I recently read a disturbing news report about a 69-year-old man in Florida who apparently killed his 89-year-old mother and then committed suicide. Police reported that he left a note stating that his mother, who lived with him, had advanced Alzheimer’s disease and that he was having extreme difficulty caring for her. The story absolutely breaks my heart. While I have certainly never felt that low, as a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s, I do have some insight into the feelings of overwhelming hopelessness this man must have endured to be driven to such a horrific action.
It’s that time of year when many families gather for holiday celebrations and check in on loved ones. It can be a tough combo, creating a celebratory mood while also dealing with serious family issues. I get a lot of questions from family caregivers about how to handle difficult conversations that come up around sensitive topics such as driving, personal care, housework and finances. Here are my top tips for setting up a successful conversation.
Now, in the thick of the holiday season, many of us who are family caregivers are facing even more stress than usual, with relatives' visits and extra items on our to-do lists. That makes this a perfect time for us to connect with our fellow caregivers for support and advice. While we can't all gather in-person, of course, Caregiving.com came up with something much easier: a virtual Holiday Progressive Blog Party, and I’m thrilled to participate. Visit the site to find links to a range of caregiving blogs and — if you blog, too — share information about your own.
For more than five years I’ve been hiring paid caregivers to help care for my parents. They have run the gamut from top-notch to terrible. Along the way, I’ve learned some hard but valuable lessons:
I first spoke with my parents about their plans for "the future" when Dad retired from his career as a university professor in 1995. Mom had suffered a stroke six years earlier but was still mobile, and Dad was in good health. They had completed advance directives and estate planning.
Editor's note: We asked Bill Carter, the longtime companion of AARP's caregiving expert and blogger, Amy Goyer, to write about being in a long-distance relationship with a full-time caregiver.
My older sister Linda Goyer Lane is part of the "sandwich generation"-people who care for their aging parents while simultaneously supporting children of their own. When my parents began needing 24-hour care about a year and a half ago, Linda stepped up in a big way to help me care for them. She and her two sons (one in high school, one in college) have all made sacrifices as she began traveling to Arizona for a week or two at a time to join in the care of Mom and Dad. I serve as my parents' primary caregiver. But like so many caregivers who also work, I couldn't take care of my parents and get my work done without help.
Relationships with siblings can be solid and fulfilling, yet when there are issues regarding aging parents, even the sweetest situations can turn strained or worse.
Recently, 81-year-old Goldie Hunt and her husband, Vernon Hunt, 91, were reported missing after they set out on a 500-mile car trip from Garnet, Kansas to visit Goldie's twin sister in Dwight, Ill. The alarming story thankfully came to a happy ending several days later when they were spotted by a law enforcement officer as they asked for directions in Michigan. The Hunts' experience reminds me of a heartbreaking story several years ago 0f a Pennsylvania couple, William Fresch, 85, and his wife Betty, 79, who got lost driving home. Their bodies were found near their car the next morning after a frigid January night. These stories are terrifying for those of us who care for older loved ones.
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