Like many people with an elderly parent, Joan Lunden–former host of Good Morning America and A Place for Mom spokesperson–wasn’t completely prepared for the tough reality of her beloved mother’s age-related decline. Sure, we all know our parents will grow old, but we don’t always face up to all the implications. In her inspirational book for caregivers, Joan admits that she learned many lessons “the hard way.” Her ongoing experiences as her mother’s caregiver, and the difficulties she has faced (and ultimately overcome) along the way, have inspired Joan to not only to become a prominent advocate for caregivers everywhere, but also to educate families with older loved ones.
Joan’s book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers, features words of wisdom from experienced caregivers and experts across the nation, as well as from Joan herself. Here are seven salient guidelines garnered from Joan’s book:
1. Don’t Wait Too Long to Take Action
Everyone waits until a crisis hits. And more often than not, it was predictable. Talk as a family and plan ahead.
- James Ashley, owner of care home where Joan’s mother lives.
2. Get your Parents Involved in Eldercare and End of Life Planning
Say, “We want you to be independent as long as you possibly can. And the key to that is to know exactly what you want done and what you don’t want done — what kind of hospital you’d like to go to, and who you want as your doctor.” Make it an active kind of discovery for how to get health caregiving plans in place and all your paperwork ready for when your loved one may need more help.
- Gail Sheehy, Bestselling author of 16 books, including Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos Into Confidence.
3. Get Professional Help
Finding yourself a qualified senior advocate can help save time and stress, not to mention provide valuable resources you may not have known about otherwise. Contact a reputable senior referral service like A Place for Mom to help you determine the needs and desires of your loved one, and find the right living arrangement for them.
- James Ashley
4. Face the Facts
No matter how much you want to help, sometimes your aging relative needs round-the-clock care and constant supervision that you can’t provide. When that happens, acknowledge that someone (or some place) may be better equipped to provide the majority of your parents care than you are.
- Dr. Alexis Abramson, renowned advocate for elders and author of The Caregivers Survival Handbook.
5. Keep the Love Connection Going
Just tell them that you love them again and again. You will never say it too much.
- Joan Lunden
6. Don’t Abandon Them
Everyone is busy, but visits are so important. If that means sacrificing some time to go see aging parents, just do it. It’s that love connection that allows the elderly to thrive. Hug them, kiss them and talk to them. Bring up their past. Show them pictures from their lives. These are important things that help elderly experience moments of happiness.
- James Ashley
7. Forgive and Seek Forgiveness
If your parent was abusive or uncaring when you were a child, now is the time to forgive–even if you truly feel he or she doesn’t deserve it. Holding grudges will not only affect your ability to care for your parent, but it will also hurt you.
- Dr. Alexis Abramson
Do any of these tips resonate with you? Do you have your own advice to share? We encourage you to share your comments.
We also invite you to read a sampling of inspirational stories from Joan’s book for caregivers.