Typical among families where the care of aging parents is involved are periods of high stress levels, frustration, arguments and hard feelings. Words are said and tears are shed with what seems like two opposing teams trying to accomplish a goal. However, the truth of the matter is that both the adult caregiving children and the parents are seeking the same overall goals. Both want safety, security, provision of needs, help when and where it is needed, and above all, maintaining as much independence that is feasible given the state of health and situation. Fundamentally, there are five tips that can be used to keep everyone on the same page when it comes to caring for aging parents.
1. Open Things Up For Discussion
Growing old is scary for both the seniors as well as their loved ones. Face facts that transitions occurring due to aging are scary but not insurmountable. Talking things through leads to understanding on both sides as well as solutions. Not talking leads to more fear, misunderstandings and tense emotions that lead to outbursts. Lay all the cards, so to speak, on the table. Talk about all options and only discarding specific ones after all the available information is known. In other words, do not disregard or accept an option until the details have been mulled over and they are fully understood.
2. Aging Parents and Adult Children Need to Work on Patience
The main attitude that causes patience to fail fundamentally occurs when aging parents and adult child caregivers square off, taking positions or sides. One side feels that the other side does not understand their perspective. If that is true, then discussion mentioned in the first tip should be referred to. A feeling of “you do not know what they are going through” creates isolation and tension. Both lead to strained patience in discussing care options or taking steps to provide care. Patience and talking things through yields positive results, and both patience and discussion reinforce each other.
3. Scaling Care Based on Need
Many adult caregivers looking after their parents have heard the accusations that they want to put their parents in a home. An acute event usually occurs, resulting in some form of rehabilitation being necessary. A fall may require a temporary stay in a nursing home environment. The parent that has such an abrupt change fears the new way of living is permanent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Medically, the goal is to help every senior live as independently as possible for as long as possible. Care is scaled up and down based on need. If living at home is no longer possible, moving into a retirement community may be an option. Often, just downsizing the homestead and cutting back on maintenance chores such as lawn care and home repair are all that is needed. If the situation changes, then scaling up to assisted living and nursing facilities are bridges to cross when they are reached.
4. Discussing Finances
A very difficult thing to discuss with family is finances. Though younger generations seem to post everything on social media, the one thing held back is personal income, assets and financial net worth. However, the need for care includes a complete evaluation of finances. Adult children should broach the subject in offering to help or to mind their own business as aging parents see fit. Intervention should only be considered when cognitive decline, such as in the case of advanced Alzheimer's disease, is an issue. The best option is to find an experienced social worker who will look at the finances, including insurance programs, and discuss affordable options for providing care to aging parents.
5. Taking the Next Steps
The most fearful moments are the times when changes occur. Though temporary, the first day in a rehabilitation facility creates a lot of thoughts and feelings. Parents wonder about their future together or apart. They wonder how they will end up. They fear being alone and forgotten. Taking the next steps should be gradual and made as comfortable as possible. Tryout periods for any place that is considered a permanent or semi-permanent living facility should be taken advantage of. Take the free tours, eat the food, and talk to the staff. Acute health issues may result in an immediate transition to an unplanned facility. Do not just settle for initial placement. Research options, and pick a place everyone is comfortable with. Nothing is set in stone. Just as one can shop at a new store or for a new doctor, there are plenty of retirement and care facilities available to check out.
The keys are to discuss it now and look into options including financing early. Do it patiently and purposefully. Explore ideas and options. Ask a million questions. Do not settle for substandard care. Just like what we do when we are young and eager, look for the next best thing! Take advantage of resources that are offered without embarrassment or regret. Embrace the changes and adapt to live life as fully and as joyfully as possible.