Dr. Aryn Ziehnert
Whether your aging parents have a plan for long-term care or not, you and your siblings will likely need to be involved at some point. They may have a long-term residence lined up or savings set aside for in-home care. Either way, children of aging parents need to think about caregiver support.
The list of what you may be doing is long. It may include managing the care schedule for your parents, negotiating with healthcare entities, helping your parents plan and make financial decisions, conferring with your siblings or others such as accountants and residential homes, and possibly even hosting your parents in your own home, either temporarily or permanently.
5 Caregiver Support Systems
If this sounds overwhelming, you are normal. Caring for aging parents on any level is no small thing. It is an act of selfless service that shows your love and appreciation for them. Still, you will need care too as you expend energy and time to help your parents. Here are five caregiver support systems we recommend:
1. A Caregiver Team
Knowing you are not alone in the care of your aging parents is crucial. Decide ahead of time who will be a part of this team. It could be your spouse, your siblings, your parents’ siblings if they’re capable and willing, younger friends of your parents, healthcare professionals (including counselors and doctors), and ideally, a combination of these.You might even want to enlist a few of your lifelong friends who know you and know your parents well. While they may not be primary team members for your parents, they can certainly support you when the role you carry gets heavy and hard.
2. A Planning Guide
Many organizations, such as AARP, offer guides to walk you through the stages of planning ahead for your parents’ advanced-age care. Once you have a team assembled, let one or two of your other team members assist with research to find the plan that makes the most sense to you. They will become an active part in carrying out the plan, so it’s helpful that they’re on board with the one you choose.
We also recommend that you speak with a licensed professional counselor who specializes in geriatric care. Even just one or two sessions will give you a better understanding of the kinds of things that your planning guide should take into account.
This counselor may also become a valuable asset and part of your team once the guide goes into effect at various levels.
Caregivers are faced with a myriad of decisions that carry weight and impact many people. Having a plan gives you a resource to go back to when you feel overwhelmed, you dread making a decision, or you have a disagreement to sort out with a healthcare professional or a family member.
Once you and some of the other key team members have chosen a plan, schedule a few Zoom calls or in-person visits to discuss how you will begin to implement the plan. For example, you will definitely want to involve your aging parents in this plan and ask them for their feedback, their opinions, and more details. Gathering their input alongside the input of others on your team will help you think through decisions such as which team members will do what.For instance, if you know that your bedside manner is lacking, you may want to ask a caring, trusted adult, such as a sibling or a few of your parents’ younger siblings, to carry out those roles as your parents need them. Making sure you ask your parents who makes them feel loved, who they enjoy hanging out with from your team, and even who makes them laugh are great ways to begin this conversation that can be tough to address.
Anything you can add to your planning guide will help you later as long as it’s organized and easily accessible when you need it.
3. A Resource List
Once you have a team of people who know their roles and a plan in place, you’re ready to go, right?
Well, almost. Even the best-laid plans can go sideways if there is a health issue that wasn’t planned, someone on the team can no longer carry out his or her role, etc. Where will you turn if the unforeseeable happens?
Taking the time to assemble a resource list can be an integral part of your caregiver support. Check online for resources for healthcare, meal delivery for seniors, residential care homes, communities offering daytime senior care and activities, and associations that support caregivers as their parents encounter various health issues.
For example, the Alzheimer’s Association offers caregiver support as does the National Alliance for Caregiving. There are multiple organizations that want to help this aging population. Sure, you could look for these when you need them. But it’s much easier to have a list ready with contact names, emails, and websites so that when you’re in the thick of difficulty, it’s one less thing you need to consider.
4. Financial Experts and Access Codes
As an adult, you are accustomed to your own budget and money management system. However, when you’re tasked with helping your parents pay bills, supporting their medical needs, or getting their taxes and healthcare benefits squared away, it can be tough even for the most organized person.Many aging parents don’t plan for this, so asking them to give you access is an important step in the caregiver process. In fact, the planning guide you choose should go into detail about the exact information you will need.
But asking your aging parent questions such as, “Where do you keep the lock to your office filing cabinet?” or “What’s the code to the lock screen on your phone?” is a great place to begin. Sometimes, giving away this information is painful for parents because it means they have to face their own mortality and, possibly, their increased dependence as they age.
Talking with a counselor about how to ask sensitive questions related to healthcare and financial records can help you brooch the topic with gentleness and compassion.
If you are or will be involved in caring for aging family members, our counselors can give you the caregiver support you need. Contact one of our geriatric counseling specialists today.
5. A Trusted Counselor (For You)
Many adult children of aging parents forget to look after their own emotional health when they’re serving as caregivers.
But your health is equally important, and finding someone ahead of time who you trust is of great value. You may want to start talking with a professional counselor even before you start filling the role of a caregiver. Developing a long-term relationship with a counselor can give you the outlet you need to thrive through all sorts of difficult seasons and complex decisions.
The team of trained, licensed counselors at our office is ready to help you if you have aging parents. Reach out to us to find a Christian counselor today.
“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Joshua Hoehne, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hands of Love”, Courtesy of Rod Long, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Dry Weeds”, Courtesy of Vahid Kanani, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Morning Walk”, Courtesy of Visual Stories || Michelle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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