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Locals navigate caring for elderly parents

Role reversal and decisions difficult, some say
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Parenting her parents is something Marlene Berger never thought much about until their health started to decline seven years ago. From that point on making sure they had the best care possible was always on her mind. ?It is on your mind 24 hours a day,? Berger said. ?What do you need to do next?? Berger, a Weimar resident, is one of the many adult children who find their once familiar parent-child roles reversed and themselves taking on the responsibility of caring for their elderly parents. Seven percent of adults aged 65 and over needed help with personal care from other people, according to a 2010 report released by the Centers for Disease Control. That figure jumps to 20 percent for adults 85 and older, the study found. Personal care needs include eating, bathing, dressing and getting around inside a person?s home. When her father?s health began to decline, Berger knew it was time to move her parents from their home in Southern California in with her. She was thrust into the position of navigating through complicated decisions that in some situations even meant life or death. There were many times that Berger said she wasn?t sure what to do next and had to rely on her best judgment about what her parents would want. ?The tables really do switch. You really do become the parent,? Berger said. Later, after her father died, Berger said she began to realize her mother needed even more care. She tried out assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, but said her mother was always depressed because she missed her husband of 66 years. For Berger, it was a board and care facility that finally proved to be everything she had hoped for. ?In my own head, I thought, ?board and care. I don?t want to put my mother in board and care,?? Berger said. ?I walked in and it was like, ?oh my god, my mother will be home.?? The facility her mother was in, Almond Gardens in Auburn, houses about eight people and had a family atmosphere she enjoyed. While the decisions Berger had to make only got harder after that, she said she finally had a community who understood what she was going through. Among those tough decisions was trying to understand her mother?s do not resituate order. She knew her mother didn?t ever want to be on a feeding tube, but what about antibiotics for infections like pneumonia? These are questions Berger said other people should consider discussing before their elderly loved one?s health is on the decline. When Berger?s mother passed away in March, it was peaceful. But after seven years of her life dedicated to caring for her parents, Berger said she is still adjusting to the idea that they aren?t here with her anymore. ?I am still my parent?s daughter, but I am still an orphan,? Berger said. Subhead: Claiming earned benefits a struggle Sharon Adrion, 66, of Auburn, is sharing the responsibility of caring for her mother with her siblings. Adrion said they knew their parents needed care when their mother couldn?t cook anymore and their father stopped eating. Like many other families, Adrion said they didn?t discuss how they?d care for their parents until the time came. She was living in New Jersey, but about a year ago decided moving to Auburn was an important step. Knowing her parents? financial situation was one component she?d recommend other people pay attention to. Having that piece of the puzzle allowed Adrion and her siblings to make the best decision about what type of facility they could afford. Even still, Adrion said she and her sister have spent countless hours on the phone with Veterans Affairs and the insurance company that her mother has a long-term care policy through. ?It is just a struggle to get even what you are due,? Adrion said. ?If my parents hadn?t had someone to advocate for them, they wouldn?t have gotten the benefits.? Adrion said the process being so difficult for a World War II veteran to get the benefits he was promised has made her more disenfranchised with the government. She visits her mother Verna almost every day at Almond Gardens. Her father has passed away and even though her siblings and her have help now, seeing her mother age can be difficult at times, she said. ?To see them become childlike in a lot of ways is really devastating to you. It?s very hard for me at times,? Adrion said. Subhead: Take time for self-care, hospice manager says Anne Lyons, manger for hospice and home health for Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, said hospice is there to help families when a loved one has six months or less to live. It offers a range of support from pain control to emotional support for people to die with dignity. Lyons said today many children are caring for their parents, children and even grandchildren simultaneously, maybe while even coping with their own health problems. Lyons said families in these situations have to ask themselves difficult questions and be realistic. At times that means being able to accept that they don?t have the capacity to take care of their parents and need to find the right avenue for them. Other times, it may mean caring for them, but incorporating a healthy balance of self-care. ?They don?t put themselves first, which I understand,? Lyons said. ?Caregiver stress really can lead to caregiver breakdown.? There are also caregiver support groups people can find community in, she added. For some families, hiring help isn?t an option economically. Lyons said many lower-income families can only afford to have their relative live with them. ?That doesn?t mean it can?t be done well,? Lyons said. ?It?s really a spirit of cooperation among the people that care about the individual.? Adrion said she looks at caring for her mother as a gift. ?If you can look at it as the only gift you can give your parent, that is kind of what keeps it in perspective,? Adrion said. ?Our mom was such a wonderful person and she was just such a wonderful mother. It?s the only thing I can do for her at this point.? Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.