Caring for Seniors: A Labor of Love

The aging population and their need for care have been overlooked for so long, that the demand for caregivers in the workforce is at a critical level. As the New York Times reports, more than 1.3 million new paid caregivers will be needed to meet the demand of the aging senior population by the year 2022. Caregiving is on track to become the largest occupation in the United States in the next 5 years and is expected to replace retail with the most people employed in the field, many of whom will work for home care agencies.


With our senior population aging and the ‘sandwich’ generation emerging, there is a great need for caregivers. The sandwich generation refers to the age group who are caring for their parents and simultaneously caring for their own children. When you factor in their daily job and family activities, they can quickly become overwhelmed. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis Client Care Coordinator, Lori Leigh, explains why this growing field is so important and what being an in-home care assistant involves:

In an effort to meet the demands of the healthcare industry, one health professional in Maryland is proving he can make a difference with the High School Health Education Foundation. Dr. William Leahy, a semi-retired neurologist, created this foundation and has rolled out an education program aimed at attracting new young people to the field of home health care. The program is geared toward high school seniors who otherwise may not attend college, and offers free classroom instruction followed up by on-the-job training at a local retirement community. Textbooks, scrubs, and equipment are also covered by the foundation. This foundation’s education program has proven to be very competitive with high application numbers as well as successful graduates and Dr. Leahy is planning to expand the program to a high school in Washington D.C next. We hope he brings it to Minnesota as well!

returning-home-nutrition-480x450As the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reports, health care is a gold mine – it is an occupation industry in Minnesota that is expected to grow more than 40% by the year 2022. So, what does it mean to be a caregiver? The type of care will vary and the client’s needs will really dictate what an in-home caregiver will be doing on any given day. The caregiver may be assisting with transportation, doctor visits, errands, meal preparation, medication reminders or light housekeeping. Companionship is the most important aspect of the caregiver’s day and is a big part of the caregiver client relationship, as well as being an advocate for them within the community.

Caring for seniors is a labor of love that calls for just the right person with a special touch. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis hires dedicated CAREGivers who share our passion for caring for seniors and providing in-home care assistance to join our team. This caught the attention of Leah Beno with Minneapolis KMSP Fox 9 Evening News who featured our own Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis CAREGiver, Rebecca, and her client Liz and highlighted their very special bond.

Every day, families in Minneapolis are struggling to balance raising their own family, a demanding career, and caring for a senior loved one. The family caregivers eventually run out of hours in the day and the stress becomes unmanageable. This is where a Home Instead CAREGiver steps in to help. If you believe you are that special type of person who enjoys working with seniors and wants to make a difference in the lives of older adults as a career, being a Home Instead Senior Care network CAREGiver might be the career for you. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis provides training as well as on going 24/7 support to our CAREGivers. We also provide advanced training opportunities throughout the year, including dementia and Alzheimer’s specific training, which is currently in high demand.

Home Instead offers flexible work hours, a competitive salary and health insurance benefit package, including overtime pay and paid travel time between client appointments to our employees as well. We offer this and more to our CAREGivers through a holistic approach – caring for our CAREGiver’s mind, body, and spirit. We believe when we care for our CAREGivers, they are better equipped to have meaningful relationships with the clients and their families and it will allow them to do what they do best, which is ensuring seniors live independently as long as possible.

Home Instead Senior Care understands what it takes to provide care to seniors and we are dedicated to hiring the best individuals to fill our needs. To learn more about current openings at Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis, visit the Careers tab of our website where you can also apply online or contact us by calling 763-634-8247 today.

Huge Success: Be a Santa to a Senior 2015!

Once again this holiday season, Minneapolis volunteers went above and beyond to make Christmas memorable for local seniors who may not have otherwise received gifts or companionship.

The 2015 Be a Santa to a Senior® program was a huge hit this year and I cannot thank the many volunteers involved enough for your support. Without the workshop full of elves taking care of putting up the trees, selecting tags and shopping for local seniors, storing the gifts, and helping to make the deliveries, this program would not exist. A heartfelt thank you goes out to each and every one of you! We at Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis understand this is a very busy time of year for all, but hopefully seeing the smiles on the faces of the seniors and knowing how much fun the volunteers had participating warms your heart as much as it does mine.

