Kristen Mauk

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About Kristen Mauk

President/CEO - Senior Care Central, LLC

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Growing Trend

A Profile of Older Americans (2012) revealed that over 480,000 grandparents had primary parenting responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them.  AARP cited that over 2.5 million grandparents are helping with the responsibility of raising their grandchildren, and 7.8 million children live in homes owned by their grandparents. These statistics represent a growing trend in American culture.

I have several friends who have raised or are raising their grandchildren in their own home. Some have formally adopted their grandchildren. Others share parenting responsibilities with one or both parents. All of them share the common feeling that this is a blessing, not a burden, but that raising grandchildren in later life does have its challenges.

Whatever the circumstances that brought grandchildren into the home of their grandparents to be raised, it can come as a shock to the older adults who find themselves in this situation.

Here are some beginning considerations to raising your grandchildren in your own home.

Impact of aging

Older adults who are assuming primary responsibility for children should “cut themselves some slack”. Don’t feel that you have to do everything as if you were a first-time parent in your 20’s. Remember that you may be parenting, but your body knows that you are still a grandparent. You may have to limit the children’s activities because keeping up with the driving and multiple schedules is too difficult. The good news is that many grandparents in this situation are retired, so both Grandma and Grandpa can help with the kids. This teamwork might not have been possible with your own children because one or both of you were working, but now you can share the duties such as driving kids to school or sports practices, helping with homework, and taking them to doctor appointments. If the children are school age, allow yourself extra time to rest and relax during the day so that after school you have the energy required for these new-again activities with the grandkids. If needed, enlist the help of other family members or friends to help by giving you a break on occasion.  Keep in mind that maintaining your own health is especially important if you have young ones depending on you.

Expenses and Education

Many older adults are on a fixed income and may not have planned to care for grandchildren. Your financial plan for retirement might need an overhaul with additional family members in the household. Several organizations have worked cooperatively to compile resources for grandparents in this situation. National and state fact sheets have been developed to link grandparents with key resources in their area. You can find out about resources available to help you at http://www.aarp.org/relationships/friends-family/grandfacts-sheets/ .These helpful fact sheets list local programs, public benefits, key state laws, and contact information for national resources. There may be funding or tax breaks to help with living or educational expenses.

Records and immunizations

It’s important to keep important documents together in one safe place. This includes birth certificates, legal papers, report cards, baptismal papers etc… Keeping a log or journal of important events is also a good strategy, especially when caring for multiple children. There are a number of immunizations for children today that were not available or required when you parented your own children. Immunizations are often free at your county health department, but can be very expensive at the doctor’s office. The health department can tell you what your child needs and when, and will help you by providing an immunization record that will need to be kept up for school. The CDC has a helpful chart of recommended immunizations for birth to 6 years that can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/downloads/parent-ver-sch-0-6yrs.pdf  A summary of vaccinations for birth to age 18 can be found at http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p2010.pdf

Enjoy your Grand Family

Despite the obvious challenges of raising grandchildren in your older years, most grandparents describe the many joys that come with this new adventure. Grandparents share a special bond with their grandchildren, and when sharing a home together, that bond can be strengthened. Grandparents can share the wisdom of their experience with this younger generation and have the opportunity to shape their lives for the better. If you are new to this second round of parenting, AARP offers a helpful guide with tips to GrandFamilies, as they call them. These can be found at Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Growing Trend

 

 

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By |2021-02-26T11:20:08-05:00March 4th, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Growing Trend

Heart Failure Warning Signs and Treatment

Background

Heart failure (HF) happens when the heart is not strong enough to pump the needed blood with oxygen to the rest of the body. The CDC estimated that 5.7 million people in the U.S. have heart failure. The incidence of congestive heart failure (CHF) varies among races and across age groups. It is the cause of 55,000 deaths each year (CDC, 2012). The lifetime risk for someone to have CHF is 1 in 5.

Risk Factors

The major risk factors for HF are diabetes and MI. African American males are at higher risk than Caucasians. The risk of CHF in older adults doubles for those with blood pressures over 160/90. Seventy-five percent of those with CHF also have hypertension (AHA, 2012). Congestive heart failure often occurs within 6 years after a heart attack.

Warning Signs

Signs and symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath (that also worsens when lying down), weight gain with swelling in the legs/ankles, and general tiredness. It is essential that older adults diagnosed with HF recognize signs of a worsening condition and report them promptly to their healthcare provider. Older adults may not have the typical symptoms but complain of other things like decreased appetite, weight gain of a few pounds, or insomnia (Amella, 2004).

Diagnosis

For in-home monitoring, daily weights at the same time of day with the same clothes on the same scale are essential. The physician or primary care provider will give guidelines for the person to call if the weight exceeds his or her threshold for weight gain. This is usually between 1 and 3 pounds. The decision regarding when to call the primary care provider is made based upon the severity of the HF and the relative stability/frailty of the person.

