Caregiving Both Parents: A Double Whammy

June 22, 2009 at 11:14 pm 4 comments

Many people are finding that they’re not only caregiving one parent–but two.

I call that a double whammy. Caregiving at its best is both rewarding and challenging, and caring for two just doubles your rewards and your challenges.

I met Sarah, a retired school teacher at a recent caregiver’s conference. She moved back in with her parents last year (she has 2 siblings but they’re still employed full-time), and she thought having them both in their own home would make things easier. She tries to keep her mom and dad on the same schedule (food, medications, sleeping patterns), but her dad has Alzheimer’s and her mom’s a diabetic who can no longer walk.

Dad has sundowner’s so he’s just getting riled as mom’s settling down.

They have different doctors and it’s difficult to try to coordinate the appointments. Even their med times don’t match up. Dad keeps slipping out the back door (she just got a house alarm to hopefully help alert her when he’s on the lamb), and mom’s showing signs of depression.

“Help!” she said after I finished my presentation. “I feel like my head’s going to explode!”

Here are some suggestions for those who are caring for two:

  • Get help. Don’t try to fly solo on this one. You need two sets of hands for your mom and your dad. Check with your  elder-affairs office to get a list of local resources. (Each state has one)
  • Enlist those siblings and extended relatives! I don’t care if they live 500 miles away. Put your foot down and insist on help. They can pay for an over-night sitter so you can get some sleep. It’s the least they can do to help out if they’re not physically able to pitch in. Ask for help–from your church, your community, and from your neighborhood. People need to feel needed and if you’re caring for two, you certainly have needs!
  • Forget about the inheritance. Get that durable power of attorney signed while your parents are “with it” enough to sign it and use your parent’s money to help them. It’s the best use of their savings–and it’ll leave less for the siblings to fight over. Trust me, your health (and mental health) bills will cost far more than you’ll ever inherit.
  • Check into care homes in your area. It’s a misnomer that you have to sell your parent’s house in order to quality for MediCare. Find out your state’s guidelines by asking various homes for a break down in cost and coverage. It’s very likely you won’t be able to keep both of them at home long-term. Begin to make plans and know what’s available to you.
  • Don’t try to do it all. Covering the basics of food, meds, and doctor appointments will keep you hopping. So what if the house is a wreck and dad’s wearing the same shirt three days in a row. Do the best you can and prioritize. Let the rest go.
  • Find out about respite care. I know the concerns: they won’t like the person, they’ll get off schedule, you’ll worry the whole time. That’s all true, but you still need a break–and you may find that much to your surprise, your parents will like having a new person around and might even be on their best behavior.

Caregiving both parents isn’t easy, but it is a privilege.

It means you still have your mom and dad with you–and you’re allowing them to be together as long as possible. That’s a gift.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving, sundown syndrome. Tags: , , , , , .

I Just Found Out My Mom (or Dad) Has Alzheimer’s: What Do I Do First? “I Worry All the Time:” Long Distance Caregiving Concerns

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ann Blanchard  |  June 29, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I am a caregiver to my 92-year old dad who has terminal lung cancer and my 89-year old mom who has lost most of her short-term memory. Some days it seems almost too much to bear but I’m blessed in many ways. My folks live in an assisted living place near me. They were open to moving 200 miles away from their home to be near me.

    I’ve had to work hard not to try to be the *perfect* caregiver. Like your article says, you just have to let some things go. I also had to let go that my brother would want to understand my stresses and strains and share in the burden. I’ve gained 30 pounds through the last two years while learning those lessons. Sigh.

    But I am blessed because my folks are appreciative of what I do and they are financially secure. That’s a lot more than other caregiver can say. So I count my blessings…and am glad I’ve developed such a special relationship with my mom and dad.

    • 2. Carol O'Dell  |  July 7, 2009 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Ann,
      Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your caregiving situation with others. You represent what so many people are going through–a double dose of caregiving.
      Yes, the stresses build, don’t they? But you’ve got a great attitude–you’re counting your blessings and appreciating right where you are.
      And you’re letting go–and it’s in that letting go of all we can’t fix, all we can’t control, there is where the sweetness of life lies.
      I hope you’ll keep reading.
      ~Carol O’Dell

  • 3. Caregiver Support  |  July 7, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I am a caregiver to my 90 year old aunt who suffers from several things including Alzheimer’s disease. You can only imagine how difficult this has been for me. I really appreciate the tips you gave in this article. I absolutely agree with all of them especially the one about getting help and not trying to do it all yourself. That recently sparked in my mind and I reached out to several senior facilities for caregiver support and assistance. I ended up utilizing Sunrise Senior Living’s caregiver services. This has truly been a huge help to me. I honestly think that this has helped me to be a better caregiver to my aunt as I am not as overwhelmed as before.

    • 4. Carol O'Dell  |  July 7, 2009 at 6:28 pm

      I’m so, so glad that you’re reaching out for assistance. We can’t, and shouldn’t try to do this all alone. Our community and our friends and family are meant to sustain us. We need each other, just as your aunt needs you, and now as you reach out to others, you create relatinships.
      The times I felt most overwhelmed was when I was the most isolated.
      Keep asking for help, it’s the only way to do it and not pull your hair out:)
      ~Carol O’Dell


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Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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