Here are some tips on how to take good care of aging parents and where you can access potential resources to avoid burning out.
Assess how much care is needed
Take the time to sit down with your parents and, if necessary, their health care providers. Discuss not only their mental and physical needs, but also your own boundaries and expectations. These conversations are essential to the success of your new role.
Determine where they are going to live and where the caregiving is going to take place. Outline the day-to-day activities they may need help with, such as handling financial bills, going to medical appointments, or making lifestyle adjustments around the home to improve accessibility.
Activities of daily living
As we age, the day-to-day activities we take for granted, such as making ourselves dinner or taking a shower, may gradually become more difficult to perform. If your parents are having trouble completing these essential activities of daily living, it may be time for a major change in care:
- Bathing, showering, and maintaining personal hygiene on a routine basis, such as shaving and brushing teeth
- Feeding themselves, including chewing and swallowing and bringing food from the plate to their mouth
- Continence, or complete control of bowels and bladder
- General mobility and functionality, including the ability to walk, get dressed, and get on and off the toilet or out of bed without assistance
Instrumental activities of daily living
While the instrumental activities of daily living are not as fundamental to our very existence, they do play an important role in independent functioning. These complex activities require advanced levels of thinking and organizational skills, and can be a good gauge for whether your loved ones can safely live on their own or may need additional help:
- Routine cleaning, maintenance and other chores around the house
- Doing laundry regularly
- Preparing, cooking and shopping for daily meals
- Running errands
- Paying bills on time
- Managing money
- Taking prescription medications on time and sticking to the schedule
- Communicating with others using technological devices and the phone
Many seniors prefer to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Depending on their physical and cognitive health, that may not always be possible. In this case, you may want to explore other living options with them. These could include options such as moving into their home, moving them into yours, or looking into a retirement or assisted living community that offers the appropriate level of care for their needs.
Aging in place
If your parent has expressed a desire to age in place, meaning independently within their own home or community, discuss with them what supports they may need to make that happen. Whether it's assistance with household chores, short-term nursing care after a medical procedure or the ability to make friends and commute to their favorite activities, there are plenty of resources available to fill in the gaps when you're not around.
Consider senior living options
Other options to consider when caring for elderly parents include helping them rent or buy a home in an independent living community with other seniors where there are opportunities to socialize and stay active.
If some medical support and caregiving are required, but your parents are otherwise independent, they may look at an assisted living community that features amenities such as meals and housekeeping services. For those with chronic conditions in need of more constant medical surveillance, a nursing home with staff on duty 24 hours a day could be the best option.
It's essential that you maintain your own health and well-being as you navigate these new responsibilities. Caregiving is a challenging role that can leave you vulnerable to depression and burnout, so it's important to ask for help whenever you start to feel overwhelmed.
This could include reaching out to a therapist for advice or other senior care providers for support with tasks so that you have time for self-care. While emotional support is crucial, financial assistance can also go a long way - take the time to look into the hundreds of programs that compensate family members who act as caregivers.
Government assistance for caregivers of elderly parents
Your elderly parents may be eligible for funding or low-cost services that can in turn ease the financial strain on you. A good place to start is with the federal government, which offers many resources and programs for seniors.
You can also check out these resources for extra help:
- Benefits Checkup: Find eligible benefits and programs for seniors across the country
- Government Benefits: Look into healthcare and disability coverage, military veteran assistance, and other sources of funding.
- Area Agency on Aging: Locate programs and funding in your local area.
- Low-cost public transportation: Help your parents run errands and get to appointments
- Respite care: Get temporary, short-term relief you need to get away for an afternoon, overnight or longer
Are you responsible for ensuring an aging parent or loved one is taken care of? You may want to review your life insurance coverage. Learn more about your life insurance options.