Because medical science has made it possible to live longer, Baby Boomers are beginning to experience a problem that past generations have not had to confront to a large extent: taking care of aging parents.
While it is absolutely wonderful that Mom and Dad can now live into their late nineties, health problems that occur during these later years may make it more difficult to live in their own homes. In order to keep parents safe and provide the comfort of familiar surroundings, boomers may become more proactive in the following issues:
Securing the Environment
The plan for taking care of aging parents should begin by making adaptations around the home that will result in greater safety and make everyday tasks less of a struggle. Some of the most common changes include:
• Removal of throw rugs that are falling hazards
• Building of ramps over all steps
• Widening doors so that a wheelchair or walker can move through them
• Lowering foodstuffs to reachable shelves
• Attaching handrails beside the bathroom facilities
If siblings are unable to divide up the duties required in caring for parents, it is time to consider help.
In some cases, home health agencies ease the load by offering certain housekeeping services, nursing care, and physical therapy, but many times this financial burden falls on the family. If money is available, it may be better to hire someone to help with the housework, monitor medications, and prepare meals. This gives the children some time to refresh themselves mentally and physically.
Consider obtaining help from the following sources:
• Meals on Wheels or similar agencies that provide food for seniors
• Church groups who volunteer to do home improvements for the elderly
• Senior centers who will send vans and provide some supervision during the day
Dealing with the Stress
Caring for aging parents over an extended period can become stressful.
It is important to share the burden or workload with as many other people as possible. Focus on what needs to be done to make sure that the parents are as safe as possible. Then, get some personal rejuvenation time.
Always remember that poor mental health invariably leads to poor physical health. If a caregiver goes down, the parents will no longer have the support they need. Mom and Dad will certainly benefit more from a healthy caregiver than a struggling, dysfunctional one.
With some careful thought and organization, it’s possible to help aging parents continue to live comfortably and safely in their own homes.
Claire Bradshaw writes for a website that offers practical advice on curved stair lifts, with a focus on helping people with limited mobility keep their independence and remain in their own homes during the latter years of their lives.