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When the Tables Turn

How to Transition into Elderly Parental Care

Caring Elders

When the time comes to begin taking care of elderly parents, the reversal of roles is never simple, but there are ways to help make the process easier, and in turn, less stressful.

It’s no surprise that adults who find themselves in this situation are often called the “sandwich generation.” Whether they’re sandwiched between their parents and children of their own, a demanding job or personal relationships, managing it all can feel like a juggling act where you’re always playing catch up.

It’s important to have any and all potentially difficult conversations with your parents early on so their desires are clear. Topics that are vital to cover include finances, health care power of attorney, durable power of attorney and end-of -life directives. You need to understand what your parents want so that as time moves forward you can confidently act in their best interests.

You also need to research and talk to them about long-term care options for when their needs become more than you can handle on your own. There are a variety of excellent choices. Assisted living communities have private apartments and offer medication help, shared meals and housekeeping. Home care services allow your parents to enjoy living at home by providing health aides that can visit as often as necessary or even live in. For those with complex medical conditions, a nursing home is the best choice and the most able to provide a high level of care, with licensed nurses on hand around the clock.

While taking care of your own parents, there are a few ways you can help make it a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

  • Team up for some daily exercise, which will protect both of you against disease and can make elderly individuals functionally younger by up to 10-15 years.
  • Get them involved in the community, be it volunteering to read to children at the local library or as a docent at a nearby museum.
  • Encourage them to take part in adult day care programs, which provide social activities and will also give them a chance to meet and mingle with others in their age group.
  • Fall proof the home by getting rid of any slippery rugs, improving lighting and installing grab bars in the shower or tub.

Last but definitely not least, do not forget to take care of yourself. Your responsibility load will get heavier, but that doesn’t mean you should lose your own identity. Take time for activities you find meaningful or you will constantly feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Try to be at peace with the fact that priorities and schedules are going to regularly be in flux.

Being as organized as possible should help you save time, and so will accepting help when it's offered or asking for help when you need it. Whether it's assistance with the actual caregiving, or wiht cleaning or shopping, say yes.

For more information and useful articles, visit www.agingcare.com.