Helping Aging Parents: Expect what you least expect
Life is truly amazing. Who of us in our 20s and 30s ever imagined that we would one day return the favor that our parent(s) gave us in preparing for life as they prepare for the other side. When helping aging parents, and thinking back to your own childhood, the similarities and sacrifices are distinct as the stroller eventually becomes a wheelchair and they need help and guidance in making decisions and we answer the same questions over and over that they once answered for us as toddlers when we were entering the world.We got on their nerves but they knew we didn’t know or understand just like they don’t know or understand when they are older anymore. When they look at you, you can see the trust in their eyes just like you trusted them when you were too young to know the world. They depend on you and they need you even when they act like they don’t.We hear about kids who were adopted and how they often have a hard time moving past that so you can’t help but to wonder how older parents feel when they are placed into a facility where they are often ignored and at times mistreated. We know that it is beyond selfish not to answer the call when they need us most. We not only get a taste of what’s it’s like to be them but in many cases, we still ARE them to our own children even if they are adults.People in their 20s don’t realize the true liberation they have at this time as they worry about living their dreams or what to wear when going out or where the hottest party is while we worry about if our parents took their medication or if they are being taken care of properly, especially those of us who left small town for a better life in major cities.Going back to where we came from is often out of the question but we know if we HAD to we would because we’ve been warned that moving your elder parents to a strange new place does more harm than good and the stress of trying to balance a career while caregiving can take such a toll on you, even with help, that some people have died from the stress in the process.How do you balance being pulled by both ends while not being ready to leave your career in the industry, taking care of your parents and your kids, and a relationship or marriage and at the SAME time looking at YOUR own future as you watch some friends and colleagues get sick and pass on? LIVE that’s how. Kick the emotions to the curb and do what needs to be done JUST like your parent(s) did or tried their best to do.I currently have a friend of many years who is in hospice and this is the first time in my entire life that I have not simply heard about somebody dying, which we amazingly all seem to move pass fairly quickly, but when you actually see the PROCESS it’s mind-altering and at the same time noteworthy to make you get off your ass and do the things that you want to do because life truly is NOT promised.It’s really unfortunate that these types of subjects are not taught in high school in subjects or curriculums about “LIFE” isn’t it? Because you’re never prepared but at LEAST you KNOW what you are up against.For all of my industry brethren who are in this position right now, or who have recently lost a parent, I pray for your well-being and hope that you manage to find a way. Many of us are fortunate enough to have other family and spouses to assist but there are others who don’t and take on all the weight themselves. Asking someone to retire from the industry early to take care of their parent(s) is monumental but so is not being there for your aging parents. At the end of the day, we have to find what goes in the middle of that sandwich … to bring it all together.
Tips to Help with Older Parents
Find a quality Caregiver/Assistant
.. or two and have a family member or family members stop in to check in on how things are going. There is NO way you can do your job in the industry AND be a caregiver at the same time. It will kill you.
Cell Phone, Laptop, and Alexa
Invest in a laptop or a Tablet for your parent(s). You would be amazed at what older people can learn on their own with apps, email and searching Google. It keeps them engaged and busy and their brains working instead of listening to music or watching TV all day.
Find senior programs in the area they can go to daily.
They need to get out of the house. Check out programs in the area and make sure they are engaging and not just seniors sitting at a table and playing cards and talking about “the good ol days.” Unless your parent(s) enjoy that. There are places with music and activities to keep them busy and interactive with their friends. Oddly, smaller and mid-sized towns seem to be better for things like this.
Uber or Lyft/Food Delivery Services/Amazon Prime
I’m not the biggest fan of Amazon Prime for myself but for your parents, it’s excellent because the majority of deliveries are there in two days. There are some items your parent(s) may use each month and these days it’s beyond convenient for them to get it. You can have auto-delivery or if they are still mobile and independent you can hire someone to drive them around or use Uber or Lyft relatively inexpensively. Instacart is excellent for older adults who can’t always get to or don’t like to go shopping at the grocery store.
Install a Doorbell Camera
Install a Doorbell Camera and link to your phone so that you can see who is coming to your parent’s home. Telemarketers, solicitors, and salesman are RUTHLESS in trying to extract money from seniors and some parents are too trustworthy. Once these predators get your parents credit card it’s over.
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Install a Camera in their living space?
An in-home digital camera is a great option to occasionally check on your parents if they live alone. I put a question mark because if your 85-year-old mother walks around naked that might not be a good idea to witness. Make sure she or your dad KNOWS you are installing a camera first (lol)
Apple Watch that can make calls and has Fall Detection
Those dated Medic Alert programs are all overpriced rip-offs with monthly fees to pay reps to evaluate the situation before calling 911. The best review I’ve read is the Apple Smart WatchOddly, the device was not made for seniors but has all the bells and whistles needed for your parent’s in the case of an emergency. You can upload all their medical information and doctors info that will appear when 911 is called if they fall. Read the full review of what it does hereBe PatientTake a breath and always remember the sacrifices they made for you when you needed them most. These are the calls you have to take, the texts you have to return and the voicemails you have to respond to. The trick is to talk yourself out of the stress before it happens.
Visit as Often as Possible
If you can’t, have family members rotate visits so that they know they have not been forgotten about.
Have Your “ME” Days
No car can run for long without gas. You have to find a way to take a couple of days BY YOURSELF to refuel.