Caregiver Resources

7 Tips to Prepare for a Productive Check-Up

Most Medicare and Medi-Cal patients are eligible for free annual wellness exams. These check-ups are important, as health conditions that are detected early are usually much easier to treat. Plus, seeking regular preventive care can actually help to ward off the development of many serious diseases.

It’s important to take your loved one to the doctor for regular checkups. But these visits will be even more productive if you can follow this handy checklist.

Create a list of all medications and dosages. If your loved one has been seeing several doctors, his or her primary care physician might not be aware of all prescription medications. Prepare this list and take it with you, just in case. It will be much easier to answer questions during this part of the checkup, and having this information can help to prevent dangerous drug interactions. Note: Include herbal remedies on this list, too. Some of them can interact with prescriptions.

Make a list of questions or concerns before you go. It can be difficult to remember everything during an office visit, so if you have multiple concerns, write them down ahead of time. Consider your loved one’s diet, sleeping habits, and any new or unexplained symptoms when making this list. If you feel that a prescription is not working well, or your loved one has developed a need for certain equipment, make a note of it.

Ask about vaccinations. If you have any concerns about vaccinations, now is the time to ask. Most doctors recommend annual flu vaccines for seniors (who are most vulnerable to the flu). You might also consider shots for pneumonia and shingles.

Schedule preventive care. Physicians generally recommend screenings for breast cancer (for female patients), colon cancer, and prostate cancer (for men). Depending upon other test results, you loved one’s doctor might also recommend screening for lipid disorder and diabetes. A bone density scan could be performed on anyone, but is mostly necessary for women over 65. At older ages, many of these tests are ordered annually. You might prefer to spread them out over a few months, if there are no pressing concerns, so that your loved one is not overwhelmed with doctor appointments.

Ask about referrals. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s vision, hearing, mental health, or some other condition which requires a specialist, ask for a referral at this visit. If your loved one smokes, now is the time to ask about smoking cessation programs.

Make your own record. Write down your loved one’s height, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and the results of any other test performed at the check-up. These can be handy in an emergency. Also, write down the lot numbers of any vaccines received, along with the date. If your loved one experiences a reaction to a vaccine, you will need this information to make a report.

Schedule something fun or relaxing afterward. Your loved one might be feeling anxious or stressed from the doctor visit. Depending upon his or her preferences and energy level, you might wish to schedule something fun (like dining out) or relaxing (a spa visit) afterward.

The above tips are just a general guideline for a successful checkup. Your loved one’s physician may have additional concerns, depending upon his or her individual condition and needs.

As a trusted member of our community, Hospice of the Valleys, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) has been providing hospice care to the Inland Valley and Fallbrook for over 34 years. Please call us for senior community resources, or for information about hospice care. We’re here to help. 951-200-7800.

How to Keep Your Loved One Safe at Home

If you’re caring for an older loved one, you might be undertaking this task in their home, or in yours. Either way, it is likely that the house is not already set up for caretaking duties of this magnitude. The design of most homes does not take into account the tasks and responsibilities you face on a daily basis.

So take a second look at the rooms where your loved one spends most of their time (the living room, their bedroom, bathroom, and hallways). You might need to make some changes to keep him or her safe, and make your days run a bit more smoothly.

In the bathroom:

  • How high is the toilet? A raised toilet can help a lot with comfort, as well as aid independence
  • Consider installing handrails so that your loved one can get up and down from the toilet more comfortably
  • Purchase nonskid mats for the floor and shower stall
  • Install a special seat in the shower for easier bathing, along with handrails to prevent falls


Everywhere else:

  • Check for a clear pathway for walking: No rugs, room dividers that can be tripping hazards, or slippery floors
  • Install nightlights in the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways for safety at night
  • Consider installing hand rails for assistance by the bed, or in well-trafficked areas
  • Check all smoke detectors regularly, to ensure they’re still working
  • Purchase fire extinguishers and keep them in strategic places around the home
  • Keep emergency contact numbers posted in an accessible location
  • Consider special equipment such as a hospital-style bed, a lift for the stairs, and ramps for wheelchairs


Consider communication. These days, we have access to technology that can assist us in caregiving duties. Your choices will of course be guided by the interest and abilities of your loved one, but some common options include:

  • A bell or some other device, so that he or she can summon you without having to yell across the house
  • Program a phone with speed dial, so that you or your loved one can access help quickly in an emergency
  • Select a phone with a large digital display, for easy reading
  • Consider a phone with voice enhancer if your loved one has hearing difficulties
  • A medical alert system can help your loved one get help with just a push of a button (this is essential if you ever leave him or her alone for short periods of time)
  • A baby monitor isn’t just for babies; it can help you keep an “ear” on your loved one while you cook, do yard work, take a shower, and so on


As a trusted member of our community, Hospice of the Valleys, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) has been providing hospice care to the Inland Valley and Fallbrook for over 34 years. Please call us for senior community resources, or for information about hospice care. We’re here to help. 951-200-7800.

