Helping our Parents Age

If we are lucky enough to have our parents live to a ripe old age—their 80s, 90s and now centennial years, most likely they will need some or a lot of care. This includes transportation to the grocery store or doctor, help with bathing, cooking, laundry, cleaning, and making beds. It’s a difficult transition even in the best of circumstances.

The situation can trigger battles between the generations over money, about not taking medicine, and with the aging parent who tries to remain independent but forgets to turn off the range, leaves the refrigerator door ajar or eats the wrong foods for them. And what about the aging parent trying to make it to a bathroom alone in the dead of night? Falls can be rampant and while a medical device will alert you once there’s a fall, it won’t stop it from happening in the first place. 

Amanda Lambert and Leslie Eckford, authors of Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman & Littlefield), are big advocates of aging in place. They say 80 to 90 percent of elders would like to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Moving many from home to a facility can result in negative and heartbreaking consequences including depression. To age in place requires hiring competent caregivers unless there’s a family member who is willing to take on the job. 

These co-authors know from firsthand experience. Amanda is a nationally Certified Care Manager and Master Guardian and professional member of the Aging Life Care Association.  Leslie is a licensed clinical social worker and registered nurse who has focused on geriatric mental health in inpatient geriatric hospital units and community mental health centers. The women have written an excellent book, which we believe every Boomer in our 60s and beyond, should have a copy of and somewhere handy to reach for it as needed.  

Margaret could have benefited greatly from this resource as her mother aged, fell and had to move to an extended care facility. At that point, she declined quickly and sadly passed away two years ago. Barbara is now facing the rigors of dealing with her 98-year-old mother who had a small stroke this year and rebounded after therapy sessions. However, she is now showing more signs of aging—not brushing her teeth as regularly and asking for a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast. Although she was told it was filled with butter and cream, she ate it despite the fact that she’s lactose intolerant. Barbara has said “no” more than once and is beginning to feel like the food police. Friends say, “oh, you’re so lucky she’s still alive,” and she is, but she wants these next few years to be pleasant and dignified rather than a war zone over control. 

We talked to authors Lambert and Eckford by email and phone about the essentials to get started in caring for an aging parent at home. Next week, read what they shared about the most important lesson to remember in caring for an elderly parent, ways to keep your parent living at home as long as possible, whether a family member should be the sole caregiver if there are no funds for a professional, five characteristics to look for in hiring a professional caregiver and more, all in “Helping Our Parents Age-Part 2.” Part 3 will follow.


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