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Care-giving is demanding role
Taking care of an elderly parent is demanding

Date published: 6/19/2005

IT'S A FAMILIAR scenario: A 50-something mother of three gets a call from a sibling in another state. Their mom, in her late 70s, is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and living alone.

The siblings have always known the time would come when their mother couldn't live alone anymore. That time is now.

When the brother calls, it's to say that their mom is in the local emergency room. She fell while trying to escape a small house fire, which started after she left the gas stove burner on.

The siblings are told their mom will be admitted to the hospital for observation and that she will not be able to return home alone. The brother doesn't have room for her in his nearby, one-room apartment. So the sister, whom we'll call Marion, says she will travel to the out-of-state hospital and help figure things out.

On her way there, Marion wonders what she will do.

Unusual situation? Not really. Statistics indicate that 35 percent of adult children are dealing with caregiving situations. By 2020, it's estimated that 40 percent to 50 percent of people over 70 will suffer from some degree of Alzheimer's or dementia. And about one third of people over 70 will be dealing with some degree of diabetes.

While long-term planning for the health of our community is a concern, the more emergent issues are for those adult children who are already feeling the impact of these trends.

This group has become known as the "Sandwich Generation"--baby boomers who are raising their own children and also are involved with caring for elderly parents.

So where do people such as Marion turn? Their parent's primary care physician, for starters. The primary physician should be able to provide an overview of a parent's current condition and what is expected to occur in the future.

Caregivers should ask questions such as:

What are the most important medical concerns for mom/dad now?

What activities can she/he safely do?

What medications is she/he taking and why?

Are there side effects to watch for? What are they?

What medical follow-up is necessary?

For people such as Marion, who are told their parents can no longer live alone, one option is to find an alternate living situation in the parent's hometown. The other option is to bring mom or dad home with them.

A lot to juggle

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