CARING FOR AGING PARENTS
If you are in the position to care for your aging parents, many would consider that a blessing in the big picture, but it requires some patience and a lot of grace in the day-to-day.
With the help of siblings or family friends you should start by assessing your parent’s needs around 7 key areas:
- Home safety
- Medical needs
- Cognitive health
- Personal hygiene
- Meal preparation
- Community/Social interaction
Start a Caregivers Notebook and consider on a scale of 1-10 each area. Ask yourself and your siblings and your parent how well they are navigating with a vision of 10 being a strong quality of life. Start to focus on two or three areas that are the lowest ranked. What would it take to move the bar closer to a ten?
Creating action steps and identifying resources to assist, create a timeline for improvement.
First consider your own situation and abilities. Here is a great set of questions to get you started:
- Does your health allow you to physically care for someone?
- Do you live close enough to visit as often as needed?
- Would you want to live with them, either in their house or yours?
- Do you have the kind of relationship that allows you to spend a lot of time together without creating a lot of negative feelings on either side?
- Do you have the personality to provide the type of care they need?
- Are you willing to learn how to provide that care?
Ultimately you want our parents to be safe and healthy. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the dynamics of your parent/child relationship is important. Making an honest assessment early in the process will prevent caregiver burnout.
Safety hazards in the house increase as physical limitations and balance challenges increase. If mobility is a challenge make sure you consider a rollator or walker. Preventing falls will go a long way to keeping your parent independent for as long as possible.
Simple fixes include:
- Making sure all floors and walkways are clear of clutter, cords, and rugs
- Addinggrab bars in the bathroom and stair railings throughout
- Providing a bedside commode to eliminate potential falls
- You may need a hospital bed to help elevate legs of head, especially after a surgery or hospital stay. We can help you select the best model for your needs.
- Updating lights so all rooms are bright and switches are easily accessible. Adding motion activated lighting in hallways is also a smart choice
- Ensuring all appliances work well and are within easy reach. We have many aids for daily living to give you a solution to challenges with grip.
For more suggestions, our website has a list of durable home health medical equipment
Make sure you include your parents in the conversation from the beginning. If they are invested in these hard conversations, they will more easily take the steps they need to in order to live independently or transition to care more easily.
While many seniors prefer not to utilize a smart phone, there are easy flip-phone options and with a daily routine of charging at night and reminders to do take it with them when they leave the house it can serve as a vital link to improve both physical health and safety, as well as mental health while combatting isolation. A wearable medical alert device is another option to consider.
Think creatively about meeting needs. As the pandemic has created a lot of virtual remote services it is easier for aging-in-place parents to receive support around meal and medical supply delivery. In home healthcare is often an answer. After the vaccine is administered, you can arrange trips to senior centers which often have transportation services.
Here are some other resources you should be aware of:
Geriatric care managers – act as consultants to guide you or they can manage all aspects of caring for your parent. They should also be familiar with the costs, quality, and availability of resources in their communities and be experts in navigating the system and finding solutions to complex issues. In-home caregiving help – whether you hire privately or go through a home care agency, hired caregivers take care of seniors in their home.
Assisted living communities –24/7 care or varying degrees of assisted living and other senior housing options might be the right choice. There are services which can help you make a choice based on your needs and the best facility in your area to meet those needs.
Geriatricians (geriatric doctors) – specialize in caring for seniors and have more experience treating people with multiple chronic health conditions, dementia, and other conditions that primarily affect older adults.
Area Agency on Aging – this is the county-level government office that serves local seniors. They can connect you with helpful local resources and government programs. Here is a government link to the Agency Finder.