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Caregiving for a Parent or Elderly Person

By Patricia St. Clair

(Page 4 of 4)

Thousands of articles, hundreds of books and numerous movies have been based on the subject of caring for the elderly. What has not been emphasized to the full extent is the subject of what the elder experiences as his or her world collapses, health deteriorates and independence disappears. Those of us who are adult children and are or have cared for an elder have no doubt witnessed firsthand the effects that the loss of independence have had on our loved ones. We take for granted so many of life's "little things.” Last minute additions for dinner only require a short drive to the corner market. The batteries for the TV's remote control have gone out and we have to manually get up to change channels. The phone rings and you remember the cordless phone is still on the charger instead of perched by your easy chair, which makes you have to disengage yourself from the cushions if you want to talk to the caller. These examples are common in our daily lives and are easily rectified, although most of us would classify them as impositions. Now realize what an elder who is barely mobile or perhaps already bedridden would go through in similar circumstances. In the first place, she wouldn't be fixing dinner and would only hope that a loved one would be preparing it for her. To her, that would be the imposition, having to cause further work for someone she loved. Secondly, if her remote's batteries ran out, chances are she would have to wait until a loved one remedied the problem or merely shut the television off. There again, to the elder the imposition would be in having to rely on her caregiver for help instead of being able to handle it herself. And the phone ringing? Elders who are farther in their journey down the final path of life rarely want to talk on a phone, much less struggle to reach for it or find it amid their sheets or blankets.

We all want to believe our parents will live forever. We often don't see them as men or women. They are simply Mom and Dad. When we are faced with role reversals and find ourselves making the decisions and often saying "no" to the people who always made the rules for us, it effects all of us in different ways. There are no rules for this game, and no "rights" or "wrongs.” There are merely guidelines from which we can take advise from those who have dealt with these issues before us and hope we do all within our power to make our elder's last years, months, and days on earth peaceful, comfortable and loving. We must go with our inner feelings much of the time as to what would be right or wrong for our loved one, and as our elder sees how difficult the attempts are on our part, he or she often is willing to compromise on situations that could have caused major rifts within the family. The issues with which we must deal are numerous and diversified, but the more open those involved can be with each other and the better communication they can achieve, the more successful they will be in working toward the end in harmony and peace.


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