Returning the Favor: How to Provide the Best Care for Aging Parents

There’s an old saying that goes, “You’re an adult once and a child twice.” When you were a child, you depended on your parents for everything. They fed you, clothed you, taught you about life, and did their best to make sure you felt loved. As you transitioned into adulthood, you grew less and less dependent on them and now, bless you, you may be at the point where you’ve actually gotten the hang of this whole adulting thing.

For your parents, it may be just the opposite. As people grow older, physical and mental ailments start to manifest themselves. They find that they simply can’t do the things they used to anymore. As they age even further, they may find that caring for themselves on their own simply becomes impossible. To their sorrow, the old saying is proven true.

As they grow older, your parents are going to rely on you more and more to help them. Eager as you may be to help, caring for a senior adult can be even more challenging than caring for a newborn. You need to be prepared for the hardship to come and we’ll explore some of the most critical preparations you need to make below.

Choose the Location for Care

Where your parents stay once they reach senior age will play a huge role in how you’ll care for them. There are essentially three options you have, each with their own pros and cons:

Care in Their Own Homes

Allowing your parents to remain in the home they’ve lived in is the least intrusive location for care. It gives them a sense of familiarity and comfort. This can help keep depression at bay and help to lessen the effects of memory loss. However, it also means you have to split your time between their home and yours, which can be strenuous for your children and partner. Your parent’s home may also require extensive renovations to accommodate their new condition.

Care in Your Home

Moving your parents in with you has many of the same benefits of keeping them in their home. In addition, they’re constantly surrounded by family which can help them feel less lonely and neglected. However, it can increase tensions between family members and may require extensive lifestyle changes on your part.

Care in a Dedicated Facility

Whether you call it a retirement home or nursing home, the result is the same. Moving your parent into a dedicated care facility is by far the most effective way to ensure they get the care they need. You have the advantage of a dedicated staff of trained professionals, plus facilities that are designed to accommodate the elderly. However, this can lead to accelerated mental deterioration and increased feelings of loneliness or abandonment for your parent. Additionally, this will more than likely be the most expensive option you can choose.

Determine If You Need to Hire a Caregiver

Depending on your own lifestyle and your parent’s condition, you may be able to handle caring for them by yourself, or you may need some outside help. Before you can determine if you need to bring in someone to assist you, consider the following:

  • What’s the condition of your parent(s)’s health?
  • How much time can you actually devote to caring for them?
  • How confident are you in your own abilities?
  • What will the cost of care be?

What Health Issues is Your Parent Dealing With?

If your parent is mostly dealing with physical problems, but their mind is still sharp, you may be able to get by caring for them on your own. If they’re still mentally capable, your parents won’t be as resistant to the care you provide. If all they need is help with is moving around or bathing, but you can trust them not to fall or become aggressive, you can most likely handle things on your own.

However, the more their mental state deteriorates, the more help you’re going to need. Elderly persons suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other neurological disease can quickly grow irritable, upset, and even aggressive. It takes experience and training to deal with these conditions.

How Much Time Can You Devote to Their Care?

Caring for a person is not a part-time gig, especially if they have extensive issues. If your job and lifestyle don’t allow you to give your parent the care they deserve, don’t try to go it alone. You’ll only be doing both your parent and yourself a disservice.

Are You Confident in Your Own Abilities to Provide Care?

Whether your parent suffers from simple ailments or has extensive medical conditions, if you aren’t comfortable providing what they need, you need to bring in an expert. Common tasks you may need to perform include bathing, feeding, administering medication, and dressing them. They sound simple enough, but if you’re dealing with an aggressive person who actively resists you, you could end up hurting them or getting hurt yourself.

What Will the Cost Be?

No matter what option you choose, adult-caregiving is an expensive undertaking. A report by NPR revealed that for women who opt to quit their jobs to provide in-home care, lost wages averaged about $143,000 over five years. The report also revealed that hiring an in-home care provider costs about $21,000 a year, making it overall cheaper than if you quit your job. You’ll need to analyze your finances carefully, and ensure you understand how to manage your caregiver’s pay if you opt to go that route.

Making the Right Decision

Sadly, there’s no magic formula I can give you to answer your question. How you choose to provide care to your elderly parent is a very personal decision, based on your unique circumstances. What I can tell you is that whatever you choose to do, know that your parent doesn’t expect you to give them the world. They love you, and what they care about most is your happiness, even at the cost of their own. That’s what being a parent is all about.

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