Mastering Eldercare: Seven Essential Tips You Can't Afford to Miss

Managing a long-term care situation for an older parent requires balancing their need for quality care with your ability to provide support without overwhelming yourself. Consider exploring professional caregiving options to ensure they receive the best possible care while minimizing the burden on you and your family.

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Mastering Eldercare: Seven Essential Tips You Can't Afford to Miss
10 Min Read April 23rd, 2024

Caring for an older adult can be a challenging task. Often, adult children, like you, have to step in and provide some or all of the care. Families are frequently surprised to learn that health insurance and Medicare only cover short-term skilled care, so unless a loved one previously purchased Long-Term Care Insurance, the family, including you, must intervene.

The necessity for long-term care is a significant reality; it's not just your older loved ones who may need it, but potentially you as well. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over half of Americans (56%) reaching age 65 today are expected to develop a disability that requires long-term care. When the need arises, the costs associated with long-term care can be substantial—often prohibitively so.

Before you begin caring for an elderly parent, it is essential to fully understand the responsibilities and challenges involved. Educating yourself about the complexities of eldercare will help you make more informed decisions and better prepare for the road ahead.

1. Help Them Stay Active 

Ensuring that older adults maintain regular physical activity is critical to their overall care. Seniors may enjoy more rest and relaxation as they age, but maintaining physical activity is essential for their health. Regular exercise helps promote healthy aging by boosting the immune system and preventing the loss of muscle and bone mass.

Physical activity also plays a crucial role in enhancing heart health naturally, without medication. It can help manage or reduce the symptoms of common age-related conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis. Staying active can mean something other than going to the gym or investing in bulky home gym equipment. There are plenty of ways to perform full-body workouts at home. For example, zero-gravity chairs can be incorporated into daily exercise routines.

Options like chair yoga and seated exercises offer practical ways for seniors to use these innovative reclining chairs during their workouts. After exercising, elderly individuals can also use zero-gravity chairs to relax and aid in their recovery process.

Encouraging your older loved ones to stay active can motivate them to maintain a regular exercise routine. If you live nearby, participating in activities with them can make exercise more enjoyable and turn it into a fun family event.

2: Choose a Perfect Living Arrangement 

Choosing the right living arrangement for an older parent at home involves several vital modifications to ensure their comfort and safety. Start by assessing the home for ways to enhance accessibility, including rethinking how they move around the space. Aging can diminish physical abilities, making it difficult for seniors to navigate their environment, especially with actions like bending or stretching.

To improve accessibility, consider installing a toilet seat riser to help your elderly parent sit down and stand up more comfortably in the bathroom. Many risers come equipped with handles, providing additional support. Also, the flooring throughout the home should be examined to eliminate tripping hazards. Secure any loose rugs with reliable rug tape or non-slip pads, opting for heavier rugs that are less likely to shift or wrinkle. 

Installing a non-slip bathmat and railing in the bathroom can significantly reduce the risk of falls by providing stability and grip in the bathtub or shower.

These modifications not only enhance the physical safety of your elderly parent but also contribute to their overall independence and quality of life while living at home.

3: Keep Supporting Products in Place 

Different kinds of products can also support family caregivers caring for older parents in their homes. Just like making changes to the home, aging-in-place products can enhance care, decrease caregiver anxiety, and extend the time your parent can live autonomously (or with you). 

Making slight changes and providing items that promote autonomy can assist your parents in maintaining their well-being for an extended period. Encouraging independence can prove to be difficult for many reasons, and every caregiving scenario is unique, so prioritize your parent's comfort and happiness. 

Medical Alert Systems can also provide protection for your parents in the event of medical emergencies such as falls, heart attacks, other incidents, and other emergencies like fires, home invasions, or floods. 

Caring for an elderly parent and working simultaneously can be eased with the use of Medical Alert Systems. These systems ensure your and your parents' safety and security when you're away from home. Several of these systems come equipped with alert buttons that can be worn on the neck or wrist, ensuring they are easily accessible during emergencies. 

Items that simplify daily activities can also help your elderly parent live independently at home. Extended shower brushes can help reach challenging areas like feet, legs, and back more easily. Reachers and grabbers are excellent tools for extending reach to retrieve items on high shelves or in other difficult-to-reach places. Think about whether these products could simplify your elderly parent's daily routine.

4: Focus on Self-Care 

As a caregiver, you spend most of your time thinking of and acting for others, making it hard to shift the focus to you. One more critical factor when it comes to looking after aging parents at home is making sure you prioritize self-care. Dr. Wayne Jonas, MD, says self-care involves the connection between the mind, body, and spirit and is multi-dimensional. 

