There is good news to share on the current health of our country: Americans — specifically Midland, Big Spring, Stanton, and West Texas-area residents — are living longer than ever before. With that news comes a caveat, in that longer life spans confront us with new, and often daunting, challenges…especially when it comes to caring for an aging family member.
Sometimes, crisis strikes suddenly, and the responsibility for a loved one is thrust onto your shoulders. Your mother falls and breaks a hip. Dad experiences a side effect of his medication. Other times, the weight of becoming a caregiver comes gradually giving you time to plan and make arrangements for your parents. When this happens, what do you do? What steps can you take? As we watch our parents age and face the challenges that inevitably follow, there are four steps that we, at Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home & Crematory, recommend you take to prepare for your family.
1. Arm yourself with knowledge.
Today, we have the astounding advantage of the Internet and the wealth of information that it can pour right onto our desktop. Sites like Aging Parents and Elder Care offer enormous amounts of excellent information about problems your parents may encounter.
2. Watch for warning signs.
Keep an eye out for early symptoms like difficulty walking, unsteadiness, or falling. Often, elderly people may neglect their grooming and hygiene, lose their appetite, or change their eating habits. They may begin to leave spoiled food in the refrigerator or unopened mail on the table. Forgetfulness can lead to the mishandling of medication, which can lead to additional, more dangerous complications.
3. Assess the situation.
What challenges is your loved one facing? How will you address the problems? Some of the issues may be correctable. Elderly people often take several types of drugs that can interact negatively and cause damage. You can look up information on prescription drug interactions, but always contact a doctor if you have serious concerns about medication. Aging loved ones are also susceptible to vitamin deficiencies, which can cause symptoms similar to dementia. Consult a doctor to test for deficiencies and to learn if they can be resolved by changes in medication or routine. Unfortunately, many problems are a natural consequence of aging and not easily corrected. You will need to decide what kind of assistance your loved one needs. Think carefully about living arrangements, whether the person can remain in his or her own home, or if you must take the jarring step of moving to a facility, in West Texas or beyond.
4. Prepare before the problem.
Some elderly people have the wisdom to make plans for their inevitable health and living problems, others may not. It is all too common for a person in declining health to deny the situation, and not gather the documents and other information you will need. While it may be a difficult conversation to have, you should ask your parents about their wishes, medical history, and financial history so that you can help them receive the best care down the road. You can also take steps to help them preplan and save for their funeral service, so you both have one less thing to worry about. Furthermore, many adults with aging parents never see the inside of an assisted living facility until a parent needs one and there is little time to consider options. It’s always better to do preemptive research about resources here in Midland, Howard, and Martin County, to ensure you’re informed when facing these decisions.
The biggest challenge when you switch roles and become the caregiver for your parent is in providing the type of care and compassion required, while still maintaining a life of your own. It’s not easy, but it isn’t impossible, and our dedicated staff at Nalley-Pickle & Welch Funeral Home & Crematory is always available to assist you with questions or concerns about how to best care for your loved one. You and your loved one are also welcome to visit us at any one of our West-Texas locations to discuss their end-of-life arrangements, which will keep them involved and ensure their final wishes are seen through.
Contact us today for additional resources and support.