Thursday, December 19, 2013

Becoming a Caregiver for Your Parents or Spouse

My sister just flew to Florida recently to pick up my parents, their car and some of their belongs, so she could drive them back to her home in Missouri.  My mother has severe dementia.  My father has been her caregiver for the past few years but he was beginning to become depressed by the situation.  My sister decided it was time to help him out.  She has a comfortable apartment over her garage and she was willing to have them live there, despite the fact that my mother insisted that she did not want to leave her home in Florida.  I am so grateful to my sister for taking on this difficult situation.

I have called and spoken with my father several times since the move, and he is so relieved.  He has repeatedly told me that he is much happier being around other family members and he is so glad that he is no longer solely responsible for my mother.

According to the Orange County Council on Aging, there are an estimated 20 million Americans who are still raising their own children while also helping with the care of their aging parents.  This does not include the millions of elderly people who, like my father, will spend years caring for a spouse with mental or physical limitations.  If you find yourself in one of these situations, you are not alone.

What a Caregiver Needs to Know

*  Caring full-time for another person can be demanding, exhausting and may take a toll on your job and your other relationships.  It is important that you take care of yourself and get all the help you can.  No matter what is going on with your loved one, you cannot take care of them for long if you are not taking care of yourself.  Make sure you get enough sleep, eat right, get exercise and that you get out of the house on a regular basis.

*  Have your loved one assessed by a geriatric specialist.  Make sure they also have dental, eye and hearing exams so that their quality of life is as good as possible.  There is no reason to make life harder on either you or them if there is a health issue, such as poor eyesight or hearing loss, that can be corrected.

*  Involve the elderly in as many of their healthcare decisions as possible.  If they are mentally competent, they have the right to be in control of their own life and make their own decisions about end of life care.

*  Expect that the elderly may be resistant to any changes and to your help.  They may not want to become a burden on you.  They may be embarrassed that they need your help.  They may miss having their own home, seeing their old friends, etc.  Understand that they may seem angry or depressed at times as they grieve their changing circumstances.  My mother is a perfect example of this.  Although she can no longer be left alone and she cannot cook, pay her own bills, or do many of the things she has enjoyed doing in the past, she was very resentful about the move.  She did not want to leave her own home because she was familiar with it and she felt safe there.

*  If you do not have relatives to help you, hire help, even if you can only afford to hire a care-giver for a few hours a day or a few days a week.  A caregiver may be able to drive your loved one to doctor's appointments, church or other activities.  They can also help with bathing, dressing or feeding someone who needs assistance.

*  If your spouse or parent has dementia, find out if there is an adult daycare center in your community.  This may be essential if you are still working.  These organizations provide supervision for someone who cannot be left at home alone during the day.  They also provide simple, but interesting activities for the elderly ... such as painting, jewelry making, physical exercise, games and entertainment.

*  Contact local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to find out which ones provide vacation care.  Many nursing homes and dementia care facilities can provide temporary care for your loved one when you are going to be out of town.  This may actually be more comfortable for them than dealing with the stress of airport security and other issues that could come up if you attempt to take them with you on a trip.

*   Try to make sure that your loved one's legal documents are in order ... including their will, Advance Health Care Directive, and insurance coverage.  Discuss sensitive issues, such as funeral planning, with them, if they are mentally competent.

*  Reassure yourself that their finances are being properly handled ... that bills and insurance premiums are being paid, assets are correctly invested, former residences are sold or leased out, etc.  In my family's case, my sister and my father have taken the necessary steps to list the Florida home for sale, fully furnished.  My nephew will be driving down with a truck to pick up the few items my parents want to keep and that would not fit in their car.

*  Talk to their doctor so that you fully understand what medications they should be taking and any adjustments that need to be made to their lifestyle.  For example, should their car be sold or do they need special safety equipment or assistive devices such as a walker?

*  Contact your local senior center for information on resources that may be available in your area to help you.  They may be able to give you information on community programs that could save you money and benefit your loved one. 

Even while dealing with your role as a caregiver, you may also need to take action to make your own retirement plans.  Use the tabs at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of articles about retirement planning, medical issues, and more.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  www.morguefile.com

3 comments:

  1. This is such a tough issue and I'm sorry dementia has impacted your family. It's difficult for one person to handle. I can't help but think of the saying - it takes a village. Best wishes to your dad and the entire family.

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    1. I think a lot of families are impacted by dementia, and how to deal with it. I am fortunate that my sister had our parents move in with her.

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