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We can fall into the trap of assuming that our parents will be fit and healthy forever. So it is often a shock when their health starts to decline, and their age begins to affect them. As they become less able to care for themselves, they usually lean on their adult children for help and support. As our parents age, we should be mindful of their emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. Wondering where to start? We have put together five priorities to consider.
Mobility naturally declines as you age, but regular exercise and activities can have a significant impact on your parent’s ability to stay physically fit and healthy. In turn, this extends the amount of time that they can maintain their independence.
A senior often requires a specific program that will take into account any chronic health conditions, pain, or rehabilitation. Investigate aged care physiotherapy services in your local area – there are likely to be group sessions or one on one appointments available to tailor a program to your parent’s needs.
Meals and Nutrition
Malnutrition is a significant risk for older people, as their dietary needs shift later in life, their appetite often decreases, and their ability to visit the supermarket and prepare their own meals declines. It is essential that you, your siblings or relatives, or a professional caregiver, ensures that your parents have a diet rich in nutrients. Community programs such as Meals on Wheels may assist to improve diet quality and in turn quality of life.
Have you talked to your parents about where they want to live when they get older? Some form of support will be critical to them as they age, but this support can come in many ways. Many people prefer to remain in their own home for as long as possible. To facilitate this, investigate alterations such as handrails, ramps, and lower kitchen cabinets. Make sure you also discuss a back-up plan such as an independent living community, an assisted living community, or living with a relative, in case living alone becomes unmanageable. Living with family or within a community can also offer older people much-needed companionship. There are long waiting lists for many community facilities, so it is better to have these conversations before an urgent need arises.
Talking about money can be difficult, particularly for the older generation. Your parents will naturally value their right to privacy and may be ashamed to admit to their children if they have any debt or are facing financial difficulty. If you are the primary carer for your parent or parents, don’t put off this conversation. It may be easier to bring in a third party such as a financial planner to help make recommendations and offer advice. Their opinion will also be easier to swallow as an expert on the topic, than taking advice from one of their children. But make sure that you discuss it with your parents first, so they don’t feel blindsided or backed into a corner – it is their money after all.
Do your research to find out what government benefits or support are available. There are senior services, programs and discounts available to help you and your parents navigate this time in their lives. Use as many of these support resources as possible to ease the burden on the whole family.
We all want the best for our parents as they enter their final years. These steps will help support their wellbeing.