Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:13:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 UAMS Schmieding Home Caregiver Program Gets $7.9 Million from Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:04:07 +0000 LITTLE ROCKIn another act of philanthropy to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) before ceasing operations, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has given a $7.9 million grant to the Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program.

The $7.9 million grant will support operations for five years at the Schmieding program’s seven training sites around Arkansas. The program provides education and skills training to family members and paid caregivers caring for older adults in the home, allowing older adults to have choices about how they are cared for.

“The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation’s support has been critically important to the success of the UAMS Schmieding Home Caregiver Program,” said Jeanne Wei, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the Institute on Aging. “We are grateful to the foundation for this grant and for their continuing visionary support of all our programs, and thank them for their continued support of the training program.”

Every day, 10,000 American baby boomers turn 65, and the number of retirees will double in the next decade. The training and education of home caregivers through the Schmieding program means families will have the option of keeping their loved one at home, called aging in place, instead of having to move them to an assisted living or a skilled-nursing facility.

It will also provide a better-prepared workforce and establish a pipeline that paid caregivers can use to advance in their work in health care. The program provides dementia training for paid caregivers as well as family caregivers, which is critical now that people are living longer. More than 5 million people in the United States have age-related dementia.

According to the recent study Caregiving in the U.S, sponsored by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute, of those caregivers providing 21 or more hours of care per week, 84 percent said they could use more information on or help with caregiving topics.

The training program was inspired by Lawrence H. Schmieding, who 20 years ago struggled to find competent, compassionate home care for an older brother with dementia. In 1998, the Schmieding Foundation donated $15 million to UAMS to establish and support the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education in Springdale, which developed the curriculum and training program.

After its initial success in Springdale, a $2.9 million grant from the Reynolds Foundation in 2009 to the Arkansas Aging Initiative, a program of the UAMS Institute on Aging, helped replicate the Schmieding Caregiver Training program in Jonesboro, Pine Bluff, West Memphis and Texarkana in its first phase. A phase II grant of $7.7 million in 2012 from the Reynolds Foundation sustained the initial programs and added four more sites in Fort Smith, Little Rock, Hot Springs and El Dorado.

Robin McAtee, Ph.D., has led development of this initiative since the beginning of Phase I and will continue to do so. One of the largest private foundation grants UAMS has received this year, this final grant brings the Reynolds Foundation’s total giving to the Schmieding program to more than $18.5 million.

With this most recent grant, the foundation will have given $97.5 million to UAMS, with $94.3 million of that going to the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, which includes the caregiver training program. This makes the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation one of the largest donors in UAMS history.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Donald W. Reynolds was the founder and principal owner of Donrey Media Group. When he died in 1993, the company included more than 70 businesses, most in the communications/media field. Headquartered in Las Vegas, the Foundation has committed over $265 million to improving the lives of elderly people in Arkansas and throughout the United States.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,890 students and 782 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit or, or find us on Facebook.

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UAMS/Schmieding Staff teams up with the Broyles Foundation to educate caregivers in NWA Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:16:26 +0000 Over one hundred people turned out Saturday at the Fellowship church in Rogers to learn about caregiving and Alzheimer’s disease. UAMS/Schmieding staff Sherry White MNS,c, RN-BC co-presented along with Betsy Broyles Arnold and Molly Arnold from the Frank and Barbara Broyles Legacy Foundation. Speakers presented information about Alzheimer’s disease progression, gave personal testimony about caring for the caregiver and provided a brief caregiver demonstration on hands on skills and caregiver safety.  Participants at the program were encouraged to learn as much as possible about the disease and additional caregiver resources training in the community.  Participants received a free copy of Coach Broyles Playbook containing tips and strategies for caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia, information on additional caregiver classes in the community and online resources for encouragement, support, education, medical equipment and specialty clothing.       

