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Caring for Elderly Parents – 14 Ideas for Senior Caregivers

 

caring for elderly parentsCaring for Elderly Parents is an enormous responsibility. During the best of times, it requires a lot of time, patience, and understanding. Are you up for the task?

As the average life expectancy of Americans tops 78 years, Baby Boomers (those born between and including 1946 and 1964) have taken on another responsibility: that of caregivers for their elderly parents. This phenomenon of “the child becoming the parent” has left many scared, frustrated, and isolated, often sacrificing their own health and emotional well-being to do so.

 

14 Ideas for Senior Caregivers

 

Whether or not you have suddenly become a primary caregiver or you have found yourself slipping into the role, it’s important to have a game plan. The following suggestions may prove helpful.

1. Educate Yourself on Medical Conditions – Learn what you can about your parent’s condition(s). This puts you in a better position to care for her physical and emotional needs and to keep abreast of her medical history and treatment.

2. Monitor Health – Keep a careful record of your parent’s symptoms, progresses, or regressions. This baseline reference will help you and her doctor choose the best course of treatment when needed.

3. Always Update Records – Keep and periodically update your parent’s records of daily medications, special care, and diet, those to call in case of an emergency, etc. Make sure someone is aware of the location of these records should something happen to you.

Choose the right health care4. Choose the Best Health Care – Pick your parent’s health care professional(s) or provider(s) wisely. This person or group of people will play a significant role in your and your parent’s lives. According to the National Institute on Aging, how well you and your loved one’s doctor communicate is one of the most important parts of her getting good health care.

5. Design a Financial Plan for Your Parent and Yourself – Long-term care can drain both of your finances. How much will Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance cover? Will other family members help financially? Is your parent eligible for free or low-cost services through local, state, or national programs? What deductions or credits can the two of you claim on your taxes?

6. Become a More Confident and Capable Caregiver – Learn basic first aid procedures such as how to administer CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver, shots, etc. Or opt for more extensive training, such as a six-week CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) course. These skills will give you more control over your parent’s care and save money since you won’t need to call in a professional to perform daily routines.

Legal Paperwork for Seniors7. Take Care of Legal Paperwork – Make sure your parent’s legal documents are updated and in order. These may include a will, an advanced directive or decision (a living will is one form of this), a trust, a donor card (if not already designated on her driver’s license), and a durable power of attorney. Look into a separate power of attorney for health care, finances, and conveyance of real property if your power of attorney is limited. Also, making sure your name is on anything that concerns your parent’s finances will allow you access to them if he or she becomes incapacitated or dies. Those whose parent has dementia or Alzheimer’sand still has clarity of mind should be allowed that liberty.

8. Assign Family Roles – Have open and honest communication with other family members before you begin caring for your parent and then on a regular basis thereafter. What part will each family member play? Who will make the major decisions regarding your parent, and who will watch him or her when you and your family need to get away for a few days or take a much-needed vacation?

9. Join a Support Group (in person or online) – You can also find another caregiver to give emotional support and share information. Information or empathy shared can go a long way in helping individuals who find themselves solely responsible for their parent’s care.

Healthy food at Applewood Our House10. Take Care of Yourself – Eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and occasionally get away by yourself. Keep your annual physical exam and scheduled medical tests, and get a flu shot, which will protect both you and your parent, whose defenses may be down due to chronic illness).

11. You Can’t Do It Alone – Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family, friends, co-workers, church members, neighbors, and federal, state, county, and community services. This network of support will help you to keep up with your non-care-giving responsibilities.

12. Create a Plan – Draw up a plan in the event you become ill, disabled, or die and can no longer care for your parent or if for any reason your care is diminished. For these reasons, you must keep accurate and up-to-date records, not only for your parent but also for yourself.

Is there someone who could immediately step in until you can notify a secondary caregiver? Who will take over the long-term care of your parent? Will you need to look into assisted living or a nursing home now, rather than later?

13. Making Decisions – Allow your parent to make decisions for as long as possible, even if you don’t agree with her. Soon enough you will have to make all her decisions, so try to respect and honor her wishes until that time.

So, when is that time? If a 40-year-old adult child has a 70-year-old parent, it’s time to start talking about sensitive topics like driving, medication management, finances, and end-of-life wishes.

14. Assisted Living Facilities – Some families usually determine that they cannot mentally or physically handle the responsibilities of caring for one or both of their parents. Assisted living facilities are a viable option for your loved one. A professional team can look after your loved ones and take over the major role of caregiver. This gives you the ability to get your life back in order, but still allows you to visit when you can.

If you are trying to find assisted living in Denver or surrounding areas, visit or call Applewood Our House. Our Stepping Stones program can also help you find placement options in other senior housing arrangements.

 

Caring for Elderly Parents – Conclusion

 

Ignoring the inevitable does not stop it from happening. Don’t let the care of your parent, which should be a labor of love, compassion, and human dignity, become a battlefield on which neither side wins. Information and an established game plan can give peace of mind to those who are in the process of or soon will be caring for an elderly parent.

 

In case you have never seen this informative TEDx video on How to Relieve Stress of Caring for an Aging Parent, you should do so.

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Applewood Our House has four residential assisted living homes for those with memory care needs.

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