Eating, exercising, unwinding, and socializing dramatically impact health and recovery. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to improve self-care, such as receiving nutrition guidance, engaging in therapeutic yoga, getting massages, practicing breathwork or meditation, and writing in a journal. Engaging in basic daily activities consistently can have a significant impact at times. 

Taking care of oneself is a highly effective way to prevent and potentially alleviate chronic health issues such as feelings of sadness, worry, physical discomfort, and long-lasting tension that come from being a caregiver and having to balance your family and career with caregiving.

Frequently, family caregivers dedicate their entire time and effort to looking after their parents. What choice would you have if no other option was available? If you neglect your own needs and well-being, you won't be able to care for your parents properly. 

Numerous studies have indicated harmful impacts on the health of family caregivers. Some recorded effects of caregiving include unhealthy eating behaviors, sleep deprivation, decreased physical activity, and neglecting personal health issues or ailments. There is also a heightened risk for the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances, along with an increased risk of experiencing depression. 

5: Bring in Professional Care, Even Part-Time

Given that more than 40 million American caregivers are dedicating an average of 24 hours per week to providing unpaid care to adults or children, it is unsurprising that many caregivers are looking for compensation for their family caregiving efforts. Caregivers who leave their jobs or work fewer hours to care for an elderly parent might be seeking ways to supplement their income or assist in covering extra expenses associated with caregiving. 

There are several methods by which family members who serve as caregivers can obtain payment or stipends for caring for an elderly parent.

Some Veteran aid programs enable caregivers to be compensated for providing care at home, whether they are family members or not. The care recipient must qualify for VA benefits, which usually involve their need for care due to a service-related reason. Discover additional information regarding VA Family Caregiver Assistance. 

Some states provide self-directed long-term care services to eligible Medicaid recipients. Medicaid requires the care recipient to have little or no income and assets to qualify. Although services and benefits differ from state to state, some state Medicaid programs permit spouses, children, legal guardians, and other family members to be compensated for offering at-home care services. Contact your state Medicaid office if your parent is on Medicaid or you believe they could be eligible to get information on eligibility, coverage, and benefits.

If your loved one has Long-Term Care Insurance, some policies will pay family members, either directly or indirectly. Remember, they must have had the policy before needing care since you cannot purchase an LTC policy when needed. Long-Term Care Insurance is usually purchased in your 40s or 50s, even your 60s, when someone's health is still reasonably good. 

Professional care can supplement the care provided by you or another family member. While the care would be paid for by your older parent or other family members, even respite care a few times a week will relieve some of the stress and burden on you and other loved ones. 

Finding quality long-term care services is just a click away. The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory offers over 80,000 listings nationwide that you can search for, making finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities much more straightforward.

You can search for options near you, examine the services they offer, and read reviews. Plus, using the directory is entirely free!

6: Help Them Out with Wellness Tools 

The importance of health and wellness tools cannot be overstated, as they significantly contribute to aging gracefully. Various tools are available, ranging from home exercise equipment to versatile zero-gravity chairs, all designed to improve the quality of life for seniors. 

Zero gravity chairs, in particular, are notable for their ability to distribute body weight evenly, with the legs elevated above the heart. This position can help alleviate back pain and enhance blood circulation, which may help control blood pressure, reduce swelling and inflammation, and enhance the body's natural healing processes. 

These chairs provide physical benefits and support mental health, making them an excellent choice for recovery and daily comfort.

7: Set Some Healthy Boundaries 

Setting boundaries and communication is crucial when caring for elderly parents at home, as it helps you manage your own needs alongside your caregiving responsibilities. 

Establishing clear expectations can foster mutual respect and ensure you and your parents understand each other's limits and needs. For example, if you are uncomfortable assisting with personal grooming tasks such as bathing, toileting, and other hygiene activities, it's important to acknowledge this boundary. You can seek assistance from professional in-home care providers to handle these more intimate tasks. 

Communicating your limits clearly and assertively is key to maintaining effective boundaries and ensuring that all parties' needs are respected and met.

8: Prioritize Their Mental Health 

Prioritizing mental health is crucial for both you and your older parents, especially given the prevalence of depression and other mental health issues among seniors. It's important to stay vigilant and recognize signs of mental health struggles, such as shifts in mood, energy levels, or frustration about health and financial worries. 

Equally important is looking after your own mental well-being; taking care of yourself ensures you can better support your parents. Unfortunately, mental health care for elderly individuals at home is often overlooked, both by the seniors themselves and their caregivers. This oversight can impact the overall caregiving dynamic and quality of life for everyone involved.

