If you have found yourself in the position of having to care for your aging parent or family member then I am sure you will agree that it can be a daunting task. And when you try to find information online to help guide you through the process you will feel even more overwhelmed as there is so much information out there. The easy part of caring for an aging senior is normally finding resources and care options. The hard part is dealing with the emotional challenges that come along and how and when to intervene. It is important to understand that every situation is unique, so there really isn’t a wrong or right answer as you will need to come up with a unique solution. Here are a few things to take into consideration as you go down this path in your life.
There is a fine line between too much and too little intervention when it comes to seniors and because of this delicate balance it can be hard to walk that fine line. Autonomy is the key principle that must always be at the top of your mind when it comes to assisting an aging parent. According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, seniors respond better to some assistance in the beginning, but not a whole lot as they may feel that their autonomy is being eroded and they are losing their independence. This research study was done in 1996.
In the ideal situation, you should begin talking with your aging parents about getting assistance, long before they need it and the best approach is to introduce some hypothetical situations such as “If” a certain situation were to happen, what would they like to see happen. What you will find however is that most seniors will want to maintain their independence and stay at home. And there are definitely options for in home care, but you should still try to explore other options such as assisted living, as depending on their situation or health condition, in home care may not be the best option for them. You could even visit a few retirement communities close by, just to get a better understanding of what seniors like most about these types of 55 and over communities.
The number one fear that seniors have about moving into an assisted living or nursing home is that they will be losing their independence. But what most seniors don’t understand is that with the right level of support, they could actually increase their independence, which is one of the main goals of these types of senior living facilities. It is not uncommon for seniors that were initially resistant to assisted living to later say they wish they had made the move sooner after they have actually resided in an assisted living facility as in most cases seniors will find a new lease on life within these senior living communities. The greatest benefit that seniors like is that the choice of residing in an assisted living community will relieve some of the burden off their caregivers or adult children so they both can worry less, as the support that the senior requires is now shifted from the children to the community.
The million dollar question however, is to determine when is the right time to actually make the move? From our experience, typically the best time for seniors to make the move is when they are experiencing some forms of social isolation and the reason is, senior that experience social isolation can develop both physical decline and rapid mental deterioration.
The U.S. Administration on Aging did some research in the past and according to that research, here are the main warning signs that you should be aware of that will tell you if your loved one is in need of assistance.
- If you notice a change in their eating habits
- Personal hygiene is being neglected
- Chores around the home like cleaning is being neglected
- Displaying inappropriate behavior
- Changes in their relationships
- Signs of weakness
- Medications not taken as prescribed
- No longer participating in activities that they enjoyed in the past
It is not uncommon for family members to notice the changes before the senior does and it’s important for you to decide which one of the above behaviors can be a potential risk to them and which ones are just from us worrying about them. This is why it is wise to sometimes ask an objective person for their opinion, which could be anyone that does not have any emotional ties to this particular situation. Most staff members in a nursing home or an assisted living facility are there to listen when you call and can help you understand the situation better.
When you have a concern with a particular situation, you should not make statements when you do talk to them about it, instead you should put your statement in the form of a question, this way they will not get on the defensive. Your loved one will probably already know what needs to be done, but they also know if they admit to it then it will bring about fear and apprehension. However, if you want to help them to get to the same conclusion and you, then all you have to do is be supportive and patient with them. We all know that it is an unfortunate fact of life and sometimes it will take some type of a crisis, before your aging parent will agree to get help in the form of in home care or make the move to some type of a senior living facility.