As our parents age, they tend to become more intolerant to change. As such, telling them that they’ll need to be taken care of all of a sudden, can be daunting. After all, you don’t want to hurt their sentiments. But, you don’t have a choice either. No matter how organized and in-control your elderly loved ones have been all their life, when you see them become unusually forgetful, loose the steadiness in their stride, visit the doctor frequently because of a constantly declining level of hygiene, you need to step in and take control.
But saying that is far easier than doing it. For someone who has been multi-tasking – managing work, home and family, keeping everything organized and orderly, taking care of everyone in the house, and keeping the family tied to each other for years, accepting that someone else will now help them with the very basics of living their own life, isn’t easy. Besides, on the giving end, few adults relish taking up the responsibility of caregiving since it involves considerable amounts of emotional duress, and hands-on work. Consequently, many of us wait and watch, for the right time to come, when taking the plunge would be right and essential.
Meanwhile, our elderly loved ones slowly decline cognitively and physically, with increasing incidences of medication errors, poor hygiene, frequent falls, errant driving and financial mismanagement. So, eventually, the question of if they need assistance no longer holds. But, how do you get them to accept this change in their life?
Fortunately, by exercising a little caution and using a tactful approach, the acceptance and transition can be made less upsetting. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Tips to help your ageing parents accept caregiving
- Talk early and talk often
Adult children should start talking to their parents about adapting to the age-induced changes early on, well before their parents begin showing signs of tottering or absentmindedness. It would be wrong to think that you’re being disrespectful or negative here. Rather, be clear in your mind that you’re being proactive and realistic. If your parent shies away, drop the topic for the moment, and come back to it at a later time when opportune. Also, bring forward the topic in a way that doesn’t make you sound blunt or pushy. For instance, “I want you to live as fully and independently as possible, with a little help from my end at various times.”
- Safety concerns should be addressed sensibly
Safety is paramount, but it shouldn’t ignore their need for independence entirely. It’s important to weigh the benefits and risks, and take decisions accordingly. For instance, if your mother loves cooking, it’s important to ask if she’ll be able to use the oven or knives safely. Maybe a little prompting would be enough. Be prepared to take come degree of risk along with caution.
- It’s always best to take over incrementally
The change in ageing parents usually occurs slowly, unless some untoward medical incident has occurred. Hence, help them incrementally, rather than all at once, and to the extent they need only, not more. This will make the transition easier, and less ego-hurting for them. For instance, if your parent tends to forget things, then only have someone remind them, rather than spoon-feeding everything.
- If need be, overrule
However, if your older loved ones are resisting despite deteriorating conditions, on the sole ground of pride, you should step in and be firm. Know that making prudent decisions and speaking up firmly on behalf of your ageing parents is one of the most loving thing that you can do as a child.
This change will not be easy. It’s therefore imperative that you take into account the emotions and sentiments of your ageing parents while taking caregiving decisions. As such, keeping in mind the above suggestions should help you make sure the transition is smooth and less aggravating.
David Gardner’s expertise in senior living and related areas. He enjoyed sharing his knowledge about Assisted Living St George Utah with others and at his own blog The Retreat at Sunriver