Aging is certainly part of the cycle of life. If we are all lucky, one day we will be able to repay the favor of our parents who care for us by taking care of them. It is a time in life that is not easy and must be handled with the utmost care. In my work, I witness the burdens and stress that caring for an elderly parent can have on both the child and the parent. While it is not an easy task, there are definitely best practices developed by many senior care experts that I thought it best to share with you here today.
Below is a practical and easy-to-follow seven-step guide to caring for an elderly parent (or family member):
1. Assess their needs.
Start by understanding your parents’ specific needs in all aspects of their lives. This should include family support, home security, medical requirements, cognitive health, mobility, personal care, meal preparation, social interaction and exercise. It is important during this phase to properly assess what current support exists in these areas and where additional support/resources are needed.
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2. Consider your capacity.
While we all want to be able to help our most precious loved ones, it is important to do a self-evaluation of our actual ability to do so. You should evaluate your health, closeness, lifestyle preferences and quality of relationship with your significant other.
Being able to recognize when you are not the right person to care for you is just as important as recognizing when you are the right person. This should allow you to understand where you might need help and where you might not.
3. Involve your parents.
It’s an important step to not make decisions in a vacuum. You should absolutely, if they are able, include your parents in these discussions. It’s safe to say that they will likely have some opinions about the who, what, and where of their aging needs. I would also add your immediate family here, since, as they say, it will take a village.
4. Understand their finances.
I bet you didn’t see that coming?! Elderly care can be not only physically and mentally taxing, but also financially. Before curating a care plan, it is important to understand the financial landscape. Questions to ask are: What kind of care do you anticipate your parents will need? What are the estimated future costs for their needs? What do their current finances look like? Will someone in your family help you financially if needed?
Answering these questions can help you evaluate your financial needs and, therefore, understand what assistance is optional. I would also strongly suggest engaging your or their financial experts to assist in this process.
5. Ensure home security.
Remember how I said life comes full circle? I bet you remember that your house was once childproofed so that your little ones wouldn’t break their heads. Well, the circle closes, here we are. You will need to “parent-proof” your parents’ home to prevent accidents.
This may involve home modifications, decluttering, installing grab bars, improving lighting and general accessibility improvements where necessary. This is an important step that can ensure your loved ones have the dignity of remaining in their home for as long as possible.
6. Facilitate communication.
Regardless of your ability to physically care for your loved ones, each of us can help you with a communication plan. This cuts two ways. For starters, you’ll want to make sure your parents have accessible and adequate communication devices to contact you in times of need.
Plus, you can help fight loneliness. Just because you’re super busy every day, doesn’t mean your elderly parent is too. Take time regularly to contact and check in on these special people. It’s the simplest thing to do and will probably take the longest to preserve everyone’s dignity.
7. Explore support options.
The final step is to fully understand what support options are available. You can deal with it on your own or use a professional geriatric care manager. You or they can help evaluate what in-home options or assisted living options are available based on your preferences, needs and finances.
Even if you’re not ready to use options today, it’s important to know where you’ll turn if/when that happens.
If you follow these seven simple steps, at least you will have a good start in managing this difficult time in your life with dignity. There are many professionals who can help you along the way, so take a hard look in the mirror when considering what you are and are not capable of. Use help, involve your family and handle it with care. Sending love to everyone and stay rich, healthy and happy.
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