10 Tips for Helping Aging Parents Now!
Many of us are facing situations right now or anticipate facing them soon where we will find ourselves taking on a much greater role in assisting our aging parents. Here are some nice tips to keep in mind as we face this often daunting task:
1. Recognize that growing old is financially scary
No matter how much we have "saved for our old age", thinking about covering the expenses associated with aging or dealing with the unknown can be extremely scary to us. What if your elderly parent doesn't have enough insurance or savings to pay for long term care or a terminal illness? It can be vital that they speak with a qualified professional to assist them.
2. Talking about life changes is often hard
Talking about moving, losing the ability to drive, or budgeting can be overwhelming subjects for an aging parent to face. I always suggest that my clients take small steps initially. Writing down every step needed and then crossing them off as goals are met can make it easier to complete each step.
3. Aging parents are often in denial
Adjusting to circumstances caused by aging can cause a lapse of judgment including denial. Thinking about possible illness, moving, finances, and mortality can be overwhelming. You aging loved one may think that they have lots of years ahead of them to complete goals, spend time with grandchildren, and plan for long term care. Remind them that it is in their best interest and the interest of family that they plan. Early planning will ensure their needs, wants and desires are fulfilled without interference from family or the government. Broach any topic lightheartedly and in a non-threatening manner.
4. Asking for help or even thinking about it can a burden for them
There are certain things no one wants to lose no matter how old they are. No one wants to hear that they cannot drive, they shouldn't live in their home by themselves or that they cannot perform tasks that many people their age and/or older may be able to fulfill without issue. Many people don't realize how important their freedom is until they lose it. Assisting mom or dad as they lose one freedom to the next can be hard, they may not see that the new-adjusted lifestyle chosen for them is a good one. You must help them put it into perspective, letting them know how much they are cared for and how you are concerned for their health and safety will certainly help.
5. Aging parents may not remember everything
Memory can start to diminish early for some seniors, though it may not be noticeable until later years. You can play simple games with an aging parent to help keep their mind sharp .
6. Patience is key
Transitioning into new phases of life can be hard. Remember that your parents were patient with you when you where learning to walk, talk, eat with your mouth closed, and so much more. Now is your time to return the favor!
7. Do NOT talk about death
This is another sensitive issue that you should be very careful with. Many times aging parents feel shock when hearing and/or even thinking about their own death even if they have come to terms with it. Some words to use instead of death: Passing, End of Life, Parting.
8. There are often public benefits available
Many families and aging parents are unaware of resources and help available from local Senior Community Centers, Senior Services Departments, and the government. Working with an Elder Law Attorney who can point you in the right direction and act as a resource can be so beneficial!
9. Plan for the worst, hope for the best
When planning with mom or dad, gracefully plan for worst case scenarios. Discuss the importance of having an estate plan, focusing on how these documents are needed now while they are living, and not necessarily just for when that are gone. Planning early can help relieve possible stresses which may happen. As much of the family should be involved in planning for cases where a family member will be a caregiver. Consider which responsibilities can be shared in ca
ses of multiple siblings and strive to avoid overwhelming the main caregiver with too many tasks.
10. Being social can be key for mom and dad
Losing a spouse or loved one, freedoms, and/or coping with financial issues can isolate an aging parent. Being social can help aging parents better deal with life's changes. Talking with other's their own age or in their own situations can be extremely helpful. Senior community centers and Adult Day Services offer social activities as wells as clubs like church groups, community service groups or just social clubs can help them to develop friendships and other relationships.
These 10 tips are just the beginning, but they are a great place to start. Ask more questions, don't be afraid to look for more help or to find others who have been in similar situations Being prepared in advance can only make the conversations with mom and dad just a little bit easier to handle.