Discover 9 tips to help your parents age in place. Ensure they are comfortable and receive the best end of life care!
As much as we love our parents dearly, there comes a time when we need to live separately from them to give them a chance to live their senior years better. As our parents continue to age, finding ways to keep them in a healthy physical and mental condition becomes one of our prime responsibilities. Many families prefer to check their parents into a nursing home to ensure they are receiving proper care. Not all parents choose this option, as many prefer to spend the remainder of their lives in their own homes – which is also known as ‘aging in place’. Have your parents indicated that they prefer to live in their own home? Are you concerned about their health while they are living alone? Here are some tips to help your parents age in place.
Caring for an aging parent from a distance can be very difficult, especially when they are on medication or have specific issues that require constant care. Going back and forth to check on your parents may be close to impossible, even when you live close by. Although you may have considered getting them to stay with you and your family, this may not always be the best solution. Convincing your aging parents to move in with you is no guarantee that you can give them the full care they need. In cases like these, the best option is to arrange for guardianship or a professional healthcare giver. You may need the assistance of a lawyer to arrange guardianship if you are struggling to do so by yourself. Hiring guardianship will help relieve you of the burden of needing to keep a constant eye on your aging parents.
Properly discuss aging in place with your parent
The talk with your parents about aging in place may be a very uncomfortable conversation to have. However, it is never too early to have that discussion. Before arranging guardianship, talk to your parents about it as early as possible and decide together the best way to go about it. Take the time to find out from them what their concerns are and what is most important to them, and pay close attention to the answers they give. Even when you disagree with their views, try to understand them and make your points tactfully. Remember, this is more about them than about you. Take note of the areas in their daily lives that require assistance – for example, laundry, driving, medications, company, safety, etc. This knowledge will help you to plan together for their care and help your parents age in place.
Get the views of your siblings
If you have siblings, they are also affected by the decisions your parents make and should be a part of the discussion. But if that is not possible, you should take the time to talk with them after discussing it with your parents. Be sure to communicate the concerns, fears, and challenges your parents raised and ensure that not only do your siblings understand the issues but that they are all on the same page. Specific responsibilities may go beyond what an arranged guardian can offer. Under such circumstances, your discussion should also include who will be responsible for which areas of your parents’ care. Again, be sure that everyone is on the same page. For example, decide who can handle financial issues, medical decisions, and other kinds of paperwork. The most important thing is to support your aging parents together.
Research guardian and care options in advance
It is essential to work together with your parents to research their options in terms of care and guardianship arrangements as early as possible. Doing this gives you enough time to explore the many options available to you before settling for the right one. For example, do your parents prefer a caregiver that will move in with them, one to visit them daily, or just a professional to call on only when needed? Find out how much each of the options available will cost, namely how much your budget can handle. From your conversations with your parents, you may also decide if they need pet therapy or some form of companionship from a loved one.
Be realistic about what your limits are
We have already mentioned the need to have all hands on deck when giving your aging parents the care they need by sharing responsibilities among your siblings and yourself. However, if you are the only child of your parents, so many responsibilities will rest on your shoulders, even with the help of a professional caregiver. Therefore, it is essential to know what your limits are and be realistic about them. Depending on how heavy the burden of responsibility is, find out if there are other ways of shedding some of them. Think carefully about how much care you can provide without causing harm to your health. That is because the last thing your parents need is you burning out or breaking down from too many responsibilities. And this will make you unable to care for anyone. Also, find ways to be more proactive about your health.
Address safety concerns
One of the main concerns concerning senior parents aging in place has to do with safety issues. From the risk of accidentally poisoning themselves to falling, there are so many things at home that could potentially harm an aging parent. As we have already mentioned, you should also consider safety when having a conversation with your parents. Consider ways in which you can reduce the risks of unavoidable accidents when your senior parents are alone. For example, when it comes to falls, the following measures can help. Measures like providing shower seats in the bathroom, tightening stair handrails, getting rid of excess furniture, getting extension cords out of the way, getting a walker or a cane, installing better lighting, and investing in safer footwear, etc. Concerning poisoning, you can try the following tips – have medications labelled properly, keep only minimal amounts of cleaning supplies around, request medications to be blister-packed, etc.
Connect with neighbors and friends
When you are responsible for taking care of an aging parent from a distance, you will need all the help you can get. One of the ways to get that extra help is by having ears and eyes on the ground as often as necessary. You can connect with your parents’ neighbors or friends who live close by to check on your parents as often as they can. These people will provide you with a reliable account of what is happening with your parents. One thing you shouldn’t rely so much upon is telephone calls, as there are several reasons why your aging parents may not answer a call. Relying on such friends and neighbors to keep their eyes on your loved one will let you know whether an unanswered phone call should be a cause for concern. Plus, they will also be a reliable source of company for your parents.
Seek the assistance of a Geriatric Care Manager
If connecting with friends or neighbors close by is not an option, then you can seek the assistance of a Geriatric care manager. Although a Geriatric care manager can help you find care for your loved one, they can also help you take care of them where no particular medical intervention is required. Plus, offer a very reliable pair of hands to have if there is no one else living close to your parents that you can trust. Also referred to as aging life care managers, these professionals are mostly people with occupational or physical therapy, nursing, and social work. When contacted, they can help you set up a care plan for your loved one. However, it is best to begin speaking with them about your parents’ situation and options ahead of time.
Prepare for emergencies
Life is filled with so many unexpected events, which means that we should leave nothing to chance. To ensure that your parents age at home successfully, you should sit down with them and develop a plan for handling emergencies. Emergencies, especially those resulting from natural disasters, come in many forms – earthquakes, flooding, tornadoes, fires, hurricanes, etc. There are also other forms of emergencies, mostly human-made; these include the inability to access medical care, lockdowns, etc. This is to ensure that your parents’ basic needs are met during any emergency. The preparation process may involve asking some very uncomfortable “what if” questions like what to do when there is a shortage of good drinking water after a natural disaster? Experts on natural disasters advise that it is essential to ensure that your parent’s home is stocked with the following supplies to prepare them for emergencies:
- Extra medications
- Gloves, masks, and other kinds of personal protective equipment
- First aid kit
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- At least three days’ supply of non-perishable food
- Clean drinking water
Be aware of where your parents keep various vital documents and ensure they are accessible during an emergency.
What are your ideas to help your parents age in place?