Caring for Aging Parents
The first step to caring for an aging parent is knowing what to expect.
As our parents live longer and more active lives, many of us are taking on an unexpected role in their lives. We're becoming part of the “sandwich generation” – those who are caring for their aging parents while still raising their own children.
According to the Pew Research Center, more than one in eight Americans between the ages of 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. Based on the 2000 U.S. Census, Largo's 55 plus community is 30 percent; more than the state's 18 percent. This means that for many Largo residents, possibly you, they are the primary caretakers of their parents, while raising their own family.
It's a daunting task that can be overwhelming and lead to caregiver burnout. Not to mention the additional stress over decisions about the best care options. It's a huge responsibility.
It’s not uncommon for family caregivers to experience guilt over the decision to examine other care options for a loved one. However, when the needs of the loved one go beyond the quality of care that can be provided at home, it may be time to consider a senior living community.
To know when it’s time for this decision, caregivers should watch for these warning signs:
- Forgetting to take medications
- Decline in personal hygiene
- Memory loss
- Loneliness or depression
- Loss of interest in social activities
- Poor eating habits
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
For seniors who are have these symptoms, an assisted living facility can often provide the best level of care that's customized to their needs. In an assisted living community, seniors can receive help with daily activities, such as preparing meals, bathing and medication management, but they are still able to maintain a level of independence, privacy and an active social life.
For seniors who do not yet need daily assistance but could benefit from more social interaction, senior day programs can be a helpful solution. These programs allow seniors to spend a few hours, or as many as 12, at a community to socialize, participate in activities and share meals with other seniors, preventing the loneliness they may otherwise experience while their caregiver is at work.
Senior day programs, along with temporary respite care, provide a break for weary caregivers and a preview for seniors, allowing prospective residents to check in to a senior living community for a short stay before making a longer term decision. Similarly, dusk-to-dawn programs are another non-residency option, offering overnight care for seniors who experience such difficulties as sleep disturbance, confusion, Alzheimer’s or wandering habits.
When making decisions about the care of loved ones, it’s important to consider their physical and mental health as a top priority. While the decisions may be difficult, high quality care that is provided in a warm, home-like environment can provide seniors with an improved quality of life and give caregivers peace of mind.
Here are some helpful resources for caregivers:
- eCare Diary: eCare Diary provides comprehensive information, tools and resources to help those seeking and providing long term care.
- Strength for Caring: a resource for caregivers in Florida
Are you caring for aging parents? What local resources have you found to help you?