Steps to Take Before Caring for Your Parents
The signs are subtle, but you notice them. It may be your family home is no longer being properly maintained. It may be that your parents rarely socialize anymore. It may be something as vague as your parents appearing bored and more tired than your last visit.
Coming to terms with the fact that your parents are aging and may need you to help them make the necessary changes is difficult. Even harder is that conversation with them. It’s a conversation they will probably not initiate for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they may not be aware they need help. Maybe they are in denial or fear being forced out of their home into some unappealing care facility. For whatever reason, when it comes to caring for aging parents, it’s important to tread with love and respect.
What Do They Need?
The first hurdle is to find out exactly what your parents need to stay safe and healthy. Examine the different areas of their routine and assess how much help they actually need to get through the day. Are their issues physical or cognitive? Can they handle their meals and hygiene needs? Are they interacting socially with peers? Can they handle their medical needs without a caregiver to be in charge of medications? Do they need transportation assistance? Gaining a clear understanding of the situation is imperative for decision making.
How much hands-on responsibility you shoulder for your aging parents will depend on a number of factors, including your geographical location, your schedule, your own physical ability to perform necessary caregiver tasks, and of course your relationship with your parents. It’s best to be realistic from the get-go to avoid problems down the road. You may not be the best person for the job and your parents may be better served by you finding someone who is.
Work Together as a Team
Your parents are already dreading being in a position that requires others to care for them. Shutting them out of the decision-making process will compound their discomfort. Though they are likely to resist your efforts early on, the more you emphasize you are a partner—not an adversary—the easier it will be to convince your parents to get on board with the program.
What’s the Budget?
You will need an accurate accounting of your parents’ financial status in order to understand what kind of care they can afford today—and in the future—and whether or not they will need to apply for financial help through programs like Medicaid.
Home Safe Home
If your parents are staying in their home, make sure the environment is free from safety hazards. Keep halls and walkways clutter-free and add grab bars in the bathroom to prevent falls. Make sure living spaces have plenty of light with easily accessible switches.
Stay in Touch
Nothing hurts seniors like loneliness and isolation. Make sure you are in constant touch with your parents and encourage them to reach out to friends and other family members. Preprogram important numbers into their mobile phones so they can easily contact emergency services if necessary.
Whether your parents are ready and excited to move to an active adult community or need to relocate to a senior housing option with more assistance services, assure them you are there to support them in whatever they need. Remember this can also be a stressful time for you. A support group for caregivers may be helpful.