Upcoming 'Full Circle--an Aging Expo' planned in Hays
An estimated 34 million Americans are caregivers for an older family member, and of that number, 15 percent live one or more hours away from their loved one, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving (http://www.caregiving.org/pdf/research/milesaway.pdf).
In addition to recommendations for taking care of aging family members at a distance, speakers at an upcoming one-day conference will cover a variety of topics, such as health care, estate planning, protecting elderly individuals from crime and bridging technology gaps.
The conference will take place April 25 at the Messiah Lutheran Church in Hays. K-State Research and Extension will sponsor the event, titled “Full Circle…an Aging Expo.” The conference is open to older adults, their families and caregivers.
Keynote speakers will include Jeff Burnett, assistant professor at Fort Hays State University, who will give a talk on being realistic about your health at any age, and Angel Shaver, the 2013 Ms. Wheelchair Kansas, who will speak on maintaining a positive and thankful attitude.
Registration at the door is $35 per person and will take place until 9:15 a.m. the day of the event. The program will be from 9:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Registration fees cover lunch and the facilities.
Go to http://www.northwest.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=98 for registration and program information or call the Northwest Area Extension Office at 785-462-6281.
Opportunity to learn
Bradford Wiles, assistant professor in the School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University, will be a breakout session speaker at the upcoming “Full Circle…an Aging Expo,” where he will discuss using technology, information and resources to care for aging family members at a distance.
In many instances, Wiles said, caregiving is being arranged for parents who are geographically dispersed from their children and might even live in other states. Nearly every person will have to care for an older family member, be affected by it or know someone going through it.
With advancements in medicine and technology, he said, people on average are living longer today compared to many years ago, and cognitive and physical health can decline over a much longer period of time. This might require more familial and financial support from the caregiver.
“Whether it is happening to you now or not, someone you know is probably going through this or has gone through this,” Wiles said. “The best we can do as extension professionals is to provide the support, structure, and information through extension and other outlets to help families make good decisions.”
Having the conversation about caregiving with that aging family member before he or she actually needs the care is important, Wiles indicated. Moving forward from that, the caregiver should organize and set up a support system wherever the loved one lives.
“For example, you always want to have the local directives in place,” Wiles said. “You want to be able to contact perhaps the next door neighbor if the adult is living on his or her own, or other service providers such as the mailman who has training in identifying older adults who might need more care than they are currently receiving.”
The National Association of Letter Carriers’ Carrier Alert Program (http://www.nalc.org/commun/alert/index.html) began in 1982 and is a community service program where mail carriers monitor the well being of elderly and disabled individuals. Wiles said there are also places such as grocery stores and pharmacies that train workers to make sure older adults are getting their needs met.
Many older adults will not discuss problems on the phone, Wiles said, and those problems might not come to light unless the caregiver spends time with them. The caregiver should make sure the older adult knows how to do simple everyday tasks, which might include being able to cook, being able to clean, brushing teeth and doing laundry.
“People have a hard time admitting they aren’t able to do those things,” he said. “It really is an indicator of declining performance. We, as able-bodied and able-minded people, can tackle those things. As we get older and our physical and cognitive functioning starts to decline, those things become much more difficult. It is up to the long-distance caregiver to identify those things that need to be met and then have the discussion around what is reasonable before a parent has to move to an assisted-living or long-term care facility.”
Wiles said caregivers should make all visits with aging adults productive, and make sure to discuss the finances and paperwork necessary if they were to go to an assisted living or long-term care facility. If the aging adult has more than one child, the siblings should talk together with their aging parent or parents. That way, it can be decided if all the children will divide up caring duties, or if one person will be in charge.
“There are a lot of family dynamics that go into parental relationships and sibling relationships,” Wiles said. “Often times what we find are the sibling relationships are tested much more than the adult-child relationship when it comes to caregiving for a loved one who’s in the older adult stage.”
It helps having the financial resources to take care of some of the things a parent or grandparent needs, Wiles said. There are financial resources out there for low and no-income families as well.
K-State’s Center on Aging (http://www.he.k-state.edu/aging) and K-State Research and Extension’s Adult Development and Aging website (http://www.aging.ksu.edu) have more resources for older adults, their families and caregivers.
A primary resource for information about long-distance caregiving in Kansas is the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (http://www.kdads.ks.gov). Another resource might include the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging (http://www.nia.nih.gov). The American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP (http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving-resource-center/info-09-2010/pc_tips_for_long_distance_caregiver.html) also has tips for long-distance caregiving.