Pictured from left to Right Molly Arnold, Sherry White and Betsy Broyles

Pictured from left to Right Molly Arnold, Sherry White and Betsy Broyles

Information distributed at the program

Information distributed at the program

Betsy Broyles Arnold surrounded by examples of useful caregiver supplies

Betsy Broyles Arnold surrounded by examples of useful caregiver supplies

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UAMS Schmieding staff receive national REST Certification Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:49:05 +0000 Rest Trainers (left to right) Lois Sheaffer - REST Program, Director and Wendy Burk

Rest Trainers (left to right) Lois Sheaffer – REST Program, Director and Wendy Burk

Schmieding staff from around the state had the privilege to participate in REST training at the UAMS Reynolds Institute on Aging August 18 and 19, 2015.  The purpose of the training is to become certified as REST trainers so that REST classes can be offered throughout Arkansas at the UAMS Centers on Aging.  The Arkansas Department of Human Services paid for the training and will be hosting a statewide REST training on September 24, 2015.  REST stands for (Respite Education and Support Tools).  Training is free and open to anyone interested in providing planned or emergency care to a child or adult with a special need in order to give temporary relief to the family Caregiver.  As a volunteer respite provider you give the gift of your time to provide a valuable service.  For more information on the REST program download the attached brochure or go to

Schmieding staff poses with REST trainers at the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging in LR

Schmieding staff poses with REST trainers at the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging in LR

Volunteer Respite Training Announcement

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Americans with Alzheimer’s Expected to Triple Wed, 08 Jul 2015 13:30:09 +0000 The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease is expected to triple by mid-century…and  “today’s eldercare workforce is not equipped to handle this staggering growth.” These were comments made by Charles Fuschillo Jr., president and CEO Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, in an interview published in this month’s Eldercare Workforce Alliance newsletter.

Fuschillo discussed the need for better training for professionals and a new program offered by the Alzheimer’s Foundation for training health care professionals. According to Fuschillo, the foundation’s services include a toll free helpline staffed by licensed social workers, educational materials, and a free quarterly magazine for caregivers.

Education and training on Alzheimer’s for health care professionals is very important but so is the training of frontline,direct care workers such as home care aides.  The UAMS Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program offers a 16-hour certified training program designed to educate these workers and an eight-hour family caregiver workshop at each of its seven caregiver training sites around the state (  Both programs provide information on the various types of dementia, practical information on caregiving to help better care for these individuals, and local resources available in Arkansas.

For more information visit the Eldercare Workforce Alliance or to read the article by Fuschillo.

UAMS Schmieding Home Caregiver Training is part of the UAMS Institute on Aging’s Arkansas Aging Initiative.  This work is supported by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

Sherry White, MNSc, RN-BC project director for the UAMS Schmieding Replication Project, can be reached for comment or questions at

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Think Twice About Giving Elders Nutritional Drinks or Shakes Thu, 07 May 2015 14:17:59 +0000 GetImage“My elderly mother isn’t eating and she has lost a lot of weight. Should I give her a nutrition supplement drink to replace the meals she should be eating?”

Under-nutrition due to lack of eating is a common problem among elderly people. It is also dangerous. Under-nutrition and extreme thinness can lead to higher mortality rates, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is a problem that can’t be ignored.

Geriatricians (specialists in treating the elderly) take weight loss among the elderly very seriously and caregivers should, too. However, some caregivers feel that feeding their parent a nutrition supplement drink, such as Boost, in lieu of meals ensures the elderly loved one is getting the nutrition they need. This isn’t the case, according to Dr. Amy Ehrlich, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine and Interim Division Head of Montefiore Medical Center’s Geriatrics Division.

“Just giving them a can of Ensure for dinner isn’t enough,” she says. “It is always better to try to use regular food to maintain a person’s weight.” If a caregiver wants to use nutrition drinks, they should be used between meals, as a snack or supplement to add calories to the senior’s diet – not as a meal replacement.

Work with a doctor to determine elder’s nutrition needs

Weight loss is a marker of frailty. However, it is not a normal part of aging. Dr. Ehrlich stresses that it is critical to find out what is causing the senior’s loss of interest in food. A doctor should conduct a detailed medical evaluation to determine the cause of loss in appetite and weight loss. “There are a variety of treatable conditions that could be the culprit: ulcers, thyroid disease, dementia, depression, even ill-fitting dentures. All are treatable, so rather than immediately turning to a supplement, work with your doctor to address the cause of the problem,” Dr Ehrlich says.

If a caregiver does decide a nutrition drink is right for their elderly loved one, a doctor should still be consulted to determine the type of supplement to use. For example, diabetics must choose a low-sugar product.

