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Choosing to Be a Caregiver to an Elderly Parent

Updated on August 13, 2015
A day at the mall with my mom Mary and my son Ari.
A day at the mall with my mom Mary and my son Ari.
My mother Mary with me as a baby on my first Christmas.
My mother Mary with me as a baby on my first Christmas.
My mother Mary (the oldest in the middle) and her siblings grieving as orphans.
My mother Mary (the oldest in the middle) and her siblings grieving as orphans.

Caring For An Elderly Parent

Many people reaching their 40's and 50's not only worry about their own health and well being, but also that of their aging parents. When a parent grows old and is no longer able to do for themselves roles can be reversed. A few reasons why an elderly parent's living arrangements must change are their diminished ability to see, hear, and decline in all around health. An elder's condition and their financial situation most often determines the choice of a nursing home or living with an adult child.

LOSING INDEPENDENCE

In our situation, my mother Mary was a very independent person her whole life. The first thing that shattered her world was that her vision was impaired due to Macular Degeneration which took away her ability to see clearly and drive. Although she was considered legally blind she could still see in quite a bit, but not in detail. Being labeled as blind would not get in her way and she was still able to get around either by bus, plane, or by someone driving her. Along with that, traveling was still something she did a lot on her own. She continued to live in her own home and managed to do everything except read her own mail, which was usually done by family or friends.

Then in 2005, the second thing that drastically changed her life happened, she fell and fractured her thigh bone. This was a terrifying time especially for her because she knew things would permanently change. This incident caused her tremendous pain, as well as permanent limited mobility. Her mobility was limited to walking short distances with a walker, or being accompanied with a wheelchair. She was no longer able to go places and travel freely like she used to. Due to this fall and from getting older she has more ailments to add to the list, like most elderly people who suffer similar circumstances.

THINGS HAVE CHANGED FOR OUR WHOLE FAMILY

It has been since 2006 that my mother has been in my care. I am her only child and I had two choices, either to put her in a nursing home or to take care of her myself. This has been a challenge since the beginning due to not knowing exactly what was involved. My husband has been supportive with my decision to care for my mother all along. That made my decision easier and less stressful to make. As time went on, I saw that there are so many duties involved in caregiving and at times it was overwhelming. Let's just say that I took on many jobs when I decided to become my mother's caregiver such as: cook, driver, financial advisor, property manager, nurse, appointment setter, etc...

Being my mother's caregiver is very time consuming and a demanding job. There are no shifts or holidays off. However, I have no regrets in caring for her. It is a blessing that she is still alive, able to communicate, and able to walk a bit even though it is with a walker. I am glad to have her around as my son is growing up. She teaches him much about her life and that of her siblings surviving as orphans in war torn Greece. This experience enriches our life and hers as well. We give her love and show her that we are still there for her.

In an article written by NPR's Marilyn Geewax, it stated that nearly 10 million people over the age of 50 are caring for their aging parents in America. This was from a study conducted by Met Life Mature Market Institute in conjunction with the National Alliance for Caregiving and the New York Medical College. Furthermore, the article reports that this is due In part to the increase in human longevity and with the rising costs of Nursing Homes. It's unbelievable that there are so many people taking care of an elderly parent. However, it is becoming the norm.

THERE ARE A FEW THINGS YOU MUST KNOW IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT BECOMING A CAREGIVER:

  • Know that this is a full-time job without shifts or vacations.
  • Try to cut down on some of the work yourself by hiring out for bath visits, meal arrangements like Meals on Wheels, and if possible Adult Day Care.
  • Know what your limits are!

You gain experience through trial and error. Over time you will see what works for your parent's needs and for yours as well. This might change over time for many reasons. Accepting that your parent's health can change for the worse at any time is something to keep in mind. Therefore, having an Advance Health Care Directive is very important in order to make medical decisions on behalf of your parent. Each state has different requirements for drafting one. Discussing this with your parent and drafting an Advance Health Care Directive while they are able to do so is part of your duty as their caregiver and necessary.

© 2013 Panorea White

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