Aging is part of life, and something that will hopefully happen to us all, but when you have a young family and are working hard too, looking after aging parents is an additional complication. It can be hard to imagine your parents as seniors and perhaps with fading health, however, the time will come when this is a reality, so it is important that you take time to consider how best you will be able to support them with independent living.
You need to understand what your parents’ daily activities are: the essentials that are necessary for them to live. Here is a list of daily activities that are necessary as a minimum for them to continue living independently:
- Feeding and eating
- Personal hygiene: bathing and showering
If your parent has problems with any of these functions, you need to seek appropriate help for them. This could mean providing care or installing equipment that will help them manage better to maintain their independent living. Grab-rails next to the toilet, a monitoring safety alarm system and pre-made meals can all help your parent to stay safe at home.
In most circumstances, the aging parent’s ability to perform these functions steadily declines over time rather than a sudden inability, so be mindful of any observations that friends or neighbors make.
As your parents age, they are entering a new stage of their life, and with that comes new emotions that you may not have witnessed in them before. Fear, grief, boredom, loneliness, and embarrassment are all emotions that can be triggered with old age. Emotions are often neglected when it comes to caring for aging parents, however, they can be just as debilitating as physical symptoms.
Seniors often voice concerns about not wanting to a burden to their family or caregivers. This can lead to the scenario where they do not share with you any problems that they have. It is important that they do not feel like they are a burden, so one way to overcome this is by sharing the responsibility with family members. Not only does this make life easier for you, but it will mean that they have a variety of visitors and will feel less like they are putting the onus on you.
Many seniors tend to feel isolated when they stop driving or when they have hearing and vision problems and are unable to attend social functions independently. However, it is important that they remain social and are encouraged to lead a full and active life. Help them keep in touch with old friends and see what local groups are running that can help your parents remain a valuable part of their community. They will be able to make new friendships at senior groups, churches, synagogues, and community centers, which often offer activities for seniors.
Caring for aging parents is not just about their physical health, it is about looking after their emotional and mental wellbeing too. It is important that you work together to help maintain their independent living if it is safe to do so.