Being a health advocate for your parents can be a challenging role that many people find themselves in. According to a Pew Research survey, 33% of respondents say their parent over 75 needs help and the majority of that help comes from family members.
When your parents are used to taking care of themselves it may feel like you are meddling. However, taking on this role can improve your parents’ health and even quality of life. Although they may not express it, they are likely to be grateful that you are their advocate. Here are five ways you can help your parents.
Listen to your parents. Hear their concerns and what may be ailing them. Know when you need to take action based on what they are telling you. When you are willing to really listen to what is going on with your parents they will be more likely to trust you with their concerns. The more information you are given access to, the more helpful you can be. Listening can also clue you into whether or not you need to discuss important issues with care providers, especially if they are living in an assisted living facility or full time care facility.
- Respectfully Express Concern
When it comes to tough issues like driving or moving to an assisted living facility, you may need to take charge. The sooner you can start having conversations with your parents about these tough issues the easier it will be when it is time to make big decisions. Help your parents feel like you are being respectful of their wishes and that you are working with them rather than being demanding. You need to develop a balance so you don’t stand back while your parents’ are living in increasingly more dangerous situations, but you also need to be kind and gentle as you guide them into making wise decisions.
- Build Relationships With Doctors
Your parents will be visiting a variety of doctors often. There are a plethora of specialists that will provide care for your parents and they don’t always coordinate. Do your best to keep track of your parents’ care and help communicate important information to your parents’ doctors. You may even want to have your name added to medical release forms so that you have access to all the information you need. Once you have connected with your parents’ doctors they will know that they need to communicate any concerns or questions to you as well as your parents.
- Get to Know the Pharmacist
Pharmacists are another great resource. Medication can quickly become complicated and some medications can have interactions with one another. Always talk to your parents’ pharmacists when they start a new medication so you have a thorough understanding of potential complications or side effects. Help your parents organize their medicine so that they can easily keep track of when, how many and what kind of pills to take.
- Get Involved with Financial Matters
Even if your parents were excellent at planning for their retirement, they may need help managing money now. Insurance and billing can become more and more complicated and it may be harder and harder to keep track of. There are also financial scams that prey on seniors. Finances can be an especially touchy subject. Try to develop an openness about financial matters with your parents as soon as possible. If they trust you with this information, you will know if something suspicious is happening before it’s too late.
You can also make sure that the appropriate bills are paid on time. A missed insurance payment can be detrimental to their care and finances.
Trust and Respect
Caring for your parents can be demanding. When you build trust and respect with your parents by listening to them and respectfully offering your concerns you can be their best advocate. The more open and honest you can all be with one another, the easier your job will be. You can help your parents enjoy their golden years to the fullest.