7 Reasons Why Caregivers Should Consider Joining a Support Group

As a caregiver, you have probably been reminded many times that you must make the time to take care of yourself, too. After all, if you aren’t healthy, then taking care of another person becomes nearly impossible. But it might feel as though you’ve simply been issued another assignment, just one more task to cram into your already packed schedule. “Take care of yourself” sounds like a good idea, but its practical applications can present yet another obstacle.

That’s why it’s so important for you to find a good caregiver support group. Support groups fulfill many important purposes, but the “group” part is the most important. Through a support group, you can take care of your own needs, but you aren’t doing it alone. You are supported by a group of people who are experiencing, or have experienced, very similar life situations. They, too, are providing care to someone with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or a terminal illness.

A support group might meet on a weekly or monthly basis, for just an hour or two, but the benefits can be numerous:

  • Access information from people who are further along in their caregiving journeys, and therefore have valuable insight to offer
  • Keep you “in the know” about news and opportunities pertaining to your situation
  • Find fulfillment in helping others, who are just beginning their caregiving roles
  • Learn about community resources that can help you and your loved one
  • Break up your routine, and help you expand your social life
  • Prevent boredom, loneliness, and depression
  • Help you establish a network of caring friends, whom you can call for help or support outside of meetings

Of course, many caregivers find it difficult to get out of the house and attend regular, in-person meetings. Online support groups are accessible 24 hours per day from the comfort of your own home, making them the ideal fit for caregivers with little free time. It’s really best if you can find some way to make it to real-life gatherings, at least occasionally, but online support groups can help to fill in the gaps between meetings.

As a member of one of our Hospice of the Valleys support groups so eloquently said, “I lost my husband five months ago and the first Christmas without him is going to be hard. But this group let’s me come back. They walked me through my caregiving and they are and have been a blessing and a lifesaver. That’s why I keep coming, so I can be of help to those who are just starting to provide care to a dementia patient. It makes all the difference.”

As a trusted member of our community, Hospice of the Valleys, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) has been providing hospice care to the Inland Valley and Fallbrook for over 34 years. Please call us for senior community resources, or for information about hospice care. We’re here to help. 951-200-7800.

How to Choose a Caregiver Agency

If you’re providing care to an elderly or sick loved one, at some point you will consider hiring help. It might be because you need to work a full time job, or maybe you just need backup on the weekends. Whatever your reasons, choosing a caregiver can be a complicated decision. You want to hire a truly caring person, who is devoted to this career path, rather that someone who just wants to make a few extra bucks. If you’re choosing a caregiver for your loved one, follow these steps to select the right person for the job.

Make a list of your specific needs. Caregivers are human, and like anyone else, have their own strengths and weaknesses. In order to ensure a good fit for your situation, assess the duties you expect a caregiver to perform. Will they be driving your loved one to appointments? Will you need this person to perform house cleaning duties? Will they help your loved one in the bathroom? How mobile is your loved one? Will the caregiver need to be sturdy and strong, to help them move about the home and community? Make a list of the duties you expect this person to perform.

Check references. Ask all applicants to supply a work history – and then actually call these references! You would be surprised at the number of people who forget to complete this important step. You’re looking for someone both skilled and dependable, but also honest and compassionate. The right caregiver will exhibit both professional and personal characteristics that make them a good fit for your family.

Check for appropriate licensing. When selecting a caregiving agency, check that their employees have a criminal background check, are appropriately licensed. In addition, when selecting a caregiving agency, make sure they are licensed and bonded.

Invite your loved one into the process. If your loved one is able to make sound decisions, ask for his or her opinion. Sometimes, a patient and caregiver simply “click” for personal reasons, and you want their personalities to be a good fit.

Monitor your new caregiver. Drop in to check on your loved one, and ask for periodic reports from your caregiver or their agency. It is your right to be informed of everything pertaining to your loved one’s daily life and care.

Give us a call. The hiring process for a caregiver can be time-consuming and difficult. We maintain a network of professionals and resources that can help guide you toward the decisions that work for you.

As a trusted member of the community, Hospice of the Valleys has been providing hospice care to the Inland Valley and Fallbrook for over 34 years. Please call us for senior community resources, or for information about hospice care. We’re here to help. 951-200-7800

6 Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout: Is it Time to Ask for Help?

