Caring for Aging Parents Doesn’t Take the Brady Bunch
IF I AM AN ONLY CHILD, HOW CAN I MANAGE THE CARE
OF MY AGING PARENTS?
(Original Post: http://blog.aginglifecare.org/blog/if-i-am-an-only-child-how-can-i-manage-the-care-of-my-aging-parents/)
If you are an only child, you may be worried about caring for your aging parents alone. But having siblings — one or a few — does not ensure you will have help. The best advice is to prepare early, stay organized, and don’t be afraid to ask for a little help.
Caring for Aging Parents Doesn’t Take the Brady Bunch
by Byron Cordes, LCSW, C-ASWCM – Aging Life Care Association™ Member
I have long imagined how the parents from the Brady Bunch television show fared as they aged. I picture Mike and Carol comfortably in their home, surrounded by their six children who are all working together to meet the needs of their aging parents. I envision something like this…
Marsha takes her parents to all their doctors’ appointments, while Greg helps manage the finances. Jan has a Mahjong group that meets at the house every Wednesday, bringing Alice and Sam the Butcher along for socialization. Peter comes by each week to refill prescriptions in pill boxes, while Cindy and Bobby prepare healthy, home cooked meals to fill the fridge and freezer. All is good at the Brady household.
Sadly, this rarely happens with even the largest, or closest, of families.
So what happens if you are an only child with no siblings to lean on?
How do you do the work of six children while balancing your work, own children, and spouse? Hope is in the planning. A well-prepared plan can make all the difference. Adult children (one or many) tasked with caring for aging parents should always start early whenever possible. Try to sit down with your parents before a crisis and get an understanding of their wishes as they age. You can also collect information now such as where important documents are kept. Open communication can be hard, and parents may not readily discuss certain aspects of their care with their children. If you run into road blocks, or just don’t feel comfortable doing it alone, involve a trusted partner; maybe a sibling of your parents, a pastor, or even their physician.
Once one or both parents need help, there are things you can do to make life easier on you while still providing the care your parents need and deserve.
- Staying organized is key. Break up the activities in which your parent needs help — bill paying, medication management, cleaning, etc. — then pick a specific day or time to work on that issue. By breaking up tasks you make them more manageable.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no shortage of companies offering advice and services for seniors, but that can be overwhelming, so do your homework. Some of the “free” services may have conflicts of interest with your family’s best interest. Look for well-vetted agencies that can offer help, such as theAlzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society, or go through the United Way. All areas of the country are covered by an Area Agency on Aging and can help link you to trusted services in your area of need. These Area Agencies on Aging are often office based, so they may not be able to help assess your parent’s needs on site.
An Aging Life Care ProfessionalTM can also be a valuable resource. These are health and human service professionals who know the health and social systems in the areas they serve. An Aging Life CareProfessionalwill complete a comprehensive assessment of your parent in their living environment and work alongside you to develop a plan of care that takes all factors into account.
As an only child, you can help your parents through their Golden Years. The bottom line is that The Brady Bunch isn’t real and having siblings — one or a few — does not ensure you would have help. The best advice is to prepare early, stay organized, and don’t be afraid to ask for a little help.
About the author: Byron Cordes, LCSW, C-ASWCM is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts in Geriatric Care Management, derived from 25 years in the social work field. He is a past-president of the Aging Life Care Association. Byron is the President of Sage Care Management in San Antonio, Texas and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
US News & World article gives good advice
A recent US News & World Report article (Oct 9, 2015) gives some very good advice to caregivers at a distance. Click on the title below to read.
Gulp! Mom, Far Away, Is At The Emergency Room-What Now? – Forbes
Imagine yourself in this situation: you get a phone call from your aging parent, sounding serious. You’re hundreds of miles away. It’s a medical matter.
We recently found ourselves on the receiving end of this. “It’s Mom. I can’t swallow, and this has been going on all day. I went to Urgent Care and they sent me to the emergency room at the hospital.” There’s no way we can get there fast, even if we want to. No one knows if this is anything really bad or if it can be fixed quickly. What to do?
My husband, Mikol was feeling terrible that he couldn’t just rush down to be with Mom. After all, she’s 92 and lives alone. That helpless feeling again. If you live at a distance from your aging loved ones, this could happen to you.
