The article written by Robert Stall MD, Geriatrician, discusses how to cope with the transition from being a child of your parents to being their caregiver. The article highlights that millions of Americans are adult caregivers and experiencing physical or emotional exhaustion is a common reaction. The author offers reassurance that help is available for those feeling overwhelmed.
Tips for Ensuring Your Elderly Parents’ Happiness and Health.
If you are fortunate to have one or both parents still living, you might have experienced a reversal in your relationship. You may recall the days when your mother used to take you to the doctor when you were sick. Now, you may be driving her to her medical appointments or managing her healthcare needs by serving as her healthcare proxy, taking her to your home for care, or even selecting a nursing home for her. Regardless of the situation, it is natural to feel challenged and intimidated in your new role. However, by remaining positive and proactive, you can be an excellent advocate for your parents’ optimal care. Moreover, there is no better way to show your gratitude for all they have done for you over the years. The following six recommendations will help you understand what may happen to your parents as they age and how you can assist them.
Remaining Alert to Sudden Changes: Tips and Strategies.
Sudden changes in your elderly parent’s behavior are usually triggered by sudden problems. For example, your father, who was alert and oriented the previous week, is now confused, unsteady while walking, and falling. This situation is likely due to an acute problem such as an infection, medication side effects, or a heart attack or stroke. To be alert to sudden and subtle fluctuations, it is essential to understand your parent’s baseline health and behavior. Knowing what is “normal” for your parent is critical when advocating for his/her care. By informing his physician of these changes, you can ensure that he receives the appropriate diagnosis and timely treatment, which is particularly crucial in acute conditions.
Investigate the source of gradual decline.
A few years ago, I encountered an elderly woman who was residing in a nursing home. Her family assumed that she had dementia since she had gradually stopped speaking and moved her there. After performing a simple procedure, I asked her how she was feeling, and she replied, “I’m okay.” Was it a miracle? Not exactly. I had extracted bullet-sized pieces of wax from her ears. She had ceased speaking because her ears were too clogged to hear.
Various conditions can cause a gradual decline in health. Instead of quickly assuming that Alzheimer’s disease is to blame, consider the possibility that your parent may be experiencing a different issue, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency, an underactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, or depression, to mention a few.
When discussing your parent’s decline with their physician, make sure to explore all possibilities. To prepare for the appointment, make a list of the ways your parent’s decline has manifested itself, such as loss of appetite, short-term memory loss, and so on, and for how long you’ve noticed these changes. This way, you won’t miss anything. To assist you, I’ve developed a free checklist that you or your parent can complete at seniorselfassessment.com – make sure you print or email the “Test Result Details” at the bottom of the page to analyze your responses and provide you with guidance based on your answers.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Parent’s Medications
Get to know your parent’s medication cabinet: understand the purpose and frequency of each medication. Ensure that all doctors your parent visits are aware of their medication list, including over-the-counter products. Inquire about possible side effects and potential risks of combining medications. Inform the doctor of your parent’s alcohol, caffeine, and smoking habits, as they may affect medication effectiveness and safety. Visit drugscanmakeyousick.com to identify which medications may cause your parent’s symptoms.
Encourage an age-inclusive mindset.
Ageism is a form of prejudice that can harm an older person’s self-esteem, particularly when it assumes that all of their issues are related to age. Avoid expressions like “What do you expect at your age?” or “You’re not getting any younger” that attribute everything to aging, because this limits the scope of care that an older parent may need. Depression, for example, may have no correlation with age but be due to a biological predisposition. Likewise, knee pain in an elderly person cannot simply be dismissed as a natural part of aging if it only affects one knee. For more information on this topic, check out Dr. Stall’s in-depth article on society’s attitude toward medical care for the elderly at http://www.longtermcarelink.net/eldercare/medical_care_issues.htm.
Addressing Emotions Along with Symptoms.
There are two types of problems that can affect an elderly person’s well-being: physical disease and emotional “dis-ease,” which refers to a lack of ease, security, or comfort. Emotional dis-ease can take many forms, including fear, grief, boredom, embarrassment, and sadness, among others, and can be just as debilitating as physical illness. For example, an elderly parent who is incontinent may feel too embarrassed to socialize and may become isolated and lonely as a result. To avoid this, it’s important to discuss the problem with the doctor and explore possible solutions that can help ease the parent’s embarrassment and reinvigorate their social life.
Maximizing Your Parent’s Quality of Life
Regardless of age, we all aspire to live a fulfilling life, where we have the ability to do what we desire. In geriatric care, the main goals are to enhance a patient’s enjoyment of life and functional capability. You don’t need to have a medical degree to assist your parent in achieving these objectives. Providing a listening ear or offering practical solutions can be invaluable contributions. Remember, as your parent ages, the quality of life becomes more important to them than the quantity of years they have left. Medications or surgery may not be necessary to guarantee they are enjoying the latter part of their life. For example, if they enjoy reading but have difficulty with regular-sized print, search for large print books at the library. If they are grieving the loss of a close friend, encourage them to socialize with others at the senior center. If they reside in a nursing home, consider having your kids share a meal with them. Small gestures can have a significant impact. As the child of an elderly parent, you hold a unique position to deliver these life-changing gifts.