WJBF EXTRA: Elder Care - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

WJBF EXTRA: Elder Care

By Randy Key

Tanya Coleman served in the Gulf War and is now retired from the U.S. Army, but another war is waging right in her home and it's a battle to survive.

"In the military, I had somewhat of a schedule. This is totally different every day," Coleman says.

Coleman is a caregiver. Sshe has one kid in college, two still at home, an Army husband stationed in Texas, and a mom with Alzheimer's Disease.

"It's good days and bad days...she still wants her own house. The fact that she still leaves the stove on, forgets to take her medicine, she really can't live by herself," says Coleman.

Cindy Elia can relate. Her mother-in-law lives with her while her own parents are cared for 1,000 miles away.

"It's a tremendous emotional strain like non other I've experienced. You're trying to do what's right, but whatever you decide, you're tearing someone away from something that's been a part of their life forever," Elia says.

Elia's father is in a nursing home and her mother is in an assisted living facility. Splitting them up was a heart-wrenching family decision. "On the same day, we tore away a couple who had been married for 61 years and put them in separate places," she says.

These local woman are not alone. There are some 42 million caregivers in this country and they're worth their weight in gold.

"If we paid them $11 an hour, we would have to pay them $450 billion. That's how much they're worth to our country economically," says Janis Adams, who is a social worker.

Adams teachers a class at the Augusta Salvation Army Kroc Center called "Powerful Tools". The program is designed to reduce caregiver burnout and depression.

"Caregiving is a hard job. It can take its toll, emotionally and physically, on your health and we're trying to show people there are tools and support to help you not burn out as a caregiver and that we value you tremendously as a caregiver," says Adams.

The course is free and can help caregivers come up with the best plan for mom or dad.

"We have a decision-making tree, so anytime we're faced with a dilema, we take out a graph and start writing down the pros and cons," says Adams.

While there are no easy answers, being prepared to help your parents when they are no longer able to help themselves means doing your homework.

First... talk with your parents and find out what they want. Do it before they need assistance. Next, cover your legal bases...make sure mom and dad have a durable power of attorney authorizing you, or someone else, to handle their finances and make medical decisions. And, by all means, take care of yourself.

"The healthier and happier our caregiver is, the healthier and happier our care receiver will be," says Adams.

For more information on Powerful Tools, click here.

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