But with our expertise in this whole aging subject at AgingParents.com, we had prepared for this possibility. Over her protests, and after the last scary episode some time ago, we had hired a geriatric care manager. No, my mother in law, Alice doesn’t need frequent watching over, a point she berated us about. She’s quite independent. And she refused to accept that she was going to have to pay someone by the hour to do an assessment on her and have a file of her personal medical history. “I’m fine, I don’t need it” she protested vehemently. She wouldn’t even let the care manager see her until we agreed to pay for it. But she relented and met the competent nurse-care manager we had located for her. Care manager Diane was kind, friendly and available. She got the basic information, and hadn’t had to do anything since except to update her file by seeing Alice once more, many months before this incident. She knew Alice and was informed about her medical history. That was what counted.
But now we needed her and fast. Luckily, she was available when we called. She rushed over to the E.R. and met Alice there. She stayed with her and stayed in touch with us via text through the tests and examinations done on Alice. She told us what was going on each step of the way. It was a godsend. Fortunately the doctors found the problem and fixed it. Alice was released but was told not to drive herself home, due to medication she had taken in E.R. Diane drove Alice home in Alice’s car and then took a cab back to her own vehicle after Alice was safely home again.
The takeaway here is that you do not have to be left in the lurch if you have an aging parent at a distance and no family nearby. Sometimes there is a friendly neighbor who can help you if you get the kind of phone call we did. Or you could get a call from the hospital saying your aging parent is admitted there. But if neighbors can’t be counted on, a geriatric care manager can really ease your mind. Here are some pointers that are for the proactive thinker, the adult child who wants to be prepared.
1. Get the contact info for neighbors and friends of your aging parents and keep it in your phone or an easily accessible place. You may not have time to go searching when an emergency happens. Meet the neighbors and let them know you appreciate the contact they have with your aging loved ones.
2. Consider hiring a care manager to at least size up your aging loved one’s situation, keep notes on their medical history and be a resource for you if you can’t get there quickly in a crisis. Maybe you don’t even need to be there personally, but you don’t want your aging parent to be at a hospital all alone.
Care managers generally charge for an initial assessment of the elder, sometimes a flat fee. They then have crucial information that may be needed, especially if your aging parent is unable to speak or needs an advocate. The care manager is “boots on the ground”. Remaining services they offer are typically charged hourly. Regardless of the fees, the main consideration of whether or not to hire a care manager is your peace of mind. In our case, I was so relieved that Alice did not have to endure hours of waiting, exams and tests in E.R. while all alone there. And we did not have to endure the highly stressful waiting to get any idea of how serious a problem Mom was having.
In all, despite the scare, we did the right thing by planning for a crisis, and the care manager was an ideal liaison for us when we really needed her. Of course, Mom will say the bill from Diane was too high, but that’s Mom.
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney
AgingParents.com and AgingInvestor.com
Harvard HealthBeat: Working with a geriatric care manager
When you’re exploring a foreign country, a guide who knows the terrain well can help immensely. That’s just as true when entering the foreign territory of caregiving. Here, a geriatric-care manager can provide invaluable assistance for individuals and families facing challenging care decisions.
Geriatric-care managers come from a diversity of backgrounds, from nursing and social work to gerontology. These professionals can help navigate the tangles of family dynamics, round up medical care and necessary services, keep medical personnel on the same page, and cut through the baffling red tape of private businesses and government bureaucracies.
Help Your Aging Parents
(Money Magazine) — Face it. Mom and Dad are getting up there. And their finances aren’t getting any simpler. Some of life’s trickiest money tasks — managing a large but basically fixed nest egg, figuring out how to spend it down while never running out — are in the hands of people who at some point may not be up to doing the work by themselves.
The normal wear and tear of aging can mean worsening eyesight, fatigue, and enormous life changes (such as caring for an ailing spouse) that make it harder to deal with reviewing bank statements or tracking a portfolio.
Keep your aging parents safe at home
(Money Magazine) — Is Dad mixing up his pills? What happens the next time Mom falls?
If you have an elderly parent, chances are you’ve spent more than one sleepless night worrying about such things.
Sure, moving him or her to an assisted-living facility or a nursing home might help. But the average annual cost is $38,000 and $67,500, respectively, and that doesn’t include the hefty emotional price: Surveys show that seniors fear nursing homes more than they do death itself.