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Tips for caring for ageing parents

Identifying that our adult parents might need our help and support can be difficult. We’re often so caught up in our own busy lives, caring for our own children, that it can sometimes take us by surprise, when our parents start needing to lean on us more. The people who have spent so much of their lives caring for us, now need our care to help them through the next stage of their lives.

We’ve pulled together eight tips that may help you navigate this time of your life. Understanding how much support your ageing parents need, and what resources there are available for aged care (aged care services), can ensure this sometimes daunting task is more achievable.

Let’s start with identifying what initial help your parents might need.


1. Keeping in touch

You might already be in close contact with your parents, because you live nearby or have regular phone conversations. If not, there is no time like the present to ensure that you initiate those regular check ins to keep up with your parent’s activities and their general wellbeing. If you don’t understand their ‘normal’, it may be difficult to gauge whether things are changing for them in terms of their mobility, social connectedness, health and so on.

If you don’t live nearby, ensure you plan regular in-person visits so you can see for yourself whether they are physically fit, and continuing to be independent.

2. Assessing their needs

If you’re able to visit your parents in person, you will be in a better position to assess whether they are capable of continuing to live independently. At the end of the day, all you want for your parents is to be safe, happy and comfortable.


Some useful things to monitor

  • Physical health - have they had any recent diagnoses that may impact their health? Are they regularly taking any required medication?
  • Mental health - signs of confusion or disorientation, mood swings or loneliness?
  • Social connection - are they capable of getting themselves to their usual social gatherings, do they need help finding transport or new groups to join?
  • Appearance - are they continuing to take pride in their appearance?
  • Hygiene - are they still capable of maintaining their personal hygiene?
  • Dressing - are they still capable of self-dressing, or are they struggling with certain clothing items?
  • Nutrition - are they making themselves regular, balanced meals, or is this something they need some help with?
  • Finances - is their current income enough for them to meet their living expenses?
  • Home and Community Safety - feeling safe in one’s own home is important for anyone’s wellbeing. If there have been changes with neighbours or the wider community, would a burglar alarm, fire alarm, security doors, window latches etc support feelings of greater safety?
  • Home maintenance - are you or a local handyman able to help with everyday chores around the home to lighten the load?

If you’re not able to check in person, you are able to book a needs assessment with your parents’ local District Health Board (DHB). A needs assessment can usually be conducted within 20 working days.


3. Making their home safe

As people age, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that their home environment (or yours if they are living with you) is safe and comfortable for them. Injuries can be reduced by removing obstacles and clutter that make it difficult to get around easily. Trip and slip hazards are also important to identify. Securing rugs and non-slip mats or flooring in wet areas can be helpful.

Furniture can be another item to look at. Removing low or hard to get in and out of items (chairs, beds etc) can help with ensuring ongoing independence in your parent’s home.

If more substantial home modifications are needed for specific disabilities (rails, ramps, bathroom and doorway adjustments), funding is available from the Ministry of Health.


4. Ask for help!

You don’t need to take on the full responsibility of caring for your parents alone. Talk to your wider family about sharing the load of medical appointments, regular visits, making meals and mowing lawns.


If your family can't help you, there are other ways you can outsource help for your parents:


5. Looking after yourself

We’ve mentioned the overwhelming feelings around caring for your parents, but it can be tiring too. You need to be careful that you’re not taking on too much, and that you manage your own stress levels and burnout. This article has some good suggestions on finding balance, but it’s important to share your feelings, ask for help and outsource tasks that others can help with. You don’t need to try and do everything, and often your family, friends and neighbours will be willing to help - they may just need to be asked.

Regular breaks from caring for your parents and taking care of your own health, all help to ensure that if your caring arrangement is a long term one, that you are able to last the distance.

You may also find local or online support groups helpful - sharing your stories and getting ideas from others in the same situation can go a long way to accepting your new role as a caregiver.

Burnout and stress can present in many ways so pay attention to your energy and anxiety levels, difficulty sleeping and ability to concentrate. By looking after yourself first, you’ll be in a much better position to provide the ongoing support to your parents that you need to.


6. Helping your parents stay connected

As people grow older, their longstanding friendship and social groups can change. As longtime friends die or become immobile, this can lead to feelings of loneliness for your parents. It may also be that as your parents lose their mobility, they may need support from you or a driving service to enable them to get to the same regular events and groups that they have always enjoyed. Keep an eye out for local community groups offering activities your parents may be interested in - walking or movement groups, local bowls clubs, RSAs and craft groups are some great, low-cost options for elderly people.


7. Managing finances

This can be a sensitive subject to bring up with people, but ensuring your parents are receiving all the government benefits they’re entitled to is a good place to start. Work and Income has information about Superannuation, Veteran Pensions, SuperGold Cards and information about other types of financial help. You can then respectfully establish any other forms of income they may have, and offer assistance around ensuring they have the best deals for home loans, utilities, insurances and other regular expenses. Even small savings each month may be helpful to someone on a fixed income.

Do seek financial management or legal advice if needed. Your parents are likely to appreciate you being involved and helping to navigate some of these big decisions about ensuring their future. Let other family members know what you’re doing so that everyone is aware of the financial advice you’re offering.


8. Preparing for the future

Another awkward conversation can be around end of life wishes and expectations. This is an important conversation to have with ageing parents though.

An updated will is an important document to maintain, especially if beneficiaries or circumstances change. Wills ensure that a person’s funeral arrangements and management of their estate are carried out in accordance with their wishes.

Power of attorney is another important document to clarify, especially if the existing Power of Attorney is one of your parents. As they both start ageing, it may be prudent to look at other options.

Insurance policies are other important documents to check. You’ll want to check your parent’s home, contents and car insurance policies are up to date, and that life insurance premiums are being paid. Another insurance policy to consider may be funeral cover or funeral insurance.

Funeral Insurance (or Funeral Cover) can help make the difficult time of a loved one dying, financially easier for those left behind. You can reduce the cost of funeral expenses for your family, by applying for Funeral Insurance and paying a small premium every month for funeral cover. If this is a policy that you think is important to have, even if your parents don’t agree, you are able to set this up on their behalf with their permission.


Caring for elderly parents is an ongoing responsibility

It’s important to try not to take on all of the load. Use your wider family and friends to support you, and external care and support options where possible to ease the pressure. At the end of the day, you want to spend quality time with your parents, enjoying their final years with them as much as possible, by making things easier for them. Additional insurance cover can also help bring peace of mind, so consider using our Life Insurance Calculator to help you decide on the best options for your situation, or seek a Funeral Insurance quote.

Still unsure? Our team is always happy to talk through your options, using a thorough needs analysis, to arrive at a cover level that suits you, your life stage and family. Contact us today.

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