As parents age, physical and mental decline is an inevitable fact of life. Adult children will usually face the prospect of caring for their elderly parents at some point.
Before this life-altering transition occurs, it’s prudent to consider what’s involved. Having conversations with all of the parties involved will also help prepare everyone for what’s coming.
Caring for senior parents must include protecting their physical, emotional, and mental well-being and ensuring healthy aging as they live out the final years of their lives.
1. Determine The Support Needed
Some activities are necessary to perform every day to ensure a person’s general well-being, including their physical and emotional health. In caregiving, these are called activities of daily living. If health issues make it impossible to perform these activities, a caregiver will need to provide assistance.
- Self-care activities may include feeding, dressing, bathing, personal grooming, toilet hygiene, and moving about the home.
- Some self-care activities may be easier with adaptive equipment and accessories, such as a walker, a shower chair, and a lift chair.
2. Evaluate Your Ability To Provide Care
We all want to be involved as our parents age. If a parent needs more support than a child can offer, it can negatively impact their quality of life. Consider some of these factors if you’re considering becoming a caregiver:
- Can you spend the number of hours with your parent that they need?
- Do you have your own health problems that prevents you from offering appropriate care?
- Are you willing and able to invest the time to learn how to be a proper caregiver?
- Do you have the right relationship with your parent to spend large amounts of time with them?
These questions can be hard to answer, but it’s important to be honest with yourself and your parent. There’s no shame in hiring help or looking for other ways to support an elderly parent, especially if that means maintaining a healthy relationship with them.
3. Explore Living Arrangement Options
Living arrangements for elderly parents depend on factors including their budget, their health, and the ability of adult children to provide daily care. Living arrangements may change as aging progresses.
- A senior citizen may prefer to age at home for as long as possible, maintaining their independence and privacy.
- Living with relatives is a solution for many families, making it possible for elderly parents to receive both care and companionship.
- Senior communities offer support with housekeeping and meals. Medical support is usually not provided in these communities.
- Assisted living communities may offer a step up in services, including help with personal care, medication, and transportation. Learn the physical and social signs it is time for assisted living.
- Nursing homes provide around-the-clock medical care for aging parents who need either short- or long-term care.
4. Create A Safe Space
Once you know where your parent will live, establish a safe space for them. The living space should support both physical and emotional needs — both are important aspects of aging. Here are some important ways to make your parent’s living space safe:
- Reduce fall risk: Remove area rugs, obstacles they may trip over, or uneven flooring.
- Increase accessibility: Install handrails throughout the home, especially in key areas like the bathroom.
- Limit needs to one level: Keep everything your parent might need on the main floor to reduce their need to climb stairs, especially if they live independently.
- Store goods within arms reach: Limit crouching or using step stools.
- Invest in an alert system: Medical alert systems ensure your parent can contact emergency services.
To take care of emotional needs, make sure your parent has a say in their care. Like anyone else, they deserve to have input. Hearing firsthand what they need and want from their care is essential to supporting their happiness and emotional wellbeing as they age.
5. Take Care Of Household Basics
Other types of daily activities are not mandatory but connect with independent living. These are called instrumental activities of daily living. Assisting with these instrumental daily activities might be assigned to a family member or professional caregiver.
- Instrumental activities include cooking meals, cleaning, shopping, running errands, paying bills, answering the phone, and taking medications.
- Some activities must happen daily, while others might happen weekly or monthly.
- Some tasks can be performed with the help of technology, such as answering the phone or paying bills.
6. Reach Out To Your Community
Whether or not a child decides to be the primary caregiver for a parent, community support is vital. Ask neighbors, friends, and family to step in when you feel burnt out or to drop in on days when you can’t make it.
A strong community is extremely important at all stages in life. While it can be difficult to ask for help, you’ll find that people want to help out, and your parent will be better off in the end.
7. Address Financial Concerns
Finances will be a major factor in how adult children care for aging parents. Some seniors may be eligible for government assistance. Caregivers may also be eligible for tax relief by claiming an elderly parent as a dependent.
- Elderly parents can receive free tax assistance in some cases.
- Disability benefits may help to cover some care expenses.
- Some insurance policies will also help with expenses.
8. Keep The Conversation Going
Continue to touch base and evaluate your parent’s care. Their needs can change quickly, so you’ll need to monitor their care regardless of who provides it. Your parent’s wishes might also change, so having an open conversation where they can communicate their concerns is key to keeping them happy and healthy as they age.
If you’re having difficulty caring for an elderly parent, it could be time to explore other options, such as hiring outside help. Regardless, it’s important to take a vacation or break when you need it and to have your own space to recharge while being a caregiver.
Some states have Paid Family Leave (PFL) programs that let you take time off to care for family members. However, these typically get limited to 4 to 12 weeks, so they’re not ideal if your parent needs more support.
Burnout happens when you can’t take the time to care for yourself. It can lead to exhaustion, negative consequences for your own health, and impact your relationship with your parent. Make sure you take time to relax and care for yourself to reduce the chances of experiencing caregiver burnout.
- Planning the Care of Your Aging Parents: Planning the care of aging parents should include drawing up legal documents such as a power of attorney and a will that outlines their dying wishes.
- How to Care for Elderly Parents With Mental Illness: Mental illness can make caring for an elderly parent even more challenging, and adult children should seek professional assistance in this situation.
- LGBTQ Senior Resources: Use this list to discover resources for LGBTQ seniors that offer community, health care knowledge, housing assistance, and more.
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