5 Tips for Taking Care of Elderly Parents

There is no “right time” in your life to take responsibility for the health of your parents. We look to our parents in much the same way we did as children—and it can be difficult to accept when the time has come for you to care for them.

Many families seek out nursing homes to partially or even completely bear the responsibility of their healthcare for us. Every situation is different, and it is perfectly acceptable to seek professional help for your parents.

However, if you find yourself personally responsible, here are 5 tips to help you best confront the situation and ensure the easiest transition into the new season of your life:

  1. Take Care of Yourself

Oftentimes the fragility and severity of aging family members causes us to discredit our health or outright ignore it. But there is a reason this is the first tip on our list:

You cannot care for others if you do not care for yourself. Not only are you doing a disservice to your loved ones by neglecting your own needs—you’re also bearing unnecessary risk upon yourself.

If taking care of your parents involves a lengthy commute, take appropriate action to shorten the travel distance or lighten your personal workload. If you and your parents live with each other, remember to take time out of your day to rest appropriately and manage your stress. Exercise on a home rowing machine, a home sit-up bench, take a Zumba class, or spend time with your friends. Do something for you.

It’s understandable to want to postpone trivial events or re-arrange meetings in order to ensure the health of your family. But there is a fine line between accommodation and self-inflicted burden. You’ll be able to best care for your family if you are as healthy as you can be.

  1. Don’t Go It Alone

The reason many people choose nursing homes as a means to care for their parents is complex—but it is ultimately a wise notion. Unless you’re a licensed physician or work with the elderly, chances are, you are not going to be able to do this alone.

Ask your doctor or physician about appropriate steps you can take to ensure your parents’ healthcare. If you are a sibling or have several family members that are ready and willing, consider taking turns caring for your parents or pooling funds to help cover their expenses.

It takes a village to raise a child, but that adage is not only applicable to children. Working with anyone willing and responsible enough to help will only serve to benefit the quality of life for your parents.

  1. Prepare For Anything

Many adult children often report a profound connection with their parents as they reach their twilight years. Some children report gaining closure to long-held grudges or feuds, while others simply find a new perspective.

It’s important to remember that—while closure and connection are possible—that it is simply not reasonable to expect that of your parent. There may be days when you will find your parents irritable and confused. They may yell or curse at you. They may not speak to you at all.

Do not expect your parents to be anything more than they can be. Embrace the time you have with them, and appreciate positive steps in the right direction—big or small.

  1. Respect Their Agency

It can be difficult to persuade your parents to take their medication, or perform simple tasks to aid in their healthcare. It is easy to treat your parents like children—as you may find the reasoning or excuses they use to be fundamentally flawed or simply illogical.

Your parents are not your children—they’re your parents. They are people that have lived their entire lives often without the need to explain or justify their actions to other people— especially to you.

Consider alternative strategies to assist your parents in taking good care of themselves. Propose several options as opposed to a single command. If they use flawed logic or lie to you in order to get their way, accept that getting them to help you help them might mean letting them “win” whatever battle they choose to fight.

It’s important to respect the agency of your parents for as long as possible. As the healthier adult, it is your responsibility not to be right, but to be there to help as often as you can, and as much as you can.

  1. Be Proactive

Don’t wait for others to tell you how to accomplish certain tasks or how to handle specific situations. You are the adult. You will handle it.

If there is a specific need for a product for use in the house or a prescription to pick up, take responsibility and don’t wait for others to tell you to do so. The need here is to care for your parents—not to need others to care for you.

Remember, being proactive does NOT mean being bullheaded or stubborn. As the partial or primary caretaker of your family, it is your responsibility to delegate certain tasks to help aid in your parents’ healthcare—or, to let licensed professionals delegate certain tasks to you.

For example, there is a good chance that your parents will require prescription medication to aid their body and help maintain their health. This doesn’t mean you have to be the one to get them every time.

Allow your siblings or others willing to help pick up medication in your place—or better yet, find a way to have prescriptions delivered to right to you. If you live in accessible city like Los Angeles or New York, find a service like Medly to deliver your parents’ prescriptions right to your door.

Find simple and elegant solutions to the problems and difficulties that come with the burden of your parents healthcare. You may even be able to seek compensation for your time and resources.

Ultimately, it is up to you to find the best way to care for your parents. But if you act confidently and prepare yourself, caring for your parents will just be another season of life.

Embrace the time you have, and good luck to you.

Photo by Lotte Meijer 

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