Caring for elderly parents at home is typically the first step in a senior’s long-term care plan. Not only can it be a way to save money and remain in the comforts of home, but it bides time while family members assess what is needed in terms of home care versus facility-based care.
Most often, the responsibility of finding or providing senior care falls onto adult children.
For some adult children, this increased dependency occurs right around your own retirement, and after your own children have left the nest. For others, it begins while they still have children at home, referred to as “the sandwich generation,” because you are sandwiched between two generations of people who depend on you.
Helpful Suggestions When Caring For Aging Parents
The following 10 tips are relevant to both empty nesters, and the sandwich generation (SG), but we’ve marked some of them with ** to indicate they are a must-do for those of you stuck in the middle.
1. Keep a close eye on your parent’s well being**
At first, caring for elderly parents at home can be as simple as a weekly or daily phone call, checking in on their goings on and assessing their conversational tidbits for information on how they’re doing.
In many cases, this simply isn’t enough. Seniors who are struggling often hide it on the phone unless they are well into the throes of dementia or Alzheimer’s. It requires physical surveillance to assess how well seniors living independently are doing.
Get familiar with, 10 Signs Your Parents Need Assistance to Safely Live at Home. SG’ers are especially prone to missing (or guiltily dismissing) these signs as time flies when you work, take care of children, are busy with extracurricular activities and have to keep an eye on aging parents.
2. Enlist helpers early on
Caregiving is a huge responsibility and it gets increasingly harder the older your parents get since their needs grow proportionally as time goes by. Waiting until a crisis happens makes it difficult to figure out what exactly is needed, how frequently, who’s best at providing it, etc.
Get the entire immediate family involved. Whether it’s providing respite care on scheduled days or times of the year, contributing to a general fund to support professional in-home care providers as needed, or someone to come to clean the house, etc. You’ll wear yourself out if you take it all on solo.
3. Find a respite care provider**
There will be times you aren’t able to do what a parent needs:
- Meal planning/preparation
- Extra help around the house
- Laundry or errand running
- Unplanned doctor visit
From weekend sporting tournaments to annual family vacations, there are also times you simply have to get away. Working with a home care agency ahead of time gives you the ability to have respite care ready in the wings when you need it.
4. Find a way to provide easy-ready meals
Seniors are at risk for malnutrition. There are multiple reasons for this, but one of the most compelling is that they simply don’t have the stamina/ability to shop, prepare and make their own food. That makes senior more likely to skip meals and/or eat easier, processed foods that lack nutritional value.
Resources for Healthy Eating provides an array of tips that can ensure your loved one has regular access to healthy, nutritious meals that align with any dietary restrictions. These can be arranged regardless of where you live.
5. Take care of yourself**
This ties into the airplane axiom of putting your own oxygen mask on before attending to others’ masks; you simply can’t take care of anyone if you implode or breakdown yourself.
Find ways to nourish your body and your spirit so you have the energy, stamina, and resources to be a caregiver.
Sure, it’s great to get a massage or head to the gym for an hour or two, but those options aren’t practical for many caregivers. The Harvard.edu Self-care for the Caregiver has five simple tips that are actionable wherever you may find yourself.
6. Keep your parent active & engaged
Living independently is great, but not if it means retreating from your formerly active, engaged daily routine. If you aren’t able to help your parent get to the social, religious, recreational, etc. activities/events they used to enjoy, hire a companion or enlist the help of others in related organizations to lend a hand.
For example, a fellow Rotary member may happily provide transportation to/from meetings, other church/temple/synagogue members can facilitate attendance at those events, and so on.
7. Make the home safe & accessible**
A slip/fall/injury combo is the detriment of seniors who live at home.
While some structural modifications may be necessary, the majority of steps required to make a senior’s home safe and accessible require minimal DIY skill and a few sets of helpful hands.
8. Provide access to safe transportation**
After mobility, turning over the keys is probably the most traumatic loss seniors face, but that’s no excuse for not getting around. There are abundant senior transportation options; it just may require your research/effort to get a safe driving plan in place.
Learn more about senior transportation services
9. Understand the financial obligations and assistance options
At first, caring for a parent can seem financially impossible. However, there are multiple resources available, and many people learn that caring for aging parents at home is not only possible, but it also won’t require any dramatic moves, like quitting a job or cashing out the savings account.
The guide, Making Cents of Seniors’ Finances provides invaluable information on paying for senior care sensibly.
10. Schedule in-home consultations with local home care agencies
In-home consultations/assessments are free, no-obligation and provide a wealth of information about long-term care planning, finances, helpful caregiver tips, etc.
Plus, afterward, you’ll have a great idea of which agency feels the best for your parent when/if the time comes you require outside help.
Finding Balance Caring For Aging Parents
Caring for aging parents is oftentimes viewed as a labor of love. Whether you have a busy lifestyle and active family, or more time to offer your parents, chances are you’ll need help and resources along the way.
This list of 10 tips on taking care of elderly parents at home should be a starting point towards finding balance in your life and that of your parents.
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