Frail elderly have different nutrition requirements

There is a misperception that frail elderly people should adhere to the same low-fat, low-calorie diet that is recommended for the general population. However, Dr. Ehrlich says that for frail elderly who have substantial weight loss, the opposite is true. “I’ll see a 94-year-old person who is losing weight and he is restricting everything, eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet. It would be better to eat a bowl of ice cream, for the caloric intake!”

Elders who have experienced weight loss should eat what they like. And don’t be afraid to incorporate eggs, cheese, peanut butter…even ice cream into the diet. There is no need for low-fat milk or cheese.

Elders often can’t (or don’t want to) eat three large meals a day. Rather, encourage them to have smaller, more frequent meals, including snacks, even before bed.

Nutrition drinks and supplements can interact with medications

Supplements, including nutrition drinks, can cause dangerous drug interactions in the same way prescription medications do.

If an elder is taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements, the drugs may conflict and, basically, go to war against each other, while also damaging otherwise functioning body organs and systems. Check with your doctor to avoid interactions. “I encourage my patients to bring in all their medications, supplements and vitamins, so I can check for possible interactions. I call it the ‘brown bag visit,’ ” Dr. Ehrlich says. As an example, vitamin supplements may negatively interact with blood thinners like Coumadin.

The bottom line is that nutrition drinks are a not a magic fix for lack of eating or under-nutrition. These products are not bad when used as a dietary aid and supplement to regular meals. However, they should not be used as a meal replacement for elders – especially those who are frail or thin.

Dr. Amy Ehrlich MD is Geriatrics Fellowship Program Director for Montefiore Medical Center’s Geriatrics Division in New York and an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine. She is board certified in Geriatric Medicine and Internal Medicine.

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When Do You Become a Caregiver? Mon, 27 Apr 2015 15:43:18 +0000 Some caregivers live with their vulnerable elder or spouse in the same home. Other caregivers go to the home or apartment of an aging loved one to provide care. Then there are people who provide mostly emotional support and administrative oversight while their loved ones live in assisted living or a nursing home. Others are long-distance caregivers who must hire people to do the physical caregiving while they are juggling caregiving oversight with their marriages, children and jobs in another city.

All of these people are caregivers. Whether or not they are caregivers in the legal sense that they can file for benefits or qualify for respite care isn’t what we’re considering in this article. We’re looking at the emotional investment of caregiving as well as time and physical presence. Additionally, there’s no way to overstate the role of the advocate in a vulnerable person’s life. This role may be one of the most important ones we play no matter how much or little we are physically present to provide hands-on care.

Caregivers can get drawn into their own version of the “mommy wars” if they start to compare time spent in the presence of the care receiver to quality of care. We need to be careful to avoid nit picking and support each other as caregivers no matter what the differences in our situations may be.

Was I a caregiver?

My first care receiver was an elderly, deaf widower who lived next door to me. After five years of my being the caregiving daughter he never had, he died. Shortly thereafter, my childless aunt and uncle needed significant help and soon after, one at a time, my parents and in-laws became frail and needy.

I visited my ailing loved ones daily in their apartments and, for some, eventually the nursing home. I was the family shopper and errand runner. I rode ambulances to the emergency room more times than I like to remember. I helped my mom with showers and meals and medical appointments and tried to help my dad sustain a reason to live after surgery destroyed his brain. All of my involvement, from my providing the most intimate physical care to being a part of a caregiving team was important, but I know that one of my most vital roles was that of an advocate throughout the many changes my loved ones endured.

During my advocacy struggles I learned that I had more courage than I ever dreamed. I attracted the wrath of a couple of egotistical doctors and took flack from some harried, rude nurses and seemingly uncaring social workers. Thankfully, the vast majority of the people who worked with my elders were wonderful doctors, nurses, certified nursing assistants and social workers for whom the term “angel” is not an exaggeration.

I fought with insurance companies, found out how difficult it could be for a World War II veteran to obtain the help he deserved and learned how to cope when the family income is “spent down” for nursing home bills. I struggled through tangles of red tape that I never dreamed I’d need to handle. I worked with helpful government and insurance employees and was stonewalled by others. I won some. I lost some. But I did my imperfect best.

Are you a caregiver?

In the end, my elders were all well cared for. Other adult children may have approached each step differently than I did. They may have found a way to take at least one of the elders into their home, even though they couldn’t take them all. They may have hired more help than I did – or less. Each individual within each circumstance is unique.

