It’s something most of us will have to face in our lives—knowing what to do as our parents get older and begin to deteriorate in physical or mental health. There may eventually come a time when you need to decide whether assisted living is the best option, but until that day comes, what can you do to aid your aging loved ones with everyday tasks without taking away their sense of independence?
According to AgingCare.com, the hardest part for most seniors is actually coming to terms with the fact that they need help. This is because in doing so they are acknowledging their limitations and essentially accepting that life as they know it is coming to an end. The website gives the following tips for handling this delicate transition without taking over completely:
1. Let them take the lead
If possible, do the tasks alongside your parent rather than doing it for them. While this approach might take longer than doing it yourself, you allow your mom or dad to retain some self-esteem by letting her or him take the lead.
2. Ask what they need help with
Let your parent tell you what aspects of a particular activity they need your help with, and if possible, try to limit your assistance to just those things, at least for now. Of course, if your parent doesn’t have a realistic picture of what they can do for themselves, you will need to gently find a way to help them see your perspective.
3. Be respectful
Ask permission before you just jump in. For example, when you take your parent to a doctor’s appointment, don’t assume that they want you to come into the exam room with them. Instead, ask them if they’d like you to be there the whole time, or if you can be called in toward the end of the visit to make sure that YOUR questions are answered.
4. Set up invisible safety nets
For example, if you come every Sunday and set up your mom or dad’s medications, you can have some expectation that she or he will take the correct medications at the right time. But it wouldn’t hurt to also have a way of checking that once or twice during the week with a visit from a trusted friend or relative, or through daily medication reminder phone calls from you.
5. Ensure safety
Make a distinction between safety and everything else. When your parent’s safety is on the line, you might just have to take charge by taking over. On the other hand, if you’d just prefer that something be done a certain way or at a certain time, there might be an opportunity to loosen the grip a bit
While these tips are great for assisting aging parents who may just be entering the next phase in their lives, it is important to look out for warning signs that could indicate it is time for more comprehensive supervision or assisted living. Aging parents often keep secrets from their children to avoid being a burden or entering a more dependent stage in life. According to AgingCare.com, the 10 most common secrets elderly parents keep are: falls, pain, dizziness, auto accidents or driving infractions, money shortages, frivolous purchasing, gambling, financial abuse, elder abuse by family members, neighbors or paid caregivers, and alcohol or drug abuse.
If you notice any of these signs happening with your aging parents, it is time to have an open, honest conversation with them about your concerns.