Help and Care for Your Aging Parents
As parents age the relationship between parent and child changes. Where once they cared for you, it may now be time for you to help care for them. To ensure they have a roof over their heads, food and medical care, and time with friends and family. It may now be your turn to ask questions, offer support and encouragement as they did for you as a child.
Role reversal may be a difficult process for both the parent and the child. Both will be challenged to identify needs and wants, to accept changes, and look to positive ways of modifying the relationship that still allows for independence as well as closeness.
Aging parents require your attention but it is still their journey. Together you may need to learn a new way of communicating with one another, new levels of acceptance for one another, and an understand of the goals and frustrations of aging.
What you need to know
Often adult children find themselves rushing in and taking charge, especially if a parent has experienced a health crisis. You may feel that you know best, that you better understand the situation. You may be well-intentioned but often parents will feel overwhelmed by the changes in their lives and see an adult child’s behavior as intrusive and controlling rather than helpful and supportive. This can actually undermine your relationship with your parents and lead to conflict and feelings of sadness, rejection, and anger on both sides.
Aging and caring for aging parents may be difficult. It takes patience and understanding. It requires an openness to communicate and listen, to hear another point of view and accept changes so as to work together toward a common goal.
How you can help
- Improve your listening skills
- Speak clearly and patiently
- Ask them what they want and need
- Bring up the topic of senior counseling if you think it will help
- Take a break when you need one
- Ask for help when you need it
- Don’t enable them to become too dependent on you
Prepare for the worst-case scenario. Work to create the best possible scenario. Commit to a long-term process.
Seven Tactful Ways to Help and Care for Your Aging Parents
1. Help them but don’t take over their lives
This is a delicate balance and where role reversal feels the strongest. They need independence. They also need supervision. This is where communication is super important. Try not to assume too much.
2. Gently encourage them to be more socially active
Isolation can be dangerous. When your parents are around their peers they are safer. And they are also in a position to thrive and grow. Our social circle enriches us and this doesn’t change with age.
3. Be sure to talk about money
Aging is financially scary. Your life’s work can be at risk. Stay in touch with your parents about their money situation. In some cases, you may need to assume power of attorney. Educate yourself and share what you learn with your family.
4. Strategically discuss the benefits of exercise
Your aging parents will complain of being tired. It will be tricky to help them understand that activity is a good idea. Ask them what activities they like. Take a class with them if you have to. Best of all, find a fun beginner senior class.
5. Judiciously assist them in creating a support system
You can’t be there 24/7. Encourage your aging parents to develop a network of friends and family. Teach them to use cell phones and computers to stay in touch with others. This not only keeps them safer. It also encourages socializing.
6. Make certain you care for yourself
Only the best version of you can be a useful caretaker. Step away and be your own caretaker. Have some social time. Guard your sleep. Be sure to exercise and eat healthy foods. Remember to have fun and live your life to the best of your ability.
7. Find or create the right time to bring up the topic of senior counseling
Life is full of transitions. Your aging parents have entered one of the most difficult times in their life. Therapy may not be the first thing on their mind. But it can reduce fear and inspire confidence. Urging your parents to talk with a professional may be the greatest suggestion you can make.
Again, patience is the key when it comes to this role reversal. Be patient with them and with yourself. Abandon perfection as a goal. Take it slowly and never forget the foundation of love.