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Special Report - Helping Caregivers

Americans are living longer and that comes with challenges. There are 46 million people over the age of 65 and that number is expected to double over the next 30 years. In this special report, we look at the role of family caregivers in central Illinois.

Most of us look forward to retirement. We make plans and save money so we can enjoy the golden years. Unfortunately, one accident, illness or diagnosis can change everything.  
You may need part-time or full-time care and there is a good chance your family will have to help. They may not be prepared mentally, physically or financially.

Mitch Forrest with the Central Illinois Agency on Aging says most elderly people prefer to stay in their home when possible and with nursing homes averaging five thousand dollars a month they may not have a choice.

"Cost can be overwhelming if you have no idea about assisted living or nursing home expenses. Some people still live under the illusion that Medicare can pay for nursing home and it doesn't," says Forrest.

The Agency on Aging helps plan, organize, and coordinate services for people over 60 and their caregivers. Forrest says too often he sees caregivers who are burnt out.

"Your needs just kind of go by the wayside," says Forrest.

It's difficult to care for a parent if you aren't caring for yourself. Forrest recommends finding time for yourself. Try exercising or meeting with friends so you don't feel isolated. Don't be afraid to ask family and friends for help. If you are working, try asking your boss for flexible hours. The Agency on Aging can assist with counseling and support groups and respite help. Take time to re-evaluate your situation to see what you can improve.

 "What do we do with dad? Do we put him in a home? I don't think he belongs there."

Bob's daughter Laura moved in with him after he had a fall. She says his mind is sharp even though his body is slowing down. 

"My daughter has a full-time job and its like she has a second job when she comes home," says Bob.

Laura wanted help and someone to keep her dad company, so she contacted Comfort Keepers. Now Javar, a professional caregiver, helps Bob with doctors appointments, running errands and something they both enjoy...cooking.

"Beats the heck out of television all the time," says Bob.

"The comfort I get is knowing dad has someone to talk to and he can do things and still be in the house and be in a safe place," says Laura.

"You never think about having to take care of your parents"

Lori Reimer is also a caregiver and works, but her challenge involves her mom's physical and mental well-being. Arlene suffered a stroke and has alzheimer's so she relies on her daughter for almost everything.   

"Helping her shower, meals, medication, driving her places," says Lori.

Experts say the earlier you can prepare to take care of your parents the better. First, talk to your parents when they're in their 50's or earlier if you anticipate future medical issues. Ask them how they want to be cared for and where. If they can stay home, make sure the home is safe.

Lori knows about safety. She installed motion detection cameras throughout her house. If her mother tries to go outside, Lori is alerted.

Know their medical history and the medications they take. Get their financial and insurance documents organized. Finally have them draw up a will and power of attorney papers.

"I preach that now to people. Be prepared ahead of time. Find out the answers when they can give you the answers and the stories too.  The stories of your family history and having those conversations," says Lori.

The Central Illinois Agency on Aging covers Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Stark, Marshall, and Fulton counties. In just those counties there are 90,000 adults over the age of sixty.


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