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Both in their 80s and my father has dementia. I'd like to learn about how to take care of my elderly parents, like whats best for them to eat, what to do if they choke, how to help them up after a fall (without injury) , how to prevent deterioration etc...are there classes anywhere to learn these things?

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Common sense, respecting the fact that your elders are still individuals who are struggling with their losses, plus love for them and yourself will help you get through.

For any type of dementia, the Alzheimer's Association is a wonderful resource. Your local chapter (whether they are affiliated with this association or the Alzheimer's Foundation of America) will be a huge support. They can likely send out a social worker for an evaluation.

There are therapists who can help with swallowing issues and other problems that you run into. Ask for help from the neurologist who diagnosed your father's dementia for suggestions and go to www.aging.gov. On this great new government site you'll find your state and from there you'll see your state's resources. We finally have one site for all states even though all states don't have the same services. It's very useful.

The fact that you are asking for help now speaks well for the future. Know when you can't do it alone and hire in-home care or consider assisted living or a nursing home if necessary. Doing so doesn't mean that you are giving up. It simply means that you are looking for the best options for your family situation.

Many people can handle it all through the end, but others have different situations where they can't. And even people who keep their elders in their home for life need outside help in some form.

Read through the categories on agingcare on a regular basis as your needs and interests will evolve with your parents' issues. You'll find many helpful articles that can point you in the right direction.

Please keep in touch with us. This group on agingcare will help. There's almost always someone who has had the same issue that you will be dealing with. Peer support is a huge help.

We all wish you the best and will help when we can,
Carol
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You need to get up to speed on dementia ASAP.
It does not get better and you can't slow it down.
You are in for a ride if you are trying to do this with two parents by yourself.

I won't ask why you'd do that, but you might do yourself a favor by understanding where help can come from because you are going to need it.
Get in touch with your area agency on aging and make them your new best friend. They can connect you to services and agencies you're going to need to use.

This site is an encyclopedia of information as well. There are a lot of very experienced people here who will give it to you straight.

Some things to consider - if you get hurt, what is the plan? Shoulder & back injuries are very common with caregivers. If their needs increase beyond what you can handle, what is the plan? When they will need overnight care - and they will - what is the plan? Some parents will absolutely not behave for their adult children, and this can interfere with being able to provide care. Need to have an option if that happens.

I'm not saying you can't do it, but don't feel like a failure if it's more than you thought or can physically do at some point. We see so many people here who come in crisis because something changed overnight and they can't handle it anymore, and have not looked into any options or didn't expect change.
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Take first aid and CPR training at the Red Cross. Get familiar with their needs by going with them to office visits and asking questions of the MD. I highly recommend the videos on youtube posted by Teepa Snow.
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Lilymoon, I love to see the enthusiasm. Really, the same thing that is good for any adult is good for seniors. The trouble comes when you realize they have a mind of their own. So you may put a romaine salad in front of them, only to hear it's not fit to eat. And they prefer their cookie and ice cream treat. :) Pretty soon you get comfortable knowing that keeping them fed semi-healthily is good enough. And you learn to call 911 if anyone falls and can't get back up.

You may have it easier because both of your parents are there. They can keep each other company and buffer the effect that the other has on you.

I took care of my father with mixed dementia and my mother with VaD. Emotionally it was very stressful, but the work wasn't all that much. There were a lot of doctor appointments for my mother, grocery shopping, meal prep, and house cleaning, but it was manageable. The only horrible time was when my father died, since I ended up being responsible for all the technicalities and execution of the will.

The only really difficult thing for me to handle was my mother's self-obsession. That makes everything 100x more difficult. If you don't have that type of problem, it should be okay. Just learn about Alzheimer's and don't worry about saving them from old age. They've not found a miracle cure yet. Your parents will help guide you in what they need.
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If they haven't already created their estate plan, make that a priority. If you're the sole adult child, you'll want to see either an estate planning attorney or elder law attorney to get a DPOA (financial and legal power of attorney), Living Will/Advanced Directive (medical authority to make medical decisions on their behalf), Last Will and Testament or Living Trust. If conditions exist that a trust is preferable, make sure the attorney explains how to "fund" the trust.

