As people age, they tend to need more and more help with everyday activities, especially if they have an illness. You may be caring for your parents and want them to be as comfortable and happy as possible while remaining at home.
The most important thing to remember is to have empathy for your parents. It’s difficult to face loss as we age: loss of independence, careers, mobility, health, energy, and more. Think about how you would feel if you were in their situation.
If possible, don’t take on the responsibility of caring for your parents alone. Get your siblings and other family members involved in your parents’ care. This will ease the pressure on you and give your family members priceless time to spend with your parents.
Some ways to keep everyone involved include setting up a group text or chat to keep each other informed, taking turns staying with your parents, creating a schedule for running errands and going to doctor’s appointments, and keeping everyone up to date on your parents’ financial situation.
It may be better for your parents to live in their own home or it may be more beneficial to move them into your home. If they remain in their home, here are some ways you can help them:
- Call regularly. Sometimes they may just want to hear from you and know you’re thinking about them.
- Take care of potential problems in their house before something happens. For example, fix uneven flooring, install handrails, and make sure hallways and stairs are well-lit. Take care of any major repairs. Keep a list of emergency contacts next to the phone, and have phones installed in the main areas of the house as well as in the area where your parents sleep.
- Accompany them to doctor's appointments. By doing so, you will remain abreast about their health and know about the medications they are taking. Ask the doctor questions and take notes. This is especially important if your parents are dealing with illness.
- Encourage activity. Aging parents can be isolated because they no longer drive, have mobility issues, or have experienced loss of hearing or vision. Help them avoid feelings of isolation by finding a local senior group or church group. Find out if local parks, museums, or community centers offer activities for seniors. Encourage and engage with them in activities such as reading, doing puzzles, playing card games, or documenting their life’s memories to keep them mentally active.
- Help them downsize. Reduce stress by helping them get rid of unnecessary clutter in their house. In doing so, be sure to be understanding, as some objects may hold special meaning to them. Don’t throw out anything without their permission.
If your parents move into your house, here are some ways to help yourself and your parents make the most of the situation:
- Provide a space of their own. If possible, give your parents their own bedroom and bathroom. This will give them a sense of independence and place of their own to get away to enjoy quiet time away from the rest of the household.
- Engage in meaningful activities. Carve out time outside of just “caretaking” to have quality, meaningful time together. Discuss their family history or experiences in their younger years, cook together, read aloud, play games, and invite family and friends to join in on the fun.
- Create a list of care tasks. This list should include what you need to accomplish done daily, weekly, and monthly in order to make your parents comfortable. Having a list of things you need to do to help your parents will make the many tasks seem manageable and accomplishable.
- Get help with caretaking. Ask siblings or other family members to stay for a few days or a week so you can take a break. Other family members can also run errands or contribute financially. In addition, you can hire a caretaker to stay with your parents to give you a break.