Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Monday, August 1, 2011

Some things never change (except the price of a nursing home stay doubles)

Caregivers struggle with nurturing role
Author: BONNIE HEROLD For The Times 
Date: May 20, 1995
Publication: Huntsville Times, The (AL)
Page: B 1

As a person grows older, sometimes roles are reversed. Your mother is no longer able to care for herself. You become the decision-maker, the nurturer.

Would she fare better in a nursing home? Does she need a full-time nurse? Are you able to provide sufficient care in your home? Deciding how best to care for her is just the beginning.

If you choose to welcome her into your home, do so with your eyes open.

"You're in it for the long haul," says Brenda Barnett who has been caring for her mother since 1985.

Mrs. Barnett suggests a sense of humor is paramount in saving one's sanity.

"I'll give you an example. The other night, we had baked potatoes. I asked my mother if she wanted one. She said, 'No.' The trouble is that often she says no when she means yes. I asked her again, and she still said, 'No.' Then my husband questioned her. He saw her aim her fork in its direction so he put the potato on his plate to fix it for her. Because of mini-strokes, she rarely makes sense when she speaks. This time, however, she looked devastated and clearly said, 'He took that. He took it.' She was crushed. We laughed and reassured her that it was hers."

You also have to have a lot of patience, according to Mrs. Barnett. "If she wants to help with dinner, you're going to have to start at noon." If she accompanies you someplace, says Mrs. Barnett, don't hurry her beyond her capabilities. Most important, keep cool. "If you become angry and want to say mean things, don't. Walk away. She may not be able to talk, but she often still understands."

Getting out of the house periodically will help you keep your patience. Take her with you when possible but also make time for yourself. Keep your marriage alive and take regular vacations. Depend on family members, friends, and local health services.

The Trinity United Methodist Church offers a daycare to people diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Ellen White, director of the daycare, states, "Our daycare reinforces positive behavior through routine and repetition. Although the minimum requirement to attend is two times a week, 60 percent come everyday. Doing so helps eliminate behavioral problems.

"The cost is reasonable at $30 a day. Our operating costs are twice that, but we receive grants from local businesses and private donations. We also provide a scholarship program so that anyone can come."

She says a fortunate few have insurance which covers the cost. Since people are living longer, she expects more and more insurance companies will provide that type of insurance in the future.

Mrs. Barnett also suggests changing insurance policies if you anticipate a need and are able to do so. "Even if the premiums are twice as high, it will save money in the long run."

Money, of course, is a critical issue.

"A good nursing home can cost as much as $2500 a month," says Mrs. Barnett. Even with expensive at-home health services, the money will go twice as far in a home environment.

More reasonably priced at-home health care needs to be made available, she says. More people would be willing to take care of their parents if they knew relief was in sight, both during the day and overnight. If just a warm body is needed, she proposes hiring a sympathetic teenager for short periods of time.

Mrs. Barnett also suggests becoming involved in a support group. "Most people in this situation would benefit from a support group. They need to be reassured that they aren't the only ones who've said in exasperation, 'If you do that one more time, Mother, you're going to the home.' They need to know they're not alone."

Copyright, 1995, The Huntsville Times. All Rights Reserved.

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