Caring For Your Parents: Compelling PBS Documentary Glued Me To My Chair

I received an email from my cousin about the PBS documentary, Caring for Your Parents, a few days after it aired on April 2, 2008. He wanted to know if I was going to talk about it here. He thought it was a dynamite show.

I missed it the first time it aired. Fortunately, the entire show is available at the PBS website. So I was able to watch it today.


The Caring for Your Parents website has divided the show into small sections. I was only going to sample a few sections to get a sense of what the show was about. That turned out to be nearly impossible. I had to watch the entire show.

The show’s producer, writer and director, Michael Kirk tread a fine line between respecting the private aspects of each of these five families from Rhode Island while having them describe the unvarnished truth of their lives as caregivers for their aging parents. We follow them over the course of a year. From well-to-do to working class, each family is coping with their parents evolving lives. Several of these families were dealing with parents with dementia.

It’s funny how we sometimes think our own situation is different or unique. I was struck by how eerily similar many of the conversations between adult child and parent and health care provider were to my conversations with my father.

Early in the show, one of the parents was being reminded by his doctor that he needed to give up driving a car because his memory has started to fail. The conversation was so similar to ones I had with my Dad that I was stunned!

The families and situations were varied but the major themes were the same as those I had encountered. Here are a few highlights:

1. Many of our parents believe in being self-sufficient. They will not mention problems they are having because they don’t want to be a burden. So, it is important to have conversations about finances and medical care and to continue having conversations as your parents’ health changes. Their choices and decisions and wishes need to be written down. It’s not one conversation–it’s many over time.

2. Your interactions with your adult siblings regarding your parents will mirror the interactions you had when you were younger. If your fought as kids, you will likely fight about your parents’ wellbeing. You can break out of the old pattern. You need to toss your expectations away about what your siblings ought to be doing. Inter-family anger is likely when one sibling does all the caregiving. It needs to be dealt with in a positive way.

3. The family members providing care often deal with highly technical medical information in order to provide a parent with informed care. It practically takes a Masters degree to deliver medication, understand what the issues are, speak for the patient when she/he can speak for themselves and make the excruciating decision on when to stop a treatment that isn’t working.

4. All of this work takes a huge toll on the caregiver whose health may be in jeopardy from the stress and self-denial. Of the five families, the caregivers who took time to take care of themselves fared significantly better than those that didn’t.

Director, Michael Kirk, tries to end on an upbeat note by talking about “Transformative Moments”. My own experience bears out that there are often funny, happy and special moments shared with your parents as you care for them. The more you focus on those moments of joy the easier it is to get through the difficult moments.

Caring for Your Parents forces us to confront the idyllic myth that we and our parents may have of their independently living out their days in happy retirement until their “time is up.” Our elders are living longer, often in poorer health. They need more and more of our help as time goes on.

This documentary is a real eye opener. Please do watch it.

It is available for viewing on the PBS website and the DVD is available for purchase.

You Might Be A Caregiver If …

Are you one of the 65 million Americans, mostly women, between the ages of 40 and 60, who are caregivers for a family member or friend? Your loving care is making a huge difference for your loved one.

Not sure you are a caregiver? Check out the hilarious video by Jeff Foxworthy below. (PG Content)

November is National Family Caregivers Month.

New research from AARP suggests that caregiving can take a tremendous toll on the caregiver’s personal health and overall well-being. Yet, many caregivers can be reluctant to ask for help.

AARP has a wonderful set of online resources about caregiving that you won’t want to miss. There is even a great article from Dr. Nancy Snyderman about her experience becoming the caregiver for her mom and dad.

Many Thanks

And, if you know a caregiver who could use a pat on the back, check out the, where you can share a message of thanks with a caregiver you know and post it publicly alongside other messages from people across the country to illustrate the number of caregivers nationwide.

If you are a caregiver, let me say “Thank you!” You are making a tremendous difference in the life of your loved one. Know that you are not alone. There are resources to help.

