Are You Walking a Tightrope?
July 12, 2023
By Don Vetal, Jr., CEO, LyfLynks, Inc
As a family caregiver for over 20 years, I have personally experienced the challenge of supporting my parents’ desire to live independently while struggling to ensure their safety and well-being. We developed LyfLynks because my family is not alone. Over 90% of seniors share a common dream…to age independently without negatively affecting their children’s lives. But their children do worry about them. Almost 90% of Americans with parents over the age of 60 are often worried about their parents’ well-being and how they will be able to support their parents’ desire to Age in Place.
Meanwhile the pace of American life is accelerating, becoming more complex as families are becoming more geographically dispersed and family commitments become more demanding. These demands impact all aspects of daily life… from balancing kids' school and extracurricular activities to meeting professional duties such as work travel, relocation, promotions, layoffs. Without real support, these demands can exacerbate health issues and mental stress;’ and now as our population continues to age, supporting the independence and wellbeing of loved ones is adding yet another demand on daily life.
Balancing the need to ensure parents' safety with their parent’s desire for independence can be a delicate task for adult children. Although every circumstance has its unique factors, it's essential for family members to approach this situation with empathy, respect, and understanding, collaborating with aging loved ones to find a solution that satisfies both the senior’s desire for independence and the family’s need for safety.
Here are some suggestions on how families can best approach the challenge of supporting their aging parents while respecting their independence:
Those with aging loved ones sense that their lives can change at a moment’s notice. In fact, the time it takes to become a caregiver for an aging parent is 8 minutes: That’s the time it takes for the phone call from an emergency room. It is important to discuss contingencies in advance of any crisis. The family, including the aging parents, should discuss how life-changing crises will be met and begin planning the support they may need.
The fear of losing independence often prevents many seniors from openly sharing their concerns or needs with family members. They perceive family interventions as a threat to their independence, leading them to hide incidents such as falls, fender benders, sleeplessness, or forgetfulness due to the fear of their family's reaction. Therefore, it is crucial for families to proactively initiate open and honest conversations with their parents about safety concerns and their desire for independence at the earliest opportunity. By doing so, family members can alleviate the fear of the unknown for their loved ones and establish a foundation of trust. Actively listening to parents' perspectives, encouraging them to express their thoughts and fears, and sharing one's own concerns are essential steps to take. Avoiding this important discussion with Mom and Dad can lead to disastrous consequences, as it severely limits the available choices for both parents and their supporting family members during a crisis. The potential discomfort associated with this conversation far outweighs the risk of alienation among family members or the regret of missed opportunities for maintaining a good quality of life.
Families should objectively evaluate their parents' physical and mental capabilities and reevaluate periodically. By understanding their strengths and limitations, they can identify areas where their parents may need assistance or additional support.
Involve Parents in Decision Making
Early discussions are crucial for both seniors and their families to understand and respect each other's needs and desires as they navigate the aging journey. This forms the foundation of the planning process. While considering any cognitive limitations, families should include their parents in decision-making. Emphasizing safety, discussing potential risks and challenges, and exploring options together helps find a balanced approach to independence.
Implement Gradual Changes
If parents are resistant to additional assistance, families can consider implementing changes gradually. Starting with smaller adjustments, such as installing safety devices or hiring a caregiver for a few hours a week, can help parents become more comfortable with the idea of support.
Be prepared: Families should explore local resources and support networks that can provide assistance to their parents while still allowing them to maintain their independence. These resources may include meal delivery services, home maintenance assistance, or social activities tailored to their interests.
Families should maintain regular communication and check-ins with their parents to ensure their well-being. Phone calls, visits, or video chats can provide reassurance to parents while showing that their family is actively involved and concerned about their safety.
Seek Active Solutions and Professional Advice
When families face difficulty balancing their parents' independence and safety, it's beneficial to seek professional guidance. Traditional options, such as geriatric care managers and social workers, offer counseling services for an hourly fee. They provide valuable guidance and assist in creating personalized plans that prioritize the parents' needs and desires while ensuring their safety. Additionally, innovative solutions leveraging technology are emerging to enhance communication within families, facilitate access to expertise, and simplify and organize support for seniors, thereby promoting their independence.
When designing LyfLynks, we kept the needs of both the family caregivers and their aging parents in mind. That ‘s why our comprehensive solution supports the needs of each participant in the age-in-place endeavor. Our mobile app and Member Care Center gives our clients access to qualified service providers that span the aging continuum. We facilitate a centralized communication hub and provide peace of mind by scheduling check-in calls by family members or LyfLynks Member Care Center. Aging and caring for aging parents is an inherently human endeavor, so we make sure our Member Care Center staff are available 24/7 to listen, assist, and advocate for the entire family.