Swampscott, MA

Tips for Showering a Loved One


A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend who took on the task of trying to shower her mother. Her mom has dementia and has been resistant to taking showers for several months. My friend’s dad, the primary caregiver, had given up the shower fight, but my friend wanted to help. She hoped, because she was the daughter and not the husband, her mom would be more willing to bathe. The day proved to be one of the more frustrating days of my friend’s caregiving journey. In the end, she was soaked, her dad was yelling,…

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From Daughter to Caregiver: The Painful Change of Roles


One of the more heartbreaking conversations I’ve had was with a daughter who was caring for her father. She came to us looking for some help during the day, but she’d been his primary caregiver for more than a year. In between raising kids and managing her career, she was taking her father to doctor appointments, filling his pill box and reminding him to take them, handling all of his grocery shopping and other errands, doing his laundry, and occasionally reminding him to take a shower. While the stress of managing her life and his was taking its toll, the…

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Dealing with ‘I Want to Go Home’


I sat down with a resident at a memory care facility recently, and, within seconds, she asked me if I’d take her home. For me, a stranger, I could ask the question, “Where do you live?” and distract her with questions about her home, but distraction doesn’t come as easily for family members, who often feel sad, frustrated, and even guilty when the repeated theme of “going home” comes up. Going home and “getting out of here” are common themes if you love someone with dementia. As family members we try to reassure by saying things like, “This is your…

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Ambiguous loss: Dealing with it and moving on


I always say my husband is the most baggage-free person I’ve ever known. Aside from some OCD about organization (to be expected from a former accountant), he’s pretty much hang-up free. He doesn’t drudge up old problems. He doesn’t parent mean or fight dirty. He doesn’t seem to have the festering emotional sores so many of us have buried within. It’s not that he’s had a perfect life (he hasn’t), but I think it’s because he’s one of the most upfront people I’ve ever known. He deals with problems head on—tough conversations, loss, grief, sickness … Unlike so many of…

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Support Groups and Education: Why All Caregivers Should Go (But Most Don’t)


On any given week, my husband and I attend a half dozen educational seminars on topics related to aging—Alzheimer’s, financial planning, safety at home, etc. We go as professionals wanting to learn more about our field and to meet others doing similar work, but most of the content is really intended for families and individuals wanting to learn more about caring for their loved ones. These seminars always teach us something new, are at all times of the day, cost nothing, and usually come with great food, but I’m always surprised by how few family members actually attend. On one…

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How to Include Spouses in Caregiving


My grandparents were a big part of my childhood. They lived nearby, and I was constantly with them, playing games, taking walks, or chatting in their living room. No matter what we were doing, I knew everyday the world would stop at 11:30 a.m. for my grandfather’s lunch. To this day, when I think of my grandmother, I almost immediately hear her saying the words, “I need to get home to feed Pa lunch.” Although Gram fixing Pa’s lunch every day is probably outdated and antifeminist, I love this memory because it signifies to me the closeness of their marriage….

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When You Can’t Do the Caregiving: Short-term Options For Care


If you’re the full-time caregiver for a loved one, you know that role comes with a lot of pressure. You can’t get sick, you can’t take a vacation, and you can’t have surgery, because if you do, there’s no one else who will do your job. The day will come, however, when you do need help. You’ll need to attend an out-of-state wedding or travel for work or maybe you’ll get sick and require a hospital stay. You may just need a break from caregiving to ensure you don’t end up sick or in the hospital. When that happens, what…

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Lessening the Losses of Aging


When we’re caring for an aging loved one, it sometimes feels like all we do is take away. We take away her car; we convince her to sell her home; we change his diet; we take away his privacy. These losses (and the discussions that surround them) are tough on everyone, but if you work at it, it’s possible to lessen those losses and the guilt you feel about them. In our family, the loss was babysitting. One of the most heartbreaking discussions we had with my father-in-law before he died was when we told him he couldn’t babysit our…

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Getting Seniors to Exercise All Year Round


For the last year or so, my husband has been meeting his childhood friend for a weekly 3-mile run. They’re pretty consistent—running outside through most any weather—and in October, they ran a local race together. To anyone in town who sees them, it’s just two guys out for a run. And it is—except his running buddy lives at an assisted living facility and was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s several years ago. Not every person who is sick or aging will be able to keep up a running routine like my husband’s friend (he was a gym rat long before his…

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When Age and Illness Ruin Travel Plans


My grandparents in Maine gave up their annual trip to Florida about 10 years ago. Air travel from their island isn’t easy for even the most able-bodied travelers (the small airport is two hours away and a flight to Florida usually involves several layovers and a 12-hour travel day), so when my grandparents’ health started failing several years ago, they decided to give up flying. My grandmother seems to have accepted the end of her traveling days, but my grandfather still laments the loss of his trip south every year. Giving up a regularly scheduled trip due to aging or…

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