Almost everyone becomes a caregiver at one point at his or her life. Caregiving goes through many stages; most often thought of stage is taking care of a child. But people often forget about the other end of the spectrum, which is taking care of grandparents or parents.
It is a sobering thought that we may leave life similarly as we enter it. And those who once were kids must take on the caregiver role.
Let this be said: being a caregiver for your parents is a lot of work and it is hard, but it is doable. The scary thing is first figuring out that mom and dad need help. This often comes after a traumatic event like a heart attack, stroke or big fall. But often times, there is not one significant event which can be even more difficult.
The realization that mom and dad need more help often comes around the holidays when everyone gets together. Maybe you realize that mom is having a really hard time with basic tasks like remembering to take her pills or that your parent’s house has become a mess. Those are key signs that things might not be what they should be.
The first step is to talk to mom and dad about it. I am a firm believer of not keeping people in the dark. First talk about any medical issues like how they are doing with getting to the doctor, remembering to take pills, etc. Next look at the financial side of things to make sure that bills are getting paid and there are not big chunks of cash missing. You will want to find out where important documents are kept like wills and deeds.
Next, consult with your parent’s doctor. This is especially important if your parents have an illness or condition that will require more care. This is a good time to get your name on the medical release forms so you can get information about your parent’s care.
After getting a medical evaluation, you need to look at your parent’s home. Most likely, they will want to continue aging in place, or living at home as long as possible. There are many ways you can ensure that can happen. If if is mobility that is the issue, install ramps instead of stairs, grab bars throughout the hallway and in by the toilet and tub, and get rid of any tripping hazards. Other issues would be if mom and dad can adequately prepare and eat a balanced meal on their own, or shower and dress independently. Thankfully, there are many different programs that can assist your parents. Home health agencies and other services can help ease the burden.
Once you have completed these evaluations comes the tricky part: is there enough help that mom and dad can stay living at home? If so, it will probably require more help from the kids. If not, it might be time to look at other options.
More caregiving resources can be found at www.caregiverslibrary.org.