The world’s population is getting older. This means that more and more of us are getting to know what it means when it comes to caring for our parents. Just as they cared for you when you were younger, it may be that you need to care for them now that they are older. Yet with busy lives that include juggling work and your own family already, not to mention your social life and hobbies, taking care of your parent or parents may seem overwhelming when added to the mix. Not only that, but older people are often not keen on the idea of being looked after, especially by their children, which can turn everything into a battle.
Often, a balance will need to be struck between giving too much care and losing something of yourself and not giving enough, resulting in the older person feeling isolated and ‘like a burden’. If this is the problem you are facing, here are some ways you can care for your parents in the best way possible, and help them to help themselves at the same time.
Think About Their Health
It is your parents’ health that needs to be the priority – this is what is most often the biggest issue, and the one that causes the most concern. Many parents will feel too proud to allow their children to help with daily health issues, including mobility and sanitary problems, and this leads to arguments and bad feeling.
The problem is that the older someone gets, particularly if they have been diagnosed with an illness, they may not be able to carry out the tasks they once could, and this can mean their health is at risk if they can’t take their medication or clean themselves properly.
If the issue is that your parents don’t want you to do this work, or that you feel concerned about doing it yourself, it might be wise to hire in a third party to do it for you. Chronic Care Management can help those in need and ensure everyone keeps their dignity and relationships intact.
As well as this you should always:
- Check in with your parents regularly. This could mean phoning, video calling, or visiting them in their home if they don’t live with you.
- Find out if there is anything they need and either show them how to get it or get it for them yourself (depending on their level of independence).
- Involve your parents in your plans and with your family – even if they are perfectly well, loneliness can be a problem for their mental health.
Although it’s true that you won’t be able to fully understand how your parent or parents are feeling as they grow older, especially if they are unwell, it is still good to try to empathize with them. You might find that it is difficult to be around them when they are being unpleasant or are frustrated because they can’t do what they used to be able to do, and this can be hard – it’s hard to accept and hard to see your beloved parents acting in this way.
It’s natural, though, and comes from fear and frustration. The best thing a child can do for their older parents is to try to understand just where they are coming from. Things are changing, and that can be frightening, especially if you don’t entirely understand what is happening around you or why you can no longer do what you once could. Remember that as you age you experience a great deal of loss – friends, loved ones, your career, your independence, your health – and that is never pleasant.
By showing understanding without patronizing your parents, they will be more likely to open up to you, and when that happens you can really help them because you’ll know just what the problem actually is.
Encourage Them to Be Active
One of the problems that the elderly can have is that they are no longer as active as they once were. They may have worked out regularly, gone for long walks, gone swimming a few times a week, or even been part of a gym class. Perhaps they have an active career. Whatever the case, as they get older, they become much less active. They might not even leave the house from one week to the next.
One of the ways you can care for aging parents is to help them be more active. What they are able to do will depend on their mobility and health, but there are many different classes, courses, and one off activities that older people can enjoy and that will keep them as fit as possible in their later years. By encouraging them to take part, perhaps by taking them to the class, joining them in a regular walk, or finding out what they can do and signing them up (with their permission, of course), you can increase their health and make them feel happier too.
Ask for Help
Although no parent is ever going to want to be a ‘burden’ to their children, sometimes help is necessary, and the adult child is going to need to take on some responsibility for helping out. What this does not and should not mean is that you need to take on every aspect of caring for your aging parents (unless you want to, that is).
No matter how you are, you are going to have some of your own work, family life, hobbies, and so on to take care of too. They say you cannot pour from an empty cup and that’s true; if you’re caring for your parents and your own family and trying to work as well as everything else, you will soon burn out and then you won’t be able to help anyone at all.
The key here is to ensure you ask for help. If you are struggling, if you don’t understand something, if you need to take a break to recharge your own batteries, this is all important and needs to be dealt with. By asking for help either from other family members or from professionals, you will be helping everyone in the end.