Stefania Shaffer, Profile


About 22200657

Your Checklist for Keeping Your Senior Safe at Home

How Do You Determine If This Is Forgetfulness or Something Much Worse? Know The Warning Signs To Keeping Your Senior Safe at Home.

When she flung open the front door to heartily greet me after a long period away from home, I did not need a professional to give me a checklist in order to know what was staring me in the face: my mother was no longer able to care for herself.

The thought registered like a blip on my radar, but I needed proof that these suspicions were correct.

I quickly gleaned from the tour of the house that all was not right within these walls. She was living in filth and clutter, and not just the kind that can be reconciled by making a bed and tidying a sock drawer. The term elder neglect came to mind.

But, I did not want to overreact.

I tried to talk myself into believing that maybe my mother was just unkempt today, an unusual departure from the years I remembered when dressing was a hobby she took seriously.

Other relatives had been coming and going and I never heard them sound the alarm. Aside from her appearance, and the neglect of the house, I witnessed that weekend what professionals will tell you are the first warning signs that your senior is not safe at home.

What I was seeing with fresh eyes was the lifestyle relatives had become blind to. Even friends weren’t privy to what went on behind that front door. I came to find out that my mom insisted on waiting for them on her front porch. People outside of the family just weren’t that close to the situation.

People inside the family just couldn’t see what was staring them in the face all along. In research I’ve read, passive neglect is not unusual; adult children of an elderly parent can be in denial that their parent needs as much care as she does.

To recognize that Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves would mean you are responsible for providing a solution. If you don’t, there is CPS for seniors, known as APS, Adult Protective Services, an agency who will protect your parents if you can’t.

Here is the Home Alone checklist from the Aging Solutions website which you should monitor regularly, especially as changes begin to occur with your elderly parent. If your answer to any of these questions puts your parent at risk, it may be time to get more support in place.

1)Will your parent turn on the stove and forget to turn it off?

2)Does your parent understand how to leave home if necessary? Where the door is located? How to exit the building?

3)Will your parent stay home or near the house rather than wander off?

4)If your parent goes outside, do they know how to get back inside?

5)Can they identify signals, such as smoke from the kitchen or fire alarms that would alert them to potential dangers?

6)Do they know how to access emergency services? Do they know how and when to dial 911? Would they be able to communicate over the phone? Can they physically get to the phone no matter where they are?

7)Do they have frequent life-threatening medical emergencies that require immediate intervention? Do they know where their medication is located? Do they have the capacity to select the right medicines in the correct amounts?

8)Does your parent have the judgment to identify who they should and should not let into the home? Will they know to allow family, friends and emergency personnel into the home?

9)Can your parent get to the bathroom and use the toilet on their own? If not, have alternatives been worked out?

10)Are they afraid to be alone for an hour or more? Do they become clingy when caregivers depart and make frequent telephone calls if they are alone?

Too many of my answers during this first weekend visit convinced me my parent was a high-risk for living alone. So, we made the decision together that I would move back into my childhood home to care for our mother until the very end.

What I learned from this experience is the subject of my new book, a funny and compassionate account, with guideposts for the daunting role every adult child coming home to care for an elderly parent should know.  9 Realities of Caring for An Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind, released in August 2013.

The Companion Playbook, is the workbook streamlined from the Memoir, chock-full of checklists and task sheets for the busy caregiver to begin doing today. June 2016. Both available at amazon and kindle.

Blog question: Which warning sign has you the most worried?

It Bears Repeating: Mom-isms You Heard Your Whole Life

Can’t Get That Nagging Voice Out Of Your Head? But, Oh, How You Will Miss It When She’s Gone.

We grew up with that voice of hers nagging us to clean our room, or unplug our curling iron, or re-wash the dishes—properly this time. She had advice on everything from make-up, “Take off the mascara, pinch your cheeks,”—to wearing clothes, “Start with one smart piece, then accessorize, the rest can be bought from Penney’s.” Mom-isms.

We’ve all got them stuck in our head, rolling around like loose marbles on a pinball machine until, before you know it, one drops to the finish line and comes shooting out of our mouths.

