It was the extended family that took care of the children as well as mom and dad as they aged during much of the last century. Today life is both different and complicated. The family has changed in numerous ways to challenge the old models of caregiving. Everyone lives anywhere but “here,” the rates of divorce approach 50%; intimacy lasts well into older loved ones lives and non-traditional families have earned their rights. Consider:
- Who takes care of mom or dad when they are divorced. Appreciate that when one of your parents cannot be there for the other once they are divorced. That may mean that your role as a son or daughter caregiver may come into play earlier than otherwise would be the case. Be alert to home safety issues as well as how well mom or dad ambulate, how fresh the food in the fridge is and either attend doctors’ visits with them or engage the services of a care manager to help with any of these.
- Will residential care options be welcoming for gay families. New options to accommodate all lifestyles are becoming available every day, but be aware of old biases that can persist. If the care you need does not accommodate the individuals you are or your gay parents are, then take your business elsewhere. Consider the places that have been welcoming for your younger needs will have connections to similarly welcoming places for aging needs. Many cities have devoted directories of such vetted services. In Chicago, it’s the Pink Pages for the LGBT community.
- How do we address intimacy among older adults as they age? Remember the “awkward conversation” you may have had with mom or dad as you were coming of age? Well, now it’s your turn to be the intimacy advocate for your older loved one. You may have to ask the tough questions of their caregivers or the facilities to which they move once they leave their homes. Today’s 80 may be yesterday’s 60 in more ways than you had considered, so be prepared.
- Distance caregiving is the stress of anyone with older parents and a family, or job, or a life of their own. Based on our experience, distance caregivers need to focus on the things that can be done at distance. Arrange for what can be delivered by a third party, like meals; help by becoming a signer on mom or dad’s account to help pay bills and balance the check book; or find a local care manager who can be your eyes and ears when you can’t be around. And keep in touch with neighbors and friends.
I will be coming back to these themes in future postings, but I also strongly encourage you to attend a caregivers’ forum addressing these issues this Thursday, November 19 at St. Matthew’s in Evanston, Illinois. It will be an ecumenical program in the main Parlor at 7 p.m. CST. Enlarge the map on this page or go to: http://stmatthewsevanston.org/. Two of CCM’s staff will be co-hosting the event. Bring your questions…and contact us if you need help with respite care because you are caring for an older loved one and need that help to get to the event!
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Professional and a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.