It often begins with the little things that are barely noticeable for a time. You find your mom or dad has trouble reading the label on their prescription medications or has a struggle trying to rise from a soft chair. They may develop a more shuffling gait to accommodate stiff joints that refuse to move as fluidly as they once did. Hygiene may become more haphazard due to struggles with getting a bath or shower and bruising seems to be present on the arms and legs more frequently due to falling.
These are all signs that it is time for children to step in and offer assistance. Although this often causes conflicting emotions as parents and their offspring change roles, the health and happiness of our loved ones should always be a priority.
Environmental Adaptations that Really Help
Making small changes around a parent’s house can make every day activities much easier for them, and ease some of your concerns about them having an accident. The following is a list of helpful alterations that will make the home safer:
• Cover all steps leading into the house with ramps that are wide enough to accommodate either a wheelchair or a walker, even if the parent is not presently using one.
• If the home is on more than one level, consider the installation of a home stairlift to make moving from one floor to another safer for parents with mobility problems.
• Put up safety rails in the bathroom, beside beds, and in long hallways.
• Replace low, soft seats with firmer choices, and consider a lift chair for a parent with bad knees.
Evaluate Resources and Know Your Own Limitations
If parents are in need of full time care, a child’s first thought may be to quit work to provide for them. However, this decision needs to be considered carefully. The following questions may help with this decision:
• Will the loss of a salary be a major financial strain?
• Would it be more financially feasible to hire full-time or part-time help?
• Are there government services that could fill in some gaps, such as providing meals or offering occasional day care relief?
• Am I emotionally capable of dealing with the stress of caring for my parents long term?
• Would my parents be better served in a facility with proper equipment and a medically trained staff?
Traps to Avoid When Arranging Parental Care
Children have such a desire to make their parents’ last years as peaceful as possible that they often make mistakes out of genuine love and concern. The following traps are some of the most common and should be avoided if at all possible:
• Do not remove money from your own retirement income source to care for your parents.
• Do not neglect your own health issues while providing care for Mom or Dad.
• Once a care decision has been made, do not let guilt eat away at your self-esteem.
• Do not take the entire burden upon yourself; share with siblings, neighbors, and organizations set up to provide services for the elderly.
Because we honor our parents so much, it is especially difficult to make tough decisions about their care. Talking to other baby-boomers who have recently been through this experience can be extremely helpful. Consider finding a support group in your area to give emotional support during this time.
This guest contribution was submitted by Claire Bradshaw, who believes it’s important to help elderly parents to maintain their independence and mobility as long as possible. Claire writes for a site that offers practical advice about stairlifts for curved stairs, and has personal experience of balancing her work life whilst caring for an aging relative.