When I find myself in states of heightened stress, I hear her famous words heaved along with my exasperated sigh, “Oh my goodness gracious me, oh my.” It usually comes attached to the times when my two-inch binder filled with the lesson plans for this month spills across the floor. What’s funny to me is the look of amazement on my students’ faces. They act like they have never heard such a term before, especially not coming from someone who looks so young and hip, of which I keep reminding them, I am certainly neither.

“I never met a person I didn’t like.” And the explanation for this is because “it’s awfully hard to dislike someone who likes you, that’s why I like everybody.” She was sure savvy.

Her positive mental attitude came in this soundbite of encouragement, “You never know what’s around the corner and it just might turn out to be something pretty good.”

Of course, the famous one that I heard more than I cared to in my surly teen years, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” never made sense to me, but these were the Mom-isms with which I was raised.

She had a repertoire for any question.

If I picked the movie that would probably be more to my liking than hers, I could always count on a reply of, “Sure, I’m good-natured.”

Anything I ever posed that required more serious thinking was invariably met with a supportive, “Why not?” I loved that my mom was amiable in almost all situations.

For the times when she would put her foot down, there would be no mistaking it because she bellowed, “I’m putting my foot down!” I can’t imagine I would have as much success if I borrowed this remark for my own use today. But it does make me recall with fondness the times when she emphatically tried to win some point with child or father.

Since her death, I can’t seem to get her voice out of my head. Her Mom-isms have seeped in so deeply, I feel like she is in my backyard calling me outside to “get some Vitamin D for twenty minutes.”

I can practically see her in my kitchen, peeling an orange, or a cutie, saying, “I’m having my citrus for the day.”

Anytime I ever felt tired from the exhaustion of life, I would hear, “I believe in naps,” as she would encourage me to lie down.

For the times that something troublesome would rear its head, she would be sure to repeat as often as needed, “I believe in positive thinking.” She sure did.

“Suit yourself,” felt more like she was going along with it under duress.

The one that bears repeating is the one I aspire to use more often, “I’m agreeable.”

This is what made her so easy to get along with and oh, how I miss the face, the shrug, and the endearing smile that came with it.

Blog question: What are the Mom-isms you will remember the most long after she is gone?

Learning Something New Is Hard At Any Age

Need More Empathy For Your Student’s Learning? Take This Month To Learn Something Challenging Yourself.

It began as my administrator’s clever idea to help staff members gain more empathy for our middle school students while we learned what a typical day felt like for them.

Several of us in this experiment arrived at school almost giddy that we had substitutes covering our own classes, a little sad for those who wouldn’t be participating in the pushing and shoving through hallways.

After checking in at the front office to pick up our tailor made schedules, we navigated our way through wings and classes we rarely visited throughout the year because we were usually locked away inside our own rooms for most of it. Equipped with our lunch money, backpack, and comfortable shoes, we embarked on the “first-day-at-school” journey we hadn’t taken in decades.

I gained a few insights this day.

I discovered how hard it is to sit in our desk-chair combination seats that are torturous for even one class period, let alone a whole day of tailbone twitching trying to get comfortable.

I developed a tremendous amount of empathy for students who ask to use the bathroom during class. I now realize this is less about, perhaps, wanting to avoid a grammar lesson, and more the case that there is simply not enough time to negotiate this necessity in the mere three minutes we have to pass between classes.

The most powerful lesson I learned today is this: I only know what I know. After sitting in on other subjects taught by my middle school colleagues, I found that with all of my education behind me, I have really only mastered the subject I teach. 

So I have done some thinking about how I will ward off Alzheimer’s since they say the best way to do so is to exercise the brain by learning something new. A language at this point seems like more school work, outside of my regular school work. A sport is out of my comfort zone. An expansion in my culinary and baking skills will be more play time, and not the challenge I am seeking.

So, I think back to my childhood to recall the passions I had a full minute to explore before I abandoned them for increased homework loads, adolescent angst, college commitments, corporate ladder climbing, and overachieving adulthood ambitions.

