- Assess the situation and build a thorough understanding of your parent’s condition. How does it affect their ability to take care of themselves? How does it affect their behavior? If they have Alzheimer’s or another progressive condition, how will that look in the coming years? How will their needs change? A geriatric assessment, from a geriatrician is a great place to start, and will provide a lot of feedback on bio/psycho/social needs of the individual along with prognosis. Knowing what you and your loved one is facing is key so you can know what to expect and how to address current and future needs.
- Understand where you can turn for help when you need it. What organizations and institutions are there to help? What government programs might be available to help? Places to turn include local Area Agencies on Aging, the Veterans Administration, religious institutions and disease associations like the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Build some knowledge about the legal system when it comes to caregiving. What are advance directives, a living will, power of attorney? Everyone should have these documents, regardless of age and ability. A knowledge of what these are, how to get them in place and who to designate is important. It is also important to make sure that ALL involved family members agree and understand the roles of the designee.
- Find some outside help so you can take an occasional break. Consider hiring a paid caregiver or using an adult day care facility if appropriate. Ask family and friends what they might be able to do. Are there family, friends, neighbors that can also help with little items such as cutting the lawn or helping to cook a meal a few times per week? Approach them with specific tasks that you would like help with, instead of issuing a blanket call for help. Small pieces of assistance from friends, neighbors and other family members can often really add up to make a huge difference in the overall picture.
- Find ways to take care of yourself. Caregivers often try to do too much and find themselves having their own health problems. Be sure to carve out the time you need to take care of yourself and make that time sacred. Caregiving can take both a physical and emotional toll, and you can’t take care of your loved one if your own health begins to deteriorate. Make sure you make time for your own doctor appointments, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and make time for family and friends. Taking care of yourself will make you better able to care for your loved one. Finding a support group for caregivers where you can share thoughts, feeling and ideas with others on the same journey can be helpful as well.
Where Family Caregivers Can Turn for Help
Local Area Agency on Aging
In southeast Michigan, there are three Area Agencies on Aging that serve Metro Detroit, each serving a specific geographic area. They provide help with Information and Assistance, government-funded long-term care programs and Meals on Wheels
- Area Agency on Aging 1-B
Serves Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties
- Detroit Area Agency on Aging
Serves the City of Detroit, the five Grosse Pointes, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and Highland Park
- The Senior Alliance
Serve the 34 communities of southern and western Wayne County
Detroit Regional Benefit Office
Alzheimer’s Association-Greater Michigan Chapter
Caregiver support, education and advocacy