Caring for an Aging Loved One During a Slow Decline

By Tom Lee, 10:33 am on
A home care provider putting a sweater on a senior home resident in Burlington, VT

Caring for a senior loved one holds a unique set of challenges. The type of care and assistance provided varies greatly depending on their medical conditions, level of mobility, and severity of their illness. Caring for a parent or other aging loved one who is terminally ill is incredibly different that providing care for a senior loved one who is simply aging or on a slow decline.

While caring for a loved one who is terminally ill is certainly not easy by any means, there is usually, sadly, an ending point. Hospice care professionals can often support families through the end of life care, identifying the needs of terminally ill seniors and taking the correct action to make them comfortable. Family members can set expectations and somewhat prepare themselves when a senior loved one is terminally ill.

The difference between the end of life care and caring for a loved one who is simply aging, slowly declining, or managing a variety of chronic, but not terminal medical conditions, is that family members hold caregiving responsibilities for longer. Your aging parent may not be able to drive, cook for themselves, or get around their home safely. Seniors who are used to a lifetime of independence may find it difficult to adjust to a lifestyle that includes daily assistance.

Caregiving Challenges for Seniors

When a senior loved one starts to need a little help, it is common for family members to step in as primary caregivers. It may seem odd to think of yourself as a caregiver since you are simply supporting your parent, relative, or spouse. But as your loved one’s needs progress from medication reminders, meal preparation, and transportation to appointments into more personal care such as bathing, grooming, toileting and incontinence care, the importance of a caregiver become clear.

Many seniors are resistant to accept help from anyone, especially if their condition is not terribly serious.  The physical and mental limitations that come with age often cause seniors to feel vulnerable and insecure. After a lifetime of independence, many seniors don’t want their family members to see them as weak or debilitated.

The truth is that you know your senior loved one better than anyone else. Although they may not have a severe illness or are “just getting old”, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t benefit from some professional assistance. If you recognize that your senior loved one is becoming frustrated by their inability to perform daily tasks, seems isolated or lonely, or has had a fall or other accidents in the home, it may be time to consider in-home care services.

Finding Balance Through Home Care

Wanting to provide care for your senior loved one is a noble and rewarding choice. However, it may not always be the best or most practical option for your family. Many family members try to balance careers, raising children, home responsibilities, and personal health with the responsibilities of caregiving. While this may be a good solution in the short-term, providing care for a senior loved one who is slowly declining is a long-term process. Your loved one’s needs may advance beyond the type of care you can provide on your own.

Discussing your loved one’s preferences while they are able to is important. Many seniors prefer to receive home care assistance from professional caregivers rather than burden their family members. Seniors often come to see their caregivers as compassionate companions and can confide in them.

Family members can still be involved in their loved one’s well-being without straining their relationship with senior parents, relatives, or spouses. Often, a caregiver is seen as an objective third-party profession who can be trusted. Instead of family caregivers being seen as “the bad guy” for enforcing doctor’s appointments, medication reminders, or light exercise, caregivers take on the responsibility of providing assistance while families spend quality time with their loved ones.

Through discussions, planning, and proper home care services, it is possible for your loved one to remain in their home as they age. Professional caregiving services support your loved one’s slow decline but also help your family remain involved in their well-being.

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