Posts Tagged ‘caregivers’

Caregivers Need Care Too—How to Help, Effectively

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Littman Krooks Elder LawCaring for a loved one is a labor of love, very often with an emphasis on the work. Caregivers bear an incredible weight in making sure that their loved one is getting what they need while their own life is put on hold. Burnout is common. 


With good intentions and a little forethought though, a small amount of kindness to a caregiver can go a long way. The key to being an effective helper is to act with the caregiver in mind, to give them what they want, not what you think they need.


Get Personal


If you know the caregiver and have an idea of their situation and what they enjoy, you can focus on something from which you know they would benefit. For example, if they have always taken pride in their yard but have not been able to find time to take care of it as well as they usually do, ask if you can weed the garden or cut the grass (or hire someone who can). If they have a hobby, help them be able to do that activity by caring for their loved one or by performing other tasks. If you do not know the person well, you can ask someone who does what they would enjoy or offer something that is generally enjoyable or helpful. 


Be prepared for them to decline your offer caregivers may not want to burden anyone or feel awkward about accepting help. You may need to offer again later and remind them that you want to help.


You may need to be creative in how you facilitate giving them a hand. If they are anxious or unable, to leave the person they care for, then try to figure out how to accommodate that. Otherwise, your offer to help may cause more stress than good.


Show Up


Forget about asking the caregiver to let you know when/if they need anything. Chances are good that they will either never ask or have no clue how to respond to an open-ended request. Instead, make a specific offer and follow through. 


A small break from the endless responsibility of being a caregiver can be very refreshing. Take something off the caregiver’s plate. Pick up some groceries or an indulgent treat and drop it off to them. Sit and listen to them talk. Help with chores. Watch a movie together. There is no need to spend money or obsess over what to do. Simple, thoughtful gestures are often enough and very much appreciated.


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Cold Weather Safety for Seniors

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Our guest blogger this week is Louis Giampa, President, Right At Home In House Care & Assistance (Westchester)

When winter’s beauty turns more beast with arctic winds, mounds of snow and bone-chilling temperatures, the season’s harsh side can prove especially dangerous for senior adults. Even older snowbirds escaping to warmer climates still can encounter dips in the thermometer, dampening rains and icy navigation.

“Colder weather is not particularly kind to seniors,” said Lou Giampa, President of Right at Home Westchester. “Slick sidewalks lead to falls; colds and the flu escalate; and depression looms because of indoor confinement and less social interaction. To counter the wintertime risks for older adults, basic planning and prevention can make the cold weather manageable and actually enjoyable.”

Littman Krooks Elder LawTo help families ensure their seniors stay warm and safe during winter months, Giampa recommends the following precautions:

  • Stay warm indoors. A comfortable thermostat setting in winter is 68° to 70° F. Many elders push their thermostats to higher temperatures, but this promotes over-dry skin and nasal passages, and raises the heating bill. Instead, seniors who feel chilled might consider wearing thicker socks, fleece slippers and a thin, thermal undershirt and leggings. Today’s lightweight “long johns” trap body heat, wick away moisture and layer well beneath outer clothes. Wearing a scarf around the neck and a knit hat also can increase one’s warmth around the house.
  • Beware of slick outdoor conditions. Inclement weather can create a buildup of snow, ice and mud on walkways and driveways. Outdoor fall prevention includes these tips: wear nonskid boots, get help with snow shoveling, use ice melt or sand for traction, and watch diligently for black ice.
  • Wear appropriate clothing outdoors. To prevent heat loss or hypothermia when body temperature drops too low, the elderly who venture into the cold should wear light, layered, loose-fitting clothing under an insulated, waterproof winter coat. Outerwear with a fleece lining and windproof shell is a plus. A hat is a must since as much as 50 percent of body heat is lost through the head. Weatherproof, lined gloves or mittens that still allow for flexibility are also a smart answer to the cold.
  • Stay current on immunizations. Seniors with a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to catching colds and the flu or more severe illnesses including pneumonia. Older adults should consult with their doctor about seasonal and year-round immunizations that are best for their individual overall health.
  • Consume a balanced diet. Individuals who remain indoors more during winter find it tempting to eat starchy convenience foods and skip fresh fruits and vegetables. Adding vegetables to soups and fruits to smoothies is an easy way to add vitamin-enriched foods to a senior’s diet. With less natural sunlight during winter to boost a body’s vitamin D level, eating vitamin-D fortified foods including grains, milk and seafood can help.
  • Keep well-hydrated. Although the elderly may not feel as thirsty in cooler weather, drinking six to eight glasses of liquid a day is still advised. Hot tea, apple cider and cocoa are fun additions to a wintertime beverage list, but stay mindful of the extra sugar and calories.
  • Ward off isolation and depression. Harsh weather invites less social interaction, and for many seniors, can put a damper on mental health. To prevent loneliness and the winter blues in the elderly, schedule regular outings, personal visits, phone calls and social networking. Staying connected with others helps trigger the body’s natural mood lifters including dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
  • Be prepared for power outages and other emergencies. Every home needs a year-round emergency preparedness kit that includes a flashlight, batteries and first aid supplies. For a comprehensive list of what to do and not do during a power outage, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website at
  • Don’t forget the car. For safe wintertime driving, good wipers and tires with plenty of snow-gripping tread are essential. Always keep the gas tank near full and carry an ice scraper, windshield washer fluid and a safety kit. Before getting on the road, it is smart for seniors to share their travel routes and expected arrival times with family or friends. Traveling with a charged cellphone and a car charger is another safety tip for any season of the year.

