Tag Archive | assistance

Care for the Caregiver

More Baby Boomers are caring for their aging parents than ever before.  According to the Family Caregiving Alliance (The National Center on Caregiving) over 48.5 million Americans are caring for aging parents.With a swaying economy and more individuals now out of work, these people are stepping in to help care for their seniors.

The truth to these statistics is both good and bad. It’s wonderful more family members are caring for their aging parents. Americans are in the minority worldwide when it comes to caring for their family members.  Western countries show a priority in parent care by bringing their loved ones into their homes and caring for them until death.  The down side is  the majority of these caregivers are unpaid.

Family trends show when an elder parent needs assistance the task will generally fall solely on one family member. This is due to the logistics of that family member to the simple fact they are the only one to step up– and these individuals will burn out.

Caring for your caregiver is important. Their hearts are open and kind. They are generally very patient and willing people. Taking advantage of their generosity happens frequently. It is vital families band together to offer assistance to these warm-hearted caregivers.

What can you do to care for your caregiver? 

*Offer them a full 24 hours off.

*Occasionally pop by and help with household tasks

*Provide a meal

*Write a thank you note or card

*Call and chat with the caregiver. Make them feel loved

*Recommend hiring a non-medical in-home care company such as Comfort Keepers  to share the load

Many times caregivers feel as forgotten as those they care for. Make time for them. Show your appreciation. Sometimes all that is required is just a simple thank you.

Avoiding “The Eldercare” Talk

By Cindy Sproles

In a perfect world all aging parents would understand at some point in their lives, there will be need for assistance. When the time arrives, parents would willingly comply with the suggestions of their well-meaning children. But it’s not a perfect world. And…we avoid having the conversation. Here are a couple of reasons why.

*Anger

No one likes to admit their abilities are slowly becoming inabilities, especially when, through the years, they’ve been independent, self-reliant and able. Still avoiding the conversation is not wise.

There’s always an excuse to prevent families from discussing the care of their aging parents. One of the greatest fears in sharing this information is anger. It’s difficult for parents to hear the words, “You need help.” Remember, our parents were raised during an era in America when they were forced to be self-sufficient. Many survived World War II and even some lived through the Great Depression. Times were hard and survival depended on their determination to care for themselves. Be sensitive to this ingrained independence and self-preservation. Many parents know they need assistance but simply refuse to accept the truth. Sometimes handling the conversation of acceptance in little doses is better. For example, a parent’s laundry may be stacking up because their washing machine is located in a basement. Getting up and down the stairs with a load is hard. They realize this and let the laundry slide. Approach the subject from the laundry stand point as opposed to saying, “You can’t do this anymore.” A dialogue might be like this:

“I see you’re towels are low in the hall closet. Can I help you get that laundry done?” This can lead to conversation that helps the parent see a need for assistance. Perhaps suggest having the appliances moved upstairs for convenience or “Maybe we can find someone to come by weekly and do the laundry for you.” Will there be resistance? Probably. But the subject is approached from a task needing to be completed rather than saying they are just not able anymore. It may take time, but small doses of conversation showing need is better received.

*Depression

Families fear an onset of depression when aging parents are approached with a need for assistance. Depression is a possibility, especially in those who have lost spouses. When a parent has depended on a spouse for 50+ years, that spouse dies…two things can happen. The surviving parent over compensates by taking a strong initiative in their life or they sink into a deep depression feeling as though they can do nothing for themselves. Depression is best handled by a physician but it is not a reason to gently approach aging parents about assistance in their homes, especially if they are in situations that could endanger them.

*The truth hurts
Unfortunately, the reality of aging hurts. Our immortality becomes imminent especially as they see their peers enter nursing care facilities or pass away. Aging can be frightening and it’s something only few face head on.

The fact remains, if an aging parent needs assistance, take time to have the discussion about their care. Nothing supercedes their health and safety. The conversation is never easy but there are ways to approach the subject that eases tension.

Care Plan Preparation – Making the Transition Easier

The time arrives when the roles reverse. The years parents lovingly carried you to the doctor when you were ill has now taken an about face. You, the child, are now in charge of your aging parent’s care. What do you do?

It’s a shock when the roles reverse. As children we remember the strength and dependability we’ve found in our parents. When the realization that these things are slipping hits, we’re a bit taken back. The key to getting a handle on your new role is to first sit back and take a deep breath. Give yourself a day to absorb the change and yes, to mourn just a bit. It’s sad when we realize our parents are no longer able to care for themselves. There’s a certain amount of fear attached. Will I make the right decisions? What would mom or dad want? What about the finances?  It’s easy to go into caregiver overload. So take a day. Enjoy memories of the past and then move on into the present. There’s no reason wonderful memories can’t continue, but the key lays in how we handle the situation.

Make a Notebook

A simpe three-ring binder from the local Wal-Mart can make all the difference in the world. It becomes your brain book. Take time to make one. Add paper, dividers that list things like appointments, notes from appointments, questions, physician names and phone numbers. A tab for medications is valuable to note medication changes and what meds your parents are currently taking.

Make a List of Physicians

Take time to sort through the list of doctors who care for your parents and consider what and who can be consolidated into medical groups rather than individual doctors. Sometimes health issues will not allow this but if possible, narrowing the care to one or two primary physicians allows for a cleaner plan of care. Doctors in the same group can talk, work together and plan necessary medical care for your loved one.  If your parent is in a medical situation which will not allow this consolidation, the list all the names, numbers and addresses of physicians and add them to a notebook for convenience. Add the hospital of choice and the number as well as the ambulance service of choice to this book. Having this at your fingertips is a life saver.

Choose a Family Liaison

If there are siblings, choose one to be the liaison between family and physicians. This person will attend medical appointments, take notes, ask questions and gather suggestions on behalf of the other family members. The adage, “too many cooks in the kitchen” is true. When too many individuals have a hand in this very important communication, misunderstandings and miscommunications happen. Choose one person to manage this part of your parents care and let them handle the questions, make the family communications and set appointments.

Take Notes

Add complete notes for each medical visit to the care notebook. Include any suggestions or changes to medical care or medications.

Make sure the Legal Work is Done

Make sure you have dual power-of-attorney in place. Secure medical and personal power-of-attorney so in the event of an emergency you have the power to care for your parent as needed. Keep a copy in your car, with each family member, and even post a set of legal papers on the refrigerator in the event EMS must come into the home. Add these papers to your notebook as well.

Monitor Medical Care

If you are not getting the attention you feel your parent needs with their current physicians,  exercise your right to find a new doctor. The fit between physician and patient must be tight and good. You must feel secure in the attention. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In emergency situations fear will sometimes slip in. Remember, even in fear, be kind in your communications. If you find it difficult to discuss a medical situation with a calm attitude and firm kindness, find someone who can help you communicate clearly.

Get help if you Need It

If you need caregivers to help with the care and safety of your parents, get help. Yes, there is a cost involved but having this help does two things 1) it offers respite in the care of seniors for the family 2) it gives a second set of eyes watching over the needs of your loved one.

Invest in a Personal Medical Alert System

A PERS unit or personal medical alert system is vital especially if your parents are still living alone. A small necklace or bracelet is worn and if a parent falls or becomes ill, they simply press the button. Costs run from $29-$45 per month. Check out companies who offer the service monthly rather than locking clients into a contract and advocate for a service who clients must speak to personally during an emergency rather than having 911 services dispatched if they are not needed. (see our resource page)

Role reversal is hard. But the path can be smooth for just a little preparation. Take time to make ready the path. When the time arrives to walk it, you’ll have an easy to follow map.