Caring for an Aging Family Member
As summer ends, many families are preparing their households to get back to school. From returning to an earlier bedtime a week or two in advance to buying the seemingly larger-every-year list of school supplies, most of those preparations are centered on getting back to a more familiar and structured schedule.
However, for an ever-increasing number of families, preparation also includes caring for an aging family member. Unlike previous generations that chose to move to retirement communities or senior care facilities, the baby boom generation and their kids and grandkids are more frequently choosing to remain in their own homes during retirement—generally referred to as “aging in place.”
This has placed more families into the role as caregiver for their parents and loved ones. Fortunately, there are more resources and technology available to improve this experience for all involved.
Why aging in place?
The reasons people choose to age in place are as varied as the personalities of people themselves. Sentimentality often tops the list, while others want to retain a sense of independence. Cost plays a major role for virtually everyone. Whatever the reason, studies have shown that those who age in place are healthier and more active than their counterparts who choose a residential facility.
One of the most significant benefits of aging in place is the sense of connection that comes from continuing to participate in existing social circles and the satisfaction that stems from maintaining a home. Even light housework and yard work – viewed as a burden in the past – can encourage people to get up and move throughout the day.
Most importantly, staying in familiar settings and close to loved ones allows for a familiar routine and comfort.
While the benefits to the retired person are many, aging in place almost always requires assistance from others in the family to care for their loved one. Excellent resources are available for families who wish to help a loved one age in place. These resources can provide guidance on health care and financial matters as well as in providing you information on how best to keep you and your other family members healthy, and to manage your home throughout this process.
Caring.com, for example, is a leading online information source for home and assisted care. The organization provides many ideas on how best to share the workload within the family, how to avoid conflict through use of regular family meetings, and how to positively resolve conflicts.
Another resource – Nolo.com – offers legal advice for common elder-focused issues such as estate planning and financial matters including social security and health insurance.
As it has in every area of our lives, technology has made aging in place and caregiving significantly easier in recent years.
For example, several companies offer senior-friendly computers with specialized functionality to monitor activity, provide medicine reminders and even provide health assessments by connecting with health devices. Video calling using Skype or Facetime makes it simple to connect with loved ones virtually face to face and allow for a regular visual check up on their health and mental state.
Finally, to maintain long-established connections with friends, captioned telephone services such as New Jersey CapTel provide a familiar, easy way to connect over the telephone, with the added convenience of captions to assist with hearing loss.
Keeping the Caregiver Healthy
As you work to balance the needs of your own household and that of your parent, don’t forget to take time to keep yourself emotionally and physically well. This is essential to effectively care for your loved one.
Remember that over time, the amount of work needed by your loved one will likely increase. You may find yourself helping with chores they used to do completely on their own, as well as assisting more often with healthcare administration and decisions. This could range from simply making sure they take their daily medications on time to providing some form of personal hygiene care or limited physical therapy. Keeping yourself mentally and physically healthy will be key for all involved.
Caring for an aging family can be rewarding for everyone. It can help to strengthen bonds and create shared memories as well as give your loved one a more comfortable path to a longer-term care facility. Make sure you plan and communicate, keep an eye out for additional resources to help. Most important, take good care of yourself.
Additional resources that may be of interest:
Where to begin
A good article on legal and financial considerations to consider
What you should know
A good starting point for items to consider when providing care
Caring for older relatives
Where to find practical and emotional support
Personal Care Agreements
Compensating a family member for providing care
Top 10 technology devices for seniors
How to avoid and handle family conflicts when caring for an elderly relative
Information for siblings
Good advice when there are several adult children in the mix
Your mental health
A list of ideas to help you maintain your mental health through this process
What are your experiences serving as a long-term caregiver for a loved one? Share your tips in the comments below!
Posted by NJAdmin on Aug 24, 2017