Caring for, dealing with, and trying to help an aging parent make decisions and plans can be upsetting and frustrating for all concerned. From an elder care perspective, this article discusses the family dynamics between seniors and their adult children, how to talk so your parents will listen, and how to listen so your parents will talk!
Taking care of elderly parents at home
There is a myth that adult children in bygone years were more caring and devoted to their parents than we are today. And it is just that: a myth! With our increasingly longer lifespans, today’s adult children actually deliver more hands-on care for aging parents over longer periods of time than any other generation in the history of the world.
These days, it is not at all uncommon to see children in their 70s caring for parents in their 90s. The longer we are blessed with the presence of our parent, however, the greater the chance that this blessing can become a mixed one, with everyone feeling resentful at times. Parents mourn their loss of independence, and adult children cope with caregiver stress.
Concerns for independent living
There are any number of potentially sensitive issues adult children and their aging parents have to face together. For example—can the parent live alone? Where should they live? How will they afford it? Do they need care, and will they accept it? Should they still be driving? How can I deal with siblings who are not contributing? How much am I willing to take on? Are their expectations fair?
First and foremost, please be aware that not every issue is solvable the way you would like to see it resolved. Accepting that your parents have the right to exercise poor judgement is part of the struggle of being an adult child and learning how to cope with your parents aging.
Also remember, not all issues are equally difficult to resolve, and some may get resolved in stages or over time.
Factors to consider
When decisions become problems, it can help for everyone to step back and ask themselves some questions. First, does everyone agree that a problem exists? Is the problem recent or long-standing? Who are (or should be) the decision makers? Are personal feelings getting in the way of objectivity?
There are many realities that adult children may have difficulty accepting when trying to promote a resolution to a real or perceived problem concerning their aging parents.
- Your elder parents have the right to make their own decisions and give informed consent.
- Your parents may not agree with your plan.
- Even if you don’t agree, it’s still good to talk it out and share your ideas and concerns. You may be planting the seeds for something good to happen down the road.
- Sometimes you just cannot plan; a crisis or emergency may determine what happens.
- There is almost always more than one option, and collecting good information helps to make a good decision.
- Ask permission before making changes in your parents’ lives.
- Your logic is not theirs.
- Timing is everything.
- Today’s solution may not work tomorrow.
Setting the tone
Often, these are fraught conversations. Lifelong roles become reversed. The most important thing is to listen. Listen more than you talk. Listen like you mean it—like you are open to hearing what they have to say. You set the tone of the conversation, so no yelling, crying, accusing, etc.
When you do speak, talk so your parents will listen. Use “I” messages rather than “you need to” or “you should.” For example, “I am concerned by the current situation.” “I am trying to help.” And, equally important, do not patronize.
If your parent is being overly stubborn, shouting, or behaving badly, either take a break, leave the room, or stand your ground by gently, but firmly, acknowledging the behavior and stating that they may not talk to you that way.
It's often necessary to accept partial solutions; for example, “I will allow in home care before I will consider moving to a senior residence, ”or “I will only drive to the grocery store and local doctor appointments.”
Most importantly, when you can, show your parents that you care and that they matter to you—that they are not just an obligation or burden.
Getting older is not easy for anybody, but I hope these few tips help you and your parents avoid unnecessary heartache as you work through it together, as a team.
Home care support for families
At BAYADA, our personal care services at home strive to match every client with their most compatible caregivers. BAYADA’s Home Health aides can provide care to help your loved one maintain their independence. Contact us today!