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Caregiving for a Parent or Elderly Person

By Patricia St. Clair

(Page 2 of 4)

Rather than involve the court system or attorneys as elders begin to fail, adults need to reach out to siblings, relatives, church friends and volunteer services. Many siblings today live hundreds of miles apart, and in many cases also lived far distances from their parents. Family members, all of them, need to become proactive in the management of their parents' healthcare. The familiarization with prescribed medicine is the first important step, and if the elder refuses to discuss their medical problems, offspring should establish a relationship with their parents' physician. The medical community often welcomes this show of caring; however, others dissuade the intrusion. Family members should never withdraw when the first door slams in their face, but should persist until finding a method to establish some sort of common ground with their parents' healthcare provider.

The alert, knowledgeable offspring will also be more prepared to deal with deeper issues as the patient's condition worsens. Nursing homes and home healthcare, in combination with finances can become a full-time concern. Parents are often reluctant to discuss both their medical condition and financial situation with adult children, but when health deteriorates to the degree that outside help is necessary, it is vital for the primary caregiver to be aware of both.

Most importantly, children should be aware of their parents' insurance and exactly what it covers. Financial awareness is crucial here, for few elders are totally covered by any insurance plan. When nursing homes appear to be the only alternative to independent living, children often begin to question the feasibility of having a parent move in with them. Ironically, government aide is available to eldercare housing facilities but not to adults who care give to parents within their homes. The financial burden to children is often the deciding factor in the decision made regarding the elder's future home. Again, the more knowledgeable the offspring is regarding insurance and costs of facilities (including transportation, medicine and meals) vs. cost of moving a parent into the child's home, the easier a reasonable decision can be made.

On a personal note, my mother passed away in April 1999, after a yearlong illness. Before she lost the capacity to communicate, she struggled to clarify all legal matters to me, her only child. Utmost on her mind were specifications regarding stocks, bonds and bank accounts. This one act on her part enabled me to be proactive not just in her medical needs but her overall financial needs as well.

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