(image: Ivan Samkov, Pexels)
We all – if we are so privileged – age enough to become ‘old’. We grow into our faces, our experiences and our futures and we do so over a long period of time. Not everyone is afforded the chance to grow old, of course, but those who do are lucky to get there. When you have senior parents that have reached an advanced age, you have to expect there to be changes in your relationship dynamic. As parents age they may need more help, they may be more aggressive, they may be resistant to any help or support. The worst part is that when you try to help your parents, you may find them resistant to that help – and that can be difficult to manage.
Every situation for a family is unique and so you have to adapt and adjust to the limitations that you are facing in your specific dynamic. Understanding how to help elderly parents without being overly safe is not easy. It’s actually really hard not to suggest senior living or other support systems to parents who aren’t open to that idea – you need them to feel open to help first. Once you have that, you will find navigating the future far simpler. Helping elderly parents needs some movement, and here are our suggestions to help you to do just that.
Empathise. With your parents, you need to empathise and show them that you get it; their life is hard and it’s not easy for them to manage their own expectations. Sometimes, you may be pushed out by the frustration and moodiness that your parents display. It’s vital that you are empathetic and understanding because as hard as it is for you to deal with the changes, consider how they feel? Consider how they are managing the things happening to them right now. It’s going to be huge for them to go from independent to totally dependent on others and losing that independence takes a lot of getting used to.
Call your parents. You need to do what you can to maintain contact with your parents. Calling them regularly and helping them to understand that you are at the end of the phone is going to be a game changer for them. Set reminders on your phone to remind them that you are there, that you love them and that you want to know how they’re doing. Senior parents often feel like a burden and you can avoid that and make it something you change for them.
Don’t do it alone. Helping elderly parents is so much easier when you’re not alone in it. You shouldn’t have to be the only person holding up the house, right? Well, don’t be. Rope in the help of others and make a point of sharing the mental load as much as the physical load. You shouldn’t take all of the responsibility for yourself because all you’re going to do is burn out. Communication is key if you want to make sure that you have the right support.
Look for the problems. It may feel counterproductive to look for problems before they happen but doing this will help you to figure out the right plan of action for support. Knowing emergency contacts, knowing their medical contacts and understanding their surroundings is so important if you want to ensure that your parents are safe. Seeking out the problems will help you to prepare to fix them and some days, you need to fix them! If you have the essentials sorted, you’re going to find it a much smoother journey.
Be their advocate. As they’re your parents, it makes sense to advocate where you can. Being their voice when things get tough is going to help them and you to find life easy. If they have an illness, ensuring that you all have a good grasp of what to expect will help you to keep moving forward and prevent anyone moving backwards. Knowing their conditions, their medications, their appointments and more is vital if you want to be a good advocate for them in times of need.
Encourage activity. This is something you can do together: walks, swims and sports. Many aging parents find remaining active difficult and it’s important to do that together to help both parents stay social and active. If your parents are active they are helping their health and that’s what you need from them the most, too! Going to sports, senior groups, churches/ religious places, museums and more will help them to maintain their activity and their friendships. It’s super needed for balance and to improve their mood, cognitive thinking, strength and more. Aging parents can participate in senior programs and it’s something that will make them feel energised and vital in the world.
Assist them with downsizing. Parents living in larger houses often need space but not too much space. Cleaning and organising is much harder in a larger home and you can help them to downsize without being bossy or demanding. Realising that you can help without pushing is important. You don’t have to be bossy about it all and ensuring that they don’t feel like you are hiding their memories is important. Your parents may argue at the idea of downsizing, but that’s natural when they haven’t ever planned to!
Help your parents to create a memory book. You want to show your parents that you are there for them and it’s common for senior parents to experience short term memory issues that take time to build. Creating memory books is important for them to know who they are and what their homes have meant to them. Fill it up with scrapbook pages, photos, places and pets through the years so that they can use it and flip through it whenever they are feeling down.
Helping elderly parents is a pull on the heartstrings and you should ensure that you are equipped where possible.
This article was written by a freelance writer.