This is an outstanding article which really does paint an accurate picture of what we often see happening with families this time of the year. For more information or assistance, please visit us at eldercareathome.org.
By WARREN WOLFE
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Across the nation this holiday season, thousands of families will slam into the reality that life has changed for aging parents – dad is far more frail than relatives thought, mom forgot to prepare the holiday feast, the house is filthy, the refrigerator is bare, or a stack of bills has gone unpaid.
This is known territory for many of the 46 million Americans who help frail, aging relatives and friends. But for some, it comes as a shock, and they often have little notion of what help is available, or even what is needed.
Services for caregivers know that their phones will light up as worried adult children begin sorting out disturbing discoveries and seeking advice and help.
“Sometimes they just want basic information, but sometimes people are very worried about a parent’s driving, or falls, or ability to keep living on their own,” said Annette Peterson, help-line coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota chapter in Bloomington, Minn.
It’s common for families to disagree about what they’re seeing, Peterson said. Those arguments sometimes are sharpened on old family disputes, and neutral care advisers can help mediate disagreements and figure out what is needed. Good advice is don’t panic. If you try to address your dad’s driving and he slams the door in your face, that’s not a failure, that’s the start of a conversation.
Getting help is critical for most caregivers “because we always think we ought to be able to handle this stuff on our own, and we can’t,” said Beth Gale, who works full time and has a husband and three sons at home.
In 2007, she flew to Arizona for Christmas with her mother and found her filthy, confused and with infected scratches from her dog. She took her mom to the hospital, then to a nursing home, then to live with her family. That lasted only a couple of days before her mother fell, broke her pelvis and ended up in a nursing home with a troubled history.
“If I’d known how to get some help, I could have avoided some big mistakes,”Gale said. Her mom – who had Alzheimer’s disease, heart problems and other illnesses – is living in a small and much better assisted-living facility “and she’s happier than I’ve seen her for years.”
“My advice is, get help right away,”Gale said. “When you’re up to your neck in a crisis, you don’t know what to do, you don’t know what’s most important and you don’t know the system or the jargon. Find somebody who does.”
For just such assistance, or additional information, you can visit us at eldercareathome.org.