Caring Currents

The Junk Wars: 8 Ways to Get Rid of Aging Parents' "Stuff"

Last updated: July 26, 2017


"Christmas lights. Do not work." Three boxes, so labeled and tucked in the basement ceiling joists, were perhaps my favorite find while clearing out my parents' house. Well, those or the shelf of neat notebooks recording weekly bowling scores back to the 1960s. A dozen casserole lids, no casseroles. Spare stereo knobs, circa 1975. Enough yarn to knit a sweater that could encase the entire house and yard, Christo-style.

I tossed plenty of useless stuff while clearing out my parents' home of 40-odd years, recently. (100 pairs of elastic-waist pants, anyone?) But I had it relatively easy, because my parents weren't involved. (My mom had died and my dad, who was relocating, was sidelined by dementia.)

Most caregivers face the "junk wars" with still-living relatives. It can happen when you combine households because of the recession. Or help a parent downsize into assisted living. Or just t

Know Thy Father: A Guide to Dad's Day

Last updated: June 15, 2016

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Recently, I suggested buying your dad a home blood pressure monitor for a Father’s Day gift (if he has high blood pressure). A perfect present for some dads, but others would see it as an insult: “Get off my back already about my health -- jeez!”

Gift giving is tricky business, and is it just me, or is it particularly tough when you’re trying to find something for an older man? It evokes images of unused ties, socks, wallets, and cuff links (does anyone wear these anymore?) stuffed deep into drawers.

But here it is almost Father’s Day, and even though it’s hard shopping for older dads, the urge to honor them -- just to honor them -- seems to grow with time.

I’ve decided the best approach is to “Know Thy Father.” Forget about all the advertisements. What really matters to your dad? What perks him up and touches his heart?

Consider some diff

Don't Wait for a Doctor's Visit to Test for High Blood Pressure

Last updated: June 01, 2016

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If your parents have high blood pressure, add a home monitor to their shopping list.  So suggests numerous high-powered and well-respected heart health organizations, including the American Heart Association and the American Society of Hypertension.   


(Hey, this might make a great Father’s Day gift, especially for a dad who appreciates practicality.)


Their announcement got lots of attention in blogdom and traditional news . The upshot:

  • Doctor’s office measurements can be misleading, either higher than usual, called the “white coat effect,” or lower.
  • Because blood pressure normally varies throughout the day, home testing makes it easier to get a generalized or Big Picture look at rates

8 Spring Pick-Me-Ups for Tired Caregivers

Last updated: March 23, 2016

Those cold, wet, gray days in early spring -- like today for me -- seem like a good analogy for caregiving. Unlike, say, those balmy spring days with blue sky and soft air, right now everything seems on hold, in suspended animation. There's more wistfulness than hope in the air. You (okay, I!) have a vague wish that things looked brighter. It may seem your days won't ever burst back into green.

No matter how dedicated or cheerful a caregiver feels toward his or her responsibility, it's inevitable to wake up to one of those days.

At least when that happens in spring, there are new seasonal opportunities for giving yourself (and your relative) a lift:

1. Sniff a hyacinth.

Next trip to the supermarket, bend down and inhale these superfragrant spring bulbs -- or better yet splurge on one and bring it home for your loved one. (Pick the one with still-tight green blossoms so it lasts lon

10 Feel-Good Dementia Caregiver New Year Resolutions

Last updated: December 30, 2015

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Image by riptheskull used under the creative commons attribution no derivs license.

New Year's resolutions about how you ought to start another diet and ought to be nicer belong back in the Aughts ('00s). For this new decade, caregivers looking after someone with dementia are better off focusing on tasks that will help them power through another demanding year.

The following resolutions may be unexpected, but they're heartfelt and truly helpful:

1. I will order my priorities so that I come first.

Selfish? More like practical common sense, because if you fall apart physically or emotionally, you put the welfare of those you care for in jeopardy.

2. I won't beat myself up if I lose my patience.

Because you know you will. (Both lose your patience and berate yourself for it.) Dementia care can be immensely frustrating. You wouldn't be human if you didn't vent. Try to mostly vent to others with well-functioning brains (or to a pillow or a workout), but cut yourself slac

How to Say Thank You to a Caregiver This Thanksgiving

Last updated: November 19, 2015

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Image by riptheskull used under the creative commons attribution no derivs license.

