White Coat, Black Art

Seven tips for parenting your parents

Dr Brian Misiaszek, a geriatrician with Hamilton Health Sciences, and Dr Cathy Sellens an ER doctor in Hamilton share their stories of caring for their elderly parents.

Most Canadians will, at some point, care for an elderly family member.

It's rarely a one-shot deal. The commitment can last for as long as a decade.

It can be a stressful and difficult experience.

There's a steep learning curve for those who are navigating the healthcare system on their parents' behalf: from learning how to blister pack medications to arranging home care.

But is it easier for those who already know the system?  Not necessarily says Dr Brian Misiaszek, a geriatrician with Hamilton Health Sciences, who is caring for his elderly parents.

Misiaszek tells Dr. Brian Goldman, host of White Coat, Black Art that trying to navigate the system on their behalf is "a little bit like what my grandmother used to call 'crap and corruption'... Chaos, things scattered all over the place, muddle and jumble."

When his mother was recently hospitalized, Misiaszek was alarmed because "as a geriatrician I know the hazards of hospitalizations for older people. I know that usual care may cause complications. Knowing this stuff, it horrifies me and you feel helpless."

Dr Cathy Sellens is an ER doctor in Hamilton, Ont. who is helping to take care of her elderly parents. Both have medical challenges.  She says being a physician doesn't really change the equation.

The relationship you have with your parents really colours everything.I can't offer any advice to my Dad.

She says what she is able to do is play a supporting role.

"I can organize them. And I can help communicate for him. And I can help to remember those little details for them. I can go to the appointment and take notes and explain to them the game plan going forward."

Dr Brian Goldman, host of White Coat Black Art and an ER doc has been through the experience of taking care of both his elderly parents.  He says that you have to understand that to your parents, you will always be their child. "There's only so much advice that will stick."