Caring for Aging Parents
Can you really be as productive and committed to your daily work routines, while you are also taking great care of every daily need of your elderly parents? Modern lifestyles and our various responsibilities demand so much from us as adults. Sometimes, when we get home, all we want to do is just collapse into a heap and rest, before we wake up and go through the cycle all over again. Now, imagine the responsibilities of 24-7 family caregivers. You never get a break, never get time for yourself, and have to sacrifice certain aspects of your personal life.
When it comes to elderly care, especially caring for elderly loved ones with medical conditions that are characteristic of old age, whether they may be Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or another disability or health condition, there are great expectations of us as our parents’ caregivers. Our parents spent several decades tending to our biopsychosocial and spiritual needs, and now it is our turn to do the same for them. Whether it is a question of availability, capacity, or lack of nursing training, sometimes we are just not the most qualified senior caregivers for our senior citizens. We may be unprepared to cope with some of the exasperating behavioral responses expressed by senior citizens, and unable to understand their expressions when they are slurring. We understand that we may be unable to understand their needs, may sometimes become so preoccupied with other priorities that we forgot to help them take their medication on time, or become so aggravated by their repetitive questions or behavioral outbursts that we lose our temper. We may not intend to and may later regret that we subject our aged parents to elder neglect and even abuse. What then? What is the alternative to ensure that your parents are happy and well taken care of, without you continuing to experience caregiver burnout and exhaustion? One of the most practical solutions is seeking the support of expert senior caregivers. Have you considered touring a local assisted living facility near you? While you consider whether it is the right time to help your elderly parent transition into an assisted living facility, you can consider companion care services or more clinical in-home care services provided by home care agencies.
When Is the Right Time to Consider Alternative Senior Care Options for Aging Parents?
Even with the best intentions at heart, taking care of your elderly parent can cause more long-term harm than good. Senior citizens may express erratic behavior, have trouble communicating their needs and desires, and even suffer from memory loss, requiring professional memory care services. They may not remember who you are. This does not only affect you as their primary caregiver, but it also inflicts substantial stress to the young ones in the family who often become fond of their seniors and cannot understand what is going on.
Elderly parents diagnosed with severe cases of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or another elderly physical or mental disability, may express a flurry of emotions that are motivated by fear, sadness, anger, and even frustration. Does your elderly adult experience boredom, senior isolation or loneliness, mobility limitations, the constant fear of death as their peers pass away, depression, a loss of control, impaired memory, a weaker immune system resulting in increased risk of diseases, or poor balance and flexibility resulting in increased falls? All these factors put senior citizens in a state of imbalance emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. You are more likely to find yourself on the receiving end of all their frustration, thus testing your limits until you do not have the nerve to do it anymore.
Living with such conditions also comes with great uncertainties about the future, and could lead to such elderly parents inflicting harm on themselves or even others unknowingly. Monitoring and managing such a senior is a full-time job that comes with an array of challenges, demands, pressures, and potentially family conflicts. Planning for an assisted living facility saves the entire family a great deal of stress and offers an ideal environment that seniors can thrive in.
When it comes to family affairs, the complications tend to progress and develop, if not resolved effectively and immediately. You may have felt like it was a blessing to care for your elderly parent initially, but it now seems like a burden that is causing you to sacrifice other aspects of your life. Was your elderly parent initially more independent and only needed support with financial planning or medication management, but is now struggling with taking proper care of their personal hygiene and other activities of daily living? Do you feel these increased burdens on your shoulders are affecting the healthy relationship you enjoyed with your parent, and are causing you to put your career or marriage on hold?
Helping Your Elderly Parents Transition into an Assisted Living Facility
Are you wondering what should you do if you can no longer care for your elderly parent? At first, considering the transition into an assisted living facility will be met with resistance from elderly parents who feel they are no longer cared about, are a great burden to their loved ones, are going to be abandoned, and will be left alone with strangers. To the rest of the family, there may be feelings of guilt for placing their loved one outside of their comfort zone. Your elderly loved one and family may not initially understand the various benefits to reap of assisted living facilities.
However, as is the case with most other families, your family and elderly adults may also come to realize that assisted living facilities may just be the best senior care option. Your elderly adult will be surrounded by other elderly adults, and will receive around-the-clock senior care from compassionate and experienced senior caregivers, as they continue to live as independently as possible. Your elderly loved one will receive support with medication management and will be served healthy nutritious meals that are medically approved as per their specific medical condition. The family will still be able to visit the elderly adult, and the senior citizen will be able to continue serving as an important member of their assisted living facility’s community and their community back home.
