Many older adults desire to age in place and grow older in their own homes. And that can certainly work well as long as they are in good health. But that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, caring for these senior parents often falls on their adult children.
Caring for elderly parents or older adults in their own homes can be an extremely difficult task, but there are steps you can take to make it easier for yourself and safer for them.
Here are some bits of advice that may help you through the process.
Assess the amount of care needed
Your first task should be to assess how much care your elderly parent needs. Be cautious not to take on too much responsibility from the start. You can easily get overwhelmed and forget to look after your own health.
Put together a list of daily, weekly and monthly tasks. This list will give you a good idea of the type and frequency of care required. It can also shed light on whether you need help during the day, at night, or on weekends. Have a notebook where you keep count of the times that your parent needs help. Within a week, you should have a comprehensive list of tasks and a good measure of the required amount of care.
When it comes to parents, you can’t fight the feeling that you can do just about anything for them. But for your sake and that of your parents, you should remain realistic about what you can handle and accept when you need help.
Be honest about the level of care you can provide without sacrificing your own relationships, health and other responsibilities. Taking on too much can lead to burnout, which means you both don’t have anyone to care for you. Acknowledging that taking care of seniors has its challenges and rewards is critical. If you can, enrol help as soon as possible to avoid taking on too much.
Make the house as safe as possible
If the house your parent(s) are ageing in is not safe, then it’s time to start making some changes. This may mean decluttering and removing things they can trip over, adding handrails in the shower and by the toilet, and installing a stair lift or home elevator if they have trouble going up and down stairs.
You should also ensure that any medications they are taking are clearly labelled and stored out of reach of children or pets. If your parent is experiencing memory loss, it may be necessary to lock up certain items like knives and cleaning supplies.
Monitoring devices will be your best friends
There are all sorts of gadgets on the market these days that can help keep an eye on an ageing parent from afar. Motion sensors can be placed around the house to alert you if your parent hasn’t gotten out of bed or moved around in a while.
And there are now devices that can monitor things like heart rate and respiration, blood pressure and oxygen levels. If your parent is resistant to being monitored, try to frame it to keep them safe and give you peace of mind. And be sure to research to find the best possible option that will fit your needs and your budget.
Look into care options and funding
You may reach a point where you need to help your parents more by understanding the finances. These are not easy conversations to have, but hopefully, the outcome of enabling them to get more help will make them easier.
There are many types of care, and it is a progressive journey in terms of costs. Most people want to remain living independently at home, so you might start with increased domestic support and buying some useful aids and adaptations.
This might lead to investing in some home monitoring technology such as a personal fall alarm and movement sensors, before considering home care support. As physical and mental needs increase, you might then need to think about live-in care, assisted living or care facilities.
All of this comes at a cost, and we recommend talking to a specialist financial advisor to ensure the finances are in good shape. You may also be eligible for some government funding.
It’s okay to get help, don’t feel guilty about it
Looking for help might feel like you’re neglecting your elderly parent. But you’re not. You’re only making it possible for you to care for them longer.
There’s no shame in hiring some additional help. There are several ways you can source assistance, all of which might suit different caregivers in different situations.
- You can enrol your parent in an adult day program. It’s a great way to get them to socialise and make new friends, and it gives you some time to rest.
- Hiring a caregiver to help around the house daily or at intervals is also another excellent alternative. It will be half your duties, and you also get to learn from the caregiver.
- When the budget is tight, you can source for a senior volunteer companion who can take your parent for walks and excursions.
- You should also adjust your shopping methods and try to buy items in bulk. This cuts back on the emergency trips, which can at times, make you feel overwhelmed.
If you have friends or family living nearby, you can also ask them to run simple errands for you. When they come over, please don’t shy away from asking them to help you with small housekeeping tasks or even spending some time with your parent as you get some rest.
Keep your parent engaged and active
One of the benefits of living independently is being able to do the things you’ve always loved. It’s important to get your parent to their favourite religious, recreational and social activities regularly. This not only helps to boost physical and mental strength but can also elevate their mood and allow them to live happier and longer life. You can talk to their peers or your friends who might be willing to take your parent to their engagements when you’re unable.
Keep the medical professionals involved
Your parents’ medical conditions and healthcare needs will dictate how much involvement you will need with medical professionals. Don’t refuse medical help for your parent, especially if they have an illness or injury. Instead, the right thing to do is to establish communication with their doctors and accompany them to all their appointments. Talk to their doctor about things you’ve noticed, such as certain symptoms, behaviours, etc.
Work with the physicians and your parents to follow the care plan as closely as possible. Consider consulting with a geriatric care manager or social worker as well. You don’t necessarily need (or maybe can’t afford) a live-in nurse for your parents, and that’s okay. Just don’t avoid all medical assistance.
Prepare for emergencies
Emergency hospital admissions are by their nature stressful, particularly in the middle of the night with blue lights flashing etc.
There are a few useful things you can do to prepare in case your parents or relatives find themselves on their way to A&E in an emergency. Make sure there is an up-to-date list of medication (particularly blood thinners such as Warfarin), a list of useful contact details such as the GP, and a copy of their Power of Attorney, as this will contain important information about their medical wishes.
Don’t neglect yourself
You have to understand none of this would be possible without you. Remember to do the things you love, don’t sacrifice your happiness, and have some alone time where you can re-energise and rejuvenate.
If you can execute these few tips, taking care of elderly parents won’t be as hard as it seems. The most important takeaway is to have a support system around you that you can lean on when you feel overwhelmed.
Providing care for elderly parents is a difficult job. You should be proud of yourself for taking this important responsibility. However, you can’t do it alone. Below are available resources that you might find useful.
My Aged Care – https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/caring-someone
Service Australia – https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/getting-support-if-youre-caring-for-someone
Carer Getaway – https://www.carergateway.gov.au
Department of Social Services – https://www.dss.gov.au/disability-and-carers/carers