Growing old is very different than it used to be. Americans are living longer and enjoying their senior years more than ever before. Seniors take part in more activities, boast a higher quality of life, better health, and more options when it comes to their healthcare.
Increasingly, aging men and women are eschewing traditional healthcare options, such as nursing homes. Instead, seniors are working with the government and healthcare programs to have a trusted friend or family member care for them in their homes. That’s where you come in!
If an aging parent has entrusted you with their care and you’re wondering if you are up to the task, relax. Assisting your favorite senior with medications, preparing meals, and helping him or her go about their day-to-day activities doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Get started with these quick tips.
Understand Their Needs
Are you a beginner? Inexperienced? No problem! The first step is determining your loved one’s needs. One straightforward way to do this is to spend time with them and keep a notebook or your favorite note-taking app handy. Visit on a weekday. Ask your parent to pretend you’re not there and go about their day like they normally would. Make a note whenever they need help. Jot it down even if they don’t ask you directly. For example, if they’re ordering in or relying heavily on prepared foods, know that cooking is likely in your near future. To get the whole picture, repeat the same exercise for a typical weeknight and a day on the weekend.
Be the first to bring up taboo topics. Your parent may be hesitant to dive right into topics like bodily functions and bathing. Bring it up first so they don’t have to. If they’re easy to embarrass, consider making a checklist and reading it off to them. This way, you cover taboo territory in a more formalized structure. A phone call might help keep embarrassment at bay, too. Normalize it for them. Remember, almost three-fourths of Americans turning 65 will need long-term healthcare in their lives. Be sure to tell your loved one that as well and they will hopefully feel less ashamed about needing help.
Finally, if you’re nervous about keeping track of mom or dad’s health conditions and medications, don’t fret! There’s an app for that. A whopping 96% of American hospitals and 78% of doctor’s offices use electronic health records. While these are utilized on-site, they’re often available for patients and authorized loved ones to view and access online as well. Ask your parent or parent’s doctor if this an option available to you.
Hash Out The Finances
Don’t be shy. Talking about money and spending can be even more challenging than talking about incontinence and adult diapers. Again, bring it up first. Normalize it. These are conversations aging parents and children are having and they’re necessary conversations for you to provide the very best in-home care. Ask your parent about Medicaid and Medicare and do your own research, too. Medicare, for example, provides health insurance for Americans age 65 and over, Americans with end-stage renal disease, and Americans with qualifying disabilities. Like Medicaid, it’s a government-run program.
In addition to Medicaid and Medicare, there are other public resources out there to help you.
“The National Council on Aging operates a benefits checklist service and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging has extensive information on caregiving help,” U.S. News writes.
Be Realistic and Seek Help When You Need It
Don’t go it alone. Caregiving can be a demanding job, even when it’s caring for an aging parent — or sometimes especially when caring for an aging parent. There are a lot of options and resources available to you. Make sure to use them. For example, a friend or family member can help pick up groceries and toiletries. Family members can also help prepare meals or take over for you for brief periods of time to free you up to run errands.
You can also find caregiving help through services. You could order supplies and prescriptions online to avoid the extra trip, look into adult day programs to help mom and dad make new friends their age and consider a daily meal service if cooking isn’t exactly your forte. When looking for these services, simply search for them on Google or another search engine. Join the 48% of consumers who start mobile research with a search engine and pull out your smartphone to start the search. You’ll see all kinds of companies pop up ready to provide you with the services you need.
Take Care of You
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. A part of this is again knowing that it’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help only benefits you and your parent because it helps prevent burnout and exhaustion and leaves you in tip-top shape to provide care.
Other ways to take care of you include being present and re-framing the situation. Not only will being present help you provide the best quality care, but it will also keep you happy, too. Don’t worry about or agonize over what the future holds. Cherish these moments when your parent now. Similarly, don’t think of caring for your parent as a chore. Instead of viewing as something you “have to do,” view is as something you “get to do.” You get to spend quality time with your parent in their old age, keep them comfortable, and make sure their at-home care meets your expectations.
And don’t forget to take a break. Get a cup of coffee with a friend. Go out to a nice dinner. Stay in one night and watch a movie. Spend a day reading and relaxing by the pool. Become a poolside expert! Water under two feet — 20 inches and below — will look clear if you just want to dip your toes in. If it’s swimming laps you’re after, head for the deep blue water. Water appears blue starting at 20 inches deep and grows bluer as the water gets deeper.
Be the best possible caregiver for you and your aging parent. Identify their needs, hash out the finances, get help when and where needed, and make time specifically to take care of you.