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March 2010

Should You Employ a Private Caregiver? What Are The Pitfalls?

Many people have studied in-home care, knowing that their parent's needs are quickly approaching the point where help may be needed. They've read about it. They've asked the right questions. However, one especially troubling thing they keep hearing is that the agencies don't send the same people all of the time, so that means the elder needs to continually get used to different strangers coming into their homes to help them. This is a valid complaint, and one I suggest people discuss with care agencies they may be considering.

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The National Family Caregiver Support Program Offers Help for Stressed Caregivers

Every so often I write in my newspaper column about The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) and the support it offers. I specifically mention respite care for caregivers and then I give a phone number for the agency that administers this program for my area. I'm told by the agency that their phone rings non-stop, with many callers sobbing into the phone, "I didn't know this existed!"

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Mix Emotions Can Run Rampant after Loved One’s Death

After ten years in severe dementia brought on by a reaction to surgery, my dad died in my arms. Was it painful to lose him? Of course. Yet, his passing was one of the most intensely beautiful moments of my life. Dad's dementia was a shock to the family. He came out of a fairly routine brain surgery in a severely demented state. His ability to differentiate between reality and what was going on in his own head varied, but it seldom was good.

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Fleeting Moments of Clarity Baffling but Welcome

Dear Carol: My dad has mixed dementia, both vascular and Alzheimer’s. He’s in a fog most of the time. However, once in awhile, he’ll look me straight in the eye and talk directly to me, just like he used to. Is this common? Larry

Dear Larry: I haven’t found statistics on this, but I saw it with my own dad who developed dementia after surgery. He lived ten years with this dementia, and most of the time we were trying to cope with his needs as his dementia dictated them. However, now and then, he’d suddenly turn back into “Dad.”

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What Happened to My Life? How caregiving sneaks up on adult children

My mother had her second hip replacement surgery when my dad was already in a nursing home, the same home as my uncle. Until that time, I was taking my mother, daily, to see my dad who'd had brain surgery that had backfired, as well as my uncle who'd had a series of strokes. We were fortunate that an excellent nursing home was just blocks away from my home and near my mother's apartment and my mother-in-law's condo. At the time, I was helping my mother each day with her shower and other morning routines, getting my sons to school, going back to my mother's and taking her to the nursing home to visit, running over to my mother-in-law's apartment to make her lunch and visit with her, going back to the nursing home to visit my dad and uncle and take my mother back home, then going to get the kids at school.

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Hospice Care As Seen by a Grateful Daughter

My dad's body language told those of us who knew him well that he was in pain. As he reclined in his bed, he'd raise himself on an elbow and pound his fist into his opposing hand, grimacing as he did so. Over and over he'd slam fist into palm. He was trying to beat away the pain. Still, we saw the pain even though he couldn't articulate it. I talked with the nurses and they all agreed with me that hospice was the next move. He was dying in a manner that was unacceptable.

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Person-Centered Care: Dealing with Culture Clash in Nursing Homes

If you think about what Grandpa George's life was like as he grew up during the Great Depression, you may be able to understand him a little better. The dust bowl of the 1930s still clogs his brain--memories of being crammed into a bed with his siblings to stay warm and the fright of seeing people begging on the street continue to linger. Today, Grandpa George now belongs to one of those groups scientists term the "very old." Although he's pretty sharp for his age, he still needs nursing home care for his fading body. What he enjoys most is chatting with others his age about the old times, good and bad.

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What If You Don’t Agree With the Doctor’s Diagnosis or Treatment?

I grew up in a generation when doctors were considered one step away from God. My parents weren't as blind to the humanity of doctors as some folks, but still, if the doctor said it, for the most part you did it. Mom was ahead of her time with supplements and whole grains. About the only thing available for supplements was a little hard bullet you took once a day. Yet, I'm sure it was better than nothing, and we'd find a tablet next to our orange juice glass each morning.

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Caregivers Need Support: Get Help along the Way

Every caregiver's journey is different, but we share many situations that help us understand one another. Some of us watch while our elders slowly lose ground and need more assistance as often happens when people have dementia. Some of us find ourselves caregivers overnight, as can happen if a loved one has had a debilitating stroke. Because my personal elder care journey spanned two decades and involved seven people, I've been through both types of experiences.

Many, if not most, caregivers struggle with isolation. If there was a dramatic event that threw you into caregiving, you may have had a lot of support right away, but then people must get back to their own lives and often the caregiver feels abandoned.

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Help Mom Understand That Getting Help with Dad’s Care Is Okay

Dear Carol: My mother is the primary caregiver to my dad who had a stroke. I help as much as I can, but I work full time and have children. Mom is not young and has her own problems, but she is stubborn about hiring some help with Dad. They can afford it. How do I convince her she needs help? Sara
Dear Sara: This isn’t uncommon with older couples. They vowed to care for one another until “death do us part.” That’s commendable, but the vows don’t mean that a well but aging spouse can’t get help caring for a sick spouse. Indeed, it’s often better for both of them. In-home health care agencies can be a real boon with this care. You mom will likely resist, but if you keep telling her she is still the primary caregiver and that the in-home person will do what she wants, that may help.

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