How to care for elderly parents as they lose their independence

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The circle of life means that parents raise children who will one day be responsible for deciding upon the proper way to care for them in their elder years (if everyone’s lucky). When it comes time to step in and provide care for an aging parent, many of us have little clue about the right thing to do.

Caring for Your Elderly Parents

In the coming few years, millions of baby boomers will retire and begin to enter the twilight years of their lives. As these individuals age, they will face an increased need for care and assistance — which are formally known as long-term care.

“It [long-term care] differs from other types of health care in that the goal of long-term care is not to cure an illness, but to allow an individual to attain and maintain an optimal level of functioning,” the National Center on Caregiving explains.

“Long-term care encompasses a wide array of medical, social, personal, and supportive and specialized housing services needed by individuals who have lost some capacity for self-care because of a chronic illness or disabling condition.”

According to the National Center on Caregiving, more than 8.3 million people currently receive support from one of the five types of long-term care service, which are: home health agencies, nursing homes, hospices, residential care communities, and adult day-care service centers. By 2050, an estimated 27 million people will be using paid long-term care services.

So if you find yourself in the situation where your parents are rapidly aging and losing their independence, you can find solace in the fact that you won’t be alone. Millions of your peers are facing the same challenging dilemma of how to care for their elderly parents while simultaneously trying to go on with their own lives and assume their proper adult responsibilities.

Every situation will have its unique aspects, but you may find the following four basic tips useful.

  1. Talk Openly With Your Parents

Unless your folks have reached a point where they’re mentally incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves, it’s crucial for you to pursue an open dialogue with them about their situation. It’s still their life and they deserve a say in how they’re cared for.

Open dialogue early in the process always makes things easier later on. It typically takes a while for the average person to grow accustomed to the idea of having others care for him or her. By starting the conversation right away, you can build gradually toward a sensible discussion of long-term care.

  1. Consider the Least Disruptive Care Option

As mentioned, long-term care may be divided into five major categories. You’ll have to be the judge of your parents’ situation, but it’s vital to identify the method that’s going to be the least disruptive to their lives. In-home care most likely meets this goal.

“In-home care services can provide companionship, supervision and assistance with personal care in the comfort and convenience of a person’s own home — making it possible for older adults to live at home rather than move into a senior living community,” explains.

If nothing else, in-home care provides a nice bridge from living entirely on your own to the move into a care facility. It allows your parents to get familiar with accepting care from others so the transition into a full-time care facility will likely be less intimidating.

  1. Share in Responsibilities

If you have siblings, it’s worth making sure that everyone shares in the caregiving duties. Each of you can contribute from your own strengths, gifts, and resources to make it work.

For example, a brother may live close by and be able to take your parents to and from appointments. A sister may live far away, yet possess financial skills. This one could oversee the establishment of a financial plan for spending, saving, and investing.

There’s more than one way to care for parents. Everyone ought to play a role.

  1. Check In as Much as Possible

Even if you can’t see your parents frequently, you should check in as you can. A simple phone call or text message can make a surprisingly huge difference.

You might even consider showing them how to FaceTime or Skype. Small but rich points of engagement can reduce the threat of loneliness and depression in elderly individuals.

Give Yourself Some Freedom

Dealing with aging parents and trying to ensure they receive the proper amount of care during their final years can be challenging. Though you certainly have some responsibility to step up and offer assistance, you mustn’t allow yourself to become so burdened that you fail to live your own life.

Give yourself grace and freedom. Draw clear boundary lines and don’t cross them. You’re only one person with a finite reservoir of energy, so show compassion and embrace responsibility, but do so in a wise and balanced manner.

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