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Kehler Counseling Blog

Are You Worried about Caring for Aging Parents?

Are You Worried about Caring for Aging Parents?
  Posted on Monday, July 15, 2013 10:28 PM
I'm posting this as a Boomer with aging parents.  I'm extremely lucky that my 80+ year old parents are both very active, engaged in their lives and healthy.  They are a tribute to what happens when you live a healthy lifestyle, have good genes and have an extended support system of neighbors, friends, family and community.   I should be confident that 'everything will be fine' but I also see daily doses of reality in my home and office.

I haven't seen it all 
by any means, but I have seen what happens when adult children are tested with the care and concern of their aging parents.  Add having their own adult or younger children, college costs, careers, mortgages, their own disabilities, geographic distance, and challenges of modern life and it can challenging beyond what many comprehend.   It can be remarkable what Boomers manage - I have seen clients who lost 3 or more loved ones within months, parents who dealt with disabled children -due to accidents then provide care for parents in cancer treatment at the same hospital for more than a year.  I have seen adult children grieve parents and stuck in the guilt of having to place unruly, wandering parents into residential nursing homes.   One thing I have learned - every person and situation is different.  We don't know how long, what level of care, what it will cost financially or psychologically or if we will have to even go through it or not.  
 We can plan, arrange, pre-pay, coordinate and collaborate but a sudden heart attack, car accident or fall can erase it all and send us to a funeral director instead.  
Planning and having information in advance is what reduces fear.
  Knowledge is power.  Knowing what to monitor, ask, where to go, who can help is priceless when faced with the challenge of truly supporting and caring for loved ones.  Knowing how to ask, how to manage resistance, how to stay calm in the crisis is empowering. With knowing that I wanted this site to be a source of good, simple, clear guidance I'm committed to doing the research for others.  I love checklists, bullet lists, and clear directions.  I don't want pages of statistics or references. I don't want confusing jargon that I'm not familiar with.    When the time comes or as it passes I want to be aware of what I should be watching for and asking. 
My site and blog can be accessed by cellphone - so you can bring it with you - and not even have to worry about losing it - or burying it in 'to read' files. 

From Mayo clinics Website along with additions of my own:
Are they taking care of themselves?
___ Check their appearance - is their clothing clean or soiled?
___ Are they taking good care of themselves? 
___ Has the attention they're paying to their appearance changed? 
___  Is their hair clean? 
___  Are they shaving regularly?
___  Are they brushing their teeth daily? 
____Are they sharing about dental problems?
___  Do they maintain the standards they normally had? 
___ Are they wearing same outfit repeatedly without washing?
___ Do they have noticeable body odors that aren't being addressed?
Are they experiencing memory loss?___

  •  Review their medications and know the possible side effects - monitor      changes - some have impact on memory. 
  •  Set up a medication box - for the week, month - and check to see they are taking their prescriptions as directed.  
  •  If they have cell phones you can set alarms to remind them - helpful if they are away from home and busy with social activities.  
  •  Are there changes in their memory beyond simple forgetting

____ Are they forgetting common words?
____ Are they forgetting how to get to common destinations?
____ Are they unable to follow directions?
____ Are they forgetting to eat, bathe, hygiene basics?
____ Are they forgetting how to use basic appliances?
____ Are they managing their checkbooks and bill payment properly?  (This is often the first sign of deterioration-as numbers require a higher level of thinking)
If they are make an appointment with their physician where more comprehensive testing can take place.  
Are they safe in their home?  
____trip hazards: throw rugs, cords, piles of 'stuff', steep stairs____ Narrow stairs____ Dark travel paths - especially to bathrooms at night
  • Use rubber mats - similar to those used in kitchens - for a path to the bathroom with motion sensor lighting.  A cushioned floor can help reduce possibility of bone breaks.  Look for kitchen carpets for 'fatigue' -Use them in the bathroom instead of regular throw rugs.
  • Set up motion sensitive lighting on staircases.
  • Consider installing stair case 'elevators' or walk-in shower stalls.  They may sound costly but the peace of mind can be priceless. 
  • Spend time to install extra handrails on places you may overlook.  They are inexpensive - add them next to toilet, in bath, anywhere there is a step, add a railing to stairs that have only one side. 
  • Consider changing outside entry stairs to wider and more shallow treads.   Add landings.  Most older stairs are shallow and steep - try to 'redo' with more steps with less rise. 
  • Spend a day changing cabinets to put items on lower sections, remove expired items, and stock easy to prepare items.
  • Remove throw rugs or secure them to floor.
  • Change smoke detectors to those with blinking lights if they're hearing impaired.
  • Increase volume on phones where possible.
  • Set up web cams  or security systems for entries, kitchens, bathroom doorways if you can't visit often as well as allowing them to monitor for their own peace of mind and limited mobility.  Sam's Cub sells them for businesses - for security.
  • Check the 'child safety' aisle in your nearby Home store - the safety they need may be what your parents need too.  Those with Alzheimer's often wander - so door alarms and safety gates make sense. 
  • Make sure they are managing pets well - don't forget to monitor, delegate or change litter boxes and walking dogs.  A red flag would be if they're getting neglected.  
  • Are they appropriately cool or warm - seasonally?  They may not like the sound, cost, or coolness of air conditioning - and "lived this long without it" - but spend time with them on a hot day as well as a cold day to make sure they can turn on/off units, adjust temperatures, have proper utilities (and paid the bill) and are comfortable.  Either too hot or too cold can kill. 
Are they safe driving?
  • Try to have a conversation in advance of what steps will be taken to prevent serious damage or injury to self or others
  • Coordinate with their physician to test hearing/sight
  • Get creative -coordinate transportation with others, use local public transportation, share rides (allow another drive their car),  use available shuttles, hire a driver. 
Are they losing weight?
  •  Are they having difficulty cooking due to:Are they in good spirits?Are they able to get around? 2- Encourage regular Medical check ups. for
Google and phone books list agencies that specialize in the care of our seniors, as well as social workers employed by most health care facilities.  They are there to help, have the answers, and enjoy helping those in need. You may need to combine resources of several agencies - but speak up, ask and use what is available.  Don't resist out of pride, embarrassment, modesty or ignorance!     
You will benefit from this information.  Like me, you may not need it today, even tomorrow - although you might.  Know that you're not alone in the journey - reach out and enjoy the most important thing of all - touching someone else -with your heart, soul, memories and letting them know they 
This information is available on your mobile phone - share it with your family - empower everyone so that the challenges of aging are not roadblocks. 
Peace, Karen 

2 Comments to Are You Worried about Caring for Aging Parents?:

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