When we think of our parents, we think of them as strong, dependable caregivers who are there for us at the drop of a hat. While both we and they would like this relationship to continue like that forever, there comes a time when the roles start to blur or even reverse entirely. They may be struggling physically, mentally or both and it can be very difficult to know how to manage the situation while enabling them to retain as much of their independence as possible.
This guide outlines the key steps to take when working out a plan to help our parents to lead happy and safe lives in their old age.
Assessing Their Needs
The first step to providing your parents with the best care is to work out what they need in terms of everyday support. There are key areas to examine including safety in the home, medical needs, mobility, meal preparation, personal hygiene, and social interaction. There may be some areas in which they are able to take care of themselves or which they are already well-supported.
When you have identified their needs you can find the right solution whether that’s more family support or a professional service such as a home caregiver who can administer medication, help with bathing and prepare meals or a transport service to help them run errands, socialize with others or attend medical appointments.
Considering Your Own Needs and Abilities
Depending on where you are in your own life, you may or may not be able to meet all of their needs within the family. Factors to consider include your own health, whether you live close enough, whether you have children and/or a career to think about and, crucially, whether you have the right personality/relationship with them to be their carer. If you are not best placed to look after them then it is best for everyone that you find another family member or professional who can give them what they need. Taking on too much will only end badly for all concerned.
Make The Home Environment Safe
Look for potential safety hazards which could cause trips, falls, cuts or electrical faults. Floors should be clear without cords or loose rugs, lighting should be bright and commonly used appliances at an easy to reach level, i.e. no bending or reaching up high.
Make Communication Easy
A key element in their safety is whether or not they can communicate with their family when they need help or simply when they are feeling lonely or isolated. This could have a significant impact on their mental health which can also impact them physically. Consider giving them a Jitterbug flip phone which has been designed with senior users as they are easy to see, hear and operate. They may also benefit from wearing a medical alert device.
Take A Look At The Finances
Whether you take it on yourself or you involve external professionals, caring for a parent will cost money. Get a clearer idea of their financial situation to find out if they will be able to afford extra care or if financial support such as Medicaid may be needed.
Involve Your Parent(s) In Any Decisions
One of the hardest parts of getting older is the feeling of losing independence and control, so where possible (i.e. they are still functioning cognitively) try to include them in any decisions made about their care. They should view you as someone who is supporting them during a time of change, not as someone who is taking over their life. They may be resistant initially so consider making small changes that can evolve over time rather than overhauling everything at once.
Worried about planning for your aging parents?
Check out my article on Elder Care Planning to read more.