I remember that I once went to horse camp as a sixth grader in the Girl Scouts. I was taught how to brush a horse, and pat his caboose when I walked behind him, lest he be surprised and kick me. I got my first pair of Roper boots that my mom said would stretch out the more I wore them, so I slept in them. Every day for one whole glorious week, I got to see my horse Butterfly. Riding at a slow trot was not half as much fun as galloping.

Years later, I took any chance I had to ride with friends on the coast, or in the valley, because I wanted to gallop again. I considered myself a real horsewoman throughout my high school years because I had ridden the beach alone…twice.

Let me tell you, there is a lot more to becoming a horsewoman than what I learned at horse camp. I have been taking Dressage lessons for five months now—the English riding style that will eventually teach me how to jump. Around month two, I started to feel inadequate that as an aspiring horsewoman, I still relied on one of the ranch hands to tack up my horse for me, so I said I wanted to learn.

This has been the most challenging subject to master. There are about seventeen steps to girding up your horse before you can get your giddy-up on. All of the leather straps that need to be laced around your horse’s head, properly linking the chain behind his throat, while getting him to take the bit the first time, have given me nightmares. Don’t even get me started on the layers of saddling, and boot wrapping that need to be done. For a long time, brushing was still my favorite part.

But, this experience has finally given me one more great story in the arsenal I rely upon to build confidence among my seventh-graders. I love the student who tells me they’ve never been good at school, and learning is hard. I understand completely.

Now, I will tell them that I know exactly what it’s like to learn something new. I will tell them that when I didn’t understand the instructions the first time, I was overwhelmed. When I still hadn’t mastered the routine after the second time, I felt frustrated. After the fourth time, I felt embarrassed. After the seventh time, I thought I was in over my head and I would never get it. But, like Shania Twain’s song says, “I ain’t no quitter.”

Today, I am 85% Proficient, which means I am nearly Advanced. I know I can lick this, and I can see the improvements I have made.

The ranch hands all know me by name and tell me I am besting my time from when I last tacked up my horse—not that it’s a race, but they are building my confidence. I can even see the growing approval in my patient horse. He knows I know what I’m doing now.

When your own kids say “it’s too hard”—it only means they are afraid of looking stupid because everybody else seems to be getting it faster.

Take this month to challenge yourself—let your kids see the kind of learner you are. Show them that the road to mastery isn’t about age, it’s about skill—and gaining some is quite gratifying in the end.

Blog question: When did you last learn something challenging and what was it?

9 Realities of Caring For An Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind

You moved home to care for your elderly parent, now what? Your answer is here.

It became clear to me when I returned home for a visit with my elderly mother that there would be no escaping the question of what to do about Mom. The time had come, the signs were obvious. She could no longer manage to be alone in her big home. The chores, the mail, the bills, the lawn, the cats, the  care of what needed to go into her, had all gotten to be too much for her to handle on her own.

After seeing the condition of each bedroom, four of them being used as attics, along with her Master which was a perfect picture in a “before and after” makeover scenario, hers being the “before”, it took me only a weekend of uncoiling messes left behind from ants, cats, and other critters to realize that I would be the one who would become caregiver for our mother.

We all knew her greatest wish was to remain in her own home for the duration. Looking into her worried pale blue eyes, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t give to keep her feeling safe in her home and well cared for the rest of her years ahead, so I gave up everything to move back into my childhood home.

My mind began racing with questions: How to purge a home filled with decades of clutter, while preserving childhood memories? How to make her money last and where are all her assets? What is this filing system of hers that keeps mail tucked under beds and stuffed into shoeboxes on shelves? What legal documents are still not in place? Is she being forgetful, or are we dealing with the warning signs of something worse? What are her wishes to be carried out beyond her death? What would make her happiest today?

And much later, I would be asking other questions. How can I make her comfortable? How much time do we have? How can I possibly say goodbye?

