Are you caring for aging parents?
If so, you’re not alone. According to research from the National Alliance for Caregiving, one in five Americans is currently caring for a family member. While you might not be caring for a family member just yet, the prospect of aging parents has many millennials worried.
What should you look out for, and how can you support your parents as they navigate this new stage? We break down the basics below.
Identifying the Changes
One of the most complex parts of watching your parents age is identifying when your parents need help. Unfortunately, many parents resist support for as long as possible and will go to great lengths to disguise any symptoms that they might be experiencing. Experts at Aging Care recommend looking out for the following signs:
- Difficulty performing regular tasks: watch for changes in bathing and grooming, dressing, general continence, eating and short-term movements (such as from the bed to a chair).
- Changes in function and appearance: watch for noticeable weight change (especially weight loss), inappropriate seasonal dress and shabby clothes, a noticeable decline in grooming habits such as teeth and nails, and bruises or wounds that suggest that your parent is falling or struggling with cooking.
- Mental changes: keep an eye on signs of depression such as lack of motivation or a loss of interest in regular hobbies, issues with keeping track of time and responding to calls from friends and family members, extreme changes in mood, and behaviors that align with verbal and physical abuse.
- Issues with household management: watch for signs of problems with household management, which include significant changes in cleanliness and organization, evidence of hoarding, lateness in terms of bills and mail, a low supply of food or a lot of food that’s rotten and inedible, the smell of urine on household furniture, dents and scratches in your parent’s car, and any issues with maintaining outdoor areas.
Providing Practical Support
Practical support is an essential part of helping your parents. However, before identifying tips for providing practical support, it’s critical to understand that your parents may need help with two different types of tasks– daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). More often, your parents will need help with IADLs first, and these activities include managing transport and finances, shopping, maintaining their home and meal prep. When helping your parents with these activities, it’s important to remember that they used to do them themselves and may become agitated or frustrated that they can no longer perform them. Therefore, it’s essential to come to your parents with understanding.
Providing Emotional Support
The aging process is emotional for everyone involved – your parents, the people who are aging themselves, and you, the caregiver. Caring for someone isn’t just about helping with their laundry or setting up a direct debit. It’s handling their emotional ups and downs and keeping it together when they can’t keep it together themselves. So how can you help support your parent (and yourself) emotionally as they age? A July 2021 article from USA Today shared the following tips:
- Communicate, pick battles and seek support: communication is essential when dealing with your parent. For example, ask your parents about their feelings about specific tasks, and if these tasks are non-negotiable, explain that you’re trying to help them because you love them.
- Acknowledge the difficulty: taking care of an aging parent is mentally and emotionally taxing. Be sure to take plenty of dedicated time for yourself to avoid emotional exhaustion.
Seeking Professional Help
Sometimes, you can’t do everything yourself, and it’s time to enlist some help. Senior living communities are a fantastic option if your parent needs support you can’t provide. However, many parents have complicated feelings about the idea of moving into a senior living community. The experts at Vineyard Senior Living have compiled their best tips for broaching the subject below:
- Gather information: the first step should be gathering all the essential details, such as budget, level of care, location, and communication needs.
- Speak to your parent: discuss the idea of the move with your parent and listen when they voice their feelings. Be sure to highlight the differences in care available and the benefits of living in a community with other seniors.
- Search and survey: schedule walk-throughs of various senior communities in your area and take your parent along with you to the viewings. That will give them a feel for this new chapter.
Caring for aging parents is tough, but by keeping an eye out for signs that they need help early, you’ve completed half the battle. Keep going – you’re doing better than you think.