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Suddenly becoming a caregiver can be overwhelming, especially if you're trying to raise a family and juggle your workplace responsibilities at the same time. You might be driving to check on mom and dad one minute, then trying to make sure your family has something to eat for dinner the next. Here you will find valuable caregiver resources and information to help your parents as well as yourself.

10 Commandments for Caring for Aging Parents

1. Honor thy mother and thy father
2. Accept them as they are… not who they used to be or who you want them to be.
3. Don't nag, correct, or argue. Re-direct the discussion and ignore the way history is being re-written. In the big picture, it doesn't matter.
4. Dispense with denial… try to be realistic and accept the changes that are taking place. Are they safe? What is the quality of life?
5. Allow them to be as independent as possible. Do not be an overprotective child.
6. Let go of the past… old battles need to be put aside for wounds to heal. You can forgive, it is healthier.
7. Remember this is their life, not yours… see things through their eyes.
8. Respect their wishes.
9. Set limits. For yourself and with your parents. Avoid martyrdom.
10. Enjoy the time you have together… the time is finite, make it count.

- By Marsha R. Foley, RN, MBA
Courtesy of Alexian Brothers Health System

Dealing with Health Issues

If your parent's health declines or if they suffer a sudden setback, you may have to help make medical decisions. Talk to your parent about naming you as their "healthcare power of attorney." Make sure you clearly understand their wishes so that you will be prepared to make the decisions they would prefer if they become confused or even lose consciousness. Get to know their doctors by getting your parent's permission to attend some appointments with them.

Keep the following information handy in the event of emergencies. You might even want to keep it at the office or in the car.

  • Names, phone numbers and addresses of your parent's doctors, dentist and pharmacy.
  • Copies of health insurance policies and the front and back of all insurance cards, including the Medicare card.
  • A list of all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, dosage amounts and instructions for taking them (time of day, with food or between meals, etc.).
  • Date and results of recent medical tests, such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs.
  • A complete health history on your parents, including major illnesses, on-going conditions, and family history of illness. You could ask your parent to secure a copy for you, or as your parent's healthcare power of attorney, you could request one yourself.
  • Copies of any advance directives your parent may have filled out, such as a living will or a Do Not Resuscitate order.

Keeping Track of Your Parent's Finances

As they age, some older adults may get overwhelmed by financial decisions. They may be able to function normally in many phases of their lives, but simply balancing a checkbook could become difficult or confusing. It is important to know where they bank, with whom they have invested money and if they have made any long-term financial arrangements for future care.

Do they have a power of attorney or someone who has been appointed to take care of business in case of temporary or permanent disability? You may also wish to accompany your parent on a visit to a financial planner to determine if your parent is using retirement funds in the wisest manner.

Talk to them about the importance of having the following documents in place to ensure that everyone knows their wishes:

  • Will
  • Durable power of attorney (for finances). A durable power of attorney ensures that someone will continue to be able to manage your parent's finances after they pass away.

Tips for Caring for the Caregiver

Caregivers often worry so much about everyone else they have to take care of, they neglect to take care of themselves. Time is precious as a caregiver so here are a few ways to rest, regroup and reenergize yourself throughout the day:

  • Call a friend to listen to you when you need to blow off steam.
  • Read a chapter of a book.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Do deep breathing exercises.
  • Maintain your objectivity, there is only so much you can do.
  • Keep to your routine as much as possible.
  • Make time to do something you enjoy to relax.
  • Get some fresh air and take a walk.
  • Enlist friends/family to help, it will help make the situation less stressful for everyone.
  • Connect with other caregivers to find out how they cope with their caregiving duties — a great resource is http://www.caregiveraction.org

Caregiver Bill of Rights

I have the right… to take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capability of taking better care of my relative.

I have the right… to seek help from others even though my relatives may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.

I have the right… to maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for, just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can for this person and I have the right to do some things just for myself.

I have the right… to get angry, be depressed, and express other difficult feelings occasionally.

I have the right… to reject any attempts to my relative (either conscious or unconscious) to manipulate me through guilt and/or depression.

I have the right… to receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance from my loved one for what I do, for as long as I offer these qualities in return.

I have the right… to take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has sometimes taken to meet the needs of my relative.

I have the right… to protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me in the time when my relative no longer needs my help.

I have the right… to accept and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired persons in our country, similar strides will be made towards aiding and supporting caregivers.

Courtesy of Alexian Brothers Health System