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Caregiving Chat With Amy Goyer

Get advice on how to take care of yourself while caring for others

So the first step is prioritizing taking care of yourself. It sounds simple, but it really is an important mental step. You have to believe and embrace that you can't do your job as a caregiver if you don't take care of yourself. In your work, would you not do your report to your boss because you're just too busy? Of course not. You prioritize it because if your boss doesn't know what you're doing you'll be in trouble in the long run. It's the same with caregiving — only you ARE the boss and you MUST prioritize taking care of yourself. Plan ways to do so — and remember they don't all have to be big time drains. Short breaks, a walk, deep breaths, one hour of yoga a week — all these things can help.

Also, schedule ahead — making a doctor appointment for a month from now seems more doable than thinking "I've got to get in there this week!" And go to the AARP Caregiving Resource Center for more ideas about Caring for the Caregiver!

Comment from Stephanie: My son can't find a job so he's moved back in with me. My mom needs more help so I'm thinking of moving her in with me too. I'm really worried about how I'm going to handle this.

Amy Goyer: Stephanie, you are like so many Americans these days — in fact I just published a blog post today about a new report from the Pew Research Center about the sandwich generation. (I call them panini-parents because they are so pressed financially by their grown children!) If your son needs financial help and mom does too, you need to be very careful about your own financial planning — AND taking care of yourself. The Pew study also found almost 40 percent of these sandwich caregivers say their grown kids and their aging parents BOTH rely on them emotionally as well as financially — that's a lot of pressure.

I suggest that you consider your decision carefully and see how your multigenerational household can enhance your situation — take advantage of the benefits but don't let the negatives drain you or your finances. Here are more of my tips for multigenerational living.

Comment from Sharon: I'm wrestling with bringing my mom home from the continuing care facility where she is now living. She has dementia associated with Parkinson's. She's running out of money and before she hits zero, I'm thinking I should take her out of there. With the little she has left, I could pay for help. Once she's gone through her money, it'll all be on me. Thoughts?

Amy Goyer: Sharon, you and Rosemary have a lot in common! Check out my response to her earlier in the chat. I was in a similar situation. I suggest you really weigh the pros and cons, and also do some research — find out what home care options are available in your community.

Go to the Eldercare Locator to find your local Area Agency on Aging and ask if your state has a sliding fee scale for home care services. Some states have Medicaid waivers to provide in-home care if your mom would qualify for Medicaid once her resources are depleted. Look at the short-term AND the long-term effects on you — emotionally, mentally and physically — before you make a decision.

Comment From Joyce: I am a caregiver for my 54-year-old brother who needs 24/7 care due to traumatic brain injury, dementia and alcoholism. It is hard for me to know what to do to help him due to his complex issues. Any suggestions?

Amy Goyer: Joyce, you really have a full plate! I'm sure you feel overwhelmed at times. You are right — it's a complicated situation and requires a complex course of action. You have several options — first, in terms of dementia, contact your local Alzheimer's Association chapter and see about a support group.

Next, since alcoholism is part of the picture, you might consider going to Al-Anon, which is for families of people who are alcoholics. Its website has a locator tool to find an Al-Anon meeting in your community. Remember that alcoholism is a family disease — it affects everyone in the family system, so it will help to address those issues.

Finding support groups with other people dealing with similar issues will help you carve out a plan and help you to continue to adjust it as you go along. Take it one step at a time! And take care of yourself!

AARP: OK, that's it for today, everyone. Thank you, Amy, for all your great advice.

Amy Goyer: I had a great time today — thanks for joining me! Thank you for sharing your personal journeys and allowing me to share mine. Follow me on Twitter @amygoyer, Facebook and my caregiver blog on the AARP website!

Take care!!!

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CAREGIVING RESOURCES: AARP Chief Executive Officer Barry Rand and AARP Executive Vice President Deb Whitman discuss the experience of caregiving and AARP's resources for caregivers.

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