Maximizing independence when your aging parent needs more help.
Maximizing independence when your aging parent needs more help.

“Stop worrying about me. Everything’s fine.” “I don’t need anyone’s help.” “I don’t want to be a burden.”

If you have an elderly parent who lives on his or her own, chances are you’ve gotten one or more of these responses whenever you bring up the subject about how they’re doing.

For the adult child, talking to your parent about his or her well-being can be an uncomfortable, stressful undertaking. It’s hard to start looking after someone who once took care of you; or to admit that they are becoming more frail, or forgetful, or unable to do the things they used to. Sometimes it’s easier in the short-term just to accept their reassurances that everything is ok rather than risk nagging or upsetting them.

Understandably, remaining in their own home is one of the fiercest desires of people in their late 70s, 80s and 90s who live on their own. Their continued independence is a great source of pride for them. You want to respect their autonomy and trust that they will let you know when they need help. Yet they may resist being completely honest, especially with their children or other family members, about how they’re really doing, out of fear of appearing vulnerable or losing control of their own lives. They may not want to admit to themselves that they might need a little help.

As a result, many people put off “that conversation” with their aging parent until a life-changing circumstance, whether it’s an illness, the loss of a spouse, or fall that forces them to -- and they are unprepared to make the best decisions for their loved one’s future care. “That conversation” is discussing the best living option for them moving forward. Assisted living should be considered a positive option. One that promotes independence, happiness and control.

Read author Melanie Merriman’s first-person account about being a caregiver to her older mother, during her final years -- and what she wishes she had done much sooner.

How can you get beyond the resistance-- yours and your parent’s-- and start talking, before some crisis occurs, so that they can maximize their independence and plan a happy future? Here are a few tips for adult children and caregivers to consider:

  • First, be realistic and accept the physical and cognitive changes of aging that may be happening with your parent. If you have siblings, it’s important to all be in agreement.
  • Pay attention to the signs that your aging parent may need help. Some of those signs include: not participating in activities they used to enjoy, erratic driving, weight loss, forgetfulness, or a listlessness that might indicate depression. Learn more about signs that your parent’s health may be declining.
  • If you are a long-distance caregiver and don’t see your parent in person often, consider talking to one of his or her trusted friends or neighbors about your concerns and get their honest assessment of your parent’s present situation.
  • Home may be where the heart is, but it can often be the place where older adults are most injured. In the short-term, protect your parent from accidents by installing grab bars, non-slip surfaces, smoke detectors and removing rugs. Be on the lookout for these common household hazards.
  • Investigate options in assisted living and senior living communities that enable your aging parent to maintain her or his independence and enjoy a higher-quality lifestyle, first-rate services and care -- and peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Friendship Village provides all that -- and much more.
  • Initiate conversation with your parent before you feel it’s time. If you wait until everyone is ready to talk, it may already be too late to be proactive.

Read more of our tips for caregivers of aging loved ones on our Family Resources page.

GreenFields of Geneva is here to help you make the best decision for your senior loved one’s care and lifestyle. Whether you’re looking into assisted living, memory support or traditional independent living, GreenFields is the right choice. In fact, we are one of the leading senior living Life Plan Community in the region and the only community that offers a Life Care option for those entering directly into assisted living or memory care. Learn more about our exceptional lifestyle options, services and amenities.