I wish someone had prepared me for what I experienced in this undertaking. I would have still said yes to the job, but I would have had a better idea of what the job entailed. Nobody says yes to Firefighting, or Nursing, or the FBI, or the Army without asking a few questions up front about what a typical day at work is like. Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was also joyful. Yes, it was scary, and hard, absolutely the hardest bullet point I can now list under work experience. Yes, it was my privilege. Yes, I did it because I knew no one else could or would, and because I believed my father would have wanted to know his beloved wife of fifty-four years was not going to have to go it alone.

The realities of what I learned are chronicled in my second book, a non-fiction narrative called 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind. Slated for release in August 2013, this is a funny, compassionate, and daunting account of what you can expect if you are the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end.

Designed to be an indispensable guide, it will help you through nine chapters dealing with early topics like keeping your parent safe in their own home, to middle chapters centering on waiting for death and the important role that bowel movements and bedsores will play in the end. The final third of the book deals with the aftermath, including funeral arrangements that are pre-designed, and managing as executor of the estate. Grief counseling for the adult orphan is the last chapter.

I am so sorry you have to go through it. But, my intention in writing this is that it will be a support to you if you have no other.

Blog question: What do you wish you had known before assuming the role as caregiver to your elderly parent?

How To Tell When Your Best Friend Is A Bad Friend

What adults can learn from middle school—the Top 5 signs your friend is not a friend worth keeping.

Why does your neck stiffen when you hang up the phone with a best friend? Start paying attention to the warning signs of a true bad friend.

For years, there was a familiar voice replaying in my head every time I got off the phone with one of my best friends. It was not my own that I heard because I had not found my words yet to describe this feeling I was having. The voice was not my mother’s who would have frowned upon the situation as if I should know better by now, nor was it my then-boyfriend’s whose interpretation of the obvious I ignored. It was Oprah’s.

Having been an avid follower of everything Oprah, and a lifelong subscriber to O, The Oprah Magazine, since its inception, a long-ago read column has stuck with me ever since; it was an ah-ha moment on how to determine when a best friend is truly a bad friend.

As I recall, it boiled down to this for Oprah: When you hang up the phone, ask yourself, “Do I feel better, or do I feel worse?” If you feel worse, then it is time to make some decisions about how to get the love you need, or how to extricate yourself from the kind of pain you don’t need to be finding among your friends. The world has plenty of that to offer you elsewhere.

What makes a frenemy? A Feature writer at O, The Oprah Magazine, named Paige Williams could not have defined it more brilliantly, and humorously, in her article called The Friendship Detox: How to Say Goodbye and Good Riddance. This article has stayed with me long after I read it because I, too, have had to ask myself what makes a frenemy? And, more importantly, why when something good happens to me does it sound like my friend is chewing shards of broken glass as she spits out her atta-girl?

For years, I put the phone-test to the test, and for years I always got the same answer: stiff neck, tight shoulders, feeling worse, much, much worse. If there was a battered friend syndrome, I am sure I would fit the profile. I offered the first line of defense for her brashness, her selfishness, her utter misunderstanding of anything I thought could calm her, sooth her, present solutions to her problems. Had I done something to deserve her cutting me to the quick? I didn’t get it, but I forgave it time and again, and again, and again because I thought she was my true best friend.

She finally became so contentious over random topics of conversation that I felt like I was becoming an unwitting sparring partner for her verbal jabs. This was not part of my training in Friendship 101.  I only attended courses on how to love a friend through a difficult time, and how not to be too burdensome a friend by unloading every single problem you have every single time you’re together. I lost sleep. Lots and lots of sleep, which is precious to me. But, I knew it meant I had to say goodbye. As soon as it was over, my peaceful slumber returned immediately.

As a middle school teacher, I have seen my share of tear-stained children (both boys and girls) crying in my room at lunch over a best friend who has suddenly turned out to be a bad friend.

For students grappling with the mysteries of why best friends sometimes aren’t the best friends for us to have, just know this is a question that will plague you into adulthood—we don’t have all the answers.

I happen to love the best friend character of Rebecca Benson I created in my first novel Heroes Don’t Always Wear Capes because every kid should know what it’s supposed to look like when a true friend stands up for you.

But, here are a few tips on how you can tell it is time to un-friend your friend.

