You are not alone in feeling challenged by what to do with an aging parent. The following tips can help:
Do your research. Don’t wait until you are inundated with forms, brochures, doctors’ visits, and decisions which have to be made immediately. Begin by reading about your aging parent's medical conditions and life stage situation. Ask questions that you may normally shy away from. Most importantly, get resources. Find out about nursing and assisted living facilities, doctors, care managers, and social workers, and other resources to help your parent when needed.
Start a Conversation with your Parent.
Many people experience difficulty talking about sensitive topics such as health, aging, and death, etc.; however, a scenario I hear about often is “My mother fell. She’s in the hospital and I don’t know how to help her.” If this situation were to happen to you or anyone else you know, here are some important questions to ask:
• Does your parent have an Advanced Care Directive?
• Does he or she have a will?
• Has your parent appointed a Power of Attorney?
• Have you and your siblings discussed what your roles will be in case something happens to mom or dad?
Having a conversation about your parent's future needs and desires with them is not planning for their death. It simply means you are invested and concerned about their safety and happiness should their health be compromised.
Differentiate Between Your Feelings & Your Parent's Feelings.
When parents age, their concerns and life goals may shift. Suddenly, the full life they once thought they had, may feel truncated. An aging parent may suddenly feel more pressure to achieve certain life goals. They may suddenly feel an urgent need to spend time conquering important relationships and attaining general life satisfaction. If you are an adult child, your life situation may be very different from that of your aging parents. This can sometimes make it difficult to connect.
Bring awareness to the current life stage you are in and how that may differ from that of your parents. For most families, it’s very easy to fall into parent-child dynamics when back in that environment. Know what triggers you when your parent makes comments about your life. Sometimes biting your tongue or stepping away from an emotionally explosive situation can be most helpful in the moment.
Know Your Role.
As parents age, they tend to lean on and depend on the people closest to them - usually, a spouse or an adult child. Make a decision about how invested you are in providing physical, emotional, and/or social support to your parent. You may be asking, “How do I take care of a parent who didn’t take care of me as a child?”
This may not apply to you - but, if it does, you may feel uncertain or conflicted about the specific role you want to play in your parent’s life. How much time do you want to contribute? Perhaps you want to be responsible for physical duties like grocery shopping and doctor’s...