Providing daily care for elderly people and taking care of their health issues may be an overwhelming challenge for their adult children. Caring for aging parents sometimes results in a “sandwich” effect: caregivers must care for their parent while also caring for their own children. Conflict can result from trying to balance the duties of providing for the elderly person and the caregiver’s own family needs.
Some people are particularly suited for providing care for others. But most of us immediately feel trapped by additional responsibilities that fall to us without warning. For example, you may be the type of person who likes to do things on the spur of the moment without too much planning. Sometimes you set aside a weekend day to clean your house. Other times, you have weekend plans, so you do housework a few evenings instead. Or you might be fortunate enough to have a housekeeper who does it for you.
As a caregiver, though, life suddenly becomes ponderously routine. Your entire schedule revolves around meals, medications and trips to the bathroom. You can’t just pop over to the store for milk and bread, instead you must wait until someone comes by to relieve you—if, indeed, you have the luxury of such respite.
Going to the mall suddenly becomes an adventure, let alone taking in a movie or having a glass of wine with friends. Of course, if friends come by to see you, they know that you’re caring for your aging parents and will either spend part of the time in conversation with them or they will come by less frequently if visiting elderly people just isn’t their thing.
Conditions and Diseases of the Elderly
While the elderly person in your care may have suffered a stroke or is recovering from recent surgery, you should be on the lookout for other health issues that can come up. The list below shows conditions that tend to occur with aging. Click on the links to learn more about specific conditions or diseases:
-angina or heart attack
-high blood pressure
-urinary tract infections
Signs and symptoms of these conditions can, in some cases, mimic each other. Some conditions come on rapidly and others may have gradual onsets. Pain or discomfort may be the only symptom the elderly person can describe. If any new symptoms appear, check with your physician immediately.
Finding Information on the Health Issues of the Elderly
Do some research: online, in your library, a bookstore, or the physician’s office. A number of informational health care sites are available on the Internet (click on the links provided above for information on some of these issues). Attend classes given by local hospitals or clinics. Discuss these conditions with your health care practitioner.
Poor nutrition is one of the most common health issues associated with aging. To ensure that the person you are caring for is receiving adequate nutrition, discuss his or her dietary needs with a physician or dietician. When possible, have the elderly person take some of the responsibility for balancing nutrients and measuring servings.
On the Home Front
The home can easily be adapted to most elderly needs. Items such as special locks on the doors or back gate to prevent wandering are essential for persons suffering from dementia.
Persons affected by arthritis require door handles that turn easily and special grips on the bathtub for climbing in and out. Toilets and chairs should be high enough to facilitate easy sitting and standing. Remove rugs that slide, blunt sharp edges of furniture and improve poor lighting. Injuries can occur easily in homes that are cluttered and poorly lit.