When we are younger, we rely on our parents to take care of us and to keep us safe. As our parents get older, however, the roles begin to reverse and soon, the parents are looking for the children to take care of them. This is an inevitability for many families but the change in roles can be one that is difficult to manage. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to handle the situation and to make it as smooth as possible when you are parenting your parents.
The following information comes from blogger, Whitney Hopler:
“I need some help,” my mom called out from a bathroom in my house. As I walked down the hall toward her, I struggled with mixed emotions: alarm, concern, and compassion all motivated me, but embarrassment made me hesitate before opening the door.
Sitting on the toilet, Mom looked at me with the same bewildered expression I saw on my toddler son’s face when he couldn’t do something he wanted to do. Her voice shook with emotion as she softly told me that she couldn’t stand up. The chemotherapy she had gone through lately to treat leukemia had sapped her muscle strength.
“I hate to ask you this, but will you pull me up and help me get my pants back on?” Mom asked. Then she began to cry – something I rarely had ever seen my usually strong and cheerful mom do. Tears ran down my face, too, as I pulled her up.
Mom had to depend on me like a child in that moment. We had switched parent/child roles, and it was challenging for both of us.
When our parents get sick or grow old, we often become their caregivers, and when that happens they rely on us like we used to rely on them growing up. Our roles shift, and we have to figure out how to parent our parents.”
You can use the following five tips to help parent your parents successfully:
1. Be ready for challenges – It is important to have realistic expectations when caring for your aging parents. You will need to step up your level of responsibility and use those expectations to make sure that you are staying on target. Be aware of the fact that caring for your parents going to cost you in a number of ways, including emotionally, physically, financially and even in the amount of time that you have available. When you make the adjustments to care for your parents as a priority, it will be stressful but it will help you to face the challenge successfully.
One thing that you can do when caring for parents is to be aware of your limitations. Confide in a close friend and talk to them regularly about any issues that you are facing. They can help you to stay on target with your goals and can be a sounding board when you need one the most.
2. Get Support – When you are taking care of an aging parent, it is important to get the support you need from people you can trust. This may include other family members, close friends or perhaps even professional caregivers. When you have a support system established and use it on a regular basis, it allows you to get the necessary sleep, recreation and exercise to move forward with your life. You must take good care of yourself if you want to take good care of your parents.
3. Tackle difficult conversations – Many people tend to avoid difficult situations because they can be uncomfortable. This could include discussions about finances or perhaps the need to seek professional help in an assisted living environment. Your parents will likely feel awkward about the changes that are taking place in their lives and the frustration may spill over onto you.
This is another area where you need to lean on your caregiving team for support. It is difficult to go through these discussions but postponing them is only going to add to your stress.
4. Respect Their Wishes – There are going to be times when disagreements occur, some minor and others major. These could include some of the more difficult discussions that we talked about above, such as advanced healthcare directives or financial issues. When you disagree, it may be time for you to step back and allow them to live out their wishes. As long as it is not harming them, it pays to be flexible.
5. Enjoy the Time – It can be stressful to care for your aging parents but if that all possible, try to enjoy some of the time that you have with them. You may be spending most of your time together and a lot of your time is going to be taken up by caregiving but there is always going to be room for fun. A little bit of laughter can go a long way to help reduce stress and anxiety.
It can be difficult to take care of your aging parents but when you recognize how to do so, you can get through it successfully.
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