Stefania Shaffer, Profile


Posts tagged with "elder care"

Dear Readers, Thank You

Dear Readers, How Do I Say Thank You?

There are still only two, teeny, tiny words that we use to convey even the biggest, most monolithic proportions of gratitude—thank you.

These simple syllables seem so mild in their meaning because of their overuse. Thank you for taking out the garbage. Thank you for picking up the dog doo. Thank you for not closing that door on me, Sir. 

However, even for medium-sized appreciation, they are the best that we can do.

Oh, thank you! Your wedding gift is much too generous.

We are so glad you could stay with little Timmy—thank you, Granny!

But there is another expression of gratitude that exudes such heartfelt emotion sometimes no words are needed. When there are tears of joy, the do-gooder knows all there is to know.

“Thank you.” Alas, this generous pairing of words has flummoxed plenty of crafty writers who have searched their lexicon for the perfect substitution—to no avail.

So, I am left with creating a single note of appreciation with this lasting picture.

We meet on the street, you and I.

I’ve just read your wonderful review, the one where you gave “9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind” a knock-my-socks-off 5 stars!

I recognize you by your beautiful, intuitive soul and I rush to give you the heartiest handshake, and a big bear-like hug of a greeting.

I am suddenly overwhelmed with silent tears streaming out of my eyes while I simultaneously beam and smile broadly.

When I am finally assured I have conveyed my truest sentiment, I speak only the tiniest words available:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!—Stefania

Hoarders-Guest Blog for Not Just the Kitchen-#1

How to Care for an Elderly Hoarder?

When I said yes to the job of caring for my elderly mother, I had no idea I was also saying yes to care for a house that had been equally badly neglected.

This is my Guest Blog appearing on Rita Morgan’s Blog-Not Just the Kitchen created for Baby-Boomer Women. Here is the link to the original Blog appearing on Not Just the Kitchen:

Jun 29, 16 

By: Stefania Shaffer

Have you ever passed by one of those houses where the crooked garage doors are barely holding themselves together over the heaping bulge behind them?

Then one day, on your usual stroll of the neighborhood, those garage doors are popped wide open for the whole world to see. You shudder and gasp aloud. You don’t want to linger for too long because it is rude to stare, but you silently wonder how someone could live with floor-to-ceiling clutter that has been amassed for decades.

If you are only too familiar with this sight, let me offer you some reassurance that there is a path to purging. When I said yes to the job of caring for my elderly mother, I had no idea I was also saying yes to care for a house that had been equally badly neglected.

Driving up to my childhood home where my mother still lived nearly 35 years later, I see the lawn is no longer green, nor mowed. It resembles something out of the savannah that my father would have tackled in earnest at the first sighting of crabgrass—had he not passed away thirteen years earlier.

When my disheveled, eighty-five year old mother greets me at the door with her warm toothless smile and welcoming hug, I can tell there will be more moments like what Dorothy experienced in Oz when she said to her dog, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Nothing is recognizable to me.

It’s not like we ever lived with white-glove standards growing up, but we were a tidy family if you didn’t count the mud and blood the brothers were always traipsing in.

But, on this day my childhood home is operating at the highest level of dysfunction. Of five bedrooms, four are being used as attic space where wardrobes from thirty years earlier are sprawled across the floor, mixed in with old blankets and petrified briquettes of cat doo-doo. All I can think to myself is who is going to oversee the gut job needed on this house?  Tearfully, I am afraid I already know this answer.

The garage looks worse than what you might imagine.

Even more disconcerting is the pile-up of paperwork saved since my father’s death. My old bedroom is filled with envelopes containing statements stuffed into them, then packed into shoeboxes piled onto the bookshelf, or tucked into drawers, or peeking out from beneath beds.

Depression-era parents. Need I say more? Thank goodness my mother is willing to put her trust into what she calls my good judgment. “Health, Safety, Style” becomes our mantra for the care that will need to go into her—and her home.

Here are the ABCs to beginning any difficult task: Assess, Begin, Carry On.


Every frontiersman knew to survey the land. What is the kind of stuff piling up, memorabilia or junk? Who will miss it? I feel a sense of responsibility to the other siblings to preserve their trophies, yearbooks, and kinder artwork—theirs to ditch if they so desire.


Before you can salvage anything, you need a good staging area.

Step 1- De-clutter the garage first.

