Providing Thoughtful Care: Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children
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January 23, 2015 | Found In: Caregiver Tips
From the time you were born your parents kept you safe, warm, clothed, fed. Helped with your homework. Worried when you were sick or broke curfew.
Eventually your parents retired while you raised your kids and similarly fretted about illnesses, curfews and college. They likely still guided you during this time, but at some point older parents may start to have issues with mobility, vision or worse.
You might not believe your teenagers when they promise their room is clean or homework done. But when your mother tells you her dizziness is “nothing” or Dad says his limp is just a muscle strain you probably take them at their word, at least initially.
Your parents may be experiencing medical problems and safety concerns requiring intervention.
I know. I’ve been there.
My mother’s worst year was in 2004. After she buried her husband of 58 years – my dad – in April followed in December by her son – my older brother – I swooped in to protect her, a behavior she resisted.
Gradually I took on a more protective role. Apparently I revved up a little too high and into hover mode, as sometimes she told me I was “bossy” and needed to back off.
Depending on the specifics of your situation, consider the strategies below. The first set is intended for the adult offspring of aging parents. The second list is for the senior parents.
Tips For Helping Your Parent
Most parents resist intervention from their adult children. I had to tread carefully to balance the respect my mother deserved with the supervision she needed.
What worked best for me was to identify her specific needs and “offer” to help.
I noticed Mom’s sweater was uncharacteristically dirty. As I scratched my finger over the discolored streak, I realized something brownish was sloughing off in my hand—chocolate.
“Mom,” I said gently, “this is a little dirty. Maybe I can wash it for you?”
“Sure. You can do my laundry anytime,” she answered. Steadily I took over her car keys, finances and more.
When her Alzheimer’s advanced creating serious safety concerns, Mom had to be moved into an assisted living facility! The only technique that worked during those tumultuous months was continuing to remind her that I loved her and that I was doing “what was best for her.”
If you’re an adult child, tying to keep your parents safe without stepping all over their autonomy, consider these suggestions:
- Validate. Tell your parents you understand and appreciate that they don’t want to overburden you with their care.
- Be Honest. Is your help genuine? Do your parents really need physical assistance? Are you letting them do the things they can and want to do for themselves?
- Identify. Offer a few areas where you can help and have your parents select one or two (e.g., drive them to appointments, do their laundry, or do the shopping either for them or with them).
- Delegate. If distance and/or time doesn’t logistically allow for you to help in these direct ways, then hire a house cleaner for them, someone to shovel snow or a professional caregiver to assist them with daily activities.
Tips For Letting Your Adult Children Help
Conversely adult children may start to make decisions for their parents possibly to the point of interfering. My mother felt I was being “bossy” and resisted.
- Validate. Tell your children you know they want to help.
- Be Honest. Acknowledge that there are some things you really can’t do safely anymore (e.g., changing chandelier light bulbs, shoveling snow, climbing or descending the stairs).
- Identify. Offer some areas in which your children can help you. These can be activities that you honestly need help with or simply dislike doing (e.g., driving over 20 miles or handling insurance issues).
- Delegate. If you have a child that doesn’t live close enough to take over a physical chore, he or she can help in other ways. Let him or her handle the finances long distance or pay for a housekeeper or caregiver.
Health issues and family dynamics are too complex and varied for one-size fits all solutions. The point is to be honest, genuine and to discuss the options.
If you’re the aging senior, you legitimately need help with some things.
If you’re the adult child, help out but don’t take over.
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