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Only five percent of the senior population is living in nursing homes. That means the majority of seniors are being cared for by care partners. KSMU's Emily Nash talked with a couple who are currently the care givers for their parents.
Steve and Karen Warner are experienced care partners.
The couple cared for Karen's mom several years ago, and now they are taking care of Steve's parents.
"We wanted to do this. Karen and I both believe we should take care of our parents, uh when they get into their later years and they need that assistance. In both cases, in the case of her mom and my folks, we are the only siblings that is able to do that. And so it was something we took on willingly, because it was the right thing to do."
Karen says it was hard to know what to expect before she started caring for her mother.
"Well prior to having my mother, I thought it was just a kind of an easy kind of helping out kind of thing...but six years later I thought it was quite a different matter. (laugh).
She says the roles reversed, and she took on the responsibility of the parent.
"Your children get more and more independent. So there is always that distant relaxation of responsibilities. With your parents it goes the other direction. They might come to you in a little bit better shape in doing some things for themselves. But as time progresses, they can do less and less for themselves and you can do more and more for them."
Karen describes how hard emotionally it was on her.
"She of course was living in our home. She couldn't toilet herself, she couldn't toilet herself, she couldn't dress herself, she couldn't get in and out of her bed. I eventually got to a point...I love my mother dearly...but I got to a point where I resented the fact that I didn't have a life any more."
After caring for Karen's mother, the Warners have learned how to be better care partners and give this advice.
" Karen: I think you have to be careful, assuming too many duties too early.
Steve: She's right on, the more that we do, for my folks, the more the expect us, to do."
Karen: "Probably another advice I would give to someone new to care giving, would be to maintain a circle of your own friends. Don't cut yourself off from the life that you knew or the friends that you have."
Steve: "Its an interesting dynamic, being a care giver and uh, its not easy, but I think there are some things that you can leave in place and put in place that will get you through it. And I think that you will be better for it."
Karen and Steve both say, using local resources, and building a support group, have helped them through their care giving experiences.
Cox Health is hosting "Care Partners-Take Five" on Wednesday March 19th at 1pm in Cox Walnut Lawn on National and Walnut Lawn.
The class will focus on taking the stress out of care giving. For more information call 269-3616.