Watching your parents age can be a difficult emotional journey. Their super hero status unravels and a peak behind the curtain reveals that the Wizard of Oz is actually no wizard at all, but mortal just like the rest of us.
Gone are the days when your parents used their strength, energy and vitality to provide for you and shield you from the world's dangers. Now the roles are reversed, and it's your turn to take care of them.
If your parents are like most older adults, their preference is to age in their own homes. They prefer the familiarity, routine and privacy of their own space. It's a normal and valid preference. The challenge of course, is that as they age they will become less independent and need to make adjustments to their habits and lifestyle to ensure they can live alone, safely and happily.
There are several ways you can help your parents age in place, without relying on you alone to fill the caregiver gap. In fact, there are more products, services and technologies that ever before to help your parents age in place independently while providing you with the peace of mind that they're safe, comfortable and happy.
1. Home Delivery
One of the biggest challenges of aging is losing the ability to pick up and go when and where you want. Whether through the loss of mobility, vision or the ability to drive, the inability to get around means your parents have to rely on someone else to shop for every day items.
In the day and age of Amazon, Walmart, Costco all offering same day home delivery, make it a point to see how much of your parent's routine needs can be met through home delivery. Every day items like cleaning products (garbage bags, soap, etc.), groceries, medications, clothing - even prepared meals - can all be delivered to your parents door. Managing your parents delivery will reduce the time and logistical demands on you to do your parent's shopping.
2. Easy Transportation
Never has transportation been cheaper and more available than now. If your parents don't drive any longer, they'll still need to get around in order to stay connected to the community, avoid isolation and do many of the things they want and need to do. Whether it's going to the gym, senior center, restaurant, friend's house or the doctor's office, they absolutely need a way to get there and back.
They can rely on you, but parents often prefer not "bothering" you, or if you do decide to take on the task of chauffeur it can be incredibly disruptive to your own schedule and responsibilities.
Instead, explore fully funded senior transportation programs with your local senior center, where your parents may have access to a gym, classes and programs designed for seniors. You can supplement that with taxi chits, Lyft or Uber rides. You can even hire a private driver and make an arrangement with them for a standing weekly schedule.
If the perception of cost is an issue, just do the math of owning a car and its operating expenses (gas, insurance, tires, oil changes, brakes, parking, etc...) with the cost of taking let's say 4 roundtrip taxi rides a week, or 32 total trips a month at $10 a ride - for a total of $320 a month - beats the cost of a car easily.
If your parents, or parent, lives alone you may be worried about what will happen if they have an accident or medical emergency and their's no one around to help. It's a valid concern. Nearly 1 in 3 adults aged 65 and older fall every year, of which 50% have difficulty getting up on their own. However, the good news is that 90% of older adults who get help within 1 hour of their fall are able to return home.
Unfortunately, once an older adults falls the phone is out of reach, so dialing 911 is not an option. Moreover, some fall and black-out, unable to call for help.
To get peace of mind you might want to consider getting one of the many affordable medical alert options, with monitored service and automatic fall detection. If your parents are mobile, and go out of the house on their own, you might even want to get a mobile medical alert system with automatic fall detection and GPS tracking so help can be sent your exact location, no matter where you are. At somewhere between $20-$35 a month, with no hardware fees, the low cost of a life alert system provides security and peace of mind for both you and your parents.
4. Staying Connected
As much as it's important to tend to the physical needs of your parents, their emotional needs are just as critical. Loneliness and isolation can dramatically impact their ability to stay healthy and avoid depression.
With today's communication devices it's as easy and cheap as ever to stay connected with loved ones no matter where they are. Whether your parents have a mobile phone, Ipad or computer you can talk and video conference with them everyday. To help them feel connected have your kids give them a kiss before bed every night via facetime, Google Duo or any other live feed.
One of the primary reasons seniors end up moving to a facility is their inability to manage medications on their own. With prescriptions often requiring 5-10 medications 3-5 times daily, the regimen can be confusing even for the best of us. Mistakes can be fatal.
To help your parents avoid confusion make sure your pharmacist organizes their medications in a dispill pack. If your parents have difficulties remembering when to take their pills, get them a medication reminder box. If they need even more help, try an automated and remote monitored medication reminder and dispenser.