Thursday, June 12, 2014

Got Parents?

When we are young, we think our parents are older than dirt. Then, we begin to age. Things begin to take on a new look. Forty isn't so old after all. And, 70? Why, a person is still in his/her prime.

No matter how hard it is to face, we all age. As the calendar rapidly turns from one month to another, the body starts to rebel. No matter how hard one tries to defy the aging process it will happen to all of us.

And so it is the same with our parents. One day we'll all need to deal with our parents declining health. This is the stage of life I am in...along with still raising a child under the age of eighteen. I've been dealing with this stage for roughly five-seven years...and at that time I had three children under eighteen. Sandwich "generation"? Yes.

This isn't a pity-party post. I hope it is a post that will help someone as I find not many talk about caring for a parent. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe I'm not in the right "group"? Maybe people just don't want to talk about it? I'm not sure. Whatever you, dear reader, are going through with a parent, I empathize with you. It's hard. It's frustrating. It's sad. It's stressful. You often feel torn between care for your parent and other responsibilities. I know...I know. Did I mention it's stressful?

There are books out there in bookland that can help you deal with aging parent(s). The following are just two I've found. I haven't read the entire book as I am reading a sample of it on our Kindle but it's called How to Care for Aging Parents (3rd edition) by Virginia Morris. The next is a book I have not read even a sample but what I've read of reviews, it sounds helpful. It is called Necessary Conversations: Between adult children and their aging parents.

In How to Care for Aging Parents, I found my head nodding yes! and feeling a weight lifted off my shoulders because someone finally put into words what I couldn't and what I didn't/don't think others understand. The author has a chapter in the book about getting others to help and to take care of yourself. Well, as a woman/mom/wife, that doesn't come naturally to me. Whether right or wrong, I take care of myself last. The author must be the same way as she admits she didn't take her own advice. She had a doctor friend over one evening for a meal and the subject of caring for yourself came up:
"...a doctor friend complained he had to be on call the next night. Although he didn't usually get called to the hospital, he explained that he couldn't relax, knowing that he might be
That was it. That was the part of this job I hadn't expected, hadn't recognized, and couldn't really explain. Even when you're not juggling medications, or cleaning up vomit, or finding an aide to fill in, you are on call. You know that all is not right in the world, that disaster could strike at any moment, and that when it does, you will have to deal with it. And, whatever happens, you will feel responsible for it."
(in the Kindle ebook sample this quote is found on Loc 174) 

She goes on to say that she had been on call for as long as she could remember and it was this more than the daily care that had worn her out. I finally felt like someone understood. Just reading what she wrote finally made ME understand. 

Now, don't get me wrong, my dad is still well enough that I don't need to go over every single day. He is in charge of his own medication and still lives on his own. However, like the last few days, I am wondering when the phone is going to ring in the middle of the night (it's happened many times), or when I'm going to need to decide if this is just a touch of the flu or if he has something else going on. I feel responsible. He asks me "what do you think I should do?" It's exhausting. When my dad feels good he is great! When he has an issue then it's usually bad. I can't even begin to imagine what it is like for a full-time caregiver. I just want to hug someone who is going through that process. 

Another helpful hint involves medications and medical information. When dad's medication list got very long and so did the list of conditions and specialists, I sat down at the computer and compiled a list.

  • At the top of the document is my dad's name and birth date. Emergency contact information is next with my name and contact info and then my brother's information (since I'm the closest in proximity). 
  • Current medications with an "as of" date is next. In listing the medication, I listed the dosage and when he is to take it, what it is for in layman terms and on a few I wrote which pharmacy has the prescription since his main pharmacy didn't stock a particular med. 
  • Next are all his conditions with the date it happened on most, then his doctors/specialist and finally his church home, pastors and that contact information. 
It is a very handy list. It does take time to compile then update as needed but it is worth the time when you're in the ER with your parent. Also, note, apparently Medicare requires a "retirement date" now. So, when your parent(s) retire, make a special note of that as well.

However, what I didn't think about until reading the book sample is making this list available, in clear sight, and clearly marked in the event we would need to call emergency personnel to his home. After reading that tip, I contacted a friend who is a Paramedic. He said they will look on the refrigerator, bathroom or kitchen counter, or go through purses and wallets for information if they have time. He said something clearly marked by his medications is the best place to have the information they need to care for the patient. I am now working on getting the already made list into a list they would need and making copies of some other paperwork. Here is a charity devoted just to this Vial of Life Project with tons of information.

I won't overwhelm you any more but I just felt it was information that needed to get out among those in the trenches and perhaps prepare others. Take baby steps and it won't seem so overwhelming.

What other tips/ideas do you have when it comes for caring for an aging parent?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Post! And we all thought life was going to be easier when our kids grew up. Silly us!

    We have been there done that and are doing it again, right along with you. It is never easy, physically or emotionally, but then it wasn't easy for them to raise us. Payback :)