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Caregivers need support system, too

Updated: March 7, 2013 6:16AM

Q. I’m in California, and my folks live in Massachusetts. Mom had a stroke that paralyzed her left side, but now I’m concerned about Dad. He’s 78 and insists he can handle everything, but I can tell that caring for her is hard on him. What can I do from here to help?

A. Like any caregiver, dad needs to be reminded that it’s important for him to take care of himself. This isn’t selfish; it demonstrates his love for Mom, because then he’ll have more energy to care for her. And if he gets worn out, he may even develop health problems himself.

So, in addition to encouraging him to take care of himself, here’s how you can support him.

Share the load: Help Dad set up a team of family, friends and professional caregivers, such as licensed companions or visiting nurses, who can pitch in.

Write out a list of tasks that your dad could use help with, from going grocery shopping to vacuuming and laundry. Then identify people who will help. Your goal is to free him up so he can get physical activity as often as possible, see friends without worrying about Mom and recuperate from the stress of having to help your mother with all her physical needs.

Arrange meals: Good nutrition is as essential for your dad as it is for your mom. .

Get Dad into a support group: The Family Caregiver Alliance has a state-by-state listing of local support groups. They’ll give him a chance to talk about his concerns, to get tips from others in similar situations.

Q. Uncle Steven had an aortic valve replacement a few years ago. At the time, the Sapien valve was being used in Europe, but he didn’t have access to it here, and unfortunately he didn’t survive. Now the Sapien has gotten thumbs-up from the Food and Drug Administration. Why wasn’t it approved for us earlier, when it was approved for the Europeans?

A. We’re sorry about your uncle. In the United States, devices like the Sapien valve can’t be used without FDA approval. And it’s a long, slow process that doesn’t necessarily take into account what other countries have done. That’s a real bone of contention for many manufacturers and some consumer groups; it’s forced some U.S. companies to first sell their medical devices overseas just to stay in business. This sends innovation, jobs and important health solutions out of the country.

The FDA is dedicated to balancing patient safety with a speedy approval process, but they’re grossly underfunded. Nonetheless, solutions may be coming. The FDA has established the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC) to streamline the regulatory process.

King Features Syndicate

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