They once cared and looked after you. But as your parents grow older, what should you do when they’re the ones who need help?
As life expectancy rises, more and more people are caring for their ageing parents. Although it’s not easy to watch your parents become increasingly dependent, there are certain ways you can approach the situation that will help everyone involved cope with the changing dynamic.
Be respectful, even when it’s difficult
An ageing parent has accumulated a lifetime of experiences, and deserves the dignity that comes from respect. Try your best to focus on what they’ve contributed over their lifetime, rather than the difficulties of the ageing process. Look for opportunities to learn from them, even as their health declines.
Although it can be very hard at times, it’s important to treat your parent as an equal, rather than a burden. If a parent is struggling with dementia, understand that their behaviour is not a reflection on you. It’s not uncommon for people with dementia to lash out at their loved ones out of fear and confusion. Keep reminding yourself not to take any of their negatively personally.
Involve them whenever possible
Tied in with the idea of respect is inclusion. Ostracising a parent will make them feel more like a burden, and can lead to alienation and declining health. If your parent is alone, making sure that they have company is crucial, especially at meaningful times of year, like birthdays and Christmas.
Even as their health begins to decline, look for ways your parents can maintain some level of control and independence. Although they need your help, they don’t want to feel helpless. If they can retain control of even small tasks, such as applying postal stamps to letters that you’ve helped them write, it can go a long way toward keeping them feeling happy and positive.
Be an advocate for their health
The chances are that an ageing parent will take frequent trips to the doctor or to hospital. Take an active role in this, and you will be a major support for your parent.
Your parents may be anxious, even if they don’t show it. Accompanying your parent to the doctor will mean you can keep notes, ask the right questions, and make sure your parent is keeping up to date with medications. Even the act of driving your parent to and from the hospital will make them feel loved.
Get the support you need
Supporting an ageing parent can be extremely exhausting and emotionally draining. Make sure you have support too. If your parent requires additional help, this may be available. Read up on social care services provided by the NHS or contact your local council to see if you can get help from a qualified professional.
Many people find it comforting to speak with others who are going through a similar situation with their parents. Look into support groups for caregivers, such as Carers UK and the online support group AgingCare.com.
What are your tips for taking care of ageing parents?