Returning the Favor: How to Take Care of Your Parents as They Age

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Remember the famous country and western song, ‘No charge?’ In it a child demands payment for doing household chores. The mother retorts by listing all she’s done, from giving birth to a lifetime of nurturing.

The cost of all this? No charge, of course. Love is or should be at the heart of why our parents looked after us.

It’s natural, then, that you should want to return the favor and take care of your parents as they head toward old age. It can feel like parenting in reverse. Here’s how to do it well.

Make Regular Contact

It doesn’t matter how far you are away from your parents, regular and frequent contact is essential. They’ll want to know you’re ok. You’ll also want to be sure that they are too. 

Make regular times to call them. If they’re techno-savvy even better, a video call can feel as though you’ve actually visited. 

Start by deciding how often is appropriate to speak to them. Mark on the calendar when you do this so you have a point of reference. It’s very easy to lose track of when you last spoke if you lead a busy life and are working hard.

You need to be sure that you have them covered. If one parent has recently passed then contact is even more important. That helps to ensure the person left doesn’t slip into loneliness and depression.

Visit as Often as Possible

No amount of calls can substitute for a personal visit. It’s a way you can really see how your parents are coping. You’ll be able to pick up on anything amiss.

That could be ensuring they’re eating enough or observing any changes in mobility.

You’ll be able to assess what type of extra healthcare and support they may need. Keep a note of things in a caregiving notebook.

Are they remembering to take their meds? Do they need help with transport?

Financial Planning

If and when the time comes, caring for an elderly adult is going to cost money. It’s wise to work out what those future costs might be so you’re all prepared.

Consider potential medical care and the cost of their living situation. You’ll also need to take everyday expenses into account. This includes food, caregiving supplies, and any home safety modifications. 

No matter how hard, it’s important to have a conversation about finances with your parents. They need protection from potential financial exploitation and other forms of abuse. Learn more here about some of the legal complications that can come up.

Encourage Sociability

We all need a degree of companionship. This can be difficult if your parents live in a remote area. Networking can though be just as important for the elderly as it may be for you.

Do your research and find out if there are any suitable social gatherings for people of their age closeby. When you visit you might be able to encourage them to join in. This can help them share problems with people in similar situations. 

About a third of seniors are lonely. This can have a detrimental impact on the memory and physical and mental well-being of your loved one. It can even affect their life expectancy.

The good news is that loneliness can be reversed. It may be left to you to find ways to ensure your parents stay sociable.

The best interventions include meaningful social contact. That could be volunteering, or seeing an old friend. There needs to be something worthwhile at least once a week. 

The Health Benefits of a Pet

If your parents don’t already own a dog or a cat, now could be a good time to try and introduce one into their household.

Pets bring companionship and can have a positive effect on a person’s health and well-being. They can add a sense of purpose to everyday living. They can also make a person feel loved and reduce their stress. 

Dogs need regular walks. If your parents are physically capable then walking the dog gives them the perfect excuse to take regular exercise.

Dog walks also provide opportunities for social interaction. This could be just having a short chat with a fellow dog owner in the local park.

Take Care of Your Parents with Activities 

Something as simple as taking your parents to the cinema can have a positive effect on their well-being. It gives them something to look forward and means they’ll be spending time with you too.

Try if you can to work in one shared outing a month. This could be a shopping trip or an evening out to a concert or the theater. You might even want to consider showing your parents your place of work if that’s appropriate.

Using Modern Technology

If you can help your parents to use digital technology then it’ll be a double winner. You’ll be maintaining your connection with them by teaching new skills. You’ll also be giving them extra tools to help them to stay connected.

Social media is something we tend to associate with young people but it can be equally valuable to the elderly. It can help them to stay connected with old friends who may have moved away. 

It provides the elderly with an extra and valuable dimension to their social network. That can be particularly important if they are no longer very mobile.

Ensure Your Parents Are Safe at Home

Most homes have lots of safety hazards and as our parents grow older we need to be sure they’re safe. You can do a lot to prevent falls by simply ensuring floors and walkways are clear of clutter. 

You may also want to have grab bars fitted in the bathroom or add stair railings. Check that lights are adequate and bright and that the switches are accessible. Consider a step-stool and make sure all appliances work and are within easy reach. 

You and Your Parents

It’s important to take care of your parents by finding the right balance. That means keeping a watchful eye without being overprotective. They need to be independent for as long as possible and that’s often achievable with a little extra help.

Continue reading more topics related to healthcare on our site such as why a public health system is important in our communities. 

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