As if a national day of giving thanks weren't reason enough to express gratitude to those who care for relatives in need, it's also National Family Caregivers Month.

I know I'm preaching to the choir -- of course you realize you deserve a pat on the back! -- but maybe if you express gratitude to a fellow caregiver, it'll come back around to you. (And maybe your relatives or friends will read this with you in mind.)

Some ideas:

Thanking a Family Member

Mention caregivers by name in the Thanksgiving counting of the blessings. Many families, before they feast, take inventory of all they have to be grateful for. Be sure that those who are caregivers aren't left off the list.

Give the gift of a day off. But don't just offer vaguely and wait for the caregiver to take you up on it. ("If you ever need help with Mom, Dad...") The person may feel uncomfortable reminding you of the offer later

Mom Far Away? Cool Gift Ideas, and Yes, There's Still Time!

Last updated: May 07, 2015

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If your mom lives far away, showing up with a box of chocolates on Mother’s Day or taking her out to brunch may be impossible.  (Reminder: Mother's Day is May 10.)  Don't worry, there are all kinds of special ways you can honor your distant mom. And there's still time.

You can always go the flowers, gift, or card route -- reliable standbys. (For mailing information/deadlines, check these sites: the U.S. Postal Service, Fedex, UPS, and DHL. ) Or, take a look at some off-the-usual-path ideas:

  • A surprise conference call or trickle of calls through the day. Coordinate with family members. Here’s a conference call tip.
  • A warm home-delivered meal. Do an internet search with your mom’s town and terms such

World Alzheimer's Day and Why People With Alzheimer's Need It

Last updated: September 20, 2010

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On World Alzheimer's Day, Tuesday, September 21, most people with Alzheimer's disease won't be able to participate in an Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk. But they directly benefit from events like these being held around the world.

That's because World Alzheimer's Day events are meant not only to raise funds for research but to raise awareness about Alzheimer's and people with Alzheimer's disease. That makes this World Alzheimer's Day an opportunity for each of us to think about what messages we'd like to give to those who aren't yet affected by this living tragedy called Alzheimer's.

So here are three facts about Alzheimer's that I want the whole world to know:

1. Alzheimer's is not an inevitable effect of aging.

Senility doesn't strike everyone; it's a terrible disease. In a generation, much has been done to change this old public misperception. The fitting theme of World Alzhe

Secret Cure for Deadly Stress: Taking the Team Approach

Last updated: May 27, 2010

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Recently I went to a workshop on stress and health, and it was scary. Doctors have begun to take stress seriously as the trigger for many serious health concerns. In fact, the medical profession now considers stress a primary contributor to:

"¢ Back Pain
"¢ Headaches
Heart Disease
"¢ Stroke

Research also documents a strong connection between stress and cancer. Even more convincing, stress can make the difference between surviving cancer -- and not. Studies have found, for example, that women who suffer from stress are more likely to develop a recurrence of breast cancer.

But there's a problem. When doctors tell us we need to reduce the stress in our lives, we roll our eyes. We're doing too much, thanks for telling us, but what's to be done? We have family members who need us, money to be earned, a house to keep, so much work to be done.

Turns out, though, that there's

Prescription Medications Cost Too Much? Here's What to Do

Last updated: May 20, 2010

One of the most popular discussion topics among family caregivers is the insanely high cost of prescription medications and the failure of Medicare to cover that cost. It's a topic that comes up over and over again, and for good reason. When you can't afford the drugs you need to stay healthy, it's a serious situation.

Now comes new evidence that this crisis is very real, and is affecting more and more of us across the country. According to a report issued this week, manufacturer prices for the brand-name prescription drugs most commonly used by people on Medicare rose 9.7 percent for the year ending in March "” the biggest annual jump since 2002, when the AARP started tracking prices. The price of specialty drugs, such as many used for cancer, rose even more, by 9.2 percent.

In fact, every single drug in the list of the top 25 prescription medications cost more this year than it did t