When it comes to caring for elderly parents, there are a number of options out there. Your first decision is where your parent will live – in his or her own home, with you, or in an elder care facility. If you choose elder care, your choices extend to adult day care, home care, independent living, assisted living, or skilled nursing care.
After you’ve made this basic, but life-changing decision, you and your parent must make many other preparations. You’ll need to talk healthcare, financial and medical Powers of Attorney, wills and living wills, insurance, and day-to-day concerns like paying the bills and managing assets. These arrangements will pave the way for smooth transitions for both you and your parent, especially with all necessary legal matters.
On a personal front, you must adjust to your new role as caretaker – as playing parent to your parent. Remember that this stage of life is difficult for both of you. Grant yourself some leeway as you adapt, and adopt strategies to make life easier for yourself and your aging parent.
Having Difficulty Caring for Your Elderly Parents?
The parent-child relationship is one of the most precious and precarious of all bonds we will form in our lifetime. Though we grow up, it can be hard to forgive past wrongs – or stop yearning to forge a better, stronger relationship. This can be particularly difficult as your parent age and Alzheimer’s or other illnesses take over, fogging the brain and in some cases removing the mind-to-mouth filter.
If you are caring for a difficult or abusive elderly parent, you may feel short on patience and long on suffering. Even the most easygoing parents can become a little trying in their old age. Here are a few tips for managing your relationship with the difficult, aging parents whom you love dearly, but are making it hard to arrange life changing preparations such as Medicare, insurance, living wills, etc.
Know Your Limitations
Caregiving is a time-consuming task that can be emotionally trying, especially if your loved one’s health is on the decline. The best thing you can do for yourself and your parent is establish boundaries to what you can and cannot do. Do not overextend yourself: if you cannot be the primary caregiver or you simply cannot perform certain tasks, say so. Then ask for help.
Forgive Your Parent, and Yourself
Difficult parents often strike out at those closest to them. Be compassionate. For your parent, senior status can signal a loss of independence and an impending end to life. For you, it is a sad and trying time, as you watch your once-vibrant parent age. Give yourself some slack. Forgive a sharp word or angry moment. You’re both entitled to how you feel.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for an aging parent is say no. If your ability to care for a loved one is in danger due to constant complaining, sniping, physical abuse, or other behavior, speak up. Say, “I’m sorry, Dad, but I will not talk to you if you insist on name-calling.” Don’t be afraid to reinforce your boundaries, either. It can be disconcerting to invert the parent-child relationship, but in the end your ability and willingness to care for your parent is more important than maintaining the status quo.
Dementia can be one of the hardest conditions to understand, especially when your parent is in otherwise good physical shape. But dementia is a type of cognitive impairment and can have serious and sobering effects on an elderly parent’s humor, mood and even personality. If your loved one suffers from dementia, he or she may not be able to express gratitude. Your parent may become paranoid, suspicious, or nasty. Remind yourself that it’s not your parent speaking; it’s the illness. This knowledge will lessen the sting.
Take Some “You Time”
Do you feel guilty taking time to yourself? Don’t. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives and taking care of our children, our spouses and our parents that we forget to take care of ourselves. Over time, being constantly on the go will run you down and deplete your energy. Exhaustion will lower your immune defenses. And you’ll probably end up feeling overextended, overworked and under-appreciated. Before that happens, take some time for yourself. It can be as simple as taking a leisurely walk or as indulgent as getting away for the weekend. Do what you need to recharge your batteries.