Thanks to the news media, the reminders to Americans approaching retirement age are constant – social security may not last to see us through our lifetime, our 401Ks have been hit and we’re going to need to work longer than we’d hoped in order to provide for ourselves and our families. Add to that the responsibility of caring for aging parents, and it can become overwhelming to find enough time in the day to do it all.
As a caregiver along with my wife to her 88-year-old father and the CEO of an at-home senior care provider, FirstLight HomeCare, I have seen firsthand the stress that caregiving can add to the family dynamic.
A lot has changed since our parents were in our shoes. There has been a generational shift in how our society approaches retirement and our senior years that is noticeably starting to impact the way we provide care to our elders. In more and more households today, both spouses are working right up until retirement age, leaving little time to serve as a full time caregiver, and in many cases, adult children may not live within easy driving distance to stop in with groceries or for a daily visit.
Today’s seniors have an overwhelming preference to stay in their own homes as long as possible, and with more and more adult children working longer or living further away, an additional set of hands is often needed to make the desire to stay at home a reality.
The good news is that there are a growing number of in-home care service-providers available to help fill the gap for those of us looking for a little help. In addition to professional caregiving services, many faith groups have their own organized caregiving efforts available to check on seniors at home in their community. Another option is to tap into family friends or loved ones who live near a parent and can help provide assistance on a limited basis or to make sure that mom or dad is safe at home. It could be as simple as asking a neighbor to stop by for coffee once or twice a week to make sure mom and dad have what they need, particularly during the winter months when getting around may be more of a challenge.
Seeking outside help can relieve stress, but more importantly, it can strengthen your relationship with your aging parent as you have more time and energy to focus on positive aspects of your relationship.
For those of us with far flung family members, technology can also play an important role in keeping tabs on a parent’s care. Not only can tools like Skype and video chat keep you better-connected with a “face-to-face” conversation, there are also numerous tools that can provide peace of mind for a loved one living out of arm’s reach. For example, caregivers with FirstLight HomeCare log each visit with a client online. Updates are readily available to the client’s designated family members, keeping them up to speed on daily activities and providing insight on the client’s ability to continue living alone. Other tools, such as medication dispensers or medication reminders ensure that clients take their daily medication as prescribed, eliminating the possibility of an overdose and significantly reducing the likeliness of underdosing.
There are numerous tools out there that can assist in monitoring a parent’s ability to live at home from afar. While I may be biased from my own personal experiences, I am a passionate advocate of putting in place a caregiving system that keeps both the senior and the adult children informed, comfortable and at peace with the living situation. The bottom line is that with Americans living longer and desiring to stay in their homes as they age, it is important that we are open to new and innovative ways to approach care for our aging family members. The end result will be happier, more enriching lives for aging parents and their families.
Jeff Bevis is President & CEO of FirstLight Home Care, with over 27 years of experience in franchising and a very successful track record of accelerating growth in a variety of franchise concepts, including senior management leadership developing senior care franchise brands over a ten-year span. He has earned the Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) designation, meeting rigorous requirements from the franchising industry with a trademark reputation for building strong, trusting relationships with franchisees and enabling strong unit economics at the franchise level to build system success. His franchise offices have earned both “Best of Home Care” designations on a national scale, as well as, industry-leading results for Franchisee Satisfaction.