Advice on caring for your parents
NBC Nightly News approached me to participate in their evening broadcast, as part of their series on caring for one's parents. The topic is very timely, given the graying of America. It will be even more pressing for the children of Boomers, as we will be the largest number of individuals 65 and older even seen in this country. Many times, when one gets well beyond the age of 75, there is a need for additional assistance. This need is often recognized by adult children prior to the individual recognizing the need.
As an adult child of an aged individual, the following tips may be helpful:
1) While your parents are healthy, talk about preferences for advanced directives, durable power of attorney for health affairs, and other end-of-life care issues. As part of this conversation, talk with your parents regarding their wishes should they develop a prolonged illness with associated frailty, or a disability; do they wish to live with you or another sibling? Would they prefer to live in an assisted living facility? Are the finances in place to allow transition into assisted living, or to provide in-home care? What are the preferences regarding nursing home placement?
2) If you have not had the opportunity to have a conversation such as that above, and you are facing a health care crisis with your parent(s), consider having a family conference with the primary health care provider, your parents, and any other siblings and extended family who may be involved in providing support. This can be a very efficient means of coming to consensus regarding care.
3) Be aware that you are not alone. Lots of people face challenges in assisting with the care of their elderly, failing parents. Organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association, the Areawide Aging Agencies, churches, etc., can often provide support and resources that are not readily available within the immediate family.
4) Realize caregiving can take its toll on the caregiver, and take advantage of offered help. Caregiver fatigue can endanger the health of the individual being cared for and the caregiver.
5) Recognize that it is not easy providing care from a distance. It is particularly challenging when parents wish to maintain their independence, and yet it appears that they are not capable of such. As long as they have decision making capacity, their choices must be honored. When they recognize that they need help, the transition to other settings is much more efficient. The challenge is that, unfortunately, sometimes this recognition takes the development of a crisis.
Early Nightly is up
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