Aging is part of life. When it comes to how to best care for aging parents it often seems to take many by surprise. Suddenly you’re making decisions and hoping it’s the right decision. You may not know the signs to look for or the questions to have before a medical, emotional, or spiritual emergency takes place. If there were a way to know in advance, would you do it? This is the topic I discuss on my podcast episode titled When We Become Parents to Our Parents.
Rally the Family Around
During the days of the Wild West when there was a threat to any member in the wagon train the wagonmaster would bring each wagon together to form a circle—forming a ring of safety and protection to evaluate and strategize. When a family member, such as a parent is showing signs of declining health, it’s time to rally the family around for a meeting. When you work together to determine the next steps it takes a level of stress from the shoulders of one person and distributes it evenly across many. As a family unit you can each support one another in the decisions and better support the ailing parent.
If you’re unsure how to go about such a family meeting when emotions may be running high try these suggestions:
• Schedule a time to meet, whether in-person, via a conference call, or online in a virtual meeting room.
• Agree to some ground rules about listening to each other without interruption or passing judgment.
• Ask someone to take notes so no detail is lost or miscommunicated.
• Keep an open mind.
• Remember, this isn’t about you. It’s about the parent’s best care and which steps are necessary to be put in place to achieve their care.
Aging in Place in the Family Home
It’s natural for parents to want to maintain their independence and to age in the family home they have known for so long. But, is this home equipped to meet their changing needs? With age comes mobility issues and physical disabilities. Here’s what to look for:
• Is there enough space to comfortably and easily maneuver throughout with a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair?
• Would adding handrails in the bathroom assist with using the toilet, taking a bath or shower, or reaching something from the linen closet?
• Is it time to add a raised toilet so they don’t have to sit down so low?
• Should the throw rugs be removed to prevent tripping or shuffling feet from getting tangled or slipping?
• Is it time to relocate an upstairs bedroom to the first floor so they don’t need to climb the stairs?
• Should things on higher shelves in the kitchen and bathroom be moved lower?
• Are they practicing kitchen safety while cooking to avoid burning themselves and their food? Are they practicing food storage safety so they aren’t eating spoiled foods?
• Are they independent enough to grocery shop, get to medical appointments, or are they embarrassed to ask for help with errands and housekeeping needs?
There’s no magic age which makes it time for these types of conversations and plans. Be observant. Be vigilant in helping your parents maintain their independence while supporting them to be open to new and different ways to do things. It’s best to start talking about these topics years before they will be needed. Let your parents know you want to honor their wishes and support them in aging in place for as long as they are able. When it’s time to make other decisions, together will have already talked about many of these key topics. And from those conversations, you will hopefully have some plans to confidently move forward.
If you have questions about assisting your parents as they age, I invite you to contact me. The Bridge To Wholeness has numerous resources to share with you. Aging is a natural part of life. Isn’t it natural we plan for it?
Jennifer L. Crisp, RN, is the founder of A Bridge To Wholeness. Jennifer believes strongly in both traditional western medicine and contemporary health practices as she understands the importance of client-centered care beyond conventional medicine. A Bridge to Wholeness invites traditional and alternative practitioners to get connected (bridging the gap) so your client/patient can experience enhanced benefits and care from these connections. Prior to launching this organization, she worked in a community hospital as a cardiac nurse and has been an entrepreneur since 2011. To take the intersection of wellness quiz and get a free report of your results visit her website abridgetowholeness.com.