Did you think once you got your kids off on their own, your caregiving duties were behind you? I sure did, until my parents and in laws reached 75 years old. I started caring for my aging parents when turned 75, and it can be tough. The following tips are what I wish I knew then, and hopefully can help you.
It took me two medical emergencies to fully grasp that the tables were turned. So be prepared for parenting your own parents, and dealing with “children” or child-like behaviors. Warning signs that provide a clue to get more involved are, memory problems, poor decision making skills, and drastic personality changes.
Changes in personality can include excess shopping, hoarding items, excessive eating or sleeping. These can all be signs of depression or a deeper emotional need that is not being fulfilled. Many times, older adults that have retired and lost their purpose don’t even realize they are depressed or lacking purpose.
Speaking with your parents early on and knowing their lifestyle will help you determine if their priorities have changed recently. If you don’t live in the same city or state, make sure to keep in touch via Zoom or regular phone calls. Being on top of their leisure time and habits is important to keep seniors on top of their health and needing any extra care.
Communication also includes knowing your parents’ close friends, neighbors and other people who can provide support in a crisis. My family keeps a binder with all medications, doctor appointments, and lab results handy. This way, anyone can easily access medical information in an emergency. I wish I had a binder when I had to call the fire department for my father. One of the first questions asked is, “What medications is he taking?” That binder would have been handy.
Empathy and Patience
Above all the most important aspect of caring for your aging parent is having a great deal of patience and tons of empathy. You might be dealing with toileting issues, memory loss, or just plain denial of reality with your parents. They are the child, and they will act like it!
Remembering to speak calmly, with simple words, and repeating items is often helpful. Having extra help is also going to make your job and the decisions you make easier on everyone. Support groups are easily found in most cities, so check them out if you need someone to lean on.
Above all, know that you will be in a similar situation at some time down the road. Kindness goes a long way and is always remembered.