[by Joanne Reynolds]
Recently, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer focused on caregiving issues as part of its on-going series “Families on the Brink.” Entitled “What to Do About Mom and Dad,” the segments looked briefly at a wide variety of issues facing caregivers of aging parents.
I’m sharing a summary of it here for those of you who may have missed it, and for those of you who are in other caregiving circumstances. Some of what was broadcast applies to all caregiving. If you’d like to see more, visit www.abcnews.com/wn .
The first segment featured a round table discussion between author Virginia Morris (How to Care for Aging Parents), geriatricians Dr. Marie Bernard and Dr. Neil Resnick, and Martha Stewart, the lifestyle maven who has founded the Martha Stewart Center for Living, a senior health care center within Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
They concluded that conversations with your parents about aging, care and end-of-life issues has to be started early, before there’s a crisis. Ask these types of questions and listen, carefully, to the answers:
• What are you concerned about?
• What are you afraid of?
• What do you hope for?
The next segment dealt with medication. Dr. Richard Besser, who’s a medical consultant to ABC News, talked about tracking your loved one’s medications and when they are taking them. It’s something you’ve heard me preach about. Make a list of everything—prescription medications, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and dietary supplements—and take them to the primary physician or have them reviewed by a pharmacist. One-third of people between the ages of 57 and 85 take more than five prescription drugs and 68 percent of them add OTC drugs. Look for next week’s post for more on this crucial topic.
The third segment covered driving and safety. Frankly, it was horrifying to see a 90-year-old man whose movements are obviously affected by Parkinson’s insist on driving. That’s the thing about Parkinson’s—it also produces dementia, from which I think this gentleman was suffering. He announced that if he couldn’t drive, he’d move to Nigeria where they don’t have driver’s licenses. And he meant it. There weren’t any new insights. If you live in one of 44 states that allows you to “turn in” an unsafe driver, you or their doctor can have their license revoked or at least force them to take a driving test.
This was another place where the experts suggest you talk about this topic before there’s a crisis. When asking for your loved one to surrender their keys, always offer an alternate method of transportation for them. It’s a whole lot easier to get those keys if they don’t feel as if they’re being stranded.
Sibling conflict and lack of participation was the next segment. This is the one I hear about most often from caregivers. One family of six brothers and sisters, with divorced parents on opposite sides of the country who both needed care, said they were able to finally resolve their conflicts by recognizing that everyone reacts differently to a parental medical crisis. Here’s their advice:
• Make space for your siblings’ different ways of responding. Just because you feel compelled to visit your dad in the hospital all day, it doesn’t mean that your sister showing up for 20 minutes is a bad thing.
• Let everyone contribute according to his or her ability. You may be the chief of medical appointments, but perhaps another sibling would be well-suited to handle the insurance and Medicare issues or research the condition and its treatment. Not everyone needs to do all of the pieces of the caregiving.
• Support one another. Your sibling will be all the family who’s known you all your life when your parents are gone. Don’t let the caregiving issues drive you apart. The brother who’s hundreds of miles away can participate in the caring by regularly phoning the others who are doing the hands-on work, and offering thanks and verbal pats on the back.
• Live from a place of empathy, which will allow for forgiveness. “You’ll find a deeper spirituality than you’ve ever known,” said one of this family’s sisters.
The final edition looked at the issue of aging in place. I thought it was a very superficial overview and didn’t begin to plumb the depths of managing parental care when the parent insists on staying in his or her home. For my money—and yours—the best resource on this topic remains Paul and Lori Hogan’s book, Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions.
One potential solution that was discussed was use of the Village Movement, which is a type of pay-in cooperative for support of seniors who want to age in place. It has its limits, which I’ll be discussing in two weeks at this site, so come back, y’all.