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e v e r y d a y    i s s u e s    f o r    e v e r y d a y    p e o p l e


 

    As the number of older adults in the United States grows, so does the number of adult children caring for aging parents. More than 6 million seniors require help with such basic activities as getting out of bed, dressing, cleaning, cooking and handling finances. An estimated 5 million Americans spend some time caring for an aging parent, a figure that is projected to double within the next 20 years.

   When Connie Rosso's 77-year-old mother, Bette, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Rosso was able to find a care facility near her home in Minnetonka, Minn. Ross met the center's director, toured the facilities, and observed the residents' living conditions. After conferring with her siblings, Rosso admitted her mother to the care center. "It's a traumatic decision," Rosso says. But she knew her mother's Alzheimer's would become progressively worse. Rosso visited her often to provide emotional support.

   Below are some tips to ease the complicated process of caring for aging parents or other relatives:
 

Pay Attention

   How can you tell when your parents are no longer able to live on their own? Their ability to perform basic activities of daily living is a key indicator, says Trudy Lieberman, author of Consumer Reports' Complete Guide to Health Services for Seniors. "If they're having trouble with personal hygiene, dressing, preparing meals, shopping - those kinds of things can be telltale signs that maybe you need to think about some type of assistance. That doesn't necessarily mean they can't continue to live on their own; it means they need some kind of help."


Plan Ahead

   Avoid waiting until your parents' health has deteriorated to consider the available options. "Long-term planning needs to happen long before you need to place someone in a nursing home," says Donna Schempp, a clinical supervisor with the Family Caregiver Alliance. "Adult children or their parents have to start a conversation with each other about preferences and their financial situation."


Hold a Family Conference

   Before making any care decision, include as many members of the immediate family as possible, including the person involved, "whether they're going to be an active participant in this move or not," Lieberman notes. "Sometimes, decisions have to be made that are not what the person wants. People generally don't want to leave their homes."

   In making decisions, "you want all the family members to be on board as much as possible - because you're going to need support and help, especially in regard to guilt issues. Everyone who places an aging relative in a facility has some level of guilt," Schempp says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Respect Your Parents' Wishes

   Throughout this process, it's important to respect your parents' wishes and their desire to live independently as long as possible. "Whenever your relatives are cognitively 'with it,' they should be brought into any decision-making process," Lieberman says. "They should be able to express where they want to go."


Talk About Finances

   Talk with parents about finances. Find out if they have savings accounts, medical insurance, or supplemental insurance that covers expenses not provided for under Medicare. Ask your parents about an updated will to avoid estate problems after their death.

   Ask an attorney to draw up a durable power of attorney for finances, which allows a designated person to make legally binding decisions should parents become incapacitated. Also talk to your attorney about an advanced directive, sometimes called a living will. The document defines your parents' wishes regarding medical care and names someone to make care decisions should they become unable to do so.


Conduct a Home Safety Evaluation

   If you're caring for aging parents at home, Schempp recommends having either a physical therapist or occupational therapist come to the home and evaluate it. Simple but effective measures include installing bathroom grab bars, putting higher-watt light bulbs in light fixtures to brighten rooms, and using double-sided tape to anchor area rugs.

   You can also replace doorknobs with levers that are easier to open. And you may need to add railings and a ramp at the front entrance and widen doors so a wheelchair or walker can pass through. In the bathroom and kitchen, install faucets with levers so there's no knob to twist. You can also convert a room on the first floor into a bedroom.


Ask Questions

   Before deciding whether to place an aging relative in a nursing home or other facility, ask a lot of questions, Lieberman advises. A useful source of information on nursing facilities is the state-by-state quality assessment survey of nursing homes published by the federal Health Care Finance Administration. Every certified nursing facility is required to post its survey results. "Unfortunately, our research shows that sometimes nursing homes try to hide the survey results or otherwise make them not available," Lieberman says. "Look for it, read it, and ask questions; it can tell you a lot about a facility."


Consider Nonprofessional Help

   Volunteers can meet many of the needs of elderly people. They can visit, prepare meals, clean, do yard work, or five rides to medical appointments or to the local supermarket. Church groups or other community service organizations, such as Meals on Wheels, are often a good source of volunteer assistance.


Take Care of Yourself

   Caring for aging parents can be both a difficult challenge and a rewarding experience, strengthening family bonds. But it's stressful. Emotions such as anger, guilt, grief and anxiety are normal. Don't forget to also take care of yourself. "Caregivers often let their own health deteriorate or their stress level becomes high," Lieberman advises. "When it's appropriate, ask for help or accept help when it's offered by friends or people in the church or community. Or hire help."
 