Giampa also advises that throughout winter, families check in daily with their elder loved ones who are living alone. Home healthcare companies like Right at Home provide senior care services including regular home visits for everything from companion care to driving the elderly to appointments, errands and wintertime activities.

With safety steps in place, aging adults can enjoy more beauty in winter than beast.

About Right at Home

Founded in 1995, Right at Home of provides in-home care and assistance to seniors and the disabled.  They help care for seniors who require some assistance in order to maintain their independence, improving their quality of life, and enabling them to remain in their homes.  Their caregivers help with all the activities of daily living, as well as cooking, light housekeeping, safety supervision, medication reminders, and transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, social activities, etc. Our caregivers are thoroughly screened, trained, and bonded/insured prior to entering a client’s home.

About the Owner

Lou Giampa is the President of Right at Home Westchester. Lou is a New York State Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) who volunteers in hospitals and nursing homes throughout Westchester County.  He also volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Association, Meals on Wheels, and the Aging in Place community. For more information, visit

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What Household Employees Should Know About the Affordable Care Act

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

By Tom Breedlove, HomePay by Breedlove

Nannies, senior caregivers, housekeepers and other in-home providers are in a unique situation compared to most employees. They don’t work for a large company with a Human Resources department looking out for their best interest. So when it comes to something like purchasing health insurance, it’s not as simple as filling out a form and letting someone else do all the work on the back end. And with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many household employees have questions about what is required of them.

While millions of people signed up for health insurance policies via the federal and state online exchanges last October, many others did not and will have a decision to make once again in the next few weeks. Open enrollment for health coverage starting in 2015 is scheduled to begin on November 15th – both for those buying policies for the first time and those whose policies are set to expire at the end of the year.

The most important thing for employees to understand is that the law itself is not changing in 2015 compared to 2014. That means all individuals are still required to have health insurance policy in place or pay a fine. For 2014, the fine is $95 or 1 percent of income for those that remain uninsured, whichever is higher. For 2015, this fine increases to either $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater. For example, someone earning $35,000 per year would face a fine of $700.

However, there is a silver lining to this cloud. There are subsidies that many employees will qualify for based on their income level that will allow them to obtain health insurance at a discounted rate. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a helpful calculator tool that any employee can use to estimate the subsidy they could receive. It takes into account several factors, including income, number of adults enrolling in coverage, number of children, the employee’s resident state, and others.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In order to qualify for a subsidy, the employee must have documented wages – meaning they have to be paid legally. In most trust situations and many senior care employment arrangements, this is already taken care of, but it warrants a reminder that this subsidy is available for those working so hard to care for a family’s loved one. It’s just another benefit of legal pay to go along with others, such as Social Security income, Medicare health coverage, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, and the ability to secure loans/credit.

