June 13, 2008

VUSN seminar series offers tips on caring for elderly loved ones

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Sally Miller, M.S., R.N.C., speaks during VUSN’s summer seminar series on caring for aging parents. (photo by Neil Brake)

VUSN seminar series offers tips on caring for elderly loved ones

Vanderbilt University Nursing School recently kicked off a four-part summer series dedicated to providing much-needed tips on caring for elderly loved ones.

The series, “Caring for Your Aging Parents,” is free and is designed to address key elements such as safety concerns, medicine issues, understanding dementia, legal protections and other issues.

Jennifer Kim, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., coordinator of the geriatric focus in the adult nurse practitioner program, Linda Beuscher, Ph.D., G.N.P., assistant professor of Nursing, and Sally Miller, M.S., R.N.C., instructor in Nursing, are leading the series that grew out of questions from staff and friends who wanted to balance concerns about older loved ones with a desire to maintain the dignity of the seniors in their lives.

At the first session, Miller illustrated typical home safety concerns by talking about her own parents who live in a nearby assisted living facility. She addressed issues such as lighting, falling hazards and food safety. Audience members chimed in about their own experiences and in doing so, shared perspectives on what can often be a lonely and isolated job of taking care of the aged.

Betsey Usher, a staff member at VUSN, said she went home that evening and called her parents, who are both in their late 70s and live in Baltimore.

“I went over my notes from class and talked to my mom about several items such as replacing throw rugs to prevent falls, buying a stove that shuts off automatically to help alleviate the potential for fires and staying off of ladders and step-stools.” The session also provided inspiration for Usher to look online for exercise classes near her parents' home.

Margaret Trotter, with Vanderbilt's Divinity Library, helps an older friend and was surprised to learn all the potential safety hazards. She left the session vowing to check her friend's home for electrical cords that could result in tripping hazards.

The second session included tips on dealing with loved ones with dementia and upcoming sessions on June 17 and June 24 will deal with legal issues and frequently asked questions. The sessions start at 6 p.m. in VUSN's Frist Hall.