Caregiving for Aging Parents | USC Verdugo Hills Hospital

Caregiving for Aging Parents

Caregiving for Aging Parents

Expert tips on how to be an effective caregiver while maintaining your own well-being.

We love Mom and Dad, but caring for aging parents isn’t always easy. Feelings of self-doubt and guilt are normal, the shift in power dynamics can be confusing, and you may feel tugged in a million directions as you try to also find time for your own children, your spouse, and yourself.

But this isn’t a journey you have to take alone. Think about other challenges or opportunities you faced in life or in work – you likely asked people for advice and read books, and it may have taken some time to feel comfortable in your new role. Becoming a caretaker for your parents can be a similar experience. It’s ok to admit you don’t have all the answers and that you need help.

Prioritize respite care.

You can’t provide adequate care for someone else if you’re personally falling apart. Self-care isn’t selfish – it’s necessary.

“The word respite means to take a break,” says Adria Navarro, PhD, LCSW, a gerontologist and social worker at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. “You’re balancing a lot of different responsibilities and the plates are spinning.”

But if this goes on too long, a plate will eventually fall and shatter. “You need to schedule time to stop one of those plates and take care of your own needs.”

Dr. Navarro says asking family members for help can be a good first step, especially if your parent is living with you. “Perhaps every Friday afternoon, your brother takes Dad for a long walk, which gives you time for your own health appointments or activities you enjoy.”

The USC-VHH Community Resource Center for Aging, where Dr. Navarro serves as program manager, can also provide respite.

The center can connect you with day programs for your parents, with activities like art, music and fitness classes, volunteer opportunities and museum tours. They can help with finding companions or health aides, or short-term stays in facilities when you’re traveling.

The Caregiver’s Night Off also provides an evening of respite as well as activities for aging parents. “People can feel isolated when they’re caregiving,” says Dr. Navarro. “This monthly caregiver’s event gets you together with others in the same situation and may help you feel less alone.”

Navigating next steps.

Eventually, your parent may require more assistance than you are capable of providing on your own. The Community Resource Center for Aging has care counselors who can help you navigate those next steps.

“We are very person-centered,” Dr. Navarro emphasizes. “Everybody’s situation is unique and it’s important to discuss all options before jumping to solutions.”

She says conversations focus on what care solutions the family has already tried, and on the aging parent’s desires.

“Someone who has been in their home for 50 years may cherish it and not want to leave it,” Dr. Navarro says. “In-home help may be the best solution for a while.”

If the time has come to consider assisted living or a nursing facility, care counselors have already vetted the best options and can help you decide the appropriate fit.

Dr. Navarro says an aging parent may be more willing to accept in-home care or a move to a retirement community when the suggestion comes from a licensed professional rather than their adult children. “Sometimes you need some outside support to move the needle and make changes happen.

Author: Erin Laviola