Watching your parents age is one of the most challenging parts of adult life. When you were little, your parents’ role was to care for your every need. As they grow older, it becomes your place to ensure they have everything they need to continue living a full life.
Although this transition is natural, it’s not easy for anyone. Parents may resist accepting your help because they want to stay independent. As an adult caregiver, you’ll have to aggressively protect yourself from burnout while balancing many responsibilities. Here are six things you need to know about caring for aging parents.
No one wants to have these conversations. However, the earlier you talk about end-of-life plans, the better it will be for everyone. You don’t have to sit down and have a serious conversation about it – instead, ask casual questions and involve your siblings or other important relatives.
For example, you can ask your parents how they’d like their life to look in ten years. Go over details like whether they want to stay at home, what kinds of help they might need and whether they have the financial means to cover it. The earlier you gather information, the sooner you can make a plan for the future.
Your parents may not ask you for help when they need it. Many parents worry about becoming a burden to their adult children. They don’t want to be a disruption or add stress to their kids’ busy lives. To know if they need help, you’ll have to pay attention to how they’re doing. The next time you visit your parents, ask yourself these questions.
If your parents are starting to have trouble maintaining their home or their health, you might need to offer them some support. However, it’s important that they don’t feel “tested” every time you visit.
The worst thing you can do as your parents age is take over their lives. It’s very important to respect their wishes, give them agency and make choices together. If they need more support at home, give them several care options and listen to their response. You should never force your parents to do anything unless absolutely necessary.
Consider how helpless children feel. Their parents have control over almost every part of their lives. However, they know that when they grow up, it will be their turn to be independent. It’s much harder for aging parents who used to be completely independent to lose that sense of freedom. It’s very important that they continue feeling a sense of control over their lives.
Now is also a good time to find and organize all your parents’ paperwork. The ideal situation is to ask for your parents’ help and work on this project together. You should make photocopies of their medical records, financial documents, legal paperwork and any other important material. Save and organize these files for easy reference later.
Paperwork can be confusing and it’s easy to lose. By organizing paperwork now, you’ll be ready to continue meeting your parents’ needs and responsibilities when they’re no longer able to. You don’t want to wait to find these documents until your parents can’t remember where they are or your judgment is clouded by the grief of their loss.
Caregiving is both incredibly special and intensely exhausting. In 2020, there were roughly 53 million caregivers in the United States – and 40% of them reported feeling emotionally drained. Others mentioned the financial or physical stress of caring for an aging loved one. In light of these numbers, it’s essential that you make a support plan for yourself.
You are an essential part of your parent’s support network. To continue caring for them, you need to protect yourself from burnout. In some cases, finding help may feel impossible. You can ask siblings for help, involve your kids in the process or hire outside support. If your parents move in with you, it may be easier to afford respite care.