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Caregiving for a Parent or Elderly Person

By Patricia St. Clair

(Page 1 of 4)

Throughout our lives we are usually identified by our roles as son, daughter, brother, sister or parent.

As our parents age, however, roles often reverse or take on new meanings. Because today's baby-boomers increasingly find themselves assuming the role of "caregiver," they begin to feel the necessity to become proactive in the care of one or both parents. Issues surface that have remained buried. Parents often find themselves battling their adult children for authority in decision-making.

Adults with elderly parents need to educate themselves, not only with written information but also with personal knowledge of their parents' habits and problems. Timing is everything, and that old adage certainly applies to assisting a parent make the transition from independent to needy or problematic.

Open communication with elderly parents is the optimum situation but one that is not an option in many families. Short of this, adults with elderly parents need to realize that they will always be the "child" in the eyes of their parents. Baby boomers not only respect authority but are much more health-conscious than those over 65 who feel surprise at their still-existence on earth. Elderly parents may never openly admit a problem or ask for help, but the educated, alert offspring can easily pick up subtle clues. Visiting parents presents an opportunity to notice changes in habits. Slowness in dressing, eating and walking are obvious changes. A prolonged delay in opening mail or driving a familiar route should be considered a cry for help.

A brief review of the medicine cabinet can also provide offspring with important medical knowledge as to what medicine is being prescribed, not necessarily taken, by their parent. This is by far one of the most common problems children face when dealing with parents who are just beginning to fail. While a parent may give up the fight in going to a physician, and while the same parent may follow through in getting a prescription filled, it is quite common for the untouched bottle to remain in a medicine cabinet or nightstand drawer. Breaking down and taking the medicine would be admitting to themselves that a problem exists, and this is simply not an option to many elders. Therefore, adult children should be keenly aware of the types of medicines prescribed and familiarize themselves with the medical problems to which the medicines are correlated.

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