You may have to take on the role of primary care-giver at a moments notice

Your help as a care-giver will not be needed if your parents are fit, healthy and independent. They are responsible for caring for themselves, their living space and their finances.

A stroke or other medical crisis, however, could change the situation overnight. Questions then arise about what to do, where to get help and how to ensure your parents receive the care they need.

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time being a care-giver demands. Simple errands may only take up a few hours a week. However, if a lot of assistance is needed, the time spent can be significant.

Helping elderly relatives with a single task, such as bathing or dressing, can take up to nine hours of effort a week. Two such activities will require more than 14 hours a week. Five or six can involve almost 27 hours a week.

If it's becoming clear that aid is likely to be required, planning ahead may be appropriate. Developing as much knowledge as possible about a likely scenario, before a potential situation arises, can be very useful.

Information on the person's abilities and disabilities, their needs and what services are available could prove invaluable. Organize all medical, financial and legal information before a crisis occurs.

The link below helps you organize this information:-

Click here for our down-loadable and printable 'Personal and Financial Records'

Identify your strengths and weaknesses for the task to ensure a successful role. Understanding the potential input from family, friends, neighbors and community agencies is vital.

You will have to increase the time commitment as a parent ages. If you can’t offer any more time and you’re feeling overwhelmed, share roles with siblings, professionals and volunteers.

It is important to get rid of feelings of guilt and realize that sometimes it is not possible for you to be there quickly enough. Friends, neighbors, social workers and other professionals can be there when the you can’t.

Spend quality time on visits with loved ones. List the key people involved with parents. GPs, specialists, lawyers, dentists, nurses, hospitals, nursing-home personnel, clergy and landlords. Network with them and develop special relationships with them.

A care-giver cannot care for others if they are sick too. Respite care is important. If you have kids, keep them in the loop. Maybe some day they’ll be doing the same for you.