Treatment

Treatment for HF involves the usual lifestyle modifications discussed for promoting a healthy heart, as well as several possible types of medications. These include ACE inhibitors, diuretics, vasodilators, beta-blockers, blood thinners, angiotensin II blockers, calcium channel blockers, and potassium. Lifestyle changes, per recommendation of the primary care provider, may include (AHA, 2009):
Maintaining an appropriate weight
Limiting salt intake
Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
Managing stress
Getting adequate rest
Engaging in physical activity as prescribed
Quitting smoking
Eating a heart-healthy diet
To minimize exacerbations, patient and family counseling should include teaching about the use of medications to control symptoms and the importance of regular monitoring with a health care provider (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ], 2012; Hunt et al., 2009). With the proper combination of treatments such as lifestyle changes and medications, many older persons can still live happy and productive lives with a diagnosis of heart failure and minimize their risk of complications related to this disease.

For additional information on heart failure visit the American Heart Association website at:
target=”_blank”>http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/Heart-Failure_UCM_002019_SubHomePage.jsp”

 

Adapted from Mauk, K. L., Hanson, P., & Hain, D. (2014). Review of the management of common illnesses, diseases, or health conditions. In K. L. Mauk’s (Ed.) Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.

By |2021-02-10T15:45:27-05:00February 23rd, 2021|News Posts|Comments Off on Heart Failure Warning Signs and Treatment

Chronic Sinusitis

Sinus pain

Background

One of the common health complaints of the elderly is chronic sinusitis. About 14.1% of Americans 65 and older report suffering from chronic sinusitis; for those 75 years and older, the rate is slightly lower at 13.5% (American Academy of Otolaryngology, 2012). Age-related physiological and functional changes that occur can cause restrictions to the airflow. This results from irritants blocking drainage of the sinus cavities, leading to infection.

Warning Signs

Symptoms include a severe cold, sneezing, cough (that is often worse at night), hoarseness, diminished sense of smell, discolored nasal discharge, postnasal drip, headache, facial pain, fatigue, malaise, and fever (Kelley, 2002). The person may complain of pain around the sinus areas, and swelling and redness of the nasal mucosa may be evident.

Diagnosis

Allergies, common cold, and dental problems should be ruled out for differential diagnosis. When symptoms continue over a period of weeks and up to 3 months and are often recurring, chronic sinusitis should be suspected. A CT scan of the sinuses will likely show areas of inflammation.

Treatment

Treatment for chronic sinusitis is with antibiotics, decongestants, and analgesics for pain. Inhaled corticosteroids may be needed to reduce swelling and ease breathing. Irrigation with over-the-counter normal saline nose spray is often helpful and may be done two to three times per day. The person with chronic sinusitis should drink plenty of fluids to maintain adequate hydration and avoid any environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke or other toxins. Chronic sinusitis is a condition that many older adults wrestle with their entire life. Avoidance of precipitating factors for each individual should be encouraged.

For more information on Sinus Sinusitis, visit The Mayo Clinic at:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-sinusitis/DS00232/DSECTION=risk-factors/

Adapted from Mauk, K. L., Hanson, P., & Hain, D. (2014). Review of the management of common illnesses, diseases, or health conditions. In K. L. Mauk’s (Ed.) Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.

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By |2021-02-10T15:45:11-05:00February 22nd, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Chronic Sinusitis

Five Tips to Surviving Your Husband’s Retirement

bigstock-Mature-Couple-In-A-Playful-Moo-5106837

I remember when my father retired at the age of 62 from a busy career as a pediatric surgeon. I thought he would be bored, but he had already compiled a notebook full of chores to do around the house, places he wanted to go, and a bucket list of other accomplishments that had been put on hold. Shortly after his retirement, my Mom confided in me that it was a bit of an adjustment having Dad home all the time. Suddenly, Mom said she seemed to no longer be able to cook right after about 40 years of doing this on her own. Dad had a better way to do things, after all. Once I saw Mom trying to wrap a gift and the wrapping paper seemed too small for the size of present. Dad was trying to give her step by step instructions and after snapping at her, Mom let him wrap the gift himself. Now, while I do concede that Dad was able to wrap the gift absolutely perfectly with the allotted paper, Mom and I gave each other a knowing glance and smiled. Ah, retirement.

So, when my own husband announced that he was going to retire and sell his share of the business at the age of 51, I knew I had to take some action to give our marriage the best chance to survive and thrive against this new challenge. After all, when my father-in-law retired, my mother-in-law had to encourage him to get a part-time job so she could have some “peace”. Even she was a bit concerned when my husband decided to take early retirement. Here I offer my short bit of wisdom, gleaned not only from my own experience but also from many wise women who gave me their sage advice to prepare for this season of life: when your husband retires.

Set the ground rules. I had fortunately learned during a brief period when my husband was working from home that there were certain things that would have to be agreed upon before he ever retired if we were to live peaceably. For example, he was not allowed to take over any of my former responsibilities unless I asked him to. Driving the kids around to activities can be helpful, but trying to wash the shrinkable clothes was not. Taking us out to eat after I worked all day was fine, but trying to take over the kitchen was off limits. Helping the kids with business math (not my area of expertise) was great, but trying to be the full-time homeschool Dad was not going to work for any of us.

