Caring for aging parents – Difficult but not impossible
Aging Parents may turn to their adult children when they are no longer able to care for themselves. Nobody wants to see their parents decline in their older years.
Our parents have been the strong ones in our lives, and it can be heartbreaking to see them starting to lose physical or mental capacity. But there may come a time when they can no longer take care of their own needs.
Parents usually don’t want to admit this either, insisting to themselves and others that they are still fully capable, it’s sometimes difficult to care for aging parents.
It’s easiest to have the conversation in advance
If you can have a “just in case…” conversation with your parents while they are still fully competent, this is the easiest time to do it.
Talk about what their wishes will be when they start having difficulty taking care of themselves. They may be uncomfortable talking about it, but it will be easier emotionally now than later when the situation is already upon them.
Keep notes of your discussion, with dates and signatures, and file it away where you can find it when you need it. This can be useful for you, your parents, and your siblings, when it comes to decisions about your parents’ care.
Watch for signs around the house
If your parents have always kept the house spic and span, and now you find that it is growing cluttered or less clean, this could be a sign of a problem. Perhaps your mother is finding the cleaning chores more physically difficult than before or perhaps she is feeling overwhelmed because everything in life is getting a bit harder. Stop by now and then, and see if you can lend a helping hand. This also gives you a chance to see in person how your parents are doing.
Make sure their finances are under control
If your parents are letting the mail pile up, and the bills go unpaid, this can become a real problem.
It may be another sign that they are overwhelmed, as they find it more mentally daunting to deal with the finances and pay the bills.
They may not be thinking as clearly as they used to, or may just be forgetful. Whatever the reason, if the bills aren’t being paid, you may need to step in and do something. At some point, you may need to get signature privileges on their checking account so you can handle this for them.
Watch for poor nutrition or injuries
Sometimes older people stop eating well, either because shopping and food preparation are too difficult, or because
they simply don’t feel like eating. If they are losing weight, and don’t have good food in the fridge, then you could offer to take them shopping now and then, or look into programs like Meals on Wheels. Cooking can also lead to injuries at times, so if you see any signs of cuts or burns, find out what happened. As their child you have to watch out for them and really get involved. Seniors want to be loved, but they don’t want to feel useless.
Depression can set in
It is hard to get older, and find that you are no longer able to live the life you used to. It is a difficult time, and some seniors end up sinking into depression. If you see signs of depression in your parents, try to get them to talk to a doctor about it, which can provide the best options for handling it. Seniors dealing with changes in their life – such as the death of a loved one, retirement, medical problems or increased isolation, may trigger depression.
Thus, your aging parents won’t be able to enjoy life anymore. As their child, you must take action and help them understand and accept that growing old is not the end of the world.
Some seniors may need palliative care in order to get over depression. This specialized type of medical care is centered on offering patients relief from symptoms whatever the diagnosis. It could be depression, anxiety, or more severe illnesses such as cancer or dementia. Seniors are not impossible to care for, as long as the caregivers are truly committed and devoted. And eventually, most of us will be caring for aging parents. It’s only natural for parents to age; and they can age beautifully.