How to Help Your Aging Parents
Growing older is a fact of life. While adult children don’t often talk about it, there’s a good chance aging parents will one day need their help. It could be transportation to and from appointments. Or it may be assistance with grocery shopping, meal preparation, or laundry.
For many families, the senior’s care needs will become more time-intensive and personal in nature. It’s tough to witness and even more difficult to accept these types of changes in a family member. And caring for the senior’s most personal needs can be embarrassing for both the parent and the adult child.
At first, adult children might be in denial about the decline in their aging parent’s health. Instead, they tell one another the senior is just going through a bad time, but things will improve soon. As it becomes irrefutably obvious that this is the older adult’s new reality, family caregivers often find themselves struggling with balance.
Most want to make sure their senior loved one has the care and support they need, but don’t want to seem bossy or overbearing. It’s a roller coaster of emotional and physical challenges that can leave loved ones exhausted and overwhelmed.
So, what can you do if you find yourself in this situation? We have some advice you’ll probably find useful.
5 Ways to Help Parents Without the Stress
First, try to think of your family members as partners in care. The popular idea that you should consider caregiving as a role reversal and begin parenting a parent isn’t usually the best approach. When it comes to caring for an aging parent, it’s typically better to work collaboratively:
- Avoid falling into childhood patterns: For better or worse, families all have their own set of dynamics. When stress is high, as it often is when a senior loved one needs help, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns. Childhood disagreements and tensions may resurface. Try to establish ground rules that include making sure everyone is heard and keeping the primary focus on the aging parent’s best interests.
- Include parents in discussions: When decisions need to be made in a hurry or require having a difficult conversation first, it might be tempting to just do what you think is best. Even if you can legally make decisions on the senior’s behalf, it’s rarely a good idea to exclude them from the senior care process. Unless their health prevents it, talk with parents about their wishes for the future.
- Share concerns in a thoughtful manner: Just as adult children can be in denial, so too can older adults. They might have a hard time accepting that they can no longer complete tasks they used to do easily. While you might be fearful of their resistance, try to keep your cool. Be empathetic and supportive, not condescending. Give specific examples of your concerns and potential solutions. You’ll likely meet with less resistance when you adopt a more thoughtful approach to conversations.
- Understand their fears might be different from yours: When a senior loved one’s health is declining, it’s understandable that your mind goes to worst-case scenarios. For example, you might be afraid that an aging parent will fall or experience a home emergency when no one is around to help. Those are legitimate fears. Know that for seniors, however, losing their independence and privacy might be their greatest fears. As you try to help them, keep those important differences in mind.
- Explore senior care options before an emergency: Part of creating a solid care plan for an aging parent’s future should include exploring local senior care options. You’ll likely find a variety of potential care solutions, from in-home care providers to senior living communities. If you begin exploring them before they’re needed, you’ll be better able to make an informed choice. Waiting until a crisis occurs will force you to make important decisions during an already stressful time.
Support in the Search for Assisted Living
When making choices about care for aging parents, one of the most important things family members can do is remember you’re all on the same team. You each want to make the best possible decisions for your mom and dad. When you work together as a family, the end result will probably be a care solution that’s a good fit for your aging parent.
If you’re starting to search and are looking for more information, you can use our community locator to find an Eagle Senior Living community near you. With communities in seven states across the country, you’ll likely find one nearby. Or contact us by filling out a form. A member from our team will be in touch with you soon. We help families like yours find care solutions every day!