Millions of retirees are puzzling about the best location to retire. In U.S. News and World Report, Emily Brandon ranks Port Charlotte, Florida as one of the most affordable places to live in the entire nation. The median home sale price was an amazingly low $59,950 in 2010. Has anyone even heard of Port Charlotte? Well, it’s a quiet town on the Florida Gulf Coast near a harbor and it contains lots of canal homes. These factors make it a virtual paradise for anyone who owns a boat or enjoys boating or fishing. Believe it or not, the area encompasses over 270 square miles of cruising waters and 219 miles of protected shoreline.
Arguably, the second most important plus for Port Charlotte is its central location. Port Charlotte and nearby Punta Gorda are within a 45 minute drive of either Sarasota or Fort Myers. Thus one can live in a serene, low traffic area within easy reach of two excellent metropolitan areas.
Charlotte County contains 12 miles of Gulf beaches, convenient marinas and boating clubs, 14 golf courses ranging from executive to championship, 70 parks and recreational areas, and 4 public libraries. The Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park spans 42,000 acres, and the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area spans 65,770 acres. Then the Peace River Wildlife Center fills out this triumvirate of pristine natural habitats, offering shelter to orphaned and injured wild animals.
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra makes its home in Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda features the nationally acclaimed International Sailing School. Also, for the more physically active, there is the Carmalita Athletic Park and the Charlotte County Speedway.
In Punta Gorda, golf is a favorite pasttime for local residents and visitors. Punta Gorda and its surrounds has the distinction of being ranked the third best city in America for golf by Golf Digest. This ranking was based upon access, weather, value and quality of golf. They are proud to be recognized for this accomplishment. The Kingsway Country Club course is a championship course whose greens were voted best in southwest Florida. The Riverwood Golf Club is rated 4 ½ stars in Golf Digest. And the Bobcat Trail Golf Club course is rated by Golf Digest as a must-play 4-star course.
Additional draws for retirees include fine medical facilities, and the lack of a Florida tax on income — including interest and dividend income. Especially as the feisty baby boomers retire, there will be an increasingly larger active senior population. This population will place a huge value on their personal independence. They will hire companions to provide in-home senior care. This home senior care will allow them to enjoy freedom to plan their lives and daily activities themselves for many extra years. Elite Senior Companions offers caring non-medical home care services such as transportation, home chores and cooking.
What is the best city in the nation for retirees? Well, Portfolio.com lists greater Sarasota as a number one retirement destination. It based its conclusion on factors such as cultural activities, sports and leisure, outdoor possibilities, adult education options/ job opportunities, relatively low housing costs and income-tax rates, low crime rates, walkability and overall livability. Apparently, this is no secret to out-of-staters. According to Portfolio.com, about 95 percent of Sarasota’s seniors are not Florida natives. Just south, the town of Venice rated not far behind Sarasota in desirability at number 9.
With its temperate climate, parks, trees, nature trails, and top-rated beaches, Sarasota is truly a beautiful city. There are 35 miles of waterfront and 13 public beaches. One can canoe through tunnels of mangroves, check out marine life on a bay cruise, or go fishing.
For sports enthusiasts there are plenty of places to swim or walk and there are also 60 public and private golf courses. For spectator sports, residents can watch biking, tennis, minor league baseball, football, polo, and ice hockey.
Sarasota County is known by some as Florida’s Cultural Coast. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center combines with many other attractions such as the Asolo Theatre Company, the Florida West Coast Symphony, the Sarasota Ballet, and the Sarasota Film Festival. The Ringling Museum of Art and the Florida State Art Museum combine with a dazzling display of art by some of the masters.
For those who enjoy night life, there are many entertaining spots, such as Captain Curt’s Back Room, Sunset Entertainment Cruises, and Daiquiri Deck Siesta Key.
There is a satisfyingly wide array of housing possibilities which are priced at every income range. From the palatial gated estates on and off the keys, one can also find mobile home communities and smaller homes. Of the eleven qualities boomers most want in a retirement mecca, Sarasota ranks highly in seven of them—including quality health care, temperate beachfront climate, low taxes, arts and culture, and senior recreation services.
