Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Challenge of Caring for Elderly Family Members


by Mark Toney

There is just no getting around it. We’re getting older, and medical science is coming up with an ever increasing number of ways to keep us alive. Choosing the right health insurance is important. But how families care for their elderly members is also important.

Since many elderly ones are not inclined to seek help, family members need to analyze any given situation and tactfully and discreetly make sure that necessary things get done. There may be a need to arrange transportation for medical appointments, the grocery store, etc. Making yourself available to run errands would be helpful and appreciated. Various family members could take turns visiting their elderly relatives. Young family members may not know what to do or say, but parents could teach them this. Getting the children involved would help them to learn that care for the elderly is a part of life.

Keep in mind that most elderly would appreciate knowing ahead of time that you’re coming. If you bring refreshments, and even clean up afterward, this will make it easier and more enjoyable for the elderly one.

Eventually it may become necessary for the elderly relative to move in with you and your family. Caring for sick and elderly ones is a heavy responsibility. For those closest to the patient, it is physically and emotionally demanding. What can help caregivers to meet this challenge?

Knowing that caring for their elderly relative is the right thing to do can sustain them. At times other relatives or friends may be able to take over temporarily so that the regular caregiver(s) can be rejuvenated. In our family, my sister and her husband take care of our 74-year-old mother in their home. Every three months they go on vacation for a week or so while my wife and I become the caregivers. My wife’s 85-year-old mother lives with us in our home. My son and his wife pitch in to help from time to time. Other families may have different arrangements. The goal should be to establish a routine that works for the benefit of all.

John F. Kennedy in a message to Congress stated: “On the basis of his study of the world’s great civilizations, the historian Toynbee concluded that “A society’s quality and durability can best be measured `by the respect and care given its elderly citizens.’” After all of your hard effort to provide for your aged family members, eventually you may have to decide to place them in a nursing home or similar facility. I can only imagine that decision would be heartrending. If circumstances cause it to come down to that, then perform your due diligence in choosing the right facility for them. Afterwards, don’t forget to call and visit them regularly and frequently. Afford them the dignity of their age, and let them know you love them. You will never regret it.


Copyright © 2009 by Mark R. Toney. All Rights Reserved.

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