veterans’ home and be well taken care of. However, we still had concerns and wanted to know who we could turn to if we thought he was not being cared for. We were given information about the Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program ensures the rights, dignity, and well-being of individuals living in long-term care today and in the future. One of its duties is to investigate concerns brought forward from anyone on behalf of the resident.

This program is focused on advocating for residents’ rights, including being fully informed on all aspects of their care, like cost or even changes in rooms or roommates. Residents have the right to complain, to participate in their own care, and to make their own choices, even if that means making choices others think are bad. They also have the right to confidentiality, dignity, respect, and freedom.

Whether it’s in-depth research, word of mouth, or a friendly referral, there are plenty of great resources in our community to help you and your family navigate this situation when you need it most.

Meet Breck Obermeyer of Yakima

The local Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) office is a great resource here in Yakima that you may not know about. SHIBA is a free service that provides unbiased and completely confidential help for those with Medicare, as well as help with healthcare choices for people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s run by volunteers and has locations statewide.

According to the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the SHIBA office can help you:

  • Figure out your healthcare coverage needs
  • Check your eligibility for healthcare coverage programs
  • Compare health insurance plans and programs
  • Enroll in Medicare
  • Speak with Medicare on your behalf
  • Find other helpful agencies and programs
  • Report fraud complaints

Here in Yakima, you can talk to Debra Wilson, Mary Pacheco, or Sirena Phillips at the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) SHIBA office. They have a new number and a new location to serve you! Their new phone number is (509) 902-1115, and their new location is 107 S. 7th Ave., Suite 206, Yakima, WA 98902. Remember, these services are free and completely unbiased, which means you’re getting great information and help that’s the best for you and your needs.

Relax for National Family Caregivers Month

National Family Caregivers Month

November is also National Family Caregivers Month, and this year’s theme is all about RESPITE and taking care of yourself as a caregiver.

R is for rest and relaxation. Relaxing sometimes is the best way to stay fresh as a caregiver.

E is for energize. You need to re-energize and lower your stress so you’re a good caregiver.

Energize

 

S is for sleep. Caregivers often have sleep problems. Try these tips or talk to your doctor.

Sleep

 

P is for programs that can help you as a caregiver. Find programs near you.

Programs

 

I is for imagination. Let your mind loose with activities like movies and books that let you take a mental break.

Imagination

 

T is for take 5, or 10. Little breaks that help you beat stress will also help you be a better caregiver when you are there.

Take 5

 

E is for exhale. Simple breathing exercises can help you calm down and refocus in no time.

Exhale

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Fight Caregiver Fatigue

Long View: Nobody Is an Island – Recognizing and Addressing Caregiver Fatigue

The holidays are supposed to be a time for family gatherings, parties, traveling, and opportunities to laugh and relax with the ones you love. For some, though, the holidays have different associations, like stress, anxiety, and isolation.

Caregivers can often feel stressed during the holiday season. While others are enjoying this time of year, caregivers may feel isolated as they focus on the care of a loved one. Caregivers selflessly provide around-the-clock, unpaid care to seniors and people with disabilities. They are tasked with accompanying their loved one to medical appointments, managing their medications, and handling their financial affairs, all while balancing their own obligations.

Caregivers also often overlook their own mental, emotional, and physical health. As a result, they can feel a sense of isolation, like they’re alone on an island. This feeling is called caregiver fatigue.

Mitchell Forrest, a social worker at Central Illinois Agency on Aging in Peoria, provided insight into caregiver fatigue. “Caregivers who feel a sense of hopelessness, are socially withdrawn, not sleeping, and experiencing illness and weight loss, may be suffering from caregiver fatigue and should seek out supports to help them manage their stress,” he said.

If left untreated, caregiver fatigue can take such a physical and mental toll that they can no longer care for their loved one.

But caregivers can find a network of encouragement through support groups. National organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association, offer local support groups for caregivers of people with different diagnoses.

Respite services can be another vital resource. For a fee, nursing homes and adult day services offer a safe, supportive environment where the loved one will be in trusted hands for a few hours or longer, so the caregiver can rest. In-home personal aides can also provide additional assistance to the caregiver.

While no resource is a remedy for the anxiety of caring for a sick loved one, caregivers should know that they are not alone. Talking to someone is invaluable, and there are many counselors who specialize in the needs of caregivers.

Area Agencies on Aging offer resources and referrals to support seniors, people with disabilities, and their caregivers. If you feel alone on the island, send a signal and help will find you.

Chris Maxeiner is a community liaison with Health Alliance. His background is in the fields of healthcare and government programs. His favorite superhero is Batman, and he is an avid Chicago sports fan (Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox).

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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