* Clear out discarded toys, bikes, and seldom used items
* Find the Salvation Army or Goodwill that will pick up
* Recycle nuts, bolts; shift furniture, find the floor, push a broom
* Get rid of rusted shovels and the plethora of old tools
* Clear off every shelf—discard paints and other chemical laden cans legally
* Shred-It will make a house call affordably, taking mere seconds to do what will take you months with your home machine that will jam frequently

Step 2- Create smart centers within your garage
* Laundry station-move an old bookshelf to store supplies
* Errand station—use labeled boxes (library donations, record store, Goodwill, Accountant, etc.) as a reminder of which errands to still run

* Paperwork station—tower plastic crates labeled for archived financial statements. Caution: never throw anything away until you understand what it means to your parent’s financial picture. I found wealth buried in the 85th box.

Step 3-Preserving childhood memories for siblings (3-piece set for each child)

1) 45-gallon crate 37’L 27”H to store small furnishings, trophies, plaques et al
2) Tri-fold board to stack on top of crate for holding Kinder art, or the like
3) Colored document pouch, zippered, 8.5” x 11” for important papers, flash drives, or special letters home saved by parents
Move an old dresser cluttering a bedroom to create new hub for sibling items

Carry On

Your job is not yet over. Paperwork sorting becomes my passion.

Step 4-Active vs. Archive File statements accordingly.

Active is for accounts paid in the past year. Scrutinize each to make sure your elderly parent is not experiencing financial abuse. File current month’s statement at front, older months behind.

Archive older statements from previous years. Keep these only for gleaning how money changed hands through investing or bank accounts.

Cluster 2-3 years of old statements into one lidded plastic crate the size of a bankers box.

Label front as “Archive 2012-2015” Repeat this until all of your bundles are in separate bins.

Once you get a handle on the Active, return to the Archives at your leisure to understand financial history.

Efficient closet makeovers will be the next blog posting here.

About the Author:
Stefania Shaffer, a teacher, speaker, and writer, is grateful her WWII parents raised her to do the right thing. Her second book, the Memoir 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind has been called “imperative reading” Funny and compassionate, this is the insider’s view of what to expect from your daunting role if you are the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end.

What are the Challenges of Caring for an Elderly Parent?

Are you feeling alone and stressed in the challenges of caring for an elderly parent? KQED/Forum panel presents solutions.

Yes, it was stressful to care for my 85-year-old mother for the last years of her life, which turned out to be five good (and not-so-good) ones.

Yes, it was also joyful since, upon my arrival, she was still healthy, buoyant and alert—merely falling unpredictably. The fear of what a broken hip would mean to the care I was able to provide scared me, but I should have been more worried about the other cognitive disease beginning to show warning signs—onset dementia would be the way her story would end.

And in the end, it was my privilege to help her through the final stage of her life with dignity, LOVE, and peace between us. Storybook? Hardly.

Initially, what she needed was help around the house. What the house needed was a gut job. The job that awaited for me at this, my childhood home, left my jaw hanging open for the entire five years I spent searching for and sleuthing through eighty-five boxes of financial statements and records that I had collected from under beds and mail tucked into shoeboxes lining bookshelves.

Better to have done the hard labor here myself rather than hire it out from a clean sweep company because I found assets that a stranger would never have recognized.

Yes, managing the health of a senior, and their decades old home is stressful. But you will be grateful you did the work knowing you were able to provide the end of life quality your parent wanted. I was lucky in that my job was not beyond what I could learn—and through some deep breathing exercises—not beyond my stress levels. (I teach 7th grade for a living, so I have had many, many years to practice cool, calm, and collected under pressure!). What if you’re not so lucky?

The pleasure was all mine this week when I appeared on Michael Krasny’s Forum with two other guests providing views on how family caregivers can find support for themselves. These are two more resources I wish I had known about when I took on the role of caring for my elderly mother. For a LIVE listen of the show, here is the podcast KQED/Forum with Michael Krasny.

Here are the support numbers you need if you are feeling alone and stressed in the role of caregiving for a family member.

Family Caregiver Alliance was established to be of support to the relative who is providing the care. If you feel frustrated, tired, or you need a break for the weekend, their counselors and volunteers will come to your aid— Family Caregiver Alliance services.

I was so tired. It never occurred to me that caring for a plus-one exponentially compounds your busy-ness not by 2, but what feels more like 200! Let’s say all you need is someone to take Mom to another doctor appointment, the kind you might not be required to attend, but how will she get there without you because she doesn’t drive? Make this call to Family Caregiver Alliance.

Maybe all you need is someone to do meal prep, laundry, and clean the house while you lay sick in bed with the flu. Make this call. Their time is free to the family caregiver, graciously funded through a foundational grant.

