Children, regardless of the financial situation in which they live, always want to give the best care to their parents for decades of meticulous love and upbringing. Many senior citizens choose to take care of their parents at home. Even with the assistance of home helpers, it is always very difficult to take care of old and physically aging adults. The pressure is even stronger if one needs to give up his/her work to take care of an elderly relative all the time. Apart from becoming exhausted physically and mentally, carers have to deal with the physical and emotional changes of their parents. They will easily feel helpless and even feel tired of their care work. This will pose negative impacts on the health of both parents and carers and the relationship between each other.
When the pressure becomes too high or when it is not feasible for you to attend to ageing parents at home, some social enterprises do provide accompanying service.
Apart from standing-in to enable you to take care of your own business, the accompanying persons can also accompany your elderly parents in social or leisure activities. This will provide you with a break from the stressful work and help improve your relationship with your ageing parents.
To become a competent carer, take good care of your parents and walk through the journey happily together, you need to pay attention to the following points:
Understand your parents’ personalities and thoughts, and enhance communication
First of all, carers should understand the personalities of their parents, so as to get along with them in various ways based on their different characters. Carers may arrange more activities or gatherings with relatives and friends for active and lively parents, while they should try to respond quickly to deal with the needs of impatient parents. Listening and talking more about the past could help ease the emotional changes.
Understand your parents’ thoughts and emotions. Health declines may easily make parents feel depressed and anxious. They may worry that their physical condition will increase the burden of the family, or that they may feel lonely and lost when their children and grandchildren have their own families. Carers should be honest with their parents about the health condition and home situation, thus reducing their worries and concerns.
Carers should have more communication with their parents by listening patiently to them, understanding their needs, and allowing them to express their emotions. Carers should understand that their parents sometimes may have some unreasonable ideas and behaviors. Carers should avoid arguing with them when their parents get stubborn and angry. They may avoid arguing with their parents further in order to keep calm, as further arguing does not help. Carers should try to guide the way and calmly express each other’s thoughts at a later stage.
Do not lightly promise something outside one’s capability in order to avoid reducing the trust of parents thereby exacerbating their sense of loss.
You may refer to the relevant webpages to learn about the psychological characters of the elderly and the skills to communicate with them:
No matter how old parents are and regardless of their mobility, they will have personal belongings. Carers should respect the privacy of their parents and free up a convenient space at home for parents to keep their personal belongings. Even if their home is small and their parents do not have their own independent living room, carers should arrange a private locker, storage racks or drawers for their parents for storage purposes.
Many elderly cherish old stuff. They have feelings towards the stuff they own and cannot bear to discard the stuff. A lot of old stuff may have accumulated at home without being used or looked at. In addition to a messy home environment, there is not enough safe space for parents’ activities. So carers are advised to communicate with parents in advance when cleaning up the household and discarding their old stockpiles, and avoid disposing of parents’ belongings or removing many of their “collections”, in order to prevent them from feeling disrespected and their feelings disregarded.
Keep documentations and records related to your parents properly
Carers should take good care of their parents’ documentations and records, e.g. identification documents, medical records, medication lists, insurance policies, bank account information, safety deposit box information and contact phone numbers of their friends. Carers should properly organize and save the documentations and records in a centralized manner, so as to quickly and accurately provide or obtain information when needed.
Grasp sufficient information
Carers should communicate with doctors and medical staff to understand their parents’ illnesses, physical condition and treatment. Carers should refer to relevant information, such as books, articles, interviews and TV programs, participate in relevant lectures, and search for relevant information from the Internet to increase their awareness of the relevant illnesses and get the latest updates on them. In addition, carers should collect information about the relevant supporting organizations in the community and organizations providing related services. Well-equipped carers will not panic when facing difficulties.
Carers often face many challenges when taking care of their parents, e.g. fluctuating physical condition of parents, difficulty to master the daily nursing skills, or failure to deal with the behavioral and emotional issues of sick parents. Carers should attend more forums and training sessions to increase their knowledge of the related illnesses, understand their parents’ physical and mental changes when they fall sick, learn caregiving and nursing skills, and increase their confidence and resilience in regard to caregiving.
