No matter how much you think you have planned ahead, the day your aging parent can’t cope on his or her own comes as a shock. You begin to reverse roles: you become the “parent” and your aging parent becomes your “child” as the scope of Mom or Dad’s needs begin to mimic those you had when you were a child. Can you handle taking care of your own children’s needs and those of your parent without disrupting your own household? Can you please the rest of your family and still offer the care your parent needs? The answer is no! Adding an aging parent to your household can be daunting. It can also be a blessing. Either way, it is going to change the dynamic of your household. So what level of care will you need to provide?
Being the primary caregiver for an aging parent might include managing a specialized diet, making sure they eat, taking charge of their meds and/or finances. You will also become your parents’ advocate in matters of health, finance, legal matters, and with the rest of your family. Immediate and extended family might agree to keeping Mom or Dad out of a care facility, but decline to offer you any help caring for them. How can you cope?
Begin by putting the spotlight where it belongs: not on you but on your elderly parent. Your own feelings of guilt or martyrdom won’t get you through this. Nor will trying to hang on to the man or woman your parent used to be. Your parent is now an elderly person and requires constant attention and care. Use creative ideas to enlist help from family members.
Where do you begin? Schedule an appointment with your parent’s primary care physician. Bring with you a list of questions you need answered. Discuss the state or decline of your parent’s health. You can check with the hospital affiliated with your parent’s medical coverage for information on an elder care group. Their insurance provider will be affiliated with groups providing care or programs for elder care. Let the medical and insurance providers help you determine what types and levels of care your parents need.
Additional care could be as simple as an Aide coming in to help with bathing, medication, meals, dressing, etc. If more is needed take your concerns to the visiting nurse or to your parent’s doctor.
The watchword for elder care is SAFETY. In all aspects of elder care the word Safety is the best guide for an elder person’s caregiver. If the safety level is not what it should be, keep pushing until you get the necessary help. When needed, keep pounding on the issue of Safety.
Finding everything available to help with your aging parent’s care can be a lengthy process, but it is well worth the time and effort involved. It can also help extend your parent’s life. It may seem awkward, but talk to your parents while they are still able to make the decisions about healthcare, living wills, finances, power-of-attorney, etc. Try to have a plan in place BEFORE you need one. It will alleviate stress, confusion, and hurt feelings while you navigate the caregiving process.
The best gift you can give your elderly parent is you. Set aside quality time to spend with your parents. Make them feel welcome, not burdensome. Enlist whatever help is available to keep your caregiving free of resentment. Use this experience as a way to honor and love your parents. Teach your children ways to contribute. After all, the care your children see you give, might be the care you get from them.
For more tips on caring for aging loved ones, visit our senior home care blog.