Though one sees many young families strolling the streets, nearly 27 percent of Sarasota residents are 65 and older—the fourth-highest concentration of seniors in any U.S. market. This more than doubles the national average. Sarasota offers excellent hospital care, retirement communities, convalescent centers, and active senior in-home care. Understandably, most seniors want to retain their independence as long as possible.
There is a certain price to be paid for retaining that freedom and independence of home senior care. An estimated 44 million United States adults provide unpaid care to another adult, usually one’s parent or close relative. Women make up over 6 out of 10 caregivers. The female caregivers reported the highest stress levels, perhaps because they try harder to make their senior charge as happy and as comfortable as possible. One thing these family caregivers should avoid at any cost is total burnout. Though some may not be aware of it, there are “companions” or mobile caregivers who can give them a much-needed break from the continuous stress. Elite Senior Companions offers home chores, cooking and transportation to errands, shopping and appointments. Let’s watch over our senior population; they are a national treasure.
One agonizing question that is asked by adult children is: “How do I deal with the reality of leaving behind the life I had in order to become the primary caregiver to my parents?” The wording to this question may vary, but the question is basically the same. How do we cope with this major upheaval in our lives? It may sound selfish to some, but to caregivers who dove into caregiving with full hearts and no planning, then ended up sustaining this life-altering mode for months and often years, it’s a perfectly rational question.
Placing Your Life on Hold
People put their lives, as they know them, on hold in order to care for others. That’s unselfish. But when “hold” becomes the new norm, there’s a mental adjustment to go through. And sometimes that includes dealing with simmering resentment. Up front, it is constructive to remind ourselves that immediately sending off a slowly declining parent to an assisting living facility or convalescent center would be considered shockingly inconsiderate, even hateful, in some countries. In many nations, the aged are accorded special respect, even reverence. Without fail, they are nursed in the homes of adult children or relatives until close to death. In the United States, we tend to enroll seniors in these facilities earlier, and that’s okay when it becomes too nerve-racking and physically impossible to care for failing parents.
Adjusting to the new normal
Most people go into caregiving mode with full hearts and uplifting intentions. Here is a way a healthy thinking process might work: “Hmm, this could go on for years. I’d better plan it out. If I move to part-time at work, have more child care and spend mornings caring for my parents’ needs, it will be difficult, but possible. If I continue to work full time, I’ll have more for retirement, but I can’t do it all. I have to plan this out.”
No, we just dive in. Dad has a stroke, so of course we are there to help. He survives but needs a great deal of care. Mom can’t handle the hard physical work of caring for Dad. And she’s growing forgetful. So, it’s up to us. We make sure our folks get in-home help and we make adjustments in our own lives so we can give them maximum help. Sometimes, we quit jobs or go to part-time work in order to care for our parents.
No matter what our age when we begin caregiving, caregiving is likely going to change our lives as we’ve planned them. If we have kids at home, they will have to adjust to sharing their time – with getting less of you. If you are older when caregiving enters your life, it often affects your retirement plans.
Sure, some of these questions are tough. It’s not always easy to delve into our own reasons for doing what we do and coming up with truthful answers. Caregiving can easily turn into martyrdom, and that isn’t good for anyone. One great option before eventually moving parents into facilities is to hire companions to take some of the pressure off of you. They can spend time with seniors in the home or they can take them for fun outings, important errands or doctor’s appointments.
If we eventually have to move our parents into care facilities, they may hold it against us. If they don’t see us daily, they may also complain and accuse us of cruelty. But are they really at risk? If so, we need to look for a way to fix that, whether it’s through Social Services or other community services. Check your state’s website and find their version of “aging services.” Under that link, you should find ways your state uses federal funds to help elders and give help to caregivers. Each state has a version of the Family Caregiver Support Program. It may go by a different name in your state, but they generally give much-needed support – both practical and emotional.
If you don’t have siblings to help you look for care options, or you have them but they truly refuse to help, you won’t be the only person the Family Caregiver Support Program has heard this from. These folks should have some help for you on the local level. If you live in an area where there exists an Area Agency on Aging, they provide a great deal of community support.
Do not give up until you get some help. If you need to move your elders into assisted living, then do your homework and find the best option available. Assure them that you aren’t abandoning them, but you can’t care for them all alone. Most of the time, they will adjust. Often, once they see you won’t budge, they will resign themselves to it and actually enjoy aspects of facility life.
