Taking Care of Elderly Parents
As our parents age, we transition out of our relationship with them.
This new role can be scary and unfamiliar. It can be a particularly tough change for both parents and adult children.
This post will cover what you can expect from caring for elderly parents at home.
How to Know When it is Time to Step In
Knowing when to step in and take the care of your elderly parents into your own hands is tricky. Aging is not an overnight process. The point at which the elderly can no longer care for themselves can be ambiguous.
Here are some important considerations when making this decision:
- The gradual decline in health reaches a point where the parent can no longer function alone
- A sudden, new health issue or emergency renders the parent unable to care for themselves
- A new treatment protocol or diagnosis makes extra care necessary
The more involved you are with your parents as they age, the easier it will be for you to make an accurate decision.
This point in life is different for every family.
It is vital to consider the toll that caring for elderly parents at home will take on everyone involved.
Make sure that you are ready for the commitment and the sacrifice. It is rewarding and essential but also very taxing at times.
Tips for Caring for Elderly Parents at Home
Set yourself up for success by knowing what to expect and how to handle it.
Have Reasonable Expectations
Talk over this new, significant change with your elderly parents. Let them know what you have in mind, your boundaries, and your expectations. Make sure to hear their side, and be clear on their expectations and limits, as well.
This transition is a significant life change – not only for you, it is even more so for your parents.
Be patient and caring. Avoid forcing your way, and listen to their heart. Do your best to ensure the relationship stays intact, even if it means making compromises.
Having a good relationship with your parents will make caring for them easier.
Make sure that you don’t avoid difficult conversations. As soon as possible, talk through everything – what their long-term wishes are, get a will, etc.
Tough conversations must get made early on with dementia, and Alzheimer’s patients.
It is vital that you communicate to your parents what you are comfortable doing for them. The same is true for what will not be in your responsibilities.
For example, if you will help them with errands and chores at home let them know. If you will not help them with their bathing or medical care duties, they need to know ahead of time.
Physical Considerations When Taking Care of Elderly Parents
There are many considerations when transitioning into caring for elderly parents at home. Some of these might be things you haven’t thought of before.
Consider these physical factors to avoid unwanted surprises, overwhelm, and burnout.
Living arrangements are an essential consideration. Depending on your parent’s needs, how far they live from you, and how much of the long-term care you will be sharing with others, you have some options:
Leave your parents in their own home, and help care for them there. This move can be a wise choice if your parent is still safe living alone and needs some extra help.
Move your parents into your own home. This option is suitable if your parents need a lot of care and it is safer living with someone than alone.
Move your parents into an assisted living apartment or other housing for the elderly. This option might be best to share care responsibilities with medical staff or other professionals.
ADLs (Activities of Daily Living)
How much you get involved with ADLs in your parent’s day-to-day life will depend on two things. What they can do for themselves and whether you are sharing care with anyone else.
Some of the most common ADLs include the following:
- Getting dressed
- Mobility (getting in and out of bed, drinking water, walking around, etc.)
- Personal Hygiene
- IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living)
IADLs are part of normal life activities but not necessary for everyday function. These include such things as the following:
- Paying bills on time
- Preparing meals and snacks
- Running errands
- House cleaning and maintenance
- Communication and use of technology
- Taking medications at the proper times
Helping your elderly parents manage finances might be a big part of what you do in caring for them.
This option might entail helping them:
- manage a budget
- balance a checkbook
- pay bills
- manage appointments and insurance
They may also need help finding and applying for care benefits or other resources.
As their caregiver, you will need to familiarize yourself with all these things – or communicate with the person who will handle them.
Safety Considerations When Taking Care of Elderly Parents
When caring for elderly parents at home, there are some extra safety precautions that you will need to consider.
The elderly are less stable and fall fast. You will need to ensure that your home is safe and easy for them to get around in.
Some simple fixes or additions to prevent falls include:
- Removing all obstacles from walkways and other common areas. Look for electrical cords, rugs, and other small objects.
