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Monday, September 4, 2017

The Child Becomes The Parent: Looking After Your Mom and Dad into Old Age

It’s not easy transitioning into middle age. We have our jobs and money to earn. We need to look after our children and make sure they have everything they need to excel in life. When we have any spare time, it’s spent catching up with our neglected hobbies and finally getting around to seeing our friends. It can be tough to juggle all these important aspects of a fulfilling life. But there’s something else that’s happening at the same time: our parents are getting older. It can be a bit of a shock to suddenly realize this, especially as we’ve always looked up to them. The time is approaching when they begin to need their children more, in ways that they don’t fully understand themselves. Below, we take a look at how you can navigate this challenging aspect of life.

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Source: Pexels.com 

What Do They Want? 

When we see our parents grow older, the natural reaction is to try to help them as much as we can. But this wish to help can be misguided just because we’ve suddenly realized that we could do more for our parents, it doesn’t mean that our aid is suddenly wanted. Don’t rush into doing everything for them: first, find out what they actually want. It might be that, although they’re looking older, they’re enjoying life to the full. Give them space to air what they want from you before you go off deciding what you should be doing.

Easy Transition

Having said that, while it’s important to listen to what your parents have to say, also remember that losing a sense of autonomy is one of the toughest things a person can go through. Even if they did need help doing some things, it’s unlikely that they’ll come right out and say it. You can’t force your parents to let you do things for them, but you can lay the groundwork for taking more responsibility. Start helping more around the house and in day to day life more regularly. If you’re in the shop, pick up some easy to prepare meals, so you know that they have some healthy food in the fridge. It’s best to start with small gestures and let your parents get used to you helping out more. Do it stealthily and they won’t even realize you are helping!

Living Arrangements 

Of all the tasks that can annoy the children of aging parents, none are as infuriating as the parent's commitment to the family home. It is understandable that they would want to stay in a property where they raised their family, but family homes generally aren’t suitable for people who are growing older. They’re too big and require too much upkeep. Rather than insisting that your parents sell up, try to make other living arrangements look more appealing. You can show them  affordable condos for rent and speak of the many benefits of this type of accommodations they’ll have a spacious place of their own, in well-maintained grounds, and they’ll have other people on site to socialize with. There may come a time when they need to go into assisted living quarters, but this shouldn’t be proposed straight away - or indeed until it’s necessary.

Beware the Common Complaints 

Life is never too easy at the best of times, but it’s especially difficult when we’re approaching our later years. People can easily lose their sense of self, and become isolated, depressed, or otherwise not take care of themselves. Older people are less likely to complain about these things openly, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. That’s why it’s important that you keep a watchful eye on how your parents are getting on. You can do this in subtle ways, such as asking where they’ve been recently or which friends they’ve spoken to. If they have nothing to offer by way of reply, then it’s probable that they’re feeling a bit lonely: it would only be natural.

Getting Them Involved 

More than anything, parents just want to be involved. They want to feel like they’re part of the world, part of other people’s lives. This is one of the simplest things you can do: it takes nothing to invite your parents if you’re going for a fun family day out with the children. Of course, you won’t always be doing things that you can invite your parents to. In those cases, a simple phone call to keep them up to date with that’s going on in your world will suffice. Also, instead of always popping around to see them, invite them over to your home: it’ll do them a world of good.

     pexels-photo-185772.jpeg Source: Pexels.com 

New Experiences

Everyone’s guilty of getting stuck in their ways. We all throw ourselves into the world to a degree, and then we quickly shut most of it out. However, most of us have enough going on in our lives to keep life interesting. Aging people aren’t like this: if anything, they’re finding that the things they used to like doing, they can no longer do. But this doesn’t mean they can’t find new hobbies and experiences to enjoy. Encourage your parents to get out of the house and try new things. They’ll be reluctant, but they’ll quickly discover that there’s much fun to be had from picking up a new activity and meeting new people.

Accepting Who They Are 

Of course, there is an aspect of older people that is hard to overlook: they can be stubborn, and difficult to be around. They think they know all the answers and won’t accept what people are trying to do for them. While this can be frustrating, you have to see it from their point of view, and ultimately just accept it. Feeling like everyone is trying to change them is a common complaint aging parents have, so try to be sympathetic.

Helping Financially 

The cost of retirement is getting more expensive all the time, and the sad truth is that many older people are finding it difficult to get by. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to cover all their bills, you can help out wherever you can. Failing that, you can help them manage their money and create a budget that they can stick to. Selling the family and moving into a rented property, as we suggested above, would also free up some of their equity, which they will appreciate more in their later years.

A Nudge Towards Help 

Just as older people can be stuck in their ways, they can also be reluctant to seek medical help, even though they’re at the age when they need it most. There’s no magic bullet to get people to visit a doctor you just need to keep an eye on their health conditions. If you think you’ve spotted a medical problem they need to get checked out, do so in a relaxed, non-alarmist manner. People’s fear of hospitals and visiting the doctor isn’t irrational, remember that.

Let Them Know You’re There 

Above all, the best thing you can do when you’re dealing with aging parents is to let them know that you're there for them. It won’t always be a pleasant or fun journey, but they’ll know that if they need something or someone, then you’ll be on hand to help them. It’s these little things that can bring comfort in later years. With support, guidance, and a watchful eye, you can make sure that your parents’ later years are just as enjoyable as the rest of their life was.

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