Managing another’s health is a challenge

Published 12:42 pm Wednesday, June 27, 2007

By Staff
While I was finding copy for our monthly Health and Fitness special section, I came across an article about caring for elderly relatives.
Many of us will be challenged with adding the additional burden of caring for others onto our already busy schedules.
People keep telling me, "take care of yourself."
That is much easier said than done.
When you are making appointments for another, transporting someone else to doctors, or picking up prescriptions, it is easy to forget your own needs.
I was extremely lucky that my mother kept her faculties to 89 and was able to stay in her own home. Just at the last, she was beginning to be forgetful and made us begin to look for help for her.
Her dementia was very minor and not like the Alzheimer's so many others parents have.
It isn't always our parents. Sometimes we are caring for a spouse or loved one, or even a neighbor who has no one else. There is a constant concern for the other person. Are they eating right, or enough? Do they stay hydrated in this hot weather? Did they take their pills – the right ones – at the right time?
What about if they fall, or otherwise hurt themselves?
Then there is the paperwork that the elderly or ill person can't handle, medical insurance forms and even monthly bills.
According to the article I read, the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP estimate "there are between five and seven million Americans currently caring for loved ones who live more than one hour away."
I remember how hard it was for me when my mom was three hours away. If she needed her lawn mowed and the young man she hired didn't show or if she didn't feel up to putting out her garbage, she called me.
A network of names and numbers of those who can help in that situation is essential. Being organized is important.
A list of names of contacts by her phone always reassured my mother.
The best is when there is more than one person to share the duties of aid.
No one should feel guilty if they don't do all the work. If there is no one else, hired help will ease the burden.
You can't be much help to the ill person if you are cranky and exhausted yourself.
I know for myself, when Roger was in the hospital a week ago and I found I was susceptible to getting sick. After working all day, visiting him and then going home to finish chores, I was exhausted.
I left some things undone and made sure I got extra rest and vitamin C. You aren't any good to the other person if you just make them sicker.
I was lucky though, as he is the ideal patient – never complaining and saying thanks for any little thing you do.
Caregivers are worth their weight in gold, though they will never see monetary rewards.
As all of us baby boomers age and need care, I worry that there will be enough of these saints out there to care for us all.