Starting Your Role As Caregiver
Make sure your parent joins AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons). Anyone age fifty or older is eligible. Members get tons of discounts on everything from prescriptions to travel, plus a subscription to the AARP magazine Modern Maturity.
Although many programs for older adults are federally funded, the best way to contact them is through your local Area Agency on Aging. There is one in your community, even if you're not aware of it. These offices will connect you with a host of services for older adults in your area, including transportation, day care and respite care programs, residences, meal delivery, home care, legal assistance, and just about anything else you can think of (and plenty that you haven't!).
Get your father hooked into the local senior center. These centers provide transportation services, classes, information, recreation, and the chance to make new friends. Offer to go with him the first few times to help put him at ease. It's not all-or-nothing. Even if you are not making regular use of the local senior center, people there are still available to answer questions or provide resources. And if your dad only wants to visit the center occasionally, even if it's just for lunch, you're still welcome there.
If your mother is too young (or young at heart) to feel that she needs a senior center's services, a senior center would probably love her help as a volunteer. That way she'll already have a connection to the center further along the line when she starts to need help.
Introduce all new changes in your parents' lives as positives: "Now you won't have to worry about weeding the garden" or "You'll be able to get so much more done now that Jenny is taking care of the cooking."
Don't order; instead, ask. Bad idea: "The house is a wreck! I'm coming over tomorrow to set things straight!" Better idea: "It seems like one or two things need fixing. Would tomorrow be a good time for me to come over and help you take care of them?"
Whenever considering any programs, groups, or services for your mother, check them out on your own first. If a particular place or service doesn't seem right for Mom, you can avoid having one bad experience turn her off.
Make contact with a competent geriatric caseworker. You can contact such professionals through local senior centers or your doctor. Geriatric caseworkers are specially trained to deal with everything from financial and insurance issues to home health care, day care facilities, and volunteer groups that can help you. They're also able to evaluate what your parent's specific needs are. A geriatric caseworker will be an invaluable resource for you; no wonder this is one of the fastest-growing areas of social work.