The baby boomer generation is getting older, which means you might find yourself in the role of caregiver for your aging parents. It’s not an easy task, especially if your parents are dealing with the complicated feelings that often come with getting older. They might be grieving their loss of autonomy, dealing with financial complications, and struggling with physical barriers.
Simply put, they might not be able to do the things they used to do.
With age comes an increased risk of certain health conditions, too. According to the World Health Organization, common conditions in older individuals include hearing and vision problems, osteoarthritis, diabetes, depression, and heart conditions. While not every senior will face health setbacks, many will. As a result, the care your parents need may fall on your shoulders.
But, when you have your own life, family, and career, juggling everything can be overwhelming. If you’re on a tight budget or struggling financially, it can be even harder to take care of yourself and your parents.
One of the best things you can do to help your parents is to work through healthcare options with them. By educating yourself and your aging parents on what they can do to get the help they need, you’ll overcome challenging scenarios and make sure they’re taken care of.
So, how can you get started?
Explore Healthcare Options
One of the best ways to help your aging parents with their healthcare needs is to educate yourself on their options. In the U.S., Medicare is a standard option for most individuals over the age of 65. But, it can be a complex process that is difficult to understand.
The first thing you should determine is whether your parents are eligible. Some people think that if they never had a career, they can’t qualify for Medicare, but that isn’t necessarily true. If one of your parents didn’t work, they can still qualify by paying into Medicare Part A each month. Or, their qualification can be based on their spouse’s work history.
If your parents do qualify for Medicare, the next step is choosing the right plan. Medicare Advantage plans don’t usually have a lot of “give.” But, it’s important to fight for what your parents need. So, don’t be afraid to get help from an expert when it comes to picking the right plan. One of the best options is to talk to a representative from the state health insurance program (SHIP). Every state has this department, and talking to a live person can help you determine which Medicare plan is best for your parents.
Help Them Find Accessible Healthcare
Accessibility can be a huge issue for seniors. Some of the most common barriers older individuals face when trying to receive adequate health care include:
- Not having a regular doctor
- Difficulty finding transportation
- Fear of safety during travel
- A doctor who is unresponsive to their needs
In addition to these factors, some seniors struggle with mobility issues that make it hard to leave the house. Others might not have access to a car or they feel guilty asking you or others for transportation help.
One of the biggest benefits of growing technology is the rise of telemedicine. Telehealth services have started to grow in recent years. But, the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to see a dramatic boom. Many medical facilities are keeping it as an option for patients because of the positive response. Telehealth allows your parents to get the care they need from the comfort of home. Obviously, serious conditions or concerns will always need to be treated in person. But, finding a doctor that utilizes telemedicine will make everyday health concerns easier to handle for your parents – and you!
Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle
There are some things you can’t control when it comes to your parents’ health. Illness happens. Injuries happen. The aging process happens. But, by encouraging your parents to live a healthy lifestyle, they can combat some of those problems and reduce the risks of developing serious health conditions.
Simple, everyday changes can make a big difference in how your parents feel, so encourage some of the following healthy habits:
- Changing their diet
- Getting active every day
- Managing stress
- Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
Things like getting enough sleep, taking vitamin supplements, and finding ways to keep their mind active are also great ideas for a healthier lifestyle. You can even participate in some of these activities with your parents, allowing you to enjoy that side of caregiving while doing something good for yourself, too.
By keeping these ideas in mind, you can navigate the waters of healthcare with your aging parents much more effectively. Be sure to educate yourself on your parents’ options as much as possible, and pass that knowledge onto them. The more you know, the more confident you can be that they are getting the care they deserve.