9 Tips for Caring for Aging Parents

9 Tips for Caring for Aging Parents

While no one likes to think about their parents getting older, the facts are that everyone’s parents need help at some point, and family members provide most caregiving for elderly people. If you are starting to think about caring for your parents as they age, here are nine expert tips to keep in mind:

  1. Check-in on your parents regularly.

Regular check-ins are essential for aging loved ones. In-person visits are ideal since it’s possible to hide signs of aging via phone or video calls, but anything is better than nothing. If you have siblings or other family members involved, set up a rotation so that you are all taking turns checking in on your parents and bringing them gifts for the elderly. During the check-ins, look for signs that they need extra care, such as rapid weight gain or loss, unpaid bills, difficulty with personal grooming, and so on.

  1. Know your limits.

Most adult children already have multiple other responsibilities in their lives besides caring for their parents, including working a full-time job and taking care of their own children. If you are contemplating taking on more of your parents’ care, be realistic about how much time and effort you have to give and what changes you would need to make to take care of them. If you already have a lot of demands on your plate that you cannot delegate, your parents might receive better care if your siblings pitch in or if you hire a professional caregiver.

  1. Calculate the financial possibilities.

For most families, finances will play a key role in caring for aging parents. Some seniors may have retirement money set aside to cover care in their old age, while others may qualify for reimbursements or subsidies through Medicare if their doctor deems professional care necessary. You can potentially use the money to hire professional help, or you might be able to pay yourself a stipend of some kind out of that money if you assume primary caregiving responsibility.

Calculate the financial possibilities.

  1. Consult your parents as much as possible.

In some cases, your parents might not be able to participate in the decision-making process, such as if they have later-stage dementia that has significantly impacted their cognitive abilities. However, if your parents are still able to make sound decisions, then you should include them in discussions about their care as much as possible — and we mean important decisions like where to live and what to do, not just what gifts for nursing home residents they want. You should also encourage them to make an advance directive and a living will if they don’t already have them.

  1. Update their home for aging in place.

If you decide against placing your parents in assisted living (at least for now), then you need to make sure that they can safely age in place, either at their own home, your place, or a family member’s house. Do a safety audit of their current or future home and make the necessary updates so that you don’t have to worry about falls and other accidents. Some updates, such as removing loose rugs and getting a shower chair, will be cheap or even free. Others, such as installing a stairlift, will require a greater investment and potentially alter your home permanently.

  1. Make activities of daily living easier.

Another thing you can do to help your parents maintain independence is to make instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) and activities of daily living (ADLs) easier for them. Older adults usually need help with IADLs, such as managing finances, running errands, meal preparation, and home maintenance. Eventually, they will need help with ADLs; these activities include bathing, showering, dressing, getting in and out of bed, and so on. For instance, adaptive clothing designed with magnetic buttons or elastic waistbands allows older adults to keep dressing even when they need help with traditional clothing.

Make activities of daily living easier.

  1. Centralize family updates.

If you have a large extended family, keeping everyone updated about your parents can start to feel like a full-time job on top of caregiving. Discuss the best way to keep everyone in the loop, whether a Gmail email chain or a group text. Establish a protocol for sending out mass updates to everyone and stick with it to avoid duplicating work for yourself and other family members. Keeping all the updates in one place will ensure everyone is always on the same page and no one accidentally gets left out of the loop.

  1. Keep taking care of yourself.

You need to put on your oxygen mask before you can help others put on their own, and this metaphor applies just as much to caregiving for aging parents as it does to other scenarios. Burning yourself out on caregiving will only hurt you and your parents in the long run, so make sure you’re taking time off to rest and staying on top of your health needs. You can’t take care of your parents if you get sick or injure yourself!

  1. Explore care options for them.

Speaking of knowing your limits and taking care of yourself, the time may come when your parents’ needs have advanced to the point where you cannot take care of them all by yourself anymore — and that’s okay. Whether you need to hire a home health aide for temporary respite or look into moving your parents into assisted living permanently, don’t be afraid to explore other care options if you feel like you need to make a change.

Are you caring for aging parents, or are you just prepared for it ahead of time? What are your other expert tips for caring for aging parents? Let us know in the comments below!

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