How to Take Care of Your Aging Parent

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When you make the decision to bring your parent into your home, you are taking on many new caregiving roles, but you do not have to do it all alone!

When you make the decision to bring your parent into your home, you take on a new role. Most often your parent comes to live with you because they are no longer able to care for themselves. This makes you the responsible party, the advocate, the financial steward, the guardian.

It is now your responsibility to see your parent is taken care of, that their resources are guarded, that they receive the emotional support and physical care they require much like they did for you when you were growing up and the care you now provide your children.

I know this sounds overwhelming, burdensome even. But you do not have to take on all of these roles yourself.

Financial Care

When my MIL first joined our family, we made no plan for accountability and very little plan for financial responsibility. We didn’t assign anyone the role of financier. As such, we allowed freedoms that should not have been allowed. No records were kept for accountability. No plan for the future was established.

It wasn’t long before we encountered big problems. Her other children not living with us began to have legitimate concerns. Accusations were made. Conflict arose. Bridges were burned.

We desperately needed a different plan.

We hired an attorney to solely represent my MIL’s interests. A family agreement was drawn up.

My MIL was to remain in our home and under my primary care but her finances were to be managed by her daughter (with the help of an accountant). Her bills are paid and her material needs (and most “wants”) are met. As a family, we now keep each other accountable.

eating a tacoPhysical Care

Inviting your parent into your home means you are now responsible for their physical care. You now have a custodial role. In many ways, I fill the same roles for my MIL  as I do for my children.

I make sure she’s getting proper nutrition, that she stays on top of her medication, that her activities are safe. I look for signs of  illness, bandage “booboos,” and respond to emotional breakdowns.

Everyday I see to it that she’s showered, dressed, fed, involved in our family, is on-time to appointments and activities, that her laundry is done and her room is kept clean.  I worry about her safety, health, mental state, whether I’m doing the right thing.

Spiritual and Emotional Carebible and coffee

The responsibility of providing daily physical care means that I am not always the best person to provide spiritual and emotional support. Sure, I see to the basics of daily quiet time and prayer, going to Sunday services, and listening to the “little” complaints.

It is a difficult thing to get older. It is made even more difficult by the fact that you can no longer care for yourself. You are now dependent on your own child (or in-law) for care and shelter. This often causes resentment, not toward you as the caregiver necessarily, but toward the situation. As such, it can be difficult for your parent to confide in you as they once did.

Before my MIL joined our home, she and I had a great relationship. We have many similarities and interests and could carry on great conversations despite her dementia. When my FIL died and I became her primary caregiver, our relationship changed drastically.

My new role was to tell her to take her medicine, help her with personal hygiene, insist she wear proper clothing, tell her “no” when she wanted to overeat or drive. Her resentment toward this new situation means she lashes out at me with very little provocation. Sometimes nothing I say or do seems to quell her anger and bitterness.

I had to seek out other options.

I hired a CNA to help us a few times a week hoping she would take over some of the physical care needs so I could provide more emotional support. But the opposite occurred. While the CNA does assist with some physical needs, her primary help has been as a companion and friend.

My sister-in-law calls at least once a week. She’s able to work through some of my MIL’s delusions and reassure her that I do care for her, that I have no “hidden design” or nefarious purpose in her being part of our home.

Decision Making

My MIL’s Dementia has progressed to the point that she no longer makes rational or wise decisions. Even a person aging normally sees a decline in their decision making skills. When it comes to small, everyday decisions such as food choices or schedules, the primary caregiver can make those with a clear conscience.

The larger decisions must be made as an extended family group. Our family has created several ways of doing this. Because of our busy and conflicting schedules we have a Facebook group and email chain that we use for discussing big decisions like major purchases or changes in financial situations.

If it is something that only impacts my MIL like medical decisions or hiring help, my sister-in-law (financial care person), husband, and I (physical care person) will make that decision while keeping the rest of the family informed.

One of the most difficult adaptations in this process of moving my MIL into our home is accepting that sometimes extended family will be making decisions that impact our home and family. It can feel invasive, intrusive, and humiliating for someone to suggest that there might be a better way for running a particular part of YOUR home.

You must communicate constantly with your extended family, keep them updated on every major change. They want and deserve to have a say in their parent’s care and home life.

The positive: your relationships with your extended family will grow and strengthen in ways they might not otherwise. You learn to depend on one another.

You are not alone!

I am called “primary caregiver” but I do not fill all the roles required for keeping a parent in your home. In fact, a large number of the roles associated with caregiving are not filled by anyone in our home (or even in our state). It is is a group effort. You should not have to do it all. The responsibility of caring for your parent can be as great as that of caring for your children. You must look after YOU and remember that it really does take a village to care for an aging parent.

Even if you are an only child caring for your aging parent, you are not alone! There are many resources and options available to you. Begin exploring your options with these five awesome resources.

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