Recently, a friend asked me to write an article about how to best care for aging parents.
I really didn’t have much personal experience in this area, but I knew many friends who did!
I had to call on some of these “experts” in the subject to assist me. They were gracious enough to do so. Today is Part One in a Two-Part Series. The second post will be shared tomorrow.
My first expert is Don Woodruff. He and his wife Debbie have cared for their aging parents and have some wonderful insights to share today. I believe you will gain great wisdom from what you read today.
30 Timely Tips to Better Care for Your Aging Parents (Part One)
1. KNOW THAT IT IS EXPENSIVE:
They have been independent and quite often want to maintain their independence. Of course, most of the time their houses are too big for them to keep up, so they usually move to a smaller apartment. The real expense comes when they have to move to an assisted living facility. These can cost as little as $4-5000.00 per month, but they ensure they take their medicines, maintain cleanliness, eat three meals a day and have medical help on site.
The costs can increase significantly as their needs increase. When they are living alone, it is good to get them an alert system that is monitored by a paid service and also gives them the ability to press a button when they fall or have other issues. It costs, but this is an important investment for their safety. There are some that can detect a fall without them even having to press a button.
2. KNOW THAT IT REQUIRES TIME:
They need to be checked on often to ensure they are taking their meds, throwing out expired food containers, not leaving food out for hours with plans to eat it later, maintaining personal hygiene, etc. They can also create hazardous situations by moving furniture, overloading electrical sockets, or not keeping a walker handy for moving around in their apartment. They aren’t that expensive so get them a walker with wheels that swivel, a seat, brakes, and a basket. It is important to check on them as often as possible. They may also have other needs such as providing them with a very simple and generic TV controller that only has buttons for On/Off/Volume/Channel.
3. YOU HAVE TO MAINTAIN A SENSE OF HUMOR (a necessity):
It can be very frustrating and sad to see them decline in physical abilities, ability to reason and lack of personal hygiene. One of the best ways to combat your disappointments is to learn to enjoy the funny things that happen, and there will be many opportunities to do this. You have to remember that they really want to do the right things, but have just lost their ability to do them.
4. YOU MUST ENSURE THEY TAKE THEIR MEDICINES:
When they are still living alone, you have to be sure they are taking their medicines. Day of the week pill holders can help some, but as they get confused, they will still skip or double up on their meds. Even though you fill the day compartments with the ones they are to take that day, you may find pills on the floor or multiple pills in the same day compartment and none in the next one. Rather than hitting the panic button and fussing, just correct the ones that are wrong and gently remind them of their mistakes (laughing as you tell them helps some).
5. BE SURE THEY EAT REGULARLY:
When they are in assisted living, this isn’t a problem, but when they are living alone it is something to be concerned about. It can help if you can create meals that can be microwaved, label them by day and stack them in the fridge. If possible, keep a calendar in the kitchen area with a marker handy to X out each day. But don’t get your hopes up, they can still get confused regarding the days of the week.
6. BE SURE THEY MAINTAIN CLEANLINESS (personal hygiene & living area):
They will often wear the same clothes for many days if you do not get them to change. They will also put clothes with urine or worse in the clothes hamper and hide them by covering them up with others clothes. You will need to check at least once a week (twice is better) and take their clothes home to wash them. Most of them will not dust their furniture, vacuüm their floors, wash their dishes, clean up spilled food, etc.
7. YOU’LL NEED TO TAKE THEM TO THEIR DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS:
You have to keep a list of their doctors and their appointments. You will need to go with them for their appointments because they will get confused and will not be able to tell you if there are changes to their medicines. You will also have to check them in at the doctor’s office, answer questions from the doctor or nurse, ensure they are dressed in clean clothes and answer any questions they have about the visit. You will also have to explain any changes in their medicines and refill their pill containers.
8. BE PREPARED TO CALL AN AMBULANCE AS NEEDED (and to spend time there):
Whenever they have issues (high fever, throwing up, falls, etc.), due to their frailty it is often better to ask for an ambulance than to try to transport them yourself. You also need to go with them to the ER so you can take care of their insurance information and answer questions from the medical staff. Be prepared to spend a long time there while the medical staff completes their procedures and moves them to a room.
9. KEEP INSURANCE INFORMATION HANDY:
This is extremely important because you never know when you will receive a call that something has happened, or you stop by to check on them and find them in distress of some kind.
10. BE PREPARED FOR MANY HOSPITAL VISITS:
When they are hospitalized, it is important to visit them often and talk to the nurses. Stop by the nurses’ station on the way to your visit and ask questions regarding their treatment. Developing good rapport with the nursing staff is essential – when you do, they will call you if there are concerns or questions, rather than relying on the patient. If they have swallowing issues, it is important to ensure the dietician knows it and prepares food that is appropriate. When you can, feed them yourself in order to see how well they can process the food.