1)After talking to your friend, do you feel better or worse? If you experience a tightening in your neck, shoulders, or a heaviness in your heart, believe me, you feel worse.

2)Has your friend spilled the beans on one or more of your secrets? If you cannot trust a friend, you do not have a friendship, you have an arrangement. What are you getting out of it? What is she? Hopefully, you are not giving more than you are getting. The best friendships have balance.

3)When something really great happens for you, is your friend truly, enthusiastically giddy about your good news? Or is there a jab, a stab, a comment to be made through what sounds like a mouthful of broken glass?

4)Does your friend talk about the personal problems of her other friends to you? Guess what? She is also talking to them about yours. Loose lips sink ships, not just world war battle ships, but friendships included.

5)Are you losing sleep over the worry of ending a bad friendship? End it and find out how a good night’s sleep is supposed to feel. If you are wrong, you can always take it back; a true friend will forgive the error of your ways.

Blog question: Do you have any other warning signs that your friend is not a friend?

Paying Tribute to Organizing Guru Peter Walsh With This Closet Makeover

A Closet Full of Clothes but Still Nothing to Wear? Reinvent Your Wardrobe with this 2-hour Closet Makeover.

The trick about closet makeovers is that the high gloss magazines make them look so attainable. Look closer. All of the clothes in the photograph are monochromatic in a neutral shade of ivory, or beige, paired with six white collared blouses that hang sparsely next to one another with at least two inches between them, lest they be touching, giving the unforgiving impression that they have no room to breathe.

I remember being a teenager, sharing an overstuffed closet with a messy sister, who intentionally pushed my buttons by strangling my clothes as she smashed them up against the left side so she could fit another new stash of tops she would only wear once before going shopping again. I felt bad for my clothes that were made to suffocate in order to support her weekly habit, so I understand what the magazine editors and the photographers are looking for in a photogenic closet, but realistically, what woman can subsist on six interchangeable outfits made of khaki, white, and black?

When I came home to care for my elderly mother, I found several bedroom and hall closets being used for her seasonal wardrobes. The problem was she had no place to wear these dresses, or outfits bought decades earlier that no longer fit. She was agreeable to a slow purge, focusing on the one Master closet today, so I began huffing out clothes by the armful.

In order to do an effective clear out of any room, professional organizers will tell you that at least three staging areas are mandatory: Keep, Toss, Donate. Organizing guru Peter Walsh, who has gone from TLC’s Clean Sweep to acclaimed fame, earning a rightful place in O, The Oprah Magazine with quarterly features, is the king of closet makeovers. His ten-minute brass tacks sit downs to help hoarders figure out what the stuff symbolized and took place of emotionally was my favorite part of his show. There is my shout out to Peter Walsh. Read him in Oprah, and check out his site.

My approach is no different. The best way to sort a closet is to pull out everything at once. Set a timer, giving yourself a two-hour window and have your sorting crates in order. An old piece of luggage you want to donate, or a sizable box, or a Hefty sack can be used to stuff inside the clothes you no longer wish to keep.

In determining what to keep, ask yourself if you feel amazing in it, and if you happen to get compliments from others, that’s a bonus.

My favorite supplies needed for setting up a good closet space are always the same:

1)Beige suede hangers, the thin kind. This will help to create a uniform look, and maximize the hanging space you have; bulky wooden coat hangers that curve have no place in a lady’s closet.

2)A good shoe organizer is key and the benefit of trial and error keeps me coming back to the same one: a vertical hanging style with twelve shoe-boxed sized compartments. Metal shoe racks on the floor, or hanging pockets over the door all end up hogging precious real estate or become buried beneath a sea of clothes, thus making your shoes inaccessible.

3)Storage boxes with lids. I always pick a couple of oversized hat boxes to contain clutter, or keepsake cards. Lids are key, you don’t want to see the mess. It disturbs the zen of your new closet.

4)A double hang rod is essential for keeping shirts and blazers above skirts and folded trousers below. If you are really Type A, you will correlate your wardrobe so like colors hang above like colors.

