Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 208 CAREGIVERS Caring for you while caring for them F or many families, the discus- sion about who will take care of Mom and Dad comes on the heels of a crisis. As a result, many fam- ilies find themselves unprepared to handle their parents’ increased dependency. Caring for an aging par- ent is a responsibility adult children never envision or plan for. It’s common for families to feel mixed emotions during this unsettling transition. These emotions range from confusion, sad- ness, helplessness and despair. With the increase in the number of older adults comes the increase of adult children caring for their parents. Ac- cording to the Pew Research Center, about 40 million Americans are cur- rently helping at least one elderly par- ent with tasks associated with their daily lives. For millennials, many of whom are balancing career pursuits while caring for their own families, the idea of being thrust into the role of caregiver for an aging parent can be daunting. Ellie’s Story “We made a decision to move our Mom closer to us after many touch and go health crises she was experiencing. Our closest relative lived over 100 miles away, which left her alone and helpless during these bouts”, shared Elizabeth Blackwell, Health and Well- ness Manager for a NYC health plan. “Watching a relative wither away can be harmful to your own mental and physical being. In 2010, my father passed away after a long bout with lung cancer. My mom, his partner, spent several years as his sole care- giver and painfully witnessed his physical breakdown while enduring the mental stress brought on her during this process. Within a few months of my father’s death, my mom’s health started deteriorating. In a short period of time we found our- selves faced with the same dilemma our mom had been in. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and cir- rhosis of the liver all within months of each other. During my Dad’s bout with cancer my mom and I had frank discus- sions about how important a person’s quality of life is while undergoing ex- tensive treatment for a serious illness and the right to own the decision if this ever became an issue. So when I real- ized that my mom was gravely ill, we, along with her doctor, sat at her bed- side and had a candid conversation with her. She would have an uphill bat- tle to recover from these illnesses. The medications alone would be taxing on her body and the physical pain from chemo would be grueling. She would need to make drastic lifestyle changes immediately, the decision to undergo the rigorous healing process was hers to make. She said with clarity, “I'm not ready to die.” In that moment, I went from daughter to caregiver”. My mom spent several weeks in the hospital. During this time I became a tireless advocate for her—browbeat- ing the nursing staff when my mother was in pain, fighting with the doctors when they wanted to discharge her prematurely, and sleeping on a cot next to her bed so she wouldn't feel alone if she woke in the middle of the night. When it was time for my mom to leave the hospital, I spent countless hours trying to coordinate care for her. This process was extremely stressful. I was emotionally and spiritually drained and was clueless how I would be able to continue down this path. During the rough times, I like so many others, forgot to check in with myself. Within months I had put on a consid- erable amount of weight, was sleeping less than five hours a night and was just emotionally drained. I didn't know then what I know now — that caregiver burnout is real and that the stress of caregiving comes on like a full-frontal assault. Caregiver Burnout Caregiver burnout if left unchecked will take a toll on your health, relation- ships and state of mind. Taking care of you during this transition is not a luxury it is a necessity. WELL-BEING