As you age, it’s easy to forget that your parents are aging with you and there will come a time when your roles reverse. The people who have always cared for you - your mom, grandmother or another mother-like figure will, in turn, need you to care for her.
As life spans are increasing, older children in their 60s and 70s are caring for elderly parents with deteriorating health in their 90s or older and about 17% of adult children will care for their parents at some point. On Mother’s Day, we want to focus on some tips to help get you to adjust to this new caregiver role.
6 Tips for Caring for Your Aging Mother
1. Have “the Conversation” With Your Mother Sooner, Rather than Later
Many children feel guilty or confused when the time comes to seek caregiver arrangements for their aging mother, but if you have a conversation while your mother is still in good health and everyone involved in her future care is on the same page, it can make this transition much easier on everyone. You can decide where she wants to stay – whether at a group home, in her home or in a nursing facility. It’s important to think of not only their overall wellbeing but yours as well as you start to manage her health.
2. Ask yourself these important questions:
- “What level of care does she need?”
Make a quick exhaustive list over a few days and you’ll quickly get a better picture and full grasp of the exact level of care your mother will need before deciding the next steps in her care. Is she a fall risk? Is she having lapses in memory or confusion? Is she having trouble with issues of incontinence? Or does she just need a little bit of help with daily activities? Answering these questions allows you to better understand the state of her mental and physical health and gauge the level of care she’ll need.
- “Can she stay at home? (Can I handle to have her stay at my home?)”
Once you’ve evaluated the level of care she needs, next ask yourself can YOU provide that care? Are you mentally, emotionally and financially ready to take on that level of responsibility? Caring for a parent can be stressful and at times, a full-time job. You must ask yourself if both of your overall qualities of life will be affected negatively.
- “What is the financial situation of putting her in a home vs. caring for her at home?”
Taking on the new responsibility of caring for your elderly parents also comes with new financial obligations. Elderly children in their 60s or 70s who have retired might not have the financial means to provide extra care. That’s why it’s so important to research every available option. (See #5 below)
3. Decide the Type of Care Your Mother Needs
Now that you have thought about the level of care she might need, it’s time to think about the different options you may have:
- Assisted living – This is for the relatively independent senior who may need some assistance and caregiving with daily activities.
- Independent living communities – These communities are for active, independent seniors who live in a community with other seniors. Though medical support is provided, it offers a sense of unity and retained independence in one’s own home that can be rented or owned.
- Nursing homes – This is the fullest level of care facilities. It’s a living environment with medical surveillance and caregiving with a 24-hour nursing staff. This can be the most daunting option since you’re putting their care in someone else’s hands, but make sure to do your research and find a facility that fits her needs and is close enough that you’re still able to visit your mother.
- Aging at home – Aging at home is the choice of most seniors to maintain the highest level of independence, but it does require adjustments. For seniors who may need some help with daily living activities, professional or familial caregivers are needed.
- Living with family – Living with a family member can be a big change for all, but it allows your mother a sense of comfort while being around family. This is for a senior who needs assistance with daily activities and can’t live on their own, but still want to remain in a home environment with companionship and familial relationships.
4. Make Your Mom Comfortable
Regardless of how you care for your mom or the level of responsibility you choose to take on, make sure that she is prepared and comfortable. Offer your companionship and try to be patient with the change. Schedule reminders for her and yourself to help her remember when to take her medicine. Try to stay involved and up to date with doctor’s visits so you know about her overall health and what medications she should be taking. You can buy your mom assistive clothing such as Velcro shoes to maintain a level of independence and smoother transition to being cared for. This role-reversal can be scary and unnerving for everyone, but especially for a mom who may be losing her ability to fully care for herself.
5. Research Benefits on Eligibility for Care
There is certainly a financial impact on caring for an aging loved one. Some people may be eligible to receive support from government programs, so make sure to check for all potential opportunities and take advantage of all support provided. As a caregiver, you may also qualify for tax relief by claiming your parent as a dependent or deducting medical expenses. There are options available, so make sure to do your research to ensure you mom is getting the proper support she needs, while also making sure it’s financially viable, especially if you’re going to be providing for her.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Yes, she’s your mother but you should never be afraid to ask anyone for help - especially if you have siblings or close family friends. Don’t hesitate to ask for a little assistance from a friend, other family member or neighbor. Ask them to help with dinner or meals once in a while, or to take your mom out for lunch or shopping. Just like raising a child takes a village, it’s a communal effort to care for an aging parent when the time comes. It’s completely okay to reach out to people when you need a hand.
Caringpeople.com offers a lot of resources about caring for your aging mom, including facts and figures, how to choose a caregiver and providing pros and cons for the different types of care. Moms have always been there for us and on Mother’s Day, along with every day, we want to be there for our moms.