While most people think about and plan for their retirement one day, many of us might not think about our health during this phase of our lives and how much we are able to enjoy our golden years.
The reality is that old age brings with it a number of ailments. And most of the time, elderly care falls on the shoulders of children and close loved ones. If you’re faced with the responsibility of taking care of an aging parent, where do you start?
This blog is here to provide some answers on how to care for aging loved ones, so read on for more.
1. Taking Care of an Aging Parent: Assess How Much Care Is Needed
While assisted living is often a common choice for many children who have the responsibility of caring for an aging parent, it may not always be necessary. If you have the ability to set your loved one up in your home or hire a part-time or full-time caregiver, this is sometimes a better option before the assisted living route.
But before you make your decision you’ll have to do a thorough assessment of how much care your loved one really needs. If you take on too much responsibility that’s out of your scope of expertise, you could burn yourself out faster than you realize.
By taking on too much responsibility early on, you could also begin to overlook your own health. Which is a recipe for disaster for you, your family, and your parent(s).
In order to determine the scope of care needed, compile a list of all the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that your loved one needs help with while they live with you for a few weeks. Keep a note pad at-the-ready and jot down each task as you perform it.
This way, you can gauge how much help your loved one needs — whether it’s during the week or over a weekend. Once you have a better idea, think about the available time you have, your scope of expertise, your financial standing, and what you can realistically manage.
If you decide that assisted living is not an option just yet, you want to read this article if you are planning to buy medical alert devices to keep your parent safe while at home.
2. Enlist Help as and When You Need It
Taking on the responsibility of caring for an aging parent is a big deal. And what’s most important to remember is that you don’t have to do it all on your own. In fact, it’s wise to hire out the extra help that you need, or at the very least, ask for help from siblings and family members when you need it.
Some additional forms of support may include the following:
- Adult day programs that allow your parent(s) to socialize with others their age
- A part-time or full-time caregiver that can help with daily living tasks and other forms of medical care
- A volunteer senior who can provide companionship throughout the day as well as transportation to run errands
- In-home respite care if your loved one is terminally ill
- For parents with disabilities, there are support coordination efforts that help connect patients with professionals and other care providers.
Remember that there is absolutely no shame in hiring additional help when you take care of an aging parent. By sharing the load, you can take care of your own health and avoid burnout. It’s also the best way to ensure your loved one receives the best possible care.
3. Take Time off for Your Mental and Physical Health
This is a huge part of being a caregiver — you need to take regular breaks to allow yourself the time to unwind and recuperate. Taking care of your own family, as well as an aging parent can be very demanding. You have to put yourself first and take time off when you need it.
This is where it’s important to enlist the help of other family members in the caregiving journey. If you need a weekend getaway, ask a sibling, a close cousin, or even a close friend to stay at your home for the weekend while you take the time to rest.
Obviously, it’s important to flexible when it comes to taking time off and asking family members or friends for help. It also depends on their circumstances and responsibilities. So try to be diplomatic and understanding in your approach when asking for help.
4. Keep Things Simple and Convenient
There’s no denying that cooking for your entire family is a task in itself. But when it comes to catering to the needs of an aging loved one, this is a totally different scenario.
Seniors have specific nutritional needs as they age to help with fighting off disease and infection. They are also at risk of malnutrition due to decreased appetite, which can only lead to issues like anxiety and depression.
With this in mind, their nutrition is of utmost importance, so you want to make your life easier with a ready-made meal service. This means your fridge and freezer are always stocked with ready-to-go meals that cater specifically to senior’s needs.
It also takes the pressure off you having to prepare multiple meals a day and reduces the chances of your loved one actually skipping meals.
5. Reduce the Financial Strain
It’s no secret that caring for an aging parent adds an element of financial pressure to your plate, too. With the additional help you may need, a ready-made meal service, medications, doctor’s appointments, etc., things can add up quickly.
This is why it’s wise to seek out financial aid where you need it and also consider ways to reduce the financial strain. For example, you could sign up with a government benefits program, or look for a private benefit program that offers financial aid when supporting an elderly parent.
Another option is to assess whether your parent receives a pension support package and discuss with them (and your family) if you can use this money to take some financial pressure off yourself.
There is also the option to change your Medicaid plan by spending down, in order to qualify for senior support. It’s a good idea to speak to an attorney about this first, though. Look for generic or reduced-cost prescriptions to keep medication costs low.
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When taking care of an aging parent you want to remember that your own self-care actually comes first. This may sound selfish, but it’s the best guarantee you have at providing the best care that your loved one needs.
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