Everyone dreams of aging gracefully, but sometimes it’s not all smooth sailing. Dealing with aging parents is often frustrating and heartbreaking.
Mom and dad might not be as spry as when they were young and their lagging memory can become frustrating. They now require help to stay healthy and safe.
It’s hard to go to your once strong and vibrant parents and tell them they are getting old and need help. The good news is, you’re not alone. There are many different solutions to dealing with aging parents,
The Realities of Dealing with Aging Parents
Maybe your parents have always been independent, but they have reached their 80s or 90s and are lagging. It is time for you to step in and take the reins. You will need to figure out their unique needs. You need to make plans but not leave out your parents. Instead, take the time to talk to them and explain your thoughts.
Always Include Your Parents in Discussions
Your parents do not want to lose control of their lives. Most people want to remain independent for as long as possible. It is imperative that when you start making life choices for your aging parents that you involve them in the discussions. Do not act like you are in control because most parents will naturally rebel against their child taking control. Please remember, that your parents will always see you as a child or teenager. To them, you are forever young. It is imperative that you act like a partner in the decision making and maybe even act like the changes being implemented are their idea and not yours.
Avoid Forcing Any Immediate Changes
If your parents are not in immediate danger, then do not force changes. Instead, have multiple conversations about the topic and try to guide them into the life changes that are needed. Taking baby steps gives them time to adjust. If you try to immediately jump into altering their lives, then they will resist. Instead, take it slow and easy. Never force them to do anything that they don’t want to do. Just slowly make the changes and help them out more as needed.
Assess Your Parent’s Needs
Your parents are probably trying to hold onto their independence. It is a balancing act so you must find solutions to their problems so they can continue enjoying their everyday life. The first step is to define the key areas where they require assistance. The best way to do this is observation and asking questions.
Key areas that might require assistance:
- Medical needs
- Home safety
- Personal hygiene
- Emotional support
- Social interaction
- Cognitive skills
- Medication planning
If you do not live locally then you will be faced with bringing in a part-time caregiver or hiring a transportation service. Some cities have local buses that take seniors to and from doctor appointments. You might have to bring in a housekeeper or a cook to care for your parent’s house and make sure they are eating nutritious meals.
Evaluate Your Parent’s Finances
Nowadays, care is not cheap. In fact, it can cost a small fortune. Discussing your parent’s finances with them is never easy. However, it is imperative that you estimate the future costs. If your parents fall short of the needed finances then you must start to explore financial help such as Medicaid, government programs or other available assistance that might help with the expenses of long-term care. An elder law attorney can be an asset in such situations because they will let you know if your parents qualify for Medicaid.
Access Your Abilities
You must honestly weigh your ability to care for your parents. If you have a full-time career or children of your own, then it can be difficult to also tackle the daily needs of your own mom and dad.
Please take a few moments to answer these questions honestly to determine if you truly can take on all aspects of your parent’s care yourself:
- Can you physically handle taking care of your parents?
- Will you live with your parents or have them live with you?
- Do you live close to your parents so you can visit daily?
- Is your relationship with your parent’s strong?
- Do you genuinely enjoy spending time with your parents?
- Can you mentally handle the type of care your parents might require?
- Will you learn how to effectively provide the kind of care that your parents need?
Remember, it is not selfish or uncaring if you simply cannot handle taking care of your parents alone. Your life has taken its own path and sometimes there is just no way for you to personally tackle the caregiver role. Making an honest assessment of your abilities is the best thing not only for yourself but also for your parents. If you cannot handle caring for your parents, then you will burn out mentally and physically which will only cause your parents upset.
House Security and Safety
Safety hazards exist in all houses. As your parents age they are more prone towards falling and hurting themselves, especially in the bathroom. Preventing falls will help keep your parents safe so they can continue living an independent lifestyle.
Home security features such as an alarm system should also be considered. Elderly individuals are often a target of burglars because they are perceived to be weak. Such home security devices also do more than just deter burglars. They can also detect a fire or a gas leak in the home.
Ways to make sure your parent’s home is safe:
- Make sure there is no clutter in your parent’s house that can obstruct their walking. Also, remove all cords from pathways and pick up rugs which can easily slide across the floor’s surface causing a severe fall.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom and along all stair railings.
- Replace lighting with brighter bulbs.
- Make sure all light switches operate and are within easy reach.
- Inspect all home appliances to make sure they function
- Order cabinets and other things so they are all within easy reach and your parents do not have to use step stools to reach items.
- Make sure your parents do not have to bend down to pick up items by investing in a handheld grabber.
Some elderly individuals do not like modern cell phones. They prefer having a house phone, but such devices are sometimes corded. If your parents have an old-fashioned corded house phone, then invest in a cordless model. Ideally, they should have several handsets in each room and a cellphone. Each phone should have preprogrammed numbers. A wearable medical alert device is also an ideal option. If your parent should fall or face a medical emergency, they can depress the button for immediate assistance. The devices are waterproof so they can be worn in the bath, shower, or pool. GPS devices are also a nice addition if your parents enjoy taking walks but become confused or lost when out of the house. With a GPS device, you can always pinpoint your parent’s location. Many have alarms that can be depressed in an emergency.
Using a Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant like Alexa or Echo are ideal for older individuals. You can set medication reminders, so you don’t have to worry about your parents missing their prescription meds. Alexa can even be commanded to help find a lost cellphone. A senior can also use Alexa to call for help in an emergency. Alexa also functions as a nightlight to make trips at night around the house safer. Your parents might balk at the technology of a virtual assistant, but most elderly individuals end up enjoying the company that Alexa or Echo provide. They can ask the system to read to them, update the weather, hear the latest news, or play their favorite music.
Additional Care Options
Dealing with aging parents is never easy. Maybe one of your parents is sickly or has dementia. You might feel like you are overwhelmed trying to provide for their constantly worsening needs. Luckily you do have aging care options and resources.
Geriatric Care Managers
If you feel lost in how to care for your parents then please turn to a geriatric care manager who will help you navigate the problems. They will have many ideas on how you can save time and money.
You can hire a private caregiver or go through a home care agency. A caregiver can stop in daily to check on your parents or might even be employed for 24-hour care.
Assisted Living Communities
Sadly, your parents might not be able to live on their own and you must place them in an assisted living facility to ensure their needs are met for their own safety and well-being.
Area Agency on Aging
A county-level government service for local seniors, the Agency on Aging will provide you with many helpful programs and local resources.
Dealing with aging parents is never easy, but please know that you are not alone. People are now living longer and experiencing fuller lives even if they need help from their children. Remember, always discuss things with your parents and include them on all decisions that involve their own current and future care. They will probably appreciate your assistance and caring.