Delivering over 2,500 donated gifts, this truly was a memorable Christmas and I’d like to give a special shout out to the following businesses:

  • Security Life Insurance
  • Herzing University
  • Women’s Club of Minneapolis
  • Wells Fargo
  • Polaris
  • Lennox Senior Program
  • Federal Bankruptcy Courts
  • HealthPartners
  • Tommy Hilfiger Outlet
  • St. Louis Park Retired Firefighters
  • Plymouth Fire Department

To stay in touch and make sure that you’re informed about our Be a Santa to a Senior® program next year, like us on Facebook and you’ll see our timely updates. Check out some of the fun pictures!


The Be a Santa to a Senior® campaign is all about helping seniors who are alone or in need. The Minneapolis office of the Home Instead Senior Care® network has partnered with local non-profits groups such as East Side Neighborhood Services in Minneapolis, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, Meals on Wheels, several nursing homes and low income housing to provide gifts and companionship to seniors who otherwise might not receive either during the holiday season. What began with just one nursing home has since grown into a movement.

The official kickoff began with decorating Christmas trees with ornament tags inside the establishment of our participating partners. Thank you to the 2015 partners:

From there, generous donors selected an ornament tag from the trees with the name of a senior and some suggestions of what they would like. The donors delivered the item(s) back to the location in a gift bag and the Be a Santa to a Senior “elves” picked up the gifts and delivered them to seniors in nursing homes, low income senior housing, adult day centers and personally nominated individuals.

Home Instead Minneapolis was thrilled to partner with several local fire stations. Relief associations, retired and off-duty firefighters from Golden Valley, Minneapolis, St Louis Park, Plymouth and Hopkins all assisted the program by picking up and storing the gifts.  When the gifts were all collected they also helped to deliver the gifts to several of the nursing homes, assisted living and senior apartment facilities in and around the Minneapolis area. THANK YOU to the Golden Valley Fire Family, Plymouth, Minneapolis, Hopkins and St. Louis Park fire stations and relief associations for being involved with our Be a Santa to a Senior® campaign! The members of these stations, along with retired members, spouses and family members, partnered with us and donated their own time.

Since its inception, the Be a Santa to a Senior® campaign has attracted over 60,000 volunteers throughout North America, and has provided 1.2 million gifts to over 700,000 seniors who are in need of assistance or companionship. We’re doing our little part here in Minneapolis and surrounding communities – you can join the movement and help a senior in your Minnesota community too!

The Sunday Dinner Pledge – It’s a Wrap!

Thanks to you, the Sunday Dinner Pledge has been a huge success for Home Instead Senior Care and Meals on Wheels America. Just because the program is ending July 31, 2015, doesn’t mean you can’t continue having dinner with your family including senior loved ones on a regular basis. Take advantage of the prepared weekly meal plans, try out the featured recipes created by a Home Instead Senior Care network dietician and Food Network celebrity chef Melissa d’Arabian and most importantly, enjoy the time spent with your family. SundayDinnerPledge

If you’re just hearing about the Sunday Dinner Pledge, it’s not too late! In an effort to drive home the importance of sharing family dinners on a regular basis, Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis has launched the Sunday Dinner Pledge public education program. By taking this pledge, you are committing to bringing your family together at least once a month for Sunday dinner. For every signed Sunday Dinner Pledge taken before July 31, 2015, the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation will donate $1 (up to $20,000) to Meals on Wheels America who delivers meals to seniors in need nationwide.

To ensure the participating families are successful, Home Instead has partnered with Food Network celebrity chef Melissa d’Arabian to help promote the importance of regular family dinners. Melissa and a dietician for the Home Instead Senior Care network have developed easy, nutritious recipes and healthy food plans. In addition to the healthy recipes and weekly food plans, other resources are available to you such as tips for how to involve seniors in meal planning and preparation, pre- and post-dinner family activities, and many others. We even offer some conversation starters to help ease any awkward moments between the generations at the dinner table.

