As our parents get older and we see that they may need a bit of help in certain aspects of their lives, we might have the inclination to swoop right in. But when it comes to the topic of deciding when you should start helping your aging parents, it is a very complex decision that hinges on a number of different factors. So what is it that we need to consider if we think that we should start giving them a little or a lot of support?
Changes in Their Cognitive Function
You might start to notice some changes in your parent’s cognitive abilities. For example, if they have recently had a hearing test and have needed hearing aids, this can be linked with age-related cognitive decline. In fact, there is a link between cognitive decline and hearing loss and so it is essential to keep an eye on any subtle changes in your parent’s cognitive abilities. There are those cliches such as being forgetful that we can easily overlook, however, it’s important to build up a complete picture and see if there are constant signs that an elderly relative is experiencing some form of cognitive decline.
Isolation and Loneliness
When was the last time your parents went outside? Are they slowly withdrawing indoors because they find it easier to deal with this rather than to spend time with people? They could very well be making excuses to not spend time with certain people, for example, if they decided they don’t like someone anymore. But you might want to take social isolation as a cue that they may need a little bit more help and support to get out and about. Loneliness and isolation can easily snowball and have a negative effect on their mental and emotional well-being, so you should start to think about how you can offer social support. We have to remember that while we can be incredibly busy and not give enough time to our parents if we are visiting them once a week, they may have spent a good few days looking forward to our visit and therefore we have to start thinking about giving them greater opportunities to spend time with friends or other family members on different days of the week.
If your parents are having trouble managing their finances, this could be a sign of cognitive decline, especially if they were particularly shrewd with their bills. But it’s also important to note that if your parents are struggling to pay certain bills because of a low-paying pension, it may be essential to step in and offer some form of assistance with budgeting or financial management. A financial advisor might be able to offer some support as to how they can best manage their finances, or if they are displaying signs that they’re not able to cognitively deal with their finances anymore, it may be important to look at taking over this duty for them.
If one of your parents is looking after the other, they may be experiencing signs of burnout or stress. It’s now time to offer some support or respite where necessary. You being able to help out around the house at least once a week can be a great help for your parents doing the caregiving. We have to remember that being a caregiver at any age is exhausting and if your parents are in their 70s or older, there’s a lot more stress piled upon them as well as the physical ailments that can occur.
Discussing Long-Term Planning
If your parents have not put in any powers of attorney or have dealt with the will yet, it is essential to guide your parents towards doing this sooner rather than later. If they have a number of assets, it will minimize any family arguments to determine where these assets should go. Long-term planning can ensure that your parent’s wishes are respected after they pass away. Lots of younger parents are now putting the things in place to ensure that their children are cared for, and if your older parents plan on being around for a long time, this could be a reason that they haven’t bothered putting anything in place just yet. However, nobody knows what is around the corner.
Ensuring you can help your elderly relatives is about recognizing some of the common signs of getting older. It’s important to provide support but we also need to respect our parents’ wishes, and if they are looking to remain as independent as long as possible, you need to keep your distance. However, you should also engage with other family members to provide a support system for your parents and regularly check in.