How to Relieve the Stress of Caring for an Aging Parent: Amy O'Rourke at TEDxOrlando
How to Care for an Aging Loved One
Your family, whether distant or close, is important to you. The aging of a close relative can take a toll on everyone around them. When faced with an aging relative, many people choose to take their relative's care into their own hands. There are many options and resources for caring for an elderly relative. It is important to make a decision that meets the needs of both you and your loved one.
Assessing the Situation
Look for any behavioral changes.As your loved one ages, you may notice some normal changes such as taking longer to complete some tasks or being forgetful. However, some changes may be harmful to your relative's safety. Your loved one may need help if you notice any of the following problems as they may be signs of dementia, depression, or other medical problems:
- Unopened or unpaid mail and bills
- Poor personal hygiene
- Odors (e.g. spoiled food, dirty home, piled up trash, etc.) in their home
- Signs of safety risks (e.g. burned pots, smoke stains)
- Signs that medications are not being taken or not taken properly
- Missed appointments
- Getting lost in places they know well
- Noticeable change in weight (gain or loss)
- Difficulty walking, standing up, or sitting down
- Extreme thirst
- Excessive tiredness
- Isolation and spending more time alone
- Burns or injury marks
- Any uncharacteristic behavior
Ask questions about any behavior you observe.Your loved one may express concerns or problems to you. If the problems are not brought to you, you can start the conversation by asking some questions. When you ask the question, listen to your loved one's response. Ask your loved one for a proposed solution to the problem. By including your loved one in the decision making, you will not be threatening their independence.
- If you notice that the laundry basket is overflowing, you may say, "It looks like you are a little backed up on your laundry? Do you need any help?"
- Ask questions to get to the root of the problem. Do not assume that you know the reason for the behavior.
- Unless the problem is an immediate threat to your loved one's safety, do not immediately try to jump in and fix it. Try to have a few conversations first.
Talk with friends and other family members.If you are noticing some changes, other family members are probably noticing them as well. Talking to other people can also provide multiple perspectives and solutions.
- This is especially important if you do not see your loved one regularly or you live in a different city.
- It is helpful to talk to people who know your family member and people who do not. An outside person can offer an objective opinion because they do not have any emotional ties to your loved one.
Speak with a professional.After speaking with your loved one, family, and friends, you still may need help making some decisions. Speak with a primary care physician, gerontologist, or a senior care specialist. They can offer professional insight and help you come up with solutions. Remember that you do not have to make these decisions alone.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your loved one's cognitive functioning (e.g. memory and decision making skills) and Activities of Daily Living/ADLs (e.g. eating, using the bathroom, getting dressed, bathing, etc.)
- Remember that you do not have to make these decisions alone. Get support and input from multiple sources before you take action.
Making A Plan
Identify the areas that need support.Your loved one may be fine in one area, but have difficulty in another area. Make a list of the specific areas that need attention. Most of the needs will fall into 5 major categories.
- Housekeeping- laundry, shopping (e.g. groceries, toiletries, household items), yard work and cleaning
- Meal preparation
- Activities of Daily Living
- Social needs - transportation and interaction with other people
Determine who can provide support in each area.Once you have made a list of the areas that need attention, write down who will be responsible for each area. Will it be you, a friend, family member, home health professional, or a community organization? If you are relying on a friend or family member, make sure you get a specific commitment from the person and the services they have agreed to help with.
- Support will likely come from multiple sources. For example, you may come clean the house once a week, and another relative may grocery shop and prepare some quick meals.
- To find local community resources in your area, call 411 and say the specified business you're looking for.You can also ask their primary care physician for referrals to services in your area.
- Depending on the situation, the elderly can sometimes qualify for home services such as physical therapy or nursing visits.
Organize important documents.Ask your loved one if they have organized their important documents and medical information. If they have not, encourage them to do so and offer your help. If they have already organized their documents, take a look to see if everything is complete. Important documents include:
- Health insurance and/or Medicare card
- Social Security card
- Birth certificate
- List of health conditions, medications, and allergies
- End-of-life care, will, living will, and power of attorney
- Insurance policies (e.g. life insurance, long-term care insurance, etc.)
- Financial information (tax documents, financial advisor, accountant, bank information, etc.)
