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Helping Adult Children Navigate the Pitfalls of Caregiving for a Parent

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Pleasantville-based licensed clinical social worker Curtis Au will lead a virtual support group starting next month to help adult children balance the demands required of them while caregiving for an elderly parent.

Being a caregiver to an aging parent is something that millions of Americans have experienced. But until it happens to you and your family it is difficult to fully understand the impact it has on your life.

Licensed clinical social worker Curtis Au has seen its effect on individuals and families he has helped counsel over the years, especially those who have had a loved one linger with dementia.

Starting Mar. 3, Au will be conducting a new 10-session virtual caregiver support group specifically for adult children caring for an aging parent. In addition to bringing comfort to people in very similar circumstances as themselves, the group promises to help participants navigate the many ancillary issues that accompanies those who are faced with being a caregiver to a parent.

“Really, there aren’t a lot of groups for people in their 40s, 50s, 60s. What do we do with mom, what do we do with dad and adjust our lives accordingly, and unless you’re in it you don’t really understand it,” said Au, who operates a private counseling practice in Pleasantville called Calm in a Storm. “That’s where the support comes in. You’re with people who get it and understand what you’re going through and together you kind of find your way.”

As people generally live longer, having the responsibility of caregiving for a parent while raising young children or sending older children to college – the so-called sandwich generation – adds to the financial pressure and demands on time, Au said.

An elderly parent sometimes moves into a household while a grandchild, now a young adult, is returning from college before becoming more independent, he said.

Au said many adult children are surprised to learn there aren’t more resources to help offset the prohibitive cost of care, whether that’s home care or admittance to an assisted living facility or nursing home. Locally, many families have too many resources for Medicaid, but the cost of care is so expensive that the parent may use up what they’ve saved to pay for proper care.

On average, the adult child is a caregiver to a parent for about five years, said Au, who has overseen support groups for many years on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association. For somebody with dementia, that can double to a decade or sometimes even longer, he said.

Au said that the United States could use a federal policy that allows for family caregivers to take time off from work. Difficulty juggling work, caregiving and their own children and spouse takes its toll on everyone.

“The other thing is caregivers don’t think to take care of themselves,” Au said. “You’re just exhausted and that’s the most important thing, because as the old saying goes, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not really there to take care of other people. It’s a lot of challenges.”

Even before an elderly parent reaches the point where they may no longer be independent, there are questions about how to address the gradual slowing down process, he said. For example, how does one suggest to an older adult that they should consider giving up driving or when is it time to downsize a home?

While so many people have been through this, certain circumstances that all caregivers face are unique.

“You’re sort of learning while you’re doing,” Au commented. “That’s why I hope this group will be a benefit to people, that we can all kind of learn together.”

During the course of the group, he plans to invite friends and colleagues who have worked professionally with families on certain aspects of the caregiver process, including bringing in experts on wading through the rules and regulations of Medicaid, where to look for community resources and how to search for the right type of geriatric care.

“Just being able to look at things strategically and saying, ‘Okay, what’s the best way to approach this?’ because it’s not easy and there’s no easy answer for any of these things,” Au said.

The adult child caregiver support group will be held for 10 consecutive Thursdays from 7 to 8 p.m. starting Mar. 3. Registration is required and there is limited space. A fee of $250 covers all 10 sessions.

For more information or to register, e-mail or call 914-400-8935.

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