Caring for an elderly family member can be challenging, both emotionally and physically. With psychological and physical challenges to consider, making sure your loved one gets the care she needs can be a daunting task. When our aging family members get to the point of needing help, it may be hard to know how to be there for them, but understanding how to care for elderly parents properly is critical.
According to U.S. Bureau of Census data, the number of Americans age 65 and over will increase from 34 million to over 70 million in the next 30 years. Aging baby boomers will soon be more than a statistic and those family members who are poised to take care will have a lot of responsibility. Sons and daughters may not be ready to deal with the many issues facing their family when caring for an elderly loved one. Planning a change of residence, communicating with medical professionals, or ensuring their lives are fully supported is a task that many individuals struggle with.
At some point, you may be faced with the possibility of placing a parent or relative in an assisted-living facility or nursing home. Though this is a difficult thought for most people, it may be necessary and being prepared for that situation puts you in the best position to handle it. Take advantage of resources such as local elderly advocate groups in your area.
Dealing with an aging relative in the midst of other life challenges can leave the care-giving family member burned out. In order to remain positive and effective with your aging relative, realize your limitations. If you have a family and/or a full-time job, the stressors may be more serious. Most family caregivers have no health care training and need help from an outside source to provide the appropriate care. Elder care organizations, such as county departments of Adult Protective Services and Councils on Aging are there to assist senior citizens and their family members to secure needed resources and assistance.
Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to care for an aging family member:
1. Include your elderly parent(s) in the planning as much as possible. The more input they have in the decisions that impact their lives, the better the adjustment to those decisions will be. Maintaining a sense of dignity and control is important at any phase of one’s life. Involving them in the decision making is one way to allow them some control over their immediate future.
2. Listen to your loved ones. Sometimes it may be difficult and take time to fully understand what they want and need. If you take the time to listen, it can save time and aggravation trying to determine the best course of action.
3. Encourage independence. As we discussed in last week’s blog, it is important to encourage the senior to do as much as they can independently. It is easy for aging adults to rely on others for their every want and need, but to the degree they can participate in their own care, they should do so.
4. Care for yourself. When you are responsible for the life and care of another human being, it is easy to forget that caring for yourself is the most important part. If you are not making sure your own needs are met, you will not be able to meet the needs of another.
Caring for an aging family member is a noble and important act for any individual to take on. Hopefully these tips will help you be prepared.