For months, or maybe years now, you’ve served as the primary caregiver for an elderly or sick loved one. But at some point, you begin to notice signs of caregiver burnout: You’re stressed, depressed, lonely, or even getting sick yourself. It’s time to take the right steps toward taking care of yourself, so that you can stay healthy and continue to care for your relative.

Don’t quit your job. Your job provides you with the income you need, a sense of purpose, and even a social outlet. The long term consequences of quitting your job can be devastating, to both your emotional state as well as your finances. Ask for help, either by hiring a fill-in caregiver or communicating with your boss about your need for flex time, before taking such a drastic step. If you’ve already stopped working, consider options that will allow you to return to the workplace.

Join a support network. Find a local support group for people in your situation, and attend meetings regularly. If you can’t find such a group, or the meetings are too inconvenient, an online support group can also fill this role.

Try a form of mass communication. Your caregiving duties are numerous, and you need to reduce extra “busy work” when you can. Repeating the same news over and over again is exhausting and time consuming. Ask family and friends to join a private Facebook group where you can post news once, or use a site like CaringBridge to share updates. It’s great that everyone wants to know how the latest surgery or treatment went, but there is no need to keep you on the phone for hours each time a new development occurs.

Don’t give up your interests. You have your own needs, and no one expects you to neglect them. Continue any hobbies you enjoy, keep exercising, attend your church groups, have coffee with a friend… If something is a part of your regular routine, continue it. In fact, you might even need to add a fun, distracting activity to your schedule. It can help you reduce stress and stay socially connected.

Take care of your own health. You’re probably sick of doctor appointments, but you still have to attend your own. See your physician for regular checkups, make healthful food choices, go for a walk each day, and resist the temptation to soothe your nerves with alcohol or cigarettes. You need to stay healthy now, more than ever.

Enlist help. As you can see, you need to pursue some activities outside of the home, in order to take care of yourself and avoid burnout. Usually, this means you need to hire a caregiver to substitute for you. Contact us for additional resources, so that you can get the backup help you need.

As a trusted member of the community, Hospice of the Valleys has been providing hospice care to the Inland Valley and Fallbrook for over 34 years. Please call us for senior community resources, or for information about hospice care. We’re here to help.  951-200-7800

6 Signs of Caregiver Burnout

When we were all babies, our parents devoted themselves to taking care of us. But at some point later in life, that role often reverses, with children taking care of aging or sick parents. Just as parents of small children often feel overwhelmed and say that they need a break, caring for an older relative is usually no easier.

And yet, we often have trouble recognizing or admitting that we suffer from caregiver burnout. That’s probably due, at least in part, to the fact that society often focuses on parenting dilemmas, while ignoring the needs of those caring for elderly relatives. If you’re playing the role of caregiver for a parent or other relative, take a few moments to assess your own mental and emotional health. Have you noticed any of these signs of caregiver burnout?

You feel anxious or stressed. You worry frequently, you’re losing sleep, you feel as though you’re doing too much all at once, or you’re even experiencing outbursts of anger.

You’re exhausted. You’re tired all the time, and you might be getting sick more often, too.

Your mood has changed. You feel irritable, cranky, sad, lonely, or out of control.

You’re depressed. You feel sad, “for no reason”, or you don’t experience joy anymore. You rarely laugh or feel happy. You feel as though you just go through the motions every day, and life has no meaning.

You feel out of touch. You don’t engage in activities you used to enjoy, and you aren’t sure of the last time you spoke to a friend or attended a social gathering.

You’ve lost or gained more than ten pounds. A small amount of weight fluctuation is normal for all of us. A gain or loss of more than ten pounds can be a sign of an emotional or health crisis.

Caregiver burnout happens when you’ve been so busy tending to the needs of someone else, that your own needs have been overlooked or forgotten. For some reason, many people feel guilty to admit that they are suffering caregiver burnout. But remember, you’re human too; you have needs, and it’s okay to ask for help.

In fact, seeking help is the best thing you can do for not only yourself, but also the person for whom you are providing care! After all, if you push yourself beyond reasonable limits, you could get very sick yourself. Caring for yourself helps you to stay healthy, so that you can continue to oversee the care of your loved one.

If you’re experiencing caregiver burnout, don’t be afraid to ask for help. In future articles, we’ll discuss how to get the help you need, so that you can keep yourself and your loved one healthy and happy.

As a trusted member of the community, Hospice of the Valleys has been providing hospice care to the Inland Valley and Fallbrook for over 34 years. Please call us for senior community resources, or for information about hospice care. We’re here to help.  951-200-7800

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