Care for Your Aging Parents
- Thursday, July 24, 2008
Prepare well for doctor’s office visits. You’ll probably spend lots of time in doctor’s office waiting rooms. Prepare well by choosing the best doctors for your parents (in terms of both their medical expertise, and your parents’ confidence in them), streamlining your schedule to make time for medical appointments, trying to get the first appointment of the day so your parents will be more likely to be seen on time, bring work with you to do while waiting, bringing your parents’ complete medical histories with you, asking doctors questions about any issues that concern you or your parents, taking notes on what the doctors say, and asking for more information when you want to further research something. Find out about the various medications that doctors prescribe for your parents and make sure that there aren’t any potentially dangerous interactions between them.
Become a patient advocate for your parents. Speak up for your parents’ best interests when dealing with the medical professionals who are treating them. Ask your parents for their permission to receive their personal medical information so you can fight side by side with them for the highest quality of care. Ask doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and others questions to be fully informed about the decisions being made for your parents’ care. Talk with your parents about their treatment options and offer your opinions when asked. Before entering the hospital, ask your parents who should make decisions for them if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. Then make sure that the designated person – yourself or someone else – will be available and clearly understands your parents’ wishes. If you need professional help to oversee your parents’ medical care, consider hiring a geriatric care manager.
Help your parents cope with losing friends and family members. The older your parents get, the more people they’ve loved will likely pass away. Pray for God’s help for your parents in their grief. Listen to your parents express their thoughts and feelings. Give them opportunities to reconnect with old friends, as well as opportunities to meet new friends. Find a grief support group for your parents to join if they’re interested. Offer your parents ways they can continue to feel productive, such as by contributing to your family or serving others in the community.
Enhance safety for parents who choose to live alone. Go through your parents’ home looking for dangers (like leaky faucets, throw rugs, and extension cords) that need to be corrected, and consider what safety products you should buy (such as grab bars in the bathrooms). Get your parents portable telephones and invest in a personal emergency response system for them. Make sure your parents are taking their medications properly every day – the right dosages at the right times. Schedule in-home visits from professionals who can provide companionship and nursing care. Look for ways to help alleviate the loneliness your parents may feel: call them daily, have your kids visit them with you, bring them meals, encourage friends to visit.
Deal well with your parents coming to live with you. If your parents come to live with you, talk openly and honestly about the issues about which you need to reach agreement, like: Who will be responsible for what expenses? How will your home need to be retrofitted to make your parents comfortable? Who will do which household chores? Let your parents choose which items to move from their previous home to yours, and which to let go. Think about how you can take advantage of your proximity to each other to build closer relationships, such as having your parents play with your kids and teach them more about faith. Integrate your parents as fully as possible into your family’s life.
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