Help Them, But Don't Dictate Their Life 

When caring for older loved ones, supporting their independence by encouraging manageable tasks rather than doing everything for them is important. Suggest that they engage in the following activities to promote their well-being:

  • Healthy Eating: Encourage them to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. This can boost their energy, improve their mood, support cognitive function, and strengthen their immune system.
  • Time in Nature: Spending time outdoors can be incredibly beneficial. Encourage them to enjoy activities like walking in the woods, sitting by the sea, hiking, or relaxing in a garden to rejuvenate both body and spirit.
  • Practicing Gratitude: Help them cultivate a habit of acknowledging the good in their life, which can enhance overall well-being. Suggest keeping a gratitude journal where they can note things they are thankful for daily, from simple joys like a beautiful sunset to cherished memories.

By focusing on these activities, you can help your elderly loved ones maintain a sense of purpose and satisfaction in their daily lives.

Make Them Happy

Remember that your parents loved and supported you for many years; you are the highlight of their lives. Giving them happiness will benefit their well-being and improve their quality of life. 

Talk about the many family memories you shared. Obtain family history, the stories of your family that may not have been shared but that now, as an adult, should be shared. 

Play their favorite games, whether card games like Canasta, Bridge, or Rummy, a board game, or trivia, and spend quality games with them if they can.

Little gifts or flowers can brighten their day. There are many flower services you can order flowers from to be delivered, even overseas. For example, you can send flowers to Indonesia or Des Moines; it is quick and easy and provides smiles galore. 

Think About Your Aging

As you witness your parents' health decline, it's a stark reminder that you, too, may face similar challenges as you age. You might need long-term care due to chronic illness, accidents, mobility issues, dementia, or simple frailty. By securing an affordable Long-Term Care Insurance policy now, while you're younger and healthier, you can protect your assets and ensure access to quality care. This planning also relieves your adult children from the potential burden of caregiving, allowing them to remain more as family supporters rather than caregivers.

Most people add an LTC policy to their retirement plan in their 40s or 50s, but depending on health, affordable options can be found in their 60s. However, you cannot predict when your health will decline, nor will you know when you will need long-term care.

Avoiding the family crisis is preferable. But if you are in a family crisis right now, take appropriate actions to provide care for your loved one while limiting the burden on yourself.  

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About the Author

Linda Kople is a freelance writer with a personal family history in long-term care. She specializes in aging-related topics such as caregiving, health, and retirement planning. Her experiences and interests drive her to explore and write about the various aspects of aging and health issues.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

As we age, the need for long-term care becomes an increasingly important consideration. Whether it's due to chronic illness, disability, or simply the natural aging process, many individuals will require assistance with daily living activities. Including long-term care planning in your overall retirement strategy is essential to ensure you have the resources and support you need to maintain your quality of life in later years.

Long-term care can be expensive, and relying solely on income, personal savings, or family support may not be feasible or desirable. Long-Term Care Insurance offers a valuable solution by providing financial protection for the costs associated with caregiving services, including home care, assisted living, and nursing homes. Plus, it reduces the stress and burden otherwise placed on those you love.

Benefits of Long-Term Care Insurance:

  • Financial Security: Provides peace of mind, knowing you have the financial resources to cover the costs of your choice of quality long-term care without depleting your retirement savings or burdening your family.
  • Choice and Control: Allows you to choose the type of care you receive and where you receive it, maintaining greater control over your living arrangements and daily life.
  • Protects Assets: Helps preserve your assets for future generations or unexpected expenses.
  • Tax Advantages: Premiums may be tax-deductible in some cases, and benefits are usually tax-free.
  • Increased Independence: Provides you with the support and services you need to maintain your independence and dignity as you age.

By incorporating an LTC Insurance policy into your retirement plan, you can take control of your future and ensure you have the financial resources and care options you need to age gracefully and with dignity.

Most people obtain coverage in their 40s or 50s, but affordable options can be found in your 60s and beyond, depending on your health. Be sure to seek the assistance of a qualified independent LTC Insurance specialist to help you navigate the many available options. In addition, premiums and underwriting rules vary dramatically between insurance companies. 

An LTC Insurance specialist will match your age, health, and other factors to find the most affordable options. They will show you accurate LTC Insurance quotes from all the top-rated insurance companies. 

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LTC NEWS offers assistance in processing claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. Partnering with Amada Senior Care, a renowned in-home health care agency, LTC NEWS ensures that you and your loved ones receive top-notch care without worrying about securing policy benefits. There is no cost or obligation for this service.

Experience peace of mind knowing you can access quality care services when you need them most - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

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