Essential Advice for Caregivers
For caregivers supporting Aging Parents who don’t have serious illnesses but require assistance, here are a few pieces of advice. Encourage open communication with your parents, especially if you haven’t been with them for an extended period of time. When you return home to care for your aging parents, you are still a child in their eyes. The roles have been reversed to a certain extent.
Having regular conversations with them will help you understand their needs, preferences, and concerns. Maintain an open and supportive environment where they feel comfortable discussing their needs. It may not happen immediately, but it will set the foundation for the future as they age. With each piece of advice I have learned from my experience, I present some anecdotal scenarios so you can avoid some of the pitfalls.
Establish Open Communication
When I arrived, Dad was still playing golf 3x a week. Mom went everywhere with him because Dad had learned not to leave Mom alone at home for very long. She and I would him and wait for him to finish a round of 9 holes. We read. Mom read her magazine, and I read my book. We talked and bonded again. At the beginning of my journey, I was there mainly to assist Mom and keep her company.
Empower your parents to maintain as much independence as possible. Identify areas where they can manage independently or with minimal support, allowing them to retain their sense of autonomy and dignity.
Dad was still driving, and I rode in the back seat. That lasted a few weeks. When I arrived, I flew and used his car for errands. I decided to buy/lease a car and offered to drive so they could enjoy the scenery and talk to each other. Dad still went a short distance for errands while Mom and I stayed home. He wasn’t ready to give up driving.
Create a Supportive Network
Contact friends, relatives, or local community organizations to build a support network. This can provide assistance, companionship, and social engagement for your parents, easing the burden on you as the primary caregiver.
When I arrived, my parents depended on each other, and my brother, ten years younger than me, lived with them. He worked, and after observing their relationship, it was clear he wasn’t there to help. I suggested Mom visit her sister instead of staying in the clubhouse waiting for Dad.
Friends and Family
She lived close enough to the golf course for a short visit. My cousin sells Medicare insurance, and my parents changed their Medicare insurance at her suggestion. She checks in periodically and offers advice. I benefited from the close relationships my parents developed.
Plan For the Future of Your Aging Parents
Assist your parents in planning for their future needs, such as legal, financial, and healthcare considerations. This may involve discussing options like long-term care insurance, advanced directives, or exploring community resources that offer aging-related services.
I did not think further ahead at the beginning. I did wonder and expressed some concerns, but my parents dismissed the idea thinking they would live forever, I imagined. Dad was adamant about controlling their situation, and I could not persuade him otherwise. I was still their daughter, and he couldn’t remove the child from his daughter. It wasn’t until he fell and fractured his hip he agreed with the advice of the doctor and human resources division at rehab. We did discuss the above and proceeded with a limited POA. I was then aware of what future steps I should take as I cared for them.
Remember caregiving is a demanding role. Every person and relationship is unique, so adapt these suggestions to suit your parents’ specific needs and your own circumstances. Your love, support, and dedication as their caregiver will undoubtedly significantly impact their lives. It’s essential to prioritize your own self-care whle providing support to your elderly parents.