Friday, July 24, 2009

Caring for our elders


MANAGING ELDER CARE: Back row, from left, Cremens, Shapiro and Cohen. Front row, from left, Sprague, Span and Moscowitz

At some point in one's later years, conversations are likely to turn from caring for children to caring for aging parents. Suggestions for pediatricians turn to recommendations for geriatricians. These conversations, while common, are not widely anticipated, and caregivers of elderly parents often are not equipped with appropriate resources, support systems and information to effectively care for and emotionally deal with the transition to caring for aging parents.


To address this issue, the MGH Geriatric Medicine Unit – along with community agencies HouseWorks and Goddard House – hosted an evening event June 25 in the O’Keeffe Auditorium. The program, "A Meeting of Hearts and Minds," provided professional caregivers and family members of geriatric patients helpful information and a forum to discuss their experiences, concerns, insight and perspectives with a panel of geriatric experts and caregivers. Among the panelists were Cornelia Cremens, MD, MPH, MGH geriatric psychiatrist; Andrea Cohen, co-founder and CEO of HouseWorks; Peg Sprague, who had cared for her elderly mother; and Nancy B. Shapiro, executive director of Goddard House. Paula Span, author of "When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions," shared several stories from the dozens of interviews she documented for her book about families caring for aging parents.

"Often, we're not prepared, and we don't know much about elder care until we get there," says MGH Geriatric Medicine Unit Program Director Barbara Moscowitz, MSW, LICSW, who moderated the event. "The goal of the evening was to provide caregivers of older adults a combination of resource materials and, more important, an honest, clear discussion about the challenging emotional, family and social issues involved in this frequently overwhelming experience for both caregivers and care receivers."

More than 200 guests attended the event, which opened with a reception where attendees could obtain helpful information from resource tables sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, MGH Prime Care and Partners HomeCare.

For more information visit the MGH Geriatric Medicine Unit website or call 617-726-4600.

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