caring for aging parents woman hugging elderly mom

Tips for Caring for Aging Parents

Is it time to start a conversation about caring for your aging parents? You’ve noticed that your parents aren’t quite as physically capable as they once were. They’re requiring a little extra assistance around the house, during appointments, and perhaps in keeping their health a top priority.

You might be thinking that, because they’ve taken such good care of you over the years, you’d like to repay their kindness by providing a helping hand. Or perhaps, you may be feeling you have limited options and don’t know where to turn. This article offers advice on how to care for your aging parents, while maintaining a balance in your own life, while caring for two households. 

Talk With Your Parents

Even if you think you know where the most help is needed, you should start by asking because there are many things your parents will not mention or do in front of you. 

While you’re not there to see it, an aging parent may be dealing with a variety of issues. Some of those issues may be related to everyday tasks, mobility, or both.  It never hurts to ask:

“How can I help? I want to, I can, and I wouldn’t want you to keep me in the dark about anything you may be struggling with. Please let me know what I can do to make things easier for you.”

Our bodies simply aren’t the same as they were as we get older. It doesn’t make our everyday tasks any less important, just a bit harder to do. But you may need to prepare for the blanketed response of:

“I’m okay. I’m getting along just fine.” 

Your answer to this has a huge impact, and this is where you can demonstrate the empathy and support you’re feeling. As you are well aware, now is not the time for frustration or shaming. It’s difficult asking for help. When you realize you’re no longer capable of doing what you used to be able to do, it’s far more difficult to ask for help. Because now you feel like you’re burdening a loved one.

This response can be a great way to show your support for your aging parent:

“We all get older, I’m getting older too, and one day I’ll be your age and need some help too. Can we figure this out together?”

Caring for Aging Parents = All Hands on Deck

It’s time to brainstorm now that you know your aging parents’ needs. If you have siblings, friends, or family members, now is the time to bring everyone together, in person or virtually, to talk about what is needed and how the tasks may be shared so that no one feels overwhelmed. Your parents will never want to burden you, and they will almost never ask for assistance because they believe they are simply asking too much, even though the tasks are straightforward and you genuinely want to help.

Is there a close family friend who lives near the pharmacy and can help your parents pick up the prescriptions they need but can’t get to safely in the winter? Alternatively, how about swapping weeks for frozen meal deliveries? One person will prepare additional portions of the dinner they are already preparing for your parent’s freezer. After a few weeks, you’ll have a fully stocked freezer for when your parents need a nutritious supper. If there are dietary and health restrictions, everyone must adhere to the guidelines. 

Perhaps a neighbor mows the yard while a loved one assists them with appointments or vacuuming. Put everything down on paper, divide it up, and schedule it. Caring for aging parents will seem much easier and more doable when you’re working with an all-hands-on-deck crew.

Self-Care and Support Are Essential

Caregiving may seem manageable if you have a lot of support and a lot of people pitching in to help. On the other hand, many child caregivers caring for aging parents do not have siblings or friends nearby. So, then what? Consequently, you may choose to bear a significant portion of the responsibility.

Now is the time to take action if your parents are members of a church, a community support system, or similar. Implement meal-delivery services and any other supportive program that assists your aging parents while relieving you of a few of these responsibilities.

Contact all local, state, and federal agencies that may be able to provide support. It never hurts to ask and there may be benefits that are available to your loved one that you weren’t aware of.

Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is selfless. It allows you to look after yourself while also looking after others. You can’t properly care for yourself, let alone someone else, if you have nothing left to give. You must come first. It’s the same as when you learn how to use an oxygen mask on an airplane. Start with yours. After that, take care of others.

Caring For Aging Parents: You Are Not Alone

The number of unpaid caregivers is growing. In 2015, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, about 43.5 million Americans had provided unpaid care. 

Family caregivers now account for roughly one-fifth (19%) of Americans. In 2020, the same survey was conducted, and there were 53 million family caregivers in the United States. In just five years, there has been an increase of 9.5 million caregivers, including those caring for aging parents. What will that number be in ten…or twenty years?

The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP published an 88-page report focusing on 1,204 unpaid family caregivers who care for an adult age 50 or older. For more information: Caregiving in the U.S. 2020: A Focused Look at Family Caregivers of Adults Age 50+.

ETE is here for you. We provide help to caregivers and others in their care, including those caring for aging parents. Consider joining our forum to get the support and guidance you need from people who are going through similar experiences. Learning from people who have been there is not only beneficial, but it can also lead to a wonderful amount of support and connection.

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