By Abigail L. Cuffey Posted February 22, unhealthy 2010 from Woman’s Day; March 1, 2010
If you’re one of the millions of baby boomers caring for aging parents, you know just how overwhelming it can be. Keep these helpful tips in mind to make it easier on both you and them.
“When you become a parent, you get nine months to prepare,” says gerontological social worker Amy D’Aprix, PhD, founder of The Caregivers’ Coach (CaregiversCoach.com), a company that provides support and services. “When you become a caregiver, you get nine minutes.” A sudden stroke or fall can alter an adult child’s life quickly, so it’s important to have the caregiver conversation when everything is still fine. Use the 40/70 ruleSM, suggests Paul Hogan, coauthor of Stages of Senior Care. When you’re 40 or your parents are 70, talk to them about their preferences. Then have them get these must-have advance directives in order with the help of an attorney: a living will (a legal document that spells out your parent’s medical wishes if he or she is incapacitated) and a health care proxy, also called a durable power of attorney for health care (which allows your parent to appoint someone to make important medical decisions if he or she is unable to do so).
Explore the Options
Figure out what’s best for your parent’s specific situation. Home modification, like installing grab bars in the bathroom, may be a good start. Beyond that, you can hire medical or nonmedical in-home help for a few hours each day.
If your parent needs more assistance, look into your options– everything from assisted living to dementia care. Go to Caregiver.org and TheFamilyCaregiver.org to learn more. A geriatric care manager can help you determine what’s best for your family; visit CareManager.org to find one in your area.
Think Twice About Relocation
You may feel that having your parent live with you is best. But consider a few factors, advises Marion Somers, PhD, author of Elder Care Made Easier. Can you shoulder the responsibility? How deeply involved is your parent in his or her community? “You could be moving your mom from a comfortable environment,” says Dr. Somers, which can take a toll on her health and happiness. Is your family on board? Hold a meeting to discuss their feelings and how having your parent move in might affect them.
Caregiving is costly. Medicare covers your parent for the short term in the event of an acute health crisis, like a heart attack or stroke, but it doesn’t provide for long-term care. And while Medicaid does pay for longterm care, it is solely for low-income seniors. Discuss finances during your initial conversation with your parents and be sure to ask if they’ve purchased long-term care insurance. If they haven’t, perhaps they should.
To find specific services in your community, including free or lowcost assistance, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (n4a.org).
Ask for Help
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to go it alone. “So many caregivers take on more than they can handle,” says Dr. Somers. And the stress can put your own health at risk. Reach out to family and friends, senior centers and local services that can offer help.