tips for taking care of aging seniors parents

When caring for elderly parents - surgeries and hospitalizations can become a regular part of your scheduleIt's definitely been a season of hospitalizations for friends and family the last couple of years. This week, I learned a dear friend has been admitted to the hospital for major surgery later this week. For the Sandwich Generation caring for aging parents with health issues, that does seem to happen a lot more than the norm, but, of course, it can happen in any family at any time, can't it?

When a mutual friend emailed out the information and prayer requests, she added the request for no phone calls or visitors for the first couple of days as they worked to adjust medications and prepare her for surgery. Having spent more time than I'd like with loved ones in hospitals, I know, very well, how hard it is to receive phone calls and visitors even when it's something simple, and even more so when it's major. Doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, etc. constantly pop in with no notice to get info, give info, help, take blood, give medications…. It's no wonder people go HOME to get caught up on their rest. It's HARD WORK being in the hospital, that's for sure. 

An encouraging eCard sent to a patient in the hospital can be uplifting for our loved onesBecause of that, unless it's my immediate family, I usually do not call or go by, preferring to drop off a card or gift or send one, so they know I am thinking of them and praying for them but not wanting to be in the way. One of my favorite things lately has been to take advantage of something many hospitals offer – ecards at the hospital website. You get the patient's room number, go to the hospital website, find the e-card option, fill it out, and a volunteer delivers it to their room that day or the next. It's wonderful! Way faster than snail mail. A bit more special than a text message, assuming they even have their cell phones in the hospital with them.

Even if it's a child or grandchild IN the hospital, they'll love getting these ecards. And what fun to help our grandkids create these ecards on the computer to send to a loved one, whether near or far. 

I was shocked to discover that my friend's hospital – a big hospital in a big city that is many MANY miles from me – did NOT offer this option! You'd think they would be at the fore-front of this thoughtful idea! For her, I mixed high and low tech options. I delegated a mutual friend to pick up a get well card from both of us and drop it off for her. In the meantime, another friend wrote and said she was now up to receiving texts and phone calls. So I also texted her with lots of love and prayers and was so blessed and encouraged with the sweet reply. 

It's so hard when our loved ones are in the hospital and we aren't close enough to go visit. Mailing a card may not get it to them in a timely manner. I really applaud those hospitals that offer this ecard option on their websites and hope that all hospitals will implement this as soon as possible. It's as encouraging and uplifting for their patients to know others are thinking of them and praying for them as it is for friends and family to have a speedy option for letting them know they care! It's definitely such a big help for the busy Sandwich Generation. How about you? What's your favorite way of sending love to a friend or relative in the hospital, especially when they are far away? 

I love my AT&T Apple iPhone - its great for the Sandwich Generation dealing with the varied issues of caring for elderly parent sHave you ever gotten excited about a great idea, implemented it, and then discovered that it didn't work. Or that, at the very least, it needed some major tweaking? Me too! In fact that exact thing happened to me this weekend! Remember the grand idea about photographing the medication bottles of your Sandwich Generation family with your iPhone to be prepared for doctor, urgent care, or hospital visits? 

The good news is, it can work. The bad news is, it needs a bit of tweaking. And I'm here to tell you just what to do, since my senior mom and I got to test drive it this weekend. She wasn't feeling well, and our doctor's office was closed, so off to urgent care we went. They asked about her medications, I whipped out my handy dandy iPhone, and they had NO wifi. My photos were locked away "in the cloud" and I couldn't get them. I finally realized they really DID have wifi, I just hadn't "accepted" it via my iPhone, so that's the first thing you always need to check on.                

The Sandwich Generation caregiver needs to be sure we click this circle to save vital documents onto the iPhoneThe Sandwich Generation using Evernote when caring for aging parents needs to take steps to be sure they can access their info at any timeThe second thing to do, before you ever need it, is go into any files in your Evernote app that you might ever need with no wifi – whether medication bottles, a document you want to read, or even your To Do List. In your iPhone app for Evernote, you should see a little grey circle in the top left corner. Open the file, click on that circle, and then it will save that page directly onto your cell phone. THAT WAY, when you are sitting in the urgent care office late at night, a bit bleary eyed because of too little sleep the night before due to storms, you will be able to easily access your photos or other important information.

