Caring for aging parents isn’t an easy task, but it can be really challenging when you live out of town and don’t see them on a constant basis. You may start out handling small things like paying bills or keeping track of important paperwork, but the role of a caregiver can change dramatically as your parents’ needs change.
- Get Organized – Whether it is in person, on a video chat, or over the phone, schedule time with your parents to determine what they need help with and develop a plan. For example, if your parents are having trouble remembering to pay bills on time, it may be time for you to take over their finances. If they are having trouble shopping for groceries and cooking, you may want to hire an in-home aide who can assist with tasks around the home. Write down a list of struggles that your parents are happening and help them devise a course of action that will work.
- Schedule an Extended Visit – Plan some time to spend with your parents so you can observe any challenges that may arise. Your parents may not be quick to accept help or may have trouble admitting that they need help. Your observations can shed some light on the type of support and help your parents require.
During your visit, evaluate your parent’s home for safety hazards. Is there clutter that can cause trips/falls? Are they hoarding? Is it dirty? Are dishes in easy to reach locations? Is the bathroom updated for safety? There are several things that can be done around the home to reduce the risk of potential dangers.
- Check-In Often and Ask Questions – Call your parents regularly to check-in. Ask questions that can provide information for you about their well-being. Listen for them to bring up topics of concerns like accidents in the home, forgetting medications and doctor appointments, driving issues, vision impairments, etc.
- Talk to Other Caregivers – If you have friends that are taking care of elderly parents, ask for tips. Find out what they are doing to care for their loved ones and what resources they utilize. Caregivers who have been actively caregiving for some time will have valuable information that can benefit you and your parents from the beginning.
- Use Resources Available to You – Adult caregiving isn’t usually a natural talent. It is a skill that is honed over time with experience and training. Check out local and online resources like American Red Cross for training and advice on caring for aging parents. Some of these trainings could be covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
- Hire In-Home Support – If your parents require more hands-on assistance, hire an in-home aid that can perform daily living tasks like running errands, driving your parents to appointments, help with medication management, personal care assistance with showering/dressing, meal preparation, and companionship. In-home support is a great alternative when you cannot provide the hands-on assistance yourself.
Your role as a caregiver is going to be unique to the needs of your parents. It is important to work closely with them to make sure that their needs are met and that they feel comfortable with the situation. Many aging adults do not want to lose their freedom and independence and may not feel comfortable with the idea right away. Give them some time to think and focus on the benefits that they will get out of having some additional support.