I’ve been stressed out a little more than usual lately with the responsibilities I have in taking care of my sick mom. So I decided to re-blog this article I wrote some time ago. The research I did to write this article was helpful to me and I hope others will benefit from this also.
Most people look forward to going through the middle ages and becoming a senior citizen. Usually at that time, all the hard work it took to raise their family is now behind them. Most of their children have graduated from college by now, and have landed a job befitting of supporting themselves independently. Or in some cases, some of the ‘children’ have even gotten married and have started their own families. This is a time that the near senior citizen has looked forward to; especially when they are in good health. Most are about to retire, if they haven’t already. Now would be the time to go on those vacation cruises and spend a little more money without feeling guilty because of obligations to the children. Right? Well, not necessarily. Often when people reach middle age and older, they may be surprised to learn that their responsibilities have increased dramatically.
According to a USA Today Gallup poll of baby boomers, 41% of the ones who have living parents are providing some sort of care to them. And some have moved their parents into their homes with them. Also according to USA Today, approximately 34 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers to other adults. 89% of those surveyed referred to this as only a minor sacrifice. However, as the parents condition worsens, the sacrifice and demands becomes greater. According to the AARP, the average caregiver is a 46 year old female who is still working outside of her home. In light of these statistics, I thought I would share with you some helpful tips to consider if you need to take care of your frail
1- Seek helpful advice. Taking care of your aging parent can take a toll on the average person., both physically and emotionally. Before you get too overwhelmed with the physical aspects of the care, you should get advice on the best way to go. Talk to your parent’s physician regarding how to go about getting help. Some physicians have staff in their office that can put you in touch with a local service that may help you get care for your aging parent. Also you can try calling the Elder Care Locator, sponsored by the federal government. It will provide you with additional referrals that are geared to help you. The number to call for the Elder Care Locator is 800-677-1116.
2- Solicit family help- When there are siblings involved, if at all possible, have a family meeting. Discuss what your parents are in need of and decide on an action plan and divide the responsibilities. This will prevent any one person from being too over burdened. Perhaps there are three siblings; one can be responsible for buying the food and supplies for your parents household. Another can be responsible for making the medical appointments and following them through. And the third sibling can help out with the personal care and house hold chores. The personal care alone can be a big burden by itself. If money is an issue, hopefully you will receive help from one of the community resource services for elder-care. Soliciting family help may be practical but not always workable. Many siblings are spread across the country as adults, so this plan will not be doable. In that case you will probably need to have someone to either live in the home with your parents or have someone to go there every day to provide the needed assistance. Siblings have been known to alternate the time flying in to spend time with their aging parents.
3- In-house facility placement– You may have to make the hard decision of placing your parents in a nursing home or in an assistant living facility. A nursing home facility offers long term care with total personal care 24 hours a day. If this is what you decide to do, hopefully you will be lucky enough to find a suitable home of your choosing close to you. But this may not always be the case. You should do a little checking on the nursing homes available (use a nursing home review service) before deciding on the one you want. Even if you have to drive a little longer for a visit, if the home lives up to your expectations, then it will all be worth it.
An assistant living facility is similar to a nursing home, but is different in the type of service provided. The patient will usually have an individual apartment unit to live in. However, there are room-mates available in most cases. An assistant living facility will provide all the basic needs, but most will require that the aging adult is able to function at a higher level than the nursing patients. Most can still bathe themselves and feed themselves independently. They are ambulatory and can participate in activities sponsored by the facility, including swimming and dancing. However, the individual finds it difficult to live independently. This includes shopping for food and supplies at home, or running a home in general.
4- Support groups- To help you through the difficulty of caring for your aging parents, join a support group. Joining a support group is very valuable in many ways. A support group such as ‘Children of Aging Parents’, will not only provide you with emotional support, but will even suggest more community resources that you may not be aware of. The support group is designed to help each other by sharing experiences and ideas.
5- Get respite care- If you are the one providing the soul care to your frail and aging parent, you should get respite care. In other words you need to take breaks from time to time. Taking care of your aging parent can be very demanding and emotionally distressing. It is advisable that you take as many breaks as you can. After you have taken care of your elderly parent, forget about the dishes in the dishwasher for a moment. It is time for you to take a break. Go set on the porch or patio and relax for awhile. Listen to some nice music, dive back into that great book you were reading. Your parents may even qualify for respite care service from Elder Care. Call the Elder Care Locator (800-677-1116) and ask about a respite care service in your community. There are some agencies that may be able to provide this service free of charge if you qualify. However, it would be worth it to pay someone for a couple of hours daily to provide you with this service. There may be a trusted neighbor or friend who could do this for you. During that time you should leave the house if possible, and do something for yourself.
These are the suggestions I think will be most helpful for you if you have the responsibility of caring for your aging parent. I believe if you were to apply these suggestions, the care and responsibility of your parent will be far less stressful.
Healthy trails to you