To learn more about health insurance coverage, please visit or go to

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Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

Monday, April 21st, 2014

By Bernard A. Krooks, Certified Elder Law Attorney®

Being a caregiver for an elderly family member can be very demanding, both physically and emotionally. It is no surprise that many caregivers experience burnout. Caregivers often feel pressure to assume additional responsibility as time passes and neglect to take time out for themselves. Here are a few key tips to avoid burnout:

Ask Family Members for Help

When an aging parent needs care, one adult child may assume a greater share of the work than their adult siblings. This may be intentional or unavoidable, if other siblings work full-time or live farther away from the parent. Often, the imbalance is not acknowledged or even understood. It may be that those siblings who are not the primary caregivers simply do not know how much work is involved. In this situation, it can be important to have a family meeting.  The primary caregiver can use such a gathering to inform other family members of the details of their parent’s condition, and what is needed in terms of care. Once the caregiver explains in detail the amount of work that is involved, a perfect opportunity arises to ask other family members to contribute and help.

Try a Support Group

Being a caregiver can be very isolating. One may spend a great deal of time alone with the elderly parent.  Other relatives and friends, who are not caregivers, may not appreciate the amount of work involved and may not understand the caregiver’s frustration or exhaustion. Getting together in a support group is an excellent way to share resources and talk about day-to-day experiences with other caregivers in similar circumstances. Caregivers may be reluctant to attend a support group because of time constraints or because they downplay the significance of their work. However, most people have a positive experience when they attend support groups.                                                                                                   

Use Respite Care

Many people are working as unpaid caregivers for an elderly family member in part because professional in-home assistance can be unaffordable. Respite care can be a good alternative to full- or part-time help, providing planned, short-term breaks for the caregiver. For example, a break of a few hours once a week can have a beneficial effect on the caregiver’s emotional well-being. When making choices about care, families sometimes look at the option of hiring in-home care as an “all or nothing” undertaking, but respite care can be the perfect in-between alternative, allowing a family member to provide primary care, but take necessary breaks.

These tips have a common theme: one should not face these challenges alone. Instead, get help from family members and from community resources.

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How to Find a Senior Caregiver for an Adult with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Monday, August 5th, 2013
Our guest blogger this week is Ken Myers, President of Morningside Nannies. – See more at:

Our guest blogger this week is Ken Myers, President of Morningside Nannies

As adults, we tend to take for granted an abundance of competency related normalcies that will one day begin to deteriorate, but there are many revelations that come with aging. One may wonder how our family members will find the proper person to take care of us when we are unable do so ourselves. How do our family members find the right person to take care of us when we are unable to do it for ourselves? The following is a list of considerations that need to be taken.

1. Experience – Though a person may have a substantiated educational background pertaining to the care of a senior with Alzheimer’s, someone with hands on experience may be better suited to provide for a person confronted with the ever-changing needs of their particular situation. You do not want to disregard education in total, but perhaps someone with more real time experience is better suited for the person that needs care.

2. Education – The positive value of a good education cannot be disregarded when considering a candidate.  A young person with a degree that is certified to care for seniors with disabilities may be adequate for your situation if it is not very complex. It will also provide that capable person with priceless hands on experience, enabling them to know what to expect going forward. At the very least the person will be prepared for the basic treatment of Alzheimer’s and/or Dementia and will likely be knowledgeable about CPR and First Aid. The latter is not guaranteed, so please ask.

3. Background Check – It is always smart to perform a background check on your caregiver and it should be a common practice. This will validate their credentials and prove useful in preventing an unfavorable situation when hiring live-in help. The downside to not preforming a background check is bottomless. This should always be done when considering care for a senior.

4. Trial Run – Impose a period of trial employment to gauge how well the candidate and the senior interact with each other day to day. Many adults will resist giving up control when it comes to personal care; it is natural to want to be independent. Grading how well a candidate performs under the pressures of resistance and aggression by the senior will help to determine if they are a fit for the job.

5. Caregiver Agency – There are many agencies that offer caregivers at varying levels of skill and education. These agencies have already prescreened, tested, and deployed these professionals to care for seniors in the past. Though these agencies tend to be more expensive, you can rest assured knowing that this candidate performs their job well and is proven.

It takes a great amount of patience and understanding to deal with someone with Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia. The person will need to be able to adapt at the drop of a hat and be able to care for us. You wouldn’t want to put someone who isn’t ready in that predicament, and many of us would rather not put our own family members through the frustration and anguish that comes with day-to-day care.


Author Bio:

Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.


For more information about legal services for seniors, visit

Phrasing Affects Do Not Resuscitate Choices

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013


Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently studied what factors affect the decisions of people who are designated health care surrogates for a loved one. The researchers showed 252 people a video simulation of an actor posing as a doctor appraising them of a certain health condition and asking whether the patient should be resuscitated. They found that the way information is phrased makes a significant difference in what the health care surrogate chooses.

