For most of your life, you’ve relied on your parents to support you, keep you safe, and generally take care of you. From birth until your first steps out into the adult world, your parents were your caregivers. So what happens when the tables are turned?
As much as you may not want to think about it, your parents are aging. With age, comes the loss of some functions and a higher risk for disease. No one wants to think of their parents as elderly, but there will come a day when you have to step up and start taking care of your parents just like they took care of you. Helping care for your elderly parents can be a tremendous act of love and appreciation. It can also be an involved job, especially if you take over sole charge of their health and well-being. There are many different situations you may find yourself in as you age and your parents start requiring more care. No matter what your role becomes, there are some general tips to consider while caring for your elderly parents.
Monitor their health
Bodies and minds are not built to last forever. As we age, certain systems may start to deteriorate and break down. This can sometimes be hard to cope with, especially when elderly individuals become forgetful or frustrated by simple tasks that have become difficult. As a caregiver for an elderly parent, it is important that you are involved in their health decisions. Check for warning signs of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, or dementia.
Perhaps one of the most difficult situations is consoling a parent with dementia. Also known as going senile, this disorder indicates a mental deterioration or a decrease in cognitive abilities. Physical signs of dementia include stooped posture, decrease in muscle strength, or an increase in bone brittleness. You may also notice your parents have impaired judgment, childlike tendencies, or loss of memory. Knowing the symptoms can be one of the quickest, most effective ways to treat the illness. This may be an emotional journey, so give yourself and your parents space and time to deal with this new way of life.
Bring in help when necessary
It can be difficult to know when your elderly parents will require extra assistance. When you check in with them, do it in person to better gauge how they’re living. If they’re forgetting to take medications, hoarding, or not keeping up with their household chores, it may be time to bring in extra help. This can range from a housekeeper, an in-home nurse team, or moving your parents into an assisted living facility. This can be a difficult conversation, but in the end, it is about getting your parents the care they need to successfully enjoy the last years of their lives.
Keep finances stable
Elderly individuals usually are not working and live solely off of retirement funds. It is important to help your aging parents maintain stable finances. As they age, there is a chance they will be diagnosed with chronic illnesses that may require costly treatments. In some cases, your parents can reach a viatical settlement and trade their life insurance policy in for a slightly lesser cash value. A settlement provider will buy your insurance policy so you can pay for medical expenses more immediately rather than leaving behind debt after they pass away.
Be sure daily activities are taken care of
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are the essential tasks you do every day like dressing, self-feeding, bathing, and using the restroom. For some elderly individuals, these tasks can become difficult with age. Other activities — cooking, cleaning, driving, taking medications, managing finances — are essential to maintain independence rather than just functionality. As your parents age, be sure they are still managing their ADLs and maintaining some sense of independence for their own mental well-being.
Take care of yourself, too
Taking care of an elderly parent can be an emotionally draining task. It can be difficult to watch cognitive functions or memory start to lapse for the people you’ve always looked up to and relied on. Be sure you’re taking care of your own mental health. Communicate with your loved ones and take breaks when necessary. You will be able to take care of your family better when you first take care of yourself.