Be a Proactive Caregiver
and methodically determine ways to help!
by Dr. Marion
Caregivers often ask me about how to be proactive when it comes to the future health needs of aging parents, or other elders in their care. If we all took care of just a few of the many issues your elders will surely face as they grow older, caregiver stress could be greatly reduced. The best thing you can do is to first understand at a baseline level exactly what issues your elders are dealing with. Lay out what I call the 4 basic categories in everyone’s life - medical, financial, emotional, and social - and methodically determine ways to help.
When it comes to medical issues, talk with your elders and be sure they are honest with you. If there are medical issues to face, speak with their doctor (with their permission of course). Figure out what medications they are taking, see if those medications can be cut back, if there are any side effects, and if any of the meds are contra-indicated. Before meeting with their doctor, be sure to do your homework and have intelligent questions ready. Write them down. Doctors will take more time if you are well informed and prepared.
Financial issues can also be tough to broach, but you have to do it. Make sure your elders have a realistic understanding of their monthly income and expenses. Their generation is living longer than any others before it, and many elderly are outliving their savings. Suggest ways to cut back expenses where possible. Something as minor as having the newspaper delivered instead of purchased at a newsstand every day can make a difference.
Emotional issues vary from family to family and individual to individual. But I have found that most elderly want to know they’ll be supported in their quest to maintain their independence for as long as possible. Communicate that to them. Let them know you are on their side and will be there when their time of need arrives. If there are any old family grudges or hurts that haven’t been resolved (and there usually are), try to bring them into the open. Your elders will want to let go of this emotional baggage before they pass on. The sooner it is dealt with, the better.
I say every generation has a 100% mortality rate. If someone’s exit from this world has been planned and lovingly guided, the process can actually be an enjoyable one. Peace comes to those whose interests have been considered, protected, and embraced. And you can really help make this happen.
A version of this article first appeared on Dr. Marion's Web Site
Dr. Marion is currently on a bus tour, crisscrossing the country to talk with seniors and caregivers. Her advice: it's never too soon to start planning for long-term care needs and costs. You can follow the tour on Dr. Marion’s blog @ http://drmarion.com/blog
As part of the campaign, Dr. Marion and 3in4 Need More are launching a nationwide "Get Your Life Back" contest to find those struggling to care for their aging loved ones. The winner will receive an ultimate caregiver makeover valued at $50,000. Enter the contest.
Published August 12, 2011