Thursday, June 28, 2007

So You're a Caregiver!

Congratulations, you're a caregiver! Welcome to the world of ambiguity and confusion. I'm happy to meet working family caregivers because I know that you understand what caregivers, like me, do and feel each day. We face many moments thinking we're brainless. Not because we're stupid but because elder care is sooooo big and there's soooo much to learn & understand. Just the health issues alone take my breath away and give me headaches.

What's bothersome to me,when meeting people who have never experienced family caregiving, some shrug it off like it's a common chore. It's like having a conversation with a person who doesn't speak my language. Can you imagine telling someone about a rough day at work in English and they only speak and understand Russian? Well, that's what it's like to explain the hardships of caregiving to someone who's never traveled the road.

Here's a quote I read the other day on the Internet... it speaks volumes. “All I hear from my supervisor is that I need to stop letting my personal life affect my business life.” Anonymous male caregiver working full-time.

How does one separate business from personal, when our lives are so related and interdependent? It's not that cut and dry. We have spouses, children, friends, jobs, employers, family, moms & dads.. that all have equal importance to us. It's difficult to put one aside when they're/it's not doing well. Agree? Separate business from personal... isn't it all one? My life!! And it can't be separated, sliced or diced. Trust me, many of us wish caregiving could be put on the shelf. But that's like saying "sorry mom, dad, can't help you out today." Nope, probably won't happen.

Here's a hint: Before talking to the boss about having to take a day off to help mom or dad, be sure you tell them first where you are on a project and how you plan to make up the time lost, especially if the boss has never been in a caregiving role. offers, soon...., many products and solutions to help you balance work, life, and caregiving. It's coming soon... I promise.

Thank you for visiting. Carol

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Are You a Caregiver? Beginning the Process

Since we’ve determined ‘who’ caregivers are, here are some things to think about as you begin your caregiving process.

The Elder You Care for is an Adult
He or she has the right to make decisions about their life. As a caregiver, you should respect that right unless he or she has lost the capacity to make decisions or could put others in danger.

Whenever Possible, Offer Choices
Allow your loved ones choices from where to live to which cereals to eat for breakfast to what to wear. Having choices allows us to express ourselves. As their options become more limited, through health loss, financial constraints, or social losses, as a caregiver, you have to work harder to provide choices.

Do Those Things That Your Loved One Cannot Do
Caregivers often take over when they shouldn’t. If your loved one is still capable of performing certain activities, such as paying bills or cooking meals, then encourage him or her to do so. Helping your loved one maintain a feeling of independence will make him or her feel better about being in a care-receiving situation.

Do What You Promise To Do
Many care recipients find it emotionally difficult to have to depend on others, and many worry about being a burden. So, with all these mixed feelings, your loved one will need to be able to rely on you. Do what you promise. Remember that your loved one needs you, even if he or she doesn’t say so.

Take Care of Yourself
Caregivers often exhaust themselves by trying to handle caregiving responsibilities on top of normal daily routines. Providing care for a loved one while holding down a job, can lead to exhaustion. If you do become exhausted, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or to take out your frustrations on your loved one. So take care of yourself; take time out to do things you enjoy even if it means saying no to your loved one. Caregivers who refresh themselves can be there for the long haul.

Your Family is the First Resource
There can be deep emotional currents when a loved one becomes ill. Some family members will want to do everything, while others will do very little unless they’re asked. Yet spouses, brothers and sisters, children, and other relatives can do much to ease your caregiving burden.

Carol Marak, Founder,
Delivering products, services, & resources for family caregivers to working family caregivers designed to avoid work interruptions & distractions, emotional fatigue, and physical exhaustion that can result from balancing work, life, & caregiving.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Are You a Caregiver?

It’s rarely possible to pick out a caregiver in a crowd. Why? Because we, who care for loved ones, don’t think we’re fulfilling a role! It’s just part of who we are as daughters, sons, sisters, moms or dads! And it’s what we do. We care for the ones we love.
If you’re a person who provides needed help to an aging or infirmed loved one, supplying emotional support, physical assistance, financial assistance, and many other types of care, regardless of the situation, you’re a caregiver.

Family caregivers are the immediate family, relatives by blood, marriage, or adoption, partners, or close friends who directly provide care, manage the care of, or pay for the care of people who need medical and non-medical assistance, emotional support, and advocacy because they are ill, disabled, or aged and frail.

Caregivers dedicate, on average, 20 hours per week to provide care for older persons and even more time when the older person has multiple disabilities.

Forty-one percent of caregivers have children, too. Part of the "sandwich generation," many women will spend more years caring for a parent than they do raising a child. Caregivers of the elderly spend an average of $279 per month on care-related activities.

Since we’ve determined ‘who’ caregivers are, in a day or two, check back - we'll look at some things to think about as you begin your caregiving process.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Working Caregivers, the Silent Population

When reading articles about working family caregivers, we are often times called The Silent Population. Makes me think why are we silent? You'd think with juggling all that we do, we'd be screaming for help! But we don't. So then that makes me wonder if that's why there such a thing as Caregiver Stress? Or how about Caregiver Burnout?

