As the average American lives longer than ever before, adult children are making the difficult transition into the role of primary caregiver for their aging parents. It is a complex, complicated change fraught with all types of challenges—and considering 68% of caregivers are also working at least part-time, it can be an isolating and lonely job.
Kevin Dooley, M.D., medical director of Saratoga Hospital’s Inpatient Transition Program, hosted a community seminar to address some of the social, financial, and personal challenges of being a caregiver, as well as the resources available to ease those burdens.
He underscored the importance of recognizing some of the instrumental activities of daily living:
- Managing finances
- Managing medication
The aging population is particularly vulnerable to fraudulent moneymaking schemes, so it is helpful to create an open dialogue with your aging parents about finances to understand exactly what bills must be paid each month. If you are familiar with the details, it is likely you will be more apt to notice unfamiliar and/or unexpected payouts.
While physicians can make recommendations to patients and caregivers, they cannot take away a driver’s license. This conversation about safety and driving is often one of the most difficult to have with your aging parents, but emphasizing the ease of access to rideshare programs and medical transports may assuage any concerns about the loss of independence. Socialization is incredibly important for seniors, so make it clear that their routines are important to you, too, and you will work together to maintain their schedules in a safe and economical way.
The management of medication is a tricky subject for families, especially since seniors aged 80-84 average 18 prescriptions per year, plus vitamins and supplements. It is important to keep a current list of all prescriptions and medications and update it regularly. Have a conversation with your aging parents’ physicians to determine which medications are necessary, and if it is possible to eliminate any of them. Work with the pharmacy to see if they can provide prepackaged medications or blister packs so you are not responsible for sorting them each week.
Some of the other activities of daily living—bathing, dressing/grooming, toileting, transferring—may be uncomfortable for you to tackle on your own. The Care Management team at Saratoga Hospital maintains a robust directory with information on adult day care programs, independent or assisted living facilities, licensed home health agencies, and other community resources that may be valuable to you and your loved ones.
Additionally, Saratoga Hospital’s Regional Therapy Center offers offers the Aging Safely in Place (ASIP) program. This unique assessment and recommendations program to assist older adults live safely in their homes. The Regional Therapy Center also offers a Driving-Related Skills Evaluation Program for aging drivers with potential concerns for safe driving or drivers with physical, sensory and cognitive deficits which may adversely impact safe driving. For more information, please call the Regional Therapy Center at 518-583-8383. Physician referral is required for both programs.