Begin itemizing their financial and legal records, assess their finances, create budgets for home care, and get a good handle on what finances are available.

Create a medical history for both, listing insurance information and account numbers, contact number(s) for you and any other relatives, significant surgeries and medical conditions, pacemaker data (if appropriate), contact information for their physicians and relevant parental information if either of their parents had cardiac, pulmonary, cancer and other medical issues.

Investigate medical alert pendants for backup protection when you're gone. Get a lockbox (not the kind with the inverted U-shaped lock, but one that screws directly into the studs adjacent to the front door) to hide a key to the home in the event that EMS needs to come and you're not there to open the door.

Start going to local community as well as the annual Area Aging on Aging Caregiver Expos, collect literature from the various exhibitors and keep on hand (indexing or cataloguing is a good method) for when you might need assistance.

Investigate activities at senior centers and local libraries, and learn about transportation options as well.
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I applaud your efforts for education. I would be aware that preventing deterioration in seniors in their 80's isn't likely, especially with a dementia patient.

In addition to learning safety and first aid techniques, I would read a lot about the mental burnout of caretakers. It's not just losing sleep, constantly cleaning, changing diapers, locating things they have hidden, convincing them to take medication, refusing baths, etc., but it's also constant repeating, aggression, wandering, crying and resistance to care. I would find out about how you can get help from outside sources to come into the home and assist you. I would also have a backup plan. If you need to be with one of them in the hospital, who will stay in the home and care for the other one? And what if you get sick or disabled? I'd have several backup plans.
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If there's any chance you can take a nurses aid course, it would be helpful, but costs money and takes time. You might call you local hospital, or senior center and see if they can recommend a class for families of elderly folks. They would likely discuss things like safety proofing the home for elders: ie: get rid of throw rugs, put up hand rails in bathroom. Remind you that now YOU must keep on top of the less frequent medical appointments, like eye and dental and mammograms, flu shots for the elder, as they will most likely have forgotten them. Hopefully such a course would help guide you through the maze of non-medical issues too. Getting POA, making sure they did their yearly taxes done. And I'll throw in one small suggestion, for anyone who's trying to get ahead of the game, as you are. ( I really wish I'd had a clue about what was coming.) But while your folks still have their minds get them to tell you where everything is. These old folks really like to hide important stuff. By the time I realized I was going to be the one handling all the paperwork (and everything else), Mom's mind was pretty well gone. Unfortunately, Dad was still "faking it" rather believably. It wasn't until I asked him some pointed questions, that I realized he didn't know which end was up either. Searching through decades of saved junk paperwork was the biggest job I faced. The more important the documents, the more ridiculous was the place I found them. (In the junk mail fro 1975, in a recipe book, under the night stand...unbelieveable. ) The holy grail of paperwork is a veteran's discharge papers. Be absolutely sure you find those, and treat them like gold.
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Lily, go to the blue bar near the top of this page... click on SENIOR LIVING and CAREGIVER SUPPORT and ELDER CARE... a drop down menu will appear, read all the articles you have time to read. This website is a store house of information, not only from the articles but also from those of us who read/write on the forums :)
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There is a good book called The 36 Hour Day which is excellent primer for handling someone with ALZ
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In Michigan our local Area Agency of Aging offers a six-week class on caregiving. I wish I had known about it before I got into the caregiving role. It's been eight years, and I felt like I had to reinvent the wheel at almost every step. A site like this one probably would have saved me a lot of anguish and aggravation. Rather than try to solve all the problems now, deal with them as they come up. The most important thing I learned was how to organize all the paperwork for my folks' financial and medical lives. They had done the preliminary work of getting the DPOAs in place and putting my name as a signer (not a joint owner) on their bank accounts. It has been up to me to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. My mother kept track of every dollar they spent for the first 65 years of their marriage. I don't keep records that detailed. So figure out what works for you as you go along. And when issues come up, come back and ask questions. This is an incredible source of information and support.
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