We’re now at that age where we’re caring for aging parents. We’re parenting our parents and that’s not only awkward but it can be exhausting and frustrating. In this article we’re going to discuss how to care for elderly parents, the issues with being family caregivers and so much more.
I’m going to share 5 crucial tips on how to care for elderly parents. This might be a long one so grab your favourite drink!
There are so many things to keep in mind when dealing with aging parents but first and foremost is to remember to take care of yourself. We’ll talk about that a little more too.
Caring for aging parents is stressful af
There. I said it. It’s stressful and if anyone tells you it’s not they’re lying. You are practically disrupting your entire life and routine in order to care for your elderly parents. Now I don’t say that in a mean way, it’s just fact.
Yes it was stressful but I think the saving grace for me was that I just kept reminding myself that it would all be over soon. I mean, our parents cared for us our entire lives. Caring for them now as they age is a small sacrifice, albeit, still a sacrifice.
How do you deal with the stress of caring for an elderly parent?
It’s important to have a good support system around you whether it be friends who are going through the same thing or other family members. Remember you’re not dealing with the parents you grew up with.
They are different people now and they might not want what you want for them.
And if your elderly parent refuses assisted living then you have even more stress. My mom was adamant that she was not going and we respected her wishes, even though that meant me and my older sister basically worked and tag teamed around the clock to care for our aging parents.
When an elderly parent refuses assisted living
Like what happened to us, both times, first our mother and then our father. When mom put her foot down, even though she was already suffering with dementia, we respected that and made arrangements for a PSW to come in 2-3 times a week to help her with showering and other hygienic things.
Eventually, mom started having seizures at home and ended up in the hospital where she stayed until a room in a nursing home became available. She finally died in 2019 after suffering with Alzheimers for almost 20 years.
Dad also was pretty adamant but again, fortunately for us, his deteriorating health put him in the hospital 3 years after mom went where he later died as well.
So as you can see, we were fortunate with both our parents but if your elderly parent refuses assisted living here are a few things you can do:
- be open and honest with them, they need to know your feelings too
- talk to them like an adult not a child-they aren’t stupid and they know what’s going on
- help them understand the magnitude of the situation and care involved
- give them time to think on it-don’t rush them or force them into a decision
- take them to go see one or two assisted facilities (maybe they know someone in one of them!)
- assure them they will not be neglected or forgotten by family
- give them some reading material on how elderly people thrive and do well in assisted living facilities
Here’s a great article from Abramson Senior Care on the steps to take for assisted living.
If living with elderly parents is an option for you then that’s great! It allows your aging parents to remain in their homes a little longer and gives them comfort.
But don’t forget to take care of yourself.
I’ll tell you this a million times because it’s so important. Sorry for sounding like a broken record.
What to Do When You Can’t Afford Care
I understand that this too is also a big problem for many of us who have to take care of an older parent alone because we can’t afford to call in outside help as this would put a huge financial strain on us.
I think we’re all going through a hard time right now financially and some of us are barely getting by enough to take care of ourselves, let alone our aging parents.
So let’s face it, long-term care facilities, residential care facilities and assisted living facility are not cheap. If your parents didn’t or don’t have health insurance (that may have paid into) well, you’re screwed and it’s pretty much coming out of your pocket unless they may have a monthly pension.
But even pensions can be relatively low and not enough to cover the care of your parents (or one of them). This is a problem for many, sadly.
According to nextavenue.org
In the recent Caregiving in the United States 2020 study from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, almost one in five survey respondents said they experienced “high financial strain due to family caregiving.” Family caregivers spent an average of $7,000 a year out of their own pockets, according to a previous AARP study.Source-nextavenue.org
I think depending on which city/state/province/country you live in, some financial assistance may be available.
Here are a few resources you might want to check out-
If you can’t afford home health care or additional help for your aging parent, it’s important to reach out or at least do research into volunteer agencies and other family members or friends who can pinch in to help a little.
You can’t do this all alone. Your own health and mental health is just as, if not more, important. Maybe call a family meeting and see who can help even with some of the smaller day-to-day tasks.
Any help is good help, no matter how big or small.
While we’re talking about finances, make darn sure, before your parents start suffering memory loss that all their finances are in order and that a power of attorney has been named.
Make sure all the legal documents are in order. Trust me when I tell you the last thing you want to do be doing is fighting over your parent’s finances. It’s ugly.
So before alzheimer’s disease ravages your elderly parent, make sure you meet with a financial advisor to tie up all the loose ends.
