Care for Your Aging Parents
- Thursday, July 24, 2008
Seek support from your church. Ask some people from your church to visit your parents and do anything else they can do, such as deliver meals or help with transportation. Pray for the wisdom to know the right people to ask (you may start with your pastor and his wife, or someone on the care team if your church has one), and pray for God to bless those who help you. Seek out others in your congregation who are caring for aging parents, and form a prayer chain or small group to support each other.
Deal with anger. Ask God to help you understand what’s causing your own anger, as well as the anger that your parents are experiencing. Pray for God to diffuse the anger in your caregiving situation and infuse it with His grace and understanding. Keep a log of times when your parents become agitated, and see whether it reveals a pattern that can lead you to the source of their anger. Don’t hesitate to get respite when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Set boundaries (both emotional and physical) so you’re not putting yourself or your parents in danger while you’re still fulfilling your caregiving responsibilities.
Combat depression. Get your parents involved in activities in different places, such as social, church, and exercise groups. Listen to them share their thoughts and feelings; draw them out. Read and meditate on Bible passages about hope. If your parents are having trouble functioning due to depression, encourage them to see a counselor at least once. If depression is significantly affecting your life, visit a counselor yourself.
Manage dementia. Pray for the laughter and patience you need to deal with the forgetfulness and eccentric behavior that dementia brings. Journal your thoughts and feelings; then pray about them. Talk openly with family members and friends about your challenges and solicit help in a regular rotation of caregiving duties. Enroll your parents in respite services.
Make wise financial decisions. Ask your parents to show you where they keep important information that you may need to access if they ever become unable to manage their own affairs: Social Security and Medicare information, sources of income, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, insurance policies, debts, and the location of any safe deposit boxes. Discuss issues like health insurance, long-term care insurance, prescription drug coverage, and wills and trusts. Help your parents create a list of critical financial documents and make sure everyone in the family knows where to find that list. Encourage your parents to consult a financial advisor. Discuss signing a financial/legal power of attorney to allow someone they trust to make decisions for them if they become unable to do so for themselves.
Make wise legal decisions. Make sure your parents clearly communicate their legal choices while they’re coherent and able to legally sign documents. In the absence of signed documents, state laws – not your parents’ wishes – govern the decisions. Consider drawing up documents like a power of attorney for property, a power of attorney for healthcare, and a living will. Discuss whether or not your parents would like a Do Not Resuscitate order if they should ever need CPR. Pray for God to give you all wisdom and help you carry out your parents’ wishes in a trustworthy manner. Get the estate plans for both your parents’ estate and your own estate in order.
Seek support from hospice. If one of your parents becomes terminally ill, help him or her live as fully as possible before dying. Recognize that medical technology isn’t meant to sustain a life that God is taking. Pray for the wisdom and peace you need to discern when to let go. If your parent is no longer responding to curative care, he or she can receive pain relief and symptom management through hospice. Hospice will help your parent go through the dying process with dignity, and provide you with respite, support groups, and bereavement counseling.
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