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Tips on Caring for Your Older Parents

If you’re someone who has older parents (70+), you’re probably getting to the point in your life where you worry about them. Age is just a number, but we all know 70s is the time daily challenges can start to occur (cognitive decline, general weakness, balance problems, etc.)

Of course, age is not always an indicator of health. There are many older adults that are living an active, healthy life, but it is important to note that age can exacerbate certain illnesses and health problems.

There are many questions you may have when a parent’s health starts to decline:

  • Do they move in with me?
  • Do I hire a caregiver?
  • Can they afford help? Can we?
  • Do I put them in an assisted living home?

It can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you don’t live near them, or you have a family and a job and aren’t able to give as much time and attention during this process as you’d like.

Many people only face this kind of situation when it’s staring them in the face. There’s not a handbook for how to handle when your parent’s health declines, and no one teaches it to you in school.

I want to talk about the best steps to take when you have to make the decision on what to do when your parent’s health declines- for both you and your parent.

Here is some advice on what to do when you have to start making these decisions:

  1. First, take a breath. Remain calm and level-headed so you can make the best decision for your parent, but also for yourself.
  2. Consult with a Doctor or Specialist. Whatever kind of doctor your parent uses, make sure you consult with them. It’s important you understand the problem and get expert advice, but also you have to do what you’re able to, so be honest. Tell them the whole situation (financial, emotional, etc.) and they will aide you in deciding.
  3. Ask for help/advice. It’s hard for many people to ask others for help, especially when it’s a family matter. If you have other family members or friends you can lean on, do. Chances are someone you know has gone through caring for their older parent before and can offer insight if it’s all new to you.
  4. Be realistic. There is a difference in doing what is best and doing what you’re capable of. When talking with your doctor, be honest with yourself and your parent about the situation. If you’re not, you make decisions based on different circumstances and it’s bound to come back to bite you and your parent later.
  5. Ask your parent what they want. Make sure you involve them in the decision, as to not make them feel like not only is their health declining, but they’re also losing their chance to make decisions for themselves. Often during this process parents are in a type of “mourning” for their old, independent life. Some parents may say “I don’t need help”, or “I’m not going into one of those old folk’s homes”. This is where the grey area lies of what is best for them and for you. At some point, some parents want to be left to their own devices and you can’t force them to do anything if they’re of sound mind. This is why having an expert opinion and help from someone who’s been through this transition before will come in handy.
  6. Make a plan. Gather all of the information you need and get started. It’s best if you already have some kind of contingency plan before a parent’s health deteriorates, but once it happens make sure that you’re not putting off your decision, whatever it is. Some people want to avoid the truth because it’s hard to admit, but the situation will only get worse if a decision is put off.

Now that you know what the best steps are to make a decision, I’m going to talk to you about the different types of help you can get for your parent, including your own.

There are many different options, but this is the order I’d suggest in terms of need (number one is the first step I’d take, number three is the last) is this:

  1. Independent Living facilities
  2. Hiring a caregiver
  3. Assisted living facilities

Independent Living Facilities

These types of facilities are a great first option for your aging parent. This gives them the comfort of still having their own space and independence, while also still feeling like they’re being taken care of. This option is best for someone who is still able to do most things on their own, but maybe wants an easier way to make friends, have some type of community, etc. The great thing about these facilities is you can be as independent as you want. They have their own kitchen, but you can pay for them to have three meals a day in the dining room of the facility. They have group activities, busses that take them to weekly supermarket shops, and home health options. You can have someone (caregiver, physical therapist, etc.) come to their apartment and help them do whatever they can’t on their own. The other great thing about these facilities is that many have an assisted living facility building or wing, usually right next to the independent living facility building. So, should the need arise for them to transition to assisted living, it’s an easy move!

Hiring a Caregiver

There are a few things you can do in this scenario: You can get your parent a caregiver that comes their own home, or if they need to move in with you, you can have them come to your home. It depends on the type of care they need, as well. Some parents need round the clock care, and it can start to get expensive. Sometimes you are actually able to get full or partial financial coverage for a caregiver. For more information on this, click here- https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2017/afford-a-homecare-worker.html If you’re thinking of taking care of them yourself, here are a few things to note- you need to be physically and mentally able. This is not only for you parent’s sake, but for yours as well. Assess your health situation along with your parent’s when making this decision. Should the need arise, are you or someone that lives with you able to physically lift your parent? Are you able to organize medication, doctor visits, etc.? Whatever home they’re in, it also might need to be modified to fit their needs. This includes things like chair lifts for stairs, bars in the shower, furniture cleared for room for wheelchairs, etc. The good news is, companies can actually come out and assess the living situation and make sure your parent has the right set up for their needs. At Natural Fit Therapy, we can send a team member to do this. If you or someone you know would benefit from this service, just give us a call! Our office number is 512-730-0231.

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities are a great comfort for children of parents with declining health, because almost everything is taken care of by the facility. With this type of facility, your parent receives daily check ins (includes caregivers who will ensure your parent takes their medication, eats, etc.) and three meals a day. You and your parent will feel more at ease knowing that they’re taken care of. These can get expensive, however, so make sure that you factor that in. The other thing to consider is depending on the facility, there might be a waiting list. Make sure that you factor in possible wait time for this, as some places have over 50 people on their waitlist!

So, now that you have this information, what’s next?

If your parent isn’t at this stage yet, good for you for planning ahead! It’s great that you’re thinking of this decision before you really need to make it. Save this blog so when the time comes you can have a refresher in what to do!

If your parent is already here, take a moment to digest the information, then get started on your plan. Chose what’s best for you and your parent and start making moves. You can relax once they’re settled knowing you did the best you could getting them the help they need!

Sources:

  1. https://dailycaring.com/7-steps-to-take-when-aging-parents-need-help/
  2. https://www.oakstreethealth.com/caring-for-aging-parents-12-steps-to-achieve-success-543209#knowing-when-to-step-in
  3. https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2017/afford-a-homecare-worker.html