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Caregiving: Nursing home or care at home? The emotional question

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There was a time when Grandma always lived at home and maybe we like to think it was like life with The Waltons where mom and dad and their many kids all honored and cared for crusty old grandma.

Sadly, the days of The Waltons are gone, along with big families and the farm life that, in any case, offered few alternatives to care.

What most families have now is one daughter or son who keeps mom or dad at home, trying to attend to daily needs and medical care, mainly alone. It can be rewarding, isolating, and exhausting for both caregiver and patient.

According to Caring Steps and Stages, these are the issues that families face when a loved one gets dementia or suffers physical ailments that can no longer be treated independently.

These days, when a person is hospitalized for treatment under Medicare, they often go to a nursing home for rehabilitation, which can last up to 100 days, depending on the patient’s progress. During this time, family can make the decision to take the patient home or start a longer term stay in the facility.

Here are some primary triggers to consider a nursing home:
Caregiver’s health declines — The caregiver must be physically and emotionally able to make meals, maintain housekeeping, cope with emergencies, and provide companionship.

Senior’s health declines — When skilled medical care becomes a daily necessity, a nursing home becomes a prime consideration. Nursing home medical care often improves a patient’s health.

Cost of home care becomes excessive — A home aide costs at least $20 per hour ($160 per day). Staffing can become an issue if the senior requires 16- to 24-hour skilled care. A skilled care nursing home costs $220 per day but it also offers 24-hour care.

Here are some issues the patient will face:
Confusion — Seniors with dementia often do not know where they are initially. They might think they have been arrested, or are in a new home (Where’s the kitchen?). They might constantly be worried about paying for dinner (Where’s my purse? Waitress!).

Dissatisfaction — They might complain about staff, facilities, food, or routine. But they could also accept this and find the bustle of the nursing home engaging.

Loneliness — All nursing homes have activities, including church services, shopping trips, and games. Family and staff can help to engage patients. The staff social worker might help to link up those with similar cognitive abilities.

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Tips for greening up cleaning

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Have you ever thought about making an all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent, or drain unclogger that didn’t have so many harsh chemicals in it? There are plenty of options to do so that are easy, inexpensive, and — perhaps best of all — that actually work!

Here are some tips for household cleaners:

Vinegar, baking soda, water, and your favorite essential oil can clean almost anything around the house. And some of us never tire of the way the baking soda and the vinegar fizz up when they meet.

Lemons make a great disinfectant and smell great, too. Toss one into the garbage disposal to freshen things up, and you can use a half of a lemon and salt to scrub your wooden cutting board.

Tea Tree oil is considered among many to be an effective antibacterial and antifungal ingredient, and you’ll find it in a host of natural cleaning products.

Try making a homemade laundry detergent with some combination of baking soda, washing soda, castile soap, and your favorite essential oil (like lavender). There are tons of variations online.

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Make sure you’re prepared for a financial emergency

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Even if you have a well-paying job, affordable living costs and few debts, it’s important not to take a good financial situation for granted. Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself for a financial emergency:

1. Have an emergency fund. Financial experts recommend creating a savings account with enough money to cover six months’ worth of expenses. That way if disaster strikes, you’re prepared.

2. Have adequate insurance. It’s essential to have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance in case of disaster. It’s also a good idea to get disability insurance, which covers your expenses if you become ill or disabled and can’t work.

3. Make sure to have credit available. In a financial emergency, you may need to bill expenses to your credit cards until you’re able to pay them off. Before financial disaster occurs, however, it’s important to do your best to avoid credit card debt and pay off your outstanding balances as quickly as possible.

4. Plan how to cut expenses quickly. Examine your expenses and identify where you can cut back. In an emergency, gym memberships and TV packages can be cancelled, and money spent on eating out can be reduced or eliminated entirely.

If you prepare for an emergency now, your financial plan won’t be totally derailed if you’re faced with a debilitating illness or injury, unexpected job loss or costly damage to your home.

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Four tips that will motivate you to stay on budget

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Budget troubles? Here are four ways to motivate yourself to meet your financial objectives.