Finish your wardrobe by re-inserting dresses together according to color, style, sleeve length; special occasion dresses come next; then swing coats; then winter coats, if you don’t have a hall closet.

With all of your clothes hung according to style, and color, you have a better idea of what to shop for next, and what to avoid doubling up on.

Your dinger should be ringing just about now.

Blog question: Which item was the most difficult one to say goodbye to in your closet purge?

Vandra Meets Bullies, The Old-Fashioned Way, Before Cyber Bullying Existed

Ask any student, what’s worse than bullies harassing you at lunch?

Cyber bullying—replaying that awful moment on a loop for the world to see over and over the rest of your life online.

In the days before cyber bullying on the Internet, we still had forms of intimidation by the tough kids who thought they ruled the school.

If you were new to middle school, you were an easy target, and not because you were tugging a rolling backpack twice your size— those were things we called luggage and saved only for plane trips—and not because you had a way with creating matching Pee-Chee folders and textbooks you covered in fabric, color-coded by subject.

If you were a sixth grader, you were fair game for the bruisers in eighth grade who needed a place to vent the anger that had probably been unleashed upon them one too many times. You were small, you were innocent, and you cried easily—which is the ultimate goal of a bully, to know they have hurt you in some way.

Today’s bullies don’t just harass you in the hallway, or steal your lunch money, or push you into lockers, although these things still exist. Bullies are much more sophisticated these days because they want to be celebrated for the massive punishment they unleashed on you by filming your worst day with their camera phone, and then sending it out to the universe through any one of the multiple channels providing them much more than the fifteen-minutes of fame any ordinary person accomplishing something spectacular would likely get. In this regard, bullies are no different than the murderers who seek out attention from the media.

Why are we fascinated by the tragedies of others? Students who witness the circle of bullies taking down their best friend while they stand by doing nothing to help is like watching a bad road accident. They can not not look away.

A bystander’s first feeling is usually, “I don’t want it to be me.” Their second feeling is, “I wish I could have done more to help, but what?”

An honest look at some solutions comes from highly regarded motivational speaker Michael Pritchard who rallies students to put bullying to an end. I have seen him speak at middle school assemblies. He tugs at heart strings and electrifies every single one of the several hundred kids in the audience. You can hear a pin drop—and no one laughs when one brave member travels to the mic to share how it really feels to be bullied.

As a middle school teacher who has seen nearly two thousand seven hundred seventh-graders come through my class, I have found there is something universal in bullying. The majority of students will say that bullying needs to stop—but the same majority will also say they have witnessed bullying and did nothing to stop it for fear of becoming bullied themselves.

There is a code of silence that is hard to break because many students believe that a teacher or a parent can’t make it go away. Besides leaving our doors open while eating lunch at our desk, how can we better patrol and prevent as parents and teachers?

I address the problem of bullying in my first fictional Middle-Grade novel called Heroes Don’t Always Wear Capes when the protagonist Vandra Zandinski is harassed by eighth graders when she is a new sixth grader. The older girls think she has stolen the attention of their eighth-grade boyfriends and form a gang of girl torturers to attack her at the bus stop after school, and to throw her down in the empty corridors during lunch. Vandra is petrified that things will only get worse if she tells someone. But when her Vice-Principal Mr. Barbey gets involved, Vandra finds out he is not so useless after all. He punishes those eighth-grade girls with multiple consequences, including a twenty-page written report on what harassment really means, how to recognize it, and how to protect those who are being harassed.

At least Vandra didn’t have to re-live her worst nightmares online.

Blog question: What efforts have you made to stop cyber bullying? 

The Proper Care and Feeding of a Seventh-Grader

Are you a parent new to seventh grade? Get ready for kindergarten all over again.

Whether you are new to sending a child through seventh grade or not, there are some tried and true rules from Kindergarten that still apply this year. This is your instruction booklet for the proper care and feeding of your child, a student you will hardly recognize before the school year is over.

After teaching nearly sixteen hundred seventh graders since the turn of the century—the one ushering in modern technology, not the era of Victorian propriety (although we could use a little more of that these days) the biggest mistake I see parents make is allowing their students free reign to practice a little well-deserved independence.

