Watching your parents age can bring up a whole host of different emotions. It’s difficult to go from being cared for to being the caregiver, and it’s a role reversal that most of us will face at one time or another. Being a caregiver means different things to different people. It doesn’t matter if your elderly parents are aging in place, living in your home, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home. There will be things you’ll have to deal with that are outside of what you have done in the past. But how do you go about caring for an elderly parent? How do you turn the vague feeling of “My parents need help” into an actionable plan? Try not to be overwhelmed. Take things a step at a time and use the resources available to help you along.
Who is responsible for taking care of aging parents?
For some of us, the answer to this question is simple. It’s the responsibility of the adult children, right? Not necessarily. Relationships are complicated, and sometimes making the decision to become a caregiver can be very difficult. From a legal standpoint, whether or not adult children are responsible for their parents’ caregiving varies from state to state. 27 states have what are called Filial Responsibility Laws that require family members to take at least minimal responsibility for aging parents. In other states, children are under no legal requirement to provide senior care. But in general, most of us want to make sure our loved ones are cared for in some fashion.
How do you take care of elderly parents?
Caregiving comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It doesn’t mean that you have to allow your parents to move in with you and your family, although you may absolutely choose to do so. Caregiving simply means making sure the long-term care needs of your loved one are met. Seniors need support in many different ways. Some have health issues that need to be addressed. Some need help finding programs and services that can keep them in their own homes as long as possible. Others may require in-home care or even 24-hour supervision. How you choose to care for your aging parents is a deeply personal decision. What is right for one person may not be feasible for another.
Consider Their Needs
The best way to start caring for aging parents is to take a step back and see what they need help with. Consider what they do on a daily basis. Can they prepare their meals safely? How is their mobility? Do they have a good social support network? Do they have any health care issues that require assistance? Can they take care of their personal hygiene? Make sure to engage them in the conversation about how they feel about living on their own. Pay attention to how their home looks when you visit. You may discover that for the time being, your parents can take care of themselves and stay at home with some added safety precautions and additional care from you or someone else in the family. You can also tap into programs and services that provide some type of home care such as cleaning services or Meals-on-Wheels.
When it’s Time for the Next Step
However, you may find that your parents aren’t able to safely live on their own. If you and your aging parents agree that it’s time to find some extra support, take stock of what you are able and willing to provide. Your first instinct might be to bring them into your home, but caring for elderly parents takes time and commitment. You may find that you can’t provide your seniors with the help and support they need to be safe and healthy. In that case, finding another solution, such as an assisted living facility or a nursing home, may be the only option that will work for all involved.
How do you care for elderly parents at home?
Caregiving for aging loved ones in your home is a big decision that should be discussed openly and honestly with all involved. Once you have everyone on board, you can get down to the business of actually caregiving. Make sure you know what needs you have to meet to keep your Mom or Dad healthy and safe. Keep a notebook handy to jot down notes of things that you notice during the first few weeks you’re caring for them at home. Create a list of caregiving tasks that need to be completed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Level of home care may change based on time of day, or on weekends. Decide how much you are able to handle on your own, and find help if you need it.
Taking care of a parent is often made easier by enlisting other family members for assistance, but there are also respite programs, cleaning services and more that can help out when time is a problem. If you work outside the home, try looking into adult daycare services that can watch your parent while at the office. Living with an aging parent has its own set of challenges, so it’s important not to get overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to step back and reassess the situation if need be.
Is there government assistance for caring for elderly parents?
Caregivers may not be aware that there are many government programs available that can help if you are charged with taking care of an aging parent. You probably know that Medicare is available to cover the health care of seniors. Medicare Part A covers hospital care and is usually provided for free. Medicare Part B is additional health coverage and Part D covers prescriptions. Caregivers that discover they can’t meet the needs of their aging parents can get their seniors approved for Medicaid to help pay for a long-term care facility. Another option Medicaid provides is paying for in-home caregivers, and the person who provides that care can often be a family member, or even a spouse. Some states also offer financial assistance to caregivers of aging seniors.
The Administration of Aging has agencies located in each state to help families navigate health insurance questions, legal assistance and help with long-term care if that is something your senior needs. They are a great source of information and can point caregivers in the right direction to help resolve many of the challenges put forth when caregiving.
How do you deal with the stress of caring for an elderly parent?
Caring for aging parents can be a very rewarding experience, but it is also one of the most stressful things you may ever do. Oftentimes, a caregiver is so focused on the care they’re giving that they fail to provide care for themselves. This can lead to caregivers becoming overwhelmed and resentful. It can also have a negative effect on your own health, making you incapable of caring for anyone at all! So how do you deal with the stress?
For one thing, it’s extremely important for you to check in with yourself on a daily basis. Be sure you get enough sleep, exercise and downtime. Lean on family members to help with certain tasks. Make time for activities that you enjoyed prior to taking on your caregiving duties. There are caregiver support groups available in-person or online to help you navigate the new emotions and challenges that come with caregiving. Most important, try to remember that you can’t be everything to everyone. At the end of the day, you will know that you did the best you could to support your loved one as they take on their senior years.
If you’re looking for senior care and senior living options in Minnesota, our staff at Mary T will be happy to help. Contact us when you’re ready.