The point is, you must find some balance in your life. If you go years being eaten up with resentment, your own health will suffer. And you won’t be as good a caregiver as you want to be. Far better to find some respite and balance your life, once the emergency that got you into caregiving has passed, than to have your own life go down in flames. When of sound judgment, that is not what your elder would want for you.
Okay, you’ve always been pretty self sufficient and independent. Even as a kid you may have been the child who wanted to do things without any assistance. Life has been good and you feel good about your achievements, whatever they might be.
However, as hard as it is to admit, lately you’ve been noticing that chores and duties that used to be a snap are becoming a bit, shall we say, challenging? That sure isn’t a welcome thought, but it’s the truth. You even thought recently (perish the thought) that you might appreciate a little assistance with a few things. There’s really no shame to this at all. You might need what many call a senior companion. If you’re extra blessed, your son, daughter, and grandchild might be there to help. If not, there are senior companions who one pays to assist for a few hours each week. How does one actually know when the time has come for help? Below are some tips:
1) If you have fallen a few times and scraped yourself up, maybe you’ve realized you’re not quite as sharp and alert as you used to be. You don’t want to fall and really get hurt or injure yourself and be unable to stand up.
2) If you’ve become hesitant about wandering supermarket aisles for fear that someone might collide with you, this may be a warning sign. Or maybe you become a little forgetful at times about where to find some grocery items.
3) If you feel lonely on walks in the park, to area attractions, or around the block and friends and family aren’t around or available, a companion would be nice for company.
4) If tough housework and heavy jobs around the house are exhausting you, a companion can do the heavy lifting or down-on-the-knees jobs.
5) If cooking and light housekeeping are becoming difficult, have a friendly helper come in and do it for you.
6) Even if you can’t read anymore and would enjoy someone reading to you, there are companions who would love to enjoy a book with you.
7) If you love travel but you can no longer manage it by yourself, you can always hire a senior companion to take the trip with you. Of course, you’ll have to pay the companion’s expenses and some per hour, but if you have the money, why not splurge and do it instead of dragging your whiny, grumpy niece or nephew along?
8) If you’ve got errands that will last four or five hours, why try to carry those bags or push that cart yourself. You’ll be totally exhausted the next day. Just have a companion to help get them all out of the way for the whole week.
I know it may be really hard to admit that you now need help, but a warm and friendly person is more than happy to assist you, whatever the need. You can describe exactly what you need and the companion will neither do more or less than you desire. Go ahead; make the contact.
All of us have one: An inner critic. Your thoughts. That nagging voice in your head that is very opinionated and seems sometimes to grow even more so the older we get. What thoughts run through your head? “I look terrible. I am so fat.” “I’m getting useless. I never do anything right.” “I wasn’t very happy in my younger years. Will I ever find happiness? I feel like a terrible drag on those who have to take care of me.” Think about it: How many times have you criticized yourself or thought negatively about your life in the last few days?
Where do these negative thought patterns come from? Mostly, they’re the collective, cruel voices of our past — parents, siblings, spouses, high school bullies – and now, as seniors, these ugly thoughts are deeply internalized. By now they come so naturally you might not even realize you’re tearing yourself down. First step is, you must become aware of what that voice is saying. It helps to write down your negative thoughts and begin thinking up re-vamped, positive responses. If you tally the self talk you might be surprised how much is negative. Two or three times a day, take a few minutes to write down what you’ve been thinking – all of it… your thoughts about what your spouse did or didn’t do that morning… what your adult son or daughter said to you… how you felt about your problems. Don’t edit — write down the exact words. After about two or three weeks you will begin to see the true nature of your “thought chatter” and better understand your personality by uncovering the patterns.
Once you’ve identified your thought patterns, it’s time to start talking back to yourself. As you notice yourself saying something negative in your mind, you can stop your thought immediately by stopping yourself and replacing that thought with something more positive.
Modifying Your Thoughts
Here are six basic types of negative thought patterns common among seniors. Following each unhelpful thought pattern is an example of a more positive – and realistic – response that you can use as self-defense against that voice.
