Help In Caring For Aging, Ailing Parents

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As loved ones age and illness and ailments become more common place, gentle conversations and planning for care that respects independence can ease everyone’s fears.

During the holidays many of us are spending more time with our older relatives. With this close proximity we have a chance to see whether their health is at its best or if they may need assistance of some sort. If you feel your older family members need to make some changes in their lifestyles, don’t bully them into it. Start with a plan. Without a plan, your financial future and the welfare of those you care about are at serious risk, according to a publication by the AARP Foundation, “Time to Talk: Help Your Family Prepare to Care.” The publication points out these critical areas: • Prepare yourself • Form your family caregiving team • Talk about goals • Make a plan • Gather important information • Find key resources Before jumping in with both feet, think about the best way to start a discussion with your loved ones about their wishes and how you and your family can best support them should they be ailing with either a chronic illness or serious health crisis. Figure out who can help and how. Everyone should have a voice — don’t play dictator barking out orders and assignments. Plan together, with your aging and ailing loved ones leading the discussion and sharing what they feel their needs are and what they wish to have accomplished. Put the agreed upon plan in writing, but not in stone. As health conditions and living situations change, adjustments will need to be made. However, the plan should include: basic values and expectations and a list of specific next steps, and who is responsible for carrying them out. Locate, organize and regularly update documents, contact information and other materials that will be needed in a crisis and in the day-to-day assistance your loved one may need. This material should include health information and may require going with your loved one to visit their primary health care provided. Get their medical-care contact information; a list of their chronic illnesses; medication information (what they are taking and when they should be taking it) and dietary restrictions; health insurance information; and wishes regarding in-home and out-of-home care. Legal and financial information should also be part of the package the family caregiving team has: will and living will; power of attorney; life insurance policies; lawyer contact information; location of important legal documents (birth and marriage certificate(s), passport, etc.); general financial information; list of bank accounts and sources of income; and billing information. Information about your loved one’s home and its maintenance should also be in the package of materials: deeds and leases; mortgage information; property tax receipts; list of maintenance needs and expenses; home and personal property insurance papers. Similar information should be gathered on your loved one’s vehicles if they are still driving. Learning about and sharing knowledge of community resources for the aging and ailing should also be part of the discussion. The discussion Sometimes our aging loved ones have trouble hearing what we are saying — literally and in terms of comprehension. If your loved one’s hearing is not as sharp as it used to be you may need to speak in a deeper tone and more slowly, sometimes phrasing things in a variety of ways until they comprehend what you are saying. Get at their eye level when you are discussing something with an older relative, suggests one of the nurses with the Payson Regional Medical Center Home Health Agency. “Don’t use baby talk and be careful with your tone.” If your frustration comes through in your tone, your loved one may think they are a bother to you; you don’t love them; or they have made you angry. “Take a breath and count to five, or 10 if you need to,” suggests the nurse. If your loved one resists changes that are for their safety, health and well-being, the nurse said “blame” it on someone they respect — the home health nurse, their doctor, their pastor. Resources Payson and the Rim Country have a diverse supply of resources that can be tapped to help you help your aging and ailing loved ones remain safe and comfortable and keep their independence. The RTA Hospice program has a new project called “Bridging” with an ombudsman, Ione Bradeen, who can come to the home and discuss an individual’s needs and provide them with information about the various resources available. Among those that could be useful in helping an older, ailing relative remain somewhat independent: a medical equipment loan closet sponsored by PRMC’s Senior Circle facility; the Meals on Wheels program; Gila Aging Services, which can provide such things as house cleaning; the Payson Senior Center’s transportation services and lunch program. PRMC Home Health has a publication on making the home safe for the aging. There are also a variety of products available to help organize a loved one’s medication, including talking alarm clocks and pill boxes with alarms and locks. Check at Radio Shack for talking alarm clocks and visit the Web site epill.com for specialized pill dispensers. If you are at a place where you need to become more active in caring for your aging loved ones, whether it is due to disability or medical issues, you don’t have to go it alone, and neither do they. There are professionals and volunteers in our community that can help you help your loved ones with humor and compassion. For more information about the new Bridging program, call Bradeen at (928) 472-6340, ext. 119. Learn more about Home Health from your loved one’s doctor, or give the office a call at (928) 472-5245. For other available services and opportunities, call the Payson Senior Center at (928) 474-4876 or the Senior Circle at (928) 468-1012.

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