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How do I know when I need to step into the caregiver role? What should I expect?
If you notice that your parent or your spouse or your loved one is not doing as well in certain areas, you may need to start becoming a caregiver. It can be overwhelming to be a caregiver. We recommend you try and analyze the situation as a whole and be able to decide what kinds of help they need.
What is the first step in caregiving?
I think an important piece of this is to start out with the financial and legal matters — to say, "Where is the checkbook? Who do you bank with? Do you have a safe deposit box? Do you have insurance polices?" Those kind of questions can be tough to deal with because then your parents, for instance, will think you’re eager to inherit.
What about legal issues?
You need to make sure that legal documents are in place. Do they have financial power of an attorney? Do they have an advance directive for health care? There is help in this county through elder law and advocacy where people can have those documents prepared for them by an attorney for free.
My parents are not doing well; should I recommend a nursing home?
There’s a lot of fear when it comes to people coming and helping because they’re afraid that you’re going to put them in a nursing home and remove them from their environment. As long as someone’s really safe, try and leave them in their own environment as long as they can. Also, let them do whatever they can on their own, because none of us want to feel that dependent on someone else.
When should my parents stop driving?
Driving is a huge issue for seniors when they’re not able to drive. It’s very difficult to tell them that they’re not able to drive. The doctor can help with that. The DMV can help with that. There are resources that can help people so that you don’t have to do this alone.
What do I do when it comes time to move into a nursing home?
When someone has lived in their own home for 50 years, it’s horrendous to think about packing, moving, getting rid of stuff. There are agencies who will certainly help with packing and moving or helping to make their decisions about whether they want to be in an assisted living facility or move to an independent senior living area.
What can I do if I live far away from my aging parents but still need to help them?
Long-distance caregiving has its own challenges. You can learn about services that are available in the community so that when your loved one calls and say, "I can’t get to the doctor," you might be able to tell them about some transportation services that are available. When you’re visiting from out of town, check out the local newspapers. See what may be going on, what kinds of activities are going on for older adults. Take home a local phone book. You can also call the area agencies on aging — which are throughout the country — that help make referrals and help identify resources to find a local senior citizen center, a meal program, things like that.
What else do I need to know about caregiving?
You have to take care of yourself in order to be a good caregiver, in order to be successful with taking care of someone else. You can do that by making sure that you do keep up your own health with healthy foods, finding time to exercise. Maybe you need to try an exercise program with your loved one. There are exercise classes around the county with specific design for senior citizens that help you with balance, strength, being able to do things like getting up and down on out of a chair on your own can make a big difference in how independent that you are when trying to take care of yourself.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's senior health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about senior health, read the Senior Health News archive.