The time may have come for you to step into the role of caring for your aging parents. You have noticed that they are not able to do what they used to do and you’re concerned about their safety. Perhaps they have fallen or you are noticing that they can’t get up and down the stairs without looking like they will tumble.
These are all valid concerns and as your parents age, you will continue to find yourself in a role that you haven’t had to play in their lives before – that of caregiver and support.
The flip side in all of this is that your parents, in all likelihood, do not want you to play that role nor are they ready to entertain the idea that you could be someone who can help. They want to continue to live their lives independently with you as their child and they as the parent. Heck, it’s been going well all of these years, why change now?
And in there lies the dilemma. You want to help them live safely and happily as they age. You want them to be independent and enjoy their lives to the fullest. They want the same too. But things have started to change with their health, with their cognitive abilities or with the management of their lives and you feel you have to step in, take control and ensure they are safe. You could not live with the guilt should something happen, right?
To assist you at this challenging time of transition, whereby you and your parents are going through a different phase in your lives, here are some suggestions to help you find peace of mind while offering guidance and support to your aging loved ones:
1. You cannot control how they think & feel. They are the ones living their lives and they know all too well that they are aging. For them, this is a difficult time, as they now have to come to terms that perhaps they do need some assistance to help make their lives safer and easier. However, coming to that decision and taking action upon it is something many refuse to do until there is a crisis.
2. Share your concerns without judgment or harsh statements. You can tell them that they raised you to be caring, loving and supportive. Their way of loving you is now bringing you to be there for them, in a capacity of support and as an ally. You are not there to take over their lives, nor do you want to. Be loving and respectful. Use the words, “I love you and respect you and I want to offer some help or resources.”
3. Ask them about their concerns, their fears and their worries. They know they are aging. They know that they cannot do the things that they used to be able to do and enjoy. This could be very frustrating and frightening for them. Listen and validate what they tell you. Recognize that their fears and worries may be due to their dread about what could happen to them, the fear of losing their independence, the lack of privacy by having strangers in their home, or they may be worried about the cost of extra care. Hear what they are saying without judgment and validate what they express as their concern.
NOTE: Avoid using the word “BUT” when you are listening to their concerns. The word negates everything that someone has said beforehand. Instead, use “AND” to validate what they have said and to add your thoughts to theirs. For example, you could say, “I hear you and….”, “I’m happy you are sharing and…..”
4. Offer solutions. There is no point coming into the conversation worried or concerned without knowing what type of solutions you can offer. And yes, they are offers and there are plenty of resources that can help. Ultimately, they have control of their lives (unless they are in imminent danger and that is an entirely different conversation) and you are simply there to offer a variety of options that can help make their lives easier and safer. (NOTE: There are resources that you can share at this point in your conversation that may be interesting for your loved ones to explore. You can visit Focus on Seniors to explore these resources and share them with your loved ones. We are also here to help with decluttering, organizing, downsizing and moving help.)
5. Get outside help. A family doctor, a trusted friend, or a close relative may be just the right person from whom they can hear that it may be time to seek some outside help. Share your concerns with people that you mutually trust and ask them if they would be willing to be part of your parents’ support team.
And finally, know that you are the child in their eyes and that they are the parents. They have been living their lives independently up until this point and they will want to continue to do so for as long as possible. They do not want to think about what would happen should a crisis arise however it is well within your role as the child to support them, guide them and love them as they transition into the next phase of their lives.
Do what you can, what is within your control and let go of the guilt that you are forecasting you will have should something happen. You cannot control the future. You can only control what is within your control. Be at peace knowing that you are sharing your love and support by offering solutions and options so that they can continue to live happily, healthily and safely for the rest of their lives.
Should you require additional help, reach out to us. We would be happy to answer your questions, offer you resources to support you and your parents, and provide you with a complimentary consultation too. We are here to help. You do not have to do it alone.