If, indeed, you have the worst suspicions about the lack of care a senior is receiving in their own home because they are being subjected to cruelty, hostility by a family member who is not cut out for the role of “loving, patient caregiver” then there is another number to call. This one is for APS, not unlike CPS, this is for Adults who are being abused verbally, financially, sexually, or allowed to live in their filth and waste, or being denied their medications. This is not the time when you should hesitate.

We advocate for our children. We need to advocate for the care of our seniors as well— Adult Protective Services contact. Hopefully, you will never come across a reason to make this call. But, surprisingly, violence and abuse against elders mostly occurs from the family caregiver in charge of their well-being. Statistics are staggering. The job is daunting. If you have bitten off more than you can chew, or the health of a parent or loved one has declined beyond what is manageable, there is no shame in saying this role is bigger than me. Get support. Make the call.

Finally, there were two listeners whose stories still resonate with me.

Amanda, was trying to figure out how she could give the best care for her father who sustained a traumatic brain injury. She was hoping to keep him at home where he wanted to be, but the scope of all the care required was beyond her skill set. Family Caregiver Alliance can counsel her about options available in her area. She can continue guilt-free knowing she did everything she could—the best help she can provide now is changing to a professional care facility.

The last listener sent an email—a dramatic and very sad, yet common theme—read just as the show was wrapping up.

Charlie wrote that he cared for his mother even when his siblings were cruel to him and not present for her. He misses his mother very much and the loss of relationship with his siblings compounds his grief.

I so wanted to empathize with Charlie, but alas, the show was over. Charlie, please know you are not alone. Many families suffer the unraveling when death and money are at play—even families that do not have fractured dynamics to begin with.

Email me if I can be of any support. My condolences to you. Grief takes the time it takes to heal—and hospices nurses say it takes even longer for the one who was on the front lines in their caregiving role.

Do you know the realities in caring for an elderly parent?

WOCM host Bulldog asks, “What are the 9 Realities in a nutshell?”

You’ve answered the call to come home and care for your elderly parent until the very end. These 9 Realities will answer your next question, “Now what?” In case you want to hear it LIVE, here is the link to my interview on the Bulldog Show.

Reality 1- The House is a Wreck, Inside and Out. Being there is most important for the adult child to assess the safety of the home, and the wellness of your parent.

Reality 2- Fiercely Independent but Can’t Cook, Drive, or Bathe. There is a lot a senior can do to put up pretenses that everything is fine. There are criteria for making sure your elder is not suffering from neglect.

Reality 3- Getting Your Physical Home and Your Financial House in Order. Purging vs. preserving memories, and how to set up a filing system for finances that are in desperate need of organizing. These are motivating pages that have readers squaring away their own homes today.

Reality 4- Managing Health–Both Medical and Financial– is a Second Full-Time Job. Knowing what medication your parent takes, along with dosages, is critical for every doctor appointment. How to create a prescription chart for doctors and ease of renewals is covered in this chapter.

Reality 5- When Your Home and Your Parent Begin Falling Apart, Get Prepared. Warning signs that your parent is at the beginning of the end can no longer be ignored. And such is life, when everything is going downhill, the decades old home is also in decline. Know where your assets are held. Expenses are coming.

Reality 6- A Birth Allows us Nine Months to Prepare; Death Has No Timeline; Act with Urgency in All You Do. A death march will take its toll on the caregiver. While you nervously watch your parent wrestle against an illness, this begins your gut-wrenching experience, as if everything leading up wasn’t hard enough.

Reality 7- The Critical Role Bowel Movements and Bed Sores Will Play in the End. Going home….it’s all she longed for. Straddling two worlds as patients get ready to cross over leaves them busily preparing before they feel ready to be un-entwined from this life. The secret of what she saw on the other side was never revealed. But I now know what death looks like in the final weeks, days, and hours.

Reality 8- A Preplanned Funeral Is a Gift to Your Family; Binders, and Lots of Them, Are an Executor Trustee’s Gift. The funeral playbook and how to establish a binder system for Communications, Estate Assets, and Legal Documents will make this your indispensable guide.

Reality 9- Do Everything You Can To Self-Sooth, but Include Grief Counseling; You Need It More Than You Think. Compartmentalizing grief seems the easier route. When the crying jag ends, we think we’re over the loss. This is not true for the frontline caregiver for whom it will take years to process the experience.

Media Appearances

Did You Know that Many Adult Children Caring for an Elderly Parent Have Very Similar Stories to Tell? Listen in to what callers had to share.

