It was a few days before Christmas when our family got the news that Mom would be in the hospital for the holidays. Family caregiving can be tough enough, but somehow it is a bit tougher when your loved one is in the hospital. My siblings and I sprang into action to develop a list of people who could visit Mom in the hospital on Christmas. We thought of presents like a new robe and slippers, a hair appointment when she came home to us, some music to lift her spirits. When we visited the hospital on Christmas Eve, Mom handed us her Christmas wish list. “Please get me everything on the list,” she said. On the list — a fruit basket, chocolates, restaurant gift certificates, lottery tickets and more. “It’s for the nurses and staff. I need to thank them tomorrow.” And, with that simple statement, Mom reminded us of the spirit of the season — it’s in giving that we receive.
When caring for Mom and Pop, my siblings and I struggled to find someone who could provide home care for our parents when we couldn’t. We wanted a person who was kind and caring, but we also wanted someone who was licensed, bonded and insured, with no criminal record of fraud or abuse. This was the most difficult part of our caregiving journey, and I know millions of family caregivers are now facing the same challenge.
Recently, I appeared on the Today show with Kathie Lee and Hoda to share some of my best tips for caregivers. The segments go by in a flash, so I thought I’d share a bit more about each of the tips I discussed on the show (see the video below).
Forty million Americans care for their older parents, spouses and other loved ones to help them live independently, at home, each and every day — I am one of them. We family caregivers help with bathing and dressing, transportation, providing meals, and much more. We even handle complex medical tasks like wound care or giving injections. Today, we are an essential part of the U.S. health care system.
The medium is the message, Marshall McLuhan famously noted. And in a touch screen world, our relationships with our adult children improve with the more communications media we use. While millennials enjoy chatting on the phone or Skype, they also want parents to “lurk” on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media so we can follow (not intrusively, though) their lives.
Spouses who are caregivers are significantly more likely than other family caregivers (adult children, for example) to perform many of the tasks that health care professionals do - including medication management, wound care, using meters and monitors, and more.
You get up, get dressed, cook breakfast, make bag lunches for the kids, drop the kids off at school, rush to work, prepare for a big meeting, call to check in on your mom during lunch, go to your meeting, schedule your mom's next doctor's appointment, race to the pharmacy after work, drop off mom's meds on your way home, cook dinner, help the kids with their homework, check in on mom again, and - finally - go to bed.
Some 30 states have "filial support" or "filial responsibility" laws, which create a statutory duty for adult children to provide financially for their parents if the parents cannot otherwise pay. They're based on the centuries-old moral principle of filial piety, which holds that adult children have a duty to respect, obey and personally care for elderly parents and relatives.
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