- Put bright lights into each room that your parents will be using. Be sure that the light switches are accessible.
- Add grab bars to stairways, bathrooms, and next to the bed. This precaution makes climbing and sitting much safer.
- Make sure everything is low enough to the ground that your parents will not need to use a step stool for anything.
- Check that all appliances are in working order and easy to access.
- Consider an emergency contact service if your parents need help when you are not near them.
Caring for an Elderly Parent with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Being involved with your parents as they age has many benefits. One of the greatest is monitoring them and catching any early signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
These life-altering diseases are hard for the person suffering from them. They are also challenging for the caregiver – if that person is a close family member.
Catching these diseases early on can make managing and treating them more manageable. It will also give you more time to create a care plan and communicate it to your elderly parents.
Some of the early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s include:
Forgetting important dates, events, information, repeating similar questions, etc.
Trouble with Completing Familiar Tasks
Difficulty driving to a well-known location, buying groceries, fixing meals, etc.
Difficulty with Problem-solving and Planning
Struggling to follow instructions, make a plan, or work with numbers.
Struggling with Conversation
Repeating themselves, stop talking mid-sentence, forget what you said to them, etc.
Location or Time Confusion
Gets confused about where they are, how they got there, and how long certain things have taken.
Blurred and decreased vision are both common as people age. But, if the person has trouble with depth perception or making out specific colors, it could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s.
The person might put things in unusual spots, leading to lost or misplaced items.
Many patients with memory problems are prone to mood swings. They may become anxious, suspicious, angry, depressed, or confused.
Lack of Proper Judgment
With memory loss comes a decreased ability to make good decisions. Altered financial decisions, poor personal hygiene, or careless time management.
Changes in social behavior. Withdrawing from social circles or conversations because of difficulty carrying on an exchange.
How to Cope When Caring for Elderly Parents at Home
Bringing your elderly parents into your home to care for them, takes a significant toll on all involved. As we mentioned earlier, it is vital to understand the commitment and expectations.
If you don’t learn to cope well with being your parent’s caregiver, it is easy to experience “caregiver burnout.”
This emotion might be even more likely to happen when it is your parent you are helping. This new relationship is a hard one to adjust to for sure. And, when your parents are in your home, you are with them a lot more often. You can’t go home and have a break.
If you experience burnout as a caregiver, it will be emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. Many caregivers have trouble balancing care with their personal lives, and many experience depression.
The transition period is the perfect time to figure out what keeps you stable and find support. Don’t try to do it alone. Find the help you need for yourself before it gets tricky. This way, you are more likely to be able to avoid burnout and depression.
Understand Your Resources
There are a plethora of resources available for senior care providers. Look for emotional support, local programs that can help, and a network of other care providers to glean from and support one another.
Take Care of Yourself
Maintaining your well-being is vital to caring for someone else. Take time to eat well, exercise, spend time with friends, pray, and do other activities that fill you up.
Don’t neglect the necessity of rest. Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep at night and often rest during the daytime.
Don’t Avoid Asking for Help
Many of us have trouble asking for help, but you will need support at times to take excellent care of your elderly parents.
This fact does not mean you are not enough – it means you are human and need other people to support you.
Ask for help before you experience burnout and can’t keep going without it!
Caring for Elderly Parents at Home: Benefits
We’ve talked a lot about caring for elderly parents at home. Now let’s go over some of the benefits!
Being able to be a close part of your parent’s life as they become older and less capable
Being able to detect signs of mental or physical health issues early on gives them a better chance of recovery or proper treatment
Offering your parent more personalized and loving care than they might be able to receive otherwise
Helping to prevent falling or other accidents and injuries that often happen to the elderly while alone
Getting proper medical attention right away if something does happen
There are also financial help programs available for at-home caregivers. Please do your research ahead of time to know what is out there when you need it.
As our parents age, we will face difficult decisions and conversations. There is a whole new level of consideration and commitment when caring for elderly parents at home.
Do what you can to get prepared ahead of time, get the help you need, and know that you are doing great work in caring for those who cared for you!