Did you know that America’s elderly population (defined as those age 65 or older) is set to double by 2060? There are some 46 million people who belong to that demographic today, and by 2060, their numbers will increase to 98 million.
The Baby Boomer generation is redefining our notion of retirement, too. They are continuing to work and in some cases, even starting their own businesses later in life. Those who have retired are doing more traveling — and having “bucket list” adventures that allow them to be active and live life to its fullest.
No matter how spry and adventurous your parents or other senior relatives may seem now, there’s a good chance they will need assistance with everyday activities sooner or later. Here’s how to care for elderly relatives, while still maintaining your own life and raising the next generation.
Realize That Your Relationship Is Evolving
Unless your parent suffers an accident or the sudden onset of illness, requiring you to radically change the way you care for them, it’s likely that the level of help they need will grow slowly, over time. It’s important to acknowledge their independence, even as your relationship shifts.
A good rule of thumb to follow? Presume competence but be ready to offer assistance. And try not to get hung up on what Mom can or can’t do. Just like everyone else, she will have good days and not-so-good ones.
Care for Elderly Parents with Compassion
It can be incredibly frustrating when one’s body doesn’t work the same way it used to. Your parent may need help with everyday activities or chores but feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask. As you take on more responsibility for their care, you will learn how to offer assistance in ways that will preserve their dignity.
Also, don’t assume that because an elderly person is losing mobility or physical ability, their mental state is also declining. In other words, treat them with compassion rather than condescension.
Keep Their Best Interests at Heart
When an elderly family member loses the skills they once had or gives up activities that were once a huge part of their lives, it is likely to stir up emotions for you, too. However, it will do more harm than good if you can’t roll with these changes.
It’s normal to grieve for the mother who no longer bakes a pie every weekend, or for your father who must give up golfing because of arthritis. However, it’s important for you to accept these new realities –otherwise, your parent will have a hard time accepting their limitations as well.
Give Them Tools to Help
Watching someone you love struggle to perform tasks that are easy for you can truly try your patience. It’s understandable that you want to swoop in and do things yourself, just to make sure they get done. But a better idea is to equip your elderly relative with the tools they need to help themselves.
For example, a Kindle or other e-reader can be a boon to those whose eyesight prevents them from reading the small print of hardcover books. Medication organizers with timers allow people to take their prescription pills in a timely fashion. There are cell phones and tablet computers with simple, easy-to-use interfaces.
Clear out unnecessary tools, as well. An elderly relative who can still cook meals for himself might not need a kitchen full of gadgets. You can declutter utensil drawers, countertops, and cupboards in this instance.
An In-Home Caregiver Gives You a Break, Too
As much as you may want to help an elderly parent, you simply might not have the time or wherewithal. After all, you may be holding down a full-time job and raising children of your own. That’s when an in-home caregiver can really be a lifesaver.
In-home care is also a good compromise since it allows the senior to live in their own home, surrounded by their cherished keepsakes and familiar items. Yet the caregiver can help out with tasks that are otherwise too much of a burden — tasks like laundry, cleaning, bathing and toileting, and transportation.
Aging Can Be Isolating
The impact of friendship and socialization on an elderly person is not to be underestimated. Sadly, as the aging process begins to limit a senior’s independence, their social life might suffer. Do what you can to help your parent get together with friends, even if it’s just a once-weekly coffee date or card game.
This is another area in which in-home caregivers provide a valuable service. Your relative will look forward to visits from the caregiver, and a mutual friendship is very likely to spring up. He or she can also provide transportation, which can be one of the main barriers to a senior’s social life.
Consider a Pet
Even a senior whose social calendar is fairly full may eventually have to go home to an empty house or apartment. If your parent is able to care for an animal, consider the possibility of adopting a pet for them — with their approval and input, of course.
Owning a pet is good for one’s physical as well as emotional health. Pets can help reduce stress, combat depression, and ease loneliness. There’s plenty of scientific as well as anecdotal evidence that animals are good company and good for your health.
Providing compassionate care for elderly relatives such as parents or grandparents can be very rewarding, but it also has its challenges. Time constraints or geographic distance can make it difficult for you to provide the level of care that your relative deserves. When you can’t do all that you’d like to, consider hiring an in-home caregiver.
These caregivers can bridge the gap between dignified, independent living and the necessity of moving to an assisted living, memory care, or nursing home facility. They provide companionship, help with housework, transportation, and assistance with all aspects of daily life.
Have questions? We’re here to help. Contact us for more information on hiring an in-home caregiver