Growing older is difficult and can be especially challenging for adult children of aging parents. These are the people who cared for you your entire life, and now you are caring for them. It’s no easy task.
People are living longer and the age to which people live has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Statistics show that by the year 2030, 1 out of 5 Americans will be 65 or older (roughly 72 million people). By the year 2045, the numbers of Americans 65 or older will reach nearly 90 million, that’s twice what it is today. As people live longer there is a greater need for assistance.
As you look at your circumstances consider these questions: Are your aging parents able to care for themselves? Are they experiencing memory loss? Are your parents still safe in their homes or on the road? Are they eating properly or losing weight?
How do we address concerns about our elders if they are present? In her article “Caring for Aging Parents” found on Oprah.com, life coach Martha Beck offers some suggestions:
Build a Village: Find support and helpful information from those who interact with your parent(s): doctors, caregivers, friends, neighbors. Use this support network to assist you.
Expect the unexpected: Tasks and demands upon you may emerge and make you uncertain of what to do. Each aging parent is different according to factors in their personal history: the great depression, wars and drought. Formulate a strategy that will help you emotionally – and learn to laugh!
Clean your emotional closet: Find forgiveness. You may need to find resolution on inner struggles with which you dealt while growing up. Learn to find forgiveness so you can move on in your own life. Bitterness, grudges and judgment can be lethal.
Face your own mortality: The denial of our own inevitable death may impact that of our parents as we attempt to help them. We must accept that dying happens to everyone. Facing this reality will help us live more fully.
Release guilt: If you are unable to care for your parent or are uncertain what to do, seek help. There are many wonderful caregiver agencies and aging services that have the knowledge and skills to help you.
Respect: Most of all, remember that while physical and mental health may be declining, your parent is still an adult. Allow them the independence of making their own choices if they are mentally competent. Treat them as you would like to be treated as you age.
There are no perfect answers in working with aging parents, but remembering these guidelines may help. Follow your instincts, express your feelings openly and honestly, confront problems, and seek advice from doctors and caregiver groups. Communicate with siblings and family members, and discuss how to share responsibilities. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your parents will benefit both of you.
Julie Chandler is a social worker/case manager with ElderCaring in-home care and can be reached at 760.333.0427.
Resources: 1) www.oprah.com/health/caring-for-Aging-Parents-Martha-Beck-Advice3; 2) www.mayoclinic.com/health/aging-parents/HA00082/insectiongroup=2