Caring for Aging Parents
It was a casual visit to my 83-year-old parents’ house one Saturday afternoon. Something spare of the moment really. Listening to their stories (albeit for the 15th time) brought about laughter and made for a very pleasant visit. That is until my father rather casually states that cancer has returned. Time seems to stand still for a moment each time we hear these words. Instinctively I remark, we will battle this and do what we need to do. The trips to the hospital for chemo, the nights of getting sick, hair loss, the stress on my mom as the caretaker all come to mind. What does caring for aging parents look like when they don’t want any help?
- Meet with siblings or other caretakers. Be sure all caretakers or future caretakers are on the same page. Discuss what assistance each of you could provide. Maybe it’s driving parents to appointments, providing meals, completing chores, assisting with paying bills, or visiting time rotation, any little bit helps. Having everyone on the same front as far as care and a clear communication line helps moving forward.
- Make sure their home is safe for them to live in. This is something my siblings and I can do during a visit or two. Simple things like adding a railing in the bathroom, making sure rooms have adequate lighting, and all floor surfaces are level. These quick fixes can make a big difference. I found the great home safety checklist for senior living to use as a guide.
- Attend doctors’ appointments. This may be difficult to get your aging parents to agree to, but it is important to have someone there to take notes and clarify treatment and medications. Have your parents write down any questions they might have during the upcoming days or weeks leading to the doctor’s appointment. Be sure to bring the questions along so you can record the answers. Feel free to use a recording device on your cell phone so you can go back and listen to it to clarify any instructions or answers.
- Organize medications is important for anyone, let alone those that have difficulty remembering. Help to create a routine for the patient to take their medicines. Set an alarm that reminds them each day to take their medications. Always, keep the medicines in the same location in the home. Use a pillbox that has all medicines separated out for each day keeps the medication organized. Arranging the pills into each compartment of the pillbox is a good task to do each Sunday to prepare for the upcoming week. Moving the medication into the pillbox is also a good practice in eye-hand coordination for the patient.
- Have a contingency plan. Additional nursing care or assistance might not be needed at this time but start researching options. Discuss what time of care their insurance provides for. Gather numbers for in-home care and care facilities in your parents’ area. If time allows meet with caretakers or treatments centers and learn about what they offer.
- Make it a priority to visit as often as you can. A visit doesn’t always mean in person, a phone call can do wonders to lift their spirit. With a family of my own to care for and work responsibilities, visiting and caring for aging parents during the week can be stressful. I frequently call my parents during my ride home from work. It is a great habit to get into. Or for those living out of town, schedule a day and time during the week for all of you to set aside for a facetime visit. That way you can see each other during your chat. When you do visit with your parents in person try to bring a game to play together or look through picture books so they can share memories with you.
Caring for aging parents doesn’t look the same for everyone, but one thing is for sure, love can do wonders for the soul.
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