Are your parents aging and beginning to need more of your help? Sometimes we become lost as to where to start or how to help our parents. Country Club Rehabilitation Campus has come up with a list to help you take good care of your elderly parents.
1. Incorporate Your Parent’s Belongings.
Whether your parents are living in your home with you or an assisted care facility, make sure to bring some of their belongings with them. If they are surrounded with familiar things, they will feel more at home and less like something is happening “to” them, and more like something you are doing together.
2. Install Safety Modifications.
Physical preparation plays a large part in taking care of your elderly parents. Installing night-lights, grab bars and railings, and removing clutter can make a world of a difference. You may want to consider removing rugs, installing a ramp, and getting a shower chair so that your parent is safer in the home. The more your home is prepared, the more independent your parent can be.
3. Consider Safety Systems.
Fall detection devices and other safety systems made especially for seniors can help protect them when they fall, leave a hot iron or stove on, and allow emergency services to reach them quickly in case of an accident. When you can’t be there, it is nice to have some security and know that they will be okay.
4. Encourage Your Parents to Have a Social Life.
Having friends over to enjoy dinner together or play a card game encourages your parents to maintain a healthy social life and decreases depression. If friends cannot come over, advise your parents to set up calls with them on a regular basis.
5. Help Them with Finances.
Review your parent’s finances with them to make sure bills are being paid on time and a budget is being adhered to. If your parents are showing signs of confusion, discuss with them the possibility of managing their finances for them.
6. Help Them with Legal Matters.
Think about helping your parents with their Health Care Proxy, Will, and Power of Attorney if they don’t already have them. It is typically a good idea to have these matters settled early in your parents aging process so they have a peace of mind that they were part of the decision making process.
7. Empathize with Your Parents.
It is easy to become frustrated with your elderly parents, whether it is their moody behavior, neediness, or constant medical diagnoses. The best way to cope with your frustration is to empathize with your parents. Aging is a series of loses - loss of independence, a job, energy, and mobility. Put yourself in their shoes, by imagining how you would feel if you were them.
8. Call Them.
If you parents do not live with you, the best way to maintain a supportive and healthy relationship with them is to call them. All they want is to hear from you. If you find yourself being one of those people who easily forget, try setting a reminder on your phone or make a note in your calendar.
9. Communicate with Other Family Members.
It is very difficult and unhealthy to take all of the responsibility of aging parents on yourself. Reach out to other family members, coordinate visits, and share the responsibility.
10. Do Not Take Control when Downsizing.
Things that you may find useless may be a treasure of your parents. When downsizing, let your parents go through everything themselves and made their own decisions about what stays and what goes. Realize that your parents have many memories that you may not be aware of.
11. Befriend the Pharmacist.
It has been noted that the number one reason for switching from independent living to a facility with supervised care is because of poor medication management. Often times our elderly parents are on multiple medications, all prescribed from different doctors, but filled by the same pharmacist. In this case, the pharmacist is the only person who knows all of the medication our parents are on. We advise making friends with the pharmacist and talking to them about a medication management plan. They can help you to understand which medications can or cannot be taken together, as well as any possible interactions between prescribed drugs and over-the-counter drugs.
12. Have a Serious Talk About Driving.
One of the most dreaded conversations between adult children and their elderly parents is about driving. As we age our body stiffens, reaction time diminishes, and cognitive abilities decrease. As a result, there gets to be a point when driving is no longer safe. Hanging up the keys can be a feeling of lost independence and a loss of trust. We suggest that you approach the topic carefully and maintain an empathetic attitude during the conversation, understanding the feelings and frustration your parents may experience. On the other hand, sometimes a few more years of safe driving are realistic.
13. Keep Them Active.
Exercising is a great way to keep your parents active and social, on top of its health benefits. If your parents no longer drive, they may feel stuck and like they can’t get out and do anything. Encourage them to ride a three-wheel bike, or take a walk around a park. Staying active can help give them back a sense of freedom and will keep muscles moving and working.
14. Watch What You Say.
We love our parents more than anything, but sometimes we let things slip out of our mouths that we don’t really mean. Sometimes we let things slip that sound critical or angry. We have come up with a few things to avoid saying to your aging parents. In the end, it will save a lot of heartache, hurt feelings, and fights.
15. Pay Attention to Excessive Weight Loss.
Unexplained or unintentional weight loss can be a sign that your parent’s health is declining. They may be getting to the point where cooking has become too difficult, or maybe their senses have diminished so much that nothing smells or tastes good. Underlying conditions such as malnutrition, dementia, depression, or cancer can also be a cause of weight loss.
16. Make a Plan.
Sometimes medical diagnoses are unforeseeable and we deal with things as they come up. However, making a plan with your aging parent about long-term care allows you to create a rough draft that satisfies everyone involved. Everything from health insurance to a reverse mortgage should be discussed so that everyone is on the same page and happy with the plan. Instead of having to decide on the spot about an important matter, a plan acts as a blueprint that you can refer back to. That way when something unforeseeable does arise, all of your attention can be placed on it instead of juggling multiple decisions all at the same time.
17. Join a Support Group.
You cannot take care of your parents if you cannot even take care of yourself. We oftentimes feel alone, like we are the only ones going through something such as taking care of an elderly parent. But in fact one in five adults in the United States is caring for another adult in their lives. Joining a support group not only lets you know that you are not alone, but also gives you the opportunity to learn from others and hear how they have dealt with certain things.
18. Build a Network To Look Out for Your Parents.
Your eyes cannot be on your parents 24/7, especially if you consider yourself a long-distance caregiver. Enlisting neighbors, relatives, family friends, and acquaintances provides a network of eyes and ears that are on the lookout for your parents. Whenever you go to visit your parents, also check in with those who have been keeping an eye out for them.
Reading books is the best way to answer any questions you may have. There are numerous books available about caregiving and specific medical conditions your parents may have. These books are filled with inspiration, advice, and practical solutions to the reality you and your parents are facing.
20. Have a Positive Attitude.
Stay positive! This is the perhaps one of the hardest, yet most rewarding, things you can do for your parents. When we receive bad news or your parents decline has become visible, it is hard not to be sad or depressed. But the best thing that you can do for both yourself and your parents is stay positive. Encourage them, support them, and love them to the best of your ability.
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