How to Look After an Aging Parent: A Guide

When you have one or both parents that are getting on in years, you might feel more concerned about their well-being. Reaching old age affects people both physically and mentally, and the things that once were easy can become more difficult. It can be hard to see a parent beginning to struggle with tasks and daily life due to age, and it can also be hard for the parent to experience losing their independence. If you have a parent that is in need of help due to age, this guide gives you some tips.

Have Regular Contact

One of the most important things you can do for your parent is to keep in touch and visit often. Most of us lead busy lives, but it is essential to maintain a strong connection so that your parent feels you are there to help in case anything goes awry. Even if you can’t physically be there when you want to be, a daily phone call just to make sure everything is ok gives you peace of mind and will give your parent reassurance that help is close by should they need it.

Helping With Chores

Taking over some of the household chores is another way you can help your aging parent live well in their later years. Heavy chores such as vacuuming, larger laundry items, or cleaning floors and windows can be difficult for older people who may have reduced movement in their joints or weak muscles. If you are not able to do these jobs yourself, consider hiring a helper to come once or twice per week. One important thing when hiring a helper is to do so with the input of your parent. After all, this person will be spending time in your parent’s home, so it needs to be someone they like and feel safe with.

Attending Social Events Will Benefit Them

Getting older can lead to people becoming isolated and feeling lonely, and this is a factor in depression for seniors. Encourage your parent to see their friends and attend social events in their community. It is well known that having a rich social life contributes to happiness, plus speaking to other people of similar ages means they often have shared experiences or concerns that they can talk about together. Engaging in conversation with different people helps maintain cognitive function and may help to slow down dementia.

Physical Health Is Just As Important

Physical activities are also important for older adults, and while a brisk walk might be out of the question for most, there are a variety of exercises that older people can enjoy. Physical exercise helps to keep the bodily systems working and is good for heart and lung health, as well as muscle strength.

Encourage Their Independence

Encourage independence where you can. If your parent has been used to looking after others all their lives, it can sometimes be difficult for them to accept help. Rather than dictating what they should be doing, allow them to make the decisions as long as they are capable of doing so. This can be difficult if you feel that your parent is not making the right decisions due to suffering from age-related dementia, and they might not always welcome your opinion or could even be aggressive, even though you have their best interests at heart. If you are having to deal with aggressive behaviour, then it is important to seek advice for tips on how to manage.

Planning For The Future

Making plans for the future is essential when caring for an elderly parent. While you might be managing between you now, their abilities are not likely to improve and will get worse as time goes on. Discuss with your parent what they would like to do in the future, whether it is moving into a home where they are supported by care staff, or whether they would prefer getting help at home. Finances are another factor to consider, as professional care can be expensive. It might be that your parent will need to sell their home to cover the cost of residential care, and again, this is something to discuss and agree upon between you. Older people can sometimes become confused about their finances, especially if they have dementia, and if you feel that your parents are not making the right decisions, you could apply for power of attorney. This will help protect your parent’s money and assets.

Remember To Look After Yourself

When you are looking after an aging parent, it is essential to make time for yourself. It can be stressful to be in the role of carer, especially if you are in full-time work or have children to care for too. You shouldn’t have to do everything on your own. If possible, ask for help from other family members, especially brothers or sisters if you have them. Another option is to look into respite homes, where staff can look after your parent for a week or two while you take a break.

It is never easy to watch your parent lose their physical or mental capabilities due to old age, but it is still possible to help them get enjoyment from life. Your parent has spent most of their lives looking after you, and naturally you want to do your best to care for them. Or, perhaps you have never had a great relationship with your parent, but now find yourself in position of carer and it brings up unresolved feelings that get you down. However strong the relationship with your parent, if you feel that the level of care you are having to provide is a burden because of the work involved, this can negatively affect your relationship and your own physical and mental health.

Looking after an aging parent can be an emotionally upheaving, so it is important to get all the help and support you can so you don’t feel as if you are doing it alone. When you have the right support, it takes the pressure off of you so you can enjoy the company of your parent, as well as caring for their needs.

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