Taking Care of Aging Parents: Important Things to Keep in Mind

When parents age, they aren’t the only ones who experience changes.

Their children need to change as well so that they can adapt to the situation.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.As children get so used to being dependent on their parents, filling in the role of caregivers can be a tough job.

As children get so used to being dependent on their parents, filling in the role of caregivers can be a tough job.

To successfully transition into the role, one of the first things that have to happen is acceptance.

You need to accept that roles have changed and things aren’t going to be the same way again.

Old emotions won’t be applicable anymore and old routines at home would no longer work.

If you are finding it hard to go through this phase, below are some helpful tips you can use.

 

Preparing Yourself

 

Take it Slowly

 

The changes your parents are experiencing didn’t happen overnight so don’t force yourself to carry on the role right away.

You need to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to take on the job.

Don’t rush the process. Instead, allow it to go as naturally as it should and soon, you’ll be able to accept reality.

 

Respect their Autonomy

 

Even though your parents’ memories are declining and their emotions change frequently throughout the day, don’t make them feel as if you are taking charge of their lives.

You need to maintain their autonomy as much as possible. Offer them choices instead of deciding for them.

Don’t hesitate to ask for their opinions regarding the things that are happening to your life, too.

Although their cognitive functions are slowing down, it doesn’t mean that they would no longer be your parents.

Allow them to be as involved as possible and don’t make them feel like a stranger to their own children’s lives.

Since your parents are slowly losing control over their body and mind, the last thing you want to happen is to make them less and less valuable.

 

Rely on Your Spouse

 

You can’t do everything alone, especially with how heavy your responsibilities and obligations have become.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t feel ashamed about doing so.

You’ll be surprised to find your spouse appreciating the idea of you reaching out to him for help.

 

Prepare for Sibling Problems

 

As your parents age, expect the worst things from your siblings.

They can go crazy for perfectly good reasons.

The fear of death, fading childhood memories, and issues with possessions can easily affect anyone.

As much as possible, however, do not participate in any conflict with them.

You need to protect yourself and no amount of money should deter you from fulfilling your responsibilities.

 

Take Care of Yourself

 

It’s easy to give so much of your life in taking care of your parents.

But, if you fail to look after yourself, go on for quiet walks and do a bit of exercise, all your effort will be put to waste.

After all, you won’t be able to take care of them if your own health is compromised.

Make sure to pause once in a while to rejuvenate yourself and relax.

Prepare your own meal and take your medicines as necessary.

Go out a couple of times each month if there’s someone who can cover for you.

Remember, your life still needs to be about you.

 

Preparing Your Home

 

Once your parents decide that aging in place will be the best option for them, make sure that your home will be able to meet their needs.

Converting your home to make it senior-friendly can take a lot of work and cash.

This, however, doesn’t mean that there’s no way for you to make the transition if you are on a tight budget.

The trick is in knowing exactly which areas you need to improve and renovate.

Here are a few examples:

 

Start with the Pathway

 

If the pathway to your home has many cracks and uneven surface, it’s time to reconsider repairing them.

A smoother and evener surface can make mobility easier.

For the entry way, you can add a non-slip flooring and add non-slip strips outside.

If your home has a stair in front, consider adding rails on both sides.

The rails need to be at least half an inch in diameter to accommodate older people’s grip.

It can also help if you can make your stairs more visible. You can add contrast strips on both the bottom and top stairs.

For your parents’ safety, it can help if you can have at least one covered entry way.

This way, you won’t have to worry about your parents being exposed to intense sunlight or rain when they’re outdoors.

 

Increase Your Home’s Lighting

 

To increase visibility, add more lights to your home.

Make sure to include all rooms, particularly those areas where your parents frequent.

If you have the budget, you can go for motion-activated lights instead and install them on stairs and ramps.

You may also need to point adequate lighting to your front and back door locks.

 

Upgrade Your Kitchen

 

When people get older, their dexterity lessens and they become unable to complete tasks they had no problems doing before.

One of those tasks involves kitchen work.

For your parents, try to invest in appliances that have push button interfaces and instructions and labels that are easy to read.

Consider getting a wall oven as it won’t require heavy lifting of hot oven doors.

Apart from appliances, it’s a good idea to arrange the items in your pantry in a way that they can easily be reached.

Open shelving design makes a great option, especially for items that are frequently used.

Roll out trays are nice, too.

In addition to these upgrades, it’s probably the right time to get appliances with auto-shut off features.

These appliances won’t only help you save on your electricity bill but they can also add to your peace of mind.

