As your parents get older, they might rely on your help a bit more as the years pass. If your parents are aging in place, you’re probably a core part of their support system. It’s no secret that you love them and want them to be as comfortable as possible, while also maintaining your own life routines. Your parents have needs that you can help fulfill so they can maintain a sense of independence in their home while still receiving the care they rely on. Assisting in the care of a loved one is a big responsibility, and there is often a lot of moving parts that need consideration. Sometimes, it can feel easy to get lost and confused along the way. Nobody is perfect, but with a bit of extra planning and foresight, you can care for your parents with compassion, love and preparation.
1. Have a Plan
Although it can be tempting to take on tasks as they come, it’s important to understand the scope of your parents’ needs so you can make a plan for both the present tasks and future needs that may arise. Tasks can pile up quickly and change on short notice, and you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you need to provide care but suddenly are too overwhelmed. Before you take on any individual responsibilities, it can be helpful to make a list of tasks that need regular completion and assess what you’re truly capable of. Build these new tasks into your schedule and plan them out thoroughly. When new tasks or larger changes arise, address them as a part of the bigger picture.
2. Share Your Responsibilities
Everyone is different, including you and your parents. Depending on the specific needs of your parents and the workings of your schedule, you might not be able to take everything on yourself — and that’s totally okay. There are plenty of options that you can explore to share the caring responsibilities and make sure your parents are well taken care of. See if siblings or other relatives are willing to take on some of the load, or explore professional options like adult day care or hiring an in-home caregiver. You have a life, too, and sometimes taking on everything just isn’t sustainable in the long term. When you share the load, you can show up brighter and more present for your parents, all while giving them the opportunity to experience social interaction outside of their time with you.
3. Engage in Fun Activities for Everyone
Caring for a loved one can often feel stressful or a bit overwhelming, but it can be so much more than a pile of tasks to complete. You want your parents to be happy and comfortable, just like you. Making a point to do fun activities together can bring a little peace and joy to everyone involved by fostering important quality time together. Whether you play games, do puzzles or spend time in nature, finding joy in activities is what makes life fun, and you can do it together.
4. Make the Home Accessible
Depending on your parents’ needs, they may require additional accessibility measures in their home to keep doing tasks independently. Putting handles on doors, grip bars in the bathrooms and pull down cabinets can make your parents’ home easier for them to navigate and absolve you of some of the smaller tasks throughout the day.If your parents have difficulty with mobility, you might even want to look into installing ramps or a chair lift so they can navigate their space a bit easier. Giving them a bit more accessibility can help them complete tasks for themselves so you can take a bit of a step back every once in a while.
5. Keep Mental Health in the Picture
Even though physical health is a priority at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s also important to remember that your parents’ mental health might be in flux from all the changes happening around them. They’re entering a new place in life where they perhaps can’t do all the things that once made them feel autonomous and happy. Ask them about how they’re feeling through it all. Be an understanding open ear for them to turn to.
6. Remember Your Own Needs
Although you want to do everything you can to help your parents, it’s important to remember your own needs — emotional, economic, physical and mental. You need to remember your limits and continue to practice self-care so you can keep living your life, too. Whether you’re sharing responsibilities or taking on most of the tasks alone, you can’t let your own life fall by the wayside. When you take time for yourself, you’ll show up with more energy, awareness and compassion when you are in your parents’ space. It can be hard to set boundaries and create limits, but it’s crucial for your well being as well as theirs. Everyone’s needs are different as they age, and your parents are fortunate to have someone around to support them through it all. No matter what choices and transitions are right for your family, you’ll stick through it together.