Aging Parents Needing Extra Care–Who Helps Best? Us? Others? What We Need to Keep in Mind

8 Things to Keep in Mind

1. “Take care of yourself before assisting others.” It’s important advice for plane passengers, and equally important for family caregivers.

Visiting my hometown, I find a neighbor, in her 70’s, caring for her husband 24/7. Their only-child daughter, in her 40’s, helps. She has moved to the house. Because of the physical (definitely not mental) impairment, she and her mother are doing their best giving 24/7 care. They try to “spell” each other so both get a break. Not easy. Think moving a grown man from, for example, home to car for appointments. Hadn’t seen this neighbor in a year. She looks very tired; another neighbor made the same observation.

2. Assisted living, in addition to cost, requires a move; and we know transitions like moving are difficult as one ages.

3.  Home health care 24/7 may not work well due to the relationship  between that caregiver and the adult children. Children may feel they’ve lost some of the special relationship with their parents if the health care person is the kind who takes charge and controls.

4. Parents may not like the caregiver, even when they’ve helped make the selection.
A good friend of Dad’s died a few months before Dad needed anyone. We learned his caregiver was available and were overjoyed. (It didn’t work out, Dad ultimately didn’t like him.)

5. Finding capable and honest caregivers is a necessity.
We all know stories about caregivers taking/stealing. It’s sometimes as difficult to distinguish if older people’s accusations are fact or fiction, as it is to prove honesty or dishonesty.

6. Agency caregivers are–or should be–bonded. That should eliminate vulnerability to taking/stealing.

7. Friends may know good, honest caregivers who are available.

Male caregivers are usually physically stronger and more inclined to talk about things that interest men.

Dad wanted–and had–male caregivers with him 24/7 during his last months. Options were limited. Friends knew someone who knew someone and things began to fall into place: one male caregiver 6 days and another on Saturday. Dad loved having guys to talk with–sports, cars, fixing things. And their physical strength enabled Dad to be up and walking a lot, so he regained his once-strong legs. The caregiver Dad liked best came after my phone call to a church (waiting for permission to hopefully state which one). While they have no “agency” I spoke with their volunteer employment specialist.

On the other hand, we had no stealing problems when caregivers were referred by friends or the church–but we may have been lucky. Friend-recommended caregivers are undoubtedly less expensive than agency caregivers. Obviously the agency charges more than they pay the caregivers–otherwise agencies couldn’t survive.

One size doesn’t fit all. What does fit all is the fact that 24/7 good family caregiving can’t always be good. We get tired, frustrated, concerned and cranky. We are emotionally involved. Many of us don’t think of–or if we do, don’t act on–the theory that we must take care of ourselves first, if we want to do a good job of caring for others. In short, respite and organized time off are legitimate and help family caregivers function better and thus, help parents age as well as possible.

Related:
Can Caregiving Families Do it All? 1
Can Caregiving Families Do it All? 2
http://caregiveraction.org/ Formerly Nat’l Family Caregivers Assn.http://www.strengthforcaring.com/ Good resources here

Note: Link to UCLA’s “Management of Medical and Psychiatric Problems in Dementia” Free Webinar on August 21st. Details at right (Of Current Interest)

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