Coping with Aging Parents
It is one of the dilemmas of middle age how to cope with parents who are aging. If you are very lucky you have partnered parents who are in good physical, mental, and financial health and have excellent health insurance to boot. For the rest of us, you are watching your parent try and cope with some difficulties with the above categories and you may want to help.
The desire to help is obstacle one. Because many different dynamics can show up there. Your parents may want you to do everything for them or do nothing at all. They may complain about their issues but then scream and yell if you try to help. Any challenging dynamics you have had in your relationship with your parents prior to any aging issues will multiple when these issues are factored in.
Some tips I have for coping with these issues in no particular order
1. Make sure they do all their legal paperwork and that you know where it is and who their lawyer is. I recently knew of multiple people that died with nothing in writing. It is always a disaster.
2. See if you can find ways to communicate and coordinate care and support with your siblings. Again this is a time where old issues are going to come up. Often times one child (often the closest one to the folks) gets stuck doing all of the heavy lifting. Even if you are far away there are things you can do to help. And if the siblings are on the same page it can help in negotiating with your parents.
3. Ask your parents if they want help, everytime you try and help them. Getting old sucks. Losing any power you have left because your kids come in and take over everything is demeaning. If they start to complain on the phone ask them do you want me to just listen or do you want me to help. Many times we might jump into helping mode when our parents just want some support.
4. Force the issue if you have to. This may seem like it contradicts the prior advice but some battles you let go (house clutter) and some battles you fight for (legal paperwork and adequate medical care and support).
5. Say no sometimes. If you get into a very involved caretaking role you won’t be able to do everything. You need to take care of yourself too. This means sometimes you may help mom find another way to her appointment rather then you taking her. It is okay to take care of yourself and the rest of your family too.
6. Find your own support system. Your spouse, friends, a support group, therapist, or whomever can support you in this journey. You need someone to talk to about the stress of caregiving and the struggles of watching people you love age and eventually pass away.
For most of us coping with aging parents is a journey we will be forced to take. It will be difficult but there can also be opportunities for positive change in our relationships and connections.