In this whole line of thinking, everything is black and white. If your performance isn’t perfect according to your standards, then you see yourself as a failure. You take one negative situation or characteristic and multiply it. You see a single, unpleasant event as a continual pattern of defeat. All-or-nothing thinking often includes use of words like: “always,” “every” or “never.” Sure, you make mistakes as you bumble along in your old age, but don’t overgeneralize. Life is still good.
Negative thought: You are preparing to go to a doctor’s appointment. You’re running late because you had an accident due to your incontinence and you had to change clothes. Your inner voice scolds, “You can’t even control bodily functions anymore. Something always goes wrong. You should be ashamed.”
Positive response: “I’m not always late. There are plenty of times when I am on time. There are humiliating aspects of old age that I just have to accept.”
Discounting the positive
Instead of looking at your positive accomplishments, you magnify your perceived weaknesses. You overlook the good things about you and your circumstances and focus on the bad.
Negative thought: “I can’t do housework anymore. I can’t even handle a game of bowling like I used to.”
Positive response: “At least I can read to my granddaughter. I can still enjoy great books and great music.”
In this line of thinking, you predict negative outcomes in the future. You always think the other shoe is going to drop. You refuse to do much with the family because you’re afraid you’ll run out of energy halfway through and you’ll put a damper on an outing for everyone else.
Negative thought: “I’m not even going to try to go to that amusement park because I may get too tired. I might collapse just walking from one ride to the next.”
Positive response: “I made it through half a day at Disney two years ago. Surely I can enjoy the fun with the grandkids for a few hours. Then I’ll go back to the hotel room.”
Everyone has their own list of rules and expectations about how we – as well as others — should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we even feel guilt when we violate these rules. Telling yourself that you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something may seem like a helpful motivator, but it often has the opposite effect: It’s a de-motivator. What you think you “should” do is in conflict with what you want to do. You end up feeling guilty, depressed or frustrated. When you constantly berate yourself about “shoulds” the result is frustration, guilt and a dislike of yourself.
Negative thought: “I should exercise for an hour. If I don’t work out, I’m going to keep getting fatter and my heart condition will do me in.”
Positive response: “I’m working on losing weight to improve my health but I can accept my body at my current weight. I’m going to write out a list of activities that I enjoy that can help me get in shape.”
You identify yourself or other people with one characteristic or action. You call yourself names. “You are a stupid person.” “Nobody likes to be around you anymore.” Most of us wouldn’t dream of speaking to another person like that. But we have no problem routinely addressing ourselves in a disrespectful, even demeaning, way.
Negative response: “I should have done the laundry today and vacuumed the carpets. I feel like I’m getting lazier every day.”
Positive response: “I am not lazy. Sometimes I don’t do as much as I wish I could, but that doesn’t mean I’m lazy. At my age I should be thankful I get as much housework done as I do.”
You take responsibility for negative circumstances that are beyond your control. Everything is your fault. You assume responsibility even when there is no true reason for doing so. You arbitrarily conclude that what happened was your problem or reflects your inadequacy.
Negative thought: “I’m such a terrible burden my daughter’s talking about finding an assisted living home for me.”
Positive response: “My daughter has lovingly taken care of me for five years. I’m growing more and more weak and helpless. I’m so lucky to have a daughter who, not only cared for me, but also wants me in the best facility possible.”
Knowing that negative self-talk can be destructive is one thing. Stopping it is another. The first step is to draw attention to the voice in your head. What is it saying? Then, to live a happier, more positive life, re-frame your thoughts by using the examples above. Don’t listen to that voice! Instead, talk back to it and tell it you are the authority around here. Take charge of your mind now.
Remember, you can’t care for your loved one if you are a mental or physical basket case yourself. The first step in dealing with caregiver stress is to recognize the signs. Then you can search for ways to deal with it and enlist support or medical help when needed.
- The Blues According to the National Institutes on Health, caregivers’ risk for fighting depression is 30 times greater than that of non-caregivers, particularly among those tending to seniors with severe life-limiting diseases such as Alzheimer’s or a physically crippling illness. Are you struggling with constant sadness, feelings of hopelessness and even crying spells.
- Isolation This can occur if you see no way out. You may not wish to see family and friends. You may stop participating in things you used to enjoy.
