Caring For The Elderly
Caring for the Elderly - Who Are They?
Caring for the elderly is an important issue facing the baby-boomer generation, now approximately 45-65 years of age. Current statistics suggest that many of today's working force will live well beyond the expected limits of the past. The Federal Agency and Forum on Statistics1 projects that over twenty million seniors over the age of eighty-five will populate the United States by the year 2050. This is an increase of almost seventeen-million seniors compared to the three million that were living in 2000. In the early 1900's, less than five million Americans reached the age of sixty-five. As of 2005, almost forty million men and women are attaining the age of sixty-five, and beyond.
Caring for the Elderly - What is Involved?
Caring for the elderly is multi-faceted and often emotionally difficult for the caregiver. It requires that forgiveness be freely given and old hurts be dealt with. The caregiver (often a son or daughter) must be the one who is able to "get over" emotional hurdles and move on with providing quality care for the aging parent. Issues unresolved during their vital and productive years are unlikely to be confronted now by parents facing a myriad of issues related to growing older. Caring for the elderly often involves the following:
- Provide a home
- Offer legal help and support
- Help with financial responsibilities
- Arrange resident nursing care
- Deal with mental health and medical issues related to aging such as dementia, Alzheimer's, etc.
- Meet their socialization needs
- Help the elderly make decisions, including those about dying, i.e. living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc.
Caring for the Elderly - Where do you turn?
My mom was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in June of 2005. Her doctors predicted she would live 1 year if she had radiation treatments or 2 months without the treatments. She chose the treatments.
As her primary caregiver, I was responsible to see that she got to her radiation treatments and doctor’s appointments. I also fixed her meals and cleaned her house because she was not able to do so. My mother lost the ability to walk and the control of her right arm, so she relied on me for most daily tasks. In January, she had a stroke, which changed the remainder of her life. She was unable to get out of bed, so I fed her, changed her, and bathed her. Other than on the weekend when my dad was home, I had sole responsibility for her needs.
What advice would I give to people who are taking on the role of caregiver?
If you are caring for a loved one with a terminal illness, I encourage you to call in Hospice. It is a wonderful organization and I found that they not only cared for my mother, but also for our entire family.
Another important aspect of care-giving is to take a few days, when possible. Taking care of a loved one is a huge responsibility and you need a break from the demands. For seven months, I cared for my mom without much of a break. I don't advise you to do that. It is not only very difficult physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
Rely on God for strength. I relied on God to get through each day and I learned to take life one day at a time. As a caregiver, you never know what each new day will bring. There were days when I sat by mom's bed reading the Bible and praying because it gave us both some measure of comfort. When she could no longer communicate, I relied on God to translate what she was trying to tell me. All I could do was ask for understanding to know how to make her as comfortable as possible. Without God, I could have never made it through.
Pray. At times, I couldn't pray more than "Oh God, help us!" God can be your refuge and strength too; all you have to do is ask.
- Concentrate on the eternal. When mom passed away, I had peace because I knew she was in God's hands. I knew this because my mother had accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation.
God wants to infuse even your most difficult circumstances with His promise of peace. Learn More!
Helpful resources for caregivers:
Elder Care support system - www.eldercarelink.com
The Administration on Aging, Dept. of Health and Human Service - www.aol.gov
National Council on Aging - www.ncoa.org
National Center for Elder Abuse - www.elderabusecenter.org
Hospice Foundation of America - www.hospicefoundation.org
Aging America Resources Care Ministry - www.careministry.com
Focus on the Family, Troubled With - www.troubledwith.com
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