Senior Care

5 Tips for Helping Aging Parents Without Taking Over

As parents age, they often need assistance with everyday tasks like preparing meals, managing medications and making health care decisions. The need for help seems straightforward enough, however many adult children approach caring for elderly parents in a way that is perceived as overbearing instead of supportive. It’s hard to know how to help aging parents without taking over, especially since seniors are often reluctant to ask for or accept assistance from others. So, how do you take charge without making Mom and Dad feel as if they’ve completely lost their independence? How do you get the job done without coming across as condescending or making them angry?

How to Help Aging Parents Without Being Overbearing

Following a few simple rules can make a world of difference in the way that you provide care. Above all else, remember to be aware of your actions, your words, your tone and how these things affect your elderly parents. Self-awareness is crucial for keeping even your best intentions in check, altering your approach when necessary and apologizing when you overstep your parents’ boundaries.

1. Let Aging Parents Take the Lead

If possible, do tasks alongside your parents instead of for them. While this approach might take longer than if you just did things yourself, you allow Mom and Dad to retain some of their independence by letting them take the lead. This can have beneficial effects on your parents’ self-esteem and keep their functional abilities sharp.Some seniors resign from participating in everyday tasks and expect their family caregivers to take over. But, the old adage, “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” applies here. Not only does this place a great deal of responsibility on caregivers but it often sets elders up for a swift decline in physical and mental functioning as well. Your goal should be to extend their independence, not encourage their dependence on you.

2. Enable Parents to Dictate How and When You Help

Instead of swooping in to tackle every unfinished task or resolve each problem, let your parents come to you. When they tell you what aspects of a particular activity they need your help with, try to limit your assistance to just those things, at least for now.Sometimes parents have a hard time asking for assistance directly. Make sure you listen carefully when Mom or Dad shares their feelings and experiences with you. If they convey anxieties or frustrations surrounding a particular task, ask if they could use your help. Even if they do not accept, you will have made it known that you are interested in their well-being and willing to support them. Simply knowing that someone cares and listens to them is very important to many older adults. Feel free to repeat the offer as needed, but don’t force the issue unless their safety or livelihood is at stake.

3. Be Respectful

Ask permission before you just jump in. For example, when you take your parent to a doctor’s appointment, don’t just assume that they want you to come into the examination room with them. Instead, ask if they’d like you to be there the whole time, or if you should just come in toward the end of the visit to make sure YOUR questions are answered.Remember that your parents are still your parents no matter how old they are or how their abilities change. They deserve respect and dignity. As frustrating as trying to care for aging parents can be, do your best to avoid being critical or demeaning. While many people characterize caring for an aging parent as a “role reversal,” it’s important to understand that seniors are not children who need “parenting.” Aging is tough and seniors usually don’t mean to be difficult on purpose. Keep in mind that the more you insist on controlling a particular situation, the more likely Mom and Dad are to resist your “help.”

4. Set Up Safety Nets

Regardless of how much your aging parents ask for or accept your help, do your best to set up a support system that keeps them safe and intrudes on their regular routine as little as possible. A medical alert system is a good example. Wearable pendants are relatively unobtrusive and provide peace of mind for both you and your parents should they have a medical emergency or an accident like a fall.Senior care products can help extend your elderly parents’ independence as well. Look into assistive devices, such as medication organizers and mobility aids, that can make activities of daily living (ADLs) easier for them. Simple home modifications like grab bars can provide added safety and security as well.

5. Prioritize Their Well-Being

If your parent is behaving recklessly, neglecting themselves or endangering their own safety, then stepping in is in their best interest and you may need to be more forceful about it. This scenario happens often when a parent is experiencing cognitive issues. Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia may not be aware that their abilities have changed and continue trying to adhere to their normal routines even though it isn’t safe. Memory loss and poor judgement can make even the simplest daily activities risky or downright dangerous. At that point, it is your job to intervene despite their protests.

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