The years go by and suddenly you find yourself with an elderly parent who needs all kinds of help. Even though it can be challenging, this is an amazing opportunity to give love and support to someone who really needs it. It's also a time to set an example for your children so they will know what to do when you're the one who needs help!
Make your own careful assessment of your mother or father's needs. Prioritize the areas where you will be active: health care, social life and dealing with the changes of aging are some of the most common ones.
Speak to your parent to find out what he wants most out of life and what the most pressing challenges are. Be willing to listen non-judgmentally.
Decide which areas are ones where you can be most effective. Don't try to do everything. Your time is limited so focus on the things where both of you will see results.
Consider your parent's personality, background and life experiences. This isn't the time to expect your mother to lighten up when she has been a worrier all her life. Today's elderly, who lived through the Great Depression, still bear the scars.
Remember that until you have experienced being old you don't really know what it's like. The transformation from an independent life to one of needing help is painful and difficult for many people.
When things get tense, bring up happy, funny or heartwarming memories from the past. A good laugh is the best medicine. Photos of great-grandchildren, a family wedding or a new house can restore a better mood.
Get all the information you can about continuing care communities, elder law, Medicare and other important issues. Being well-informed will save you lots of time and useless anguish.
Even when older parents try your patience, be kind. You'll be glad you made the effort when you look back later at this hard time.
- Geriatrics is a broad specialty with knowledgeable professionals in every area: home care, insurance, medicine, law are examples. They have information already prepared that would take you a long time to put together.
- Do your best to work out an equitable arrangement for care with your siblings and other relatives so that no one person has too much of a burden. If you're the "on-site" person, be honest about what you can reasonably do, then ask for help.
- Make sure the professionals you consult are reliable, especially if money is involved.
- When you go somewhere with your parent, don't answer for her unless necessary. It's demeaning for an intelligent adult (even an elderly one) to be ignored or to be addressed like a baby.