Caring for Aging Parents

Article by:
Mitch Waks, EO Seattle
Mitch Waks
EO Seattle

Mitch is the CEO and Owner of Cooperative Home Care and All-Staff Nursing, a wellness-focused business that offers inhome health services and staffing solutions for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Contact Mitch at [email protected] cooperativehomecare.com.

Congratulations! You’ve mastered the art of work/life balance, you’ve raised beautiful kids and your company is growing like a weed. You’re convinced everything is going great, but then the unexpected happens.

One day, you get a call from the hospital; your mother has just fallen and broken her hip. She needs an operation and six months of physical therapy. She can’t live alone anymore and your father is in no shape to care for her. Worst of all, she’s starting to show signs of dementia. What do you do?

Managing aging parents or in-laws will affect many of us at some point in our lives. Though the situation can be different for everyone, there are some general tips that can help you prepare for the journey ahead. Here is what I learned while caring for my aging parents:

Expect the Unexpected
When it comes to assisting your parents, you can expect their mobility to decrease drastically, sometimes overnight. You can expect memory loss (“No mom, I’m Mitch, your son. Bruce is your hairdresser.”) and frequent trips to specialists. In addition, there may be more phone calls for help. Elderly people fall, struggle with depression from time to time and make more requests. My mom calls me for directions all the time now, often to places that she’s been visiting for years. Parents may also experience incontinence, and you may be called upon to help them sort through their numerous medications. A lot of these needs and requests require time, which is something most entrepreneurs have little of.

Maintain Communication
There will be a lot of emotional conversations with your family, many of which should occur before you get that dreaded phone call. I have found that those who have important decision-making conversations before a crisis avoid a lot of stress later on. In my case, I talked to people who had gone through similar experiences and learned what worked for them. But most importantly, I talked to my parents and asked them what they wanted. I have noticed that most elderly people want to remain independent as long as possible. After all, it is their body and their life.

Survival Tactics
By taking care of my parents in their old age, I learned a lot about how to survive the emotional, mental and physical tolls that take place. These tactics helped me survive the tough times:

Learn to Laugh
How do you handle the challenge of caring for aging parents? A sense of humor is a good start. There were plenty of things to cry about, so I tried to see the humor in things. Like the time I got a call from the police saying they had my mother-in-law. Oh no, I thought. Did she rob a bank? No. She bumped her car into a police car. We all got a laugh out of that one.

Plan for Tomorrow
When my dad had a stroke and lost his speech, as well as his ability to drive, walk or read, things were hectic. Thankfully, some thoughtful pre-planning with our attorneys and family members made it more bearable when it did happen. I discovered that a healthcare directive or anything in writing that expresses your parent’s wishes if they can’t speak for themselves is invaluable.

When my dad had a stroke and lost his speech, as well as his ability to drive, walk or read, things were hectic. Thankfully, some thoughtful pre-planning with our attorneys and family members made it more bearable when it did happen. I discovered that a healthcare directive or anything in writing that expresses your parent’s wishes if they can’t speak for themselves is invaluable.

Cover the Costs
The biggest thing I learned is to make sure there’s enough money to pay for all of the necessary needs. Ninety-percent of healthcare costs are incurred in the last year of life. This is a large number, and planning early will help ease the burden.

The biggest thing I learned is to make sure there’s enough money to pay for all of the necessary needs. Ninety-percent of healthcare costs are incurred in the last year of life. This is a large number, and planning early will help ease the burden.

Get Help!
No matter how hard you try, you can’t do all of this on your own. I know, because I tried to single-handedly take care of my parents. It’s best to look to siblings or professional help to share the burden. This way, you can still be productive in their healthcare and keep your sanity.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t do all of this on your own. I know, because I tried to single-handedly take care of my parents. It’s best to look to siblings or professional help to share the burden. This way, you can still be productive in their healthcare and keep your sanity.

Shower Them with Love
It’s time to give your parents the same affection and love they gave you growing up. The roles have been reversed, and now it’s up to you to take care of them. It’s an arduous journey, but there’s room for laughter, love and plenty of family.

It’s time to give your parents the same affection and love they gave you growing up. The roles have been reversed, and now it’s up to you to take care of them. It’s an arduous journey, but there’s room for laughter, love and plenty of family.


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