Tips for taking care of your elderly parents...
Elderly needs, trials, and tribulations...
Before explaining how you can endure months or even years of caring for your elderly parents or grandparents, I want to express to you the feelings, emotions, and daily needs they have. They were not born yesterday, they understand how the world works. Take their advice. For a long time the elderly were known as the "wise" ones. They were looked upon for advice and meaning to life. Now, they are treated like babies! Accept their advice as it comes. I assure you, they know what they are talking about!
They still want to feel important. They still want to feel "needed". Still want to know they can still do things on their own. Maybe they want to continue paying their own bills but have a hard time keeping track of their finances. Maybe they have double paid a utility bill because they forgot they paid it the first time. Help them out with this! They are obviously still aware the bills have to get paid, so why not entertain the fact by helping them pay the bills each month. Give them control but confront the reality when you have to intervene. Your primary goal should be to help your parents fulfill their needs, not to take over their life. Sometimes, you may have to make decisions on their behalf and intervene to ensure safety and security. However, they should maintain as much control over their life as possible.
They still have arms, legs, and sometimes still have the ability to move about. And they hate depending on others. You decide to take a couple hours and go fishing. Maybe Grandpa wants to go. Don't assume he doesn't. Ask! Grandma wants to cook dinner tonight. Although her recipes have been gathered and passed down from her mother, to you, and on to your children, you don't feel she is fully capable of preparing a family meal without burning the house down. Trust me, she knows what she is doing (most of the time), maybe she just doesn't put as much effort into it that you're used to. Food doesn't taste the same? So what! It's OK to support her during her family meal planning. If you're that worried about the kitchen catching on fire, there is nothing wrong with helping...not supervising. Help her while she cooks and let her give you direction. You never know, you might learn a thing or two!
They may feel weak, and rely on you to make them strong! Yes, I know it's difficult to be the strong person who takes care of the only man and woman who gave you life. You feel like roles are reversed and "this isn't how things should be." Guess again! They put diapers on your butt, a roof over your head, and plenty of nourishment to help you grow strong and healthy when you couldn't care for yourself. I believe they deserve the same respect. Elderly men and women go through a lot of things, emotionally and physically. They were there for you when Bobby broke your heart in the 9th grade, be there for them when they need you. No matter what it is they need strength for. Which brings me to my next point...
Depression is a huge factor as you parents/grandparents continue to age. It may be because of a lot of things. Maybe they feel alone. Maybe they are realizing they can't do the things they used to do and it may not get any better. Maybe, just maybe, they are scared. Yes, even Superman (Dad), can be scared. Maybe not necessarily scared of dying, but scared to endure what is to be before that time comes. Oh and believe it or not, your parents will always worry about you and be "scared" of what could happen to you after they are gone. They may express their feelings in different ways. Crying, secluding themselves or not wanting to be around anyone. They may even express it as anger. Don't take it personally. The best thing you can do is be there with and for them through these times. Maybe all they need is someone to talk to. Bring their grand/great grand kids to come and see them. Kids are great at putting on smile on anyone's face. Especially Grandma and Grandpa's!
Dealing with their stubbornness...
NOT an easy task! Sometimes you want to just grab her/him by the shoulders and yell, "CHILL OUT! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!". But don't do that, please don't do that. Remember, the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s were wayyyyy different than society was when you were born or as it is now. They grew up on different ideas and opinions. Many elderly have held on to those ways of life and opinions they learned in their own childhood. You may notice a lot of elderly still have things they've had for the last 30 years. Why? "Don't fix/replace somethin' that ain't broke!". Do your best to be patient. Ask them if there's anything you can do to help make something easier. As you should with anything else, just be there and listen. Gram doesn't mean to sound so unreasonable. Really.
- An estimated 1 in 10 senior citizens fall victim of elder abuse.
- Majority of elderly people feel miserable most of the time.
- About 80% of elderly are healthy enough to carry out daily activities.
- Every second 2 people will turn 60 years old.
Take care of yourself too!
Taking care of someone at any age is difficult both physically and emotionally. But how do you expect to be a caregiver if you are not up to par in the health department either? Drink plenty of water, eat when you are hungry, get plenty of rest, and see your doctor when you are sick. You may also want to take time out for yourself. Have someone sit with Mom and/or Dad while you take the day to go fishing or go shopping to buy yourself something nice. And remember, it's OK to ask for help! You've taken on a huge responsibility and they need you more than anything right now. If something happens to you, what's going to happen to them?
