Helping Your Parents As They Age

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elder sleepsAs we grow up, we count on our parents to take care of us and to provide for our safety. Once we reach adulthood, we often have just a few years before the shoe is on the other foot and it’s time to take care of our parents.

Traditionally, families lived closer together, and the elderly family members were cared for directly by younger family members. But the reality of today’s families is that many more miles separate the generations, so the logistics aren’t what they used to be. In addition, a growing life expectancy means that there are more years to care for our parents, grandparents, and other older relatives.

Because of these changing conditions, the process of planning with our parents is more important and a bit more complex than ever. Take some time to review these points with your mom and dad, especially if you don’t live close together.

Planning For Immediate Safety

Day by day, your parents need to have a plan to be safe from injuries and illness. The first step here is helping them keep an eye on their medications. Make sure they know what they are supposed to be taking and when they’re supposed to take it. If they aren’t taking their medicine correctly, they could overdose or underdose, either of which could be deadly.

But there’s more to it than that. The most important thing for an elderly parent living alone is having a means to call for help if they are injured or become ill. Talk to your parents, especially if one lives alone, about getting a home medical alert system. These devices are operated by a pendant that is carried around the person’s neck. They permit one-touch contact with medical assistance, with no need to find or dial a phone.

Discuss Crime Prevention

It’s sad to say, but the elderly are common targets of a wide variety of criminals. Everything from identity¬† thieves to home invaders seeking prescription medication.

So much of their vulnerability to these attackers is derived from the information about them that’s available. Advise your parents to carefully manage information about medical conditions, especially serious ones like cancer. When criminals find out that an elderly person is in treatment for cancer, they know that there are probably powerful pain medications in the home, and they also realize that the patient is less able to fight back.

Many elderly people are overwhelmed at technology and become victims of identity theft. They are reckless with online information and account numbers, and they often believe telephone scams. Help them learn how to their financial information and educate them about common con artist techniques.

Manage Fear

This whole conversation could amplify your parents’ already-significant anxiety. Begin the conversation by reminding your parents that some basic strategies can keep them very safe from criminals and health problems, but that they just need to be aware of the risks.

The best way to ease their worries is to be consistent with your educational efforts. Don’t just show them how to organize their medication one time and then assume they can handle it. Stop by every Saturday evening for a few weeks to set up their medication organizer for the week, making sure they’ve got the routine down.

As your parents age, they encounter a lot of changes. This evolution can be a bit of a surprise to them when they may have had a fairly predictable routine for many years. Your role is critical. You can provide not only information but reassurance and support as they age, caring for them the same way they cared for you.

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