Caring for the caregivers

Most of us, at some point, will have to care for an aging parent. And when that time inevitably comes, many of us will be unprepared, stressed-out and overwhelmed.

Fortunately there has been an explosion in the number of resources to help families negotiate some of the challenges.

My attention was caught the other day by, a recently launched Web site to help adult children provide better care for their parents as they age.

The site’s founders said their own family experiences made it clear there was a need for more one-stop resources on geriatric caregiving. From co-f0under Bob Silver:

When my elderly parents became sick I had a difficult time finding the information and products I needed to care for them. I had to go to multiple sources to get the help I needed, which was frustrating and time-consuming. People are living longer but not always in the best of health – particularly in their later years – and typically those who shoulder a family’s caregiving burdens are ill-prepared for the challenges of caring for their loved ones.

The site includes information on topics such as home safety, nutrition and dementia. Feature stories will be posted as well; the current one explores the role reversal that takes place when children become caregivers for their parents.

Many people will find the online shopping section especially helpful if they’re crunched for time or have no idea which skin-care products or bedding would be best for their parents’ needs.

For many families, the demands of caring for a parent might lead to a decision to have their parent move in with them. More households are becoming multi-generational; nearly 4 million U.S. households have multiple generations living under one roof, according to the last U.S. Census.

Living together can be a rewarding way for families to become closer and share each other’s joys and burdens. But there also are potential problems when an older parent is invited to  move in with an adult son or daughter. How will it change the family dynamics? What about privacy? What about the effect on the household budget?

Home Instead Senior Care recently started a campaign, Too Close For Comfort, to help families navigate some of these issues. The Web site contains sections on the emotional issues of living together, how to make a home senior-friendly, how to balance caregiving with personal time, and more. An online calculator can help you identify the financial pros and cons that need to be considered.

For the thousands of seniors who continue to live in their own homes, some help is often necessary – rides to appointments, for instance, or assistance with yard work – but who should they call? Recognizing a need to link people with the right resources, the nonprofit Willmar Community Senior Network was formed last fall under the Living at Home Block Nurse Program. One of its many functions is as a clearinghouse for information on services in the Willmar area and how to access them. This type of one-stop resource can be especially valuable for adult children who live at a distance and might not be familiar with services that are available locally, or for adult children who are dealing with a crisis – a parent who falls and breaks a hip, for instance – and need to make quick decisions.

Other sources of information about caregiving for an older individual:

Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging

Kandiyohi County Family Services

Elderberry Institute

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