As your parents age, you’ll inevitably have to make some tough decisions.
Often, people want to care for their elderly parents themselves as this can be less disruptive than having a stranger care for them.
It can also extend the length of time they are able to live in their own home, rather than moving to a care home. While the advantages of caring for your elderly parents are clear, there are a number of things you should think about before making the decision.
After all, we all want what’s best for our loved ones.
Finding a Suitable Environment
Obviously, safety has to be a top concern. When deciding whether or not to care for an elderly parent yourself, you will need to consider whether their home is still a safe and appropriate environment for them to live.
Depending on their particular situation, you may need to install grab bars, anti-slip mats or other pieces of adapted equipment to ensure they can live safely and comfortably in their home as they get older. If they find it very difficult to move around their home, you might also need to consider whether you can create a ground-floor bedroom. Another option is to move them into your own home, but the same considerations will still apply in this case.
Finding the Time
You’ll need to be honest with yourself about whether you really have the time to care for your parent. Obviously, this is easier if they only need a little bit of help. However, if they require round-the-clock care you’ll need to consider whether you can and should be their primary carer.
The amount of care you can offer will depend on your work and family circumstances. For example, if you have other dependents like young children, finding the time to care for an elderly parent will be even more of a challenge. By contrast, if you have siblings or other relatives who can contribute to your parent’s care, it might be much easier to manage.
Money probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind when you’re deciding whether or not you can care for an elderly parent. However, you’ll still have to be realistic about the financial aspects of care. For example, if you need to source specialist equipment to maintain their quality of life, you should consider your options in terms of government funding.
You may even opt to leave your job in order to care for your parent full-time. In that case, in the UK, you may be eligible for carer’s allowance, but you’ll still need to sit down and do the sums to decide if this is feasible.
Ideally, you want to make sure to involve your parent in any conversations about their future care needs. This might be uncomfortable, but in the long run it’s better for everyone if you’re confident that their wishes are being carried out.
This is particularly important as your parents get older, as the chance of a cognitive or neurological condition like dementia could increase. You need to consider this because, down the line, you might take on legal responsibility for ensuring your parent’s wishes are carried out. As such, it’s better to establish what these wishes are while they’re still able to provide their feedback.
Consider their Emotional Needs
Requiring an increasing amount of care will likely be upsetting and stressful for your parent. It’s especially important to ensure that they don’t feel like they’re a burden on you. While the way you support your parent emotionally will depend on their personality and demeanour, the chances are you’re going to have to spend a certain amount of time cheering them up when they’re having difficult days.
There are a lot of simple ways that you can improve your parent’s mood though. Even something as simple as a trip to the park or a visit with the grandkids can make all the difference to the emotional state of someone receiving care.
Consider your own Emotional Needs
There’s no getting around it. Caring for elderly parents is hard. It’s equal parts stressful, aggravating, tiring and saddening. And those are just the emotions we have words for. Of course, every challenging emotional time is that bit more manageable when you have a support network around you. Friends and family are invaluable.
You might also want to look into support groups. Sometimes we can benefit from talking to people we don’t necessarily know well, but who are going through the same process as us. If nothing else, it’s always comforting to know that we’re not alone in our struggles.
Think about the Alternatives
Many people think if they don’t care for their elderly parents themselves, the only alternative is a care facility. There are numerous other options. For example, professionals offering home care can offer support that compliments your own efforts. Some can help with things like domestic duties, allowing you to focus on the more personal side of caring for your parent.
Respite care can also be provided in the home. This can be very helpful, as there may come a time when you simply need time to rest and recuperate in order to continue caring for your parent.
There will be Good Days and Bad Days
If your parent’s health has care needs, it is likely that, over time, this decline in health will continue. However, many people don’t realise that this isn’t always a steady process. In fact, you should be prepared for both sudden changes and long plateaus in their health.
In a sense, this is a challenge in and of itself. It can make certain other aspects of care more difficult, especially long-term planning. However, this is simply the reality of caring for someone.
It can be an Opportunity
No matter how hard caring for an elderly parent can be, it’s still a chance to spend time with them at one of the most profound junctures of both your lives.
This can also be an opportunity to further grow your relationship. As well as this, you’re doing something very valuable for someone you love, not least of all by helping them preserve their dignity and independence for as long as possible.
There will be plenty of times when caring for an elderly parent can feel overwhelming, but remembering why you are doing it will go a long way towards helping you overcome this. We’re capable of great strength when we’re doing something difficult for someone we care about.
This article has been provided by Juliette Millard, Head of Clinical Governance at Newcross Healthcare. A registered nurse for 30 years, she began initially working on various surgical wards before moving to specialise in oncology and palliative care.