11. LEARN TO BE TOLERANT:
We all want things our way and we don’t want to see them doing things their own way. You can tell them what to do all you want to, but they are still going to do what they want to do. Accept this as a fact of life and don’t take it personally. They are not being rebellious or defiant, they are just trying to do the best they can with their limited abilities.
12. DEVELOP AND INCREASE IN PATIENCE:
Due to their limitations, they are not going to be as responsive as you would like them to be. They will move slower, talk slower and respond slower. Make plans with consideration of their limitations. If it is a doctor’s appointment, add the necessary time to compensate for their slowness. There are times when they repeatedly ask you to repeat what you said – just repeat it knowing that it’s coming. At other times, they will repeat the same thing to you multiple times.
Don’t frustrate yourself and them by reminding them that they have already told you that earlier. Practice responding as if it is the first time you have heard it. Sometimes they will repeat the same thing many times on one visit and other times they will tell the same story each time you visit. This is where a sense of humor helps – guess at how long it will be before they tell you the same thing again.
13. REMEMBER TO ENCOURAGE THEM AND LIFT THEIR SPIRITS:
Their days can become very frustrating and gloomy as they realize how much they are limited in their physical and reasoning abilities. Plan ahead to encourage them on how well they are doing and think of anecdotes you can share with them to make them smile. Recalling funny things that have happened in the past can help them smile, laugh and even talk about them. If they tell you something funny you have heard many times before, laugh as if it is new to you.
14. ALLOW THEM TO RETAIN THEIR DIGNITY:
Remember they are still God’s people. They may need some advice or instructions, but they don’t need lecturing, scolding, or being talked to in a belittling way. When possible, do the things that need to be done (picking up, cleaning up, etc.) in as subtle of a way as you can. Don’t scold them like a little child whenever they have messy eating habits (just be glad they are eating). Things need to be done, but they need to feel your visit is to see them above everything else.
15. LEARN TO REALIZE WHAT’S IMPORTANT AND WHAT IS NOT:
You may get frustrated and disappointed with some things, but realize what is most important. Checking on their health and the conditions of their living area is important, but so is spending time with them. Repeating stories, getting mad or frustrated with you, sounding angry at you, spilling food is not as important. Don’t say, “You’ve already told me that.” Never forget that they are your parents and what the scriptures tell us about respecting our parents. Plan on making every visit enjoyable for them whether it is for you or not. You may find yourself letting out a big sigh of relief when you are leaving, but you should be able to say to yourself, “She or he enjoyed my visit.”
16. DON’T GET OFFENDED BY WHAT THEY SAY, JUST LET IT GO:
There are going to be times when they say something that offends and even ‘ticks’ you off. You know it’s going to happen and you know that if they were in good physical and mental health, they wouldn’t say the same things. They are in a stage of life where they have lost their filters and, therefore, must be treated differently. In many cases, they will speak and act like a child, so it is up to you to be an adult. You still have the ability to overlook the things they say and do, so overlook them. Getting mad is going to ruin the visit and upset you as well.
17. HAVE SOMEONE THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH:
You need to have a close friend or family member with whom you can share your frustrations with. You’ll find being a caretaker is a little easier whenever you can tell someone, “You’re not going to believe what happened today,” or “It was funny when I visited her and _____ (fill in the blank).” It is also important to have someone to talk to about your concerns and frustrations. Ideally, it would be great to have someone to assist in the caretaking requirements.
18. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
Caregiving can take its toll on the caregiver. You have to realize that even though you want to, you cannot do everything when it needs to be done. There are emergency situations that require immediate action, but you HAVE to make sure you have some ‘relax’ time for yourself. You need strength to keep on keeping on. Making decisions and attending to expected and unexpected needs can drain you and make you feel that you are neglecting other things related to the rest of your family.
You can only do so much, so don’t let guilt take control of you. Don’t forget to talk to God – Pray, Pray, Pray.
So, what about you?
Are you dealing with aging parent right now?
What tips and suggestions do you have?
I always enjoy hearing from you!
That’s it for Part One of this series.
Be sure to check out Part Two by clicking HERE.
Thanks, Don, for so many practical and helpful ideas! We really appreciate you sharing with us today! I believe many people will benefit from your experiences and your wisdom. We appreciate you!
Don Woodruff’s Bio:
Servant of the Lord, blogger, writer, bible teacher. Married to Debbie for 45 years. We enjoy sports of all kinds and love to play golf. We have two children and five grandchildren who keep us entertained and busy.
My blog is Bread For Believers (utvolwoody.wordpress.com) and has many devotionals (adding to them daily as God gives me what He wants to communicate).
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© Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.