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Becoming a Caregiver in the Blink of an Eye
By Marilyn Walsh

"Mom had been healthy her whole life, then, in the blink of an eye, it changed. She had a stroke, needed rehabilitation and assistance with medications, dressing and eating. I knew nothing about her insurance, her power of attorney, or costs of care," said Jane Tremont at a caregiver seminar at Providence Point.

Jane, like a million other Pennsylvanians, had suddenly become an informal caregiver. It's estimated that 83% of us become caregivers at some point in our lives. Often, we are woefully unprepared.

When a parent or loved one is sick or unable to care for themselves, it is natural to want to help. Planning ahead can prevent a stressful situation that can last weeks, months or even years. If you have an aging parent or loved one in failing health, here are five things to remember:

  • Preparations now can prevent problems later. It isn't always easy, but it is essential to talk with your parent about plans they may already have in place for insurance, healthcare, estate, etc. Seek the advice of an elder law attorney or senior advocacy professional. Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Aging website.
  • You are not alone. Pennsylvania ranks third nationally for care of the population age 65 and older. The Department of Aging estimates there are 1.4 million informal caregivers providing 1.3 billion hours of care in Pennsylvania each year.
  • Avoid caregiver fatigue. A recent study showed that about 39 percent of family caregivers showed signs of caregiver fatigue—a common problem when the caregiver becomes increasingly focused on caring for another and less focused on their own needs. Isolation, depression, illness and injury follow.
  • Reach out. No one can be on the job 24-hours-a-day every day and do a good job. If you find your caregiver role increasing, call on friends and family.
  • Seek help from professionals. Use services like day care, short-term respite, personal care and nursing care. Often, the social, wellness, and care levels provided at senior living communities are more appropriate and more beneficial than attempting to provide care in their home.

If you are in need of help or ideas in how to care for an aging parent, please call Marilyn Walsh, Marketing & Public Relations Director, Baptist Homes Society, at (412) 572-8258, or email mwalsh@baptisthomes.org. Visit www.baptisthomessociety.org.

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