How to Take Care of Your Aging Parents—and Thrive
For some, it’s a beautiful cycle of life to care for aging parents—but for others, it’s a bit of a nightmare. You want to ensure your parent’s safety and happiness while considering their mental, emotional, and physical well-being, but whether you live nearby or across the country, it can be overwhelming to accept the changes and sacrifices of a caregiver role. It’s important to make a plan to avoid compromising your own physical and mental health while caring for a parent.
Let’s take a look at some of the tips that can make your transition to a caregiver smoother and easier.
As a caregiver to your adult parent, boundaries are critical. Clearly communicate your expectations with your parent, and listen to theirs as well. Good boundaries will be realistic, firm, and well-communicated. This is potentially a huge change in both of your lives, so it’s important to take time to sit down, discuss, and write out your non-negotiables.
From the start, it’s also imperative that you learn everything you can about their medical history and the types of care they want and need—both now and in the future. Ask about their expectations, and share the tasks you are (and are not) comfortable with performing as a caregiver. Yes, these conversations may be difficult to approach, but they are vitally important if this new relationship is going to be a healthy one for everyone.
Remember to Be Mindful
Caregiving can flip parent-child relationships on their heads. For most seniors, it’s a hard pill to swallow to accept that they’ll need help even with the most mundane of things. Assisting in a respectful, understanding manner is so important. Always remember that your actions, words, and even your tone can affect your parent—everyone is human here.
As an adult children caregiver, the lines between professionalism and familial relationships can be blurry. Remember to be respectful and patient with your parents. Let them take the lead and do tasks alongside them instead of taking over for them. Remember that your parents are not children who need coddling and parenting—they are still your parents, regardless of their age or abilities. Knowing that you genuinely care for them and their well-being is one of the most important parts of this new relationship.
It can be helpful to introduce a trustworthy third party to help you in this new role as a caregiver. Advocates and care managers have experience stepping into this role and helping aging adults feel comfortable and supported during these types of life transitions. Find someone to help on Solace, the leading platform for health advocacy.
Assessments to Consider
Caregiving requires a lot of skills, and more often than not, your responsibilities and duties can change over time. Flexibility is fundamental to a caregiver. The first step to taking care of your parent’s well-being is to check where they need support and then assess all possible solutions that can give them the care they need.
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
These day-to-day activities are essential to gauging physical and emotional needs. These include your parent’s ability to:
- Feed themselves
- Dress themselves
- Bathe or shower
- Attend to personal and toilet hygiene
- Overall functionality and mobility
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)
Though IADLs are not necessarily fundamental to daily living, they are important to your parent’s independent functioning. These include but are not limited to:
- Cooking and preparing meals daily
- Cleaning and maintaining their home
- Running errands
- Managing finances and bills
- Communicating through the telephone or other devices
- Taking prescription medications
One of the most crucial steps in being a caregiver is to decide how and where the care will take place. There are a lot of things that you must take into account and discuss with your elderly parents before you settle on a living arrangement. Here are some of the most common types of elderly living arrangements:
- Living With Family
If you will be your parent’s primary caregiver, the most logical solution is to provide care in your parent’s home, or even have your parents move in with you. This type of arrangement works well for elderly parents who need assistance with their daily living but do not require extensive medical support.
- Aging at Home
This is an attractive option for most seniors as this allows independent living and aging in the safety and familiarity of their own homes. However, several adjustments and modifications must be considered to ensure their safety. You could enlist the help of a family caregiver or a team of professional caregivers to evaluate the home and make sure your parent will be fully supported in their favorite environment.
- Independent Living Communities
Communities like these are geared towards active and independent seniors who want the social benefits of living in proximity to other seniors. Amenities usually include gyms, clubhouses, yard maintenance, housekeeping, and security. There are also laundry services, group meals, and social activities. However, there is usually no regular medical support provided.
- Assisted Living Communities
The amenities and services at assisted living communities are similar to independent living communities but are more suited to seniors who need some assistance and caregiving with their daily activities. There are caregivers who offer help with meals, dressing, hygiene, medication, and transportation.
- Nursing Homes
Nursing homes work best for elderly folks who need consistent medical surveillance and caregiving but don’t need or want to be confined in a hospital. Nursing homes have nursing staff who are on duty 24/7, but you’ll want to find a home that you trust to provide the best possible care.
Handling your parent’s finances so they can be financially secure is usually the responsibility of a caregiver, but this can also be an uncomfortable part of the relationship. Aside from paying bills and managing retirement funds, financial guidance can also include researching government programs that offer financial support. There are multitudes of assistance programs out there, and you should absolutely take advantage of any program they may be eligible for. Your parents may be entitled to more money or discounts than you (or they) think.
It’s also important to note that you don’t have to go broke once you become a caregiver. As a caregiver, you may be eligible to tax relief programs by claiming an elderly parent as a dependent. If you cover their medical expenses, these may also be deductible. Consult your accountant about possible tax breaks.
Getting the Best Care while Taking Care of Yourself
Caregiver burnout is real, and having no boundaries is a guaranteed recipe for burnout. As a caregiver, learning how to cope and remain stable is vital. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed with your new responsibilities, but keep in mind that you are not alone in this. There are many caregiver support groups that can offer you advice on how to help get your elderly parents the best support and assistance available while taking care of yourself.
Caring for your senior parents is not a burden that you must bear alone. Reach out to your siblings and other family members. You can also connect with other programs when it gets too confusing and troublesome. If you need professional support, there’s an advocate or care manager on Solace who can step in and help you with every detail of caring for your aging parents, from managing a care team to reviewing medications and more—find one today. And always remember that help is there when you ask for it.
Sara has led creative, brand, marketing and product teams for some of the fastest-growing startups in the U.S. She has written for multiple billionaires, international NBA stars and Nobel Prize winners and is brought to you mostly by multiple shots of espresso, administered daily.