Caring for your aging parents can be a tough responsibility. Often, you may be unsure of the right options to help keep them healthy and happy. However, the sooner you figure out their needs and take charge of the situation, the less overwhelming it will be in the long run. These five steps will ensure proper care and support is provided to aging parents in need of help.
1. Needs Assessment
Assessing your parent’s everyday needs is a great place to start. This will help establish the existing gaps and what should be done to keep them safe and healthy. Key areas to focus on are:
- Level of family support required
- General home safety
- Their medical needs
- Their level of mobility
- Their nutritional needs
- Social needs
A clear knowledge of these aspects will help everyone involved understand the full situation and the type of service required. For example, is your parent safely and easily able to get from their home to visit friends, attend church, or participate in other regular activities? Do they need assistance with weekly grocery shopping, or maybe just help bringing the bags in from the car? Are there any areas in the home, like exterior stairs or bathtubs, in need of a safety upgrade for them to live independently? Carry out this assessment as early as possible to help settle on solutions that are sustainable and beneficial for both of you.
2. Involve Them—and The Entire Family
It might seem obvious, but be sure you include your parents in this decision making process. Even though your path and intentions are good, they might be resistant if not brought on board—after all, we all want to be in control of our own lives. Thus, a gradual approach (if they’re reluctant to accept help) and ongoing involvement is the best way to get your parents the right support and help accommodate their wishes. Also, you need to engage all other relevant family members—caring for an aging loved one can be a very sensitive topic, and their input is essential. Besides, things will be easier when every relative knows what’s needed, and what kind of support they’re expected and able to provide.
3. Evaluate Their Financial Health
At least some aspects of caring for your aging parents will likely require financial support, whether it’s short term (like installing safety rails in the bathroom) or long term (like arranging daily in-home care). Analyzing their current and future needs in relation to cost will help you prepare better. Check their financial situation. Figure out the type of care they’ll likely need in years to come. Verify whether they qualify for elderly care programs, or have insurance benefits that apply. Early planning can help prevent stressful financial surprises down the road.
4. Ensure Improved Communication
It’s common for seniors to feel isolated and lonely, which can have adverse effects on their overall health. As much as you can, provide a conducive environment and avenues for your parents to easily communicate with family and friends. You might help them set up a Zoom or Hangout connection to use for recurring video calls (once a link is created, you could put a shortcut on their computer so they can connect in one simple click). You can also get them a user-friendly mobile phone or, where necessary, a wearable medical alert device. It’s a reassuring way to call for help whenever needed.
5. Explore Various Senior Living Options
Various factors will determine the type of care you give your aging parents, such as their health and medical needs, your availability and the cost of care. In some instances, their needs might go beyond what your family can provide—or maybe they just want to live in a community with folks their own age, or where they can easily walk to all the places they like to go. If this is a direction your family might go, discuss all the amenities and features that your parents are looking for, and schedule visits to potential facilities to be sure they’re happy in their new home.
According to Jane Byrne, a nursing home project manager, “Analyzing all the options at your disposal early enough will ensure proper planning and arrangements. Seek the right consultations where needed.” For instance, get a doctor’s help if your parents require special medical care or an attorney if you need to organize any paperwork.
With early planning and open, honest communication, you—and your parents—can be assured they’ll be safely cared for, financially secure, and happily engaged as they grow older.