As the last of the boomers begin to hit the half-century mark in January, we offer 10 tips for turning 50
10 caregiving tips for anyone turning 50 (and those who are already there):
1. It takes a village. Go find one.
Ninety percent of seniors, perhaps including your own parents, want to remain in their homes as long as possible. Connecting with the Village Movement is one way to fulfill that goal.
The principle is simple: Instead of leaving their homes for senior housing or assisted living, older residents in a community form a nonprofit membership organization to provide access to essential services like home-safety modifications, transportation, meal delivery, dog walking, technology training and support, health and wellness programs, social activities and the services of visiting nurses and care managers.
A village can range from a few blocks in an urban or suburban neighborhood to a rural area with a 20-mile radius. Today, there are at least 100 villages in 36 states, with dozens more in development. Most participate in the Village-to-Village (VTV) network.
2. Don’t become a dictator.
Taking charge of a parent’s affairs can be awkward and demoralizing, especially in stressful times such as the transition to an assisted-living facility or nursing home. We want to help simplify things — say, by tossing out old possessions that there’s simply no more room to store — but that urge can lead to insensitivity and even bullying.
When people go through a major transition, like moving into a long-term care center, “it’s not the setting, but the losses” that can cause the most stress, Barbara Resnick, a geriatric nurse practitioner and professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, told Next Avenue. “It’s not, ‘This building is awful,’ as much as, ‘I’m losing my home, my independence, my car, my life as it was.’” Be wary of getting so caught up in being a manager that you don’t notice.
3. Find the right help to avoid sacrificing your career.
That’s the advice from Amy Goyer, author of the free new e-book from AARP, Juggling Work and Caregiving, who speaks from experience. She’s one of the 42 million Americans who balance full- or part-time work with caregiving. “Too many people don’t know that help is out there because they don’t identify themselves as caregivers and so they don’t think to go looking for resources,” she says.
The first place to look for support, says Goyer, is your Human Resources department. You may be able to work out flexible hours, allowing yourself the necessary time to assist your parents.
4. Put together a caregiving network.
If your parents live alone and you live too far away to check in every day, you need a network of support (formal and informal) to be your eyes and ears. So the next time you’re on the scene, commit some time to follow their routines and see who they interact with daily or weekly. If they have a regular bank teller or supermarket delivery person, consider giving those workers your phone number.
Your efforts don’t need to be secret from your parents. “Explain that it’s for safety,” says Gail Hunt, president and chief executive of the National Alliance for Caregiving.
If the people in your caregiving network notice mail and newspapers piling up or if no one answers your parents’ door, they can call you or call for help.
5. Do your homework before hiring an in-home caregiver for your parents.
Dr. William King, a primary care physician in Los Angeles who has helped families select caregivers, says any applicant you consider should have certification in CPR and first aid.
It’s also a good idea for you to watch the prospective worker perform all medical tasks he or she will be expected to conduct, says Next Avenue writer Kristine Kevorkian, Ph.D.