7 Points to Consider When Caring for Aging Parents

Are you prepared for the decline of your aging parent? Perhaps your mom or dad is living alone and refusing health care assistance. You are running yourself ragged trying to do everything so they can live comfortably at home.

And then there’s a fall. Now what?

Maybe this isn’t the first time your loved one has fallen, but it could be the fall that changes everything. Each year, one-fourth of Americans over 65 fall, and the results can be devastating and life changing.

Suddenly, your mom or dad ? strong-minded and fiercely independent ? can no longer walk without assistance or provide self-care. After weeks in rehab you could bring your parent home to face a new reality: he or she can no longer live without support. Rides to doctor appointments, a stair lift to get to the bedroom, and home health care become a part of life.

To survive the role reversal and trauma of the crisis the fall created, consider these seven points as you begin to work through the details of eldercare.

1. It’s like going to a new country. You will find yourself in terrain never traveled before, especially when you are new at caregiving. It may be extremely uncomfortable, painful, and traumatic — for all involved. You learn to adjust to the language and customs of that world.

2. The workload is enormous. Caring for an elderly parent becomes a second job – or a third, or fourth. People say the parent becomes the child, but eldercare is about caring for a full-sized person with the needs of an adult. An adult is not as easy to lift as a child, and assisting with a parent’s personal care needs is a much more sensitive issue. Caring for an aging parent also involves dealing with their bills, banking, medical care, insurance, home care, end-of-life care, or dealing with a facility.

3. One person usually does the lion share. Families often cannot or do not pool together to share the workload. The person closest, and most able or willing, often ends up with it by default. Often women, many with kids and other responsibilities, become the primary caregivers and decision-makers.

4. Fear that a parent will die on your watch is overwhelming. When a parent is under your care and you are responsible for health decisions, it can be very scary. Especially if you are providing care in your parent’s home or your home. You absolutely need to know your mom or dad’s final wishes. Talk with your loved one about his or her health care wishes, make sure their wishes are in writing via an advance directive, and ensure other family members know your parents’ health care wishes – and who they have designated to act on their behalf.

5. Anticipatory grief can grip you. When parents become injured or too sick to care for themselves, it’s a shock. Anticipatory grief lives beneath the surface; it is the mourning over what is to come. It can make you deeply sad and cause depression. It is best to recognize it, address feelings and fears, and have a good cry (on a regular basis if need be). Seek professional help as needed.

6. You are nearing the end of a long-traveled road. The most awful revelation to acknowledge is that a parent’s life is fading. You have known that person longer than anyone in your life. Your changing role as caregiver or decision-maker will impact your relationship with your parents as you help them transition into a new phase of life.

7. Find good home care providers. The people caring for a parent become some of the most important people in his or her life. The key to peace of mind for you and your family is to find experienced, professional home care workers who have a strong work ethic and are highly compassionate. Thank them regularly.

Home care or hospice care providers can ease the burden of family caregivers by offering in-home care services to those with chronic or life-changing health care issues.

EveryStep provides care and support to patients, family members and their caregivers through chronic or serious illness, recovery or rehabilitation. Our experienced and compassionate staff can assist family caregivers in understanding the importance of nutrition, exercise, social ties, mental and spiritual health, and how all these things can contribute to wellbeing for individuals of all ages.