Elder Care First Steps
Beginning Your Journey
Watching our parents age and then decline is one of life’s great complexities. On one hand, it can be a gift to have a parent live a full and rewarding life. On the other hand, it is a challenge to know how to prepare for, and eventually take, the journey of elder care in a way that honors everyone involved. Here are 3 steps to take when beginning your journey.
- Be transparent. Honesty–with your parent, with your partner, and with yourself–is of the utmost importance. Call a family meeting, if necessary. Enlist the help of siblings. Don’t wait until you are burnt out to be truthful about how you feel. If your parent asks questions that lend themselves to discussing in plain terms the need for additional care, gently take that opportunity, as this can help build trust.
- Be gradual. Selling your parent’s home and moving him or her into your home or a nursing home may be the right decision down the road, but it may not be the right decision today. Consider hiring in-home help for your parent (such as companion, housekeeping, or transportation assistance), as this is often the first step in eldercare. Research community resources (senior centers, home health agencies, etc.), as these are a caregiver’s best-kept secret.
- Be educated. You probably landed on this article because you want to be educated, which means you are already on the right track! Here are some specifics: Find out what legal tools and documents are already in place. For instance, does your loved one already have someone designated to make important medical decisions? Does your loved one have a will or a power of attorney? Answers to these questions are good to know well in advance of needing them. Also, learn as much as you can about any medical issues–even minor ones–facing your loved one. If possible, go to medical appointments. Practically speaking, make sure you round up all of your loved one’s critical information–Social Security number, list of medications, insurance information, etc.–to keep it at your fingertips. Talk to professionals. Keep a designated notebook filled with everything you learn.
Finally, take a deep breath. Your love for and loyalty to your family member is clear or you wouldn’t even be entertaining the idea of embarking on this eldercare journey. Know that you aren’t the first one to struggle with conflicting emotions and you won’t be the last. Give yourself time to adjust to this new chapter in life, and remember to take care of yourself along the way!
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