Parents have always been the caregivers. They worked, provided food and shelter, and raised families. As our parents age, they face a reversal in that role and find themselves needing care. This can be a difficult change for aging parents to accept.
In many cases, aging parents do not want to acknowledge that they need assistance. So how do we care for our aging parents without making them feel that they need it? How do we get past the pride and make their senior years as good as they should be?
- Understand their feelings. This should be a good time in their lives, but it’s made difficult because of reduced mobility and retirement from the work force. They’re no longer needed at work and their kids have grown up, moved out and are raising families of their own – without their help. Quite naturally, they don’t feel as needed as they used to be.
- Take payment when it’s offered. This can be a difficult one, but the offer makes our aging parents feel they’re still able to pay their own way and are not a burden on you. Decline, but it will probably be pushed on you. Take the cookies, pop, or sandwich. If it’s money, see if you can trade for one of mom’s home-made pies, or dad’s help with a later project. If you have to take the money, put it aside and use it to buy them that something extra, or use it for a grandchild’s education. When they comment on how well their grandchild has done, let them know it was their money that did it.
- Call them on the phone. Make calls regular, every morning perhaps, to make sure everything is okay. And tell them that’s why you call. It’s caring. Provide them with a ‘call as you go’ cell phone so they have contact in case of an emergency away from the home. Give it as a birthday, or Christmas gift.
- Drop in unexpectedly. This shows that you visit not out of a sense of duty, but because you actually want to see them. It’s important that they not feel forgotten, even though they’re not.
- Involve them in your activities. Invite them to the park, grandchild’s school event, or other social activities. Let them be involved in arranging birthday parties, anniversary gatherings, or anything else you could use a hand at.
- Ask for their advice. Whether you take it or not is secondary to making them feel that what they think and have to offer is still valued. Gain from their experience.
- Listen to their stories. Get them to tell you about the ‘old’ days when they were younger. Have them fill you in on the family backgrounds and things you may never have known. Like most, we like to remember our younger days and our aging parents are no different. It’s a way of passing history from generation to generation.
- Have dinner together. This can be one of those home-made meals that mom always used to put on. Her feeling of worth is increased with the knowledge that her kids still enjoy that home-cooking.
- Take them shopping. Offer to take them along when you go shopping, or call and ask if they need anything while you’re out. Their continued activity will keep them young and independent, particularly if they can’t drive all that much anymore.
- Don’t treat them like old people. They are important members of our senior society, so treat them like respected elders, not like old people.
There’s no magic to caring for aging parents. It’s simply doing for them what they’ve always done for us.
Originally Published: 02-07-11
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.