|I felt so sorry for my helpless Dad |
after my Mom suddenly died from a stroke.
After her death, the family knew that dad was in a world of trouble. It may be hard to understand, but he had no inkling about paying bills, cooking meals, shopping for groceries and incidentals. It’s near impossible to believe, I know. But Dad remained confused about what to do. Each morning he would take his mail to my sister’s house and ask for her help in managing the finances, even reading the mail sometimes. He was lost.
Family caregiving has tripled in the past 15 years
As a family caregiver, you hate to see a parent be dependent but we all experience it. Initially, each one of us pitched in to help, but he never became independent. I believe mom took that away from him the day they married.
As our parents and relatives grow older and live longer, many of us find ourselves in this harsh situation. And according to several studies, the number of adult children helping an aging relative has tripled in the past 15 years (MetLife, and the National Alliance for Caregiving.) And an estimated 36 million U.S. households have at least one person who is a caregiver, and 33% of them do it for more than five years.
How You Can Best Help Your Parents
In the simplest of terms, it all starts with Daily Living Activities and needs or ADLs. These are the essential things we learn early in life such as eating, bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and transferring.
The other activities that older adults need help with are the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IDLs.) These are the actions that allow an individual to perform complex skills. These include managing money, paying bills, cleaning the house, shopping, taking medications, and preparing meals. These are the ones my Dad had the most trouble performing.
There are many technical terms and ways to measure the level of performance but for the sake of this article, let’s focus on how a family caregiver can gauge them. The activities of daily living is a clear indicator whether a person requires a move to a nursing home. Besides, the ADLs are a significant factor when qualifying for long-term care insurance benefits.
My family had to follow Dad’s performance of doing everyday tasks. We needed to know what he could do or not on his own. It was our guide to helping him stay home or move to a residential care home. Using the Center for Disease Control data, it told us that 60% of the residents in a facility required help going outside. They also needed assistance to bathe (70%) and help with incontinence products (40%). Our Dad did a fair job performing those activities, so we figured he had a good chance to stay home with a little help.
Bathing, dressing & toileting. The first ADL’s to go.
The same data told us that an older person's growing need for support follows a pattern. The first ADL to appear is bathing. The next is a dressing, then toileting, transferring and eating respectively. It surprised us because he needed more help with dressing than taking a bath, but the data said that there are exceptions to every rule. Together we decided to hire home care, and he was thankful to stay home. As time passed, he needed help with bathing, incontinence, and eventually with eating.
Measuring ADLs helps families prepare for upcoming stages of elder care. That’s why it’s so important to observe an elderly relative – their actions are windows to their needs. Here’s a handy tool that you can use when assessing your relative’s elder care journey. It will help you and the rest of the family to prepare better.
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