If our parents are aging and need help to stay safe and healthy, it is often difficult to figure out what to do. It can feel overwhelming to identify needs, understand options and make decisions. Focusing on something concrete can help us feel more in control.
- Assess parent’s needs: We are often unsure as to how much help a loved one needs. It is helpful to think about how much support they are already getting and how much assistance do they realistically need to stay safe and healthy in the domains of family support, home safety, medical needs, cognitive health, mobility, personal hygiene, meal preparation and social interaction.
- Think about your own needs and capabilities: Everyone is in a different phase of life and has their own unique set of responsibilities. Before you decide that you can handle all of your loved one’s needs, think about your own situation. Consider issues such as your own health, proximity to your loved one, ability to move into a parent’s home or have them move into yours, whether your relationship is positive or negative, your personality to provide care and whether you are willing to be a caregiver. It is not selfish or heartless to not be the one to take on this role. Be honest with yourself about your own abilities to do the job.
- Include your parent in the process: No one wants to lose control over their lives. That is why it is important to include your loved one in the decision making process as much as possible. Be partners in the process if your loved one is able and take it slow.
- Understand the financial situation: Caring for an older adult costs money. It is important to be as prepared as possible for future situations as they arise. Thinking about medical care costs, living care costs (assisted living, nursing home etc.) food, home repairs and modifications and medical supplies should all be considered. Understanding your loved one’s financial position and resources will assist you in knowing what they can afford and what financial assistance may be available. Consulting an elder law attorney might be advantageous.
- Take care of safety in the home: Evaluate any safety hazards in your loved one’s home to prevent falls, trips and accidents is important. Adding grab bars, reducing clutter, updating lighting and making sure appliances are in good working order ensure safety.
- Make sure communication is simple and available: Consider easy to use mobile devices which allow loved ones to be in contact with their support system, as well as call for help in an emergency. Simple mobile devices also assist parents avoid loneliness and isolation.
- Explore aging care options: Caregiving for a loved one is a huge responsibility. Fortunately, there are organizations and others who can help. Care managers consult and /or manage care, professional caregivers support loved ones, assisted living facilities provide 24 -hour care and geriatricians know how to treat older adults. Connecting to local and government resources can support the family caregiver in coming up with the best plan possible for your loved one.
Being a family caregiver for a loved one is a big decision but possible with the right strategies.