Author and nurse discusses the journey to becoming a caregiver

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ruth Sanders has worn many hats in her life: nurse, wife, mother, teacher. But she, like nearly 45 million other adults in this country, is also a caregiver for her elderly mother. Her experience, which continues today as she cares for her 92-year-old mother at her home in Meridian, led her to write &8220;My Parent, My Child.&8221;

Sanders said she wrote the book to help other people who are going through a similar situation. Sanders has been a registered nurse for 35 years and had an extensive career with the Department of Defense. But not all people who are called to care for their parents have clinical or medical experience, she said. Most people who find themselves taking care of their parents are &8220;lay caregivers,&8221; and this is the audience she hoped to affect the most.

Another issue is as the baby boomer generation gets older, the number of lay caregivers will only increase. But she knows there are ways people can prepare for caring for their parents.

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In her experience, she said the best time for people to start forming a plan for long-term care is when both parties are still able and willing to talk about it.

Another challenge for many people, according to Sanders, is financing. She cited the cost of a nursing home is upwards of $30,000 a year. Furthermore, Medicare programs may assist in funding housing costs in these kinds of facilities, but do not offer any funds for those who care for the elderly in their homes.

Another cost, particularly for those who have to work, is for home care nurses and others who come in to assist in daily care. This can be anywhere from $7 an hour and up, depending on where a person lives and the amount of care needed.

In addition, Sanders has discovered there is not adequate legislation to alleviate the burden on caregivers.

From these issues, Sanders said she has learned it is paramount to develop a plan and then seek out an understanding, compassionate healthcare provider or physician. Other issues, such as when and how to get a power of attorney document, how to make homes wheelchair accessible and how to organize medications properly will all follow when a person has a plan in place.

Sanders said often there are people right in the community who can assist in these situations such as with faith-based groups and churches.

In addition to lecturing on her most recent book, Sanders is an adjunct professor at the University of West Alabama where she is the clinical coordinator. Her job involves taking nursing students into the hospital and helping them put the theory they have learned in the classroom into practice.

Her first book, &8220;Let Not Your Heart be Troubled: This Too Shall Pass,&8221; was an inspirational memoir detailing how to deal with life issues such as a toxic work environment.

Kelli Wright is the staff writer for The Demopolis Times. She can be reached at