It reminds me of a woman (I'll call her Jane to keep this blog easy to follow) in my office who's in the Sandwich Generation - not only does Jane belong to the Silent Generation but she's labeled Sandwich too! Anyway, Jane has children who are ages 10 and 14, very active in school and sport activities. She also has a mom living with her who's had several strokes and is confined to a wheel chair. Jane supposedly works full-time but is rarely on the job "full-time." Now, I'm not telling you this to be critical but instead to talk about the truth and what really happens in the work place.

Jane, along with several others, arrive late and leave early. Not because they're goofing off... instead they're running errands, shuffling kids to activities, taking mom to the doctor, checking on mom, etc. You understand if you fall in the sandwich generation. All of this makes you wonder how much productivity gets done on the job?

This is a growing issues now that boomers are aging... what are some doable options for us? There are some good companies that are looking at ways to help increase our time on the job.. but there are many who ignore this hard and fast-growing dilemma.

My next topic will address what the employee or working family caregivers can do to be more productive at work. Please visit our website and sign up for our free CareBuzz Newsletter - loaded with good tips and solutions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Do You Listen Well?

One of the best skills for a caregiver to develop is listening! As someone once quoted to me, God gave me two ears and one mouth. Sometimes it's difficult to listen, especially if we believe we know better. But out of respect and dignity of our aging seniors, let's assume they can speak for themselves. Most aging seniors really do know what they want and what?s best for them.

It's taken me several years to learn to listen well. And in the meantime; bite your tongue! Here are some guidelines that are helpful. These guidelines are derived from Texas Legal Services Center.

Considerate versus Inconsiderate

Inconsiderate listening includes daydreaming, discounting, jumping to conclusions, interrupting and ignoring.

Considerate which is where we all want to be takes a bit more effort. These skills include; paying attention, not judging, eye contact, don't finish sentences, and separating content from personality.

The speaker senses if you are listening by the amount of information she/he discloses. If you ask questions, it's a sign you are listening.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Great Place to Work for Family Caregivers

Now that's a topic I want to see addressed more often. If you're a working family caregiver, what would some of your expectations be? I know what mine are!! First, I want to be acknowledged that it's tough. I don't want sympathy (but that would be nice), it would be great if my HR Benefit's manager would give me the respect that we caregivers deserve.

How many of you are given empathy and hear the words, "I know it's tough and your family must appreciate all you're doing, but we have a job to do here." When I hear that, it's like all those good vibes you poured my way went down the toilet.

One day I asked the HR manager if we, the family caregivers, could set up a support group at lunch just to share the treasures we've found that help us save time and energy.. the ones that help us balance our lives?

"You know, we wish you could, but that's against company policy. If we allow one group to meet on site, then we're opening ourselves up to all sorts of issues."

Hmmm... I wonder what those issues are? I thought quietly. Then asked, "well, can we at least send one another an email sharing our resources?"

"No, that's company property, you can't use it for personal usage."

Okay, I thought to myself... I guess you just want us to spend time away from our tasks to do online research while we're sitting at our desks!! And if we can't share our information that means you can multiply that non-productivity by at least 25 other employees doing the same research!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Buzz on Caregiving Burnout

Most family caregivers are thrown into the endeavor of helping their aging mom, dad, grandparent or relative soon after a senior event. That's what happened to me and my siblings. That's probably, as those of you who have experienced, is the worst time to start searching for elder care issues and solutions. Think about it, if you wait till after a senior event to do your research, aren't your elder care decisions based on emotion rather than a prudent, well thought out plan for the ones you love?

Many of us ignore that ever looming endeavor - caring for an aging relative as long as possible. Why? Because who wants to admit to aging and getting old? Not me! I hate the fact that I'm over 50! There's so much stigma in our society on growing old. Isn't that why we're so interested in topics on ageless and the fountain of youth? I had a friend tell me the other day, she plans to live to 120! I don't know about you but that's a ghastly image!

Well, for me as a family caregiver while working full-time and living at a distance wanted to avoid aging as much as possible. But because I avoided it and did not prepare myself or my family for it, created a huge mess of challenges, stress, and confusion. And not to mention the emotion that shades any good decision.

First, let me say aging and caring for an elder is inevitable and it is in your future. So, accept it. Once that's accomplished, you are half way there to making your caregiving days less stressful and eventally will not experience caregiver burnout easily. This is step one of getting prepared.

There are many valuable resources available to us and that will make your life as a working family caregiver easier. Our website delivers a weekly newsletter called CareBuZZ that's delivered for free to your email inbox on a weekly basis. It's loaded with targeted solutions for elder care. Save it for later or use those tips now. It's yours for free simply sign up at our website

And visit here often. More tips on easing the caregiving road ahead. I hope you learn from some of my mistakes and you live stress-less, healther, wiser, and playful. There can't be a better thank you to your aging relative than to see you happier.

