The special challenges of caring for an aging parent
Building a caregiving relationship on respect is one way to make aging your business
May 6, 2016
By Bob Horrocks, Executive Director
"It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons." ~Johann Schiller
If we are very fortunate, our parents will live to a ripe old age. And in exchange for the gift of enjoying the older loved ones in our families, many of us will eventually accept some level of responsibility for their wellbeing. Caring for an older family member or friend can be both an honor and a challenge. (And let's remember that being cared for by others - even by our children - can be a challenge, as well.)
Many caregivers struggle with important questions about handling delicate situations with their parents. When you don the family caregiver hat, you will likely be faced with a multitude of decisions, and perhaps some tricky family dynamics too. For example, your parent may need help with managing medications and prescriptions, scheduling appointments with doctors, household chores, grocery shopping, and preparing meals. But in addition to these types of tasks, you may also be faced with broader and more complicated questions. Is it safe for my parent to continue living alone? Are his or her changing behaviors a sign of dementia? How can I help my parents if they don't live nearby? And, how can I get them to accept some help from me, and from professionals? All of these questions can be perplexing - and when you add the thoughts and opinions of siblings and family members, it can feel overwhelming.
Caregiving can be as simple as mowing a parent's yard - or it can become more complex. It can require some finesse. When you find yourself wearing the family caregiver hat, I encourage you to remember a key point which will help smooth your path: start with respect.
Loving your parents enough to become involved in their welfare, to want the best for them - isn't that based in love and respect? And yet, at times caregivers may find that they begin to see themselves as the parent, not the child. Frequently they will ask for guidance on when they should step in and begin making decisions on their parent's behalf. Here's the short answer: only when your parent's decisions have the immediate potential to harm themselves or others. Remember that your parent is an adult, and treat them with the same level of respect you did as a child. (Unless you were an unruly child - then, give them more!) If your parent's decisions are not creating a risk of harm for them or others, you can show them your respect by accepting and honoring their decisions, even if you disagree. Forgetting to turn off the stove is a reason to be concerned about your parent's welfare. But, storing clean dishes on the counter where they're easy to reach, rather than the cabinet, is not.
Another chance for caregivers to show respect arrives when parents do, in fact, need a bit more care. Perhaps they need some paid help at home, or maybe it's time to consider new living arrangements. These, too, are decisions which your parents should contribute to for as long as they are able.
And finally, remember to start with respect in dealing with siblings and other family members. Just as your concern for your parents' well-being is based in love and respect, acknowledge that theirs is, as well. Even when opinions differ about what's best for your folks, it's important that all opinions and concerns are heard and considered. (A family meeting is a good way to get the communication flowing, and I'll share some advice on how to facilitate that in my next article.) Show your siblings respect by ensuring that their opinions are heard.
There is an art to caregiving. It can be a balance between facts and feelings, both for you and your parent, and a thoughtful approach helps everyone navigate new waters successfully.
At SourcePoint, Aging is Our Business.
Getting older raises a lot of questions and you may not know the answers - after all, you've never been this age before!
SourcePoint has the answers. SourcePoint is your primary resource and starting point for professional expertise, referrals, and programs for Delaware County adults who want to thrive after 55. We provide in-home care that helps older adults live safely in their own homes, including services such as Meals on Wheels, help with chores, rides to medical appointments, home safety checks, emergency response systems, and more. SourcePoint provides free resources and support for family caregivers. We are also your source for both fun and fitness-our 44,000-square-foot enrichment center is designed for adults age 55 and older to focus on health and wellness, education, creativity, and recreation amongst friends.
SourcePoint does all that, and more. After all, aging is our business. If you live in Delaware County and want to thrive after 55, go to www.MySourcePoint.org or call (740) 363-6677.
We use Facebook Comments to allow our readers to share their thoughts, questions and additional information about this article. Commenting requires a free Facebook account. Please keep your comments smart and civil. Do not attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If you feel any comment violates the spirit of civil conversation, is unrelated to this article or is spam, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment to report it. Learn more about Facebook Comments.