Don't Quit Your Job if You Don't Have To
It's possible that you don't want to put your elderly parents or grandparents in a nursing home. Who does? I know I wouldn't! But insurances these days will pay for a few hours a day of professional care. You don't want your finances spiraling out of control because you quit your job to take care of your parents. If you work a full time job and need to keep it, you don't necessarily have to use a nursing home for your loved one. Do what you have to do for them in the morning before you leave. If they are capable of sitting alone for a few hours, hire a CNA (Certified Nurses Aide) to stop by at lunch to make them something to eat or help them with other daily routines. Some insurances will pay to have professional help in your home 24/7, aka Live-in caretaker if the individual cannot be left alone. You may also opt just to have someone around when you cannot be. Don't ever feel like you have no choice but to resort to a long term care facility. There are many options. If necessary, let your boss know what you are going through. They may be able to work out a more flexible work schedule for you.
Life Isn't Perfect
We aren't expected to make our older loved ones lives perfect once we decide it's time to step in and help. Don't feel guilty if you can't make that happen. Do what you can. More than anything they need your sympathy and tolerance. Not every ounce of strength and moment of your time.
What is your current situation with elderly loved ones?
Acknowledge and Confront Your Feelings...
Your feelings have a lot to do with the way you view and cope with your care-giving. Recognizing an accepting your feelings (anger, resentment, sadness) is the first step to dealing with them. As I said earlier. This is a very difficult time for both you and your loved ones. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that a parent is aging and may at some point need our assistance. We somehow expect that they will carry on indefinitely in the role they have played in our lifetime. It's a natural part of life to get old. No, you may not be able to run to your father or mother and they sweep you up off your feet into their arms anymore. But they still see you as their little girl or boy and want nothing but the best for you. How easy do you think it is for them knowing you have to care for them like they cared for you as a child? Think about it...
Don't Be Afraid to Speak of the Inevitable...
There will come a day when you may have to start making funeral arrangements. But don't wait until the last minute. It's probably an uncomfortable conversation to bring up for the both of you, but it does need to be addressed. Make sure you carry out their final wishes. This goes for legal and financial issues as well. Make sure you understand what your parents want should you wind up with the legal power and responsibility to make decisions for them. Again, maybe a bit uncomfortable but it is essential. If you don't know the ins and outs of a power of attorney, a living will, or a healthcare proxy, find an elder-care expert or attorney to help.
Ever hear someone say how just one smile can change someone else's day for the better? Life isn't easy in these stages. But sometimes smiling can make a world of a difference in favor of both the care-giver and the one needing the care. For one day put aside all the worries and troubles you have been facing and make a point to sit down and chat about the weather or the latest news. Talk about old times when you were young and the many great things she has done for you and with you. This is therapeutic for both you and Mom. We can't stop the inevitable, but we can change how we deal with it.
I cannot stress enough that taking care of your loved one requires you to be healthy and able as well! Care-giver strain is common and needs to be addressed and dealt with.You may be experiencing caregiver strain if you have…
- Loss of interest in providing care
- Problems concentrating or making decisions
- Persistent low tolerance levels; easily angered or frustrated
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Drug or alcohol use
- Weight loss or gain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation
Not only can you become mentally ill from dealing with care-giver strain, but also physically. It's important to pay attention to your own body and emotions. See your doctor or seek counseling if you find it has become a substantial issue in your life. Again, you cannot care for someone else if you are not taking care of yourself.
In a Nutshell
Make these last years enjoyable for you and your parents. Lower your expectations and don't beat yourself up if you cannot do certain things for them. Get the help you need and take care of yourself. Find a healthy way to balance the needs of you and your loved ones. Treasure the time you have left and make the best of it. Love more and smile often. Do what you need to do to lower your stress level. Be there for them and you will be pleasantly surprised to find they are still and will always be there for you!
I want to shout out to my father, Paul, who inspired me to write this article as he is enduring some of the most difficult times in his life trying to care for my grandparents 24/7 as well as the needs of everyone else including himself. Although we are all grown he still worries about his children and wife on top of caring for Grammy and Poppy. At times he puts himself on the back burner regarding his own health and all we can do is get on him about taking care of his needs. Hopefully this Hub helps him on this difficult journey! Love you, Dad!