Relieving stress in caring,

Carol Marak


Sign up for our CareBuZZ - FREE Newsletter - loaded with tips on living a stress-less, healthier, wiser and playful life as a Caregiver. It's fun and gives you valuable how to's and tips. JUST DO IT.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Celebrating Dad

This week is dedicated to celebrating dad! It's over a month ago that he passed from my world unto a better one. I know it's better than the one he lived in for several years... especially the last one. He lived with Alz, wheel chair bound, incontinent, unable to feed or care for himself in any way, really. Remembering him this way brings tears to my heart.

I'd prefer remembering the quiet man who could fix anything he got his hands on; cars, houses, toilets, little girls broken dreams... he did that one time in my life.. he ended that sweet conversation with, "The only thing important Carol is that you are happy. That's all." Oh, how I loved that time spent with him. When I didn't know it all and he found some time just for me. There were four siblings so his time and energy was limited. And there was the full-time job too. And fixing things around the house. All took his time and attention.

He was a silent man and always available to his family. That was the most important thing in his life, being there and ready to help us anyway he possibly could. Aren't dad's great?

I miss my dad. Through-out the years I didn't pay much attention to showing him my love. Now I wish I had made more a point to express my heart to him. He deserves the best, where ever he is. "The only thing important dad is that you are happy. That's all."

Your loving daughter,

Friday, June 8, 2007

Caring for an Aging Senior

When I read stories about caring for aging relatives especially when the caregiver is a young mother, shows me the irony in caregiving roles. We contribute to another’s care to the point of losing our own good health, our peace, and ultimately our sense of well being. The question and concern for us is “how can we contribute to someone else when we have nothing left to give to ourselves?”

Family caregivers need to balance love, caregiving, and guilt. Close to 54 million Americans care for a disabled or sick family member, according to the 2006 survey conducted by Met Life. And although most bear the burden with love, social workers say caregiving is so demanding that most people feel inadequate. Yes, we do. Remembering the times caring for my mom as she waited in clinics to have her lung drained of fluids sorely reminds me just how inadequate I felt! Relieving her pain was my hope but my attempt to do so was extremely insufficient.

Beware of guilt, experts warn us. Eventually, such emotions can extract a heavy toll on the health of the caregiver -- and that hurts everyone involved.

Of all the emotional hurdles family caregivers face, including anger and resentment, guilt is the most pervasive, says Mimi Goodrich, a licensed clinical social worker at the Wellness Center in San Mateo, CA. “its right up there on the list. Caregivers feel it’s their obligation to make these years the happiest. But none of us has that power. When caregivers have expectations that are unrealistic, that’s when the guilt comes in.”

Ah, the truth in that statement by Goodrich brings me to the realization that I, as a caregiver, need to re-adjust my expectation level. But before I can do that, I must choose to care for myself first; making my life a priority! Who'd a thought?

Looking at my own family’s experience; my sister’s cholesterol is now higher due the stress of caring for our dad. Janice fills her life with dad’s day to day care requirements; overseeing the meds, naps, eating and his comfort. While I commend and praise her for the fabulous contribution she makes to his life, she is exhausted and stressed! There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t hear “I’m exhausted,” from her. Her recent physical exam shows that she has an increase in her cholesterol level, many times a symptom of stress.

Which reminds me what Pat Coleman, an elder care consultant, says about caring for an aging senior when asked what can caregivers do? Most importantly, turn to community programs and professional resources for help, as well as to family or friends. "Guilt is driven, in part, by the lack of access to information, especially during a crisis, It’s brought on by trying to get through the morass of needs and decisions and not knowing what supports and services are available. Often there hasn't been anyone there to tell us what we might need until we actually need it, so there's tremendous guilt in feeling we haven't done enough."

Family caregivers.. honor your deeds! You are earth angels, believe me!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

BackUp Care for Employees

Did you know that more organizations are starting to use backup care? Employers are considering adding as a work/life benefit because it can reduce absenteeism due to child and family caregiving issues. They are providing temporary care solutions when regular care is not available or when unexpected situations arise. This will be a considerable value for working caregivers! Having an alternative care arrangement will be provided in a variety of settings, including dedicated care facilities, employee homes or the homes of employees’ distantly located family members. This employee benefit - backup care is one of the fastest growing benefits offered by employers.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, unscheduled employee absenteeism affects most organizations. 25% of HR professionals (22%) reported that unscheduled employee absenteeism was a problem "to a large degree" and an additional 43% reported that it was a problem "to some degree."

Even though many U.S. employers offering backup care benefits, the majority of HR professionals reported that they were not at all awarae of backup care. Only 7% of respondents reported that they were very aware of backup care benefits. The good news, most HR professionals are interested in adding back up care benefits after reading about temporary care solutions and alternatives.

Hopefully, for the working family caregiver, the percentage of U.S. employers offering backup care benefits continue to grow in the coming years as recognition of the attributes of backup care arrangements increases.
Carol Marak, Founder,