And the entire 3GenFamily Blog Community is cheering you on!

Nutrition Needs For Seniors – What’s The Right Diet?

As people become older, the bodies change as well. Therefore, the nutrition needs of senior citizens are quite different from those of children, teenagers or adults. Some of the notable changes that might occur with seniors include the following.

Slow Metabolism – The metabolism rate for the elderly is considerably low. Therefore, the body doesn’t burn calories anymore. As such, seniors should eat lesser food to remain healthy. The food should also be full of nutrients.
Changes In The Digestive System –When you get older, the body produces fewer fluids required for digestion of food. Therefore, it’s tough for the body to absorb necessary nutrients.
Changes In The Appetite – A lot of senior citizens take various medications for health reasons. Therefore, they might experience side effects such as lack of appetite.
Poor Emotional Health – Elderly people often feel depressed or lonely thereby losing their interest in eating. For some, they might want to eat more food and gain extra pounds.If you’re planning the nutrition needs of an elderly individual, you need to consider a lot of factors. For instance, the diet needs to be packed with vital nutrients. That way, it can ward off any common health issues such as diabetes, constipation, high blood pressure, heart problems or high cholesterol. Here are some tips for a healthy diet for a senior individual.First, at least half of the plate should be vegetables and fruits. If you choose grains, they should always be whole grains. Eat less food because of low metabolism rates. Always choose foods with low sodium content. Always choose healthy fats such as those found in nuts, avocados, seeds, vegetable oils and much more.

A senior citizen should always be hydrated. You can take a lot of water or non-fizzy or non-caffeinated drinks. Also, the diet should contain foods with very high water content such as grapes, soups, melons, cucumbers and much more. Of course, if there are different dieting instructions prescribed by the doctor, they should be followed to the letter.

The diet should contain a lot of fiber and roughage. For instance, you should concentrate raw fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. These foods will reduce constipation while providing minerals, fiber, vitamins and nutrients that are crucial for proper aging.

Finally, the diet should contain proteins such as eggs, beans, chicken and fish and lean meats. Proteins allow the body to produce the energy necessary for bodily functions and day to day activities.

 Recommended Resources:

Tufts University Research Center on Aging created the illustration to highlight recommended food portions and exercises for those over 65.

You are never too old to start exercising.  Check the video on this page to know what we mean!

5 Most Common Problems For Senior Health

Old Age Is No Place For Sissies

Aging has its ups and it’s downs. Here is a list of the 5 most common problems I hear about as a nurse from those 55 and climbing, and how you can prevent, overcome, or manage them.

1. Memory Loss

“Senior moments” can happen to anyone. As one women I know in her sixties said, “People lose their keys when they are my age and they think it’s their age. Even though, plenty of teenagers lose their keys, and when they do, they just say they lost their keys.” Until recently, scientists thought this was due to information overload. However, now they have started to truly pull apart the differences between the start of dementia versus just regular… well… forgetfulness.

The adult brain actually may function better in some ways, because it knows how to ignore what it deems as unimportant. Did you catch that? What IT deems as unimportant. So, when you’re on your way to the kitchen, and you get there with a blank stare completely forgetting what you went there for, don’t fret. Your brain just ranked “it” lower on the importance scale. This particularly applies to the 50 and 60-something’s.

The best thing to do to keep your neurons in gear is: Stop smoking if you do, exercise if you don’t already, and keep your mind active with things including playing puzzles like crosswords or sudoku, learning new things, and reading.

2. Depression

The good news is that the majority of older adults aren’t depressed. The bad news is, it’s on the rise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “major depression in older people living in the community range from less than 1% to about 5% but rise to 13.5% in those who require home healthcare and to 11.5% in older hospital patients.” Depression can especially come to those who have multiple illnesses (like heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, etc.) or those who have lost multiple loved ones.

