Life Care Consulting by Barbara Hance - Financial and Personal Management Service for the Elderly, Frail and the Busy
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Care for the Caregiver of an Elderly Person is Necessary

The decision to become a caregiver for a parent, other relative or friend is not to be taken lightly. Caregiving has become one of the most important personal issues of the decade, as a growing percentage of the population reaches old age and develops impairments that reduce their ability to care for themselves.

It wasn't long ago when women in the workplace asked for daycare services for their children. Today and in the next decade, women (and men) need eldercare services to ease the burden of caring for elderly or infirm parents.

Although few companies offer such services today, experts predict that in another 10 years, these services will be as commonplace as corporate daycare.

The problems faced by caregivers and their patients who suffer from Alzheimer's, dementia or other loss of capacity, can be overwhelming. Before assuming responsibilities, it should be recognized that the role of caregiver strongly impacts on one's job, family and social interactions.

The energy required for routine household chores can be tiring, but the added physical and emotional stress of bathing; feeding and otherwise caring for an elderly parent, can be mindboggling.

Expenses attributed to the care of the older person are often subsidized by the caregiver. This can result in a financial burden, too, when added to college tuitions, childcare and unpaid days off from work.

The family routine is further upset by the myriad of adjustments that must be made, such as the addition of a hospital bed and other apparatus, moving of furniture, a child having to give up his room, or the cancellation of a vacation or weekend trip.

Relationships can become strained, and unresolved conflicts often surface at a time when the caregiver is least equipped to deal with them. The parent-child relationship role becomes reversed and is difficult to accept.

Today, a growing number of children and teenagers have grandparents, or event parents, who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. If the affected person lives at home or with family members, caregiving can be a 24hour activity.

Every family member becomes involved, making it difficult for parents to assess the impact on teenagers and younger children. Time is of the essence and middleaged children are often occupied with the needs of elderly parents.

Caregivers need time to themselves, as well as assurance from others that they are not alone and have a support network. Friends often become distant because of time restrictions on the part of the caregiver.

What can caregivers do to achieve a balance between their eldercare responsibilities and their roles as parents. friends and professionals in the workplace?

Many cities and towns have support organizations that offer information on local adult daycare, nursing assistance and other programs that can be helpful to both the caregiver and the patient. Call the Greater Hartford Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association (860-956-9560) for a list of support groups in your area.

Many families find that relatives or close friends are willing to share in caregiving. In the best interests of the substitute caregiver and the patient, it is important to observe the basic rules of patience, forbearance, reassurance, repetition and, most important, good humor.

An adult daycare program geared to patients with memory loss, for example, can be a great source of help for a primary caregiver and family. Such programs offer specific times one or more days a week when the patient cari be left in the care of others. This provides a muchneeded respite for the caregiver.

How long should a caregiver and family take responsibility for an aging relative? Consider these questions:

  1. Is the situation manageable?
  2. Is he or she safe in the home environment?
  3. Is the caregiver/family physically and emotionally able to care for the patient's needs and protect him?
  4. Can the patient function independently in the most basic ways?
  5. Is the cost of 24-hour-a-day supervision by paid assistants greater or less than the financial and human cost of the trauma (for both the caregiver and the patient) of institutional care?
  6. Are you maintaining the caregiver role for the right reason (and not out of a sense of guilt or obligation)?

When the situation deteriorates, consult with family

members physician(s), a family counseling agency, clergy and other professionals. Weigh the alternatives and choose the option that provides the best solution for the patient and the caregiver. There's a world of difference between caring and caregiving.

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