Baby Boomer Personal Life Coaching: 3 Must-Do Tasks And Responsibilities For Dealing With Your Aging ParentsPosted on July 8, 2013 by ECR Louisville in Blog, Caregiver Education, Education, Home Care Non-Medical, Independent Living
By: Virginia Konrad | Posted:Jul 29, 2009
As our lives progress rapidly in the midst of troubled times, it’s absolutely essential not to ignore or forget the responsibilities and proactivity necessary to care for our parents. In particular, those of us solidly representing the “Baby Boomer” generation are now deep into the age where our parents really need help and practical support. Only 2 years away, when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2011, the oldest of the baby boomers will turn sixty-five. This remarkable generation, the largest in American history, will continue to have an enormous impact on the nation socially, economically and politically as later it ages, transforming old age as no other generation has before in history. It is, however, their newly-gained responsibility to transform the way our parents are managed and cared for, and following are 3 absolute must-do tasks and responsibilities for dealing with your parents as they quickly age.
As men and women born between 1946 and 1964 grow older, their parents are also aging. Those who have not already experienced the impact of aging on their parents will very likely do so in the next decade – and it can happen at absolutely any time, precipitated by any event, whether health, financial or social-related. You may find quickly yourself in a new season of life where you are an adult child of an aging parent. The physical and mental costs of travel, communication, direct assistance and hired help are particularly tough on your family and lifestyle when you don’t live in the same area as your aging parent – but it’s the additional load of worrying and guilt that can be unbearable.
- Is he / she all right?
- How will I know if he / she isn’t?
- Should I be visiting more?
- Should I take time off from work?
- Why won’t others help?
- Can I get affordable help?
- Am I giving enough?
Thoughtful preparation on your part could help to minimize the guilt trip, minimize expenses, and minimize the constant worry and anxiety. Make the most of your visits and the time you can give, whether in person or remotely via the phone and email (as possible). Now more than ever organization and preparation are the keys to your success and your survival.
1) Lovingly Watch Out for Your Parent
Here are a few tips for organizing from a distance.
- Establish a local support network as soon as possible. Make a list of friends, family or neighbors who live near your parent. Let these people know of your concern. They can be extra ears and eyes as well as caring friends. They can alert you when they notice signs of trouble and be available if there is an emergency.
- If your parent lives alone, see if a relative, friend or neighbor will stop by occasionally to see how your parent is doing or perhaps drop off a meal or offer a ride into town. A synagogue, might know of volunteers who can check on your loved one. You may be able to hire a companion to spend time with your family member.
- Learn about any local elder watch programs, for example “Meals on wheels”
Phone calls don’t always tell you what you need to know. Visit your parent so you can see for yourself what’s really going on, and so you can make adjustments to your parent’s home or get additional help when necessary.
2) Visit Your Parent
Nothing is truly more important than in-person visits, companionship and dialogue with an elder parent – it can be incredibly rewarding, satisfying and productive for both you, your family members and most of all your parent. It’s certainly much more effective than long-distance phone calls or emails, though the proliferation of Internet-based communication tools can bridget the gap – for example using online conferencing softward. This, however, requires significant attentiona and maintenance of computer resources; additionally, your parent may simply not be interested or able to leverage it. Look into Internet tools – but plan first and most often to actually visit.
In advance of visiting, plan what you want to accomplish, who else might attend, and anything you might need to discuss with your parent.
If you live far away, organize your visits in advance so you can accomplish as much as possible. If you need to meet with a doctor, lawyer, social worker, religious leader or other professional (or other friends and acquantainces of your parent), set up appointments at least a month in advance, as their schedules get filled quickly. Be sure to confirm these appointments closer to the date, and confirm your parent’s ability to attend as necessary. It’s probably not a good idea to bring the grandchildren to every visit – especially if your primary goal is targeted assessment and assistance of your parent’s basic needs.
When you are with your parent, take a mental and physical inventory of their health and living situation. Try to foresee trouble before it happens:
- Does your parent seem wobbly or dizzy?
- Are they well groomed, or has their personal hygiene deteriorated?
- Is there ample food in the refrigerator?
- Is the food spoiled and moldy, and the kitchen unkempt?
- Are there significant issues with landscaping or home maintenance?
- Are there piles of unopened mail or unpaid bills, notices, or newspapers in the driveway?
- Do they use the computer? Check (or have someone check) its status, whether full of viruses, spam, attempts of identity theft, unusual communications or purchases.
- Are finances in order? Check the visa bill, bank statement, online accounts and checkbook for unusual charges or purchases.
- Do they still do the things they used to, like read, knit, play the piano or do the crossword puzzle?
- Does it appear that they’re getting out, seeing friends? Are they calling on her?
- When they do go out, are they unreasonably forgetful, in appearance, action or conversation?
If things seem askew or different than they used to be, it may be a sign of underlying trouble…depression, confusion, illness, diminishing eyesight, loss of financial resources, deterioration of living conditions, or simply a signal to you that your parent needs more help at home and opportunities to get out.
Include some time during your visit to talk with nearby relatives, friends or others who see your parent regularly – both to hear their thoughts and concerns and to thank them for helping in any way that they do.
Check out local services and facilities. See what hospital is best, what nursing homes are acceptable, and what community services are offered. Ask your personal life coach for more information, both to help your parent, and help yourself.
Even though your life is busy be sure to spend some time simply being with your parent, chatting and listening, watching a movie or just sitting together quietly, reminiscing together on life yesterday, now and the many tomorrows ahead. A trip that’s all business misses a critical element. Find time to relax, listen to offer support. Most importantly, try and plan visits that your parent enjoys, whether it includes a lot of noise and bustle (i.e. with the children), or is very tranquil and quiet.
3) Help Your Parent Prepare for Emergencies
- Discuss and call a company that provides an emergency response system to help your parent get immediate help in case of a fall or other health emergency. This can include wireless alerting mechanisms, perimeter alarms, Internet cameras, etc. – there are many very reasonable options available. Wecams in particular are an easy way for you to check in on your parent, at any time, from any location with your mobile phone.
- Set up speed dial to automatically dial out to multiple persons, for help on your parent’s phone and/or computer. Create an easy-to-find folder for emergency medical technicians with instructions of who to call, including pictures of the people they will be reaching. It might also be helpful if your parent’s personal address / phonebook is set up with small photos along with the contact information. This information should be electronically copied and stored as well, forwarded to several others who may be in a position to help – including those who help you, such as your trusted personal life coach.
- Arrange, as possible (if not yourself), to routinely monitor and check the living arrangements for safety and protection – the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, locks on doors and windows, alarms, plumbing and gas fittings, appliances, the car, transit areas in and out of the house, snow/ice removal assistance, landscaping dangers (like dead trees), etc. There are many inherent dangers about living alone, without ability, resources or inclination to deal with the proper upkeep of a living environment.
Above all take care of yourself. Recognize and accept the limits of what you can do and give yourself credit for all you are doing. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or use community services. And finally, get support from friends or a Seasons of Life Coach to help you alleviate stress and guilt.
This article is an update to a series of personal life coaching articles from Louisville, KY life coach expert Janie Behr – search and find many more in addition to personal assistance for caring for elderly parents, at JBLifeCoach dot com.
About the Author
This article released with permission by Janie Behr, Louisville KY Personal Life Coach. Read more about Elderly Care and Family/Personal Life Coaching options for individuals or groups on her site. Virginia Konrad writes and comments about Internet business news and information on a regular basis, publishing material across several news channels and social media outlets, including Northern Virginia and Washington DC Business News.
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