A GUIDE TO CARING FOR ELDERLY PARENTS
Aging is a fact of life and it affects all families. As adult children, when imagining our parents as seniors, we may not fully comprehend the extent to which their aging will affect them or how it will affect us. Indeed, if they are already seniors and still in good health and living independently we may not feel any dramatic changes or concerns. However, the time does come when effects of aging become more evident and long-term care may be needed.
An overall decline in physical and mental vitality may result in visible and even drastic changes to our parent’s appearance, the standard of life, and emotional well-being. The more aware we are of how aging can affect them, and what options are available to them as seniors and us as caring adult children, the better for all involved. Let’s take a moment to consider some essential things we should take into account regarding their welfare during aging and how in-home care can make all the difference.
Things to Consider
The well-being of our parents is our ultimate wish as they age and live out the last years of their lives. Elder care means considering a family member’s emotional, mental and physical well-being.
Activities of Daily Living (known as ADLs)
Essentials necessary to the dignity and physical and emotional well-being of our elderly parents is to ensure their daily living requirements are met effectively. The basic ADL activities are typically listed as:
The well-being of our parents is our ultimate wish as they age and live out the last years of their lives. Elderly care means considering a family member’s emotional, mental and physical well-being.
(moving while performing activities, getting in and out of bed, in and out of a chair)
Bathing or Showering
(includes brushing/styling hair, shaving, grooming activities)
(includes getting to the toilet, self-cleaning, getting up from the toilet)
If they have impaired mobility and health issues that make it difficult or impossible for them to take care of these ADLs independently then you need to find them the appropriate help. Whether it’s providing care (you or someone else who is qualified) or investing in the proper equipment and accessories to help them continue doing daily tasks independently, be aware that there are many choices and options available.
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)
Other types of daily living activities, not necessarily fundamental, but related to independent functioning are called instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). IADLs most often refer to the following types of activities with long-term care:
Cooking and Preparing Meals
Cleaning and Maintaining the Home
Shopping and Buying Necessities
Managing Money and Paying Bills
Speaking or Communicating on the Phone or Through Other Devices
Taking Prescribed Medications
Looking at how and where elderly parents of caring families live is critical to ensuring their well-being. Are they living alone? Do they live close to you, other siblings, or supportive relatives? Do they prefer to stay in their home or would they be open to moving into another more supportive location or living arrangement? These are all very important things to consider and discuss seriously with your elderly parents. Below we’ve listed the most common types of living arrangements available to seniors. Aging at Home – independent living and aging in their own home. This is the choice of most seniors and staying independent at home may require several adjustments to the home as well as getting home support from a family caregiver or professional caregivers. Independent Living Communities – suited best to active, independent seniors who rent or buy a home/apartments/mobile home in a community with other seniors. Amenities provided include gyms, clubhouse, yard maintenance, housekeeping and security in addition to transportation, laundry service, group meals and social activities. No medical support. Assisted Living Communities – Seniors who are still relatively independent but may need some assistance and caregiving with their daily activities such as meals, dressing, bathing, help with medication and transportation. Rooms or apartment rental, group meals, and amenities such as social activities, exercise, laundry and housekeeping services. Nursing Homes – Seniors who require a living environment with medical surveillance and caregiving but don’t need a hospital. (chronic conditions or for short-term rehabilitative care). Offers nursing staff on-duty 24 hours a day. Medicaid pays for care for 7 out of every 10 nursing home residents but Medicare generally does not pay for nursing home care. Living with a relative/family – Seniors who need assistance with daily activities and some health care support (non-skilled) while having the companionship and care provided by living with a family member(s).
There are the financial impacts of making necessary changes and choices to support the well-being of our elderly parents. They may be eligible to receive additional financial support from government programs to offset their living expenses. Making sure that they take advantage of any programs they may be eligible is important. As well they may need assistance in managing their finances and retirement funds and you may need to take a more active role in assisting them so they are financially secure during their senior years. If you are a caregiver, you may also be eligible to get tax relief by claiming an elderly parent as a dependent or deducting medical expenses. You can also make sure that elderly parents get help during tax season from various federal, state or independent groups that provide free tax assistance to seniors.
Get Educated and Get Help from Supportive Resources and Groups
You are not alone. There are so many groups and organizations, independent and government funded that assist and help seniors. Educating yourself means helping your elderly parents get the best support and assistance available. Here are a few great resources geared at helping seniors:
Benefits.gov is a great website to check out. It’s the official benefits website of the U.S. government. Going straight to the source, here you can find out information on over 1,000 benefit and assistance programs covering health, disability, income, wealth (as in property owned), whether a military veteran, education level and more.
Area Agency On Aging
Area Agency on Aging is a federally mandated agency in your county or city. Staffed by professionals they know every senior program and service, including available funding sources, in your area. This is also a great starting point to gather information about programs that your elderly parent is eligible for and can use. Counselors are available to assist and even provide the necessary documents and forms to apply for programs. It’s worth the time to book an appointment and speak with them directly.
Benefitscheckup.org (National Council on Aging) is the nation’s most comprehensive web-based service where you can search benefits and programs for seniors with limited income and resources from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
You can find out which programs are available for:
Nutrition (including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP)/Food Stamps)
Getting The Best Care For Elderly Parents
Ultimately, we all take on some type of caregiver role with elderly parents, even if we don’t live with them or provide daily care. As mom or dad, they once concerned themselves and devoted their time and energy to our well-being. Now, as adult children, we find ourselves doing the same for them. No matter how you look at it caring for elderly parents means making sure they are safe, happy and taken care of. If their well-being is ensured then we have peace of mind.
Something to remember is that caring for elderly parents shouldn’t be a burden or responsibility to bear alone. Caregiver support is available. In addition to siblings and other family members, there are experts, professionals, resources, and loads of information to help you in caring for elderly parents. There are many choices and options available to allow them to age well and happily.
Finding the right mix for their welfare and happiness takes some time and is a dynamic condition that will change over time, perhaps even day to day. Don’t worry or stress out. Remember, you are not alone. Staying informed, considering their happiness and comfort and making use of as many supportive resources possible, is the best approach when caring for elderly parents.