Trying to identify ways to help aging parents without overstepping can be a balancing act. You want to be respectful of their independence but you may observe changes as they age and want to find ways to help. Here are a few suggestions for helping your parents.
- Stay in touch. Call your parents regularly. Just touching base with them on a regular basis and establishing that consistency now can help you hear how their day was, be more aware of any changes, and they most likely look forward to your calls.
- Slowly begin discussing life changes. This can include plans for downsizing, moving to a one-story home, moving to a smaller home or to a care facility. What are their wishes? What are their concerns? This conversation may not come easily for you or for your parents, but beginning to openly discuss possible changes down the road will open that line of communication and allow you to learn what they are thinking and what they may want.
- Look for home hazards. Take time to walk through their home and look for any potential hazards. Each time you are there just keep an eye out for items in the home that may be a hazard for your aging parent. This can include tripping hazards – rugs that are not on a slip-resistant mat, cords that are out and could be tripped over, spoiled food in the refrigerator, or expired medication.
- Encourage social activities. Staying active and social are good for the mind, body and soul! Encourage your parents to engage with their faith-based community, neighborhood activities, community center activities or just dinner with friends.
- Be observant. As we all age, we may forget little details over time. This is part of the aging process. However, this is something to be mindful of as you observe these changes; and if you are concerned, discuss your concerns with other family members and your parent’s health care team. Memory loss can be frustrating as you see your aging parents not be able to recall certain details but keep in mind your parents will also find forgetfulness and memory loss incredibly frustrating, so be patient with them.
- Offer to help. Aging parents may not want to ask for help. They may recognize the need for assistance with certain activities but be embarrassed or determined not to ask for help. Offer to help with day-to-day activities. This could include anything from mowing the yard, downsizing a home, moving heavier items within the house to help with financial matters and health care planning.