- Name and contact information for physicians and pharmacies
Adjust the plan as needed.Your loved one's needs will change over time due to many different factors. Your loved one may have a health crisis that requires acute care. There may be changes in you or your loved one's financial status. You may experience changes that affect your availability as well.
- You may want to evaluate your plan at regular intervals (e.g. 3 months, 6 months, etc.). See what is working and what is not working.
- Do not forget to include your family members, care givers, and loved one in these evaluations.
- Make planned and unplanned visits to your loved one's residence to get a picture of how everything is going.
Considering Different Housing Options
Help your loved one stay in their home.Your loved one most likely wants to stay in their home if possible. Staying in their home maintains their independence and gives them a sense of familiarity. It will also make aging more comfortable. Options that can help your loved one stay at home include home care services, meal and transportation services, respite care, and adult day cares.
- Adult day care centers function the same way as child day care centers. Your loved one would go to the center a few times a week and have access to variety of planned activities. This is also a good way for your loved one to make friends and have an active social life.
- Respite care is temporary relief for a full-time caregiver. A worker comes to give the caregiver a break. Respite care can last for a few hours or even a few weeks.
Look into retirement communities.Retirement community options include assisted living communities, adult congregate communities, rental retirement communities, subsidized housing, and continuing care communities. Communities can accommodate independent seniors and those that need some assistance. The type of community you choose will depend on your loved one's needs and your financial situation.
- Adult congregate and assisted living faculties are for more independent seniors.
- When researching a community be sure to understand the cost, the services offered, and the requirements for residents.
Think about a nursing home.A nursing home is best if your loved one is unable to live on their own and no family member is able to care for them. Nursing homes can be either skilled nursing facilities or intermediate care facilities. A skilled nursing facility offers 24 hour care while intermediate facilities offer similar services but not 24 hours a day.
Move your loved one into your home.If you have the time and resources, you may want to move your loved one into your home. Becoming a caregiver will affect everyone that lives in your home so be sure to discuss this with them. Will you continue to work or will you quit your job to care full-time?
- Being a caregiver is extremely stressful and difficult. Do not neglect yourself if you assume this role. It is important for you to eat well, get rest, and take breaks from your duties.
- Consider using other resources to help lighten your load. You may take your loved one to adult day care a few times a week or use respite care when you need a break.
Communicating with Your Loved One
Express your feelings.It can be difficult to discuss these type of issues. It is important that you speak honestly about your feelings. Let your loved one know that you want to support them and help them with any problems they are having.
- Be realistic about how much time and energy you can commit and the other responsibilities you have.
- If you are overwhelmed or are having difficulty speaking to your loved one, consider speaking with a a counselor to help you work through your feelings.
Respect your loved one's wishes.Your loved one has likely been living independently and wants to maintain control. It is important that you honor your loved one's wishes even if you do not agree with them. Be patient with your loved one and think about how you would want to be treated if you were in their position.
- Suggest small changes so that it is easier for your loved one to adjust.
- Try to focus on the big, important issues and do not get caught up in the little details.
- If your loved one's desires are not realistic or feasible, you may need to make some decisions without them. For example, if your loved one insists on driving but has been in multiple car accidents, you may need to take their keys away until you make other transportation arrangements.
Use positive language to describe care.If you are care plan includes community resources and home health care providers, frame these resources in a positive light so your loved one is more receptive. Call a home health care provider a "friend." If you are sending your loved one to an adult day care center, tell your loved one that they are going to volunteer or help at the center. You could also refer to the center as a club or social organization.
- Remind your loved on that accepting help now will help them remain independent for as long as possible.
Be straightforward.While it is important to be considerate of your loved one's feelings, avoid sugar coating the situation. Be honest and present the negative information as well. If it will be difficult for your loved one to stay in their house or perform daily activities without help, let them know.
- Remind your loved one know that they are not going through these changes alone and that you are speaking from a place of genuine care and concern.
QuestionMy elderly grandmother needs carewikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerLet your parents know that you think your grandmother needs care. If you have noticed anything specific, let your parents know what you have observed. You can also ask your grandmother if there is any way that you can help her.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I help the elderly with fun activities?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFind out what type of activities that the person enjoys doing and do your best to get them involved. The activities do not have to be complex or elaborate. Maybe you go for a walk, read a book, play board games, listen to music, or journal. You can also check out community centers for seniors to find fun activities.Thanks!
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