Haims: Are you a caretaker for your aging parents? Here are some tips to help (column)
I am 51 years old. It’s been more than 30 years since I moved out of the state where my parents live. Since, my dad has passed away and Father Time is chasing my mother. Her ailments that had been relatively minor just five years ago now require much more attention. Managing her care has become a joint effort amongst my brothers and I.
Unfortunately for my younger brother, who lives closest to her, much of the responsibility has fallen upon his shoulders. I want to be there to assist in providing care for my mom. I want to be there to support my brother, allow him some reprieve and provide him greater time to spend with his wife and children. I know he is fatigued and challenged in juggling time amongst his children, wife and our mother.
Most of my contemporaries are either already, or preparing to be, actively involved in providing some assistance to their parents. Studies indicate that more than 50 percent of Americans with elder parents are assisting their parents with errands, medical concerns/direction and managing housework.
Sharing caregiving responsibilities with family members most often can ease the demands of assisting a loved one. However, coming to an agreement on who does what, when and how can sometimes add to caregiving stress. Often, if there is a sibling living nearby, then that person by default becomes the “go to” caregiver. This can sometimes cause resentment amongst siblings, as the out-of-town siblings are not around on a daily basis to see the amount of help that may be required.
Collaboration, communication are key
In such situations, I often suggest that families develop some sort of journal. In addition to frequent phone calls, my brothers and I use Google Docs to keep an online journal. We share our thoughts and suggestions and develop tasks for each of us to participate in. As each of our work days differ and the ability to communicate at specified times often gets challenged, an online journal enables each of us to participate and share our thoughts at a time of our choosing.
Collaboration amongst family members and loved ones helps unite; it reminds us we are always our parent’s children, and it helps establish a relationship within equals.
While it may be considerably more difficult from afar, it’s often challenging to tell when and how aging may be affecting our loved ones. Signs of concern are not always overt, and often, our aging loved ones may minimize challenges they may be encountering so as not to worry their family.
By paying attention to your loved one’s behavior, social interaction (or lack thereof), hygiene, nutrition, housekeeping and finances, you may gain some insight as to where your efforts could be best used. Once you understand the person’s situation, you can help develop a plan.
Here are a few things to consider looking for:
• Are rooms well lit, or are there many burnt-out lightbulbs in need of replacing?
• Is there food in the fridge? Is the food fresh? Are many items beyond the expiration date?
• What is the level of understanding the person has of the medicines he or she takes and what they are for? Are medications well organized? Are there many expired medication bottles lying around?
• Are bills and the mail organized? Are there many pieces of junk mail and solicitations for donations?
• If the person drives, then what is his or her comfort level driving at night and in inclement weather? Are the tires in good shape? Are the auto insurance and registration up to date? Are there dents and scrapes on the car? If so, are they recent?
Coping with the aging of our parents is a life lesson — embrace the lesson. Make whatever time you have left with your parents as positive as possible. Laugh, remember, cry, but above all, show your parents that you love them. It is clearly the greatest gift we have to give one another.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.
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