While there is some small comfort in knowing others share the pressures you feel, being a caregiver for an aging parent is often a matter of carving out time and finding services that will help make your life easier. But you want to make your aging parents’ life as comfortable as possible, too. Whether your elder parents live in your home or on their own, you need to find a balance that makes it possible to provide exceptional care for your family and your parents.
1. Plan for Winter Safety
Winter is a time when your concerns for your parents accelerate. When preparing for the snow, sleet and freezing temperatures, you should do the following:
Remove any small, loose rugs on the inside and outside of the home, and make sure the handrails are secure at all entrances.
Be sure your elderly parents have the proper snow shoes or boots when walking outside.
Arrange for snow removal of the driveway and walkway, and don’t forget the mailbox, especially if it’s roadside and away from the house.
Make sure they get adequate heating and be sure to have the power company’s phone number handy so you can call it in an emergency.
Do your elderly parents drive? Check their car for proper winter protection. You’ll want to have an oil change, winter tires, a new battery, warm blankets, jugs of water and a AAA membership.
2. Ensure Emotional Wellbeing
The first of the year is a time when the blues are very common, with the letdown of the holiday as family returns home, the sun rarely shining and the challenge of getting outside every day.
You’ll want to make sure your parents are getting some exercise or attending activities at the senior center. Try to schedule a weekly event for them; it can be a movie, dinner at your house or a visit to a friend.
3. Plan Doctors’ Appointments Ahead of Time
Inevitably, there will be times when you’re unable to take your parents to their appointments. Make arrangements with someone you trust, like a sibling, friend or hired caregiver. Instruct them to get clear directions on any changes to your parents’ medications, healthcare, etc. Make sure they provide you with questions or concerns the doctor had. Check your area to see if there are transportation services for the elderly, as that can ease pressures.
4. Ask for Help
Remember you’re not Superman or Superwoman. You have limits, and you don’t have to do everything for your aging parents. Take advantage of others’ help when it comes to appointments, activities or cleaning. If you get overwhelmed, reach out. There are many great resources to support your caregiving needs.
5. Ask for Family Support
Do you have siblings? Ask them for assistance. Don’t carry the burden of caregiving alone. Siblings can provide support both emotionally and physically. Keep the lines of communication open with all immediate family members so they can help you. Remember, a group effort relieves stress.
6. Reassess Your Elderly Parents’ Overall Situation
Do an inventory of their health, financial picture and living needs. Now is the time to begin compiling a to-do list to be implemented over a designated period.
Medical information should include lists of medications, doctors’ names and phone numbers. The financial file should contain any property deeds, income, expenses and debt that they have. Be sure to have their bank and credit card information available. Ask them for access to their vital documents, like their will, power of attorney, insurance policies, etc. You’ll need these if anything happens to either parent.
7. Hire an Elder Care Professional
Hire a professional care provider to assist your parents during the times you aren’t available. Your parents will have your love and support, so don’t burn yourself out. Home care providers are there to provide you with solutions to your care planning and services beyond medical needs. Take advantage of that, as they will provide you with peace of mind, too.
8. Schedule Fun Time for You
Caring for loved ones can be rewarding, but just like your parents, you need to have something that brings you happiness. Whether it’s coffee with your best friend or dinner with your spouse, you need down time. Plan a weekend away or a weekly family night. Go for a massage or just be alone. You get the picture. Plan something that makes you happy.
9. Take Care of Yourself
When you fly, the first thing they tell you is to put your oxygen mask on first in an emergency. That works the same when caring for your elderly parents. You must take care of yourself first. Make sure you’re eating well and getting exercise and plenty of sleep. Don’t forget to visit your doctor annually. None of these things is an indulgence — they’re necessities! If you become ill, who will take care of you or your parents?
10. Release Caregiver Guilt
You don’t have room or energy for any guilt. You’re an adult trying to care for aging parents and have a personal life. Remember that your parents lived their lives. Doing the same is OK. Know that you’re doing the best you can in caring for them.