If you haven’t taken the pledge yet there is still time! To get started, simply click on this link and pledge to have dinner together on a regular basis and include your senior relatives. Home Instead is on a mission to make this a successful public education program and make it easy to follow. The Home Instead Senior Care network has created a variety of healthy meal plans, shopping lists and nutritious recipes to help make preparing dinners together easier for busy families. Refer to the easy-to-use weekly food plans to help you stay on track. The Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter Weekly Food Plans each have 5 weeks of easy and nutritious week-long meal plans, which include full shopping lists, healthy recipes, calorie information and more.

Home Instead has also provided a variety of conversation starters, dinner table activities and even informative articles to read if you’re concerned about your senior loved one. You may already know your elderly loved one faces challenges when it comes to enjoying healthy meals, but there may be more than you think. For example, lack of companionship during mealtimes and cooking for one are just two mealtime obstacles that could impact senior health. Click here to read more of the research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network. The website is full of useful tips, articles and information – all right at your fingertips! Check it out!

Although nutrition is important, data from the Home Instead Senior Care survey demonstrates that for most seniors, it’s not what’s on their plate that matters most at mealtime – it’s who is at the table. So, make the commitment to share a sit-down family meal with the multi-generational members of your family at least once a month. It’s a great way to reconnect and build stronger bonds among younger and older family members. Join us and pledge to bring back Sunday dinner with your senior loved ones, and discover how to make the most of being together. Sharing meals with your family in your Minneapolis or St. Paul home on a regular basis can help to improve a seniors’ quality of life. Take the pledge today!

Sunday Dinner Pledge

Congratulations! You’ve taken the Sunday Dinner Pledge and so far it’s been a successful program for Home Instead Senior Care and Meals on Wheels. Don’t fall behind or let the excuses creep in. Continue to use the prepared weekly meal plans, try out the featured recipes created by a Home Instead Senior Care network dietician and Food Network celebrity chef Melissa d’Arabian and most importantly, enjoy the time spent with your family.

Haven’t heard of the Sunday Dinner Pledge yet? There is still time! In an effort to drive home the importance of sharing family dinners on a regular basis, Home Instead has launched the Sunday Dinner Pledge public education program. By taking this pledge, you are committing to bringing your family together at least once a month for Sunday dinner. For every signed Sunday Dinner Pledge taken between May 6th and July 31, 2015, the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation will donate $1, up to $20,000, to Meals on Wheels America to deliver meals to seniors in need nationwide. Using the resources and tools from Home Instead makes this an easy pledge to stick to. The important thing is the fact your family is committed to having dinner together on a regular basis, including your senior relatives. “At Meals on Wheels we know the importance of visiting with our aging neighbors, this program is wonderful because it encourages families to spend time together and makes that personal touch available to others in need” states Patrick Rowan, Executive Director with the Metro Meals on Wheels, serving the Twin Cities metro area.

To help reduce any awkward silence and bridge the generation gap between the seniors and teenagers at the dinner table, we have come up with a variety of conversation starters and activities that can be used. Here are several ideas to get the conversation started:

  • What is one thing you hope to do in your lifetime?
  • What is the origin of the family name?
  • Describe your best family vacation or weekend getaway
  • Tell us about your favorite job or time in the military
  • What family meal makes your mouth water?

You can research and share some fun or interesting facts around your topic of conversation and even decide as a group to make an activity out of it. For example, plan to cook the secret family recipe or Minnesota hot-dish of the top voted family meal together next time you gather for dinner. Or if you’re discussing favorite movies, make a plan to go to a movie or even watch an old classic together after dinner.

If you’re looking to take your Sunday dinners to the next level, plan an activity. Here are a few ideas to give your Sunday dinner experience new meaning:

  • After dinner, attend a youth sporting event together. Take Grandpa to see a grandson’s baseball game or catch a Minnesota Twins game.
  • Enjoy game night after dinner – once the dishes are done, teach the younger kids a new game of cards or play a favorite board game.
  • If you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit, ask Grandma to bring her knitting needles and teach you while dinner is in the oven. You may be surprised to know the talents and skills the seniors in your family possess. To be able to learn a skill like woodworking, quilting or stained glass art from a grandparent or great-grandparent is invaluable.
  • Learn a little family history by researching the family tree. There are websites that make it much easier to explore your heritage such as or

Make sure you’re sticking to healthy nutritious meals and keep it simple! Download the weekly meal plans Home Instead has prepared for you and refer to them when planning out the next family gathering. The meal plans include the program’s featured weekly recipes, full daily meal plans, nutritional and calorie values, and detailed shopping lists.

