As life goes by and we find ourselves aging and facing new life situations, we must remember our parents and close family members are aging as well. Our parents may still look like we remember as we were growing up, but the years have passed by and it's always a good idea to forge a plan of action for the time they will need help with their daily activities and also for the time when they will no longer be able to live on their own. They will need a caregiver during these later years and knowing if it will be you or someone else can help you as you move forward in your plans for the long term.
If you already find yourself in the throws of caring for an aging parent, don't worry if you didn't have time to hammer out a plan. There are thankfully always options and it's never too late to explore which options will work best for you and for your family members. It's important to look into the most commonly asked questions for those in search of the best solutions to this fundamental topic. We will explore answers to these frequently asked questions:
- Is it my responsibility to take care of my aging parents?
- How do you prepare to care for aging parents?
- How do you care for aging parents?
- How do you deal with stubborn aging parents?
What IS My Responsibility?
As parents get older, a lot of adult children ultimately take it upon themselves to be their caregivers out of love and respect for them. This isn't the case for everyone, some never knew their parents, some have strained relationships and the parents refuse care from family. Is there a defined law or regulation in these circumstances? In the United States we have what are called Filial Laws, also known as filial responsibility laws. These are laws put in place where responsibility is given to adult children (sometimes other relatives) to care for their parents when in a case of poverty and financial instability. Thirty states have filial laws and each differ by state. Take some time to look up the specific laws for your state and the state where your parents reside and see what rights reserved apply to them.
How Do I Prepare To Care For My Aging Parents?
If you are in a position to cultivate a care plan for your parents BEFORE they are unable to care for themselves or before a health related crisis comes, ABSOLUTELY DO IT!! Being prepared is always the best solution.
- Sit down and have a REAL conversation with your parents. It won't be easy but it's the best way for them to voice what THEY WANT looking to the future. No one likes to talk about getting older and not being able to take care themselves, so have the conversation NOW. This way you will know what they want and don't want so, moving forward, you can make sure the decisions you make for them are what they want.
- Let them decide if they want home care, long term care, assisted living or nursing home. They may want to utilize all of them at each stage of their aging process and if so, let them tell you when they would anticipate being ready for each stage. Encourage them to visit assisted living places and nursing homes, checking into their costs and what is affordable for them.
- Long term care insurance, if purchased early, can help your parents as they age and help them in the process when they are in need of care.
- If your parents own their own home and don't want the responsibility later on, ask them when they would like to sell and move to a place with less upkeep. If you can get them talking about a timeframe it won't be as hard as it would be if they are forced to leave their home due to a fall or illness.
- Make sure they have a trust, a living will, and someone ready to take over power of attorney when the time comes, so no one is caught off guard.
- Have your loved ones write down and keep track of where their important documents are, what medications they take, the names of their physicians, insurance cards and other items you might need in helping care for them.
- Make sure your parents know you are only asking the hard questions now because you want their future care to be what they want.
How Do You Care For Aging Parents?
If you are the designated caregiver that is caring for elderly parents you know it's important they receive the best possible care. As their adult children they may have a hard time letting you "call the shots" but don't lose heart.
- If your elderly parents are still living at their own home, set a schedule of what days you will come by, what time, and what things you will do each day to help them. Write it down, keep the schedule where they can see it, that way if they forget they have a reference.
- Make sure they have a mobile phone and know how to get in touch with you at all times in case of an emergency. A monitored medical alert system for seniors is also a good idea to look into.
- If they are able to get out, let them go to the store with you, pick out their food, clothing, etc. It gives them something to look forward to and a chance to make their own decisions.
- Set boundaries for yourself as a caregiver. You can't do everything by yourself everyday. You need help! Ask other loved ones to help you and make sure they know the routine you have established. Caring for aging parents can be overwhelming at times. Make sure you have that help and you also have people you can talk to, to help encourage you through the tough times.
- If your loved ones need more help than you can provide but can still maintain living at home, check out a health home care nurse.
- If your aging parents need around the clock care, more so than you can provide, put your internet search skills to use. There are thousands of sites from health care companies to national publications that can point you toward the highest rated nursing home and health care facilities in your state and area.
How Do You Deal With Stubborn Aging Parents?
Being family caregiver and caring for the elderly parent/parents in your life is not easy, especially when they are not willing to accept the fact that they need help. Some can be downright stubborn, almost like having a teenager only you can't ground them! How do you deal with these emotional issues and yet still respect them and their position as your parent? VERY CAREFULLY!! Some different approaches to try:
- Look at this situation from their perspective. Life how they have known and lived for decades is changing DRAMATICALLY. It can be heartbreaking, frustrating, and infuriating all at once. It's important to let them express their feelings and show them how much you care and that you are on their side.
- Always include them in the decision making process. It is their life and well-being, they deserve to have a say in what happens to them.
- Keep things positive and don't lose your patience, your frustration can breed their frustration.
- Put things on your side of the coin. If they can no longer clean their house, tell them you would feel better if you could get someone to come in and clean the house once a week so you would not have to worry that mopping the kitchen floor could cause someone to fall. It's not pointing out they can't do something anymore, it's showing them there are risks they may not have thought about.
- Choose which battles are worth fighting. Save your energy for the bigger ones.
- Show them your love in the little and big things you do for them and in how you help them with their care needs. Love conquers all.
Being the designated family caregiver is NOT an easy job, but one well worth the effort, all senior care is important. As our aging parents reach the time where they are no longer able to live alone our hands-on caring for them begins. As we care for elderly loved ones we ourselves need care and support. It's true the old saying, "you can't get water from a well that is dry." Caregiver, make sure YOU have a support system! All the care, concern, sounding board and patience you show your loved one should be shown to you to keep you from being stressed out and burned out as you seek to serve your elderly parents. Keep up weekly fun activities, sleep late on Saturdays, have a good book on hand, anything and everything you can do to keep you centered and time away from your parents, DO THAT! You need caregiver support in order to provide support as your role in caring for elderly loved ones. And you don't have to do it alone, accept help from wherever or whomever will lend a helping hand. The best caregiver is the one who knows they need care to give the best care.
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