For decades we caregivers were largely an invisible army struggling to sustain our vulnerable loved ones with little support from the outside world. Awareness has improved. An AARP survey found, in 2008, that there were more than 34 million unpaid caregivers who provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability. This number has grown and will eventually explode as our population ages. However, even though there’s more awareness now than in years past, caregivers still don’t have nearly as much financial help and social support as they need.

Are you a caregiver? I believe that a caregiver is a person who takes on at least some part of the responsibility for the welfare of someone sick, elderly or disabled. If the title fits, wear it proudly, my friends. Whether or not you are providing hands-on care, if you are doing your best to be an advocate for the vulnerable people or person in your life, you are a caregiver.


Provided courtesy of, the go-to destination for family caregivers. provides wealth of resources to help manage stress and avoid caregiver burnout. This article is one of a series of articles included in the eBook, Family Caring for Family. Download your free copy at

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Caregiver Stress: What it is, and How to Handle It Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:17:02 +0000 Individuals who are responsible for taking care of an elderly loved one often experience high levels of stress and anxiety which, over time, can have a distinctly negative impact on their overall health and wellbeing.

Here’s a stark statistic that puts this reality in perspective: People who suffer from caregiving-related stress have a 63% increase in their mortality rate, according to a 2003 study conducted by Ohio State University researchers.

That’s why it’s essential for you, as a caregiver, to be able to identify the common signs of caregiver stress:

  1. Depression
  2. Withdrawal
  3. Insomnia
  4. Trouble concentrating
  5. Anger
  6. Health issues
  7. Exhaustion
  8. Anxiety
  9. Drinking or smoking
  10. Altered eating habits

If you find that you are consistently experiencing several of these symptoms, then it may be time to incorporate some stress management techniques into your daily routine.

The following strategies can help you keep a lid on caregiver stress:

  1. Prioritize your to-do list and establish a daily routine to get things done
  2. Say “no” to social requests that are draining or stressful (i.e. hosting holiday get-togethers)
  3. Set realistic goals and achieve them by breaking up large tasks into small, doable chunks
  4. Try to maintain a sense of laughter and humor with caregiving
  5. Set aside time for yourself; make time for happiness
  6. Keep in touch with family and friends
  7. See your doctor for regular health checkups
  8. Consider professional counseling to deal with difficult emotions, including grief and guilt
  9. Forgive yourself for being less-than-perfect
  10. Don’t forget to ask for help from family, friends, support groups and your local Area Agency on Aging

For additional information on coping with stress, avoiding burnout and maintaining your sanity while taking care of an elderly loved one, consult this collection of caregiver support articles.


Provided courtesy of, the go-to destination for family caregivers. provides wealth of resources to help manage stress and avoid caregiver burnout. This article is one of a series of articles included in the eBook, Family Caring for Family. Download your free copy at

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Government Programs to Help Pay for Elder Healthcare Mon, 06 Apr 2015 14:04:17 +0000 It’s no secret that the cost of healthcare in the United States is staggering, especially for aging adults.

The average elder will pay nearly $39,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs during their final five years of life, according to a 2012 study conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

And that’s just the average.

Elders in the top 25 percent of medical expenditures shelled out an average of $101,791 in the five years preceding their death.

Thankfully, aging adults and their families don’t have to rely solely on personal assets (life insurance policies, long-term care insurance and retirement accounts) to pay for healthcare. There are a variety of government-funded financial resources available to help elders and their family members cover the cost of medical intervention.

Government Assistance Programs Available to Elders

Medicare: Medicare is the country’s health insurance program for people age 65 and over. Similar to traditional health insurance, the government-funded program does not cover 100 percent of an aging adult’s healthcare costs. Multiple coverage and deductible options are available, with varying levels of required monthly premiums. (People who are younger than 65 may also be able to qualify for Medicare if they have certain disabilities, or suffer from end-stage renal disease.)

There are technically four different parts to Medicare:

  • Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, hospice care, home health care and care in a skilled nursing facility
  • Part B deals with outpatient hospital care, lab tests, x-rays, home-based physical therapy, doctors’ bills, ambulance services, durable medical equipment, chiropractic care and certain prescription medications.
  • Part C closes some of the gaps in Medicare coverage—the portion of healthcare costs not covered by Medicare—and may reduce an elder’s out-of-pocket expenses. Part C plans are also referred to as “Medigap” or “Medicare Advantage.” Some elders choose to apply for Medicare Advantage plans that provide benefits via a private insurance company. These plans are vetted and approved by Medicare, even though they are purchased through private insurers. Choosing a Medicare Advantage plan can be confusing. It’s important to make sure that whatever plan an elder selects will cover their unique medical care needs.
  • Part D delivers prescription drug coverage to those who qualify for Medicare.

