People today are living longer. Thanks to advancements in medicine, individuals can expect to live well into their 80s or 90s. While this is a blessing in many ways, it can also become a burden on relatives. If your parents are still alive and well — for now — you may be concerned about how to best take care of them.
The first step is understanding their current needs and recognizing that these needs will likely change in the coming years. Driving and living on their own may not be realistic as they get older. Making a plan with your parents now is a good way to keep them involved and learn their ideal scenario for their remaining years. Embracing the three tips below will help ensure you’re taking good care of your aging parents.
1. Encourage a Social Life
Retirement can be bliss, but it can also be lonely. If your parents were used to leaving the house for work, staying home can be a life-altering experience. They may feel as if their life is now purposeless without a place to go to each day. Or they may quickly become bored, as they don’t know how to fill their time. This is why encouraging them to have a social life is so important.
Now, your parents’ social life doesn’t have to mimic yours, but it should be filled with consistent interactions with friends and neighbors. You can suggest a day each week for your parents to eat out with another couple. Alternatively, find a community group through a local library or church where regular in-person meetings are held. If in-person interactions aren’t possible, make sure they have scheduled phone chats with their friends.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities tend to foster social engagements through daily activities and regular communal dining hours. Your parents may welcome the chance to meet new friends at this stage of their life. However, sending your parents to one of these facilities can be an emotional decision for both them and you.
2. Emphasize Their Physical and Mental Well-Being
Everyone should prioritize their health and wellness, but it’s especially important for those in the elderly population. Individuals who take care of their health are less likely to catch a cold or the flu, which can escalate quickly in this demographic.
Proper nutrition, rest, and exercise can decrease your parents’ risk of contracting diabetes, cancer, or Alzheimer’s disease. Chances are they know someone with one of these diseases, so reminding them may just prompt them to focus on their own health.
There’s a difference, though, between suggesting they attend to their diet and exercise and stocking their fridge with nothing but celery juice! Start slowly, and know that each healthy habit will lead to the next. To begin, suggest going for a walk whenever you visit or do a Zoom stretching or yoga class together. If you cook, bring over a nutritious, plant-rich dinner such as a hearty chili or stew that will keep them full and satisfied.
Mental health is also a huge aspect of an individual’s well-being and shouldn’t be ignored. You may be the first to notice if your parents seem down or not like their normal selves. Seek a calm moment to have a conversation and encourage them to open up about how they’re feeling. You may also want to encourage mindfulness practices by downloading a meditation app onto their phone. And make sure they continue to pursue their favorite activities, such as card-playing or reading, to keep their brain engaged.
If you’re worried about elder abuse, a nursing home abuse lawyer can advise you on the potential signs. Do your research before sending your parents to a facility and ask for recommendations from others before making a decision.
3. Help Schedule Their Appointments
Lastly, you can be a supportive child by ensuring your parents are keeping up with all of their appointments. Taking on this task can make a big difference and lessen the administrative burden for them. Internists, cardiologists, physical therapists, dentists, optometrists, and dermatologists, just to name a few, all make for a packed schedule. In addition, there are other scheduled needs such as haircuts and car maintenance visits to keep track of.
To reduce the chances of a missed appointment, record when their last visit was and when they need to return for a checkup. Some appointments, such as physical therapy, may happen more frequently than, say, dental cleanings. Fortunately, there are scheduling apps that can take the hassle out of remembering when your mom last saw her optometrist. These caregiving apps can help you stay organized and may be able to provide additional support and recommendations.
Having a master calendar in their home can also help your parents feel more control of their day-to-day lives. Once you schedule something, be sure to let your parents know or write it down for them. If they are tech-savvy, send a calendar invite to their email or phone. Setting a reminder notification a day ahead of time can be an act of kindness as well. And if something slips, just remember that everyone misses something and try not to get frustrated over it.
Being a caregiver to your aging parents is a lot of work, to put it mildly. You can only take care of them if you take care of yourself, so don’t feel obligated to do everything alone. Reach out to other family members, neighbors, and friends to help lighten your load. Outside facilities specializing in elderly care are always options, too. Together, all these acts of support and love will go far in making your parents feel well cared for.