Ten Things You Can Do Right Now
Top 10 Things to Know Right Now to Help Your Aging Parents
1. Knowledge is power...and eldercare is more complicated than you might think. Read up on how Medicare and other systems work.
2. Understand the job of caregiving.
- It is a job, and a hard one. Don’t ever discount its value. It is also a job that needs to be shared by more than one person.
- If your parents need help in their home, resist the impulse to hire a family friend or under-employed relative. Only use caregiving agencies that conduct full background checks (including fingerprinting), that are fully insured, that carry workers’ compensation insurance, and that use employees, not independent contractors, to work in your parents’ home.
3. Know how your parents want to live as they grow older.
4. Get a basic knowledge of your parents’ financial and legal affairs.
- As a way to gain some of this knowledge, offer to help them make sure all of their affairs are in order.
5. Get familiar with your parents’ health issues.
- Understand their medical conditions and know what medications they are taking.
- Maintain copies of their powers of attorney for health care.
- Get educated about depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, delirium, and cardiac diseases so that you know what symptoms to look out for as they grow older.
6. Encourage good nutrition.
- Know what type of diet your parents should be following and encourage them to stay on track.
- Push exercise and activities—use it, or lose it!
- Look for any sudden weight loss or gain and know what to do.
7. Become their advocate.
- Understand that you need to be your parents’ advocate, to ensure that they get what they want and need.
- If necessary, bring in an outside party to help your family.
8. Use a professional when necessary; you can’t know everything.
- Never have just one person to handle everything—such as legal affairs, investments, financial planning, and health care issues. Split these duties.
9. Encourage socialization.
- Isolation can adversely affect your parents’ outlook on life to a tremendous degree.
- Find ways to keep your parents involved with other people through regular phone calls or outings.
10. Maintain good family relationships.
- Keep your relationship with your parents as close as possible; have others act as caregivers. Once you become a full-time caregiver, your relationship will change. Understand that your stress levels will rise tremendously.
- Try to get support from your siblings in providing care or pitching in some money to pay for care. Letting one person handle everything can be hazardous to family ties.
- Don’t let your sense of duty tarnish your loving relationship with your parents.