What to Consider as You Care for Mom or Dad
Promoting Your Loved One’s Independence
Your parents are getting older. While they once took care of you, you are now finding yourself in a position to care for them. Perhaps they are physically and mentally capable and still living independently in their home. Maybe you are getting called in more frequently to assist with household tasks, or you are anxiously noticing that your mom or dad is not getting around as well as they used to. Whatever place you are currently in with supporting your parents, take a moment to read this guide.
It’s called the good, the bad, and the ugly for a reason: The truth is that aging is a journey, and it can be emotional and complicated at times. Caregiving for a parent has a significant impact on the parent-child dynamic, and it will change your relationship. For this reason, it is so important to keep these considerations in mind as you approach caring for your aging parent.
Talk about the future. You might not want to hear this, but you need to have that hard conversation with your parents that you’ve been putting off. Talking about getting older and the care a loved one may need to live safely and comfortably is not always pleasant, but it is necessary. Ask your parents about their retirement savings, their assets, and their plan for care if and when living in their own home independently is no longer the best option. Request that they begin gathering their important papers.
Do they intend to eventually sell their home and move to an independent or assisted living facility? Do they have the means available to finance their care? Also, understand their expectations and wishes of you—for example, do they hope to one day live with you and your family?—and express whether your own expectations and wishes align with theirs.
Don’t be an enabler. There’s a delicate balance between helping out a parent and enabling them. If they need your assistance storing seasonal items in the attic, by all means, help them navigate the ladder and heavy boxes. However, do not handle every last need for a parent whose mobility is diminishing. While it may be hard to see them strain, remember that movement is life: Once you start doing everything for a parent, they will stop trying, and their mobility—and independence—will suffer.
Be clear on your definitions of independence. The goal is for your parents to live independently for as long as it remains safe to do so. You might define independence as living on your own without assistance from another family member or a caregiver. Ask your parents how they define independence. Does living independently, to them, mean that they will stay in their home but rely on your help? If you are handling their grocery shopping, cleaning, preparing and dropping off meals, and so on, they are not living independently.
Consider your desire—or lack thereof—to be a caregiver. You must think about your own needs. You likely have a job, family and friends, and other interests and responsibilities that put demands on your time. Ask yourself these questions:
- Will what you are currently doing to help your parents be sustainable?
- Will it cause resentment with siblings or other family members who are not currently able or willing to help?
- Knowing that your parents’ needs will change and grow, are you willing to learn how to care for your parents and then provide that type of care indefinitely?
- Does your personality align with caregiving?
- Are you the best person to provide the care that your parents need?
Maybe you aren’t—and that’s okay. It does not mean that you don’t love your parents and want the best for them. It means that personally handling their care yourself is not the best option.
Be willing to recognize the signs that more help is needed. There are many reasons why a loved one may need extra help. These are just some of the areas where a parent might be struggling:
- Cognitive Health
Are they showing early signs of dementia? Do they remember to take their medications, lock the doors at night, and take out the trash? Are they leaving the stovetop on and forgetting to turn it off? Are they missing appointments?
Can your parents navigate their home safely, including stairs? Are they at risk of falling? Are they completing household chores like vacuuming, laundry, and general tidying?
- Personal Hygiene
Are you noticing a lack of personal hygiene, including basic grooming tasks? Have they stopped doing tasks—like doing their hair—that they’ve always done before?
- Meal Preparation
Has a parent lost or gained noticeable weight? Is their refrigerator stocked with fresh and healthy meal options, or have they begun relying on frozen or prepared foods?
- Social Interaction
Are they leaving the house less than before? Do they still try to maintain relationships with longtime friends, neighbors, and family members? Are they exhibiting signs of loneliness and depression or withdrawing from social situations?
- Medical Needs
Are they recovering from an illness or surgery? Do they require assistance to bathe and get dressed? Are they able to manage and take their medications as needed? Can they safely get to the doctor for their appointments?
If your parents are struggling with any of the above, it may be time to consider a move to an assisted living community.
Taking the Next Step
Is It Time for Assisted Living?
You want the very best living situation and care for your parents. As you read this article, perhaps you realized that the current situation—and the role you are playing—is not sustainable for the future. Sometimes the right decision is the hardest one to make—but you can and will navigate this difficult time. McGregor is here to help you.
We have a variety of living options available on our campus in Cleveland. As a life plan community, we offer five levels of care, from independent living to assisted living, nursing care, rehabilitation, and hospice. It’s time to make the right choice for your parents’ future and allow them to retain their independence, enjoy life, and live freely while receiving the quality of care they need and deserve. Reach out to start the conversation today.