Studies show 17% of adult children will care for their parents at some point in their lives, and the likelihood of doing so rises with age. While caring for elderly parents can be very rewarding, it’s also one of the most difficult and stressful jobs you’ll ever have. In fact, adult child caregivers frequently experience burnout, or even worse, serious health problems.
Avoiding these issues starts with being well-informed and preparing for what’s involved in caring for elderly parents. Wondering exactly how to care for an aging parent? This blog provides an overview of everything you need to get started.
Be Realistic About How Much Care Your Parent Needs
Keeping your aging parent safe and comfortable starts with understanding just how much care they require. One of the best ways to do this is by creating lists of how much help they need throughout the course of an average day. You can compile these lists for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks for a better idea of what caring for your aging parent will look like in the long run.
Understand Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)
As a caregiver, it’s crucial for you to understand activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). This is because they play a key role in assessing the amount of care your aging parent needs. ADLs include:
- Functional mobility
- Personal hygiene
While they’re slightly less fundamental than ADLs, IADLs have a significant impact on your loved one’s independence level. In most cases, an aging parent will require help with IADLs before ADLs, but this isn’t always true. Instrumental ADLs include:
- Maintaining the home
- Preparing meals
- Shopping for necessities
- Paying bills
- Running errands
- Taking medications
Acknowledge and Embrace Your Limitations as a Caregiver
Caring for elderly parents can be emotionally, mentally, and physically draining. And many caretakers place their own health and needs on the back burner to focus solely on their aging parent. You may feel guilty or inadequate at times and not want to admit that you cannot properly meet all of your parent’s needs. However, it’s vitally important to take a step back and give yourself a break.
Take Care of Yourself to Avoid Caregiver Burnout
If you’re currently taking care of an aging parent, you’ve probably heard of — or even experienced — caregiver burnout. Caring for elderly parents is often hard, thankless work that’s taken for granted by those around you. Here are a few of the cardinal symptoms of caregiver burnout:
- Appetite changes
All of these symptoms have a negative impact on your health, and you can’t provide the highest levels of care if you’re not at your best. You can counteract caregiver burnout by taking good care of your physical and mental health and giving yourself credit for all you do for your aging parent.
Ask for and Accept Help From Your Support System
Acknowledging and embracing your limitations as a caregiver goes hand-in-hand with accepting help from others. If you’re taking care of an aging parent, ask your siblings and other close relatives to pitch in and lend a helping hand.
Every family is different, and you may have disagreements about caregiving responsibilities. However, as the primary caregiver, it’s important that those around you support you and respect your choices. Here are a few other ways you can seek help from your support network and local community:
- Enroll your parent in an active adult day program
- Sign up for meal delivery services
- Find a volunteer senior companion program
- Ask friends and family to help with basic household chores
Hire Professional Caregivers if Necessary
If your aging parent’s needs become too much to handle, you may want to look into professional caregiving services. If you’d like to retain some of your caregiving responsibilities, part-time/respite caregivers can provide much-needed time off.
Actively Involve Your Parent in Their Care Plan
It’s extremely important to prepare yourself for your aging parent’s reaction to losing some of their independence and autonomy. Acknowledging they need help — let alone asking for it — can be extremely difficult for seniors. Some may feel they’re becoming a burden on their loved ones, while others may feel they’re being taken advantage of by those closest to them.
Regardless of how your aging parent reacts to you stepping in as their caregiver, it’s crucial to listen to them. Take their concerns and opinions seriously, and make sure you understand their priorities before making decisions. Rather than telling them what to do (or doing things for them), give them choices and, when possible, let them complete tasks on their own. Provide supervision and a helping hand, but let them take the lead to keep their functional abilities on-point.
Helping Your Aging Parents Retain Independence
There are a variety of ways you can help your aging parents retain as much of their independence as possible. Look into medical alert systems and assistive devices, like medication organizers and mobility aids. You can also make a variety of home modifications, like adding chairlifts, wheelchair ramps, or grab bars. Consider meeting with an occupational therapist to look into all of your options for keeping aging parents independent.
Seek Financial Support for Eligible Caregiving Expenses
Many people are unaware of the financial resources that are available to adult children who care for aging parents. However, there are a variety of paths you can pursue to defray some of your costs. And reducing the financial burdens of caregiving can decrease your overall feelings of stress and anxiety.
Here are just a few ways you can lower the costs associated with caring for aging parents:
- Look into discounted prescription drugs
- Get paid to be a caretaker
- Spend down to qualify for Medicaid
- Claim your parent as a dependent and/or deduct their medical expenses
Make sure you check out every potential program or benefit that your aging parent might be eligible for. Get started by looking into Benefits.gov, BenefitsCheckup.org, and your local Area Agency on Aging.
Get Paid to Be a Caregiver
While eligibility varies by state, you may also be able to receive compensation for your caregiving services. Many variables affect whether you qualify, including your location, veteran status, and income. The majority of adult children receive pay through the following Medicaid programs:
- Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Waivers or 1915(c) Waivers
- Medicaid Personal Care Services (Medicaid State Plans)
- Medicaid Child Caregiver Exemptions
- Adult Foster Care
- Long-term care insurance
- State-based, non-Medicaid programs
- Life insurance
- Paid family leave laws
- Tax deductions and/or credits