With your aging parents slowly experiencing a decline in memory, it’s best to get appliances that shut off on their own if not used for a certain period of time.

 

Remodel Your Bathroom

 

The bathroom is probably one of the most accident-prone areas of any house which is why you need to pay more attention to it during renovations.

To start, make sure that you have slip-prevention flooring in the shower and bathroom areas.

Invest in non-skid bath mats and make sure to get high-quality ones.

There are tons of cheap non-skid bath mats but most of them aren’t effective in doing what they are supposed to do.

For added protection, consider installing grab bars in the shower, too.

Put one next to the toilet and another one near the tub.

Get vertical bars instead of diagonal ones as the latter can cause hand slippage.

Bathroom sink should be lowered while ensuring adequate knee clearance.

Toilets, on the other hand, need to be elevated.

 

Get an Open Design

 

Getting an open design for your living space offers tons of benefits.

You’ll be able to be more versatile in the layout of your furniture and you’ll get more space to move around.

If your parents use wheelchairs, this can tremendously help them.

 

Ensure Bedroom Safety

 

Ideally, the best bedroom for your parents should be one that’s on the main level of your home.

It allows for easier access and there’s less risk of falling incident.

Consider installing a working phone beside the bed in case they need to call for help.

You should also check out medical alert systems and see which one can meet your parent’s needs.

These systems are essential whether you are living with your parents or not.

They can connect your parents to you, to the monitoring station or your local authorities in case something happens and you’re not with them.

Install the base of your medical alert system where it can easily be reached.

Always check if it’s working properly, particularly if it’s battery operated.

The last thing you want to happen is to rely on a system that won’t work just because its batteries are dead.

Avoid storing heavy items in high places as that can lead to accidents.

You should also avoid keeping your frequently used items in those places.

Organize closets and make sure things are easy to find.

 

Remove Hazards at Home

 

Although it’s nice to have mementos and other memorable items at home, you should take the time to sort out things and remove as much clutter as possible.

You can store them in your attic or garage or you can consider selling them.

When you have clutter-free rooms, it will be much easier for your parents to navigate around and there are fewer chances for accidents and injuries to happen.

Take the time to check out other hazards at home, too.

Loose rugs, for example, can cause anyone to trip, regardless of age.

Repair any broken faucets and door locks, too.

 

Weighing the Cost of Aging in Place

 

A lot of people think aging in place is a much cheaper since there’s no need to pay for any health care professional or health care institution to take care of their aging loved ones.

This, however, isn’t always the case. You can actually end up spending more depending on these factors:

 

Home Modifications

 

As mentioned, since your parents’ needs are changing, you need to make sure your home is safe and comfortable for them.

From adding fixtures to completely renovating spaces and areas, you can easily spend hundreds or thousands of dollars.

 

Home Maintenance Costs

 

Apart from the costs of modifying your home, you also need to have extra money to pay for its maintenance.

You need to pay for taxes, utilities, and small services, like mowing your lawn or shoveling snow.

 

Food

 

Some elderly develop certain medical conditions that may require special diets and feedings.

Since they won’t be able to tolerate the same food items as you, you need to set aside a separate budget for your parents’ meals.

 

Health and Nutrition

 

Prescription medications and regular medical checkups can take a huge part of your budget.

The cost can skyrocket if your parents have no medical insurance or they aren’t covered in yours.

As your parents are living at home, you may need to spend extra in bringing them to the hospital for their routine checkup.

If you have your own car, you’ll need to have a specific budget for gas.

In case you are too tired to sit behind the wheel, make sure that there’s an alternative mode of transportation, like public transport or taxis.

 

Home Care

 

There will be times when you can’t look after your parents due to work, a planned trip or other reasons.

In some cases, parents don’t like being fully dependent on their kids.

If either of these two is the case, getting in-home health care is your next best option.

This means getting the services one can typically receive from care facilities.

The difference, however, is that your parents will get the same type of care at home.

The cost of in-home care services will depend on the services you’ll get.

You can opt for part-time care if you just need someone to cover for you while you’re at work.

You can choose full-time care if you really need someone to look after your parents every hour of the day.

Of course, full-time care would cost you more than part-time.

 

Conclusion

 

Aging in place is a very serious decision not just for the parents, but their children, too.

Since it entails physical, psychological, emotional and financial preparation, families should spend as much time as possible in weighing their options.

Everyone in the family needs to be involved in the process.

If you or your parents are considering the idea of aging in place, make sure that you understand the pros and cons of the decision.

Although it’s more comfortable and convenient to stay at home, you should consider your parents’ declining health and mental ability before making that final decision.

It helps to know your resources and support system, too.

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