This is not the year to let go. Freedom this early is scary for adolescents who are now likely navigating the world’s worst choices diverging in two paths in front of them.

Whether you think they are choosing wisely or not, the pressure is mounting, and once or twice this year, they will hit their breaking point. Let them know that when their limits have been tested and failed them miserably, you will still be there. There to love them. There to listen. There to dole out appropriate consequences. And, please know that in the classroom, these are common malpractices of many new seventh graders.

1) Do not let your child go off to school without protein for breakfast. They are ravenous, with bodies growing so fast, their minds cannot concentrate in class when their tummy is rumbling. Students could eat in class if it wasn’t for the wrappers that get thrown everywhere, justifying a school rule against it.

2) Do not let your child tell you they have already done their school work at school. Likely, this is not the case. There is always something academic to be done to stretch that growing mind that needs as much practice as the legs do to keep up with all those sports activities.

3) Ask to see the assignment written down in a daily agenda. If you suspect there are too many days without homework assigned, or a project to be worked on, have your child ask the teacher to initial next to where your child wrote in “No Homework”. This request will be viewed as especially gracious if it is not made in the midst of a scintillating lesson being taught.

4) The papers at the bottom of your child’s backpack, all crumpled and in need of ironing, are actually for your review. They are the new worksheets or test results, or permission slips, or detention notices, or love notes passed from a new friend. You can tell a lot about your child’s day by emptying this pit nightly.

5) Do not be satisfied that the book report or oral report your child is writing or rehearsing has come from their own intellectual property until you insert the first line of it into a google search. That’s what teachers do. It is stunning how many 4.0 students are plagiarizing work they have every skill to create simply because they are over-scheduled. Try searching several more lines of words you never thought they knew. You have either raised a baby genius, or you both just learned something new.

Sobering Statistics in Elder Care

Are you worried about providing elder care for your senior parents?

Let’s open with some sobering statistics that you cannot ignore for much longer. The number of people caring for an aging parent has soared in the past 15 years, according to MetLife. In 1994, 3 percent of men, and 9 percent of women, helped with basic care for an aging parent; In 2008, these numbers increased to 17 percent of men, and 28 percent of women providing help which is defined as dressing, feeding, bathing, and other personal care needs. This goes well beyond grocery shopping, driving parents to appointments, and helping them with financial matters. And it is more stressful as well. In 2011, nearly 10 million adult children over the age of 50 provided this care for an aging parent.

In a deeper look at options available for seniors with limited finances who cannot stay in their own home because they are unable to care for themselves anymore, USA Today reports that most families are unprepared for the news that Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care. The median cost of a year in a private room at a nursing home in 2011 was $77,745, according to Genworth. Assisted Living is another option, but it’s also not cheap and isn’t covered by Medicaid. The national median cost in 2011 was $39,135, by Genworth’s count. With 90 percent of elderly parents preferring to stay at home, from AARP research, families are left with the agonizing question of who will be stepping up to care for Mom or Dad.

As more people live into their 90’s, most of us will face caregiving responsibilities, or need caregiving ourselves. AARP says 45 million Americans perform some kind of caregiving. After A. Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, experienced caring for his own elderly father, he began addressing the daunting problem of caregiving by building the AARP Caregiving Resource Center in January 2012 where caregivers can come together to find experts and advice through local agencies. What starts out as just helping our parent can quickly turn into a full-time job.

I was not at all thinking the job would fall to me. Until it did.

I had no idea the call was coming, but my mother’s invitation to visit opened my eyes to the pitfalls of seniors living alone in a home they can no longer manage. It was enough for me to uproot my life to fulfill her wish that she live out the rest of her years in her own home.

No one prepared me for this undertaking and what I learned has become the subject of my new book 9 Realities of Caring For An Elderly Parent: A Love Story of A Different Kind, a funny, compassionate account of your daunting role if you are the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end. Released August 2013 and available at

Blog question: How did your life change when you took on the role of caring for your elderly parent?