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H E A L T H    A N D    S A F E T Y

* *Park in ACC lot, Dogwood Deck by permit
* *Sandwich generation finds  challenges in caring  for aging family members

Park in ACC lot,
Dogwood Deck
by permit



Every day, hundreds of people come to UNC Hospitals and the School of Dentistry from all over North Carolina.

They arrive seeking treatment for themselves or worried about the condition of a family member or friend who they may be coming to visit.

The last thing these people need is additional stress trying to find a place to park.

That is why the Dogwood Deck on Manning Drive and the Ambulatory Care Center (ACC) Lot off Mason Farm Road are reserved for hospital and dental school patients and visitors weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

All too often, however, parking has not been available for patients and visitors because the spaces are taken by faculty, staff and students who are going to class or work, or in the case of resident students, sometimes storing their vehicles.

To address the problem, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) renewed its efforts to monitor entrances and check license plate numbers in these parking areas before issuing tickets to any vehicle belonging to a faculty member, staff member or student. And for those people who had legitimate reasons for parking there, DPS also has made it easy to appeal the tickets online.

Criticism about the policy was voiced at a recent Employee Forum meeting.

“We understand that employees and students often have medical reasons to park in the parking deck or ACC parking lot, and we want to make sure they can do that without being ticketed,” said Randy Young, DPS information specialist.

“If they’ll obtain a temporary hangtag parking permit, they won’t have to worry about getting a ticket.”

People can get the parking permits from:
* *Booth attendant at the Ambulatory Care Center off Mason Farm Road;
* *Dogwood Parking Deck office, just inside the East Drive entrance;
* *Public Safety building customer service window from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (DPS is located on Hardin Drive off Manning Drive.); and
* *UNC Hospitals Parking Office (2nd floor, Anderson Pavilion; 966-1031).

In addition, faculty, staff and students can call DPS at 962-3951 to have the hangtag mailed to them prior to their medical appointments.

If they have an unplanned appointment or emergency, they can also call this same number to provide their license plate information and avoid getting a ticket.

* *

 

Sandwich generation finds challenges
in caring  for aging family members

Coppola

Sue Coppola, right, helps 91-year-old June Watson review
her bills during a visit to Watson’s home near Chapel Hill.

Like most members of the sandwich generation, Sue Coppola has a lot on her plate. Coppola, a professor in the School of Medicine’s Division of Occupational Science, also helps care for her mother, who has dementia, and her daughter, a high-school student just learning to drive.

The sandwich generation is the group of middle-aged adults who are raising children while also providing financial support or care to their parents. Thanks to increases in life expectancy, the situation is becoming more common for many Americans, including Carolina faculty and staff members, Coppola said.

“The demographics are quite compelling,” she said. “It’s going to put increasing strain on families, who already provide 80 percent of care.”

About one in eight Americans between the ages of 41 and 59 are caring both for children and aging parents, according to a 2005 study by the Pew Research Center.

Many of these caretakers miss work to attend doctors’ appointments with older family members or to handle crisis situations. That costs employers about $33.6 billion in lost productivity each year, according to a 2006 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving.

About 80 percent of caregiving for older adults is performed at home, most often by women, and the fact that more women have become employed in recent decades complicates the issue, said Anne Whisnant, vice president of the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals, which sponsored a workshop last November about caring for older adults. Whisnant is also director of research, communications and programs for the Office of Faculty Governance.

“It’s different now when the main caregiver in many cases is also employed,” Whisnant said. 

Although juggling different roles can be stressful, Coppola said it is important to remember that aging also has a silver lining.

“There are a lot of wonderful gifts to aging,” she said. “All the data shows that people generally have higher life satisfaction as they age. There’s a satisfaction that you’ve gotten through a lot of the hurdles in life, even if you’re sorry that life is coming to a close. And spending time with an aging parent can be very rewarding.”

Meanwhile, a wealth of resources for older adults is available through the University and in Orange County. Coppola and other UNC experts offer several tips for faculty and staff members caring for an aging family member.

Because social isolation is one of the most critical problems that older people face, connecting with others and feeling productive is important.

“The people who live to be centenarians are people by and large who have something to do tomorrow,” Coppola said.

Creating new family roles, such as having a grandparent bless the food at special meals, can bring a sense of purpose. The Orange County Department on Aging can provide information about activities for adults ages 55 and older; call 245-2000.

Taking steps to prevent falls is crucial. “Falls are a huge killer of people,” said Victor Marshall, director of the UNC Institute on Aging.

Last year, the institute helped found the N.C. Falls Prevention Coalition. The 30-member organization uses social-marketing techniques to teach people how to reduce the risk of falls, such as by removing throw rugs and installing grab bars in showers. To reach the coalition, call the North Carolina Injury and Violence Prevention Branch at 707-5425.

Aging experts also advocate preparing legal documents before a crisis arises. A living will specifies the treatments an individual would like to receive, and a health-care power of attorney authorizes another person to make important medical decisions if the person is unable to express those wishes. Both documents can make caring for a loved one easier.

Fostering self-reliance is another key component. For instance, creating an environment in which older adults have access to do their own laundry is one way to help them stay active. An occupational therapist can help develop a plan for accomplishing this.

In planning and implementing care for an older loved one, it is beneficial to find an interdisciplinary team of doctors who will work together to develop the treatment plan. The Interdisciplinary Geriatric Evaluation and Treatment Clinic in the UNC Center for Aging and Health is such a resource; call 966-1459. 

Even people who are not caring for an aging family member can be an advocate for innovative education in geriatrics.

Last fall, English professor Jane Thrailkill started talking with students about how they could incorporate tools from literature into their work with older adults.

“There’s an element of detective work to what they do, and attention to the small detail that may prove to be the lynchpin,” she said. “Those aspects of what they’re up to are frequently involved in literature.”

The students discussed how to observe key details – such as dirty dishes in the sink – that could be a quiet signal of depression and how this insight might keep a problem from escalating.

Editor’s Note: Sara Peach, a master’s student from Durham in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, wrote this article.

INSIDE THE PRINT EDITION:
FEBRUARY 18, 2009

Feb. 18 issue
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Feb. 18 issue as a pdf

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