As your parents grow older, you may find their health beginning to reflect their age. Reflexes slow down, they walk slower, mobility decreases and forgetfulness can become more apparent. While these problems show up in just about everyone at various times, they tend to be more serious for senior citizens. Many seniors find that they enter the golden years, only to encounter health problems that are more complex or difficult to deal with, which can be overwhelming.
If you are concerned about your aging parents’ health, it is important to step in and determine what they need. Here are five tips for helping your aging parents deal with health issues-
- Assess the situation – A concerned child’s first reaction may be to rush in and start making dramatic changes. However, unless your parents have become incapacitated, they may resent the implication that they cannot take care of themselves. In fact, since they may feel that you are interfering, a calm and honest discussion is the first step. Offer your parents your support and let them know that you are there to help no matter what the health issue is. Above all, ask them what they think they need and then help them fulfill their needs.
- Doctor visits – Many of today’s senior citizens were raised in a time where the patient didn’t question the doctor. Coupled with the fact that it is difficult for anyone, no matter their age, to remember all that is said during a doctor’s appointment, another set of eyes and ears is usually helpful. Take notes, ask questions and help your parent(s) understand what is being discussed whether it is possible testing, treatment or the side effects of taking certain prescriptions.
- Get educated – Whether your aging parent is dealing with diabetes, cancer or incontinence, it’s helpful to educate yourself about the health issue. This way you have a better understanding of what they are going through and what they might possibly need. However, remember that, unless you are a doctor, you are only part of the team, and if your parent is still capable, they must make the final decisions about their own health and care.
- Resources – Many times one aging parent becomes the caregiver for the ill spouse. This can be a burden even when it’s done with love. Researching options for respite including meal delivery and support will alleviate some of the burden carried by the care giving parent. Arranging for housekeeping, yard work or other maintenance to be done can also be beneficial to aging parents who are dealing with health concerns. There are many websites that can help you find whatever resources your aging parents may need. You can also check with community aging resources, hospitals and even churches for additional information on available resources.
- Paperwork – One of the most demanding and confusing aspects for anyone dealing with health issues is the paperwork. It can be helpful for you to take over the insurance duties for your aging parents so they can focus on getting their ill spouse better, or at least stabilized. In some instances you will need legal documentation to give you the authority to deal with insurance due to privacy laws. Check with your parents’ attorney to determine what legal steps may need to be taken to give you the authority to deal with insurance and medical issues.