One of the first things to figure out when your parents health start declining is where they will live. Do they get to stay at their own house still, with visits every now and then? Do they move in with a relative or with you? Or do you commit them to a nursing home? In these cases, financial situation and guilt come into play. Some may have the means to commit them to a nursing home but are grappling with the guilt of “abandoning” their parents. Some would rather give them the best medical care they could get, but have very limited resources. Whichever the case is, the family would have to rally around and figure out as a unit what the best thing for the parent is. This might lead to arguments and heated discussions, but this is something that needs to be taken care of as a family.
The next thing to do is to divide the labor. Who takes care of the legal stuff? Who takes care of the bills? Who takes care of the medical appointments? Who will handle the actual hands on care? If you are a single child, you will most likely need the help of other people—relatives or paid help. If you have siblings who care about your parent, these tasks will be doled out depending on who the best fit is, or you also have the option of employing other people to do it for you such as private nurses.
You have to prepare yourself for the stresses of the situation. It will never be easy to see your parents declining, especially if the situation is compounded by dementia which is the case in many families. It is easier said than done, but you should learn to prepare yourself mentally for the frustration, depression, and physical exhaustion of caring for an aging parent. You should think of the possibility that you will lose your parents soon—in which case funeral arrangements should also be taken care of; but you should also acknowledge that this situation could go on for some time.
Because taking care of the aging parent can take such a huge emotional toll, you should never forget to take care of yourself too. Remember that you can only do so much and that you need to be healthy yourself before you can begin taking care of other people. Many caregivers have reported that they felt that their health have declined since assuming the role, and many suffer from chronic health conditions such as hypertension. When you feel yourself being overwhelmed by the enormous responsibility of it all, take time off. Ask someone else to sub for you—either a relative or a paid assistant if you must. Take a vacation to regroup and reassess the situation.