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   Caregiver Survival Tactics That Work

Elder care is a situation that affects every single person on this planet because each of us falls into one of four camps:

The first group consists of those who have already been through the caregiving process and have survived it. Then there are those poor souls who are currently going through the process of taking care of elderly parents or spouses, dealing with the labyrinth of insurance companies, social workers, doctors, therapists, and the like.

The third camp consists of those unwitting folks who will find themselves suddenly thrust into a role for which they are neither prepared nor qualified to assume and yet, they must and do rise to the occasion.

Finally the last faction-and possibly Mother Nature's cruelest joke of all-consists of those who will need caregiving services in the future.

It is inescapable; elder care will affect us all at some point in our lives, and usually more than once. Caring for an elderly person can be a richly rewarding experience; however, it can also be a nightmare right out of the Twilight Zone. Therefore, we all need to be prepared when we receive the call.

Heed this advice from those of us who have "been there, done that:"

Discuss healthcare decisions with your loved ones. Ensure they have all the legal forms necessary-a Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will, and a Healthcare Directive. (You should do the same for yourself while you are at it.) If your loved ones choose not to fill out these documents, you may have to go to court to be granted conservatorship, a legal move which is governed by many rules/regulations. Another option would be to hire a lawyer specializing in elder care to fight for you in court.

Find out what Medicare and Medicaid will provide for elder care. Familiarize yourself with your loved one's insurance company's coverage for short-term and long-term care.

Contact your local resources/agencies (Area Agency on Aging in the United States) before the time comes when you will need these services. Find out what is available, how much it will cost, and what forms you will need to have on hand.

Get other siblings and family members on board with being proactive, not reactive. Having a family meeting when cool heads still prevail can yield positive results.

Caregiving for elderly parents or spouse is challenging on all fronts-physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. However, with proper preparation, elder care can be the greatest gift to your parents/spouse and the greatest experience you will ever have.

Mary Ruff-King is an author of articles on various subjects, especially health-related topics. She has experienced the highs and lows, the joys and despair, of elder care.