Aging is an inevitable phase of living. That is no more evident than to us finding our hairlines graying and receding. It’s a season of change, some of it good change, some of it not so good. One of the most obvious signs of our moving up in years is watching our parents enter and navigate their time as senior adults. Some embrace the retirement phase, some do not. Some parents have just as much vitality and energy as they did in their younger years, some need help and constant care in their older years. As parents age and enter this phase, our relationship with them changes. Some of us go from children to caregivers, and it’s a complicated relationship, way different than either side is used to or imagined it might be. Every parent child relationship has its own dynamics, so there isn't one right or wrong way for everyone. It’s mostly a trial and error process that comes from walking with them day by day.
Best Ways To Help Your Parents As They Age
It goes without saying that there is no perfect formula navigating your relationship with your parents as they age, just helpful suggestions that others have found beneficial as they have walked through this season with their parents.
- Listen to them! They may forget they’ve already told you things, listen and smile like it was the first time. If it’s important to them to tell you, let them!
- Always show them respect. Even when you disagree, when they aren’t making sense or especially when the frustration of not being able to live life like they used to make them lash out, still show them respect. As your role shifts from their child to their caregiver, always acknowledge them as your parent and make sure they see you still respect them as such
- Be patient with them. This is a new season for you but it’s really a hard and emotional season for them, especially when they aren’t able to fully take care of themselves anymore
- Check your expectations. Are you expecting too much of your parents or are you expecting too little of them? Spend a couple days with them, go through their routine with them, then you can know where to realistically develop your expectations for them
- Keep the conversation going. Don’t stop coming to them for advice, with good news, asking them to help, they need to continue to be needed and they still have golden wisdom to pass down. Don’t miss out on all you have to learn from them
- Be prepared to walk them through loss. As older adults become elderly people they begin to lose family members, close friends, financial independence and the ability to take care of themselves. These can be devastating losses for them so be prepared to be there for them and help them navigate some seasons of loss
- Remind them of the good memories you share, keep pictures and family treasures nearby, but make a point to make new memories as well. Let them be active in their role as grandparents and have as much time with their grandchildren as possible. Taking care of children and being around children is a great way to keep their brains active and keep them engaged in family activities
- Don’t take on more responsibility than you can handle. Family, jobs, home and caring for aging parents is a lot on one plate. Don’t feel guilty or like a failure if you need to ask for help. Your parents, your family, and YOU need to be well cared for and that’s a lot more than one person can handle in a lifetime. Lots of communities have senior care options whether it be home health visits, housekeepers, or assisted living facilities, you have a lot of options today that you can investigate that will make life easier for everyone
- Spend every single second that you can with them, as often as you can. That doesn’t mean cooking for them, doing their laundry, buying their groceries or cleaning their home. I know, it MUST all get done, and sometimes you are the only one to do it. But spend QUALITY time with them, as much as you can. Laugh and reminisce over a meal together, watch old home movies together, take them to your kids' events and laugh about all the activities they used to take you to as a child. The only real regret you’ll have when they are gone is whether or not you spent as much with them as you possibly could
- If you have the chance before your parents reach their aging years, sit down and develop a plan with them on how they want to be cared for, what they want done about their finances, property, medical care and where they want to live. This way you both have peace of mind about the future and you know, no matter what happens, that you are following through with what they wanted for their older years
Family: The Circle Of Care
As we grow up and become parents ourselves, we see how and why our parents did and said the things they did. All of a sudden you see your parents in a completely different light and your love and respect for them grows by leaps and bounds. I've watched my parents care for my grandparents in the most loving, respectful, self-sacrificing ways. It’s not easy nor is it smooth, but caring for your parents in the last years of their lives is a gift to them and a gift to you. It’s in the hard and holy that they bring you into this world and introduce you to life, and it’s in the hard and holy that you care for them, hold their hand and walk them into the forever life. Don’t miss the opportunity to love and enjoy them while you can.
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