In 2010 I began exploring new career options. Along came an opportunity to help older adults who wanted to “age in place”. I have worked part time for nearly 3 years as a Companion to folks who need help with essential tasks like grocery shopping and transportation. As a result, I have seen dozens of individual and family challenges around aging, health and caregiving. The natural direction became clear with the help of coaches and continued willingness to keep exploring: social work. I am one third of the way toward my Masters at UNC – Chapel Hill (Go Heels). One conclusion: Everyone is aging! You, me, our parents and siblings, cousins and grandparents, bosses and colleagues.
Some are struggling with the ongoing changes that inevitably occur in aging. Maybe you’ve heard of “healthy aging” – or, a person’s acceptance of what is, more accurately. Those who adapt to new challenges with a good attitude maintain a pleasant quality of life pretty easily. Not a lot of drama or denial about what is happening. Then, there are people who have a different type of temperament, or who are dealing with chronic illness, and cannot adjust to changes easily. This presents an entirely different challenge for the family.
Because many family members are in mid-life, active and thriving in the workforce and may live away from the aging parent, what often happens is that a family member finds out that mom or dad or sister or grandparent has a health event and upon assessment in the ER or admission to the hospital is also diagnosed with – let’s say: dehydration, hearing and some memory loss. Often, this initiates a crisis for the family, because they had no proof there was a situation to be concerned about. (This is usually due to the aging person telling everyone by email or phone they are “fine”).
Welcome to the world of Caregiving. Many of you are there now. My hat is off to you. I’ve been there. A few times. Long distance.
Do you know Rule #1?
Take care of yourself. Yes, you. Re-balancing life and work is often needed, along with adjusting for surprisingly high amounts of communication with siblings, doctors, and home health professionals. It is a gross understatement to call this simily overwhelming and stressful.
There are Resources:
The #1 book I recommend for anyone new to the role of Caregiver: “Caring for a Distant Parent: Tips from Daughters and Sons Who’ve Cared” – Vol. 1: Helping Your Parent, by LaVerne Z. Coan. This book is user-friendly, direct and organized. Personal stories are shared on tough issues and the book is well-organized for ease of use. See www.parentcare101.com for more information or to order. When I meet LaVerne last year she was thinking about writing Volume 2.
Additionally, in June, there is an amazing Conference in the NC Triangle area: The Triangle Caregivers Conference on June 18 (Raleigh) and June 25 (Durham). Many exhibitors share resources and a luncheon is held which finds caregivers who are often socially isolated or housebound getting time to relax and meet others in similar circumstances. I have gotten many useful resources at the conference for the last 2 years and will be at the one in Raleigh on June 18 this year. Take a look at the agenda at the link above. Registration is online.
If you need resources, or have some to share, please contact me directly or add your comment to this blog. Support is essential to getting the good resources for yourself AND for the ailing person.
When is the last time you were at the beach and saw no one?