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People are living longer now than ever before, and the number of older adults in the United States is predicted to increase significantly in the next few years. This is good news in many ways, as we all hope to live a long, full life. However, old age does bring the increased risk of ill health and infirmity, and many middle-aged children find themselves looking after elderly parents to varying degrees. If your parents are getting on in years, or you have other close friends and family that could be in need of assistance, what are the best ways to help and support them as they get older?
1. Living arrangements
It’s not uncommon for older people to want to downsize, as the home they raised their family in becomes too demanding to maintain. The kind of choice they make for a new home may depend on how reliant they are on your help; for instance, if they’re fit and active, they may be happy just to move to a smaller home, but if they need more support, you might consider moving them closer to you, or even into your home. These arrangements can work very well in some circumstances, while in others they can put an intolerable strain on family relationships. It’s been recognized that enabling people to retain their independence and live in their own home for as long as possible is better for them and their families. If your parents need assistance but are able to live in their own house, it’s worth looking at home care services as the best option. It means your parents can stay at home where they feel comfortable and happy, with a carer calling in to do whatever your folks are finding difficult to manage. You can find more info online about hiring home care professionals, as well as advice on what to consider if your parents are thinking of downsizing or moving in with you.
2. Health and wellbeing
When you’re looking after older people, one of your main concerns will be how well they are physically and mentally. Old age inevitably brings its problems, and osteoarthritis, failing eyesight and hearing, and sleep problems are common in older people. If your parents are feeling the effects of any of these issues, it’s essential they get help to ease symptoms and improve their wellbeing. Sight and hearing loss can usually be remedied with glasses and hearing aids, so older people should be attending tests on a regular basis. A medical check-up is sensible every year as people age, just to monitor general health and spot any signs of illness too. If you’re worried about any aspect of your parents’ health, you should talk to them and see if they will get themselves checked over. Often older folks put their symptoms down to aging, or they don’t want to be a bother, or they may fear what the results might show. Your job is to reassure them and support them and remind them that whatever might be wrong, picking it up early gives them a far greater chance of getting effective treatment and reducing the effects of the illness.
Many older folk experience a degree of loneliness, often because they find it more difficult to get out and about. They might not be able to drive anymore or find it hard to manage public transport. Friends may move away or pass on, and if your parents move, they may struggle to get to know their new neighbors. Even if your parents don’t need much practical help from you, they’ll still need emotional support and human contact, so go and visit them regularly, and take them out now and again. You need to be alert for any signs that they are feeling lonely and encourage them to find ways of meeting people and involving themselves in their community. Also, don’t assume that just because someone is old, they won’t be interested in going online. Using the internet to keep in touch by email, chat, or video link can be a real joy for many older people, so if they haven’t got the equipment, help them set it up and show them how to use it.
4. Problems with elderly people
Sometimes it can be difficult trying to look after older people, and it can take its toll on you if you’re not careful. Seniors may sometimes be either too demanding, or too independent, so in one situation, you’re stressed because you always have to do things for them, and in the other, you’re stressed because they won’t ask for help even when they really need it. It can be hard as the child to address these issues, because these are your parents after all, no matter how old they are. If you don’t try, though, the situation will only get worse, so it’s best to tackle the issues from the beginning. From their point of view, it can be humiliating and degrading to be unable to look after themselves, a feeling that is made worse by people around them talking to them like infants just because they’re getting older. You need to be sympathetic to how your parents feel, and listen to them when they talk to you, as well as being able to explain your side of the situation.
Having your parents and elderly family members or friends around as you grow older yourself is a gift. It’s great for your kids, and grandchildren always bring joy to their grandparents. You can learn a lot from older people, who have years of wisdom and memories to share with you, and spending time with your parents in their later years gives you an opportunity to become closer and appreciate all they have given you. If you’re worried about how you’ll manage when your parents become infirm and need help, look at all the options available and talk it over with them too, so you know what their wishes are on the subject. Most importantly, cherish these times with your folks and help make their final years as happy and healthy as possible.