San Francisco/KTVU-Bay Area People with Lisa Yokota KTVU podcast

San Francisco/KGO-The Ronn Owens Show

San Francisco/KQED-Forum with Michael Krasny KQED podcast

Seattle, WA/KISW-Conversations with Lizz Sommars podcast

Ocean City, MD/WOCM FM 98.1- Bulldog Show podcast

Abilene, TX/KXYL-FM 102.3- Going Home with Mark Cope 

Omaha, NE/KMA 960- Dean and Don Show

Albuquerque, NM/KDAZ- Birga and Dan Show

Waterbury, CT/WATR- Larry Rifkin Talk of the Town

Burlington, IA/KBUR- Steve Hexom Morning Show

Milwaukee, WI/WBEV- The Idea Exchange with Brenda Murphy

Bristol County, VA/Tri-Cities, TN/WFHG- Barbara McFaddin Show

Were you a KGO caller during the Ronn Owens show about “9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent”?

Did you get your KGO question answered on the Ronn Owens show about “9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent”?

If you missed this radio show, here is the link for my interview on KGO NewsTalk 810: 

Yesterday was an exciting day for me as the guest author on the Ronn Owens show. He has been the voice of SF Bay Area news for 39 years and his callers are loyal listeners. Their questions were intelligent and all included a sense of urgency wondering what we will all be faced with soon enough, “What to do when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves?”

I have received emails since the show that I will share here in case any other readers have the same situation. If you are aware of any other resources, please do reply to this blog so we can post your answer within. Additionally, I want to add a couple thoughts for callers who did make it on air, since radio moves so fast and my answers are limited before the next commercial break.

The first caller asked, “What can we do about the in-law who lives in a remote area with no family around?”

Answer: One of the biggest problems facing seniors is isolation. Their social circle is diminishing. They may be outliving their friends. They may not drive anymore and need to depend on others for rides to activities. As a senior ages, doctors’ visits increase. Even for a relatively healthy senior, there are many rotations for regular blood work, hearing checks, eye appointments (especially if macular degeneration is diagnosed), bone density tests (especially if falls are a pattern). Ailments progressing to specialists will only add to the constant running back and forth to doctors that becomes part of a routine in senior care management.

Does the remote area offer a good hospital, or would you need to drive two hours to get to the medical facility that would be treating the problem? If there are no relatives nearby, is there a good neighbor who is close enough to regularly check-in, or to notice the newspaper hadn’t been picked up in a couple of days. If your answer is no, and I honestly do not recommend putting the job of caring for your elderly relative onto a friend because of all that is involved, can you consider relocating to move in with your in-law? If a secure job would be lost, then have the hard conversation within the family, including the senior, of moving her into your home. Remaining with her own loved ones is less scary than moving into an assisted living facility, and a lot less isolating.

If you are raising children at home, you are part of the sandwich generation that is caring simultaneously for elderly parents while raising kids. That is a double whammy. There will be strain, but in the end, the privilege of caring for your elderly parent and knowing you did everything possible to keep her safe, healthy and happy will certainly help you sleep better at night.

An email I received after the show asked, “What can I do to help my alcoholic mother who refuses to leave her home, but cannot be alone because she keeps falling?”

Answer: This makes everything about caring for a senior doubly hard. An alcoholic in a fit of rage is not dissimilar to the Alzheimer’s patient who is throwing things and cursing at loved ones. Check Al-Anon in your area since they offer support to the family and loved ones of the alcoholic. They may even have suggestions as to how someone can spell you on your mom’s most difficult days. The email goes on to say how desperately son and wife need a break but are afraid to leave her. I know there are agencies that offer companionship to seniors on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. They will not distribute medications, but can oversee that the senior has taken her pills if the dosage is already set aside in a cup. They will never be allowed to do any injections, so diabetics requiring help with insulin shots will not be a good fit for their services. Sleuth carefully. This is not a resource I have used. Are there any friends, neighbors, or church members who can get on a rotation of visiting so you can take the break you desperately seek and most definitely deserve?

Finally, making sure all of those legal documents are in order will be critical if you are to ever have control over health decisions on her behalf or paying for medical bills because of a broken hip from a fall. Look into these four: 1)Will; 2)Trust; 3)Durable Power of Attorney for Health (the Advance Health Care directive; 4)Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. Without these in place, the court will be making the decisions for your mother, not you.


What three little words from critic Grady Harp reduced this author to happy tears? “I remember momma.”

