Becoming a caregiver for your parent is a big responsibility. According to a report published by the AARP Public Policy Institute, Arizona caregivers spent 749 million hours taking care of parents, spouses, partners, and other adults in 2013. That time is valued at an estimated $9.4 billion.
Adult children who care for a parent are usually doing so for free. The total value of uncompensated care provided by loved ones across the country exceeded the $449 billion spent by Medicaid. It was nearly as much as the $469 billion annual sales generated by the country’s four top tech companies, Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Apple, during the same year.
AARP found that over 800,000 people in Arizona provided an adult loved one with assistance performing daily activities like meal prep, medication management, bathing, dressing, paying bills, or going to a doctor.
If you are a caregiver or expect to become one soon, you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people do the same each year, although their experiences will vary greatly. Much depends on the health status, age, and situation of the loved one in need.
Before you begin, you should be aware of what being a caregiver for a parent can mean. They will most likely rely on you more than they ever have before. What does the average family caregiver do for their mother, father, or in some cases, both?
Stay Aware of Their Medical Needs
Our medical needs change as we age. Elderly people are at a higher risk of illness and injury. As the caregiver, you are responsible for monitoring their medical needs. Stay connected with their physicians on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
You will also serve as your parent’s advocate when they need care. That’s why it’s important to get familiar with their doctors. You may need to reach out to them should something change. You may be one of the first people to notice symptoms or signs that something is wrong.
Provide Support for Basic Needs
We often take activities of daily living (ADLs) for granted. When you are younger, things like using the bathroom, grooming, or eating seem easy. However, age can often cause these tasks to become nearly impossible to do alone.
You will most likely have to provide support for some or all of these activities. The workload may increase as your parent ages. Pay attention to their ability level and adjust as needed.
Assist with Chores and General Housekeeping
One of the signs to look for when someone is no longer able to care for themselves is the condition of their home. When an adult who previously took good care of their living space suddenly stops, it’s a sign that they may be struggling.
This can include indoor and outdoor chores, like washing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, mowing the lawn, and general maintenance.
It’s not easy to ask for help, even for otherwise simple or mundane activities. Your loved one may not be willing to speak up, so be prepared to step in if needed.
Cook Nutritious Meals and Monitor Diet
Diet and health go hand in hand. Eating when you’re hungry makes sense, but aging can cause problems for seniors that could lead to missed meals and poor nutrition. Those who experience the effects of dementia may not remember to eat. Mobility issues can make it hard to prepare food as they once did.
Make sure your parent is getting the nutrition they need. This should be done by preparing healthy meals that work with their dietary requirements. You should also monitor body condition. If you notice sudden weight loss or gain, speak to a doctor right away.
Medication management is another essential duty of family caregivers. You must make sure your parent is taking their medications as prescribed. Missing doses or taking too many can lead to serious health risks.
Some patients struggle with memory loss. This can make it very difficult to remember to take medicine. Have a system of reminders in place and check in as needed. Some seniors may only need occasional reminders while others may need constant medication management.
Provide or Assist with Mobility
Moving from the bed to a chair or getting out of the bathtub can be a challenge for older adults. The caregiver should be present to provide support. The amount of assistance needed will depend on your parent’s abilities.
Preventing a fall is a necessity. Fall injuries can be extremely dangerous for elderly people. If your parent is only recently showing signs of problems, you may also consider installing equipment to help. Things like installing grab bars and handrails or removing unnecessary furniture can reduce the risk.
Make Sure Transportation is Available
An aging parent may no longer be able to use public transportation or drive themselves to the store or a doctor’s appointment. As caregiver, you need to be able to find a way to safely transport them to the places they need to go to.
Take Care of Mental Health
Health and mobility problems can take a toll on mental health. Many adults lose friends and family members as they grow older. This combined with less independence can make them feel isolated and depressed.
A caregiver should provide companionship to help maintain good mental health. Spend quality time together and plan opportunities to socialize, if possible.
Build a Care Plan
You should create a care plan for your loved one. This will help you remember all your caregiver responsibilities and duties. It also helps you see how many hours you will have to spend providing support so that you can plan accordingly. Revisit the care plan and make updates as needed to stay on top of the changing needs of your aging parent.
Support Your Parent with Assisted Living
Being a caregiver is a rewarding but challenging experience. It takes a lot of time and energy. There may come a time when your parent’s needs are more than you can handle on your own. If you begin to experience burnout, it may be time to look into an assisted living community.
Arizona’s senior communities offer safety, security, and comfort with access to medical services and daily care. East Shea Assisted Living near Scottsdale includes on-site barber and beauty salon service, physician house calls, podiatrist, home-cooked meals, and social activities. Visit our website now to learn more about what we can do to help you provide the best care for your aging parent.