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Caregivers Share Tips for Helping Elderly, Themselves

Everything from suicide and substance abuse to dealing with memory loss were on the agenda during a recent Caregiver Support Group meeting.

Sponsored by Tri-County Mental Health Services and held at the Woodneath Library Center, the gatherings are informal exchanges that focus on questions by participants who are caring for an elderly loved one. Their concerns ranged from how to best store prescription pills to dealing with a loss of freedom following the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Just keeping things clean can be difficult. “I’ve become something of a germaphobe,” noted Keith, a Kearney resident who cares for his father-in-law. “Baby wipes are my best friend.”

Kansas City resident Kathie, who cares for her 90-year-old father, said difficult issues involve limiting freedom because of illness or other factors. “It’s hard to take care of them without being too invasive,” she said. “You have to consider things like whether you should hide their medicine (so they don’t take too much).”

Tri-County Older Adult Educator Becky Franklin, who leads the meetings, said having frank talks can help by lowering stress. “If we’re apprehensive and worried about someone we care for, we can come off as harsh when we don’t mean to,” she said. “It’s also important to be honest. Tell them it’s normal to not always remember medications and other things. They may lose that memory, but not their intellect.”

Some of the topics were surprising. Franklin noted that untreated hearing loss can have unexpected results. “The quality of life issue is important,” she said, “but that can lead to other issues.”

Exercise also has a broad impact, although Franklin cautioned that exercise for older adults does not need to include long-distance running or heavy weights. “You have to be realistic,” she noted. “But exercise has so many positive affects. Even a short walk can be helpful. And it’s never too late.”

She also suggested that caregivers also need exercise, as much for the “me time” as for reduced stress and increased health. “Set aside even a small amount of time where you can get away and have things covered,” she said.

The next Caregiver Support meeting will be Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. at the Woodneath Library Center, 8900 NE Flintlock Rd, Kansas City, MO 64157. For more information, call (816) 468-0400 or visit www.tri-countymhs.org.

Content courtesy Dale Garrison of DGInform.com

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