Tips to Care for Aging Parents
Watching our parents age is a bitter-sweet feeling. You feel lucky to have them around. Yet, you realize that aging will inevitably change their lives in many ways, from mental and physical health issues to difficulty carrying out daily living activities.
Care for Aging Parents with These Tips
If you are an adult who has to care for your aging parents, know that you are not alone. A National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP survey revealed that 1 out of 9 Americans is an unpaid caregiver to another adult with health and functional needs. Also, the number of family caregivers in the USA increased to 9.5 million in 2020.
You may be mentally prepared to take on the responsibility of caring for your aging parents, but there can be many situations that leave you fraught with doubt. It isn’t uncommon to feel lost. So, let’s simplify the process by breaking down the various aspects where your elderly parents may need help.
Key areas of care
Remember that your parents were once independent individuals in control of their lives. For them to suddenly feel dependent is a bitter pill to swallow.
However, you can ease them into the reality of caregiving slowly by first understanding the key areas where they need help. It would be best to discuss these issues with them in a frank and non-confrontational manner. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Family support – Are your aging parents willing to live with you, or do they prefer to age at home? Are you living far away from your parents? Can your siblings or other relatives share the responsibility of caring for your parents? Answering these questions will help you gauge the level of family support needed and available to make future decisions about caregiving.
- Home safety – For your parents to age in place safely, the house will need essential safety modifications like grab bars, bedside step stools, stairlifts, and probably some structural changes like an extra bathroom. Make a note of these changes and how much the modifications would cost.
- Medical needs – Understanding the medical needs of older adults will help you determine their regular medical checkups, whether they need a full-time caregiver or someone who checks in once a day.
- Cognitive health – Caring for aging parents with dementia or Alzheimer’s involves a different approach to caregiving than for those with better cognitive health. Understand their needs to make decisions about occupational therapy or counseling.
- Mobility – Age affects mobility in the elderly. If your parents are healthy and mobile, you may want to encourage an active lifestyle for them. Physical wellbeing is an essential factor in aging gracefully and staying mobile. Also, it is the best time to plan for the future when their mobility may decline due to age or medical emergencies.
- Personal hygiene – Find out if your aging parents can confidently manage their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Daily tasks like bathing, grooming, self-feeding and functional mobility are a part of the ADLs. If they can’t manage these self-care tasks, they may need the help and support of either family or professional caregivers.
- Meal preparation – Many older adults don’t feel inspired to cook meals. This has a direct effect on their nutritional intake and health. Check with them if they need any assistance with meal preparation and look for ways to solve it.
- Social interaction – Isolation and the resulting depression are leading causes of mental health issues with seniors, especially if a senior has a deceased partner. A friendly and timely intervention can reduce their loneliness through more social interaction. Find out if they are silently suffering from loneliness.
Tips for taking care of aging parents
Once you know the key areas where your parents need help, it becomes easier to provide care. Here are some tips for implementing caregiving for aging parents.
With the help of the above key areas, find out how much help your parents need in their everyday life. Find out how much support they are already getting and in which areas they will require more assistance.
Noting this down will give you a clear idea of the requirements that you need to take care of or provide through the services of caregiving agencies.
Think about your own needs and abilities
It is very common to feel overwhelmed by caregiving. While they are your parents and you deeply care for them, it is important to assess your own health and wellbeing before taking on additional responsibilities. The NAC and AARP survey on caregiving pointed out that 23% of Americans feel that caregiving has worsened their health.
While giving hands-on care is ideal, it may not always be possible if you live far away from your parents or have other responsibilities like a full-time job and caring for young children.
Although you may have to juggle and balance your life, remember there is no reason to feel wrong about arranging for their health and safety with the help of external service providers.
Include your parents in the process
Your parents had led independent lives before they became dependent for various reasons. The effects of aging can mar their confidence, making them feel less in control of their lives. Hence, while making any big or small decision, it is vital to involve them in it.
Nevertheless, in case of any emergency where their health or safety is at risk, you may have to make crucial decisions without waiting to talk it out with them. Gently ease them into accepting help by starting with a few tasks and then building up to meet most of their needs.
Understand the financial situation
Long-term care is draining on your pocket as well as your parents’. Medicare and Medicaid can cover certain costs, if not all. Home modifications can be expensive in some situations, whereas moving to assisted living communities might cost even more.
Weigh the pros and cons of all the costs involved in your parents’ everyday life. Moreover, it’s best to have a frank and open discussion about finances with your parents, their current situation, taxes assessment, and whether they can avail of any health benefits from numerous government programs.
Take care of home safety basics
This is the primary need for aging in place. Clear the clutter and get rid of any potential hazardous equipment. Fire safety is of utmost importance, and so is having a well-stocked first-aid kit.
Making modifications like installing grab bars in bathrooms and kitchens, installing stairlifts or ramps for wheelchair access, and getting rid of rugs and wires can make the house safer for your aging parents.
Moreover, you can also take the help of professional agencies that provide consultation and services for home modifications for seniors wishing to age in place.
Make sure communication is simple and accessible
Whether your aging parents live with you or away, having accessible communication is singularly the most critical aspect, especially in emergencies. A basic mobile phone with preset numbers of important contacts gives seniors a lot of confidence.
It gives you some peace of mind as well. Teach your parents to use new technology to their advantage and watch them thrive as they explore social media to connect with old friends, relatives living far away, or even have Facetime with grandkids.
Explore available aging care options
There are various options and helpful resources you can explore when caring for your aging parents. You could take the help of geriatric managers who act as consultants to guide you or manage the various aspects involved with aging.
Depending on your parent’s needs, you could hire in-home caregiving help through a home care agency. Several assisted living communities or senior housing facilities also help older adults if they need 24/7 care.
You could also consult the Area Agency on Aging – a county-level government office that helps seniors and provides information on local resources and government programs that benefit your aging parents.
Taking care of your old parents should be something you wish to do willingly, and that is possible when you are aware of all that it entails.
Don’t let the confusion overwhelm you. Taking timely steps and planning ahead can make the job easier for you and your parents, who want to lead their golden years in health and safety.