What You Should Know About Caring for an Aging Parent
SPRINGFIELD, Minn. — Americans are living longer than ever before and many middle-aged adults are taking on the role of caregiver for their aging parents. Mayo Clinic Health System family physician Kelsey Nylander, D.O., says, “Caring for an aging parent can be a responsibility that requires personal sacrifices and creates potential resentment. But it can also give you a sense of fulfillment and love as you help your parents through the twilight of their lives. Discussing the changes that come with aging can be difficult for children and their elderly parents, but the conversations are essential.” Dr. Nylander adds, “You should work together as partners and consult with your health care provider for medical advice.”
Here are a few common health and wellness issues facing the elderly and tips for helping your loved one navigate through the challenges:
- Medication management - Getting older sometimes means living with a number of health conditions which require medication. Periodically review your parents’ medications with them and their health care provider to make sure everything is correct.
- Independent living - It can be hard for elderly parents and their children to accept, but aging can bring changes that make living alone difficult or even impossible. Some of the signs that your parent may need help include problems with everyday items such as managing money, shopping, grooming or cleaning. Depression, apathy, weight loss or withdrawal can also signal that there is an issue.
- Memory loss - Your father tells you a story for the fourth time today. Is he just being forgetful, or is this a sign of Alzheimer’s disease? It can be difficult to tell the difference. If a parent is repeating themselves regularly, or misplacing items and forgetting appointments, it’s a good idea to bring your parent to your health care provider for a memory-loss evaluation.
- Driving - Vision and memory loss can both lead to trouble on the road. If you’re concerned about your parent’s safety behind the wheel, take a drive with him or her to observe for problems. You can also take your parent to a professional driving evaluation.
- Advance care planning - Make sure that you understand what your parent would want you to do should you receive the responsibility of making decisions when the time comes. An advance directive is a legal document that allows your parent to outline the care he or she wants at the end of life.
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