It’s always hard to watch your parents age. It’s especially difficult if your parents are dealing with health concerns, financial issues, or practical living problems. In these situations, it can be very easy to feel powerless to offer your parents any real help.
In many cases, the most important thing you can do for your elderly parents is to just be there for them, to take their problems seriously, and to treat them with patience and respect.
Evaluating Their New Needs
One of the hardest things about growing old is realizing that you might not be able to do all of the things you used to be able to do, which will mean a certain loss of independence and mobility. Empathize with your parents during these difficult realizations, and help them understand that the practical solution to their changing circumstances may not be as bad as they think. On a regular basis, you should be checking in with your parents or evaluating their living situation by asking the following questions:
- Are they still able to get around comfortably and take care of themselves?
- Is there any concern that they might get injured because of problems with their house or because they aren’t really able to do things like go up and down stairs anymore?
- Are they happy in their current circumstances?
- Do they worry at all about their own health or safety?
- What is their current health situation? Is there any indication that their health may noticeably change in the near future?
You should have an open dialogue with your parents about how they envision their long-term living situation. Do they want to be able to stay at home as long as possible? Will they be able to afford an in-home nurse to enable them to keep living at home? Would they rather live at a home? Would it be best for them to move in with you or another family member? Are you properly equipped to care for them should this situation become necessary?
Make Sure They Are Getting Attention
You should be calling your parents and going to visit them regularly. Even if you can’t go to see them every single week, do make sure you are talking on the phone often to make sure that you find out about any potential problems they are facing as they happen so you can deal with them quickly.
One of the hardest parts of watching your parents’ age is when their memory starts to fade. Look out for early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and try to regularly engage them with brain exercises. Meet up with them on a designated day of the week for coffee and to do your local newspaper’s crossword puzzle. You should also print out photos of the family from over the years and even photos from their own childhood and make them a scrapbook. Go through these photos regularly to keep their long-term memory going and to also put a smile on their face.
Of course, you shouldn’t feel as though you are handling this kind of late-life care on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask siblings or other family members to help you give your parents care and attention. If you need to, designate specific tasks and assignments to different family members so that they will take their responsibilities to your parents more seriously. Keep in mind that these are difficult times, and your relationship with your siblings is bound to be affected.
Helping Them Stay Healthy
In helping your parents cope with aging, it’s important that you encourage them to stay active and healthy. Do whatever you can to encourage these kinds of good behaviors. If your parents have an activity they like to do, help them stay involved and active. Take them to the park and go for a walk. Sign them up for water aerobics classes. Even if you can’t go with them to every event, encourage them to stay active by driving them to the park or helping them arrange to attend events at the senior center.
Helping Them Downsize
If your parents realize that they are going to need to downsize or even move to assisted-living housing or a facility if necessary, it might be very hard for them to say goodbye to their familiar surroundings and all of their beloved possessions. Be patient with your parents during these stages and support them. Come to visit them as often as you can in their new home so they don’t feel lonely and isolated there. Make sure they have everything they need to feel comfortable in their new home.
Before they arrive, make sure the house is full of housewarming gifts to surprise them and cheer them up when they walk in the door. This will help them feel loved and welcomed during a very scary time.Senior Man Offering Comfort
They are likely going to be very sad about having to give up many of their sentimental items. Gather up your siblings and try to keep as many of these items as you can. One fun and unique idea: as you are helping them go through items and old photos in their house, there are likely to be lots of things that your parents will be disappointed to have to give up. Take pictures of any items like this and collect up any particularly important photos and combine all of these things into an “Our Old House” scrapbook. Include space on each page for your parents to write down notes about why these items were sentimental for them. This will be a nice way for them to feel a connection to those items that they just can’t keep.
When it comes to helping your parents cope with aging, the bottom line is that your parents will mostly need to feel supported and loved. This is a part of life that almost everyone must deal with at some point. Be patient with them during this difficult time and remember all of the times they’ve supported you and been there for you over the years.
Article Submitted By Community Writer