The study, developed in part by Dr. Amber Barnato and published in Critical Care Medicine, found that two factors made the biggest difference in the decision. One factor was whatever the health care surrogate believed other people in the same situation had chosen. When people were told that most people want CPR to be performed if the patient’s heart stopped in a certain situation, 64 percent also wanted CPR to be tried. If they were told that most people do not choose for CPR to be performed, then only 48 percent chose CPR.

The other significant factor was whether the “doctor” in the video used the phrase “allow a natural death” rather than the phrase “do not resuscitate.” When the latter phrase was used, 61 percent chose for CPR to be performed, but that figure dropped to 49 percent when the phrase “allow a natural death” was used.

Other factors had little effect. Expressions of sympathy from the “doctor,” being shown a photo of the loved one, or being asked to think about the choice from the perspective of the loved one all made little or no difference in the choice.


Preparing for Crisis and Disaster from an Attorney’s Perspective

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

By Scott M. Solkoff, Esq.[1]

People with dementia thrive on routine.  When the normal calendar of life is disrupted by crisis or disaster, it can be upsetting to any person – but for a person with dementia, it can be a very real threat.  From my view as an Elder Law Attorney, having worked with thousands of families to plan for their future, I have learned some simple steps that can be taken now to prevent big problems later.

Crisis and disaster can strike in many ways.  In Florida, it can come ashore as a hurricane but can also be caused by a health event, the sudden loss of a caregiver, fire and other causes that could befall any of us.  What all of these events have in common is a major disruption in routine and an increased need for safety and communication.  Most people know to keep flashlights, batteries, a water reserve, canned food, a manual can opener and other such supplies on hand.  This should be done and a caregiver should make a list and check the home regularly.  If the subject of our concerns is in a facility, the caregiver should speak with facility personnel about provisions.  Each facility is mandated by law to have a disaster plan and the caregiver should be aware of that plan.  For example, if a facility has no power, is there a generator large enough to meet basic needs?  Where would your loved one be taken if the facility itself becomes unsafe?  Get the answers.

Access and communication is critical.  You must be able to establish your authority to act for your loved one.  As a caregiver, you should have copies, if not originals, of all important legal documents, most important among them being the durable power of attorney, any trust agreements and the health care surrogate designation.  If at all feasible, the elder should also have copies, even if suffering from significant dementia, of the health care documents.  My clients are supplied with “digital pocket vaults,” flash drives that we have fabricated to be about the size of a credit card and which are kept right behind the person’s drivers’ license.  If I have an incident and paramedics come, they must look in my wallet for my I.D.  Right behind my I.D., is this special “vault.”  As soon as it is plugged into any computer (e.g., in the ambulance or the hospital), my caregiver’s name and phone number pop up so that they can be quickly identified and contacted.  My health care surrogate designation and living will are also on the card.  Create some way to make these critical documents portable.  Put a noticeable sticker on the refrigerator (another place paramedics often look) with caregiver contact information.  You can even put a sticker on the outside of the fridge telling the paramedics to look in the refrigerator door for a copy of the health care documents, a common practice.  Some organizations provide “safe return” bracelets, a wonderful tool that allows anyone who finds your loved one to get him or her back to safety.

One of the most important safety devices is people.  Make sure you, as a caregiver, have people you can count on to do the simple task of knocking on your loved one’s door if you cannot reach them yourself.  Get to know at least one neighbor.  Call your loved one regularly to “check in.”  If there is no answer, do not panic.  There is more often than not a good reason.  If there is still no answer and too much time has passed, call that neighbor to go knock on the door.

To read more about elder law and estate planning, please visit  Two of the nation’s leading elder law and special needs planning firms, one in Florida and one in New York, have developed a relationship to coordinate services and knowledge for people who have connections to both states. Solkoff Legal, P.A., of Delray Beach, Florida and Littman Krooks, LLP of Manhattan, White Plains, and Fishkill, New York are dedicated to helping seniors and individuals with special needs, along with their caregivers and their families, to read more, click here.

[1] Scott Solkoff is a Florida Bar board certified Elder Law attorney, co-author (with his father) of West Publisher’s national and state books on Elder Law, Past-Chair of the Elder Law Section of The Florida Bar and a Fellow of the American College of Trusts and Estate Counsel (ACTEC).  Scott practices Elder and Disability Law in Delray Beach, Florida.