Millions of Americans are juggling work and raising their family. Sooner or later, older loved ones such as our parents will need assistance. Americans are living longer but not in great health. If you’re facing this situation, it can be hard to figure out what’s best for your loved ones. To help you navigate through this complicated situation, here are a few tips:
It is always best to prepared. If you have siblings, talk to them about the best move for your parents. Also, plan a family meeting with your parents to discuss their future. In the meeting, you should discuss:
- Making sure legal documents have been drawn up, which includes an up-to-date will, power of attorney, a living will, and a health-care proxy.
- Researching housing options and services available in your parents’ community.
- Discussing future housing, financial, and medical-care needs.
Most importantly, talk to your parents about growing old. Your parents may be having a tough time with the thought of needing assistance.
When should I take action?
One day, all the signs may point to the need for you to actively step in to assist your parents. These are some of the signs:
- Loss of weight
- Ignoring personal hygiene such as washing hair and clothes
- Change in behavior
- They no longer do things that they used to find pleasurable
- Do not leave their house
- Excessive drinking
- Unpaid bills and mishandled finances
- Untidy house and expired food
- Walking unsteadily
What should you do?
Based on your talks with your parents, begin to identify local resources that can help your parents, like area agencies on aging, aging and disability resource centers, or aging information and referral services. Also, if you haven’t, talk to your parents’ physician to find what resources are best for them. Most importantly, manage your time well so you won’t become stuck in never-ending obligations. Divide and conquer each task with your siblings to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Stick with that plan. If you decide you’ll visit your mother twice per week, help her manage her finances, and look into local resources, then that’s what you should do. Get help for other needs as they arise.
- Accept help early on — from relatives, friends, neighbors, churches and synagogues, senior centers, or home-care agencies.
- Take care of yourself. Get exercise, get enough sleep, pay attention to your diet, and go to support-group meetings for caregivers.
For more information on caring for your aging parents, visit Touro’s Health Library.
For support locally on caring for the elderly, visit the New Orleans Council of Aging.
Vernilyn Juan, M.D. is a Family Medicine physician with Crescent City Physicians, Inc., a subsidiary of Touro. Dr. Juan is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.