As my father ages, I continue to learn. Here are some of the lessons I have been learning.
Slow down. Do whatever you need to to walk with them. I hold his elbow to keep me slowed down. I will periodically scout ahead for hard to find items and bring them back to the cart. But, for the most part, I will just walk slowly with him.
Sometimes run errands without them when time is of the essence. Since my father walks so slow, it is hard to get more than one or two errands done each day, and still leave time for the house stuff that needs to get done. Once a week, I split early, and get a bunch of things done quickly. I try to save certain errands that I know he enjoys for when I take him out. Monday we will go to Hobby Lobby.
Let them do everything they can for as long as they can. On laundry day, ask if it would help for you to get their laundry basket to the laundry room. Then let them do their laundry.
Try not to push help on them. It helps keep their dignity intact. It can be embarrassing that their bodies are betraying them, and that they can’t move quickly. Offer help, but not constantly.
Make a mani/pedi appointment for them monthly to take care of their nails. They can’t reach their feet on their own, and often, the aged nails are hard and tough.
Hire out a housecleaning once or twice a month to help you keep up with things. For your own home, and for theirs if they live alone. Being a caretaker takes more of your time up than you may realize. If they live with you, you may be taking over some of the things they did to help around the house. If they live on their own, you are probably spending time traveling to them and helping to keep up their house. Don’t let things get so bad that it becomes stressful for you.
If they are housebound, spend time with them. Play a game (we play scrabble), watch the news with them, or just sit and talk. Ask if there is anything you can help with. My father plays the lottery and often won free tickets. I was daily visiting the stores to get those for him. Do they need a library book?
Plan ahead. Since it is looking like my father may not get past having to use a cane, and that steps are increasingly difficult to maneuver, even with grab bars, we are looking into installing a ramp in our garage to make getting in and out of the house easier for him. He is resisting the idea, but, I think it is time. He eventually agreed. He often forgets the lessons he learned while caretaking for our grandmother who lived with us through our teen years.
Make time for you to get away from responsibility. Whether that be a weekend at a local hotel, or a weekly visit with a friend. Get away. If you need to, call a sibling and ask them to fill in for a day. If there is no help, see if Medicare, or maybe they have veterans benefits, provides caretaker support. I like to book a room at a local summer camp to scrapbook for a few days twice a year.
Make sure to share your struggle with a spouse or trusted friend. It isn’t easy watching a parent’s health deteriorate. It can take. A huge emotional toll on the caretaker. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of them.
There are probably a lot more lessons, but these are the ones that come to mind without too much effort. As hard as it is to care for an aging parent, what a blessing it is to help them maneuver through their last years with dignity and a friend. I hope these things sit in your minds database and come back to you should you ever need them.