So often, adult children will say they “want to do what’s right” in support of an aging parent. They want to provide all the care and support possible, but sometimes it gets to be too much. There comes a point where outside help, or even a change to a more suitable living situation, may be in order.

Recognizing the Need for Help

How do you know when it’s time to call in reinforcements to support an aging parent? It is ideal if you can recognize the need for help long before it turns into a medical crisis. Unfortunately, many family members can quickly become family caregivers and end up facing health issues of their own due to caregiver burnout. If you are able to research senior living options for your loved one before either one of you ends up sick or exhausted, that research will be something you are able to do together. You’ll also be able to take your time doing it. 

Here are a few indicators that you might need new resources or options to support an aging parent.

Career or Family Stress for the Caregiver

Family caregivers, whether they’re providing daily visits or managing their loved one’s care from miles away, are juggling multiple tasks and obligations. If you notice that your marriage or family relationships are strained, it is time to consider rallying support.

The same adult children who care for their aging parents often have day jobs in addition to their other responsibilities. They have careers and bosses and co-workers, a complex web of relationships that cries out for proper care. As much as we may want to be on call to support an aging parent, the reality is that caregivers’ own careers can take a hit if they become too enmeshed in trying to manage their parents’ affairs. It’s a warning sign to watch out for.

Loss of a Spouse

An older couple will often function as a team, with one spouse handling certain tasks such as balancing the checkbook and paying bills, while the other manages domestic chores and keeps the household running. Faced with the loss of a spouse, the survivor can easily become swamped as they struggle to shoulder the burden of unfamiliar tasks. This may be the point at which the adult children should call for reinforcements as they endeavor to help their loved one cope with a new set of critical tasks. However, they must remember to care for themselves as well so that they don’t experience caregiver burnout due to their new role.

Failure to Thrive

Sometimes the signs are subtle. Things are going along fine, and there is no immediate crisis, but after honest reflection, the adult child comes to realize that the parent simply is not thriving. They may be managing daily tasks and getting along well enough, but there is no joy or vibrance, no circle of friends, no sense of a rich and active life. If that’s the case, it may be time to look for additional resources. 

You may identify support groups in the community that serve older adults, or you may wish to look at a new living situation — a relocation to a vibrant community of older individuals who share common interests — a community organized to provide a rich and fulfilling experience to those in their later years. This time in one’s life can be rich with joy and new experiences. A thoughtful caregiver will steer resources in that direction.

A Crisis Point

Sometimes, unfortunately, the caregiver will realize that it is time to call for help only when a crisis arises. Perhaps an older adult has a fall or suffers a health setback. A person in the early stages of dementia may wander off or engage in questionable activities. Or, there could be a complication related to a chronic condition. However it may come about, the crisis call is usually a definitive indication that it’s time to seek reinforcements.

Next Steps

You have options when it comes to ways to support an aging parent:

  • Respite care, which may take the form of in-home help, adult day care, or a short-term residential stay. The idea is to give the caregiver a break, time to catch up on other responsibilities, and room to think about options going forward.
  • Senior living communities offer a vibrant place to live and thrive, meeting new friends and enjoying amenities such as outstanding dining, transportation services, and housekeeping visits.

Begin the conversation about senior care with your aging loved one by downloading our free resource, “How to Talk to Your Parent About Senior Living.”


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