There are many issues and facets involved in caring for ones’ parents. The style and attitude of care provided to a parent by a child can vary considerably among the parent’s children. One child embraces caregiving with a total outflowing of love and energy while another could experience a total depletion of energy and frustration. Understanding your aging parents involves many aspects of care, especially caring for their safety.
The Utah Caregiver Coalition defines caregiving as “the provision of assistance to another person who is ill, disabled, or needs help with daily activities. It often requires attention to the physical, mental, social, and psychological needs and well-being of both the caregivers and the elderly person requiring care.” ¹
In a Christian sense, caregiving is a call to serve and give your life to another person. Serving others is a Biblical theme discussed multiple times within the context of the Bible as a virtue for us to strive for and act upon.
A call to serve others comes directly from Matthew 20:28 when Matthew, the most likely author of the book, wrote:
“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
I was privileged to live with my mother and father during my father’s final days of acute myeloid leukemia and dementia. Currently, my husband and I are living with my mother in her home as she faces her own critical health issues. In June Hunt’s book Caregiving: A Privilege, Not a Prison, she shares that caregiving provides emotional and physical support to someone unable to live independently and makes a choice with the heart and mind to give needed support to a dependent person. She also mentions that “Christian caregiving is offered in the spirit of love, compassion, and relationship.” ²
This same spirit is what I am striving for as I face many diverse issues relating to caring for my own mom as she embraces her final days.
Before addressing the safety of your parents, you must first:
- Understand the aging process
- Become knowledgeable about the issues facing the aging population
- Become proactive regarding the safety issues facing the elderly
Understanding how seniors age is a difficult feat. They struggle with: forfeiting their freedom and independence, becoming forgetful, losing their eyesight and hearing; experiencing mobility problems, encountering depression, and more. College degrees in aging address topics such as age-related diseases, the biology of aging, nutrition, laws and ethics of aging, and even caregiving.
Your parents may develop attitudes or thoughts they may never have had in their younger years. Feelings of loneliness, friendlessness, uselessness, and unwantedness may unfold. These attitudes may appear as them being unsocial, depressed, anxious, irate or sad. Issues such as living arrangements, financial matters, medical treatments and legal issues may become household topics.
Too often caregivers have trouble adjusting to their parent’s newfound attitudes and opinions. As children, knowing your parents will help to understand why and how they act. Facing these issues with a sound and patient mind will help your parents trust and adjust more to the uncertain future they are entering.
On the other hand, some seniors are even-keeled, sweet, sociable, and concerned with the welfare of others all the while dealing with these important decisions.
Let’s look at the case of an older woman who seemingly was very competent in coping with what life held for her taken from an article titled “When God Sends Help, Don’t Ask Questions” in Senior News. ³
She hurried to the pharmacy to pick up the medication. When she got back to the car, she found her keys locked inside.
The woman found an old rusty coat hanger on the ground. She looked at it and said, “I don’t know how to use this.”
She bowed her head and asked God to send her some help.
Within five minutes an old motorcycle pulled up, driven by a bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag. He got off his cycle and asked if he could help.
She said, “Yes, my husband is sick. I’ve locked my keys in my car. I must get home. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?”
He said, Sure.” He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute the car was open.
She hugged the man and through tears said, “Thank you, God, for sending me such a very nice man.”
The man heard her little prayer and replied, “Lady I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison yesterday; I was in prison for car theft.”
The woman hugged the man again, sobbing, “Oh, thank you, God! You even sent me a professional.”
In perusing the Internet, I found multiple tips on caregiving. They came under the titles: Tips for Caregivers, Being a Healthy Caregiver, Caregiver Stress: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself, Tips for Caregivers: Coping with Stress and Anxiety, Helping Seniors Manage Money and Finances, and Caring for Your Parents: Legal Issues, and Medical Tips for Seniors. After immersing myself in these articles, I have compiled some brief tips to help you get started with your caregiving tour de force:
- Get your parent’s medical and legal information in order. Keep these items in a location easy for quick retrieval. The items and information you want to locate and secure include advance directives, wills, medication lists, birth certificates, insurance policies, estate planning documents, usernames, passwords, and safety deposit keys.
- Communicate with your parent’s doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, and financial advisors.
- Have candid conversations with your siblings. Delegate and plan a schedule for shared care even if one person is the primary caregiver.
