My last column was about how I cared about my aging. This one is about “caring for the aging,” or some ideas about how to express concern, and love for our elderly parents or family members. I began my guidance in geriatrics when I attended a conference in graduate school called, “Caring for Aging Parents.” Assuming your parents are alive, they are obviously aging. My parents have passed, and yours may be in great health, but this too shall pass.
One of the Ten Commandments is “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you.” This article will help you be honorable. There is a point in life where we change roles. Our parents used to take care of us, and now we take care of them. Sometimes smooth, often difficult, but the change does happen, just like the change in seasons. If you seek wisdom, you ge
t it, but you become wise when you apply received knowledge. To aide you in your aging education, I encourage you to start learning now. You can read, go on the internet, talk to friends, contact agencies, or get involved in some form of service. You will be blessed with less stress. Notice, I didn’t say “no” stress. No one rides for free on the road of life.
One of the first things I learned back in the early ‘80’s at the aging conference is that parents want to stay at home as long as possible, and maintain their independence. If you want that to happen, you need to get involved now, but not take over. Spending more time with your parents will enable you to get to know them better, their health situation, and their support systems. Do you know your parent’s doctor(s)? What medications are they taking? What are their current health issues? If you don’t, begin a conversation, and if it is not welcomed, it is important to say, “We all get sick sometimes, and the more I know about your health, t
he easier it is to help you stay out of the hospital.” Depending upon their personality or your past relationship, parents will welcome the compassion… or put up some walls. The walls will come down quicker, if you get involved sooner.
We are life-long learners. The question is whether we will learn to prevent problems, or how to cope with them. The Book of James says to “seek wisdom.” There are many folks out there with expertise in the elderly, and they are a phone call away. If you go to the Yellow Pages and look up Home Health Services, you will get a list of agencies that provide for the health of seniors in the home. If you are worried about abuse and the aging, the Department of Social Services has an “Adult Protective Services Program.” Local hospitals and residential programs like Imperial Heights (formally Royal Convalescent), have social workers on staff who counsel families and find them needed services. The county has a program, the Area Agency on Aging, that serves as an advocate for older folks and has information about senior centers, meals on wheels, and resources for health maintenance. Depending upon the unique health issues (Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, etc.) your family member is experiencing, help is available through agency assistance. Remember, your hand is not broken, so go ahead and dial a number. If you are cyber-sophisticated, just Google your concern, followed by Imperial County or Brawley. Help is available. Are you available to be helped?
One of the first things we did was get an agency to come to Mom’s house, and tell us about unsafe issues in the home. Many hips can be protected by removing throw rugs, cords, or other things that trip up the unstable. Little changes, with the aging person’s involvement and support, can smooth the transition required for major changes. When you think of caring, it affects several domains: health, financial, legal, personal, and of course the family. They will all require a dialogue, but you don’t know what to discuss until you do your duty and get more information about the family member.
So here’s your homework to make the home safer for elders, you, and others. Write down three questions or concerns you have about Mom, Dad, Grandma, Auntie, or Neighbor Nick. That is the easy part. The next is to make a call, and keep calling, until you get all three questions answered to your satisfaction. If you get stuck, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Remember to make at least three calls before you email me. I too, am aging, so make your calls first and then I will come to your aid.