The Top 10 Tips for Caring for an Elderly Parent

  • November 22, 2016
The Top 10 Tips for Caring for an Elderly Parent

Written by guest blogger Sadie Cornelius,

Our parents raise us from the day we are born well into early adulthood. However, there comes a tipping point in everyone’s life when the roles reverse. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that our parents’ health will eventually decline with age, and thus give the next generation a new task in taking care of them in a way much like they once did for us. And since more Americans are living longer than ever it’s becoming increasingly important to prepare ourselves for being able to deal with our aging parents. Whether you’re a new caregiver to an aging parent or have been their caregiver for years, this role reversal brings with it many challenges.

To help reduce the burden and some of the pain, here are ten tips to help you when caring for an elderly parent. These pointers can help you provide the best care possible while also maintaining your own health (and sanity).

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Tips for Caregivers

  1. Discuss Your Options - Talking about caregiving for your parents can be difficult so many people prefer to avoid the conversation all together. However, it’s a necessary “evil” that should be tackled sooner rather than later while parents are still healthy. This will allow for more objective decisions to be made rather than resorting to emotionally charged ones in the heat of an emergency. If you haven’t done so already, plant the seed today. Then set a time to talk openly with your parents about the various possible circumstances that could arise and create action plans for how to handle each situation.
  2. Involve Everyone - Be sure to include all critical parties including siblings, spouses and grandchildren (if old enough) in the planning discussions. Daughters and oldest siblings tend to take on the primary role of caregiver, but gender bias and age shouldn’t necessarily be a factor in determining who will be responsible and for what (transportation, prescriptions, etc). Setting honest and thoughtful expectations for each caregiver’s responsibilities and the financing plan for any potential associated costs will be essential to success in the time of need.
  3. Understand Insurance - Find out what benefits you and your parents’ insurance providers offer and make sure that everyone clearly understands what each plan covers. While they might know what is covered by their insurance, perhaps they haven’t communicated it to you yet. And make sure you and any other potential caregivers are listed as emergency contacts on their plans and with their doctors. You will also want to make sure that Power of Attorney assignments have been made with a lawyer so you can manage critical medical and financial decisions, should your parent be unable to do so themselves.
  4. Create A Budget - Once you know what is covered by insurance (and what’s not) make a list of potential monthly and annual costs including co-pays for doctor’s visits and even costs for medical equipment (e.g. wheelchairs, stairlifts, etc.). Better to start saving now so that you’re prepared for the possibilities. And while it might be more costly today, it could be worth it to invest in a Long Term Care Insurance policy to cover expensive caregiving services (either in home or elsewhere) down the road.
  5. Get a Dog - The benefits of having a pet in the home are endless. In addition to providing companionship they will also keep your elderly parent mobile and active. Those who qualify can even adopt a service dog that is specially trained to assist them with balance, vision or hearing impairments. Service dogs can be a great help with retrieving objects, opening doors, and more. Contact your local rescue shelter or Paws with a Cause to learn more about bringing a furry friend into your home.
  6. Upgrade to Automation - Installing smart technology around the home is an easy and relatively affordable way to relieve some of the mundane caregiving tasks like turning on lights and adjusting the temperature in the home. It can give your parents the convenience of controlling various aspects of their home in one device without having to get up and down the stairs or out of bed. You can even install the smart apps on your phone so that you too will have access to help out from afar, if need be.
  7. Invest in a Medical Alert System - For a small monthly fee you can have peace of mind knowing that help is only a push-button away. Medical alert devices have become sophisticated and stylish, making it a subtle yet effective way to can track your loved ones’ location via GPS and detect falls. And should you be inaccessible or live out of town, a medical alert system can notify medical assistance or paramedics should your parent fall or get injured.
  8. Make an Emergency Kit - Stock up on supplies for your parents’ home including a first aid kit, extra medications, flashlights, bottled water, and healthy snacks in case of inclement weather or a natural disaster. Depending on their age and condition, having a backup oxygen tank and/or generator for powering medical equipment in case power goes out can also be handy. And don’t forget to maintain a current list of emergency contacts including neighbors, vets and local doctors.
  9. When In Doubt, Ask For Help - Don’t be afraid to call in professionals when needed. Sometimes an unbiased, professional can alleviate some of the tension between the child and parent (especially if there is dementia or other mental health concerns).
  10. Keep Calm & Caregive On - Managing aging parents can be an emotional rollercoaster so don’t forget to breathe and remember you’re not alone. Yoga classes and community support groups are a worthwhile (and often free) resource for you and your family. This is also a great time to lean on your friends and other family members to remind you that there is life outside of your stress. A little perspective can go a long way.

With these tips for caregivers you and your parent can both enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they have around-the-clock protection, love and care.

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KEYWORDS: caring for an elderly parent

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