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Senior Citizen's Guide

Ethical Issues

Do you have any suggestions how to handle the ethical issues I'm encountering as a caregiver? Kenya in Indiana, 59

The biggest ethical challenge is usually money. If you're in charge of your elder's finances, set up a clear accounting of funds as they come in and go out. Don't commingle money unless that's desired by your elder. I've seen many caregivers outright steal from their elder. Cash can be drained from bank accounts, or one day the 100 year-old family silver tea set disappears without explanation. Don't let this happen.

If it hasn't already been done, create a will if your elder is still competent. Make sure items are willed and given out accordingly. Draw up the legal papers and let everyone know who gets the piano, the painting, and the cash. Even invite family members over to give everyone a chance to pick out their favorite items. This helps ensure that the right items are cataloged and then distributed correctly when the elder passes on.

Ethics come in to play when hiring an aide, too. From negotiating rates and time off, to keeping schedules and honoring contracts, you have to be fair. I can't tell you how many times I've become aware of a family taking advantage of an aide. Often when the aide is hired, she's told about laundry and cooking duties for the elder. But after a few months on the job, she might find herself doing the laundry and cooking for the entire family. This should never happen.

There are also ethical issues concerning your elder's privacy. Though it's important to communicate with relatives and friends who are interested in your elder's well being, it's unethical to gossip about his/her challenges and issues. I've also seen caregivers use their newfound power as a way to get back at their elder. This is an ethical no-no. Don't use caregiving as an opportunity to control anyone. Be straight forward and honest in all dealings with the elder and other family members.

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