5 Commons Errors in Taking Care of Elderly Parents

There are no fool-proof maps than can show the best way to care for an elderly parent.  But there are some common “potholes” that can make the road difficult to travel.  To help you on your caregiving journey, here are five common errors adult children make in taking care of their elderly parents.

1.  Ignoring Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Problems

Depression can be difficult to identify.  Common symptoms include a loss of motivation, atypical anger, insomnia, anxiety, inability to make decisions, changes in weight, fatigue, loss of interest in activities, unexplainable physical ailments, and talk of suicide.

Depression is not a normal part of aging.  While all seniors will experience some of the inevitable losses associated with aging—deaths of close friends, loss of mobility, loss of energy—long-term depression is not an inevitable part of the aging process.  If the seniors in your life are exhibiting behaviors unusual for them, express your concern and encourage them to talk to their doctor or a licensed mental health professional.

2.  Not Asking for a Full Cognitive Evaluation

If one of your parents is experiencing memory loss, it’s important to see a geriatrician or a geriatric neuropsychologist for a full cognitive evaluation.  While it’s not uncommon for a general practitioner to identify a senior’s forgetfulness as dementia, it is important to take it one step further and diagnose the cause of the dementia.  Dementia might be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, or vascular dementia.  It might also be a result of alcoholism, reactions to medications, or, if there is a sudden onset of confusion, a urinary tract infection.  Dementia is a symptom (such as a cough) and not a specific disease.  Receiving a full diagnosis will assist you in making an appropriate treatment and care plan.  Just as a doctor would prescribe a treatment for a respiratory infection that is different than one for pneumonia, the treatment plan for dementia varies depending on the cause.

3.  Not Allowing Them to Feel in Control

It’s important for everyone, not just seniors, to feel in control of their own lives.  It’s easy for children who are taking care of their elderly parents to want to step in and take control to make sure that their parents’ needs are met.  One of the needs elderly parents have, however, is to maintain autonomy and sense that they are in control of their own lives.

Instead of making decisions for them, have a discussion with your elderly parents in which you share your concerns.  Brainstorm solutions and be willing to compromise.  If needed, involve the input of a neutral third party—such as a doctor or geriatric care manager—to help form unbiased conclusions relating to their care.

4.  Not Allowing Them to Fail

Just as your parents couldn’t protect you from all the decisions you made in your youth, you can’t protect your parents from all the decisions they will make in their golden years.  Of course, you don’t want to leave your parents at risk if they are facing safety or serious medical concerns; however, your parents will be much more open to your input if you give them space to make decisions and the permission to fail.  Sometimes, an adult child may need to reduce his or her level of involvement in order for the parent to see for themselves that help is necessary.  For example, Dad may really be in need of assisted living, but it may take a ten-pound weight loss for him to come to terms with it.    Mom may need some help with homemaking, but it may take a thick covering of dust for her to see that.

5.  Assuming Assisted Living or the Nursing Home is the Only Option

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are great options for many seniors.  There are those who simply cannot take care of their own medical needs or are not safe living without supervision.  Assisted living facilities and nursing homes, however, are not the best options for every senior.  Today, there are many other choices available, which include residential living, independent senior housing, and remaining at home with assistance.

In order to remain at home, there are a variety of services available that offer assistance.  Programs such as Store-to-Door and services such as Meals on Wheels provide options for getting groceries and full meals delivered to their door.  A home care nurse would be able to set-up medications.  Non-medical home care companies can make visits for meal preparation, medication reminders, and light housekeeping.  Personal care attendants or home health aides can assist with bathing or toileting.   Not only do these options allow people to live in their own homes, but often a mixture of these options can also be less expensive than making a full move into assisted living or a nursing home.

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54 Camberwell Road, London, SE5 0EW
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