- Watch for medical issues that may surface regarding your parents and yourself.
- Find out what your loved one’s preferences are regarding future living arrangements, long-term care, medical decisions, and legal issues before they are not able to participate in these discussions.
- Understand you are not alone: You may need to seek out support from others. Realize, however, that unless your friends or relatives have experienced it themselves, they may not be capable of truly understanding your position.
- Understand that being your parent’s caregiver is not an easy job. It is exhausting and possibly expensive, but it can be the most rewarding experience of your life.
Be Proactive in Creating a Safe Environment for Your Parents
According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, “Many older Americans are injured in and around their homes every year. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that on average 1.4 million people aged 65 and older are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for injuries associated with consumer products. Within this age group, the rate of injury is the highest for people 75 years of age and older.” ⁴
Too often caregivers are so overwhelmed they overlook basic safety issues within the home. Some issues of concern here are:
- Do you need to purchase a medical alert fall-protection system?
- Do you need to discuss opening their doors to strangers?
- Do you need to discuss fraud and scams— Internet fraud and telephone scams?
- Are the shelves in their living quarters secure?
- Will phone and electrical cords cause a tripping incident?
- Do you need to discuss what to do in an emergency?
- Does the doorbell work?
- Are the rugs on the floor secure?
- Are there flammable liquids around the house?
- Are hallways free of clutter for walkers and wheelchairs?
To see a more exhaustive home safety list, click here: https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/122038/701.pdf
Many elderly men and women still drive. Some are capable; others are not. One of the hardest things any person has to give up is their driver’s license because it represents their independence and self-sufficiency.
Caregivers must be actively involved in the driving safety of their loved ones. Sometimes adult children can tell their parents that it is time to relinquish their keys; other times it is best left up to a physician or other entity. Either way, securing the safety of your loved one and those around them is important.
Some discussions to have with the elderly are:
- Do you know which routes are the safest to take?
- Have you had your hearing and vision checked recently?
- Which is the best way to get to the doctor, church, friends, grocery store, and other places?
- Using a taxi, bus or shuttle if needed.
- Not driving when an emergency occurs.
To see a more exhaustive driving assessment checklist, click here: http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/Portals/0/ChecklistsandForms_DrivingAssessmentChecklist.pdf
One of the most important things about caregiving is being informed. I was recently asked to teach a six-week class on Caregiving at my church. At first, I couldn’t believe someone would ask me while caretaking myself, but I did anyway, and it was great!
In preparing for the class I consulted many resources. I read books, websites, and articles on the topic. It was through learning more and listening to others that I felt better able to face the challenge with love and appreciation.
I was tasked with finding an appropriate book for the class. I bought seven books and read through about ten more. I finally decided on the best reference book currently available on the topic and I would like to recommend it in hopes this book might help you.
Morris, Virginia. How to Care for Aging Parents, 3rd Edition: A One-Stop Resource for All Your Medical, Financial, Housing, and Emotional Issues. New York: Workman, 2014. This book can be ordered HERE from Amazon.
Remember, caregiving is different for each of us. As caregivers, we must learn more to understand the aging process, use various resources to become knowledgeable about the elderly and be proactive in providing a safe environment for our loved ones.
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:2-3)
Dear Lord, help me to be the best caregiver possible. Give me wisdom and a desire to honor you in how I serve. There are so many issues to face. You know my time and my schedule. Let me experience joy as I honor my loved ones. Let me seek knowledge. Let me be wise in my dealings with others. Let me be generous with my hugs and kisses. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Member Inspirational Writers Alive; Bible Gateway Blogger Grid Member
Coming Soon: Caregiving Part 2: Getting My Parent’s Affairs in Order on www.GreenePastures.org.
Edited by E. Johnson; Bible verses are taken from the NASB if not noted otherwise.
¹ What is Caregiving? Utah Caregiving Coalition. utahcares.org/caregiving-2. Accessed 19 Apr 2017.
² Hunt, June. Caregiving: A Privilege: Not a Prison. Dallas: Hope for the Heart, 2015.
³ When God Sends Help, Don’t Ask Questions. Seniorific News. 13 Jan 2017.
⁴ Home Safety Checklist. Consumer Product Safety Commission Safety for Older Consumers. https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/122038/701.pdf. Accessed 19 Apr 2017.
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Books by Patti Greene