There is nothing politically (in)correct about age, just like there is nothing dignified about a grownup pooping in a diaper, or forgetting who their children are.
So much about how we age is gut-wrenchingly difficult, not just for those who are going through it, but also for those watching it happen to their loved ones. This time of life is filled with hard truths no one wants to tell, yet we all have to face them.
After all, every one of us discovers a piece of advice, a trick that works, or a helpful method for a specific situation, so why not share and help each other rise to the challenge one kind tip at a time?
Ask and listen.
This is a conversation that should happen well before any form of dementia sets in, so in case you have a family history of this and similar illnesses, it’s wise to have the talk early. On the other hand, if their sole issue is deteriorating health due to old age, and their mind is as clear as ever, count your blessings, and have an open conversation with your family.
This is a face-to-face kind of talk, where even prepping questions beforehand can be a good idea. The purpose of it is to discuss what your parents want and need. The key is to remember to listen to them and consider what they are saying. Maybe if they say their aches and pains are acting up, a search for a physiotherapist or a physical activity may be in order. If they are bored, perhaps help them find a seniors’ club or a hobby. Many of their problems have a solution, and each one will improve the quality of their lives and boost their independence.
Know your role and your limitations.
Have you decided to be the primary caregiver to your aging parents? If so, understanding your role and your responsibilities is pivotal in making this arrangement work. Many parents dread the idea of their kids helping them undress or bathe, so your attitude and willingness to compromise will be essential. Of course, there is no way of making certain tasks any less painful, but the least you can do is help them adjust with love and patience.
You also need to set boundaries, to protect your own health, and ultimately to give them the best care possible. If you don’t take breaks, ask for professional advice, or cherish your private time and your personal life, you will consequently jeopardize your own caregiving ability. There will be distressing, as well as rewarding times, and remembering that we are all different is key in discerning how much and how well you can care for your aging parents.
Make the right arrangements.
Keep in mind that what may be true in the first few years of their old age may drastically change over time. If a time comes when you need to carry your parent to the bathroom, or they need medication you cannot administer without medical training, there are professionals who provide in home care services which may be just the right thing to do for both you and your parents.
That choice alone means that you would need to prepare a dedicated budget, and ensure that all of their health and medical needs are covered. All of this can be covered in your conversation, where you can determine the right pension plan, insurance policies, and your own financial input if needed.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of all is the emotional toll that comes with the territory of old age. The sooner you begin doing research on your options, asking for advice, and talking to your parents, the greater your chances of minimizing discomfort for all those involved.
But no matter what you do, watching your parents grow old is a painful experience that comes with a steep learning curve. The best you can do is be honest with your family, balance their needs and your own, and get ready to face the hard truths – because we all owe our parents at least that much.
*Photos and links provided by author.
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