Have separate work spaces. Jim and I cannot share a computer. I teach partially online and spend lots of time working from home with consulting. We agreed early on that he would set up a separate place in a different part of the house for his computer and desk. This has created much harmony over sharing the work space.

Allow everyone time to adjust to the change. I must admit that it took me several weeks, maybe even months, to realize that my husband was truly going to retire. Once he was home all the time, the reality gradually set in, but I kept reminding myself to give us all an adaptation period as if we were starting a new job orientation, because things were definitely going to change. Our two teenagers were the most leery of Dad being home all the time. For them, the ground rules (i.e. “please just let us do our work and don’t change our routine”) were particularly essential.

Accept your differences. My husband is a problem-solver and savior. He likes a challenge and wants to fix everything for everyone if he can. While I admire this about him, I didn’t want him to fix the nice structure and functionality by which our home was already running. I learned to embrace his strengths and encourage him to accept my weaknesses (like overindulging in carbs and worrying about things I can’t control). He likes to exercise every day, watch sports, and spend time on the landscaping. I would rather take the kids to the movies and go shopping. And that had to be ok.

Embrace the positives. While I was a bit skeptical about how our lives would change with my husband retiring so soon, there are so many things to celebrate that I am daily embracing the wonderful opportunities and blessings that his retirement has brought to our family. We are free to travel more. He accompanies me on business trips, even to China twice! He is much more relaxed and pleasant. It makes our family happy to see him have the time and resources to do what he enjoys. Jim keeps busy all of the time and yet does not have the daily pressure of work-related stress. We spend more time with family and have plans to move nearer to the grandchildren and to a better climate.

For all the women who are warily facing their husband’s retirement, take heart. I can honestly say that with some forward and deliberate planning, my husband’s retirement is one of the best things that has ever happened to us!

By |2021-02-10T15:44:30-05:00February 18th, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Five Tips to Surviving Your Husband’s Retirement

Five tips for Grandparents to stay connected with family

bigstock-grandma-with-your-grandson-12149147

With the birth of my daughter’s second child, I began to reflect on the important role that grandparents can play in the lives of their grandchildren. Here are five essential tips for older adults who want to have a lasting influence in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Visit often. For those of us fortunate enough to live near our children and grandchildren, it is easy to see them often. Grandparents may even be the caregivers while parents are working. Visits don’t always have to be planned. Sometimes the best family time is a spontaneous invitation to dinner and a movie. However, sometimes distance can prevent regular visits. Some grandparents make it a goal to see their distant grandchildren once every 6 weeks or every few months. Be sure to take advantage of technology for your time together. Set a regular time to Skype or do Face-time. Don’t miss out on the subtle changes in those early years while babies are growing. Exchanging pictures may help, but they don’t replace the in-person experience. You may even think of relocating to be closer to family. For older grandchildren, be sure to have their cellphone number. Text them often and exchange pictures to stay involved in their lives and let them know you are available to them. Even small connections throughout the week (but without being annoying to teenagers of course) can make a difference in your relationship with your grandchildren.

Offer to help in practical ways. Working parents with young children will need a break at times. Ask how you can best help. Offer to keep the children for an overnight while mom and dad have a special dinner or weekend getaway. Many grandparents like to take their grandchildren on trips without the parents. Places like amusement parks, the zoo, or day trips to the water park or national forest all provide good diversion and quality time with Grandma and Grandpa while giving parents a rest. For even more quality time, take the older grandchildren on a cruise, camping in the mountains, or to a resort without their parents. For the mom with a newborn, take meals to the house (if you live close), do her grocery shopping or laundry, or send her a new bathrobe to show you are thinking of her. A favorite role model of mine sends the grandchildren a “baby shower in a box” with all sorts of goodies when she can’t be present due to distance or health concerns.

Plan special activities. Special activities need not be expensive. This could mean a trip to the park with Grandma or a special morning walk each week with Grandpa. My father used to take every grandson on a bow-hunting trip when they turned 12 years old. This was a rite of passage for every boy in the family. Grandpa would mount their first deer head for them and buy them a special hunting knife to commemorate the occasion. The girls in the family would take a trip to a Disney resort while the men were hunting. Grandchildren remember these events forever.

Attend special events. How fortunate are the kids whose grandparents are able to attend basketball and volleyball games, swimming tournaments, and Grandparent’s Day at school! Take advantage of being able to attend those dance recitals and school plays. If you live far, plan your visits to be able to attend some significant events like graduations, wedding showers, or school performances. This makes lasting memories with your family.

Be a constant in their lives. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old, and my paternal grandparents were the one constant in my life at that time. When a child’s world is jolted by change, grandparents can be that steadying influence that doesn’t change. They provide stability and security in an unsteady world for a child. The most important thing to remember is to be there. You don’t have to be the all-star parent or grandparent, but your children will remember that you were there for them when it counted the most.

By |2021-01-21T15:00:48-05:00January 29th, 2021|Dr. Mauk's Boomer Blog, News Posts|Comments Off on Five tips for Grandparents to stay connected with family