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Finding resources for caregivers of elderly

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elderly woman
Caregiving may be the hardest thing you've ever done but also the most rewarding
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Caregivers need help because they are dealing with a huge task

Taking care of an elderly person is a huge responsibility and quite challenging even for those trained in the field of elder care or geriatrics. All too often, adult children without a scintilla of medical experience or expertise end up being the primary caregiver. You are either going to sink or swim really fast and learn the ropes. Your medical vocabulary is going to increase exponentially and you are probably going to be doing things that you have never done before but which you are capable of handling. You may discover just how competent you are. It is doable, with a lot of support. The key may truly be in finding resources for caregivers of elderly patients.

Knowing that there are others, lots of others, in the same boat as you is helpful. Do not hesitate to take advantage of the resources that are available to caregivers of elderly parents. There are online forums and chat rooms where you can seek advice and solace. You will not feel so alone as a result. Elder care is big business and important business. As a result, there is a plethora of information out there. There are many aging resource products, and medical equipment and supplies stores, to assist caregivers as well as those they are caring for.

Elder care checklists are available online or from nursing facilities and hospitals. These checklists can be your starting place, especially if you are a new caregiver. A checklist can guide you through the steps of providing care for the elderly as well as give you invaluable information. It will help you, the caregiver, know what questions to ask the medical specialists, many of which will be spelled out in resources for caregivers of the elderly. A huge part of your care-giving role is to advocate for the patient who can no longer advocate for himself.

You also need to be savvy about the drugs your elderly patient is taking and if there are drug interactions that you need to be on the look-out for because sometimes a doctor will overlook this and prescribe potentially life threatening drug combinations.

There are online links to prescription drugs interactions, which you should read and even print out if your patient is on a litany of medications. It is hard to keep track. Get a pill box that allows you to put the morning drugs in a certain compartment and so on. Buy a white erase board and write down the morning medications, the afternoon pills and the evening medicines; write in big letters so your patient can read it as well as you. 

Write A.M. and P.M. on the lids of the medicine bottles and write the generic name of the drug beside the official name so you can keep the drugs straight. Also write on the prescription bottle what the medicine is for: Heart; prostate; water pill, etc.

Buy clothing (pants, shorts, pajama bottoms) with drawstrings so that they are easy to get on and off of the patient. Write emergency numbers in big noticeable letters and post them near the phone and program them into your speed dial on your cell phone as well.

Talk to the elderly person while you can. Be gentle but direct and frank. Ask him what his specific wishes are regarding long-term care and even discuss his funeral if he is terminal and knows it. It does not have to be a grim conversation. It all depends on the way you handle it. There are resources online that can guide you in how to handle this conversation.

Encourage the elderly patient to make someone his medical power of attorney as well as his general power of attorney (POA) so that person is able to make medical decisions when the patient is no longer do it for himself and can write checks. Decide who is going to manage the household finances and pay the bills. If the patient has a living will, keep it accessible. This dictates what measures the patients wants or does not want, such as do not intubate.

Look into adult day care and respite care. Most hospitals provide home health care. An aide can come in and bathe the elderly person and even do the laundry, wash dishes or run errands for you.

Sometimes a house has to be renovated to accommodate an elderly person who can no longer climb stairs or get in and out of a bathtub. There are numerous sites online that can direct you to companies that cater exclusively to the needs of the elderly and which will make their life a lot more comfortable, as well as yours. You can get potty chairs, hospital beds, hand railings, handicap accessible showers and bathtubs and canes, just to name a few of the devices that can be very helpful.

When an adult child cares for her elderly patient there is probably a lot of history between the two of them, some of which may be unresolved and not necessarily a good history. The caretaker may find herself back in the position of being the daughter, at the mercy of her parent and her irritability and demands, while simultaneously being the one in charge of taking care of the older person, who has decided to treat her like the child that she no longer is. It is a weird and challenging position to be in.

The caregiver may find herself reverting back to teenage behaviors, and feeling resentment toward her parent, and the elderly person may start treating her 60 year old daughter the same way she did when she was 16.  Roles reverse and get scrambled up easily and this can be very difficult on the caregiver as well as on the patient

Join a support group, where you can learn a lot from others who are in the same situation as you. You will be amazed at how inventive non-medical caregivers can be when it comes to devising coping mechanisms, which allows them to undertake this challenge with aplomb and with their sanity intact. Locate online resources, books, and other materials that will help you cope and understand the many facets of your role as caregiver.

A long term caregiver is at risk of suffering from exhaustion, feelings of sadness, despair, depression, being overwhelmed and unappreciated, especially when they are doing this 24/7. Do not overlook your own needs. You need a break occasionally, a chance to get away and do normal things. Find someone dependable who can spot you and furlough you for an afternoon or more. If the caregiver gets down, this is not going to benefit anyone and certainly not the elderly patient. Do not be afraid to ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness. We are not super human. We all have our limits.

The job of caregiver for the elderly is never easy. Dealing with end of life issues can be grim. Do not be shy about asking for help. Call the social worker at your local hospital and ask her to hook you up with caregivers who can come in and give you a break. Hospice is a wonderful organization. It will send a nurse into your home, on a daily basis, if necessary. You do not have to be alone throughout this monumental challenge. There are people and organizations that are prepared to help you through this huge undertaking.


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