When our parents are elderly, our roles tend to swap: we find that the people who once took care of us now need us to help take care of them. To make sure that your parents are getting the very best care to make their elder years truly golden years, remember the following:
1. Make sure they are surrounded by familiar things.
Whether your parents are living at home, with you or in an assisted living facility, they will be happier if they have access to the things that are familiar and pleasant to them. Make sure that they have favorite decorations, books, furniture and other items that make them feel comfortable and more at home. If you are not sure which items are most important, ask. Your parents will feel much better about the choices made for them if they have a say in what goes on.
2. Encourage them to stay active and social.
There is a strong correlation between a person’s level of health and wellbeing and their level of social connection. Make sure that your parents stay in touch with friends and get out to see them regularly. Get them interested in activities such as games, crafting classes and others. An older person’s walking or swimming group can help them stay more physically active, which helps with mental sharpness and physical abilities as they get older. And, don’t decide too soon that Mom is too old for something like Facebook. Many older people also get social interaction through social networks online.
3. Help out with their finances.
Talking about money can be embarrassing, but it needs to be done. See what the have in savings, what sort of income is coming in and what their expenses are. Look over bills to see if there are any services that aren’t being used and can be eliminated. Setting up automatic billing can help ensure that bills are paid on time with a minimum of stress. If there is not enough money coming in, look into income solutions such as reverse mortgages.
4. Try not to get frustrated; emphasize instead.
It can be difficult, but it is important to treat your parents with empathy. Understand things from their point of view when you feel that they are being stubborn about something, such as insisting on aging in place instead of moving to a retirement community. By truly working to understand where they are coming from, you can get a better understanding of what the best things for them can be.
5. Keep in regular touch.
Situations can change quickly as we age. Talk to and visit your parents regularly so that you can stay abreast of situations with their health and what is going on in their lives. If you find that you get busy and go awhile without getting in touch, set up a regular appointment in your phone to call them. Even if you just chat for a few minutes, they’ll enjoy the continued connection.
6. Be careful about respect when you talk to them.
It is vital that you never condescend when you are talking to your parents. This can drive a wedge between you and then and make it harder for you to help them. We only have so long together; treating them with dignity and respecting their choices can mean having fewer regrets later on.
7. Work together with friends, relatives and neighbors to look out for them.
No one person can do everything. Having a strong support network can help parents stay more independent as they age. Make sure that there is a large group of people that your parents can call on for rides, company and help with minor repairs around the house. Make sure that your parents have a list of numbers that they can call. You can also arrange for a neighbor to stop by regularly to see if they want or need anything, or if they just want some company.
8. Make safety arrangements in the house.
Be realistic about your parents’ levels of physical fitness as they get older. Additions like shower chairs, helpers for getting in and out of seats and other items can make it easier for them to stay in place and be more independent without risk. If you are worried about falls or if they are living alone, make an arrangement for alert items that they can use to call for help if something happens. There are a number of elder care organizations that can point you toward items that can be of use.
9. Stay positive.
There will be times when you worry. There will be times when things do not go the way that you want. It’s important on those days to celebrate even the littlest victories. By keeping a positive attitude, you can help yourself deal with the stresses that can come with caring for an elderly parent.
No one is able to do all of it alone and not every day is going to be perfect. Through careful planning, positive attitude and a willingness to ask for help when you need it, you can ensure that your parents get the best care and the best lives all throughout their lives.