An elder must apply for Medicare in order to receive coverage. The initial enrollment period begins three months before a person turns age 65, and continues for three months after. If enrollment is not completed during this timeframe, Medicare medical insurance – as well as prescription drug coverage – could be delayed, and an applicant may be charged higher premiums. Following the initial enrollment phase, annual enrollment periods (usually occurring from October-December) allow an elder to select a new plan, or make changes to their current plans. Note, however, that Parts C and D require separate enrollment periods. Learn more about navigating the ins and outs of Medicare open enrollment.

  • The Medicare PACE Program: In some parts of the country, elders can apply for Medicare’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). This program is designed to offer aging adults who would otherwise need to go into a nursing home a package of benefits that would allow them to be taken care of at home. Learn more about how Medicare’s PACE Program Provides Extra Benefits for In-Home Care.

Medicaid: Medicaid is a financial assistance program, which helps low-income Americans pay for healthcare. A person’s income and available assets are what determine whether or not they qualify for coverage under Medicaid. Medicaid is overseen by the federal government, but is administered by each state individually. Elders should contact their local Department of Social Services for more information on eligibility requirements, and to begin the Medicaid application process.

In the event that the cost of their care becomes too burdensome, an elder may have to go on both Medicare and Medicaid simultaneously. These individuals are referred to as “dual-eligibles.”

Aging adults who must pursue long-term care in a skilled nursing facility often turn to Medicaid to help pay for it, as Medicare does not offer coverage for extended nursing home stays.

In these instances, there is a five-year look back period, during which the government will evaluate all income and assets over the last five years to determine an elder’s eligibility to receive Medicaid benefits. Individuals faced with this situation will have to ‘spend down to Medicaid,’ in an approved way—meaning that an individual applicant may not give away money or property for the five years leading up to their application, or they will risk incurring a penalty. An elder law attorney can be a tremendous help in understanding the best way to go about spending down an elder’s assets so that they qualify for assistance.

Social Security: Currently, Social Security benefit payments are available to individuals who are over the age of 62, and who were active in the workforce for at least 10 years. Monthly payment amounts are allotted based on how much income the recipient made while working, as well as how early they applied to receive benefits (the longer an elder waits to apply, the greater their benefits will be). There are no restrictions on what these funds can be used to pay for.

Veteran’s Benefits: An elder over 65 who served in the military, has a limited income, and wasn’t dishonorably discharged may be able to receive financial assistance in the form of a pension, through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). In addition to this money, aging veterans who need long-term care may also be eligible for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits, which can be used to pay for home health care, assisted living expenses and nursing home care. Learn more about how a Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit can be used to pay for long-term care.

Enrolling in government programs can be a confusing process. It’s often difficult to determine which plans best fit your loved one’s individual medical and financial needs.’sMedicare and Medicaid section provides additional resources to help guide you through the process of selecting and signing up for government assistance.

Provided courtesy of, the go-to destination for family caregivers. provides a wealth of resources on Medicare, Medicaid, and other ways of paying for elder healthcare. This article is one of a series of articles included in the eBook, Family Caring for Family. Download your free copy at

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When You’re the Target: How Caregivers Can Handle Family Criticism Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:47:24 +0000 It’s an unfortunate reality that the caregiver will always be a potential target for criticism; particularly from family members and friends who don’t understand what it’s like to provide care for an elderly loved one.

