Watching your parents age is one of the most difficult things you can do. After all, your parents should be taking care of you, not the other way around.
But, the reality is, most seniors over the age of 65 need some form of care or assistance. The good news is, only 3.1% of seniors live in nursing homes. Most elderly patients opt for some form of in-home care.
Has it become abundantly clear that your aging parents can no longer care for themselves? If so, you have a big decision to make.
Will you hire a caregiver or take on the responsibility yourself? If you’ve chosen the latter, this article is for you.
Taking care of elderly parents is an admirable decision and we’re here to make it easier for you. Keep reading for some sound advice on caring for your elderly parents.
Evaluate the Severity of Their Condition
Before you decide to care for your elderly parent yourself, you need to evaluate their condition. Aging affects not only their physical health but mental and emotional as well.
If your parent needs extensive medical care, you may need to hire an in-home nurse or other professional. This doesn’t mean you can’t still be directly involved in caring for your loved one. It just means a medical professional is on hand for things like medication administration, physical therapy, and monitoring their condition.
As difficult as it is to watch their physical health deteriorate, caring for an aging parent with mental illness brings its own set of challenges. Degenerative cognitive disorders like dementia cause the following symptoms:
- Memory loss
- Personality changes
- Inability to combine muscle movements
Be prepared for your loved one to get aggressive or combative as their dementia worsens. They may need help performing daily tasks like showering, feeding themselves, and getting dressed.
But, taking care of elderly parents doesn’t have to be done alone. There is help available.
Ask for Help
Whether it’s from family members, friends, or a company that offers in-home care, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Some adult children feel it’s their sole responsibility to care for their aging loved one. And while this is commendable, you also need to be smart about it.
There’s no shame in asking for help, taking a break, or tagging someone else in when you’ve had enough. You’re human. You’re bound to lose your patience, stare down the face of exhaustion, or be too pained to watch your loved one suffer.
Neglecting to ask for help brings its own set of complications. This can lead to something known as caregiver burnout.
Because taking care of elderly parents is such a selfless job, it can take a toll on your own physical and mental health. Feeling exhausted, disconnected, and showcasing physical ailments are all signs of burnout.
If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be in any shape to care for your parents.
Arrange a Healthy Living Situation
The second major question that arises when taking care of elderly parents is living arrangements. Will you be moving into your parents home or will they move in with you?
If space is limited, an in-law suite is a great way to accommodate your loved one without inconveniencing all those involved. Mother-in-law suites are either attached to, or on the same property, as the main house.
Your elderly parent will have their own private living quarters, including a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and common area. This helps support their independence and helps them feel like less of a burden.
For you, it means preserving your life and sanity. Do you have a spouse or children of your own? You all need your own space and time outside of being caregivers.
Caring for elderly parents can put a strain on your own relationships. Having separate living quarters cuts down on this stress.
Respect Your Loved One’s Wishes
Just because the roles are reversed and the child (you) is now taking care of the parent, it doesn’t mean you should rule with an iron fist. Even if you feel you know what’s best for your parent, you still need to respect their wishes.
Talk to them about the current situation. Be honest about their condition and the level of care they need.
Are they more comfortable staying in their own home? Do they want an in-home nurse? And can they afford one?
Ultimately, you might make the final decision for both your parents and yourself. But keep them involved in the process.
Remember, your ailing parent is probably aware that their physical and mental health is declining. This is a very sad and depressing realization.
If they feel like they’re losing their right to make to decisions or choose their own future, feelings of hostility will develop. Avoid the blame game by conferring with your elderly parent before making major decisions.
Research More on Taking Care of Elderly Parents
There are countless resources available to help you adjust to this new lifestyle. Whether you’re the primary caregiver of your elderly parent or simply supporting an in-home nurse, these organizations can help.
- Children of Aging Parents
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- Caregiver Action Network
- National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Visit these websites and gather information on how to prepare mentally, emotionally, and financially when caring for aging parents.
Create a Situation That Works for Everyone
The decision of taking care of elderly parents yourself isn’t one to take lightly. This responsibility often comes with several life changes for everyone involved.
You may need to change careers to be more available for your parent. It might mean creating an addition on your home or property to create more space. And filling out endless pages of medical and financial paperwork to see what services are covered.
Preserving your own life and sanity will make you a better caregiver to your parent. Building a mother-in-law suite can help you set healthy boundaries.
Need help designing the perfect space? We can help!