Care for Your Aging Parents
- Thursday, July 24, 2008
Choose an assisted living or nursing facility wisely. Thoroughly research facilities your parents are considering. When you tour potential facilities, evaluate them carefully, paying attention to factors like: quality of medical attention, cleanliness and attractiveness of the environment, ratio of patients to medical staff, personal contact with staff, and opportunities residents have for practicing their faith. Also consider the results of government inspections and whether or not your family can afford to pay the cost of care at each facility. Explain to the people in charge at the facilities what type of care your parents need, and ask them to describe the specific ways their facility will meet those needs. Once you’ve found the best facility your family can afford and your parents have moved in, find ways to continue participating in their lives and allow them to participate in yours.
Find hope if you’re sandwiched between aging parents and young children. If you’re wedged between dual caregiving responsibilities – both to your parents and your young children – remember that this is just a temporary season. Pray for the strength and wisdom you need to make the right decisions about how to use your limited time and energy. Consider what responsibilities you can outsource to others: hiring a cleaning service, asking other family members to prepare meals, and even involving your young children as you care for your parents by having them keep them company or do some tasks for them. Explain your parents’ limitations to your kids and answer their questions honestly. Help your kids have fun with their grandparents in creative ways. Help your parents participate in family life as much as possible, even if they must do so from their beds. Use humor to diffuse your stress.
Ask for help and find it. Realize that if you’re trying to care for your parents completely by yourself, you’re doing both them and yourself a disservice. Get some respite. Assess and clearly communicate the kind of help you’d find most useful. Ask for help from family members, friends, and outside sources like state agencies, senior centers, and churches. Talk with your parents’ medical team about finding caregivers with proven track records. Ask God to help you locate the right helpers to come alongside you in the journey.
Work with your parents when their judgment is impaired. When your parents can’t make the best decisions for themselves (because of dementia, an inaccurate assessment of their own limitations, or some other reason), you need to protect them from harm (such as by stopping them from driving if they’re reflexes or eyesight are no longer sharp enough, or by disconnecting the gas to the stove if they start fires when trying to cook). But you should also choose your battles so you don’t engage in a major power struggle unnecessarily. Make the time to genuinely listen to what your parents have to say. Elicit their cooperation rather than issuing them edicts. Give them information about their options on decisions that affect their lives. Include them in the decision-making process as much as possible. Ask questions instead of assuming that you always know what your parents need or want. Pray for the strength you need to be patient with them.
Care for yourself. You can’t take care of your parents well if you don’t take good care of yourself. Ask God to show you which of your expectations come from Him and which come from self-imposed guilt. Pray for the strength and joy you need. Contact your local hospital or senior center to find support groups and respite services.
Raise eternal issues with your parents. Watch for clear opportunities to talk with your parents about faith in Jesus, but be careful not to evangelize in ways that are inappropriate and alienating. Make sure that you’re living out your faith in ways that inspire your parents to want to share it. Let them see Jesus’ love flowing through your life. Become familiar with Scripture passages that explain salvation, and when you do talk to your parents about it, focus on the fact that everyone who calls on Jesus and trusts Him will be saved – no matter how old they are, or what kind of life they’ve lived up until that point. Ask other believers to spend time with your parents and pray for you to get opportunities to reach them with Jesus’ love. Pray for the ability to be a credit to God through the routine tasks you take on for your parents.
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