Tips for Children of Parents Aging in Place
Being a caregiver can be a very rewarding, yet very challenging experience. This is especially true if the person you’re caring for is a parent. For most of your life, this person has been the one giving you the care and support you need – but now, the tables have turned at it’s your responsibility to make sure your elderly parent’s health and wellbeing is protected.
But how do you manage to be a good caregiver when there is already so much on your plate? Perhaps you’ve got a demanding job, or small children at home, or maybe you’re worried that the emotional stress of the situation is too much to bear. You’re not alone. Most people who are caregivers to aging parents experience feelings of stress, anxiety, dread, guilt or even grief. After all, the parent you once knew as stable and strong is now someone who requires your attention and care. For many, the loss of that strong parental image can be hard to face.
Aside from the emotional aspects, caring for an aging parent can be a logistical and financial challenge. Schedules often need to be adjusted, money needs to be spent carefully, and sometimes sacrifices must be made in order to maintain certain lifestyle choices – both for the caregiver and the aging parent.
Here are a few small, but significant tips that can help you be a better caregiver:
1. Find balance.
In order to be an effective and emotionally supportive caregiver, the key is finding balance. Balance between the duties of your position as caregiver, your role as a loving family member, and as an individual with his or her own needs. It may take some time to find that balance, but once you do, you’ll be able to say to yourself, “this is what I need to do for my parent” vs “this is what I need to do for myself” and you won’t spend as much time agonizing over whether or not you made the right choice.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Even if you refuse to think of it as a burden, caring for an aging parent is not easy. If you were the one out of many others who stepped up to the plate, good for you. But don’t be a martyr. Know that it’s perfectly acceptible to ask for help when you need it. If you have other siblings or friends and family who have expressed interest or willingness to help out, (even if it’s something simple like picking up prescriptions or sitting with your parent for a few hours on a Saturday), don’t hesitate to take them up on the offer.
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3. Don’t beat yourself up over the choices you must make.
There are a lot of things you and your parent will need to consider when planning out their elderly years. Sometimes, this will require making difficult choices. Your parent may want more than anything to stay in their own home. However, their physical and/or mental abilities may make that an option that poses a threat to their welfare. The best way to avoid having to make these really tough choices is to be as proactive and realistic as possible early on. Talk to your parent and their doctors about what’s going on and where they feel the situation should go.
Whether it’s deciding whether or not to take a leave of absence from work for a while, hiring a nurse that comes to your parent’s home, or suggesting that your parent move in with you, very few of these decisions are easy to make. And if you ever feel like you’re faced with a particularly tough choice, refer back to number 2 and don’t be afraid to ask for input from others.
4. Don’t leave your parent out of the decision-making process.
Remember that, while dealing with an aging parent is tough, it’s probably a lot tougher on your parent. They are being faced with the reality that their lifestyle and independence levels are changing – it’s natural that they may feel a loss of control at times. To avoid ruffling feathers or insulting your parent, involve them as much as possible. After all, it’s their life and their situation that is changing the most dramatically. And again, it’s always best to be proactive. Start discussing your parent’s needs and wants before things get to a point where someone else has to make all the decisions for them.
5. Do ample amounts of research.
There is a multitude of resources and services available to aging seniors. Whether it’s aging in place, going to a nursing care facility, moving in with a relative or applying for special housing assistance, there are a number of opportunities to make decisions when it comes to planning your loved one’s elder care. But before you get overwhelmed and just sign up for the first service you come across, make sure you are evaluating every option available with a clear head. If you’re considering a nursing home, visit more than one and ask a lot of questions. If you’re investigating local senior resources like home delivery or transportation services, make sure you do your homework on the organization. Check references, ask friends and coworkers for suggestions, research companies online, set up interviews…whatever you need to do. Remember, knowledge is power. And the more empowered you are, the less likely you’ll have to deal with regret over making a poor or hasty choice in the longrun.
6. Approach financial discussions with respect and courtesy.
The financial aspect is always a tough thing to deal with when it comes to planning for your aging parent’s care. And because finances are usually considered a very private thing, you may find that your parent is a little reluctant to discuss these matters with you. The best way to handle this is to approach the issue with tact and respect. Remind your parent that you only want to help and that you’re not trying to take the reins completely. If your parent is still able to make financial decisions, try to open up a discussion without sounding critical.
For example, perhaps your parent has a reverse mortgage and you feel that the proceeds should be used to help pay for in-home nursing care. Instead of telling them how to spend their money, suggest looking into the costs of such a service and offer to help them interview different companies. If your parent sees that you are simply there to help as opposed to trying to take over, they may be more receptive to your involvement.
Above all, remember that caring for an aging parent is a special responsibility that naturally comes with several challenges. No one expects you to be perfect – after all, you’re human – but by maintaining a balance with your own life, being proactive, and doing lots of research, you can likely make the transition a whole lot easier on both you and your parent.