There are means of getting help if you see yourself or someone else going in this direction. There are medications available (prescription and non-prescription). Studies have also shown that simply increasing physical activity, increasing the amount of time spent doing enjoyable activities, and spending time with others (whether volunteering or simply spending more time with friends/family) may also improve mood.

3. Visual impairment

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 65 % of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and up. A leading cause of vision loss in the USA: macular degeneration.  Macular degeneration results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field (the macula) due to damage to the light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye (the retina).

As a result, the center of your vision is lost making it difficult to read or recognize faces. The peripheral vision remains however.   To help prevent macular degeneration, wear sunglasses when in direct sunlight, manage high blood pressure, and do not smoke. In the picture on the right, the top shows what someone with good vision sees. The bottom shows what happens to the vision of someone with macular degeneration.

4. Joint pain

First, the bad news. With age, joints do become stiffer and less flexible. The fluid-filled sacs that once served as soft cushions between cartilage or bone may have less fluid in them or none at all. This causes cartilage to rub together and erode. Minerals may deposit in and around some joints ( referred to as calcification). This is especially common in the joints of the shoulders. Hip and knee joints may begin to lose joint cartilage due to degenerative changes. However some joints, such as the ankle, typically change very little with aging.

The good news is that exercise will actually help maintain bone mass. Also, a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D (which helps absorb calcium) will also do you good. There are prescription and non-prescription means of preventing bone loss and maintaining joint health.

5. Hearing problems

Hearing loss can be difficult for the individual affected, as well as their loved ones. There is no one single cause of age-related hearing loss, but it seems to run in families. Another reason for hearing loss may be exposure to too much loud noise. Less commonly, it can occur due to a virus or bacteria, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medicines.

You may not be able to change your genes but you can protect your hearing from exposure to loud noise. Here is an infographic that outlines the degrees of sound that affect our ears: How Loud Are The Sounds Around Us. The best thing to do if you start to notice hearing loss is to speak with your doctor about what is causing the loss. From there, they will help you find the best route for management.

Multigenerational Living Is Increasing

Multigenerational Living – Is It Good Or Bad?

There are many reasons why multigenerational living has become a popular phenomenon. It could be because of the strict economic demands where college graduates without a job can’t afford their own houses. On the other hand, there is the sandwich generation, people who always find themselves taking care of their older parents while raising their own families. So, is multigenerational living the right thing for you?

There are many things to consider before actually doing it. For instance, do you get along with your parents? Many people agree to this agreement hoping any difficulties will be smoothened out. You should be prepared for some issues to come up, especially when you were younger. There will be some tension as well. Therefore, you need to be completely sure that you can accept all the issues thrown at you because the living arrangement would be permanent.

Secondly, you need to consider whether your partner or spouse can agree to it. Yes, you might be in good terms with your parents and living with them would be a breeze. However, is your spouse ready for such an arrangement? Most people are always at odds with their in-laws. Therefore, both of you need to agree completely before choosing such a living arrangement.

Lastly, you need to consider the space requirements? Most people find it hard to share the same space with their parents for many reasons. For instance, they might take over the master bedroom and most of the important areas of the house. Therefore, if you choose a multi-generation living arrangement, make sure you have a guest suite where your parents can stay comfortably without any constrictions on space.

Finally, you need to consider the benefits of such a living arrangement. For instance, your kids and their grandparents can develop a good relationship. That’s because they both have immediate access to each other. If you’re having babysitting issues, your parents can do it comfortably. On the other hand, it’s easy to share the house expenses, especially if your parents still have an income stream.

Also, as your parents’ age, you can always take good care of them rather than putting them in a home. Basically, they can spend their old age with their family and avoid feeling depressed or lonely as most home in senior care centers often feel. Therefore, your relationship grows without any hassles and it’s a win-win situation for all the parties involved.

Do you have a multigenerational family story? Share it with us.

