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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Starting Your Role As Caregiver

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If your mother is too young (or young at heart) to feel that she needs a senior center's services, a senior center would probably love her help as a volunteer. That way she'll already have a connection to the center further along the line when she starts to need help.

Introduce all new changes in your parents' lives as positives: "Now you won't have to worry about weeding the garden" or "You'll be able to get so much more done now that Jenny is taking care of the cooking."

Don't order; instead, ask. Bad idea: "The house is a wreck! I'm coming over tomorrow to set things straight!" Better idea: "It seems like one or two things need fixing. Would tomorrow be a good time for me to come over and help you take care of them?"

Whenever considering any programs, groups, or services for your mother, check them out on your own first. If a particular place or service doesn't seem right for Mom, you can avoid having one bad experience turn her off.

Make contact with a competent geriatric caseworker. You can contact such professionals through local senior centers or your doctor. Geriatric caseworkers are specially trained to deal with everything from financial and insurance issues to home health care, day care facilities, and volunteer groups that can help you. They're also able to evaluate what your parent's specific needs are. A geriatric caseworker will be an invaluable resource for you; no wonder this is one of the fastest-growing areas of social work.

Make sure your loved one is receiving all the medical and financial benefits available to him. Communicate with providers often to keep them updated and let them know that your loved one is not easy prey for the bureaucracy -- he has you on his side!

If your parent served in the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides a host of resources, including primary medical care, hospitalization, mental health services, home health care, and nursing home care.

Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by anything -- transportation issues, meals, even household chores -- without first checking with your local church or other religious or community groups, which often provide these services for older adults. There are good souls out there who want to help. Let them.

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