When you have older parents or elderly relatives either living in your house or on their own, then their care can become challenging: not just in your physical efforts but it can also become mentally draining. If you think that taking care of an elder is an easy task, then please consider all aspects thoroughly: or maybe talk to people who are going through the process themselves. As our parents age they may need increasing support mentally and physically - we have listed below some of the amazing ways that might help you with the care for your elderly parents.
1. Accept changes: As children, we spend our life depending on our parents. When parents get older, the role gradually reverses, and this is where sons and daughters can falter as their world and that of their parents turns completely upside down. We must accept the change that is natural, as we do when our children change through their teenage years; and then with our parents start to fulfil some of their needs as our responsibilities. We must accept the change in our lives as inevitable and to move ahead with a new paradigm in our thinking about both our own responsibilities and about the changes to our parents.
2. Move gradually: Taking care of your elderly parent is not usually easy. The roles of caring have reversed, so you as well as your parents have to adapt to this ‘new world’. We must (them and us) move slowly and steadily; let everything come to us rather than trying to ‘race it down’. Careful planning and preparation may be the key tasks at this stage and starting the process of thinking about help for mum and/or dad in smaller ways so that they get used to receiving help.
3. Do not look for emotional feelings: When people grow older, it will often impact their minds as well as their bodies. They might choose to resist support for instance or think that they are much more capable than they actually are. Whatever you try and do, they may just not be receptive. Accept this. You should not have any expectations from your aging parents, so if you receive any positive response from them, especially emotionally, it will be a motivating surprise to you and help you in your journey to assist them.
4. Foresee some anger: With aging parents, the duties of parents and children are usually reversed completely. This can be a source of frustration for the elder, either because of the loss of capability, or independence, which can be hard to deal with and inevitably cause some anger. Expect this, either a small amount or large amount, it will definitely be there, even if it is just ‘bubbling under the surface’.
5. Independence of our parents is also still important: Remember, your parents guided you into adulthood to prepare you for your life. So, if you give ‘orders’, they will probably not like this at all, as their aging and the restriction of their independence may be less noticeable to them, which will make things increasingly difficult for both of you. You do not need to run their lives, so try to do nothing that implies that you will now ‘steer’ their lives. Give them their ‘space’, give them multiple options rather than forcing your decision upon them.
6. Be proactive by asking them for their point-of-view: When you take advise from your aged parents, they like it and appreciate it. Asking for advise gives them a sense of independence, respect and responsibility. If you ask, then your parents will feel that they are still valuable to you.
7. Recognise psychological and emotional changes: The effects of ageing upon our close relatives will affect their wellbeing in many different ways, sometimes in ways that neither they, nor we will notice. They will however, need help to re-adjust their lifestyles to adapt to their physiological and physical changes, so that they can maintain their health and overall wellbeing. The onset of a major disability or illness (e.g. a stroke, the onset of diabetes or heart disease) may suddenly alter their ‘position' or ‘status' within their family or their community; for example, a change from being a carer to others, to being cared-for; may cause low esteem to develop in most people. Equally, accepting 'life event' changes may become much harder with age. Being a child or a close relative to them as they change will make it hard to assess, adapt to, and to accept the cognitive dysfunction/change that you see in them. Because you are so close to them, you may not see the causes of the change or how to deal with these changes. In addition, simply because you are so close, often pride in our relatives may make it difficult for your help to be accepted. Professional care experts can work to address and advise on these scenarios, as they understand and address the psychological and emotional aspects of our ageing elders as well as their physical care needs.
8. Rely on your spouse: It can be difficult for parents to switch the role of responsibility and they may not immediately feel comfortable opening out to a child but may consider confiding in someone more independent such as your spouse, or another party.
9. Don't get emotionally sad or demotivated: Your parents may become frustrated with the changes in their health and in turn become exhausted with the changes they are forced to make. Don’t get sad or demotivated. Don't argue with them or shout at them, rather ask for their advice and suggestions.
10. Take care of yourself: Your life is ultimately yours! You cannot surrender it for the well being of your aging parents. Don’t surrender, even though you will have to make concessions and to compromise wherever and whenever you can. Eat healthy and the right food, go for walks or runs, stretch, try yoga and meditation; do all possible things that will keep you healthy: both physically and mentally. Rejuvenating yourself will bring a new energy within you, which will automatically be transferred to your elders, making a positive environment for all.
11. Share Your Thoughts and Feelings: Find a friend who is close to you and talk to him/her regarding anything and everything. Sharing your problems with a good friend might not solve it, but it will ease the pressure on your body and mind.
12. Find help from healthcare providers: Take whatever help you can get. This stage is not easy, either for you or your aging parents. Healthcare providers are specialised people in this field can often solve problems that you might not be able to address, or that you have not even yet thought of. Specialised people could be social workers, a nurse, doctor a physical therapist or carer. It is worth consulting the professionals, as you might need their support every now and then.
Cecilia Trueman is a nurse and adviser at Independent Living Advisers (ILA.life) a one of the leading home support agency for elderly parents and seniors in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Helping to Support Older People with Independent Living.
ILA.life supports older people to live in their own home rather than prematurely move into a care home. ILA.life provides qualified healthcare advisers that work with older people to define, organise and monitor the needed support to live more comfortably in their own home. ILA.life advisers provide regular reviews and quickly identify health, safety or welfare issues. This means that problems can be anticipated and prevented, that relatives can enjoy being with the family-time whilst someone solves the challenges, and that expensive care-home costs can start only if and when they are needed.