How I Became A Caregiver

Caregiving of the Sick and Elderly Can Be Emotionally Fulfilling

When loved ones are seriously ill and require constant attention, it is necessary for a person from the family to become a caregiver. The services of such trained people are also available to those who can afford to pay for them.

Family caregivers can also give a loved one the emotional support that is often a great solace to those who are terminally ill. Often this choice is forced on family members who are then required to undergo some form of training for caregiving so that they are able to provide the right support to the ailing person or persons.

If you get the proper training, this can become a career in itself and has encouraged many people to give up jobs and take this profession up as a full-time career. Good training is a must for any career. The training helps to develop any native skills and experiences that may have come from caregiving in the family.

Caregivers services for the elderly is quite demanding and requires a proper training and certification. Training can involve both classroom learning, hands-on jobs, and apprenticeship that guides the new caregiver into the field. The elderly often require attention not only to their health but may need assistance to the patient for the discharge of bodily functions. Even the dispensing of medicines requires proper instruction and training. In certain cases, this may require registered nurses for injections and other procedures. A caregiver can obtain a lot of satisfaction through such service, and this can be a great incentive to take up this as a profession.

Even if you decide to become a professionally trained caregiver because you need to look after someone in the family, it can advance the value in your life and bring you a lot of affection and respect from the people you take care of. Caregiving for family members must be a joint effort and can help to bring a family closer to each other and give the satisfaction of the work that they do.

Caregivers may need to assume a 24-hour responsibility, and this can be quite strenuous. It can always be of great help if you can get part time help from professionals or from other members of the family. As family caregivers, there is often a shortage of time for attending to mundane things like buying the groceries or walking the dog, and here is where even children can pitch in to help.

Finding The Right Senior Housing and Health Care Providers

Finding the Right Senior Housing and Heal Care Providers

Taking care of seniors may not be an easy task to do, especially when you have business to attend to, a family to maintain, and a whole bunch of other things to do in life. But because you also need the best for them in terms of health and general wellness, you might require finding the right senior housing and healthcare providers around you to choose the best. This is because they reach to a point where they need assisted living, when it comes to performing their regular tasks such as preparing a meal, doing laundry, moving about and so on and so forth. The elderly will also need to be close to health care facilities as one becomes more vulnerable to health conditions as they age since immunity decreases with aging. Such facilities are in some cases also referred to as adult homes or board and care providers. When looking for the right one to take your senior loved one, here are some things that you might want to give thought to.

1. Conduct A Research

Good assisted leaving facilities will be registered with the relevant regulatory bodies and will be well known to the indigenous people or the locals. You can get credible information about them when you conduct an online search taking note of some probably good options. Consider their reputation and also ask from people known to you for ideas about the same. Most importantly, check about the care providers experience and qualifications before you consider such a facility as the right one for your loved one.

2. How Are Their Services?

This is an important question to ask yourself. Since you are looking for a place where you will probably leave your loved one for a while, you might want to look at things such as sanitation, food, hygiene, and most important of all, their healthcare service. Do not choose a Senior Housing provider where your senior will feel abandon or think that their wellness has been neglected. It can have a bad impact on the health and wellness even further.

3. Consider Social Wellness Of Your Senior; Will It Be Well Catered For?

Everyone has their own favorite activity, be it sport, reading, watching, and much more. It would be wiser to seek information from your Senior Housing and healthcare provider, whether they have such services or determine which social amenities they currently support. Take your senior to a place where it will be convenient for them to get to places such as the dining area, the bathroom, and such other considerations.

4. Consider Safety And Security

Another important consideration would be to ask yourself whether your parent will be in safe hands. Is their security guaranteed? Seek information about how people are treated there and whether they are allowed their basic freedoms.

After considering these, you can also determine the costs involved. As much as you may be having a tight budget, ensure that your senior will be comfortable in the facility you take them to. You may decide to take them along when you pay your first visit there and find out their opinion.

If you liked this article then checkout more at our 3GenFamily blog today