As the lifespan of the average American increases, so does the number of children caring for their aging parents. According to the Centers for Disease Control, life expectancy in the United States has hit a record high at 78.7 years.
New research from the Pew Research Center shows families in the United States are the primary caretakers for their aging parents. Among Americans with an elderly parent, 58 percent have helped with errands, housework or home repairs.
The following are some ways to keep your stress to a minimum and act with compassion when caring for aging parents:
Don’t Ignore Small Changes
Changes happen gradually as parents age, so you might not notice anything unusual at first. However, if and when you do notice a change, don’t ignore it. According to AARP, some of these behavioral changes might include past-due notices for regular bills, not adhering to medication schedules, a change in personal hygiene and a change or avoidance of prior interests, friends or even family occasions.
You might also notice signs of disrepair in the house or laundry and dishes piling up. These are all signals that your parent may need help with home repairs, shopping, cooking or cleaning. When these instances happen, they don’t always signal a serious decline or danger, but you do want to be proactive and ask questions to determine whether help is needed, what type of help is needed and how you can make it happen.
Keep Conversations Open and Honest
Your role in a healthy relationship with your parent should be as an adult to an adult. While you want to be honest, you never want to treat your parent like a child. According to SageMinder, your role as a grown child is to effectively help your aging parents deal with any changes. Your parents’ role is to acknowledge when they need help and ask for it.
AARP offers a useful checklist of questions to ask your parents to get an honest assessment of how they feel about their living arrangements and daily life, so you may be able to talk openly about where and when they need help.
Know When YOU Need More Help
When parents fall or injure themselves, the need for help is clear. This might include finding professional help for personal care such as bathing, medication adherence and physical therapy. If you notice weight changes, your parent may need help with shopping and cooking. If you notice memory changes such as the inability to follow directions or forgetting how to do daily tasks, that is a sign of mental decline and may mean that they need more permanent assistance.
Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.