10 Things to Know About Your Aging Parents
By Trish Colucci, RN-BC, CCM – Aging Life Care Association™ Member
Caring for aging parents is never easy, but being prepared for the most common problems and knowing where to go for help, can prove invaluable.
So many issues crop up in the aging process: health issues, safety issues, and memory issues to name just a few. While the following list can’t cover everything you might face, it gives you an idea of the most common issues you need to know about your aging parents:
1. Sensory changes, such as poor eyesight or difficulty hearing can greatly impact your parent’s safety. Regular ophthalmology visits monitor visual issues such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. All of these conditions can be treated if caught early and if closely monitored. Annual hearing check-ups can assess the need for assistive devices such as hearing aids. Maintaining the health of these senses can have a very positive impact on your parents’ safety and quality of life.
2. Setting up living spaces with as few safety obstacles as possible will help reduce risks of falls. Simple actions like removing small area rugs, keeping floors clear of clutter, installing grab bars in the shower, and using night-lights to light the path to the bathroom at night are small details that greatly impact the safety of your loved ones in his/her own home. A fall can be a game-changer as a broken hip frequently leads to long-term placement in a care facility. Preventing falls is critical to maintaining a loved one’s good health and ability to enjoy old age in the place most familiar and comfortable surroundings.
3. An appointment with an Elder Law attorney early can save you money down the road. Elder Law attorneys provide a great service for those who are likely to need care in the future. These professionals have specialized knowledge in the types and costs of care most often needed by older adults as they age. Elder Law attorneys provide Estate and Medicaid-planning services which, depending on the individual’s financial resources, can be set up to provide a much-needed payor source if and when the time comes.
4. An estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease in 2015. Caring for elderly parents frequently means dealing with memory loss and dementia. It’s important for caregivers to understand that dementia frequently takes away a person’s ability to see where he/she is not functioning well. Because of this, it can prove extremely frustrating for family caregivers to get their parents to accept help.
5. There are some medications available that show clinical evidence of slowing down the progression of dementia. While there are no cures or prevention available for dementia just yet, there are a handful of medications currently available that show evidence of slowing down the progression of symptoms, thereby preserving overall function for a longer period of time.
6. Some people with dementia develop behavior changes such as agitation and combativeness. This can be a very difficult phenomenon to manage when caring for a loved one with dementia, but the good news is that the earlier it is assessed and diagnosed, the better the chances of getting these behaviors under control.
7. There comes a time in most adults’ lives when they should stop driving. This is usually a sticky subject that most adult children feel uncomfortable addressing despite their concerns. Addressing the subject requires a delicate approach and is different for each person.
8. All older adults need three things to maintain a good quality of life: something to do, something to look forward to, and someone to love.
Throughout our lives, we all want to feel useful and needed. That does not change as we age. Having meaningful activities in which your parent can engage adds value to his/her day. Setting a calendar with upcoming events provides your parent something to look forward to, even if the events are not particularly grand. Even a brief visit from a loved one can bring joy and happiness that turns an otherwise ordinary day into something temporarily extraordinary. Besides love from humans, the elderly also greatly benefit from the love of an animal, even if it’s an animal that just pays a visit from time to time.
9. As a family caregiver, you need to take breaks from your caregiving duties to clear your head and refresh your energy. A family caregiver can’t possibly work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without feeling the effects of what we call, “caregiver stress.” Even if it means hiring a temporary caregiver to stay with your loved one for a few hours, as a caregiver yourself you need to take a break and enjoy some respite time. Use that hard-earned time off to go to the library and read a book, hit a coffee shop and relax, meet some friends for a dinner out, take a walk around the block, or better yet, plan a weekend away to really refresh.
10. An Aging Life Care Professional™ is your single point of contact to accessing the supportive services and resources needed to address all of the issues listed above and ease your caregiving load. Aging Life Care Professionals have collectively worked with thousands of families facing these concerns and more. They are experienced and trained to assess the situation and can quickly and efficiently identify the resources you need to tap for help and support.
If you are facing any of these issues, you don’t need to go it alone. Engage the services of a skilled Aging Life Care Professional to help you create the best possible plan of care for your aging parent. To connect with a professional in your area, visit ALCA’s Find An Aging Care Expert search.
About the author: Trish is in her tenth year of providing Aging Life Care management services and is the Founder and President of Peace Aging Life Experts, LLC in Flanders, New Jersey.