Mid-life changes: Caring for our aging parents

How do we find help in caring for elderly parents?

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VISTA, Calif., June 4, 2015 – We attend elementary, middle, and high school being taught subjects to create a foundation for our life in the adult world. We learn about English, math, history, and science. Not long ago, other classes such as home economics were offered. We graduated thinking were prepared for life as an adult, though left wondering how some of the subjects would actually help us. Somewhere along the line, home economics seemed to be lost.

Even so, that only gave us the basics of cooking, sewing, and carrying around an egg for a week to understand the frailty and responsibilities of caring for a household and baby. Finding these skills present day, we look to cooking shows on television and caring for a baby though a “Mommy and Me” classes offered via a health care organization.

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Our schooling does not include answers about what happens in midlife. To find answers, we search for information on midlife changes on the internet, through magazines found at the checkout stands of our local stores, through groups advertised in the local throw-away paper, and through “MeetUp” groups. These are all fantastic resources to acquire the knowledge and support we need in getting through various circumstances.

There are many changes that take place between our late 30’s to late 50’s. One area of our lives that is much less talked about is the shift during midlife from taking care of our children to taking care of our parents as they age. We tend not to understand the struggles of our seniors, yet it is us that have to help them with those struggles. With that in mind it is important to look at how to prepare to give assistance our seniors.

The first thing we can do is have a heart to heart talk with our seniors about the struggles they face and potential ones that can arise. Is there medical problems at hand? What are the limitations in reference to those problems? Is there support available in their community? What about transportation? Many communities have “Adult Protective Services (APS)” which stocks a wealth of information dedicated to assisting our adults and seniors. There may be misconception of this resource as being only called upon in elder abuse. While that is one of the things APS investigates, there are many other services available. Those services can extend from finding affordable housing to mobility.

If our parents are comfortable with our assistance, they may also allow us to talk to their doctors about health predicaments that need clarity. By doing so, we can be sure our parents follow the doctor’s recommendations, as well as, making a game plan with the doctor to create the best possible outcome for them.

AARP offers a wealth of information, resources, motivation, and tools specific to those in midlife and seniors. There is so much offered stemming from this organization to include member discounts at many restaurants, travel and cellular companies, entertainment venues, free tax preparation for low to moderate income households, a variety of insurance plans, and games to strengthen the mind. The age requirement to become a member is 50 years old (spouses can be included free), however, a person younger than fifty can become an associate member and receive benefits as well.

We also need to think about what can happen to seniors who live alone. There are dangers for all who live alone, but seniors who do may not be able to handle them as efficiently. This is especially important when it comes to physical safety. A valuable program available is the “Vial of Life” project. The project works like this: A medical form containing vital information is penned, it can then be printed out, placed in a baggie (other important documents can be included, such as a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate), and affixed to the refrigerator.

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Medical decals can be ordered free and are to be affixed to the front door of one’s residence. In the event an emergency arises and medics have to respond, the medical decal will alert responders, who in turn know to check the refrigerator for the “vial of life.” This project allows responders to determine the necessary steps that will render the best to aid specific to that senior.

Finally, while many of us do not want to talk to our parents about dying, it is necessary. We are the ones who will be responsible for handling all of their affairs and wishes. By taking the time now to help them write a will or know where the one they have is, we can reduce the emotional, mental, and financial frustrations that may come without having been prepared. If cost is an issue in obtaining a will written out by a legal representative, there are forms available free online. One such company offering free online wills is Total Legal. This page makes will writing simplified. Fill out the questionnaire, print or receive it by mail, and then follow the instructions provided.

Should you be in midlife or coming upon it, take some time to think about the things that may be presented. Equip yourself with the resources to prepare for it, just as importantly, with resources for those you will be caring for. Instead of waiting unprepared for life events that can be serious, we need to do our homework now and educate ourselves in advance, just as we did in our younger years.

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Rebecca L. Mahan is a retired law enforcement and Field Training officer who has spent more than 20 years studying domestic violence, working with victims of traumatic events and offers services to victims via her firm, The V.O.T.E., Victims Overcoming Traumatic Events, Program www.voteprogram.org Mahan is a columnist, author and host of The V.O.T.E., Victims Overcoming Traumatic, Program" radio show. She has degrees in Church Ministry, Occupational Studies - Vocational Arts including her masters in Biblical studies. She is currently enrolled in a Doctorate of Philosophy of Theology program. Mahan has used her knowledge and training to write V.O.T.E.: Victims Overcoming Traumatic Events for use by patrol officers.