Caring for elderly parents comes with many bittersweet realizations. I’ll never forget whenI realized my own parents could no longer live independently. Their physical and mental declines proved swift, andI had to act quickly. I know firsthand that the emotional toll of realizing the two people you’ve always counted on to care for you now need your help can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, you’re not alone when it comes to caring for your aging parents.
Here’s some must-have advice hat I wish I’d had as I attempted to assess when and how to intervene on behalf of my parents.
A Common Situation
Just the other day, a friend of mine who’s mother has advanced Alzheimer’s and is being cared for solely by his father confided in me. With tears in his eyes, he confessed that he feared his dad would die from the strain of care taking. My friend wanted to step in, but he didn’t knowhow. What’s more, his father remained vehemently opposed to any kind of assistance or care for his wife or him. Unfortunately, people tell me about similar situations all the time.One of the hardest things an adult child will ever face is knowing when to step in.
My Own Story
My parents were relatively young when their health started declining.It all began when my dad assumed more and more caretaking responsibilities for my declining mom. At first, I was shocked at how upbeat and capable he appeared. He cooked lavish meals and dressed her. He said he showered her and made sure she got out for walks. But as exhaustion set in, his ability to perform these tasks declined although he still put on a great show for my brothers and me. Before we knew it, the strain of caregiving brought my dad to his breaking point. He developed severe symptoms of congestive heart failure, which he attempted to hide from us. Luckily, we found out just in the nick of time. An ambulance ride later, my brothers and I went from the idealistic notion that our parents were handling everything fine to the realization that they needed our help. Although we had spent most of our time worrying about our mother’s declining faculties, our dad ended up in critical condition and nearly died.All told, between the hospital and rehabilitation facilities, he remained in care for two months.
Before we called the ambulance to have our dad assessed and transferred to the hospital, he fought us tooth and nail. He wanted to remain independent and avoid doctors and hospitals. He tried to conceal his own failing health from us. As I talked to medical care workers and assembled a support system of home health care for seniors, I learned our situation was not uncommon. When people get sick, it affects their judgment and logical reasoning. Today, my dad is much healthier and stronger, and he remembers very little from the time described above. This just goes to show the significant impact physical conditions can have on cognition. I also learned an excellent means of assessing when to step in and help elderly parents. It starts with evaluating their ability to complete activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
When it comes to caring for aging parents, we want to ensure their mental, physical, and emotional well-being. This often involves navigating the fine line betweenwhat we know is best for them and their own living expectations. One quick, objective way to determine the level of care your loved one needs involves evaluating their ability to complete activities of daily living (ADLs). These ADLs include:
Functional mobility (their ability to get up from achair, perform activities while moving, and get in and out of bed)
Bathing or showering
Toilet hygiene (their ability to make it to the bathroom, get up from the toilet, and clean themselves properly)
Personal hygiene (their ability to shave, brush or style their hair, and perform daily grooming activities)
If health conditions or limited mobility makeit difficult for your loved one to perform these ADLsfor themselves, then it’s time to find assistance. You have many options when it comes to how to address these issues. For example, you can assist them in performing these activities as my brothers and I do. You can hire a home care agencyto help out (as we also do), or you can invest in equipment to make these tasks easier for your parent to complete.
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)
While the following activities aren’t necessarily fundamental, they do impact independent living. Known as instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), they include:
Shopping and buying necessities
Cleaning and maintaining the home
Cooking and preparing meals
Taking prescribed medications
Communicating on the phone or through other devices
In the case of my parents, my dad appeared to have the ADLs covered when it came to him and my mom. But I should’ve seen the warning signs with regardto the IADLs. Looking back now, I realize he had problems with every single one. If the IADLs don’t get taken care of effectively, your parents’ well-being and health will suffer. Start by taking an objective look at where your parents need help. Then, find ways that you and your other family members can address these. Whether you turn to family, professional caregivers, or a mixture of both (as my brothers and I have) for help, your parents’ IADLs need to be met. Otherwise, like my parents, it will impact their overall well-being.
Caring for Elderly Parents
It feels overwhelming to realize that your parents need assistance with daily care. This can get exasperated by your parents’ refusal to admit they need help. Just remember their denial stems from pride and fear of going to a nursing home. But you’ve got many options when it comes to caring for elderly parents. So, begin your conversation with your parents by reassuring them that you’ll work towards a living arrangement that makes everyone as happy and healthy as possible. Most senior citizens want to age at home surrounded by the things they love, living a life of dignity and independence. At Care Builders at Home, we provide reliable home care solutions. Contact us today to discuss your loved one’s current needs.