You will also need to check with the assisted living facility about any limitations of the personal belongings that your parent may bring along with them as they move. Their comfortable living space and personal possessions are attached to invaluable and irreplaceable memories that only they understand. As they transition into the assisted living facility, help them downsize so that they feel as though moving into an assisted living facility is like turning a new leaf or a new page in their life. You should also anticipate an adjustment period. View this new phase as though your parents are peeling off their layers and are discovering the lifestyle of their new home as they come to accept and understand the benefits of their assisted living facility.
Senior living establishments have a lot of variations depending on their level of specialization. You should implement a well-structured methodological method to single out the most suitable assisted living facility that can provide all-rounded care as would best match the needs of your elderly parent. Remember to engage your aged parents to partake in the decision-making process and consider their preferences, as after all it is your elder who will move. Assist your senior citizen with personalizing their living space at the assisted living facility. Ensure that the assisted living facility has a schedule full of entertaining residential recreational activities and excursions that interest them and will ensure they are actively engaged. Continue to visit your elderly loved one and call them often to check on them.
Emotionally Preparing Elderly Parents for the Transition into Assisted Living Facilities
Are you worried that your aging or elderly parent is missing doctor’s appointments? This may sound like a familiar situation where aging loved ones insist that they are healthy and do not require assistance with their daily chores, in spite of their struggles and difficulties. Instead of persistently demanding the elderly parents to avail themselves to caregivers or immediately move into a personal care home, you should strive to understand the kind of fear that is associated with old age. Consider asking your elderly loved one to share their concerns and fears, ask them to consider how assisted living facilities may be the best option so they may age in place in the case that their health condition progresses and they need extra support later on, and stand by your elderly parents during the good and bad times.
It is important you are calm and remain calm, even in the case that they respond emotionally or erratically. This will help them decrease their feelings of frustration, anger, and helplessness. Use motivational interviewing techniques to guide your elderly adult’s thought process and attitudes, as you discuss these difficult decisions. In essence, empathy and validation are the most important aspects to successfully support your elderly parent with considering alternative senior care options during this transitional senior stage.
Disclose Future Expectations to Aging Parents Before A Health Crisis Presents
Disclosing the truth about health-problems through conversations is a great way to prepare elderly parents for the possibilities of future health conditions. Discussing the future with senior citizens by asking them how they see themselves in the future helps to discover various possibilities about how they can comfortably continue leading their flexible and independent senior livelihoods. Consider initially seeking companion care at home to help your loved one feel more comfortable with aging in place while receiving support. Consider taking your elderly loved one on assisted living facility tours and connecting them with other senior residents of these facilities so they may better understand how they will better fit into and will belong as a member of the assisted living facility’s community.
You should also help address their concerns about lack of freedom, independence, strict schedule, and limited options. You should select an assisted living facility that greatly values the opportunities to engage elderly seniors to live as per their own choices, rather than according to strict schedules with limited options. By providing your aged parents with senior care options, you will help them feel at ease. If your elderly adult prefers to continue certain hobbies, such as walking through the parks, then reassure them about how the assisted living facility will promote their interests, rather than serve as mediums of restrictions.
Sometimes, as we age, we may lose control of our emotions. Your elderly adult may throw tantrums, yell, or walk-out of an uncomfortable situation. If your elderly parent refuses to attend a scheduled appointment at an assisted living facility, then this does not signify your opportunity to give up on them. Remain calm and patient, and help them become comfortable with the process at their own terms. You can always consider in-home care services in the meantime. Some seniors may also be more willing to understand if the advice comes from a trusted authority figure. Community leaders and experts, such as, physicians, priests, ministers, or even social workers can play a great part in convincing elderly parents about the advantages of expert senior caregiving services. Your aging parent’s healthcare professionals can help them understand that the therapies provided at assisted living facilities will help them live as independently as possible, as the caregivers support them with their chronic condition management.
Prioritize Problems and Concerns
By now you probably realize that dealing with elderly care is a two-way street procedure. If you have familiarized yourself with this truth, then it means that both parties should anticipate some types of challenges due to differing expectations. To most effectively address these problems, you will need to write down your problems in such a way that the most pressing and urgent concerns are prioritized. By considering the needs of all involved, you will be able to identify the best senior care option for your elderly. You will also be able to discuss concerns and identify solutions for such concerns. Once you can list and address these problems in order of priority, your elderly parent will be more likely to consider assisted living facility options. It is also important you anticipate their current medical therapy needs, and anticipate future needs. Ask the elderly adult’s healthcare provider about any anticipated healthcare conditions and needs, so that you may plan and prepare accordingly. It is also important you compare assisted living costs and your budget so that you may financially plan, and select the best assisted living facility that is most aligned with your financial and senior care needs and expectations.
