A woman with her dad photo by Dragana Gordic on Shutterstock

10 Ways To Prepare To Take Care of Your Older Parents

Adulthood brings a lot of changes that may include changing jobs or moving to a new place. However, one common change that adulthood often brings is witnessing your parents age. In a perfect world, our parents would live forever and spread their love and wisdom for generations to come. But, the reality is our parents will age and we’ll have to consider the possibility of caring for them in some capacity when they’re unable to do it themselves. While this seems overwhelming at first, being proactive and planning ahead allows the process to go smoothly when that time comes. Here are 10 ways you can start preparing to take care of your older parents.

1. Consider Your Lifestyle and Abilities

Before taking steps to care for your aging parents, it’s best to examine your own life.Whether you’re preparing to be a part-time or full-time caregiver for your parents, it’s a big commitment of your time, energy and resources. So, you’ll want to see how your current lifestyle can accommodate this and if any changes need to be made or not.

Start by asking yourself the following four questions in order to get a sense of capabilities for caring for your parents:

  1. Do I live in a different state to them? 
  2. Could I relocate to be closer to them if needed?
  3. Do I have other responsibilities such as children, a spouse and/or pets that need my attention and care as well?
  4. Could I adjust my work schedule and lifestyle to accommodate being a part-time or full-time caregiver?

2. Hear Your Parents’ Needs

Just as it’s important to assess your capabilities it’s equally–if not more–necessary to understand your parents’ needs. Their quality of life is largely influenced by decisions you may have to make on their behalf. So, be sure you’re on the same page as your parents and that both parties are willing to compromise and come to a middle ground when needed.

3. Ensure They’re In a Safe Home and Environment

As our parents get older, safety becomes a top priority. Older adults are more at risk for falls, poisoning, burns and fractures compared to other age demographics. This is why it’s important to ensure their current living space is as hazard-free as possible. 

The experts at HealthinAging.org note that simple measures like replacing the batteries on all smoke detectors twice a year and installing grab bars near a shower and toilet go a long way for keeping older adults safe. Additionally, the International Association of Certified Home and Inspectors recommends replacing frayed or damaged electrical cords and removing rugs and runners that tend to slide when they’re walked on.

4. Shield Them From Financial Scams

Mature adults are also the most targeted population for scams and fraud. In fact, the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2022 Elder Fraud Report revealed that more than 88,000 fraud victims over the age of 60 reported $3.1 billion in losses. Although these instances are prevalent, there are ways to keep your parents protected from it.

Here are tips from the FBI’s website on how to prevent your aging parents from being susceptible to fraud and scams:

  1. Be on guard for unsolicited phone calls, mailings and door-to-door service offers.
  2. Keep computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections up to date.
  3. Destroy credit card receipts and old bank statements.
  4. Ensure that all plans and purchases are written.
  5. Only discuss investments with a trusted friend, family member or financial advisor.

5. Take Note of Their Health Over Time

Aging is a gradual process so it’s likely that you won’t see major health declines overnight. Still, you should keep track of any changes in their mobility, cognitive abilities, vision and hearing as it could be useful to reference for doctor’s visits. Furthermore, making sure that your parents maintain a balanced diet and an active lifestyle as it’s known to help reduce the risk of chronic disease in older adults.

6. Define Caregiving Roles Within Your Family

If you have siblings or other family members who will be helping you take care of your parents, it’s a good idea to define what everyone’s caregiving roles are. Why? Because it eliminates any confusion and prevents one person from assuming multiple roles and/or responsibilities, which may be overwhelming. Ultimately, having this conversation with key family members probably won’t be easy–but it’ll be necessary for your parents’ overall well-being and everyone’s peace of mind.

7. Understand Various Senior Living Options

The landscape of senior living is much more vast than just retirement or nursing homes. There are senior apartments, retirement communities, senior cohousing and other plenty of options that are worth discussing with your aging parents. Each housing option works for a specific set of circumstances and needs, so do your homework to see which one fits best for your parents.

8. Research Professional Care Services

If your parents would prefer aging in place instead of moving into a long-term care facility, research what home care services are available in their local area. Home care services typically include providing transportation for seniors, health care, home maintenance, adult day care and personal care. These services are especially helpful if you and/or other family members are unable to provide around the clock support for your aging parents. 

9. Make Sure Your Parents are Enrolled in Medicare

If your parents are at least 65 years old, ensure they’re enrolled in Medicare. This federal health insurance is designed for older people or people who are diagnosed with certain disabilities that qualify for coverage. There are different parts of Medicare that cover expenses relating to doctor’s visits, prescription drugs and hospital care. Therefore, it’s best to see which benefits are applicable to your parents’ health care needs.

10. Consider Joining Support Groups

Although caring for your older parents isn’t easy, you’re certainly not alone. Many adults face challenges and obstacles in this journey, which is why you consider joining a support group. Whether virtual or in-person, being a part of a support group for children of aging parents gives you a network of people who are going through similar experiences as you. This not only allows you to feel supported, but you can learn from other people’s journeys and see how it may or not apply to you.

Ultimately, everyone’s circumstances are different when it comes to their aging parents becoming dependent on them. So, consider these 10 items to be a general list of things to keep in mind when preparing you to care for your parents.

Featured image credit: Photo by Dragana Gordic on Shutterstock

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