When you’re a teenager or young adult, it’s difficult to imagine that you’ll one day be the primary caretaker for your parents. But as you age, roles have a way of reversing. And at some point, you have to make tough decisions on how to best care for them.
3 Tips for Helping Aging Parents
Aging is a part of life. No parent – regardless of how strong and independent they are in their younger years – is immune from its grip. And while some may hang on longer than others, physical and cognitive decline will affect anyone who lives a long life.
Knowing when to step in – and what exactly your role will be – can be confusing and frustrating. The parent doesn’t want to be a burden, and you certainly don’t want to neglect their needs. There’s certainly tension there, but it’s something you have to work through together.
Keeping all of this in mind, here are several tips ways to help your aging parents in their later years.
1. Know the Signs
One of your primary responsibilities is to be perceptive enough to detect when it’s time to transition your parent into a professional care setting (such as an assisted living facility). And to do this well, you must recognize the signs. Here are a few:
- A consistent pattern of recent accidents and/or falls.
- Slower than normal recovery times from illness and injuries.
- Worsening health conditions.
- Forgetfulness and memory loss that impacts daily tasks and functioning.
- Poor house maintenance and upkeep.
- Loss of independence and frequent reliance on others for help around the house.
- Erratic and unpredictable behavior that’s not indicative of your parent’s true personality.
- Troubling social signals (like withdrawal and/or signs of depression and loneliness).
When you’re around your parent a lot, it can be difficult to notice these signs. They tend to develop over several weeks or months, which makes them seem normal. Do your best to take a step back and objectively evaluate how your parent is doing. This will give you a better feel for if/when you should act.
2. Get the Right Professional Help
When it comes time, make sure you’re getting the right professional help. There are numerous care options for elderly individuals, and knowing which ones to pursue will help ensure your parent gets the care they need.
Independent living is a gentle setting that provides an easy transition from living in your own home to living in a senior community. It’s usually a collection of apartments or single-unit residences where individuals can live independently and access certain assistance or amenities based on their needs. For example, residents have the option of making their own meals or having meals prepared for them.
Assisted living facilities provide middle-level care. Residents are still able to take care of many of their own basic needs, but may need help with others. For example, someone in an assisted care facility might need help with housekeeping, personal hygiene, or mobility.
Finally, there are nursing homes. These facilities – also referred to as long-term care homes – provide a much more hands-on service for residents. The staff at a nursing home is trained to manage medication, administer medication, provide rehabilitative care, and even manage cognitive impairment conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
3. Give Yourself Grace
It’s important that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself. While you have some level of obligation to ensure your parent is getting the care they need, you don’t have to shoulder all of the burden. Instead, give yourself grace to make mistakes. Focus on controlling what you can while leaving everything else up to the professionals. If you take this sort of approach, you’ll find that you’re much happier and more successful. It won’t always be easy, but you’ll rest easy knowing you’re doing what you can.
Making a Good Decision
There aren’t necessarily “right” and “wrong” choices here. It’s a matter of being perceptive, evaluating the circumstances, and making the best possible decision you can with the information and factors you have available at your disposal. Use the suggestions in this article to begin making some proactive steps in the right direction.