Caring for an aging parent or elderly spouse can be very challenging … especially if you are suddenly faced with a crisis.
What would you do if your aging mother had a stroke, is in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and will need long-term care for the rest of her life. Or, you’ve seen unsettling warning signs that make you wonder if your father can continue living on his own. Maybe your elderly spouse has wandered off and gotten lost several times. Or a long-time friend has lost a lot of weight and rarely leaves home.
What kind of help does your loved one need — care for the rest of her life? Or, help for only a short time to recover after a hospital stay?
Does your parent have undiagnosed medical problems that might be correctable? For example, prescription drugs interactions and side effects, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, dehydration and other treatable causes are often mistaken, even by doctors, for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. According to Consumer Reports on Health:
(To help determine if prescription drugs might be a source of your loved one’s problems, click on Prescription Drugs Interactions.)
If their problems are not correctable, what living arrangements are available? What nursing care plans are most appropriate? If they are able to remain in their own home, what kind of elder care services do you arrange? Is assisted living preferred over a nursing home? What challenges does your loved one’s condition pose? What is the best way to find community elder care resources? How will you manage it all — and still maintain a life of your own?
Our loved one — whether they are living with physical frailty, a terminal illness or dementia — is being propelled on a journey over which they have very little or no control. We still have control, even though it may often feel like we don’t.
How you cope depends completely on your own attitude. We cannot change the condition itself, but we can change how we approach this enormous challenge in our lives. And, we can enrich the life of our loved one in the process.
We can still make attitude adjustments, course corrections, seek help and ask for respite for a few hours or a few days. Our loved one has none of these choices available to them.
This section will walk you through the first steps of elder care — whether your loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia, is recovering from a broken hip, or you are trying to figure out Medicare benefits.
Each elder care situation is unique, of course. Your loved one’s medical history, financial resources, personality, relationships with potential caregivers, proximity to services and other factors all determine the best approach to take.
Regardless of how chaotic your situation may be right now, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your stress and move ahead more confidently. Here are the most important next steps.