1. Remember the reason you’re saving. Focusing on your goal (that trip to Hawaii or paying off your student loan) will motivate you to stick to your spending plan.

2. Tell people about your goals. Telling friends and family members about your budgeting goals will keep you accountable. Surround yourself with people who will support you and help you make good decisions.

3. Track successes. Keep up your morale by setting short-term goals and recognizing small successes. Celebrate when you reach these milestones.

4. Allow for occasional indulgences. It’s important to allow some room in your budget for fun activities. It’ll help you stay motivated, and you’ll be more likely to follow your budget over a longer period of time.

The point of a budget is not to deny yourself every little indulgence but to curb your expenses over time so that you can achieve your long-term goals. Spending moderately while keeping your eye on the prize is the way to do it.

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Cleaning for life: Don’t put off the project

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The gentle lady with a smidge of dementia still lived in her big home, complete with a lavish bookcase holding thousands of volumes. And a kitchen with all those serving platters and china. And four bedrooms stuffed with memories.

She was feeling weak and confused. “I would like to downsize,” she said. “But what do I do with all of this?”

The Swedish have a solution for this and it starts long before a person starts feeling too weak to start such a project. They call it, somewhat unpleasantly, ‘death cleaning.’ But the project is really about preparing to live simply.

The idea is to live in a house, cleared of clutter, where everything has a place.

Author Margareta Magnusson, in her book How to Free Yourself and your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, points out that this makes it easier for those left behind, but it also makes daily living easier.

Magnusson divides the cleaning into categories of rooms and things, like clothing and books.

She advises to start with a category with many things in it, but very little sentimental attachment. If you no longer give large family dinners, start in the kitchen where there are likely to be tons of serving dishes and tableware, fancy and not. Ask a newly married grandchild or niece, if they would like some of these items. In fact, invite your young relatives to take things you sort out.

Make a special effort to sort out photos, scrapbooks or memorabilia that other relatives will want and offer it to them.

Sort out things you don’t wish to leave to family, too.

One unique idea: Create a Throw Away box. Fill this box with things no one but you appreciates — a letter from a late friend about her summer vacation. Your family doesn’t know this person anyway. When you are gone, they can look through it or throw it away without the slightest bit of guilt. In the meantime, you can still enjoy it and leave no doubt to your relatives whether you think the items should be kept.

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Four ways to teach young kids about personal finance

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The earlier children develop good spending habits, the better. Here are four ways you can teach your kids about saving money and living frugally.

1. Pay in cash. Using cash instead of cards when shopping with kids will help them better understand how money works. Consider giving them the cash to count out when it’s time to pay — they’ll get to practice their math skills.

2. Show the benefits of comparing prices. Encourage kids to look for the lowest prices at the store and figure out if you’ll get a better deal by spending more to buy larger quantities. Make it into a game to see who can spot the best deal first.

3. Set tangible goals. Let kids know that you’re saving as a household for something they want (such as a trip to Disney World or a pool for the backyard). This will help teach them about cutting out unnecessary expenses to save for something bigger down the road.

4. Let them do the grocery shopping. If your kids are older, have them choose their meals for the week, then make an ingredients list, find the items needed at the store and pay for everything in cash.

Taking the time to teach kids how to spend money responsibly will help prepare them for a lifetime of good financial habits.

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Tips for reducing your monthly grocery bill

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Looking for a way to reduce monthly expenses? Then your grocery bill is a good place to start. Here’s how to rein in your spending at the supermarket:

• Go shopping less often. In general, people who only shop once every week spend less overall than those who make several smaller trips during the same period of time.

• Shop around. Find out what stores have the best deals and shop at those locations. Buy specific items at the stores where they’re the cheapest.

• Make a list. Always make a list of items that you need to help you avoid impulse buys. It’s also good to have a budget in mind as you shop.

• Pay in cash. If you struggle to stick to your grocery budget, take out money to spend at the grocery store in cash and leave your credit cards at home. Having to pay with cash will force you to stay on budget.

With a little planning and self-control, you’ll be able to significantly reduce your food costs without sacrificing the quality of your meals.

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