See how Kathy Gunderson shares her Sunday dinner tradition

So spread the word! Join us and pledge to bring back Sunday dinner with your senior loved ones, and discover how to make the most of being together. Sharing meals with your family in your Minneapolis or St. Paul home on a regular basis can help to improve a seniors’ quality of life. Take the pledge today!

Education and Resources for Preventing Senior Hospitalizations

To wrap up our series on preventing hospitalizations, we’ll focus on ongoing prevention and will continue to offer resources. In the previous two articles, we learned ways to prevent hospitalizations and risks to watch for. Many are basic, good-to-know ways to live that will help keep your senior loved one healthy and out of Minneapolis hospitals.

In January, we informed you of a survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., which indicated the problem of preventable hospitalization of seniors is viewed as very to extremely serious by nearly 75% of the North American nurses surveyed who specialize in senior care. Those same nurses estimate that almost half of senior hospitalizations (48.5%) could be prevented with early detection and intervention. In addition, the survey reflects the critical role that families play when helping to keep their aging loved ones healthy and out of the hospital. In fact, 99% of the nurses believe the role family plays, is as important as the role played by health care professionals.

In the February article, you learned of some top warning signs along with health and lifestyle risk factors that could place seniors significantly more at-risk of hospitalization. Skipping health maintenance and not having anyone checking in on the senior adult ranked highest for warning signs, according to the nurses surveyed. Home Instead also discussed some common actions by aging adults that can help keep them out of the hospital. Not waiting too long to see a doctor or ignoring symptoms, along with staying active, both physically and mentally were two of the most common positive actions aging adults can do to prevent unnecessary hospitalization.

5_ways_prevent_hospitalizationHome Instead, Inc. introduced their 5 Ways to Prevent Senior Hospitalizations guide, along with the Hospitalization Risk Meter in the previous articles as resources. The goal of the guide is to strengthen the role families can take in hospitalization prevention, and to help them feel more confident about actions they can take to keep their senior safe at home. Another tool available from Home Instead is the Hospitalization Risk Meter. This easy-to-read guide teaches you about various warning signs along the way. The risk meter also has resource links on each page to learn more about potential risks and ways to prevent senior hospitalizations. To complete the series, we’ll focus on ongoing prevention and provide additional resources, like the “Senior Routine Tracker” to keep your loved ones healthy.

In the survey conducted by Home Instead, results showed that family is key. In fact, the nurses surveyed believe the family’s role is almost equal to that of the medical community. Yet, less than half (48.6%) of the seniors they see have family members who serve as active advocates for their care according to the survey. Some of the most important actions families can take to help keep their senior parents out of the hospital are:

Watch this video to learn how to prevent senior falls with assessments and balance exercises.

Another important factor in preventing unnecessary hospitalization is following doctor’s orders. Two in five nurses surveyed (43.5%) said the easiest step that seniors can take to help prevent hospitalization is to follow their doctor’s orders. The surveyed nurses estimate that 47% of seniors put off their medical appointments or have problems accessing medical care. And, one of the most common barriers (89.5%) that prevent seniors from complying with doctor’s orders is their willingness to change their ways. The next most common barriers are dementia/Alzheimer’s (88.8%) and denial of health issues (86%). All of these barriers can be broken down and caring for your aging family member would be much more successful with the help of loving family. If the aging adult has loving family checking in regularly, ensuring they attend their doctor appointments and are following doctor’s orders, the outcome will be successful. To help the family members feel confident in the care for their loved one, Home Instead offers another resource in the web-based ‘Senior Routine Tracker”. This easy-to-use routine tracker will help the family caregivers tune into the habits of their senior loved ones in an effort to help them avoid the risk of being hospitalized.

risk meter-120x120The goal is to keep our loved ones healthy and at home. Hospitalizations can be prevented and with the assistance and instructional resources available to the caregivers from Home Instead Minneapolis, hospital stays can be minimized. If a family member is not available, home care services can help bridge the gap. Utilizing resources like the Senior Routine Tracker, 5 Ways to Prevent Senior Hospitalizations guide and the Hospitalization Risk Meter will help you better care for your aging loved one, keep your senior healthy and home instead.