Carers should pay attention to their parents’ needs in their daily lives. Special home furnishings may be needed, and carers may need to search for auxiliary equipment and supplies to assist with parents’ daily activities. In addition, attention should be paid to what transport facilities could facilitate mobility, outdoor activities or follow-up visits of parents. You may find information on Medical supplies and equipment and Barrier-free transportation services under the thematic page “Health” of this website. In addition, the thematic page “Home” provides information on suitable household designs for the elderly and small tools that facilitate the daily lives of the elderly. You may also refer to the following webpages:
Carers should encourage parents to do something within their capabilities, in order to maintain their mobility and the ability to take care of themselves. Carers should not over-protect parents; rather they should help their parents strengthen their mobility and confidence, e.g. carers should arrange training for stroke patients as early as possible for optimal rehabilitation.
Apart from filial piety and love for one’s parents, shouldering the responsibility of taking care of one’s parents sometimes may be due to the reasons that the carer is the only relative of their parents, lives with their parents, does not need to work, or is the only family member that can contribute most of his/her time. In many cases, carers do not assess their physical, mental and economic ability to take care of their parents’ daily lives, catering, nursing, and follow-up visits alone. It is advised that carers discuss with family members coordination of the work and share the responsibilities of taking care of parents.
It would be ideal to arrange for old parents to live at home. However, if the physical condition of their parents makes it very difficult for carers to take care of them or if they have special nursing needs, carers should consider arranging for their parents to stay in residential care hostels to procure more appropriate care for them. You may find more information on residential care homes for the elderly under the thematic page “Home” of this website. You may also refer to the following webpages:
Carers should be aware that their personal strength is limited. To provide the best care for their parents (if financial conditions allow), carers may consider hiring professional elderly care workers to assist in cooking, home cleaning, medical visits, nursing and other work. Carers may also make good use of the various supporting services in the community to relieve their burden and receive professional assistance.
Supporting services for carers: Nursing skill training, caregiving knowledge and information, mutual help groups, telephone hotlines, counseling and referral services are provided by various elderly service groups and rehabilitation service units.
Day Respite Service: Temporary daytime care or short-stay services are provided to offer carers some time to deal with their personal matters and take some rest when needed.
Integrated home care services: General home care services are provided, such as personal care, simple nursing, home cleaning, laundry, catering and so on.
Community rehabilitation network: Activities and services are provided for individuals with chronic illnesses to assist them and their carers to continue to live at home and in the community, establish effective ways of communication and set out long-term care plans.
Hotline Service: Emotional support, counselling and referral services are provided for those who are in need .
Deal with emotional issues and relieve stress proactively
Apart from becoming exhausted physically and mentally in long-term care for old parents, carers may also feel very stressed and depressed due to the excessive dependence of parents, poor physical condition of parents, financial burden arising from the medical and living expenses, and lack of family understanding and support. The physical and mental health of carers will be affected if the pressure is ignored or when they do not know how to relieve stress. Carers must first take care of themselves, offer care within their capabilities and maintain a healthy body and mind, so that they are able to provide the best care for their parents.
Taking care of parents is a prolonged and all-weather task, and the resting time of carers may be affected. They should try to maintain adequate sleep and keep to a balanced and healthy diet. Doing more exercise improves one’s spiritual and physical strength and helps relieve stress.
Carers should face their lives with a positive attitude without accumulating pressure. They may talk more with family and friends to share the joy and pressure of taking care of parents, so as to express their emotions.
Even if the care work is very busy and time-consuming, carers should give themselves some private space and resting time to do what they like and maintain normal social activities. Even if they cannot often reach out to participate in activities, they may also relax at home. Simply closing the eyes, meditating with deep breathing, or enjoying cups of hot tea slowly are good ways to relieve stress.
Seek appropriate financial support to reduce economic pressure
Long-term care for weak or sick parents requires substantial medical and nursing costs, which may be a heavy financial burden for senior citizens who have left the workplace. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) and other welfare agencies and service units offer life support schemes and charitable funds for those in need to help alleviate the economic pressure on carers. You may find information on Support for the Elderly in life under the thematic page “Joy” of this website. You may also refer to the following webpages:
Widen your social circle and offer mutual aid to other carers
There are many self-aided groups among patients or family members of patients in the community, as well as mutual support groups of carers, to share experiences and exchange information with fellow peers. Carers may participate in more relevant activities and meet fellow peers. They may share their thoughts on the care process and mutually encourage, support and help each other. They may become more positive and active in shouldering their responsibilities as carers and live happily with their parents.
Towards a caregiver policy in Hong Kong: a survey of overseas caregiver policies and local caregiver needs – a report prepared for the Zonta Club of Hong Kong (Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong)
Caring for Carers of Persons with Disabilities - a report prepared for the Zonta Club of Hong Kong (Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong)
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