We all get old. It’s part of life. You’ll get old, your friends will get old and hopefully, your kids will grow old. But before all of this, your parents will get old. It isn’t easy thing to accept or manage, for you or for them, but it is far better than the alternative.
They may start to lose their memory, or not be able to climb the stairs unassisted or drive, all of which can be hard to handle. That is why it is so important that we prepare to be on hand and help them into this transition. We need to be able to make sure they are comfortable and happy and safe.
Unfortunately, though, it still remains a bit of a taboo subject, despite it being one of the most important and difficult things you and your family will ever face. But as with every tough situation, the most helpful thing can be transparency and communication. That is why we have come up with a few pieces of advice to help you ease your parents into old age.
The Family Talk
Always plan to have a family meeting with your parents and siblings. Never just spring it upon them at a family lunch or during the holidays because more harm than good will arise. This is not going to be an easy task to undertake, and so it is important you assess your own feelings, opinions and possibly even financial situation before calling the meeting. Be clear in what the meeting is about – your parents getting older – and expect there to be some level of hostility. After all, this is no easy subject to talk about and people tend to find it easier to bury their heads than accept the change. But it is so important you all talk it out. From our experience, always have this chat in person, always have some questions prepared in advance, listen to everything everyone has to say and write down the important points to arise. This will help you all.
Your Parents Are The Priority
This isn’t about you or your siblings. It is about your parents, so talk to them and see what their plans are, or what their preferences are. It could be little things at first like finding out if they need to start using some hearing aid services, or whether they are having trouble manoeuvring about their home as easily as they once did. Then move onto the bigger plans. This is the important part and involves plans like whether they want to grow old in their home, or move closer to a family member, or move into a retirement home they read about. By talking about this with them you are giving them the power to choose, you are letting them feel free and not restricted and that is so important. However, it is also important to use your own judgement and observations to make your own decisions too. Signs to look out for are poor eating habits, hygiene, memory, mobility and support.
Your Role In This
The cost of a care home can be extraordinary, so it is worth researching this. But it is also worth assessing your own abilities to care for your parents because, while this may seem like the attractive option financially and personally, there are certain things you need to consider before jumping straight into life as a carer.
The biggest factor in this is often the emotional toll. So many of us underestimate the impact this role reversal can have on both parties. Living under the same roof and acting as a primary caregiver is really tough. These are the people who have cared for you all your life, doted on you, gone above and beyond, and they are now counting on you. That is what makes this such an emotionally challenging role, because seeing the deterioration is not easy, especially if their condition is worsening and they start to forget who you are.
If you have siblings, there is then the matter of who will take on the role of caregiver. This needs real thought, and it requires more strength, courage and patience than most other situations in life. The role of primary caregiver is tough, and the sibling doing most of the caregiving could easily become resentful of their siblings, and their siblings could easily start to feel guilty that they are doing enough. This can lead to a tumultuous situation. One way to settle this is to have a family care contract in which the person giving the primary care gets paid for their services from family funds. It is horrible to think of this as a service because you are doing it out of love, but it is still worth considering.