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AGING PARENTS: 4 TIPS FOR CAREGIVERS

Feb, 20 2018

Remember that song from The Lion King, "The Circle of Life"? That soundtrack plays in my head these days.

As a teenager I thought, "Wow, my parents have a lot of people to take care of."  We lived in New York City with one set of grandparents next door and the other set across the street. My parents had all of them plus three daughters depending on them for A LOT.

Now, I've gone from being the daughter who is taken care of BY her parents to being the daughter who takes care OF her parents. Hello, my name is Janet, and I'm a "caregiver." While it doesn't happen overnight, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed! 

Today, I'm sharing 4 tips that can help as you approach the caregiver stage…

1. Have a family meeting

Warning! This will not be easy (which is why many families avoid it). Often, there will be differing opinions between the family members about care. But, if you can get everyone talking, you've accomplished a huge step. A few tips that may help the conversation go more smoothly….

  • Ask the group to listen to all ideas with an open mind. 
  • Remind everyone of the common goal: determining the best care for your aging parent.  
  • Encourage discussion of differing approaches.
  • Keep the wishes of the aging parent in mind.
  • Agree to voice disagreement (cordially) when necessary, but in the end commit to a plan together.

2. Be prepared

If your family is like mine, organization is not their forte. We have lots of paperwork, we're just not sure where it is. Do yourself a favor and gather all your important papers and store them in a safe place that's easily accessed. This should include things like:

  • Insurance documents
  • A list of medications
  • Doctor names and contact info
  • Medical history 
  • Financial account information
  • Legal documents such as a Living Will, Do Not Resuscitate orders, etc. You can reach out to a legal expert with the freshbenies Legal Savings program for help with these and many other services that are free or deeply discounted. 

It's much easier to gather these things ahead of time rather than in the moments when you really need them. Also, keep all family member contact info in your phone and in another location that's easily accessible. 

3. Get Help

Whether you need "light care" for your parents or more major assistance, it's a good idea to seek help. Perhaps your parent just needs weekly grocery shopping, laundry or other household assistance. Reach out to your local church, school or other non-profit for volunteers or recommendations for people who could provide this type of limited help. 

If you do need more coordinated care, definitely reach out to an agency that specializes in elder care. I recently got expert help from the freshbenies advocacy service to find in-home care for my in-laws. My advocate researched local agencies that specialize in the specific type of care we needed. They checked the accreditation of the home care agencies and ensured background checks were completed on all the company's employees. Then, they compared prices for the services required. What a lifesaver! Expert help to do the research and credential checks was an incredible relief. 

4. Make time for yourself

Taking care of an aging parent can be exhausting - mentally, emotionally and physically. Schedule time to take care of yourself. Take walks, enjoy a movie, soak in a tub, go get a massage, or schedule dinner with friends. Make a list of the things you enjoy and commit to schedule weekly time for it. And definitely make it a point to get enough sleep! You'll be no good to anyone if you run yourself down to empty. 

Life is a circle, and someday most of us will face these issues. Remember to breathe, have candid conversations with family members, be prepared and GET HELP!

Now it's your turn! How have you managed caring for aging family members? What tips can you share? Comment below or email me at janet@freshbenies.com.

Janet

 Janet is a freshbenies Project Manager, bringing 37 years of expertise from her career with a leading retailer. She's a New Yorker who married a native Texan almost 25 years ago and makes Frisco home with her hubby and two kids. She's got a passion for planning, traveling, reading and Friday Night Lights as "volunteer extraordinaire" for the high school band (proving she's become a true Texan at heart).

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Tanya Boyd
Tanya Boyd
President of Tanya Boyd & Associates

I didn’t want to go to urgent care or the ER. Using Doctors Online in my freshbenies membership, I went online to ask a doctor. The doctor responded and said to check my blood pressure. He followed up with the next day to make sure my numbers were OK. By then, the feeling was starting to go away. He told me if it persists to contact my doctor. It was great that I didn’t have to go somewhere and wait forever, and it was free.” - Kelli from Texas

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Shannon
Shannon from TX
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It was Sunday night at 10pm and my husband was feeling very sick. He was considering going to an emergency room since he had a very busy work week ahead.

Using the freshbenies Telehealth service, we registered him online for a visit and within 15 minutes he received a call from a doctor. The doctor informed him he had the flu and called in a prescription to a local 24 hour pharmacy.

We avoided paying for an emergency room visit and my husband was back at work by Wednesday!