Aging Family Providing Elderly Care For Aging Parents Or Family Members

Becoming a caregiver for aging parents or another aging family member can be a stressful experience. By accessing useful information, resources and support for senior care, you can help alleviate some of that stress and make the elderly care process a smooth one.

Assess the Elderly Care Situation

Before taking any action as a caregiver, it’s important to undergo an assessment period, where you determine your aging family member’s current needs and develop a senior care plan. Evaluating his medical needs, financial status and independence level can help you tailor the elderly care plan to the most appropriate assistance level.

When assessing your aging family member, keep an eye out for these warning signs that may indicate she needs additional care:

  • Altered eating habits resulting in weight loss
  • Changed relationship patterns
  • Decreased participation in social or spiritual activities
  • Increased physical problems
  • Mishandled finances
  • Missed doctor’s appointments
  • Neglected home maintenance
  • Neglected personal hygiene.

If you are unsure how to evaluate your aging family member or are attempting to provide long-distance senior care, hiring a geriatric care manager may be a good idea. These professionals assist with developing senior care plans and obtaining the appropriate services to care for elderly individuals. A searchable national directory is available on the website for the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

State-funded agencies, such as your local Area Agency on Aging, can also provide resources and advice.

Ensure Aging Family Member’s Home Safety

For most aging family members, staying in their home as long as possible is the ideal scenario. While this may be appropriate for many people, it is important to minimize the potential for accidents (and promote ongoing independence) by making some home modifications.

Home modifications range from substantial remodeling–such as widening the doorways to allow wheelchair accessibility and installing a walk-in shower to prevent falls–to small additions, such as installing hand rails and grab bars throughout the home. Almost every room in the house can benefit from safety modifications.

Other suggestions for room modifications include:

  • Adding a raised toilet seat
  • Eliminating slippery surfaces by utilizing non-slip mats or rugs
  • Installing ample lighting (especially on staircases and near entryways)
  • Installing smoke alarms
  • Lowering cupboard heights
  • Placing a telephone next to the bed.

All of these precautions can increase the safety of your aging family member’s home.

Get Legal, Financial and Medical Affairs in Order

Planning ahead is important. In addition to caring for the current needs of your aging parents or other aging family member, you’ll want to begin organizing the information and documents necessary in case your loved one needs greater assistance from you in the future. Take these steps to gather the necessary information:

1.    Start by learning your aging family member’s Social Security Number, birth date and birth place, along with the location of his education and military records.

2.    Familiarize yourself with his monthly bills (the amount, due date and how they are paid), and utilize automatic withdrawal for these whenever possible.

3.    Learn about any insurance policies, bank accounts, taxes and sources of income to help you better manage his money later, should the need arise.

4.    Obtain the names and contact information for his physicians, accountants, financial advisors and lawyers.

5.    Know the medications he currently takes and even accompany him to the doctor’s office so you can acquaint yourself with this important person in the elderly care team.

6.    Work with your aging family member to draft important legal documents, such as a will and a power of attorney.

Health-specific documents, such as a living will (specifies what life-extending provisions can be used) and a healthcare durable power of attorney (designates an individual to make health care decisions) should also be discussed.

Enlist Other Caregivers to Care for Elderly Family

What may perhaps be the biggest–and most unexpected–challenge of your elderly care experience is your own frustration and fatigue. Burnout is a common occurrence among caregivers, but it can be combated. To beat burnout, however, it’s essential to share some of the responsibility of elderly care with others.

Even if your aging parents don’t need assisted living services, you can still utilize professional help during the day through adult day care. This type of care for elderly individuals provides an opportunity for them to socialize, eat a nutritious meal and receive some health and wellness services. Different programs vary, but most have participants attending several hours per day, up to five days per week.

Respite care provides another outlet for caregivers who need some extra help. Offering a break from the usual caregiving routine, respite care can take many different forms and can last from one day to several weeks at a time. Home respite care–where a senior care professional comes into the home to help with cooking, socializing and personal activities–is common, as are overnight or weekend stays in a licensed nursing facility designed to provide care for elderly people.

Don’t forget to utilize your biggest asset–your friends and family. Building a network of loving volunteers can ease the stress of providing elderly care. Based on their availability, these people can help either on a regular basis or in an emergency. They can also provide a range of support, from doing specific tasks–such as cooking and driving to appointments–to offering socialization and emotional support.