Kremmling " Caring for aging parents made easier
August 24, 2008
Dawn Mathews is one of the many 79 million American baby boomers facing a challenging task ” taking care of an aging parent with changing needs.
Fortunately, Mathews is a social worker trained to recognize the signs of aging. She regularly advises others about how to make appropriate plans that enhance the quality of life of aging loved ones at different stages of life. She is now applying her experience to her own situation with her father.
Realities ranging from medication management, financing, diet, dementia, falls and accidents top the concerns.
“My sisters and I are recognizing that my father (age 81) has not been taking his medications in the right amounts or at the right times.” This is a possible indicator of the early stages of dementia, which can affect all aspects of living independently.
“We are also noticing that he isn’t cooking healthy foods for himself.”
Other reasons prompting the planning for her father’s next stage of life include his risk of falls. “Even if he falls and breaks his hip or an arm the hospital will improve him through rehabilitation,” she said, “but at his age he would likely not return to his full, former abilities.”
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Mathews and her sisters have made arrangements for one of them to move next door to her father for closer proximity and ease of care. Many Americans are having to become the caretakers of their parents while balancing career and immediate family.
According to the American Association of Retired Persons Web site, family members are now responsible for 80 percent of elder care in the United States. When needs progress for more assistance, the next level of care is an assisted living center such as Cliffview in Kremmling.
For the next stage, Kremmling Memorial Hospital offers seven long term care beds with round-the-clock skilled nursing care. “There is a waiting list for those beds,” said Mathews. She says that it is important that the hospital plan for expanded elderly services in the future because of demand. “I work with other facilities such as Doak Walker Care Center in Steamboat,” she said, “but people often have wishes to continue living here in Grand County where they raised their children and often where their family and friends reside.”
Financing the care is also an important consideration. “My sisters and I are grateful that our father had the foresight to plan for his care later in life by purchasing long term care insurance in the 1980s.” Mathews recognizes that many American’s have not made financial plans, often mistakenly assuming that Medicare will pay for assisted living or long term care. “It does not,” Mathews clarified.
Mathews also helps families with the emotional factors. “There is a degree of grief and guilt by those making the decisions of care for their loved ones,” she said. Mathews highly recommends the book, “When Love Gets Tough ” The Nursing Home Decision” by Doug Manning. (In-Sight Books Inc. 2006).
Mathews would also like people to understand the importance of letting others know their personal end of life wishes and designate the people to ensure those wishes are carried out. A personal will and testament is important but other tools can assist with details many don’t think about.
“Most people don’t like to talk about stages of life and the choices associated,” Mathews said. “The more planning and the clearer you make your wishes known, the easier you make it on everyone ” from the doctors and nurses to family members and friends.”
“My dad assumed that because one of my sisters was in charge of financial decisions that she would be allowed to make the medical decisions,” Mathew said. “The medical durable power of attorney was something different than the financial aspects.”
Marie Johnston, KMHD Health Information Management manger, said that the hospital district provides forms that assign the medical durable power of attorney for health care decisions, a living will, and a Five Wishes document, which explains how to make a patient’s wishes known and provides a user-friendly method of putting the details in writing. There is also a Colorado Directive to withhold CPR which people can choose to sign and have available in their medical records.
“My professional experience has prepared me for my personal situation with my own father,” Mathews said. “I want to help others going through similar situations and provide them with information, advice and resources that will make their decisions easier.”
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