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Posted: October 18, 2004

Practical Caregiving

In Caregiving, No Magic Pills -- or Easy Answers

Rose knows there is no magic pill to solve her problem, but there are some areas she needs to check into as circumstances make caring for her dad difficult at best. Meanwhile, Myrna thinks she should move in with her father to take care of him, but should she? There are no easy answers.

Read on to learn the details of these situations and what I think should be done.


Dear Jean:

My parents are 80 and 84. Mom had open-heart surgery two years ago, and Dad has dementia. They have been living with us for the past two years. Between Mom, my husband and me, we are trying to care for Dad. But this has become such a major ordeal. He is not able to get around on his own. His legs can no longer support his weight. Mom is not supposed to be doing this, and my husband's back is now giving out from taking care of someone larger than him. We have some in-home healthcare, but it is so expensive. But without it, Mom would never get any sleep.

We are lucky -- we work out of our home, so there is someone here all the time. However, this is a very hard and lonely road. Plus the government does not make it very easy for those of us who choose NOT to warehouse our parents. I'm almost to the point of having to do it to save my Mom's life. She is failing fast. My brothers and sisters want us to place Dad in a facility, but after seeing him in the hospital last month, I know we will lose him mentally within the first 24 hours of being in there.

I don't know why I'm writing you. I know that you don't have a magic pill to make this all go away. It won't until his eyes close.

Rose H., Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Rose:

Taking care of your parents is one of the hardest things you can do, but you will always be glad you did it. You are right in thinking that you need to protect your mother somehow. The fact that she is going downhill physically is a normal result of her taking care of her husband, and she does need extra help.

It sounds like your husband is trying to pick up your father the wrong way. There are ways to move a person so you don't hurt your back. Ask the person you have hired to show you how to transfer him without hurting your back. You could also call a home health agency to get information about safely doing what needs to be done. I was able to transfer my Dad from the bed to a wheelchair and commode without hurting my back -- and he was bigger than me. I did hurt my back picking him and Mom up off the floor when I should have called for help. Keep that in mind.

I have some contacts you might want to make to see if you can get the government to pay for at least part of the help you need with your parents. When you call anyone regarding available services, always ask if they know of anything else you might want to check into. One person I know was able to get free accounting assistance for their loved one because they simply asked the question. Remember: talking with one person can lead to another who can help!

Talk to the doctor about getting help paid by the government. Or, call a home health agency to see what they can do. I was able to get the help for Mom and Dad paid by the government. If one agency needs to discharge your parents, call another agency to see if they can provide help with the government paying for it.

Call the Agency on Aging at 1-800-677-1116. Ask about The Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000. The act is sponsored by the federal government but administered by each state. The hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday (Eastern). You can also find the information on their website. Scroll down a little until you see AoA Resource Rooms. Under that heading, click on Eldercare Locator. On the right of this page there is a place to put your state and Zip Code. That will give you the agency to call in your state.

Also, run your loved one's information through a website called Benefits CheckUp. It is a free site where you may find something your parents qualify for but they don't know about. You don't identify them, either.

I commend you for what you are doing. Most likely, you have become much closer to your parents than you would have if they weren't living with you, and that is a precious thing.


Dear Jean,

I need your help. My Dad is elderly and lives alone. I have been trying to care for him while working and keeping my household in one piece. I live alone with my dog and cats and have grandchildren that love to spend time with me. I think I need to move in with Dad. He is losing his memory, cannot safely drive, is uncoordinated and has many health-related issues. I must be with him every day to see that his meds are OK and that he is able to get some exercise. I don't know what to do. Please help!

Myrna W., Providence, Rhode Island

Dear Myrna:

It does sound like your father should not live alone. Moving in with him could be one answer that might work, but before you definitely decide what to do, look for other alternatives. He could move in with you. He could move into an assisted living facility. He could move into a nursing home.

If your Dad will give the doctor permission for you to talk to him, find out what he suggests. He might have insight you need about your father's health and future. Then talk to your father about the situation. He should be made to feel like he is part of the solution and he may have a good idea about what to do.

Good luck. It is hard to know when to make changes for our parents and what those changes should be. Just do your best and follow the advice here.

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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