With the advancement of medicine, technology and resources, our life expectancy is quite longer than it once was. This means that more elderly adults require assistance for longer periods of time. Caring for an elderly parent generally falls on the shoulders of their adult children and grandchildren, who are sometimes elderly themselves.
Though caring for a loved one, specifically a parent, can be rewarding, fulfilling and a way to repay them for raising you, it can also be extremely taxing. Many of those individuals who tend to their elderly parents struggle emotionally, physically and financially. Furthermore, the stress of caring for someone on a continual basis can place stress on other relationships, responsibilities and job performance. However, there are ways to make this sometimes difficult process much easier, both on the elderly parent and the caregiver.
Start a Discussion Early
Start talking about the future well before your parents become incapable of taking care of themselves. Use natural transitions to bring up the topic such as a recent health scare of a friend or a news article about the topic. Very openly and compassionately, ask them what their feelings are on assistance after they are not self-sufficient.
Also, if a parent brings up the subject, allow them to discuss this topic openly, even if it is uncomfortable to discuss. Do not shun loved ones for making remarks such as “When I can no longer do normal activities on my own…” or “When I die…” Though this may be hard to think about, it is a reality and should be discussed early on to avoid complications later.
Work with your parent(s) and plan ahead for care and death by establishing legal documentation of durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, living will and trust. Make sure you know where this documentation is and how to access it.
This is also a time to discuss with the entire family who will take on what roles with regard to care. It may be wise to have your parents’ lawyer present to document duties.
Beyond this, you and your parent(s) should discuss funeral planning. Again, though this may be a morbid topic, it is best to plan in advance so you are not burdened with details when you are mourning.
Consolidate Medical Data/Supplies
Work with your parent(s) to start a file with their medical test results, doctor’s information, medications and allergies. Also, organize medications into pill boxes so you know when and what medication needs to be taken.
When a Parent Needs Assistance
Once you believe that your parent(s) can no longer take care of themselves on their own, talk about moving forward with the plans you previously made. If they must move out of the home and are showing resistance, listen and address hesitations. Then, express your concerns for their safety while living alone. If they are showing extreme resistance, employ the help of a physician or a trusted religious leader to participate in the discussion.
There are also ways to elder-proof the home to accommodate health changes so that your parent(s) do not need to move.
- Install grab bars near the toilet and bathtub
- Place non-skid mats in the bathtub and shower
- Install adequate lighting near stairs or high traffic areas
- Install wheelchair ramps going into the home
- Hire “Meals on Wheels” to deliver meals
- Hire a chore service to clean, shovel or do yard work
- Hire a home health aide to assist with bathing, bathroom and medical needs
- Hire a transportation company to take the parent to appointments or the store
- Install a Personal Emergency Response System
Call on others in similar situations, or seek out advice from professionals in family care giving. Consider attending support groups or finding an online network for individuals caring for adult parents.
Modify Your Situation
Since caring for elderly parents can be wearing on other parts of your life, it may be wise to modify your daily activities, specifically at work. Look to your employer to modify your working arrangements to remain productive but also complete your family obligations.
- Try to work remotely from home
- Work on weekends or evenings
Take Care of Yourself
While you are caring for others, do not forget to take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep and remaining active. You are of no assistance to your parent(s) if you are not well yourself.
SOURCE: A New England Nanny