It’s a reality for most people that their parents are aging, and their health is beginning to deteriorate. Your parents are changing, and aging can be painful and difficult to watch, especially if things like dementia, diabetes or Alzheimer‘s play a role. It’s important to provide them with the support and care they need in a careful manner. You want them to uphold their dignity and feel in control of their lives. Here are effective ways to help your aging parents:
1. Be Respectful and Listen to Them
Being respectful is essential since they are your parents and will never want to be treated like kids. Even when their mental capacity is diminishing, you must ask permission to perform any task you want to help them with. Ensure you listen to their wishes. Do not take over and make choices for them even when they can. Allow them to lead and tell you what they want and how they want your assistance. While their choices might not be what you would want to do, it doesn’t matter if what they want is affordable and safe. Remember, it’s their life; they are only getting older.
2. Adapt to Their Home
There might be adjustments that should be made to make their environment suitable for them to live comfortably. This might include installing a walk-in shower or stairlift. There are several small changes that you can make in the home to help, like changing the lighting to brighter ones and making reading easy, purchasing large clock faces, adding a bannister, installing a ramp at the door, and lowering the kitchen counters. You might also want to talk to them about having a safety net, like installing an emergency button. You can also get them a wearable medical alert device.
3. Helping Them With Downsizing
A family house might not be ideal as your folks age, or maybe it’s too big for them. It would be nice to assist them find another house that fits their needs and preference, maybe an assisted living facility like riverviewretirement.org. Ensure you research all the available options and don’t make assumptions.
4. Get Involved in Their Healthcare
As the parents get old, their healthcare requirements tend to get more complicated. It’s important to take part in their health care and keep track of their treatments, medications, and appointments. Accompany them to doctor’s visits to make sure you understand their health complications and ask the questions you might have.
For instance, they might be having Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and they will need your help. However, look for opportunities that can let you personally look after them. Based on the state and other aspects, your parents can elect you to act as their home care provider.
5. Stay Connected
Staying connected and maintaining a strong relationship with your parents as they get old is important. Regular video chats, phone calls, and visitation will help you stay connected and get a chance to monitor their health. Schedule regular visits and calls to check in with them and provide support. Technology advancements have made it easier for people to stay connected even when they are geographically separated. Show your parents how to use Zoom and Facetime such that they can stay in touch.
6. Give Them Options
You might think you know what’s best for your parents. For instance, you have an additional bedroom and think it would be nice if they stayed with you. However, they might crave independence. Ask them open-ended equations and give them options to make them feel in control. Ask questions such as:
- How do you think we can resolve this problem?
- Could you like in-house care or to move to an assisted living facility?
- You seem frustrated. Can you tell me what is wrong?
- I am happy we had lunch together. Would you allow me to do the dishes for you as an appreciation?
When you ask such questions, you aren’t dictating what they need to do. Instead, you are allowing them to be in control of their care and create solutions they are comfortable with.
7. Be Patient
You must be patient with older people as these transformations are also new to them. You might suggest visiting and cooking for your parents at least four times a week, leaving leftovers for other days, and they might reject it.
If safety isn’t something to worry about with letting them continue making their meals, let them do it. Maybe after a few weeks, come back with the topic but use a different approach. Try this:
“I love spending quality time with you guys and have been contemplating the times we used to stay in the kitchen together. Is it ok if I come over and make some old recipes together?”
8. Allow Them to Do the Things They Can
Allowing aging individuals to perform duties like they’ve always done will assist them in feeling autonomous and confident. It’s vital to stay in your lane. It will be difficult for them to take you seriously about their hardships if you interfere in their issues. When they are allowed to perform tasks and make decisions on their own, it fosters a sense of purpose, autonomy, and empowerment.
As individuals age, they often face a series of losses, ranging from physical abilities to the passing of peers. Continuously stripping them of their autonomy can exacerbate feelings of helplessness and irrelevance. Maintaining their independence for as long as possible can slow cognitive decline and improve their overall quality of life. Embracing this perspective is not just about respect, but also about understanding the human need for self-determination and purpose, regardless of age.
It’s usual for parents to refuse help from their kids. Try to have this talk before they need instant help. If they are not ready for your help now, with time, they may change their minds. Another tactic is to ask other people to intervene. For example, you may ask your close relatives, siblings, or their doctors to talk to them. In some cases, hearing the need for extra help from another source will help your folks hear what is being said. This might encourage them to accept the help.