Caring For Elderly Parents – Everything You Need To Know

Caring for Elderly Parents – Everything You Need to Know

The aging population is on the rise in the United States, which means there is a growing demand for senior care services and caregivers.

Our parents cared for us when we were younger. When they age, however, the role of caregiver and dependent can reverse. Thousands of adult children across the country are now assuming caregiving roles for their aging parents. The adjustment can be difficult for all parties involved.

One way to make the transition smoother is to know more about what caring for elderly parents entails.

What Type of Care Does My Elderly Parent Need?

Caregiving and senior care will look different for every family; it all depends on the level of care the senior in question needs. One of the best ways to determine how much assistance a senior needs is to determine how much help they need with activities of daily living.

Activities of Daily Living

Activities of daily living, or ADLs, are activities that people need to complete on a daily basis. When discussing ADLs, most people are referring to physical, or “basic,” ADLs. The six basic ADLs are

  1. Ambulating – moving about
  2. Feeding – feeding one’s self
  3. Dressing – selecting outfits and putting them on
  4. Personal hygiene – performing basic hygienic tasks
  5. Continence – holding off urination or bowel movements until a toilet is available
  6. Toileting – using the toilet

There are also instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), which are activities that require complex thinking. They are key to determining the level of care individuals need and can help experts identify if someone has a condition like dementia. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) identifies 12 IADLs:

  1. Care of others
  2. Care of pets
  3. Child rearing
  4. Communication management
  5. Driving and community mobility
  6. Financial management
  7. Health management and maintenance
  8. Home establishment and management
  9. Meal prep and cleanup
  10. Religious and spiritual activities and expression
  11. Safety and emergency maintenance
  12. Shopping

People who need help with ADLs require more extensive care than those who do not; if someone needs lots of help with ADLs, it’s a sign that they should no longer live alone.

Types of Senior Care

There are plenty of senior care options and living arrangements available to fit the needs of every senior and their family. Popular options include the following:

  • Adult day care – Adult day care offers effectively the same service as day care services for children. This option is great for families who work during the day and need someone to watch their loved ones while they are away.
  • Independent living – Independent living communities are for active seniors who want to live in a community surrounded by other people in their age group. The defining feature of these locations is that their residents need little to no help with ADLs.
  • Assisted living – Assisted living communities are senior care facilities that provide assistance with ADLs.
  • Memory care – Memory care centers are specially designed for residents with memory issues, such as those caused by Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Memory care centers can be specialized facilities or they can be units housed within an assisted living facility.
  • Skilled nursing facility (SNFs) – SNFs are the new technical term for nursing homes. They provide around-the-clock medical care to their residents.
  • At-home care – As the name implies, this option refers to help seniors can receive within the comfort of their own home. It may be as simple as someone coming over to clean and do laundry for the older person or it may be as demanding as having a licensed nurse come to the senior’s home to help them with medication management.

Ask Yourself

Not sure which senior care services are right for your aging loved one? Asking yourself the following questions may help you decide:

  • Do they need help with ADLs and/or IADLs?
  • Do they have a documented history of falls?
  • What sort of health issues do they have?
  • Do they have a condition like Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia?
  • How much money do they have?
  • Do they require long-term care or just short-term rehabilitation services?

Tips for Seniors Living Alone

Many older adults don’t want to sacrifice their independence and leave their homes. Fortunately, many seniors can safely live within their own homes, so long as they and their caregivers make a few adjustments.

Safety should be everyone’s primary concern. Ways to make a space safer for older adults include:

  • Installing grab bars to restrooms
  • Adding chairs and handheld showerheads to showers
  • Installing handrails or a stairlift system to any stairs
  • Updating fire alarms
  • Removing gas stoves, if possible
  • Removing potential walkway obstacles, such as clutter and electrical wires
  • Investing in a medical alert system
  • Investing in a home security system
  • Updating their phone contacts

Tips for Elderly Parents Living with You

Besides following the safety tips above, there are plenty of other ways to prepare for an older relative moving into your home. First and foremost, communicating with the senior in question is key. This way, everyone will be on the same page.

Conversations with your older relative should include setting boundaries and discussing finances. Boundaries are important so no one has unrealistic expectations, which can diffuse tension in tough situations. Finances are necessary to discuss so that everyone knows how to pay for any healthcare expenses or other senior care services.

When discussing finances, be sure to discuss establishing a power of attorney. No one likes to think about becoming incapacitated. Unfortunately, not preparing for this scenario can make a bad situation even worse; preparing for the worst can save loved ones mental, legal, and financial worries down the line.

What to Do When Caring Becomes Tough

More and more people in the United States are assuming primary caregiving responsibilities, which means more and more people are understanding just how tough caregiving can really be.

If you’re struggling with caregiving, know that you aren’t alone and aren’t weak. Caregiving is hard. How hard, exactly? According to the CDC, unpaid primary caregivers face a higher risk of:

  • Mental health problems
  • Compromised immune systems
  • Early death

Clearly, caregiving burnout is no joke, which means it’s important for caregivers to know how to take care of their own health and well-being.

Ways to Combat Caregiver Burnout

Blue graphic detailing ways to beat caregiving burnout

You care for other people; just don’t neglect yourself in the process. Ways to combat caregiver burnout include:

  • Respite care
  • Support groups
  • Practicing self-care

How Much Does It Cost to Take Care of Elderly Parents?

Caring for family members isn’t just taxing emotionally and physically, but financially too. Experts estimate that families in the United States spend nearly $7,000 annually on caregiving expenses for their aging relatives.

Finding Help

You don’t have to care for your loved ones alone. There is plenty of help available out there, no matter what sort of care your aging loved one needs.

Professional Caregivers and Home Care Services

Family caregiving can only go so far in some cases. That’s where professional caregivers can help. Types of professional caregivers and services include:

  • Geriatric care managers, registered nurses or social workers who can help manage all aspects of senior care
  • Adult day care services
  • In-home care services
  • Meal delivery services, such as Meals on Wheels

You can find these services in your area by using the US Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator or by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging.

Medical Care

Healthcare prices are rising. Knowing where to look for financial assistance can mean the difference between a senior living comfortably in retirement and struggling financially.

Healthcare programs for seniors that offer financial assistance include:

AARP also offers a resource guide that details financial assistance programs specific to each state.

Elder Law Attorney

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys has a directory of licensed professionals located across the nation.

Caregiver Support and Resources

Senior Living Arrangements

Sometimes an aging relative has to move into a senior living community. While this process can be frustrating, actually finding the right location for your older loved one doesn’t have to be difficult. You can check our directory to discover senior care communities across the country that will give your loved one the care they need with the respect they deserve.