“I remember momma…”

October 1, 2013

By Grady Harp 

(This review appears as it was written in its entirety originally posted on

For those of a certain age group the three words of the title will recall hours of warm feelings absorbed from the media some years back. For some reason that show and the feelings it engendered come to mind when reading Stefania Shaffer’s classically wonderful book 9 REALITIES OF CARING FOR AN ELDERLY PARENT. Yes, there are many books available that teach readers the logistics of preparing a home for, feeding, clothing, nursing, arranging, signing DNR papers, the legalities for that final time in an elder’s life when life stops and business goes on. But the difference here is that this is a book about love, relationship, wildly humorous incidents, trying moments, the practical aspects of ushering a parent through the labyrinth of final months/weeks/days/hours that end in death. THAT is why this is a book that is a must read for everyone – whether parents have died already and now friends need the same support, or as a resource to share with people who are approaching this time in the lives when parents depart.

Shaffer happens to be a teacher (English Language Arts) and had a highly successful career in television advertising before that: in other words, she knows how to discuss (read `sell’) ideas to a reader and she has the gift to make that information into eloquent prose.

But praise gets us off the track of reviewing this book. In this indispensable volume Shaffer takes us through every step of caring for the progressively downhill sliding of a parent’s journey toward the end and she does it in a journal type fashion: she has been through all this with her own mother. She tells us from experience how to make the decisions no one wants to discuss until that last minute – how to `clean house’, make a home safe for the elderly, how to manage such things as baths, poops and pees, caring for minor (and major) injuries, how to find the right doctor, how to deal with meds, how to tolerate (be supportive) of live-in or visiting nurses, how to converse when so many synapses are missing in the parent’s communication processes, planning ahead for the inevitable (hospice/total home care), funeral, estate issues, keeping track of all the necessary information for posterity and legal reasons, etc.

But most of all this is how to cope with the gradual weakening and mentally distant parent, how to share love, how to stay close and enjoy each moment of the time left. In other words, how to continue the role of parent child love even when the roles are reversed. Stefania Shaffer did it and she warmly tells us how. Highly Recommended if not imperative reading! Grady Harp, October 13

You Are Not Alone In Caring for Your Elderly Parent, Help Is On The Way From AARP

Are You Lost In The Chaos of Caring For Mom Or Dad? Look No Further, AARP’s Resource Guide Is Just One Click Away.

Hindsight really is our best teacher. I only wish I had known then what I know now about caring for an elderly parent. I did a great job, but I ran myself ragged because I did not have any outside resources to inform or relieve me. I am on the tail end of the Baby Boom generation (born 1946-1964) so I have not yet had reason enough to peruse AARP’s website for myself. Therefore, I just didn’t know what they had to offer and how instrumental they could have been in answering the questions I had, and seeking support from others who were experiencing the same. I felt very much in it alone.

After my mother died, it wasn’t until much later when I started writing about caring for an elderly parent that I came across the new and improved AARP website in all of my research. The first article I read was from the CEO, A. Barry Rand and it was filled with heart as he connected to readers by sharing his personal experience of caring for his father during the last eight years of his life. He says, “It was one of the most difficult…rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life.” I completely felt his pain as he recalled for all of us what a daunting job it is, full of challenges and rewards.

What Mr. Rand took away from his own experience of caring for an elderly parent has served a purpose in benefitting the other 45 million of us grappling with the issue of what to do when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves. His first mission was to revamp the AARP website to include resources and information in one spot where caregivers could be connected to experts and organizations easily. AARP launched the  Caregiving Resource Center in early 2013. After spending hours upon hours to get a sense of what it offers, I have several places wherein you will find invaluable information.

1) Blogs-I have found many useful questions answered and am starting to know the style of Bloggers and which authors I look forward to following. One of my favorite people no longer appears, but Sally Abrahms is relatable having been there done that, and Amy Goyer who currently cares for both of her parents, blogs  about weekly conversations she hosts with a group of professionals about the issue of the week. It is an easy forum to participate in, even just silently if you prefer to read the string of comments instead.

2) Prepare to Care Booklet- This is the godsend I wished I had access to when I was collecting all of the data I needed. I got it done, but I was figuring it out the hard way and reinventing the wheel. AARP has since created forms at the ready that you can print for free and fill out easily with samples to follow. Imagine knowing up front ways to get help paying for prescriptions, or where to plug into coalitions of caregiving in your area.

It will save you tremendous time to download the booklet that covers five easy steps so you can start having the conversation now, while everyone is still healthy. Get prepared with knowing what legal documents are still not in place. We are never guaranteed our number of tomorrows. Our lives are not going to slow down. You will be hit with the surprise that one of your parents has become ill, then what? Avoid regrets. Start your planning today. For more about my own experience, 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind will be an essential companion for the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end. It is a funny, compassionate, and daunting account slated for release August 2013. Available at

Blog question: Which AARP website resource have you found to be most helpful?

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?

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?