It can be a challenge to navigate the challenges that come with helping your aging parents. It is hard on everyone when adjusting to a new stage of life, especially when you may not be able to do everything you used to. It is important for both aging parents and adult children to remember the struggles that the other side may be dealing with.
The following are tips for making the process easier on you and your aging parents.
The best step to start with is putting yourself in your parent’s shoes. It is easy to see the situation through your eyes, but being empathetic to what your aging parents are experiencing sometimes requires you seeing things from their perspective. When talking with older adults and elder care, it is critical to understand how much loss they may be feeling in this stage of life. For example, loss of health, finances, friends, family, mobility, and control.
By acknowledging the way they may be feeling about those losses, you can help give them validation and open a dialogue to talk about the control they can hold onto.
Rather than offering advice, help them figure out their options. You should express any concerns you may have, rather than telling them what they should do. Be respectful when giving your opinion to your parents. Make sure they feel heard and understood. Ask open-ended questions that can start a discussion rather than a simple yes or no response.
While you may be the one making the final decisions now, you can still allow them to be a part of the decision making process. By allowing them the option to make the decision, you can avoid unnecessary frustration by helping them feel in control and understood.
By allowing your parent to make suggestions, you are giving them a voice and the chance to be part of the solution. As they take that control, they are more likely to adapt to the changes that are being suggested because they are part of the decision-making.
As your parents age, it can be critical that you not wait until a crisis happens before having an important conversation with your parents about the transitions happening and coming in the future. If you wait until your parents are in the middle of a crisis, the options available to them may be fewer and you may be forced into making a decision quickly.
Being more proactive rather than reactive to a crisis situation can also help prevent some of the conflict and stress that can typically occur between family members during a crisis situation.
When the time or situation is appropriate, bring in other family members for discussions and planning.
However, before you bring your parents into that discussion, make sure to get all the issues out in the open and assess the situation from all perspectives. You will need to figure out whether these other family members have different opinions that could undermine what you are trying to accomplish and complicate the situation further.
When there are significant differences, try to work these out before bringing it to your aging parent. Approaching any situation with a united front can make or break a situation when dealing with elder care.
It is important that everyone understands that there is not one single strategy that is going to work for every family situation and it may take many conversations or sometimes help from someone outside the family to help sort out the options before making the best decision.
Even though you may feel like your parents may be less capable of making big decisions, you still need to remain respectful of their decisions and their life experiences. Make sure that you reassure them that you will be there for them as they age, even though you may not completely agree with every decision throughout their life transitions.
Don’t be afraid to take a step back and reevaluate the situation at hand. If you are discussing big decisions and find that the conversations and decision making are not going over as well as you had initially hoped, it may be time to bring in a third party. You can suggest to your parents that someone like a care manager or counselor may be necessary moving forward. This option offers expert help and can take some of the pressure off of your shoulders.
The most important aspect of coping with your aging parents and their life transitions is that all parties remain respectful of each other and operate from a place of empathy. Make sure that you are not too hard on yourself and reach out for help if you think you may need it. This life transition can be hard on everyone, but you do not have to do it alone.