Whether you’re the adult child of an aging parent or who thinks they care care for a loved one on your own, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to ask for help. (Courtesy photo)

Giving family caregivers a helping hand

A few years ago, my aging father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and dementia. My 80-year-old mom refused to accept any help when it came to caring for him. Since my folks were in New York and I was living and working in San Francisco, it was hard for me to be there for them. My mom thought she could do it all, from painting ceilings to providing constant care for my dad. It became clear that my mom was suffering from what I like to call “stubborn-itis.”

I imagine stubborn-itis affects many of the estimated 43.5 million family members taking care of an aging loved one across the country. That’s nearly one-in-six Americans who have taken on the role of a family caregiver, sometimes while still maintaining a full-time job and raising kids. A recent poll of 200 family caregivers found that more than half of them hadn’t taken a vacation or any kind of a break from caregiving for more than a year. But whether you’re the adult child of an aging parent with a to-do list that goes on forever, or someone like my mom who thought she could do it all on her own, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to ask for help.

That’s where professional caregivers come in. If you are looking after an aging parent or loved one, you might feel like you have to carry that burden on your own. But there are options that can drastically improve the quality of life for yourself and your relatives.

As my dad’s health declined, my brother and I convinced my mom to hire a caregiver that took care of him and kept the rest of our family from going crazy with worry. Sadly, my father passed away last year, but I could not be more grateful for the amazing support we received from his caregivers. They kept him comfortable and provided a quality of service for him and my mom that was vitally important during a trying time.

I have experienced the benefits of professional in-home caregivers, not just as the adult child of an aging parent, but I have seen it firsthand as the director of client care at Home Care Assistance. Our company is a leading provider of in-home care, providing services that allows older adults to live happier and healthier lives at home

Something I have learned through my professional and personal experiences, is there is no one-size-fits-all caregiver. The relationship between a caregiver and the person they care for is an incredibly close relationship. That means you can have an extremely qualified caregiver who is great for one family, but probably isn’t the best fit for another.

Since my father passed away, my mom still thinks she can do it all, but I imagine there may come a time when she’s going to need help herself. While she will be the last person to think she needs it, I know the value and peace of mind a professional caregiver can bring to a family. Recently, some powerful voices have begun to speak out to raise awareness around the importance of caregiving. California’s former First Lady, Maria Shriver, has a father who, like many others, suffered from Alzheimer’s, a brain disease similar to my dad’s dementia. That’s why she has started a new initiative called Move for Minds, to try and understand and prevent Alzheimer’s.

Shriver’s organization is hosting an event on Saturday at Equinox Sports Club in San Francisco, and Home Care Assistance caregivers will be there to answer all sorts of questions. I’ll also be sharing my personal experiences at an open house on Thursday at our San Francisco office at 1649 Divisadero St. as we talk about how to reduce the chances of having to take your loved one to the hospital after they have been told they can go home

Laurette Foggini is director of client care at Home Care Assistance.

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