Aging is something that happens to everyone, and as people advance in years, it impacts families. Adult children often come full circle, stepping up to care for parents as they age. When parents maintain their good health for many years, it can be difficult to imagine what it will be like when they eventually begin to decline. However, as the years continue to go by, there will eventually come a time when the effects of aging become inescapable. Many families reach a time when some type of long-term care is necessary to assist elderly parents. Learning about care for seniors before it’s needed is often helpful, and researching options will help ensure that you’re prepared when the time comes for assistance.
Activities of Daily Living
Seniors have needs for dignity and physical and emotional health, just as everyone does. Daily living activities can help ensure that these needs are met. Generally, adults take care of these needs independently. However, these activities may begin to become difficult as a senior citizen gets older. Examples of potential challenges include:
- Bathing and other personal hygiene
- Toilet hygiene
- Functional mobility (moving around the house and getting in and out of a chair and bed without falls)
Health issues and/or impaired mobility can make it difficult or impossible for seniors to take care of these needs independently. If this happens, family needs to find appropriate help for the senior family member. This help might come in the form of a relative, a qualified professional or care center, or equipment and accessories that can aid with independence.
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living
Independent living also requires other types of routine activities related to daily living. These instrumental activities include:
- Cooking meals
- Shopping and running errands
- Managing money and paying bills
- Communicating on the phone
- Taking medications
Overall health and well-being necessitates that seniors have these activities of daily living performed consistently. If an elderly parent has trouble doing any of these things on their own, someone needs to step in to assist them.
An elderly parent’s living situation is a fundamental factor that can influence their well-being.
- Living Alone: Seniors may live alone, either close to other family members or far away from a support system. Many older adults prefer to stay in their homes living independently for as long as possible. Sometimes, parents are willing to relocate closer to family while still living independently. In this situation, it may be possible to maintain independent living for some time, especially after making adjustments or modifications to the home.
- Independent Living Communities: Seniors might rent or buy a condominium or apartment in a community with other senior citizens. Typical amenities can include housekeeping, security, gyms, clubhouses, and maintenance. Residents might also be able to receive help with meals, transportation, laundry, and social activities.
- Assisted Living Communities: Those who are able to maintain most of their independence but begin to need some help with daily activities might be candidates for assisted living. Rental of apartments or suites provides a living situation that includes assistance with meals, dressing, bathing, and medication, if needed. Residents can also receive additional services such as laundry, group meals, social activities, housekeeping, and transportation.
- Nursing Homes: If a person’s health necessitates full-time caregiving and medical surveillance, a nursing home may be appropriate. Nursing home care might be either short- or long-term, and it includes 24/7 nursing care. Some seniors may be eligible for Medicaid coverage for nursing home care.
- Living With Family: Moving in with relatives is another option for seniors who need help with daily activities and health care. This option can provide important companionship for an elderly parent, too.
Caring for elderly parents includes important financial considerations. Some seniors are eligible for financial support from government programs, which can help pay for living expenses. Families should research options and take advantage of any assistance that may be available. Caregivers can also be eligible for tax relief if they claim an elderly parent as a dependent. Senior citizens can also receive free tax assistance during tax season.
Assistance and Support
Many groups and organizations assist senior citizens and their families. Explore ways to get extra help for your family.
- Government Benefits: Many assistance programs help with income, health, and disabilities.
- Area Agencies on Aging: This federal program offers professional staff who can help connect families with programs and services. Counselors are also on staff to assist.
- BenefitsCheckUp: The National Council on Aging offers this Web-based service to help families search for programs and benefits.
How to Search for Elder Care
When searching for elder care for a family member, the first step is determining the type of care that’s wanted and needed.
- Home Care: If you’re looking for home care, determine whether you need to hire help to come in to help with household chores, meals, or personal care. Many agencies provide this type of care, and ideally, you would hire an agency with employees who are certified to provide either medical or non-medical services. Ask your physician for recommendations.
- Nursing Home: If it’s time to find a nursing home, begin a search online to find a few reputable care centers that are located in your desired area. Make appointments to visit a few to take tours, and observe the environment, staff, and residents while you’re there. Narrow your choices, then go back to a couple of nursing homes you’ve already toured, this time unannounced, to see how the facility operates when you’re not expected.
With aging, seniors often lose their ability to defend themselves, making them a common target for abuse. Elder abuse is any type of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse that’s inflicted on a senior citizen. This harm can be perpetuated either directly or indirectly in the form of neglect. Elder abuse can be inflicted in the home by family members, come at the hands of professionals hired to visit the home, or happen at skilled nursing facilities. Staying involved with an elderly parent’s daily life and care will help you recognize any signs of abuse. Watch for:
- Unexplained injuries, pain, or and impairment
- Emotional distress such as depression or fear
- Neglect, such as missed meals or missed medication
- Isolation from friends and family
If you notice unusual behavior or drastic shifts in demeanor, investigate quickly to make sure all is well with your family member.
- Seven Resources for Caregivers of Elderly Parents
- A Guide to Caring for Elderly Parents
- What Care Options Are Available for Aging People on a Budget?
- Home Care Services for Seniors
- Social Services for the Elderly: How Can I Get Help?
- How to Hire In-Home Help When Your Aging Parents Don’t Want to Move
- Using Live-In Caregivers as an Alternative to Assisted Living
- Finding the Right Care for the Elderly
- What to Look for in Elder Care Services
- How to Afford Private Home Care for Elderly
- Overview of Aging
- Elder Abuse: Definitions
- Facts About Elder Abuse
- What Is Elder Abuse?
- Elder Abuse Statistics and Facts
- How to Identify Elder Abuse and How to Report It
- Information About Elder Abuse and Neglect
- Elder Abuse: Know the Signs of Physical, Financial, and Emotional Harm
- Finding a Nursing Home: Don’t Wait Until You Need One to Do the Research
- What to Look For When Touring a Nursing Home
- Physical Abuse and How to Spot It
- Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home or Other Long-Services and Support
- What to Look for When Choosing a Care Facility
- How to Pay for Nursing Homes and Assisted Living
- NCOA BenefitsCheckUp
- How to Pay for Nursing Home Care
- Nursing Home Costs
- To What Extent Will Medicare Cover Long-Term Care?
- Five Things to Look for When Touring a Nursing Home
- How to Find the Best Nursing Home for a Senior
Content approved by Jerry Parker