Finances & Money

How to Help Your Parents When They Can No Longer Help Themselves

For millions of American families, the challenges of caring for an aging parent or grandparent are coming into focus. While these challenges can be an emotional burden for those struggling to build a career and raise a family, the reality for many is that now is the time to take care of mom and dad instead of the other way around.

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, roughly 10,000 turns 65 every day,  the need to make sure mom and dad are safe and sound in their golden years comes into focus. Here are some pointers on how to help your parents when they can no longer help themselves.

Warning Signs

Many Baby Boomers take pride in their independence; after all, this is the first generation which went off to college en masse, moved across the country for work, and through divorce and other factors oversaw an erosion in the nuclear family. However, older Baby Boomers are starting to face the harsh reality of trying to go it alone when they no longer have the physical or mental ability to do so.

This can be hard and for many, it is a slow process of denial. Harder still is it for their children to recognize the potential warning signs when a once strong and independent parent is in decline.

These signs include changes in your parent’s personal hygiene to the condition of their house or financial troubles. However, reading the tea leaves can be tricky as a change in behavior is not necessarily an indication of a broader problem. As such, you will need to scratch below the surface to understand the causes for this change.

Doing so requires keeping a close and candid relationship with your parents as it is the only way to discuss potential concerns about their well-being. From there, you will need to take your time and go slow as a one-off incident is not necessarily an indication of a broader trend.

What does this mean? Getting involved in a parent’s life starts with taking stock of their condition and their ability to continue to live independently without being a danger to themselves or others.

Taking Stock

Being cold and calculating when it comes to assessing the well-being of a parent can be difficult. For starters, there are the emotions of seeing a once strong and independent parent unable to take care of themselves.

In addition, there is the specter of not knowing the legal limits of what can and can’t be done. While this is easier in clear-cut cases such as nursing home abuse (if you are worried this is happening to your parents, then check out this link – it can be complicated when a parent can still maintain a modicum of independence.

However, identifying the risks and the options can start with having an open conversation with a parent. While this conversation can be uncomfortable at times, items to review include what they need to feel safe in their own homes and the challenges then they are facing in being self-sufficient.

Opening with these topics can put your parents at ease and this is important as you don’t want them to feel as if you are trying to take over their lives. Instead, focus on what your parents need to maintain some semblance of their independence – this will pay dividends later as they will come to trust your ability to care for them.

Options, Options

The next thing to do when dealing with a parent who can no longer help themselves is to look at the options. These can range from staying at home to moving into your own home to independent living and beyond. If you can build trust with your parents early on, then this process will largely take care of itself.

However, there might be times when you will need to act fast as your parents might be facing problems with money or staying healthy or both. This can especially be true if your mother or father does not live near you and a situation presents itself – for example if a parent has kept the true nature of their living conditions under wraps. In situations such as these, it is important to act calmly and reach out to the required support structures.

This includes other family members, social worker, and even those who specialize in dealing with housing issues for seniors. The goal should be to ease the transition process– just remember the need to be supportive and positive. Only in this way can you remain open to the available options.

As mentioned, more families are being called upon to care for an aging parent, but it doesn’t need to be viewed as a burden. Instead, remember to look out for the warning signs, take stock in your parent’s situation, and finally keep your options open.

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Susan Paige

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