Making Sure Your Elderly Parent is Comfortable in Assisted Living
As your elderly loved one transitions into the assisted living facility, it is important they consider the following recommendations:
• Ensure they read through all the literature provided, admission forms, terms and conditions, and welcome package, before moving into the assisted living facility.
• Meet the assisted living facility’s administrators, senior care staff, and other residents to gauge their attitudes, receptiveness, and to determine whether they would feel comfortable constantly surrounded by their new community members.
• Ensure that the assisted living facility is homey and not confining. It is important for your elderly parent to feel comfortable living long-term in their new room or apartment in the assisted living facility.
• All paperwork demanded by the facility should be scrutinized to ensure that nothing contradicts your preferences or oppresses your parent in any way.
• Request a list of all of the recommended essentials and permissible personal belongings that the elderly parent should and can bring to the assisted living facility. For example, if your elderly loved one would prefer to not live without their pet, then assure that you identify an assisted living facility that would enable your aged parent to relocate with their pet as their companion. If the assisted living facility does not allow elderly to bring pets, then consider whether the assisted living facility provides opportunities for pet therapy.
• Review policies that stipulate conditions that would lead to termination of admittance and ensure your parents grasp such policies.
• Ensure that all clothing items are labeled if laundry will be done collectively.
• Obtain a weekly activity schedule to find out which programs your aging parent would be most interested in so they may socialize and maintain an active and engaged life. Consider your assisted living facility as an all-inclusive luxury resort.
• Ensure that the assisted living facility has the trained caregivers to provide the services that your elderly adult may require.
The Do’s and Don’ts for Elderly Parents’ Transition into the Assisted Living Facility
• Guide your elderly loved one into systematically agreeing into considering and seeking assisted living services by helping them understand, on their own terms, that the expert senior care services will be for the greater good of themselves and their family. The opportunity to transition into an assisted living facility will allow your elderly parent to live more comfortably, make new friends, and enjoy their senior years as they age in place at an all-inclusive senior living residence.
• Be present throughout the entire phase of moving your aging parent so that you may help them feel more comfortable, and so they do not feel abandoned.
• Exercise a high level of tolerance and patience even when your beloved senior expresses negative behavioral responses and is reluctant towards moving into an assisted living facility.
• Call frequently and visit your elderly parent during the initial stage of their move and throughout their move. Ensure that your aged loved one continues to feel like they are important members of their assisted living facility, and their community back home.
• Be attentive to the words they say, the expressions they feel, and their needs and requirements that they share.
• Be positive. Any form of negativity regarding their transition could make them change their mind abruptly.
• Do not let your aged parent feel like you are deciding for them.
• Do not make promises that you cannot uphold.
• Do not be critical about their decisions.
• Do not immediately sell their residential home or personal belongings.
• Do not focus the reason for the transition on the fact that you do not want to or no longer can care for your elderly parent.
Bottom Line: When You Cannot or Do Not Want to Continue Caring for Elderly Parents
Caring for aging parents can become an impossible task. When you feel you are at a point that you can no longer do it all alone, consider senior living for your elderly parent. Assisted living facilities were once quite stigmatized and recognized as institutional facilities for abandoned seniors. With great technological advancements and the increased importance of personalized compassionate senior care services, assisted living facilities have transformed during the modern golden age of technological advancements. Thus, the chronic care management, medication management, administration of activities of daily living, and support with instrumental activities of daily living is prompt and facilitated around-the-clock by trained professionals who can monitor and interpret medical symptoms as they arise. Such assisted living facilities are also regulated by federal and state laws to ensure that your loved ones do not suffer any abuse or neglect. It is normal for elderly parents to have a conservative way of thinking, and hence will try to avoid assisted living facilities. However, by understanding their needs and concerns, you can identify the assisted living facility that would best cater to their current and future needs so they may age in place in a loving and nurturing environment.
About the Author:
"Caring for Elderly or Aging Parents" is authored by Anisha Rao, MPP, Healthcare Consultant, Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Healthcare Professional. Anisha holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Health Administration and Public Policy, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and a Minor in Management of Aging Services. Anisha has extensive experience in Healthcare Services and Aging issues, including dementia care, assisted living, senior health, and nursing home care. Anisha is passionate about ensuring seniors receive the best care possible and empowering seniors to become more involved in their care planning decisions.