Dealing with aging parents can be frustrating
I hate to be the bearer of more bad news but the fact is, dealing with aging parents can try each and every nerve you have. You’re basically dealing with adult toddlers. They will have temper tantrums, they will get anrgy, they will be stubborn as hell.
And none of that has anything to do with you.
They are scared. Your parents are scared. They know they will die soon ( I mean, we’re all gonna die!). Dying can probably be a little terrifying for some. You will have to be calm and patient and very understanding.
Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would feel.
So you have to know, I should have mentioned this in the beginning, caring for mom was funny and frustrated, sad and exhausting but she ended up in full time care very soon. My dad on the other hand was a challenge for me.
I always hated my father so having to take care of him took every ounce of everything I had in me to be nice. But I did it. Because I knew the end was coming soon.
I cringed every time I pullled up in the driveway. Some days I felt like throwing up. And then I had to sit and have dinner with him and watch tv and pretend I liked him and enjoyed his company. It was as painful as it sounds.
So if you have to care for aging parents that you hate, take a big deep breath and know the end is near. For real.
Taking Care of Yourself is So Important!
I want to shout this off the rooftops!
As the primary caregiver of your parents, burnout can happen and it’s a real thing. You can’t let your own personal care fall to the wayside. What will eventually happen is that you will end up hating or regretting your job as a caregiver.
And maybe even resenting your parents, even just a wee bit.
There are caregiver support groups in just about every area/town around the world and if you can’t find one in your neighbourhood I can guarantee you there are some online.
Find an emotional support group you can trust and rely on to help you cope with what you are going through as well. This isn’t just all about the care of elderly parents/care of an aging parent but it’s about you too!!!
How to care for elderly parents
Here’s the thing that’s the hardest, your elderly parents may need your help right when you’re in the middle of your own crisis. Oh ya. Good times.
I had just left my abusive relationship, hit rock bottom and was trying to climb my way out when my parents needed help. So I had to put all my troubles aside and come to my sister’s aid in caring for our aging parents.
I think it’s important to mention that no matter where you are in life or what’s going on in your life, you will very well end up having to care for elderly parents, maybe whether you like it or not.
I think it’s good to chat with other family members to try to come up with some kind of plan. This way, you don’t burn out.
So now we’re gonna move right into how to care for elderly parents and 5 tips for caregivers.
Caring for aging parents-5 tips for caregivers
Taking care of aging parents is not for the faint of heart and no matter how strong you are and how willing you are to care for your elderly parents, it will take its toll and you will have many break down moments.
You’ll be ok though, trust me. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Here are my 5 best tips for caregivers when it comes to caring for aging parents
1 Be patient with them
As our parents age, they are scared and frustrated. They know death is coming. They aren’t ready. They will say mean and hurtful things sometimes. Other times they will just be stubborn and almost impossible to deal with.
Just be patient and loving. That’s all they need right now. Compassion, kindness and love.
2 Delegate tasks
You don’t have to do everything. See if you can get a PSW to come in once or twice a week if your budget allows it. Some local areas even have volunteers. See if any family members or neighbours can come and hang out for an hour a day once a week or even take them to doctor’s appointments!
Ask around and find help. You’re not super woman. Delegate some of the caregiving responsibilities.
3 Take care of yourself
I know I know, I already said this a bunch of times but I can’t stress how important it is. Burnout is a real thing, no matter how old or young you are. You MUST take time for yourself and your needs.
Don’t neglect your friends-go out and socialize!
4 Look into activities for them
If they are able bodied, in good health and can still get around and do things, find things for them to do! Card games at the local church, book clubs, dancing, whatever! Ask around at some nursing homes and other places for activities for your elderly parent.
They’re old, they’re not dead. Get them involved in fun things!
5 Spend quality time with them
Have open and honest conversations with them, go through old photo albums if that’s what they want to do. Put on their favourite music and sing and dance with them. These are their final years. Try to make them count.
Help them take their mind off their fear and death and enjoy life now
Looking after elderly parents doesn’t have to be horrible
Yes it will be exhausting and frustrating at times, but you can make it fun too! Looking after elderly parents doesn’t have to be a death sentence chore.
Remember, their last days are coming soon so do your best to make the end of their life comfortable and filled with love and compassion, just as you probably would want your last few years to be.
Don’t take on the full caregiving burden or you are just asking for emotional stress and a mental breakdown. Trust me on that.
While the care of others is an important job, self care is just as important.