- Fretfulness You may sense anxiety because you feel paralyzed or you may feel that you don’t have enough time. The responsibilities of facing another day may seem overwhelming.
- Bitterness You may raise your voice at your loved one more; you may fly off the handle at them or others. Caregivers often hold simmering resentment toward their loved one because they are sacrificing their own lives to care for them. Feeling angry at other family members for not pitching in is also common.
- Lack of concentration You are obsessed with worries about your loved one and everything that you need to do. As a result, you have difficulty concentrating.
- Disruption of eating habits This results in unwanted weight gain or loss, as well as increased likelihood of illness.
- Inability to Sleep You may feel wiped out, but cannot sleep. Or your emotions may be racing at full steam even if your body is tired. You also may become wide awake in the middle of the night or have nightmares and dark dreams.
- Weariness If you frequently wake up feeling a terrible aversion to getting out of bed despite the fact that you’ve slept, you’re in serious distress.
- Unhealthy Habits You may realize with a start that you are drinking or smoking more. Or, you might begin drinking or smoking when you haven’t in the past.
- Health Issues You may catch colds or the flu more often than usual. This is particularly common in caregivers who do not take care of themselves, by not eating properly and exercising. The immune system declines as other physical systems become worn and frayed.
Helpful strategies for Winding Down your Stress
- Use respite and senior care companions available to you. Taking a break, while ensuring your loved one is well cared for, is one of the best ways to reduce stress.
- If you need financial assistance, don’t be afraid to ask family members to chip in their fair share.
- You might need to turn down requests that are draining and stressful, such as hosting holiday meals.
- Forgive yourself your imperfections. There is no such thing as a faultless caregiver.
- Identify what you can and cannot change. You may not be able to change someone else’s behavior, but you can adapt the manner in which you react to it.
- Set realistic goals. Break larger tasks into bite-size steps that you can accomplish one at a time. Prioritize, make lists, and establish a daily routine.
- Spend some time with family and friends and make time for yourself. Pay a companion service to watch your loved one for so many hours each week.
- Join a support group for caregivers. If your loved one has a particular affliction, such as dementia or Parkinson’s, look for a support group targeted at that disease.
- Make time to be physically active on whatever days possible, even if it’s just a brisk walk. Eat a healthy well-balanced diet and get enough rest.
- See your doctor regularly for checkups.
- Retain that sense of humor as a lifeline and practice positive thinking.
- Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Your Area Agency on Aging is a great, free resource.
- If you work outside the home, consider taking a break from your job. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for relatives without fear of losing their jobs.
Elite Family Care provides loving, caring, and compassionate caregivers so that seniors can enjoy the comfort of remaining in their home along with an active lifestyle. We are a non-medical service provider with dependable service and aim to assist those who with an extra set of hands can remain independent.
One in every four Americans is caring for an older adult, and at times it can be stressful. Our caregivers will not only relieve worry and stress but they will also provide interaction, activity, and help your loved ones retain their cognitive abilities. Most seniors will participate in activities and accomplish tasks when they have a companion to enjoy them with.
Companion for outings
Meals out Social gatherings Church Family and friend visits Attend cultural events Travel companion
Assist with reading Crafts and hobbies Play games Discuss past and current events Reminisce about the past
Watch movies together Baking and cooking Gardening
Meal Planning and Preparation
Prepare grocery list
Help prepare meals
Medication and Appointment Reminders
Elite Family Care can help with tasks like sweeping the floor or organizing a closet. These tasks can be tedious for a senior with difficulties that come along with age-related conditions. When the most basic tasks become overwhelming, we can help. We are here for you to help with the following home help services:
- Make beds and change linens
- Dust furniture
- Laundry and ironing
- Sweeping and Vacuuming
Meal Planning and clean up
- Grocery and supply shopping
- Assist with food expirations
Elite Family Care will get you where you need to go! Our caregivers will not only drive you but will assist you with your errands, doctor’s appointments, events and more. All of our caregivers have been nationwide background screened as well as we run a Department of Motor vehicles check.
There is a four hour minimum per visit. We can provide this service on a regular scheduled basis or as a single scheduled service.
Some ways we can help!
- Appointments and events
- Meals out
- Plays and concerts
- Family Events
- Pick up and drop off dry cleaning
- Prescription pick up
- Personal care appointments