A 2015 AARP report estimated that there are 34.2 million Americans providing unpaid care to someone aged 50 or older. Thanks to modern medicine, adaptive technology, and a greater amount of accessible resources, older adults are increasingly able to age-in-place. As the Baby Boomer generation enters their later years, geriatric care is going to increase in both cost and demand. This means more and more adult children are entering the role of family carer, helping their elderly parents live in their home as long as possible.
Caring for our loved ones as they age isn’t something very front-and-center in our minds until it has to be. Most of us are waiting around for some sort of crisis to occur, at which point we will have to react and reorient our lives.
How much better off would families be if they prepared a little bit more for the inevitability of ageing and declining health? If you have an ageing parent, there are things you can do now to better prepare for assuming the role of caregiver, in whatever capacity that might be.
Research adult day services in your area
Adult day centers offer planned daytime programming for older adults. Some centers may offer transportation or health services in addition to activities. When your loved one begins to show signs of needing supervision during the day or if they’re simply lonely, these centers are a wonderful option for social and support services. The National Adult Day Services Association has a great article on Choosing a Center. You can also enter your zip code into their database to find services near you. Opt for a service that uses technology like StoriiCare adult day care software. This way, you can see live updates and photos of your loved one, instantly message care staff and check the daily schedule all from your smart device.
Casually start a conversation with your family
Ageing, sickness, finances and death aren’t exactly go-to conversation starters. On top of that, family dynamics can make these conversations complicated or harder to initiate. That said, taking small steps now can make a huge difference later. A stressful situation can be made much worse by not knowing if your parent has a living will, where they keep their important documents, if they have medical directives filled out, who their power of attorney is, how much money they have saved, what types of insurance they have, what sort of funeral they’d want, etc. Try something like, “Hey dad, I was just curious. what are your wishes if anything were to happen to you? I don’t think that’s something we’ve talked about yet” or even writing a letter if that feels more comfortable.
Get others in your corner
Every caregiver needs a support circle. Caring for a loved one is hard work and can bring up all kinds of anxieties that need a place to be processed. Consider having a chat with your dearest friends, siblings or significant other about what you might need from them when you assume a caregiver role. Mentioning these things before a crisis happens is helpful because it is harder to think of what you need in the heat of the moment. It also normalizes this type of communication and encourages others to connect and support themselves and others through the process of caregiving.
Keep a folder for the future
Have a designated place where you keep information pertaining to caring for your loved one. There is no need to get overwhelmed and collect everything you could possibly think of right away. Add to it over time so that you’ve got a good stash of resources when you need them. You and your parent could upload everything to a shared file online or you can store brochures, cards, documents, etc. in a binder at home.