9 Tips to Help Your Aging Parents Live Their Best Life
Taking care of your parents doesn’t necessarily mean that your parents are elderly, that they can’t take care of themselves, or live by themselves. This just means the roles have been reversed. They’re done taking care of us. They’re free! BUT, they might need our help now.
It’s time for us to be the grownups – maybe not right away, but in the near future. As it’s common within our community, ultimately, we want to be able to take care of our parents or grandparents, amirite?
So how do you take care of them without making them feel like you’re having to put your life on hold? Here are a few things I’ve done which I think personally have helped me take care of my mom with dignity without taking anyone’s sense of independence away.
1)“Alexa”: I personally don’t have an Alexa. I prefer to do everything myself, sorry Amazon, but I bought the Echo dot for my mom. I initially sold her on this idea that it was amazing and innovative. In reality, I bought it so she’ll be able to call me in case she falls if she’s home alone. If she does, she can just say, “Alexa, call Gaby” or whoever she wants so we can coordinate with someone to go check in on her. Note – She lives in a small town in Mexico, and if she were to call 911 but couldn’t get up to open the door, paramedics would be, “Well, we knocked but no one answered…” So, it’s easier if I send help :s
2) Traveling: We encourage her to go on trips with her friends. By motivating them to travel, even if it’s a weekend getaway or going abroad, these ladies plan months in advance. This makes them do research and even go to physical therapy 😉 Having something to look forward to, like a trip, is a lot more work for them than it is for us. We might simply take off with no plans or clear idea of where we’re going but for most parents, it’s a process. It gives them so much hope and excitement. Most importantly, the amount of walking they do when they’re traveling is great. They feel alive and independent.
3) Travel down memory lane: When was the last time you went fishing, hiking or even shopping with your parents? Try planning things you did with them when you were younger or plan something they always wanted to do but may not do themselves. Hey, this might also be part of their bucket list (and yours?)!
4) Ask for advice: Ask them for advice constantly. Sometimes you might already know and your gut might be telling you what to do but they’ve lived through so much already that they can give you good alternatives. And if you don’t take their advice? That’s cool. You just gave them a sense of presentness, that they’re still valuable, that their opinions matter and that is priceless. Fast forward a few years from now, you will need that feeling too.
5) Be present: If your parents are in a nursing home or it’s more complicated for them to move, it’s not that different. Every so often, I visit my great uncle for coffee. Again, his advice is the greatest thing. Sharing their knowledge and just helping them talk and exercise their brain helps. Let them go on and on and if you’re there for five hours, so be it. It’s ok if you don’t have brunch with your friends every Sunday. Always put yourself in their shoes. Let them talk, play Sudoku. It’s the little things that mean so much to them.
6) Help them create a community or support system: If they’re in a nursing or assisted living home, crash their group activities and try to be engaging with the rest of the people there. Tell them all about your life, show them pictures, ask them their opinion on travel, cultures, work, advice, anything. If they’re not able to talk that much, they still like to listen. Even in the communal area, try to interact with everybody there, learn their story, have them interact with each other – casually, not forced though. This could help you be better informed of what is actually happening with your relatives and how they’re feeling. Most of the times they try not to worry you and pretend everything is fine. Yes, sometimes they hurt themselves and don’t tell you. If that happens, say this, “Listen linda, it takes me a day to take you to the doctor, but if this gets worse and you need surgery, I’ll have to put everything on hold for at least three months.” 😉
7) Buy them nice things: Buy them a scarf, a nice dress, jewelry. Think of your mood when you’re in bed feeling like sh*t. What do you want? Do you want to color mandalas or do crafts? Let’s try to be a bit more proactive; let’s try to do the little things that will make them feel better.
8) Send them a card: Getting cards in the mail is always a nice surprise. Try sending them a card every two weeks or every month! They can be funny, sentimental or a blank packet so you can get creative. I would add a small collage of family pics to make them more personable. Get writing ✍?
9) Save: Keep working. It’s better to be prepared for the unexpected than to “worry about it when the time comes.” Not saying kill yourself working but do try to have a plan. Have an IRA, a small savings account, maybe save 5% of your paycheck? Hey, if all is well, you’ll have extra money just for you, but if you need it, you’ll feel somewhat prepared.
Hopefully some of these tips work for you and your family. If not, how do you manage your time and resources to grow your relationship and help take care of your parents?
Taking care of our family members can also be a shared responsibility amongst our generation.