Are you worried about caring for aging parents? You're not alone, and it's OK to feel overwhelmed. By familiarizing yourself with caregiving tasks, you can create a plan that gives your parents peace of mind that you'll be there to help — and gives you the support to head into this new situation confidently.
Elder care takes teamwork, and it means understanding the factors that affect caregiving costs. These tips will give you a head start on coming up with a coordinated care plan.
1. Make Caregiving a Team Effort
Caring for aging parents often means helping with familiar tasks, such as grocery shopping, cooking meals, picking up prescriptions and arranging social activities. It could also mean providing transportation or companionship, or helping with personal grooming. And it can be overwhelming if you try to do it all alone.
Making caregiving a team effort is crucial. Caregiving teams are usually made up of a healthy spouse, children and family friends. The average unpaid caregiver spends 3.4 hours a day providing care, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Create a caregiving calendar so that your parents know who is visiting, when they're visiting and what they'll be doing. Focus on strengths and preferences: Some people might prefer doing chores; others would rather tag along on medical appointments or help with paying bills.
Having support from the whole family eases the stress of caring for aging parents, and it can reduce caregiving costs by spreading out expenses, too.
2. Encourage Physical and Mental Wellness — And Take Care of Yourself, Too
Regular physical activity, such as daily walks or yoga, and ongoing preventative care can boost older adults' physical health and mental well-being.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that regular physical activity and good nutrition can help prevent chronic diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease, which increase caregiving costs. Plan regular outings — such as hiking trips — or sign up for online exercise classes to keep your parents physically and mentally fit. These activities will increase your parents' quality of life, and they can help prevent future health care issues.
And don't forget to take care of yourself. Caregiving can be stressful, but preserving your well-being helps you give the best care to your loved ones. Schedule time to take part in your favorite activities and hobbies, and encourage your parents to do the same. Exercise, meditation, reading, massages and spending time outdoors are all excellent self-care activities.
3. Focus on Relationships, Not Tasks
Many caregiving tasks, such as cleaning your parents' home, limit one-on-one time, and some caregivers are left wishing that they had more time to focus on their family relationships. If you have a full schedule, hiring an in-home caregiver for routine tasks such as housekeeping, laundry and meal preparation can free up your time to enjoy your relationship with your parents. Enjoy quiet times with them. Take them out to lunch. Get to know their doctors. Devoting time to these relationships makes it easier to get the help you need.
If you're working and raising a family, your calendar might be full even before you factor in caregiving. Sharing projects can establish a sense of mutual support and care. Instead of running family errands and shopping for your aging parents separately, do them together. Even better: Take your parents with you.
4. Hire Professional Help
Caring for aging parents is easier and more effective when you have the right team helping you. Understanding the factors that affect caregiving costs and navigating medical care systems and the legal aspects of estate planning are essential to giving aging parents the best possible care. You might need expert help — and that's okay.
Establish relationships with financial planners, elder law attorneys and care managers who specialize in elder care. Ask about their costs and the services they offer. These experts can share the ins and outs of care planning and give you confidence that you're making the best decisions for your loved ones.
Caregiving is a labor of love. It's easy to have doubts about whether you're doing the right thing. But by scheduling activities, attending to and monitoring health needs, and creating care partner relationships, you'll establish a foundation to support your parents today and in the future.