Taking Care of Elderly Relatives

by AustinMom

This topic was triggered by a question asked by a regular recently about what support do you really need to provide the “more healthy” elderly who have their mental capacity and sufficient financial resources. It reminded me that I had that similar question several years ago.

As regulars know, my dad passed away in May 2015 and my mom followed him in April 2016. My mom was 9 years older than my dad, but she was always the healthier one, per their doctors (shared same primary care, cardiologist, and ophthalmologist). My parents were open about discussing both their finances and health care information in the last 5 years before they passed. However, knowing information and stepping in to help or completely manage these things is a big step.

Since my mom passed, I have three acquaintances who have started down this similar path with one or both elderly parents. In each case, the point at which the family member(s) needed to consider downsizing was foreseeable, but then the switch to needing significant participation in caregiving was abrupt and not anticipated.

The “problem” I observed, in my own situation and in theirs, is that when that change takes place you aren’t as prepared as you’d like to be and you are too enmeshed that you don’t have the time to start doing the research. While there is tons of information out there, it all seems to be scattered like parts of a jigsaw puzzle dumped on the floor. No one seems to have that “complete checklist of elder care considerations”, either from the what to do in advance, what to do when you find yourself unexpectedly care-giving, or how to handle the estate upon passing.

From some of the comments on other posts, a number of Totebaggers have recently been, are in the midst of, or can see this coming in their families. If you were asked to contribute to that “complete checklist”, what would you put on it?

What a drag it is gettin’ old

by Mémé

Many of us have older relatives who need nearby if not active supervision – not because they are demented or frail, but because the details of daily life have become too much to manage. Some of it is adjusting to modern electronics and communications. Some of is a result of spread out car dependent communities and a declining ability to drive oneself. But some of it seems to be avoidable.

One example, as described by this New Old Age column in the NYT, is medication management.

A Prescription for Confusion: When to Take All Those Pills

Lest you think this is an exaggeration, I present DH’s pill regimen. I am live-in, obviously, and manage it because even though he can still win regional bridge events, he can’t keep track of all of this, for example, the meds that have been eliminated but the pharmacy stills sends refill reminders, the varying dosages by day of the week. Or the generic supplier is changed and the refill is a different size and/or color. Or there are five white round pills that resemble each other. He has one of those 7 x 4 pillboxes I fill every Sun morning. The first pill was recently adjusted over the phone (did I mention he is hard of hearing and doesn’t wear his hearing aids around the house?) throw out old pills (trip to police station required for safe disposal). Get new pills different dosage (trip to pharmacy required.) I had to pry the phone from his hand to speak directly to the nurse.

Upon waking –
Thyroid – 1 pill 4 days a week, 1 ½ three days.

Breakfast – must wait a full hour after wake up pill
Gout
Diabetes
Diuretics (F & S)
BP L
Heart C (1 ½ pills)
Heart D (1 pill 4 days, ½ 3 days)
Vitamin D
Multivitamin
Mood B

Dinner –
Diabetes
Mood B
Blood thinner – twice a month blood draws at the doctor’s office – dose then adjusted over the phone – sometimes just for a day or two

Bedtime –
Mood E
Sleep aid
Heart C (1 ½)
BP L ( ½ )

Totebaggers, what would you suggest to make life less confusing for elders (or children) and their caretakers? I also know that an orderly family life, even without elders in the mix, is made more difficult by seemingly artificial constraints relating to kids and school and work, but somehow we expect that children need help navigating and employers will be arbitrary.

The Sandwich Generation

by AustinMom

I am a typical member of the sandwich generation that the article below describes – caring for an elderly parent and raising minor children. As regular Totebaggers know, I lost my father about eight months ago and, as an only child, have been taking on more and more caregiving responsibilities for my elderly mother, whose health is also declining. Thankfully, my parents worked very hard to ensure they have sufficient resources at this stage in their lives and I am not providing financial support. I provide almost all the emotional support to my mother as well as handle most of the major decision making and a fair number of day-to-day tasks such as bill paying and grocery shopping. And, I attend all doctor appointments and try to be present a significant amount of time during any hospitalization and visit almost daily when she is in any type of rehabilitation situation.

This article talks more about the statistics and less about the physical and emotional challenges of the sandwich generation. While some articles look at these issues, I find they fall into (1) how to prepare financially so that when you are the elderly parent you have sufficient income/wealth, (2) resources for you to wade through to find a community/facility/services appropriate for the elderly person, or (3) caution caregivers to be aware of their own symptoms, usually focusing on mental health. But, there doesn’t seem to be much about how to balance or appropriately handle all the different directions you are being pulled.

I have been looking for those articles because lately I am just feeling exhausted and very pressed for time. While I am thankful that my mother has been around this long in my life, I also feel that I am missing part of my children’s lives as they will soon be entering college and moving on. And at the very same time, I know my children are looking at my actions for what is reasonable and ethical behavior for handing elder care.

The Sandwich Generation

So Totebaggers – Are you part of the sandwich generation? Do you feel that you are always blazing the new trail or that one is there that is easy to follow? Are you that primary caregiver? If not, how to you feel about the other family member who is providing all this care?

What We Owe Our Elders

by Sky

My husband and I both come from large families with several childless aunts and uncles. Over the past few years, we’ve learned that some of them have put us in charge of their affairs as well as our parents’.

For geographic and professional reasons, we are the obvious choice to be someone’s executor or to hold the power of attorney.

But they are all within a decade of each other, and the prospect of managing the care of 6 or more 80-somethings across a few states is daunting. Better than the alternative, of course, but still daunting.

What have you needed to do for your older relatives? Other than making sure the documents are in order, what recommendations do you have?