How to Cope with your Aging Parents Who Need Help
The unforgettable opening scene in Disney’s The Lion King features a song celebrating the circle of life and the observance of a birth. The story that follows is a poignant reminder of a common aspect in the natural order of things: Children—when provided adequate education, experiences, and nutrition—become adults.
Among the broadly accepted patterns of human development is that as young people mature, they find themselves taking on greater responsibilities, often performing similar social functions as their parents do. Ultimately, given enough time, they might even experience a role reversal of sorts wherein the very parents once responsible for their nurturing and safekeeping come to rely on them for the same.
Regardless of the strength of your relationship with your parents, this arrangement can become stressful. There’s a distinct paradigm shift in authority and accountability. As a result, a person faced with caring for an aging parent must engage in careful planning to ensure a smooth transition from the role of child to the role of caregiver.
Assess the Level of Care That’s Needed
Not all elderly care situations are the same. There are several variables to consider, but the two most important questions to ask at the outset might be:
- Are you caring for two parents or for one?
- How is the overall health of your parent, both in his or her physical capability and mental acuity?
Obviously, answers to these questions could influence the amount of companion care your parents need and what your own margins are in being able to provide it.
At the outset, such an appraisal can seem almost too pragmatic. You may possess a strong and loving relationship with your parents and desperately wish to bring them into your home, but to make this decision without adequate preparation and awareness can be a misstep. Some conditions are far more challenging and demanding than others.
Remember, you’re not only determining what your parents need at this stage of life, but also your own capacity to adequately meet those needs. If your parents require substantial assistance in performing common tasks throughout the day, do you have the resources to ensure a safe and secure environment?
Consult with Experts
The best way to make this judgment is to talk with professionals in the field or with others who have gone through this experience. You may not even know which questions to ask at first, but inquiring about challenges in caregiving and about the support services available to you is a great place to start.
Some living assistance organizations will even provide an in-home consultation. Take advantage of learning from others’ experiences.
Define What You Can Afford to Do
This isn’t exclusively about your own monetary resources or what your parents have set aside in reserve, although finances and the expenses that come with enlarging your family are certainly part of the equation.
Just as essential, though, is considering:
- The available living space in your home
- Any mobility challenges your home might present
- How your own children/family dynamics might be affected
- Time or availability constraints regarding daily routine
Each of these steps can help you to determine the best options available for long-term care of your aging parents.
Be Communicative — Establish Expectations and Boundaries
After you’ve received answers to some of these crucial questions and have thoroughly planned for how to best care for your parents, it’s important to communicate your intentions and wishes to them. This can feel strange, depending on how your relationship has evolved.
For most parents, regardless of how old you are, you remain their “baby.” Some may even feel guilty as these roles reverse. They may feel as if they’ve become a burden. Reassure them that this is not the case.
Meanwhile, others may not be ready to acquiesce. Sometimes, resentment can build as you become more of an authority figure in their life. There may be habits you request that they give up. You may feel compelled to restrict their movement or diet. In cases where parents are feeble, you might need to help them with tasks that would normally be conducted privately.
Ultimately, two general rules apply:
- Seek to maintain “normalcy” wherever possible. The more similar your life is now to what it was before your parent(s) arrived, the better it can be for everyone involved.
- Seek to maintain their dignity. Where they can have privacy and autonomy, give it to them.
Share the Responsibility
Whether you get help from other family members or hire intermittent help from assisted living services, don’t take on more than you should. Your own physical and mental wellbeing are essential to managing the environment, and no one is better off if you become worn down in this process.
Consider getting help in the following areas:
- Preparing meals
- Running errands or shopping
- Community or recreational time
- House-cleaning services
While your parents aren’t children in the traditional sense, having someone available to “babysit” is important. You will need your time away from your parents, just as they sought it when you were toddling around theirhome. Keep up with your hobbies. Go out with friends. Negate any opportunity for frustration to build.
You will want to remember your parents’ senior years with fondness. With proper planning, that can happen.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.
Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices throughout California including: Campbell, CA, Roseville, CA, San Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.