The United States is undergoing a major demographic shift: the population of citizens aged 65 and up is growing faster than any other point in history. In fact, this group is expected to double in size by the year 2060, accounting for nearly 1/4 of the entire US population.
This shift has resulted in more and more adults becoming their parents’ primary caregivers. And no matter how much we love them, caring for aging parents isn’t without its challenges.
If you’ve found yourself in this situation, know that you aren’t alone. Read on for some important things to consider when taking care of elderly parents.
Assess Their Needs
Every person’s needs are different—that’s a fact of life that remains true no matter how old we are. So in order to find out how to care for your aging parents, you first have to assess their individual needs.
Here’s a helpful checklist to start with:
- Does their current home fit the requirements for their safety and mobility?
- Are they able to get around by themselves?
- Do they have any complex medical needs?
- Are they able to take care of themselves? (cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene, etc.)
- Do they have a good amount of social interaction, or do they feel isolated?
- How much support do they have from yourself and other family members? Is it enough to meet their needs?
If they have any mental or physical health conditions you aren’t familiar with, it might be worth your time to attend their next doctor’s appointment with them. There, you can make a group decision on whether you can provide the level of care they need in your current situation.
If not, you may need to consider an assisted living situation. Make sure to include your parent in this decision-making process as much as possible.
Adapting the Home Environment
Balance, strength, and vision all decline as we age, making elderly falls into a huge problem. To avoid ground-level falls and other injuries, it’s essential to make safety-conscious adaptations to their living space.
Make sure that rooms are well-lit and walkways are clear of clutter. Staircases and bathrooms should have sturdy railings and grab bars along the wall. Also, if your parent has trouble standing for a long time, a shower chair might be helpful for bathing.
These small changes all make a huge difference when it comes to creating a safe home environment.
Avoid Caregiver Burnout When Caring for Aging Parents
Caregiver burnout is a very real phenomenon that affects many members of the so-called “sandwich generation”, those caring for both their parents and children at the same time. And even if you don’t have kids of your own or they’ve left the nest, balancing the responsibilities of caregiving with your own life can leave you with nothing left.
If you find yourself feeling exhausted, anxious, and depressed or neglecting your own health, you might be suffering from burnout. If that’s the case, it’s important to ask for help. Consider whether a home health aid or assisted living facility might be a better choice for the level of care your parent needs.
Take Care of Your Parents and Yourself, Too
Caring for aging parents is about finding the balance where both you and your parents are able to flourish. If the level of care they need is more than you can provide while keeping yourself healthy, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
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