 

Personal Story: by Sandy Schultz

I can relate to the previous article in many ways. My parents have lived it, with a full plate for years. It hasn't been easy. I admire and respect my parents for all the dedication and sacrifice they have given to my grandparents. Allow me to introduce some of the dearest people to me:

  • My parents - Bob and Penny Sellars

  • My grandmother, Rose Scheibe - died (cancer) November 1996

  • My grandfather, Monroe Sellers - died (Alzheimers) November 2001

  • My grandmother, Margaret Sellers - my parents still care for her.

Since December,1995, my mom (Penny) and dad’s (Bob) lives have not been their own.  That is when Rose Scheibe (my grandmother, mom's side) was diagnosed with liver cancer.  My parents expressed their tangible love for her every step of the way. It was an 11 month battle for her life. Here are some examples:

  • they took care of her when she was sick from the radiation and chemo

  • they went to the hospital with her when she needed the radiation/chemo treatment

  • they took her to her regular doctor appointments

  • they were with her when we lost her to the dreaded deadly disease

In 1999 Monroe Sellers (my grandfather, dad's side) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Here were some of the ways my parents expressed their tangible love for him when he could no longer drive:

  • make sure my grandparents got to the store to get groceries

  • drove them to their regular doctor appointments

  • visited my grandfather every time he was in the hospital

  • they were there when he passed away in 2001

It was about the time period that we lost my grandfather, that my mom started having back problems. This has added to the challenge.

My mom is bedridden most days with chronic back pain. In spite of the pain and agony, she is still there along with my dad, (as much as she possible can) to do as much as she can to take care of my last surviving grandparent, Margaret Sellars.

I’m sure many other people are experiencing a similar story. This can be a very lonely journey. Where can people turn to find out the necessary help? Below are some websites and some more information.

                                                                                                                 -- by Sandy Schultz  

For More Information

 

 

 

  Tips to Help You Care For Aging Parents is reprinted with permission from the National Safety Council, Family Safety & Health, Vol. 60, No. 2.     -- http://www.nsc.org/resources/issues/articles/falltips.aspx

________________________________________________________-

Caring for Your Aging Parents: When Love Is Not Enough  (by Barbara Deane)

This book delves into major issues that will assist you in caring for your elderly parents.  It helps you to understand “The Spiritual benefits of care giving” and “The Crucible of Caring”.

This book explains what the benefits are that God intends to bring to you in the care giving experience.  Including cultivating a closer relationship with God, to bring about a more mature faith, which is purified by testing, the ability to face and deal with your negative emotions, such as anger, resentment, guilt, fear, anxiety, etc. instead of running from them, and Healing your past hurts (and even the healing of the entire family).  This book will also help you to discover who really controls your life and will help you to discover if you can really trust God to help you through the difficult times.

“Letting God have control may be a tremendous struggle, But it’s worth the effort, because if you are controlled by anybody or anything other than God, you will be miserable.  He may, even now, be using your distress to draw you to Him.”

Other great resource books are:

Caring for Aging Parents (by Richard P. Johnson) - This practical handbook provides support for caregivers. Factual information helps you deal with the strain of caring for an elder parent and shows you how to find needed information and support. Care giving issues are addressed in the light of God's command to honor your father and mother.

A Caregivers Survival Guide: How to Stay Healthy When Your Loved One Is Sick (by Kay Marshall Strom) - you will be encouraged by the stories the author tells from her own life and from the lives of others.   You will find out how to find spiritual support, maintain balanced relationships, work out finances and understand the impact on the whole family.

Changing Places: A Christian's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents (by: Betty Benson Roberson - This book includes resources for: organizing the care-giving process; selecting an appropriate housing option; untangling legal and financial issues; coping with the emotional challenges; finding help in the community; and nurturing your spiritual walk in the midst of difficult times. It includes forms, checklists, and how-to's for caring for your loved ones.

Online resources for Caregivers:

State of Maryland, Department of Aging (410) 767-1100 - http://www.mdoa.state.md.us/caregivers.htm

Medicaid Waiver for older adults – http://www.mdoa.state.md.us/medicaid_waiver.html

Maryland Nursing Home guide - http://mhcc.maryland.gov/consumerinfo/nhguide/default.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Local Departments of Social Services (for Medicaid eligibility) - http://www.dhmh.state.md.us/mma/dss/index.html

_____________________________________________________________________

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