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5 Things You Need to Know When Caring for your Aging Parent


When to step in

We watch our parents age and one day realize that their ability to take care of themselves and their home is declining. For some it is a very gradual decline, for others, it can change dramatically after medical issues arise, such as hip or knee surgery, diagnosis of heart issues, stroke or debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

Have a Family Conversation

It’s a good idea to have a conversation early enough when your parents are still in good health. Where do they want to live as they age? Can they downsize their home and simplify their lifestyle? It’s best not to wait until there is a crisis to have to make these decisions. Have open discussions about alternative housing, finances, and lifestyle.

When the time is right

Use professional and volunteer home care agencies where you are able. Government-supported home care is available for home visits by physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and social workers. Home care programs can also provide support for services like transportation, companionship, and care of your home as you care for your aging parent. These can give you peace-of-mind when you aren’t able to do it all.

Take care of yourself too

The sandwich generation is still taking care of their own families: college or university students, or grads that are living at home while they get on their feet. Or perhaps their own children are starting families of their own and there is the need be there as a grandparent. Working moms will often leave their jobs to fulfill these roles because trying to do look after everyone can become too much. They get caught in the middle.

Often the needs of our parents outweigh our own needs. You care for your elderly parent out of love, and it’s difficult to put a limit on what you are willing to do. Finding the balance can be challenging. It becomes even more difficult when we are in over our heads and are laden with guilt when trying to take some of our lives back.

Many caregivers become isolated and experience burnout after years of taking life “day-by-day”. Recognize when you are taking on too much, and when you need help.

Create a support team

Taking on the role of caregiver can be very demanding and stressful. Suddenly you must manage pain relief, administer medication, bathe, dress and lift properly, become aware of safety issues, and look after legal issues. It’s not all about the physical care. There is the emotional side of care—ensuring some happiness and quality of life.

Family and friends can be of help if you let them. If your siblings live further away, they can still help with other matters such as legal or financial issues. Friends can be a sounding board when things become stressful. Tap into the community’s resources, support groups where you can share your experiences and learn new skills that can help you gain confidence. Reach out and learn as much as you can to empower yourself in your caregiving role.

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