Your Guide to Caring for Aging Parents

October 14, 2020

It's inevitable that as your parents grow older, they’re going to need more care and attention than they used to. That might mean help with small things like their daily living routines to more extensive assistance such as full-time medical care.

Whether you plan to take on the role of primary caregiver or work with other people to cover this service, there’s a lot you’ll need to know about working with seniors. Here are some tips for success when it comes to caring for your aging parents.

How to Care for Aging Parents at Home

1. Understand how much care is needed

The first step is to get an accurate picture of what tasks will be required. For example, are your parents still in a condition where they can do normal daily living activities such as driving themselves to the grocery store, prepare food, or keep up on the housework? Consider also if any hygiene or medical activities may be required.

Ask mom or dad what they feel they can handle on their own, but also be observant. If you can clearly see dishes piling up or the yard growing out of control, then perhaps they make require more help then they are letting on. 

2. Be realistic about how much care you can provide

Of course, you want to give your parents as much help as you can. But you also have to be honest with what you’re capable of or willing to do. 

If you’ve got a job or young children at home that also require your attention, then it’s unreasonable to think that you can just drop everything to become the primary caregiver. What’s more, your parents may even require certain medical assistance that you haven’t been properly training to perform. 

In any of these situations, be realistic about what you can contribute and if additional help will be needed.

3. Get help with caregiving

If your parents need more help than you or your family can provide, then it might be time to start interviewing professional caregivers.  A professional caregiver would not only watch over your parents but also take care of important activities like taking prescriptions, making sure they eat, and keeping up on hygiene. It would also give your parents someone to physically talk to and keep them company.

4. Share the caregiving responsibility

If you have other siblings or relatives, you should also attempt to involve them in caring for your elderly parents. Hold a family meeting and discuss how you should split up the responsibilities. Even if they are out of state, they could still contribute by doing something as simple as calling them on the phone to ensure that they are doing well.

5. Reduce financial pressure

In addition to sharing the caregiving responsibilities, be sure to also discuss how the family as a whole can minimize the financial burden of the situation. Start by getting an accurate picture of your aging parents’ financial status, and then estimate from there how much additional funding might be needed to support them.

If you do have to hire a caregiver but the cost is an issue, remember that you can always reach out to volunteer groups. Check listings in your parents’ local area to what active groups can help.

6. Stay organized

Half the battle of caring for your elderly parents is to make sure all of their affairs are in order in case the worst was to happen.

This is why you’ll want to make sure you have all the important documents handy and organized like legal documents, medical records, bank accounts, financial statements, wills, trusts, etc. Using an app like Pillar Life, you can easily store and organize these records electronically and share them with each of your family members who needs them.

Caregiving is a Family Issue

When it comes to caring for aging parents, it's important to be aware of how this can affect your relationship with other family members.  

For instance, what can start as checking in on mom and picking up her groceries can quickly turn into responsibilities that you never agreed to. And if no one else in the family is stepping up to help, that can lead to feelings of resentment and guilt down the road. To avoid this, it needs to be discussed well in advance who will handle what tasks and how each family member can participate.

Additionally, if one person feels like they are doing all the hard work, that might lead to them feeling entitled to make all the important decisions without the consensus of other family members. Again, have regular communications to ensure all members of the parties are on the same page when it comes to what to do next.

If taking care of your aging parents starts to feel overwhelming or bring on feelings of anxiety, stress, or even depression, take the time to talk to someone and seek out help. The only way you can properly take care of someone else is to take care of yourself first.

Be Patient with Your Aging Parents 

Just like this process is new for you, remember that it’s not easy for your parents either. Going from being independent and fully capable adults to seniors who rely on others for the basic needs of their daily living can be mentally very frustrating. As a result, they may at times say mean things or even lash out.

During this transition, it’s very important that you give your parents plenty of time to adjust. At first, they may not see the value in your contributions and might even be stubborn. But eventually, they will realize and accept that they need this assistance to maintain a healthy quality of life.

How to Participate in Caring for Aging Parents from Afar

Just because someone can’t be there physically to look after your aging parents doesn’t mean they can’t help the family as a whole. There are plenty of other ways for you or other family members to do your part.

  • Regularly contact your parents to check on them 
  • Provide financial assistance.
  • Collect and organize your parents' important legal documents (using this checklist here).
  • Arrange caregiver service.
  • Provide support to your siblings who have taken on caregiver roles

Remember: Don’t let distance undermine your ability to contribute. Be creative and find other ways to help both your elderly parents and other siblings in any way that you can.

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