As we get older, one of the tougher things we must come to grips with is the fact that our parents are getting older as well, and after years and years of being taken care of by them, it is now our turn to return the favor.
It’s a task that goes much deeper than just organizing, and will probably involve more feelings than anything you’ve had to tackle in a long time. No matter how hard it gets, however, the choices you make will go a long way in making both your life, and the lives of your parents, much easier, happier, and productive. Whether it is something as simple and straightforward as helping them organize their belongings and their home, or as complex and gut wrenching as dealing with Alzheimer’s or nursing homes, you’ll be glad that you came to the task prepared and knowledgeable as to what choices there are.
Alicia on “Keeping Them In The Loop”
“Control. It’s one of the biggest issues that looms over the whole process of taking care of your elderly parents. Nobody wants to relinquish control over their own well being, especially when they still feel like they can do everything on their own. Ideally you will come to a philosophical decision with your family well before it needs to be implemented so it will be easier to act on when the time comes. Keep in mind that illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s will wreak havoc with parents memories, so they may not remember the decisions you made when they were cogent. I learned this the hard way with my mother, who now needs around the clock care but can’t remember she signed up for Assisted Living a few years ago. It’s hard being the bad guy some days, but it’s easier knowing that it was what she said she wanted when she still had her memory.”
Sarah on “Check In With Yourself”
“Growing older is a tough reality, not just for your parents, but also for yourself, as the knowledge that the role of caretaker has suddenly switched places can be overwhelming and oftentimes depressing. So, in the middle of all the day-to-day care-giving you are now compelled to do, you also have to come to grips with the fact that you too are getting older. Understanding your own feelings about aging is just as important as taking care of your parents. So make sure you set aside some “Me Time” to think, to relax, to bring perspective to the situation. The stronger and more confident you are, the better care you can take of your parents, and the better care you can take of yourself.”
Remember, the process isn’t going to be easy. But here are a few first steps to help you make it easier:
1: Talk to Your Friends
Every family is different, of course, but this is one instance when getting advice from friends is invaluable. Talk to anyone you know who has gone through the same process and see what worked, what didn’t work, where you should start, and what to expect. By getting in touch with others in the same situation, you are not only getting great firsthand information, you’re also getting a sympathetic ear to which you can turn at every stage.
2: Get Everyone Involved
Don’t feel like you have to take on every decision by yourself. If you’ve got brothers and sisters, uncles or aunts, get them involved in the process as early and as often as possible. By sharing the load with others in the family, nobody gets “surprised” by any decisions, nobody feels left out, and the chance that you can be viewed as the bad guy is eliminated.
3: Remember: They’re Still Your Parents
After spending a long period of time dealing with everything from wills, to property, to nursing homes, to insurance coverage, etc., etc., it’s easy to lose track that you’re dealing with people here. Not just people, your parents! Remember that they’re going through a process that’s scary and very humbling, and your love, caring, and attention to them is more important now than it has ever been.