If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few strategies you can use to cope with any sharp remarks:

  • Don’t make it personal: Try to avoid internalizing any insults you receive, whether they come from an elderly loved one that you’re taking care of, another family member, or a friend. In all likelihood, the source of their venom has nothing to do with you, but with their own individual challenges and burdens.
  • Accept that you can’t make everyone happy: It’s cliché, but especially true for family caregivers: if you try to please everyone, you will end up pleasing no one. Family members and friends will not always agree with the decisions you make regarding a loved one’s care. While it’s a good idea to take into account the viewpoints of others, it’s also important to learn how totrust your instincts and stand by your choices.
  • Understand that criticism is inevitable: No one relishes receiving negative feedback, but unfortunately it’s an inevitable consequence of assuming the caregiver role.
  • Turn your frown upside down: You’ve probably heard it before, but research has consistently shown that even a fake smile may provide mood-boosting benefits, and can help you mentally and physically relax.
  • Don’t be a pushover: Criticism may be unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean that you should tolerate abusive behavior. If a family member is consistently hurling hurtful remarks in your direction, calmly tell them that you refuse to be treated that way and physically remove yourself from their presence.
  • Seek support: Receiving a harsh critique—especially when it comes from a family member or close friend—can be difficult to cope with. Many of those who find fault with your caregiving decisions probably don’t fully understand the spectrum of emotion and stress that weigh on a caregiver’s heart and mind. It’s not their fault; they’ve just never been in your shoes. One of the best ways to cope with criticism is to find an outlet where you can share your experiences and receive honest feedback from men and women who’ve been family caregivers before. Online support groups, such as the Caregiver Forum, can allow you to tap into an ever-present wellspring of encouragement, inspiration and guidance from fellow caregivers.

It may be hard, especially in the beginning, but eventually you will develop your own process for coping with criticism in a healthy, productive way.

Provided courtesy of, the go-to destination for family caregivers. offers resources and support to help caregivers manage stress and minimize family conflict while caregiving. This article is one of a series of articles included in the eBook, Family Caring for Family. Download your free copy at

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Death, Driving and Dollars: How to Discuss Taboo Topics with Elderly Loved Ones Mon, 16 Mar 2015 13:54:43 +0000 No one relishes the thought of pondering death for too long. Aging adults don’t want to consider what giving up the keys to the car will mean for their independence. And, thanks to the prevalence of identity theft, financial information always has an aura of silence surrounding it.

However, as you begin assuming more and more responsibility as a caregiver, there will come a time when you will have to discuss these awkward issues with an aging family member.

Here are 7 Strategies for Discussing Sensitive Subjects with an Elderly Loved One:

  1. Don’t give advice unless it’s asked for: This is an especially important tip for adult children who are looking after their aging parents. Your mother and father are used to providing you with advice and guidance. When this dynamic begins to shift, it may start to lower their self-esteem and make them feel out-of-control. Getting an outside expert—such as a financial advisor, or elder law attorney—to provide professional guidance can make an elder more receptive to new information.
  2. Pick your battles: It’s likely that your loved one needs help with multiple tasks—don’t try to tackle all of them in a single conversation. Prioritize their needs and address those needs over a series of discussions. This will allow each talk to remain focused on identifying a single problem and all of its potential solutions.
  3. Listen to what they’re saying: Make sure you’re really listening to what your loved one is saying. Try not to interrupt, or fill the silence during a conversation. When it’s your turn to speak, summarize what you think your loved one just said and then ask them if you have correctly interpreted their sentiments.
  4. Accept differing viewpoints: Expect and accept disagreement, especially when discussing hot-button topics. Acknowledge your loved one’s questions, concerns and viewpoints. Try to come up with a compromise that everyone can accept.
  5. Speak calmly and clearly: Especially if things begin to get heated, avoid raising your voice or shouting during a conversation. An argument can quickly escalate if either party starts acting flustered. Also, when speaking to older adults with hearing issues, it’s important to keep your voice low and to make sure to properly annunciate. This will smooth the communication process by ensuring that your loved one is literally hearing what you have to say.
  6. Don’t patronize: No one likes to be talked down to, especially if they’ve been living decades longer than the person they’re conversing with. Even if you’re talking to someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s, or some other form of dementia, don’t infantilize them by speaking to them the same way you would speak to a child.
  7. Choose your setting carefully: Plan out where you want the conversation to be held. Pick an area that is quiet and has few distractions (television, radio, too many people). Make sure you’re facing your loved one at all times.
  8. Put yourself in their shoes: Remember that your loved one is probably feeling like they are losing control over their own life. In their mind, their freedom and independence are being threatened. Be mindful of these feelings and approach every discussion with sensitivity and empathy.

Provided courtesy of, the go-to destination for family caregivers. offers resources and support to help guide family members through difficult conversations, liketalking with parents about death or money. This article is one of a series of articles included in the eBook, Family Caring for Family. Download your free copy at

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