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    Starting Your Role As Caregiver

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    "It took me a while to realize that my parents needed help. I was so close to the situation and it happened so gradually that I didn't catch on -- or maybe I didn't want to catch on and admit that they were in trouble, because it was painful to see. Anyway, my best friend came with me to visit them one afternoon. Since she was more removed and not personally involved, she could see what was going on more clearly, and she opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to take some action."
    -Louise Grady

    Define your responsibilities as a caregiver. Make a list. Set up guidelines for what you will and won't do. Put it in writing and stick to it. If other family members can't help, make a decision to hire someone to perform the duties you can't or would rather not handle.

    Make sure your parent joins AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons). Anyone age fifty or older is eligible. Members get tons of discounts on everything from prescriptions to travel, plus a subscription to the AARP magazine Modern Maturity.

    Although many programs for older adults are federally funded, the best way to contact them is through your local Area Agency on Aging. There is one in your community, even if you're not aware of it. These offices will connect you with a host of services for older adults in your area, including transportation, day care and respite care programs, residences, meal delivery, home care, legal assistance, and just about anything else you can think of (and plenty that you haven't!).

    Get your father hooked into the local senior center. These centers provide transportation services, classes, information, recreation, and the chance to make new friends. Offer to go with him the first few times to help put him at ease. It's not all-or-nothing. Even if you are not making regular use of the local senior center, people there are still available to answer questions or provide resources. And if your dad only wants to visit the center occasionally, even if it's just for lunch, you're still welcome there.

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