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Practical caregiving tips

By Times Staff Writer
Published August 31, 2004

Take care of yourself. You won't be able to provide the best care if you are tired or sick. Take time each day to do something for you. Even a five-minute "timeout" can do much to improve your outlook.

An ounce of prevention can prevent a problem later. Check for hazards in the home that might cause you or the person you are caring for to trip or slip. A loose throw rug can be dangerous to someone using a cane, crutches or a walker.

Don't be shy or afraid to ask for help. When people ask "Is there anything I can do?" your answer should always be yes. Friends, family members and neighbors can help lessen your burden. Keep a list of things that people can help with and show it to those who offer.

Stock up. You never know when something might happen to prevent a trip to the store or to run errands. Be sure to have a supply of frozen and canned goods on hand just in case. It is also a good idea to have extra bandages, over-the-counter medicines, etc.

Keep phone numbers handy. You shouldn't need to search for the number of the physician, the hospice or whomever in the midst of an emergency. Make a list and keep it on the refrigerator. That is also a good place to put signed advance directives.

- Source: The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast

My parents: How do I help them know whether they need help?

Experienced professionals and assessment checklists are one way to determine whether an elderly parent needs help. Here are some basic areas you and your older family members may want to focus on:

Physical health

Have they been diagnosed with any chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis or emphysema? Do they have bowel or bladder problems, heart disease, cancer or risk of stroke? Do they have vision or hearing problems, excessive weight loss or gain, or difficulty walking? Make a list of health professionals they see. Add any recent hospitalizations.

Mental health

Have they been diagnosed with any psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or psychosis? Do they have Alzheimer's or another form of dementia? Are they showing signs of confusion, disorientation or isolation? What about mood swings or forgetfulness? Sadness or loneliness?

Medication use

What medications are they taking? What is the dosage? Include over-the-counter medications. Are they taking their medications as directed?

Daily living skills

Are they able to dress, bathe, get up from a chair, use a toilet, climb stairs, use the phone? Do they know how to get help in an emergency? Can they shop, prepare meals, do housework and yard work? Can they safely drive?

Home and community safety

Does their home have smoke alarms? Can they hear them adequately? Can they avoid telephone and door-to-door fraud? Can they maintain their house?

Support systems

Do your older loved ones have frequent visitors or see friends? Do they go to a senior center or get out of the house for other social reasons? Do family members live close by? Do they keep handy the names, addresses and phone numbers of key friends and family members who they can call in an emergency?

Appearance and hygiene

How is their overall appearance? Hair clean? Teeth brushed? Shaved? Do they dress appropriately in clean clothes?

Finances

Can they live on their income? Can they meet future needs with their income? Are there any legal documents such as trusts, living wills and/or durable power of attorney? Do they pay bills on time and make informed financial decisions?

- Source: AARP

Five tips to help caregivers say goodbye to guilt

1. Acknowledge your feelings. Negative feelings can make us feel uneasy and guilty, but it's important to understand that feelings of anger and resentment are natural and common.

2. Think quality, not quantity. If you're feeling guilty that you aren't spending enough time with your parents, think of how you can improve the quality of your time together. Spending time reminiscing with your mother or playing a game of checkers with your father, for example, may mean more than cleaning their kitchen or delivering a pot roast.

3. Establish priorities. No one has the time or energy to do everything for everybody, but you must find time to do the things that are most important to you. By establishing priorities - and allowing some flexibility for the unexpected - you can help ensure that the most important needs are met and the most important tasks get done.

4. Forgive and seek forgiveness. If your parent was abusive or uncaring when you were a child, now is the time to forgive - even if you truly feel he doesn't deserve it. Holding grudges will not only affect your ability to care for your parent, but it will also hurt you.

5. Foster their independence. Don't feel guilty for not doing things for your parents that they could be doing for themselves. Instead, look for ways to help them do what they can.

Source: "The Caregiver's Survival Handbook: How to Care for Your Aging Parents Without Losing Yourself" by Alexis Abramson

[Last modified August 27, 2004, 10:50:10]

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