And another thing I would suggest. In addition to the cool photos, I WOULD type up the list of medications and add them to your contact file for each person. Because your contacts are always easily available, with or without wifi. And for that matter, I would also suggest you print out that list (and/or print out the photos of the medications) and keep them with all your hard copy paperwork like power of attorney, living will, etc. that we in the Sandwich Generation always travel with. Then, if you find that you have wifi at the doctor's office but your battery has died, you will still be OK. Oyyyy, the joys of hi-tech tools for caregivers. When they work, they are GREAT. And I still highly recommend them. But when they don't work, you do feel a bit glum, to say the least. But now, all the glumness is on me (and only for a minute), and YOU will be well prepared! ๐Ÿ™‚ 

One of the most useful iPhone apps along with the easy to use iPhone digital camera can be great tools for the Sandwich Generation caregiverFacebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Plus really are great resources, including for those of us in the Sandwich Generation! I got the greatest idea earlier this week via Jenn Fowler and her Pinterest site. It listed 10 pictures to keep in your iPhone, including photos of your medications!

How handy is that! And how could I NOT have thought of it before. Hmmmm, perhaps because of all the interruptions due to multigenerational caregiving? ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks to Jenn, though, I have the idea now AND expanded it a bit.

I took the photos of my senior mom's and my own medications – both prescription AND over the counter. Those photos would be quite handy "as is" and you can easily save them in your photo roll. But since I also LOVE Evernote (one of my most useful iphone apps that I've written about before and will be writing about again, soon), I added the photos to that app as well. 

Now, when I am at the doctor's office or hospital, and they ask me what medications she or I take, it'll be a breeze to whip out my iPhone, open the page in Evernote and write down each item, complete with the name, the amount, and, if necessary, the prescription number.

That's so handy for all caregivers and especially those of us in the Sandwich Generation who are often juggling medical and medication info for several family members from aging parents and ourselves on down to young grandchildren. This is a big help for routine doctor appointments and even better for emergencies when our brains don't always want to cooperate.

Make sure, when you do this, that each photo comes out clear, unshaky, and readable. Even if you or your loved one primarily take over-the-counter vitamins and supplements, the hospital will definitely want to know about those. And in a crisis, your mind can just go blank. So we definitely need those photos to be easy to read!

This is just as handy of an idea for long distance caregivers – especially if your aging parents also have an iPhone or other cell phone that they can use to take photos and send them via text. If they ever have to be admitted to the hospital, you can then communicate fully with the doctor about their medications via phone. (If they don't have the ability to send you the photos easily, it is still wise to have them write out a list of their medications and mail it to you to add to your iPhone. I would read it back to them when you get it, to try to avoid any errors due to misreading, typos, etc.)

And while you are doing all this, don't forget to find a pharmacy near your elderly parents (and yourself) that is open extra hours and/or delivers  and add that info to your iPhone contacts. Then you'll be prepared for emergencies, even if you are caring long distance or away on a trip. As I love to say, being prepared is one of the best tools around for all of us in the Sandwich Generation!

It is a celebration - Older Americans Month 2012- Especially appropriate for those of us in the Sandwich GenerationHappy Older Americans Month! According to the excellent senior citizen resource from Ohio, another finalist in the Best of the Web 2012, President Jimmy Carter named May "Older Americans Month." But even before that, President John F. Kennedy met with the National Council on Senior Citizens to bring issues affecting older adults to the forefront of policy discussions and every President since him has used May to raise awareness of elder issues.

Would you believe it! In 1963 only 17 million Americans were age 65 or older. Today, there are over 36 million Americans and senior citizens account for 12 percent of the total population!  Not only that, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, 87 million Americans – or 21 percent of the population – will be age 65 or older. Of course, since that will include all of us in the baby boomer generation, and since we have such a fab reputation for shaking things up a bit, it should get more and more interesting to see what happens. I hope. ๐Ÿ™‚ 

I love the Facebook page for the Ohio Department of Aging. They have a great photo celebration going on. "Ohioans of all ages are encouraged to visit their page and post photos they have taken that embody the theme "never too old to ?'" And all of us can pop over to enjoy seeing what so many active aging seniors are busy doing, like 102 year old, female WWII veteran Bea Abrams Cohen, who is still actively involved in leaving such a grand legacy of giving, caring, and sharing. What a great example for all of us in AND out of the Sandwich Generation, along with our grandkids! WOW!