As you know, most family members don't expect to become caregivers. When a situation such as a family member suffering a paralyzing stroke, receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson's, or as it was in my own case, my mom's diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, a family member, usually the spouse or an adult child is suddenly thrust into a totally new role as care provider. Most of us almost immediately go into "fire drill mode" and require lots of information to answer our many questions. Remember, we didn't ask for (or volunteer for) this job as caregiver, and it can be quite overwhelming at times.
While my own background at the time included a great deal of education and training on numerous issues impacting both boomers and seniors regarding their health, wealth and lifestyles, like you, I wasn't even close to being fully prepared to deal with the dozens of problems facing my mom and our family as her disease began to affect her life. Nor was I ready for the impact that Mom's illness would have upon my time, my energy and my life.
As a result of this initially overwhelming experience, which now includes more than five years of overseeing my mother's safety, trying to assure her a decent quality of life, and being responsible for handling every detail of her day-to-day living, I am committed to helping others get through the first months of becoming a caregiver for a family member.
The first step I took to accomplish this was to share my own experiences. While my care giving experience is with an Alzheimer's mom, most of the problems I had to deal with are the same problems facing caregivers of loved ones with any debilitating illness or disease.
In writing this article, it is my desire to identify and discuss many of issues that you will face as a family caregiver as you are pushed into the role of parenting your parent or significant other. Future articles will address topics ranging from how to insert yourself into your parent's life, to how to deal with parental resistance and denial of very real problems, like living alone, driving or personal safety. Other issues I'll write about will include recognizing when there is a physical problem and understanding the difference between normal aging and illness-related signs and symptoms.
I'll share my mother's personal experiences with exploitation due to her disease and suggest ways to protect your loved one from these predators. I'll also make you aware of the professionals and community services that are available to you as a care provider. And equally as important, I'll explain what you can and cannot expect from government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, hospice, local adult day care programs, long-term care insurance and other common programs and services.
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