If you have become a caregiver, there are certain things you can do now that will help your parents navigate the aging and elder care process. Thoughtful planning and preventative measures can allow both you and them to handle the changes to come with dignity and understanding. Becoming a Caregiver and planning for the future begins with:
Prevention and planning
In order to prevent potential problems and plan for the future, consider taking the following simple steps:
- Look for signs that your parents might need help.
- Whenever you visit your parents in their own home, take a look around the house and see if you notice any of these early signs, which could indicate vision problems, mobility issues, signs of dementia or depression:
- Are household bills piling up and is mail left unopened?
- Do you notice scorched pots and pans?
- Is the house more unkempt than usual?
- Is the refrigerator stocked with fresh food? Is anything moldy or expired? Poor diet can exacerbate chronic diseases, weaken the immune system and lead to dementia.
Take proactive safety measures.
Nearly one in three older adults falls every year, and half of them will die as a result. When you visit, check the following:
- Are stairways well lit and handrails securely fastened?
- Are area rugs, clutter, and electrical cords out of the way?
- Is the bath mat non-slip and are grab bars mounted securely in the shower?
- Is there enough room to safely move around in the bathroom?
Make sure your parents are managing their medications properly.
Adverse drug reactions are estimated to be the fourth-leading cause of death among older adults. Prescription drugs or taking the wrong combination can also cause confusion, dizziness and signs that are often mistaken for signs of dementia. Look out for things that could indicate problems with medication management:
- Are your parents’ pills organized or strewn all over the house? If so, encourage them to use pill dispensers.
- Are expired pill bottles mixed in with current ones?
- Is either parent taking more than three medications?
If so, research medications your parents take by going to medlineplus.com. Also, create a list of all your parents’ current medications, what they’re for, who prescribed them and in what dosage. Make copies of the list so your parents can take it to all medical appointments.
Establish a strong local caregiver support system.
This is especially important if you live far away.
- Meet your parents’ neighbors and ask them to call if they think your mom and dad need help.
- Make a contact list of your parents’ doctors, pharmacist and home health care providers and share it with other family members and/or caregivers.
- Read over their insurance policies to know what services are covered under what circumstances, so you are prepared to quickly respond when the need arises.
- Make sure your parents have a living will and a durable healthcare power of attorney. You can’t respect their wishes if you don’t know what they want.
Consider a geriatric assessment.
Anyone over 65 years of age should have an overall work-up by a physician and an interdisciplinary team trained in geriatrics. Our aging bodies are complex and deserve a specialist. Contact ElderCare at Home today to schedule a free geriatric care management consultation.
The bottom line
As your parents age, they will need your help to stay safe and comfortable at home, to navigate their healthcare options and to establish a good support system.