While we are aware that aging is a natural part of life, we’re still a bit surprised when we see our parents getting older and needing more care and attention. Of course, this is also normal; after all, we have always seen them as strong and healthy, and there is a little part of us that thought it would stay like that forever. But as they come of age, it is simply our turn to be there for them more.
If you have an aging parent that needs your help and attention, the decision to take care of them at your home or theirs can be a great one. Many families would not want it any other way: sometimes the parents just do not want to “end up in one of those places”, other times children consider it the right thing to do. It can be a great solution, and statistically the eldrerly prefer it, as long as parents’ health allows it. In the following lines, we offer some guidelines that can help you do this successfully.
Be realistic about what can and what has to be done
If you are reading this, you probably already assessed your parents’ health, and it is absolutely certain they can get all the care they need at home. The next step is to decide whether they can stay in their home under your supervision and with your help if necessary, or is it simply more convenient for them to move in with you.
If the mutual decision is for them to stay in their home, it is highly advisable to make the first month a trial run. During this period, you will take notes of the chores you have to do for them, the time you spend at their place, and, most importantly, you will monitor whether they are truly able to take good care of their own basic needs, like showers, food, toilet hygiene, etc. As long as everything is functioning to mutual satisfaction, you can continue this way after the first month.
In case parents are moving in with you, you need to be prepared to make some adjustments to space. For example, remove any carpets that can be slippery and make sure their living space is all at the same level in order to avoid the risk of falling or injuring themselves.
The necessary adjustments are not just the practical ones: make sure the parent actually feels comfortable in their new environment and allow them to make some furniture or decorations changes. Help them adjust to the change because it can be hard at any age.
The whole process of taking care of your aging mother or father is much easier if you are well prepared for it. This is why it is highly recommended to do proper research and know what to expect. This article should be a great first step, but make sure you dig deeper and broaden your knowledge even more. Find resources on what is happening to a human body in your parents’ age. If they have a certain condition, make sure you find out as much as you can about how it might develop and what you can do to help.
It is also a good idea to be prepared for emergencies by learning how to provide first aid and do CPR. As healthy as your parents are, you never know when things can go south. With this knowledge, you will be able to help until the professionals arrive. If you never use it, that is great, but would not just the fact you have it help you sleep better at night?
Do not forget to take care of yourself, ask for help
To care for an elderly family member can be very similar to having a baby. Sometimes, it can even be harder because they have opinions and knowledge they are able to express. This, and combining all the everyday tasks you need to do for them, can lead to a lot of stress for the caregiver, so it is very important to put yourself first. Remember, burnout can lead to serious health conditions, and if you get sick, you cannot help your parents.
A good first step is to keep track of how busy you are on a daily basis. Make sure you are managing your own chores as well, and have some time for yourself. You can ask another family member to jump in and help by simply keeping your parents company while you do what has to be done, or do the opposite: make sure you have enough time to just sit and watch TV with your mom or dad, while one of your friends takes care of the shopping.
There are also check out some programs that are designed to help you. There are Meals on Wheels that can deliver food to your parents. It can be a great help to get that off your list. There are Adult day programs that help the elderly socialize with people of their age. And many more, you just need to do research on what your community has to offer.
If you made a mutual decision with your parents that they stay at their or your home and you take care of them when they are old, you need to make sure you are informed and know exactly what to do to help them; you also must try and prepare yourself even for the unexpected. And you definitely must not neglect your own needs and take care of yourself first.