Caring for an aging parent can be rewarding, but it can also take everything out of you. There are so many decisions to make and questions to ask, and things can easily get overwhelming for a caregiver in a hurry.

This is why Dr. David Barile, triple board certified in internal medicine, geriatric medicine, and palliative medicine, is offering four free night classes in February and March to help caregivers more easily manage the care they give and navigate the medical labyrinth that often comes with providing for an older patient.

“Caring for an Older Adult” begins on Thursday, February 4, and continues every other Thursday through March 17. Each night will offer a one-hour class from 7 to 8 p.m. at Princeton Care Center, 728 Bunn Drive.

Each class will be broken down into three parts. The first 15 minutes will be dedicated to understanding “the script,” as Dr. Barile calls it, to help caregivers keep the goals of care in perspective. This script focuses on four main questions:

• What is the diagnosis of the patient?

• What is the prognosis for the patient?

• What are the goals of care for the patient?

• How to achieve those goals?

“You have to ask doctors these questions,” Dr. Barile says. “And you have to continue asking them. I want to teach people how to use these points as a guide for care.”

For the next 30 minutes each class will cover a different aspect of care for older patients, such as dementia, the stressors on both the patient and caregiver, levels of care, and the prescription medicine cascade, where a patient without a primary physician is often prescribed medications in order to combat the side effects of other medications.

The final 15 minutes will be a Q&A session. Guests from Alzheimer’s New Jersey will also speak during the course.

Dr. Barile will also talk about the psychological effects of taking care of someone for a long time. Caregivers can suffer anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder, from both having to tend to an ill older person and from trying to cope with the sometimes tangled world of doctors and treatments.

The courses are also meant to help people figure out planning the many aspects of care. Without knowing the diagnosis or prognosis, for example, how does anyone know how to proceed with care? And there’s a big difference between whether someone will need care for a few weeks versus a few years.

“I’m just seeing so much of it,” Dr. Barile says. “Having to navigate the healthcare system, and there’s no good guidance for people. My goal here is to give people a script to help get information from the doctors.”

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