Taking care of your aging parents can be one of the most stressful and rewarding experiences in your life.
On the one hand, you're finally able to return the love, kindness and affection your parents showered you with when you needed it most. On the other hand, you now have to deal with the worry, stress, and time it takes to take care of your parents as they increasingly rely on you for their day to day needs.
Below are 7 tips to help you take care of your aging parents, recommended by our senior care experts.
Tips for Taking Care of Aging Parents
1. Help Keep Them Active & Independent for as Long as You Can
Do your best to help your parents where they need it most, but step back and let your parents continue running the show where they can. Give them the tools to maintain their independence, given their new challenges.
For example, while they may have lost their ability to drive, help them find alternative transport so they can see their friends, shop and go to the doctor's without relying on you for a lift. This could mean giving them access to taxi chits, Uber, senior transportation services, volunteer transportation services, or simply teaching them how to use public transport.
2. Give Yourself Scheduled Breaks
Caregiver burnout is a real thing. As a caregiver it's very common to be under extreme stress, which can lead to anxiety, depression and loss of sleep.
You need to take care of your own well being in order to be an optimal caregiver for your parents. This could include going for daily walks or workouts, scheduling nights out with friends, eating well and of course scheduling a few vacations a year.
If you need someone to take care of your aging parents at all times, see if a family member or friend can pitch in. If neither is available, and your parents condition proves eligible, see what type of hospice or palliative care is available in your area. You can use hospice or palliative care to have a professional caregiver watch over your parent for an hour or two at a time, or for a few days if you need to re-charge your batteries and go on holiday.
3. Include Your Parents In Family Activities
Aside from your parents health, their happiness should be your priority. One of the big risks to your parents' health and happiness is isolation and loneliness.
Try to include your parents in as many of your regular family activities as possible. This goes beyond birthdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving. If you have regular family dinners, add a chair to the table and include your parents. If your kids have weekend sports activities, bring your parents along to watch once a week. If you go to church or synagogue weekly, invite them.
4. Share the Responsibility
Obviously each situation is different. However, try to share responsibilities evenly and have a back up plan in case life gets in the way.
This could mean you do doctor's appointments and your brother does weekly groceries. You each invite mom over for dinner once a week. Or, you do caregiving Monday, Wednesday, Friday and he does it Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
5. Give Yourself and Your Parents Peace of Mind
Many of our parents are pretty independent, but feel somewhat insecure when they're alone.
If you're not with your parents 24X7, perhaps getting them a cell phone, medical alert, life alert, GPS, and/or automatic fall detector will give you and them the peace of mind to be alone in their home or while venturing out.
6. Be a Listener, Not a Dictator
Losing one's independence can be a very frustrating, humiliating and difficult process for your parents. While not always easy, efficient or effective, always ask whether your parents need your help before getting involved and always, always ask your parent's opinion or preference before making a decision for them. Just because they need help, doesn't mean they've abdicated all control over their lives.
7. Stay in the Loop and Share Information
Part of being a good family caregiver, means having a good overall picture of your parents' needs. In order to be the best advocate for your parents you need to know what they're up against.
The implication is, you or another family member should consider attending all medical appointments and doctor consultations if your parents are OK with it. Furthermore, you should give an update to all your brothers and sisters after each medical visit, so they can be part of the team. When everyone is in the loop, it makes it much easier to swap one person in for the another, which helps manage scheduling conflicts, etc...
Taking care of aging parents is difficult work. It's emotionally exhausting and can be physically demanding. It can also be exceptionally difficult to do when you have you're own life and family to manage.
Hopefully, some of the tips above will relieve some of the stress while at the same time adding to both your parents and your overall health and happiness!