Friday, July 27, 2012

Tips for Elder Care | The Sandwich Generation

One out of every eight Americans is currently caring for aging parents and raising their own children at the same time--this is known as the Sandwich Generation.  Millions of children are even caring for parents from a distance.  As a person providing care to my mom, I know it is easy to forget our own needs or enjoy the simple things.  Even the happy times can become one more thing we have to take care of in a day.

Navigating health care systems, financial systems, housing and trying to take care of oneself is a daily balancing act that can make a person feel sandwiched between enormous responsibilities with no help. It is often one person in the family who takes on all, if not most, of the responsibility of caring for elderly parents.

As an empathetic person coping with aging parents, I would like to share some of the resources I found most helpful to learn how to help elderly parents.  Think of them as sandwich ideas to make you successful as you are taking care of parents while you are in the Sandwich Generation.

Caregiver Support
Elderly caregivers
Elder care is a family affair! Thomas Gatsby loves his grand mom.
AgingCare.com is one of my favorite resources for caregivers.  For those of us providing aging parent care, it is impossible to leave our parents alone.  Therefore we need home care resources we can tap into online.  Going to an aging parent support group meeting is not something I can do since I cannot leave my mother alone.  Taking her along with me would make her feel like she's the cause of all my stress.  Online support groups have been a great resource I can utilize on my own time.

This website has a great forum with stories from other adult children who are providing care for elderly parents.  They have experience with the daily challenges I face and it's nice to relate to someone who is going through the same thing.

There is a link to tips for daily care, such as showering and dressing and other aspects of in home elder care.  I'm new to this and never had children, so helping someone else to dress, shower, brush their teeth was a whole new skill I needed to develop.  A person with dementia can forget to bathe, become afraid of water, the tub, etc.  I found that my mom can take sponge baths instead of full showers, which helped me tremendously because I was struggling trying to shower her every day.

AARP's Caregiving Resource Center online connects to the Take Care Blog with stories from other children dealing with elderly parents, as well as web chats and webinars with experts on caring for parents.  AARP can also be reached toll free at 1-866-389-5654, 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday should you need to reach out to them.

F.R.A.N.K. (Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, Neighbors and Kids)
Make contact with friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors and people you know through your children. Look for people who have either cared for an elderly parent or are now doing so.  They will be a great support to you, and are probably looking for support, too.  You can support each other through phone, email or even helping with watching kids or parents while one person has to take care of other responsibilities.

Reaching out to neighbors and even doctors who dealt with my mom prior to her dementia was a valuable resource for emotional support and it could be the same for you.  Sometimes family members are afraid to become involved because they realize their loved one is preparing for the end of life and can be too hard to face.  My siblings have a hard time with this and are often afraid that I will expect something from them that they cannot do or do not want to do.  I needed to let that go and not worry about it.  I have realized I cannot change the people around me and mom doesn't have time for that now.  We need to surround ourselves with people who can help when needed.  My aunt and cousin are great resources as they also provide elder care in their home, so we can support each other.  Don't give your up valuable time to worry about who isn't there and take time to analyze why siblings or others don't help out more.  Nothing escalates a burn out quicker than negativity and disappointment.

Governmental/Social Services
Each state has its own department of aging.  These government run programs offer many online links and phone numbers for resources including long term living, affordable healthcare and prescriptions, advocacy, health, and wellness.  The National Care Planning Council provides a list of each state's agency for aging.

Information Online
The National Council on Aging's caregiver website contains links that direct you to financial help, employment resources, information about scams directed at the elderly and resources for Medicare information. NCOA can also be contacted toll free at 1-800-677-1116.

FamilyWize Discount Prescription Card is a free prescription drug card to help with the prescription medicines often needed in caring for elderly parents.  The card is accepted at more than 61,000 participating pharmacies and can help anyone who is uninsured, if medications aren't covered, for high deductible periods, and Medicare patients who are in the donut hole.  The card is free and can be printed right from your computer or one can be sent to your phone if you don't have access to a printer.  There is no waiting period and no eligibility requirements and the savings are up to 75% on all FDA-approved medications.

Don't Do It Alone!

Meeting the daily challenges of caring for elderly parents, children and working can be a struggle.  At times, we feel helplessly sandwiched between all those who need us with no time to take care of ourselves.  But there are many resources available that can make this experience easier to manage.

Taking care of my mom for the last two years has been the biggest challenge I have ever faced, but it has also been the most rewarding.  I used to worry that I didn't have an important job title, like CEO of "something".  I relentlessly pursued higher education to "better myself".  Now I know the most important job I've ever had didn't require experience or a college degree.  I'm not the manager or director of anything.  I'm proud to say that my title is Caregiver and member of  The Sandwich Generation.  I'm also relieved to know that I don't have to go through this alone. Neither do you.

Caroline Carr
Caregiver and Contributing Writer

8 comments:

  1. Excellent article on loving and caring your elders.. I am very impressed.. These tips are so very useful.Thanks for sharing your insights..

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  2. Very touching! Always empower your elderly parents just as you do your children to help them retain their independence. Allow them to continue to live normal lives in as long as possible.

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  3. Thanks for an interesting article. I have to totally agree about your comments on preplanning. I was very blessed that my senior parents did just that and it has helped me tremendously as I have come alongside them to help with my senior dad when he was in the advanced end stage of his Parkinsons Disease.

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  4. As much as I thought I'd be prepared to care for an elderly parent while raising a pre-teen as well,and working full time, the reality was alot different! Having my 89-year-old dad living with us for the last year has been both joyous and difficult as well--and something I would never give back. One of the ways of avoiding stress and burnout is by making sure that all family members are on board, and that the caregiving husband and wife are able to get breaks and spend time together alone. So much is involved in caring for an elderly parent and raising a child (or children) that the core relationship can start to fall by the wayside. We caregivers need help and support to maintain our health and our relationships.

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    1. That is so true, Isabelle. If we as caregivers burn out, we will not be able to help anyone.

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  5. Visiting Angels is indeed a blessing. I needed someone to care for my mom who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. She suffers from Alzheimer’s and I live in England. I was able to choose the right caregiver for my Mom. The person was experienced and had excellent credentials. I have peace of mind knowing that Mom is in capable hands. You should check them out at www.visitingangels.com/palmbeaches (561-328-7611) if you need senior care services.

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  6. I admit I was not prepared for the responsibility of taking good care of my elderly parents. Reading materials like these and seeking the assistance from hospice service, became my source of strength in dealing with care giving.

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  7. I was looking on the internet to find some options on how to care for my elderly parents in West Palm Beach, FL. I found a great website with lots of pertinent info. Check it out at www.seniorhomecareadvice.org maybe it can help you too.

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