Caring for parents can be a daunting task; especially if you (or a sibling) lives far away. This act of caregiving can benefit not only your parents, but also you. It can enhance your relationship, and be a time of both joy and satisfaction.
That being said, it also can bring on an immense feelings of being overwhelmed. The truth is, being the primary (or contributing) caregiver means devoting time, thought, work and possibly even finances to ensure that person is taken care of. For many people, you wind up feeling more tired, or even torn between your daily life and what you do for them.
That’s why we prepared this information on caring for aging parents, so you can help ensure your parent gets the support they need to remain happy, healthy and safe at home. And, be able to do it in a way that is easier on you.
Caring for parents: Where to start
One of the most difficult things a person is faced with in their lifetime is that point at which living by themselves (or in their current home) is not in their best interest. It is understandable that this decision is a hard one to reach by yourself.
It also is very difficult for you to reach that as their child.
A frequent question I’ve heard over the years is, “When should the elderly not live alone?” Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, since there are so many factors involved. It really is an individual thing.
The good news is there are several indicators that can be helpful to decide what to do.
Activities of daily living (ADL’s)
Is your loved one able to accomplish the things need to care for themselves daily? These basic things fall into 5 categories:
- Grooming & personal hygiene
- Mobility and movement
- Continence control & hygiene
- Preparing food & eating
Instrumental activities of daily living (IADL’s)
The next criteria are called “instrumental activities of daily living”, which are the activities one needs to be able to accomplish to remain independent. Here is a list courtesy of Caring.com:
- Managing finances
- Handling transportation (driving or navigating public transit)
- Preparing meals
- Using the telephone and other communication devices
- Managing medications
- Housework and basic home maintenance”
There are two other considerations I advise people to make, and those include:
The more health conditions a person has, the greater the chance complications or side effects could arise. Even doctors have a difficult time keeping track of what condition or medication can cause what side effects; no one expects you to do that. Just know, that these two things can work hand-in-hand to create dangerous situations.
This is actually a two-pronged topic. First, are they able to make decisions that can keep themselves safe. This isn’t just about them having Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. (Though, part of it.) It also their ability to be aware enough of their surroundings and their ability to make decisions quickly enough, should an emergency happen. And, secondly, is their home safe for them? Specifically, has it been adapted to suit their particular needs?
There are local professionals that can help you evaluate your parent’s situation and needs, which can lead to a much better quality of life.
Most every adult child will find themselves faced with a decision of what to do if their parent just needs a little help. So, know that will most likely occur at some point for you.
I advise people that, at the point where they understand there is a need, to bring in help incrementally.
To be honest, no one wants to have a stranger in their home. Much less, when it makes them feel like they are not self sufficient. However, the earlier you can introduce local help, the easier it will be in the long run. Let me tell you why…
You’re getting a jump start on something that we’re all going to need. By doing so, you’re figuring it out early (when the need isn’t as great), rather than later (when it might be an emergency).
Find the people you feel comfortable with
Trusting a local care provider takes time. But, you also have the chance to find someone that works well with your parent. Sometimes you can go through a few before you do.
Easing yourself into caregiving
Even when you have people helping you, the stress of caregiving can weigh on you. By finding the right people to share that with, you can seriously improve both your parent’s and your results.
Caregiver stress and burnout
There are very real emotional effects of caring for an elderly parent. Of course, how mild or severe these effects are can depend on you, as well as your parent.
It is not difficult to understand that being responsible for another person’s daily care will have an affect on the caregiver’s life and health. Caregiver stress symptoms, can include:
- Feelings of anxiety or irritability
- Always being tired
- Problems with falling or staying asleep
- Health problems
Coping with caring for elderly parents can be difficult. Thankfully, you are not alone in this and the stress you feel now does not have to endure.
My best advice is get assistance from caring people in your parent’s community that can help ease the burden. They will be well taken care of and you will be much better for it.
Elder care checklist
There are many resources available locally to help you get started taking care of elderly parents at home. Many long-distance caregivers find it helpful to have a local professional available to assist them. Mainly due to the fact that is is difficult to replace having someone knowledgeable there in person.
But, if you are just getting started on your caregiver journey, or if you want to learn more about giving the best care possible, having an elder care checklist can be helpful. To that end, we have a couple of resources listed here that might be useful for you.
The AARP create a caring for aging parents checklist called, Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families (PDF). This is a fairly comprehensive guide by the AARP for families providing care for an older loved one.
There also is a legal checklist for aging parents available at the National Institute on Aging called, Getting Your Affairs in Order, which details the most important legal preparations you should make, including tips on planning, what you should focus on, important papers and legal documents.