While I’m always happy to talk about financial advice for dealing with your aging parents, I can also share some personal advice specifically for you as a caretaker.
Dealing with taking care of an elderly parent, especially one with serious health problems like Alzheimer’s, can take a toll on you physically, emotionally, and financially.
How to cope with the stress –
- Set aside a time each day that is specifically for de-stressing. Whether you meditate, do yoga, go for a walk, hit the gym – do something that makes you feel good and recharged.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Confide in your friends, siblings, or even a care manager about what you’re going through. Your community can’t help you if they don’t know what you need.
- Give yourself timeouts when you need them. If you feel like you’re about to lose your temper with your parents, take a deep breath, step back, and remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes.
How to make your surroundings safer –
- Set up some “safety nets”. Update your parents’ living space with safety features like handrails in the bathroom (in the shower and near the toilet) and review the area for tripping hazards.
- Deal with mobility issues. Add ramps if wheelchairs are involved. You may also want to invest in stairlifts or small elevators if you’re dealing with multiple floors.
- Use technology. Wearable panic buttons (“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”), GPS tracker watches (if you’re dealing with someone who wanders), or a Smart Assistant (Apple Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Home) can all help keep your parents safe.
How to talk with your parents –
- Remember, they’re not children. Unless they are dealing with a catastrophic, neurodegenerative disease, your parents are adults with ideas of their own. Don’t talk down to them.
- Partner with them on their care. Ask them how much they want you to be involved. Even if they are struggling physically or mentally, no one likes to feel helpless. Make them feel like they have a say in what is going on.
- Know when to step back. Unless they are doing something dangerous that will cause immediate harm, let them make their own decisions. You are a caretaker, not a dictator – you can guide them to make the right decisions, but you can’t force them.
How to deal with memory loss –
- Be understanding. People with various forms of dementia are dealing with a storm of emotions such as grief, confusion, fear, and rage. Be as much as an anchor for them as you can for as long as you can.
- Start a memory book. Show them old photos and ask about what was happening, who was there, and how they felt. Do some basic genealogy and ask about their parents and grandparents and what family stories they remember.
- Know when it’s time to get professional help. As neurodegenerative diseases progress, you’re going to reach a point where you can no longer do everything alone. Before you reach this point, make sure you’ve researched your options – whether it’s at-home care or a memory care facility.
There are hundreds of thousands of caretakers in this country – all who feel like they are alone in what they’re dealing with. The suicide rate of caretakers is staggering.
You are not alone. There are people you can talk to, organizations who can help, and sympathetic shoulders to cry on.
I’ve been where you are. I can help you on the financial side (long-term care insurance, annuities, making sure your own finances aren’t suffering) and I can also empathize with you and share what I learned on my own journey with caretaking.