Top Tips for Family Caregivers: June 2015


This month’s best tips from the Support Groups address things like helping a patient “stay regular,” preventing an aging loved one from rolling out of bed, and dealing with creditors after a family member passes. Here is what our caregivers have to say about these tricky situations:
These bed-time hacks are creative ways to make sure your loved one stays on their mattress and off the floor:
“A low bed was a good idea... even so low as to placing his mattress directly on the floor. That way, if he rolls out, he only has 7" to go instead of 20+ & the likelihood of injury is greatly reduced. You can also purchase pool noodles at your local Walmart and insert them between the mattress & the floor (or box spring or bed frame if you choose to continue using them) along the long sides of the bed. Dad would have to roll "uphill" in order to fall out. Lastly, it won't prevent a roll out of bed, but if you buy padded exercise mats & put them on the floor next to his bed, it will help to cushion him & prevent injury should he roll out despite the pool noodles & low bed.” –OzarkOlly
“You can buy a motion detector with an alarm for $25 on-line and place it next to the bed so the alarm goes off if any part of his body hangs off the side or if he even puts one foot on the ground, you'll know. …The motion detector was a very useful tool for me, even during the day (I'd move it to the living room, one step off the sofa and I'd know!). The motion detector was two separate units, the detector was one half, the sounding alarm was a small square I could carry in my pocket.” –Ilovemom2
“…first I put a pillow between box spring and mattress, there was just enough of a "hill" that he didn't roll out of bed, we had to graduate to a rail and now a hospital bed.” –Anniegoonie
As we age, digestive issues become more and more common—especially constipation. Check out these caregiver-tested remedies:
“The daily breakfast is a mixture of whole and quick oats (50% each) to which I add a pinch of barley bran, wheat germ, flax seed, psyllium husk bran (be creative here). I soak the above in double the amount of water for an hour or so. In the meantime I chop up an apple and a banana and get some peanut or almond butter (1 TBS) and honey (enough to taste just slightly sweet). I cook the oatmeal (porridge) mix in the microwave for 6 minutes (in three 2-minute increments, stirring between), add the fruit, peanut butter and finally honey. and serve up, Mum likes a trace of milk on top, but it is delicious just as. I find that if we start the day with this meal the result both short and long term is smooth bowel movement and never a problem with constipation. Oatmeal recipe is for 1 cup of oatmeal (2 of water).” – raoufzdn553
“I make sure she also drinks enough water - essential for a softer stool. I record her stools daily and describe them – normal/soft/hard (and you should note any change in colour too) Then when she says she is constipated I check ....most times she has just forgotten she has been.” – JudeAH53
“Have had excellent results to combat her constipation with our Dr's prescription for 290 MCG of ‘Linzess’; best taken ½ hour before breakfast. This in concert with prune juice, prunes, high fiber cereal, and exercise. The exercise normally needs coaxing and firm walking assistance. – elgarose
“I think people of a certain age grew up thinking they had to go every day. Yes, it does feel better but not necessary. My dad also has had trouble thinking he needs to go every day and taken natural stool softeners (senokot). Now he's on probiotic pills instead and that seemed to help. He is almost 93 but this started about 3 or 4 years ago with him saying he was constipated after 1 day of not going. You might try probiotic pills or miralax since that can be put in coffee or anything.” – pargirl
When a loved one passes on, caregivers, family members, and friends are faced with a number of difficult decisions in addition to their grief. One of these responsibilities is managing the decedent’s estate and any outstanding credit card debt. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how a loved one’s debts should be handled, but if their estate does not cover the bills, there are a few things you can do:
“I called his creditors to inform them that my dad had died and that there was no estate. One of them simply said that they would notate the account and I never heard from them again and the other requested a copy of the death certificate which I sent. I never heard from them after that either. As long as your name is not on any of your [loved one’s] credit card accounts you shouldn't have any problem. – Eyerishlass
“…short form death certificate to each creditor (without cause of death). Basic form letter, same for each, sent with copy of their statement, for proper accounting. If certified mail is costly, just make a file copy of each letter and get a certificate of mailing for each when you mail from the post office.” – Cleverdish
“IF there is Estate Value, credit card and other debt may be seen as "Income", and IRS wants [to be] paid. The debtor got money to spend which was otherwise not taxed as income at the time. If that debt is not paid, IRS might demand payment of taxes on that income, to finish cleaning up an elder's tax records.
IF elders die without any assets to pay debts, it's necessary to send a return-receipt-requested letter, and possibly a copy of the death certificate, to the company[s] the person owed money to, so they can close out the accounts. They will write it off as a loss.
Some companies WILL try to pursue family members to pay bills left by deceased persons. You can tell them clearly: "Stop harassing us; the person you seek died with zero assets; close your files on that, because there is no more responsible party left to pay it". They might also require a death certificate and letter.
Unless you are named as a part-owner/user of billing statements, credit cards or contracts, you do NOT have to pay the bills owing for someone who died with zero assets [though some States will try, and might succeed, at getting family to repay State money spent on impoverished individuals].” – Chimonger

Ashley Huntsberry-Lett

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Ashley is responsible for the planning and creation of’s award-winning content. As a teenager, she assisted in caring for her step-father during his three-year battle with colon cancer. Now, through her work at, she strives to inform and empower the caregivers who devote so much to helping and healing the ones they love.

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