You may not be ready for this, but eventually, it comes down to you. When aging parents need assistance, the responsibility of caregiving often falls on their children’s shoulders. It is important to know what tasks are necessary and how to perform them adequately.
Here are seven steps that will help you take care of your aging parents:
1. Learn About Aging Issues
While you don’t have to become an expert in geriatrics research, gaining some understanding of common diseases among the elderly will help you offer your parents better care. Symptoms of certain ailments may include memory loss, confusion, incontinence, or difficulty swallowing. Try researching these conditions online or asking their physicians when you meet with them for checkups.
2. Determine When Your Parent Requires Assistance
It is important to pick up on cues that show when aging parents require care. If you have children, this may be easier for you since you can see what situations are overwhelming or unmanageable for them. Pay attention to whether they take longer showers, leave lights on in different rooms for extended periods of time, or cook less often. While it’s difficult to determine the difference between being forgetful and showing signs of degenerative disease, it’s best not to wait until there are severe consequences before helping out.
3. Talk with Your Parents About Their Needs
Open communication is essential when aging parents need help at home. Come prepared with a list of questions; examples include: Do they feel safe at home alone? Are they afraid of falling? Being forgetful or disoriented is normal, but if your parents are worried about their safety without supervision, it’s time to make changes. Ask them what tasks they struggle with most and how you can help. If they are hesitant, offer specific examples of things that need to be done around the house.
4. Consider Adult Daycare or Assisted Living
If your mother or father needs assistance beyond routine daily tasks, consider adult day care services for them if they are able to drive themselves to a location. In addition to socializing with peers in a group setting, activities such as exercise classes and therapeutic arts and crafts keep seniors physically fit and mentally stimulated while giving caregivers much-needed peace of mind. For those without a car, assisted living homes may be the best option. This provides all the amenities and services you’d find in a nursing home, but your parent will have more freedom and privacy than if they lived onsite.
5. Pay Bills and Handle Finances
Though it’s tempting to leave this job entirely up to your parents, don’t assume they will always have time for this task or remember all the necessary information. Although it’s hard to come clean about mishandled money and admit that help is needed in managing their finances, doing so demonstrates your trust in them and respect for their independence.
6. Be a Good Listener
It seems simple enough, but listening is one of the most important things you can do when taking care of an elderly parent. When aging parents need help, this is especially important as they may have a lot to say about their fears and frustrations. If you are not patient as they go on and on about certain topics, the chances are that they will stop confiding in you completely. It’s also important to show understanding by acknowledging their feelings instead of dismissing them with a quick, cure-all solution.
7. Keep an Eye Out for Safety Issues
It’s a good idea to check the batteries in all smoke detectors monthly, but seeing as though most people dread housework, it might be three months before these get done around the house. Look out for potential dangers such as poor lighting or slippery surfaces, which could lead to falls. In addition to these smaller things, make sure your parent does not have a stockpile of things displayed in their homes, such as supplements and prescription medications.
While they may think it’s helpful to have them all on hand just in case, this can be a recipe for disaster. If you suspect that your aging family members are becoming particularly confused or disoriented, ask them if they have been taking their medication regularly.
Trying to take care of aging parents can be a stressful role, but with these seven steps, you’ll have an easier time. Whether your parent needs help around the house, or they’re struggling emotionally and need someone to listen, consider what their specific needs are before meeting them where they are at. It’s important not only to offer solutions that make sense for both parties but also to work on establishing communication channels, so there is open dialogue about any issues along the way.