Getting older is inevitable. It’ll happen to all of us. But that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult seeing our parents aging, losing their independence, their health declining, and requiring assistance. It’s a painful experience.
However, that doesn’t mean your elderly parent can’t live a fulfilling and rich life. Instead of keeping your head in the sand, take action. Consider the following tips to ensure your elderly parent is in good hands.
Talk and Plan
People struggle to talk about getting older, declining health and death. It’s the elephant in the room. Even though it’s an uncomfortable discussion, however, it’s a necessary one. You don’t want to be in your 60s and taking care of your parents, do you? These are some of the issues you should iron out with your parents before their health declines:
- Financial situation. Only 10% of over-45s in the UK have saved anything for care when we hit old age. Considering over 80% of us are going to need it by the time we’re 80, this is obviously a problem. Talk openly about the financial picture; do they have enough to lead a relatively comfortable life into old age? If not, get your heads together and think of potential solutions.
- Getting yourself into a decent insurance plan is the best way of protecting yourself for the future. There are plenty of options, including hybrid plans that cover both life insurance and long-term care. Make sure your parents apply while they’re still healthy, as they may be rejected once the chronic ailments start cropping up.
- Care home. Having ‘the talk’ about moving out of their home and into a care facility can be one of the most horrible experiences, particularly if they resist or disagree with the decision. It can cause irreparable damage to a relationship. This is why you should bring it out in the open early, ironing out any differences you may have.
It’s also worth talking about the situation with your siblings, should you have any. What are the expected responsibilities? If someone lives closer to your parent(s), will they be expected to the occasional checking in and drive to the hospital? What about financial responsibilities? These are all issues that can cause families to break apart; it’s best to discuss them before anything happens, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Enrich Yourself with Knowledge
Taking care of an aging parent isn’t easy. It requires determination, a willingness to sacrifice your time, and a wide knowledge base to ensure quality care. Even if your parent received third-party assistance, it’s still essential that you know the basics of care. Try and learn about the following:
- Medical care. Conditions such as dementia require very specific care, and it’s not always easy. The administration of medication is also often more than just popping a few pills after a meal, so ensure you immerse yourself in your parent’s medical requirements.
- Health living and eating practices. Your parents can benefit greatly from a routine that includes regular exercise and nutritious meals. Learn about activities that will crank up the heart rate, but are easy on the joints. Swimming is a good example.
If you really want to go the extra mile (or if you want to pursue a career as a health worker), then you may want to consider obtaining a relevant qualification in aged care. You’ll get a top to bottom foundational training on supporting and empowering your parent, helping them achieve a full life well into old age.
Equip the Home
Whether your parents will be staying in their own home or moving in with you (yikes!), you’re probably going to need to make a few changes to ensure they can keep their independence:
- Install grab bars. Relatively small change, but it can make a big difference. Have them near the toilet and shower. You may also need to install rails along your staircase.
- Night lights. Elderly people tend to get up frequently during the night, whether it’s to grab a glass of water or use the toilet. Install night lights throughout the house to prevent slips and falls.
- Carbon monoxide detectors. This one is particularly important as you get older, as even a very low concentration of carbon monoxide can lead to poisoning. Installing quality detectors isn’t just a good thing for your parents, but your entire family.
Ultimately, the main thing your parents want is your company and love. The elderly often suffer from loneliness, and a visit from a loved one is often the highlight of their week. Don’t ignore your parents just because you’ve sorted a nice care home and are helping with the bills.
The most important thing for them is feeling like you care about them and that you want to see them. If you have children, make sure you take them to visit their grandparents as often as possible. These are memories that will last a lifetime, and your kids will thank you for it!