When your elderly parents lose their ability to function as they once did due to physical or mental health problems, you may be called on to care for them. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) warns that this is a stressful time for both you and your parents. Adjusting your life for the care of your parents is a serious challenge, just as your elderly parents face the challenge of adjusting to their reliance on you and their relative incapacity.
Determine your parents’ needs for special care. With the permission of your parents, talk to their health professionals to find out what medications they should take, their dietary recommendations, what ongoing medical support is needed and what special equipment they need to get around and stay safe. The AARP cautions that you should always respect your parents’ desire for privacy and confidentiality.
Keep important documents available. Keep on hand identification records, any legal documents, a list of medications and instructions for taking them and a list of doctors, health care professionals and personal contacts.
Take care of your own health. If you’re a natural caregiver by nature, then your instincts may be to ignore your own needs to focus exclusively on your parents’ needs. This may ultimately create too much stress for you and your parents and result in burnout for all of you.
Communicate with your elderly parents in positive ways. Encourage your parents to be as independent as they can be. Enjoy their company and share the details of your life and family with them. Support their desire to continue with their former lifestyle as much as they are able.
Notice if your care isn’t enough. The Department of State in its advisory on caring for elderly parents recommends you pay attention to danger signals and take note if your parents are disoriented, acting oddly or losing weight. The website (see Resources) lists a number of resources available to you, including various associations for geriatric care, assistance and representation.
Seek help in caring for your parents whenever the emotional stress of seeing your parents deteriorate, the financial burden of caregiving or your changing relationship dynamics require it. Search the Eldercare Locator for local community services available.
Look into Medicare’s PACE program (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) if you need financial assistance in caring for your parents. If your elderly parents live in a PACE service area and are eligible for the PACE program, they may be able to receive medical support in a day facility or in-home health care services. See Resources for further information.
- Important documents, contacts and lists
- Medical equipment