As time passes, our relationships with our parents change. From childhood through our teen years and into adulthood, we transition through many phases in this relationship. For some of us, once we’ve established our own families and have become seasoned adults, we reach a point where it becomes necessary for us to care for our parents. As they age, they may experience physical and/or mental health challenges that will require more care than we are able to provide. This might be because we don’t have the time because of our own family and/or career obligations. It might also be a lack of skills to meet their medical needs. Most likely, it’s a combination of the two and either way, you’re going to need some help.
Gauging Your Parents’ Needs
As our parents age, we’ll begin to observe certain changes in them. You might notice that they’re moving slower or are a bit more slumped over or are having changes in their mobility. Unless a doctor offers a specific diagnosis through a routine exam, most of these observations might seem like nothing to be concerned about. And…for the most part, these changes may be nothing but some of the standard signs of aging.
However, as your parents age, you may notice that they may be progressing to the point where they’re unable or unmotivated to care for themselves. There may be some standard tasks that your parent used to be able to do easily but are now physically incapable of doing so for themselves as the result of reduced mobility and motor function. Conversely, they may be physically able to do these things, but the onset of dementia may be causing them to forget about these tasks.
Examples of activities of daily living include:
- Feeding oneself
- Bathing or showering
- Dressing in clean clothes
- Brushing teeth and performing other types of personal hygiene
- Using the toilet and cleaning oneself without help
- Remembering to take medication
These are often the first signs that your parent needs assistance in caring for themselves. How much assistance they need and who is going to provide that assistance is a conversation for your family, but you will likely start here with some of the more basic daily tasks for gauging your parent’s need.
Aging in Place
The phrase aging in place refers to arranging a plan that lets your parent choose to remain in their current home (or another location they choose), while living mostly independently. If your parents have expressed their desire to stay in their home as long as possible, then you’re going to need to work with them to make home suitable for their needs as they age.
There are many options available for assisting a parent in their desire to age in place. Some families choose to make physical modifications to their parent’s home to help them better care for themselves. The addition of handrails, extra lighting, and shelving placed at lower levels are examples of what makes your parent’s home more accessible as they age. Your family may also consider making a schedule to provide physical assistance to your parents. The schedule might include housekeeping, grocery shopping, taking trips to visit doctors and the like. You’ll want to be sure that you and your family can handle all of the physical, mental and medical needs of your parent as they’re making the choice to age in place.
If your family isn’t able to maintain a schedule of care, you may want to consider working with your medical care provider to find a home health care option that suits your family’s needs.
Defining Care Options for Seniors
There are two primary types of home care, although individual services in each type vary. If your parent specific medical diagnoses that require at home medical treatments or more advanced care, your family has the option of working with a Home Health Care service provider, which requires a doctor’s order. Home health care services bring skilled caregivers into the home to care for the senior in a more familiar environment. The services they provide may include:
- Nursing services
- Wound and injury care
- Various therapies (occupational, speech, physical)
- Infusion therapy
- Diabetic care
Whether it’s a function of a reduction in mobility or an advanced medical diagnosis, your parent may need additional supervision, companionship, or assistance in meeting the majority of their day to day needs. In these situations, a private duty nurse will help the senior function at home and ensure the individual doesn’t accidentally harm or injure themselves.
Common services provided by a private duty nursing provider may include:
- Ensuring medication is taken on time
- Preparing nutritious meals
- Assistance in performing personal hygiene
- Light housekeeping duties
- Helping the senior run errands
Helping Your Parent Focus on the Positive
As your parents age, they are going to face many personal challenges. You can help them by making the process of assisting your parent in aging in place very positive. The first step to helping your elder loved one is to determine their needs. As you observe them on a daily basis, take notice of what tasks they can do without help. This will help you determine how much help they will need, so you can be prepared to discuss any concerns with your loved one. The discussion should be an equal give and take, allowing your parent to express his or her feelings about accepting assistance. If you pay attention to their concerns, you’ll be better able to address them.
When you do sit down to talk with your parents, you should gather the family together. This is not meant to be a confrontation, but a supportive gathering of loved ones. Explain to your senior parent that you’re concerned about them. As you try to make them understand why you worry about them, explain that a home care provider will allow them to remain in their own home, but give them the assistance that they need. They will still have their freedom and remain in comfortable surroundings, but someone will be there to help them meet their needs.
Everyone wants to act in their parents best interests, but knowing what that is isn’t always easy to figure out. By exploring the home health care options available in your community, you may find an affordable solution that will be key to helping your family through this transition. These alternatives give families like yours a broader range of choice in caring for aging parents.