Are you in Caregiver Distress? Take This Quiz and Learn the Risk Factors.

personal_careNearly one-third of adults living in Minneapolis, MN are family caregivers to seniors and could be at risk for diabetes, depression, heart disease and various other conditions. This is a result of caregiver distress which is a potentially dangerous condition brought on by the pressures of caring for a senior loved one in their home. Studies indicate that caregiving is a leading stressor for families. In fact, one U.S. study revealed that more than half (52.8%) of those caring for individuals with diseases including cancer or Alzheimer’s had signs of depression.

In response to this growing issue, Home Instead Senior Care® Minneapolis has launched a public awareness campaign – Family Caregiver Stress Relief. Over the coming months, we will offer tools to help you determine if you are in distress, resources to overcome the challenges associated with caregiver distress and advice on preventing and treating surrounding issues.

Are you a Caregiver?

More than 44 million individuals in the U.S. and Canada provide caregiver services to a senior in their home. Yet few people identify themselves as caregivers. Why? Because often the things that make you a caregiver just seem like natural things to do for a loved one such as light household cleaning and making meals. Failing to recognize yourself as a caregiver can cause you to fail to recognize the challenges and responsibilities placed on you, and to overlook the impact caregiving may be having on your health and welfare. Research conducted on behalf of the Home Instead Senior Care® network reveals that caregivers who hid their emotions are more likely to experience depression, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue. In addition, people who don’t self-identify as caregivers may not realize the magnitude of what they do. According to AARP, in 2009, family caregivers provided over $450 billion worth of caregiving services including home care.

Take this quiz to determine if you are actually a caregiver.

What is Caregiver Distress?

Caregiver distress goes beyond the typical stressors of providing home care services for a senior. It actually impacts your health and manifests itself by increasing your risks of health complications. According to a 2010 study by Met Life Mature Market Institute, employees who provide senior care are more likely to report suffering from depression, diabetes, hypertension, or pulmonary disease. Research conducted by Dr. Peter Vitaliano, a Professor at the University of Washington, reveals that caregiver distress can manifest itself by increasing the risks for:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Ulcers
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weight gain/loss and obesity

Caregiver distress can spill over into other areas of life, potentially creating relationship problems, exacerbating addictions and causing job issues. If you or a loved one are a caregiver and experiencing any of the above health conditions, consult your Minnesota health care provider.

What are the Risk Factors?

Since the average demographic of a caregiver is a 45-54 woman caring for both an aging loved one as well as their own family, it’s easy for a caregiver to assume that the above symptoms are a typical sign of aging or that they’re just “stressed out and busy”.

“Stressors include too many caregiver demands, not enough help caring for a loved one, feeling alone, financial problems, and work loss. These all can lead to caregiver distress and burden,” says Dr. Vitaliano. Some risk factors for developing caregiver distress include:

However, even as you lovingly provide support to a senior, you may have problems managing and balancing that support with your own busy life. The responsibilities can impact you physically, mentally and emotionally. And that could lead to the kind of distress that could result in serious health problems.

Are You in Caregiver Distress?

home care mnTo identify the home care tasks that might make caregiving more challenging for you, and learn what you can do to address those challenges, take the Family Caregiver Distress Assessment, adapted for the Home Instead Senior Care network by Dr. Vitaliano. The assessment allows caregivers to determine their risk for distress and resulting emotional and physical issues, including depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Even if you learned from the quiz that you’re not providing care services to a senior, you probably know someone who is. Recommend this assessment or take it for them so that you can watch for warning signs.

Caring for an older adult can be a fulfilling experiences for any family caregiver. So many tasks bring pleasure as you give back to someone who may have given you so much. By identifying yourself as a caregiver and understanding the risk factors, you can decrease your changes of becoming distressed and, instead, enjoy the experience of caring for your Mom or Dad in their Minneapolis home.