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Dear Counselor: Taking care of elderly parents

It’s been a few months since I wrote a column, and some of you are wondering why. I have a very good reason: I went into private practice and wrote a book, “Dear Counselor.”

The book will include 12 chapters of the Dear Counselor columns I’ve written with an expanded overview on each topic. The book will be published by the end of the year and available for readers.

Needless to say, writing the book and starting my own business, Achieving Solutions Counseling Inc., has kept me busy. I appreciate all the support from others while I achieved both of these milestones.

Even though I haven’t written, you’ve still sent me letters. Many include concerns about the “sandwich years.” This term refers to those of you who are dealing with aging parents and raising children and feeling sandwiched between the two.

For those of you helping aging parents, you know there are a lot of decisions to make. They are not always pleasant decisions, and in many cases, they are ones we don’t want to make at all.

Putting our parents in an assisted living home or nursing home is never easy. Bringing your parents from another state in which they were living for many years and now unable to take care of themselves is also a tough transition. Having parents who are in denial and resisting your suggestions and help only makes the situation more difficult.

The next generation is trying to do what is best for their parents. Elderly parents might think they know what is best (and oftentimes they are); however, when they start falling, losing their memory and becoming a possible threat to themselves, it is time to take action.

Dear Counselor,

Recently my dad, who is 86 years old with signs of dementia and lives by himself, is starting to need my help more and more. I am feeling so stressed out with running between his house, my job, and with taking care of my own family. This is taking a toll on me!

I know he needs more help than I can offer at this time, and I can’t nor do I want to take him in our home. I know this may sound selfish on my part, but I don’t want the extra burden of having to worry about him in the house alone or to put the burden on other family members living in the house who would have to take care of him if I am not there.

This is so hard on me and I don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions on how I can make this work out?

I feel so guilty, and I want the best for him; however, I just can’t do this alone anymore. Do you know of any good resources that can assist me in possibly putting him in a place where he can be looked after and taken care of the way he deserves?

Carol, of Naperville

Dear Carol,

When your loved one is no longer able to care for himself, the burden often falls on the family. Please know an aging parent might not ask for additional help; therefore, family members will need to recognize their loved ones need assistance.

Decisions are never easy when it involves our families. I recently moved both my mother and step-father from Arizona to Illinois and had to place them in an assisted living home.

They both were struggling, one with multiple sclerosis and the other with dementia. I had no choice but to take matters into my own hands and make the necessary decisions.

Within a year of bringing them here, they both needed more assistance than their living facility could offer. I had to place them in a nursing home. This meant three moves in a year, along with having to sell a house in Arizona.

There are many great resources to help you make the transition. Getting your father the proper care and choosing the right facility requires speaking to people who deal with this on a regular basis.

I found BrightStar to be helpful, caring and reliable with assisting both my mother and step-father with bathing needs and care when they were in assisted living. They also were an asset when I needed to find a good nursing home for both.

Visit www.brightstarcare.com/IL/Naperville to learn more about their services. Also contact Maureen Wood, director of Bright Star, at 630-778-2005 or 630-571-5555. She can refer you to people who will help you find the right place for your father.

I realize this is a stressful time for you, Carol, and I hope you take time to take care of yourself. Remember, if you wear yourself down in the process, you won’t be beneficial to others. So, treat yourself to a massage, or a relaxing evening with a nice dinner. Remember you can only do so much, reward yourself for the things you have done, and remind yourself you are worth it.

Sincerely,

Counselor Kimberly

 

Kimberly Groll is the owner and president of Achieving Solutions Counseling Inc. Learn more at www.achievingsolutionscounseling.com or 630-632-4060. Information in this column is strictly generic in nature and is intended to be informational only and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional intervention.

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