As our parents age and become elderly, they often experience changes that can make their lives harder. When these changes are beyond their control, our parents can be left feeling frustrated, sad and depressed. Often these changes can even make our parents moody or sometimes quite unpleasant to be around.
And of course these new challenges, like lost mobility or mental abilities, affect your relationship. How can you help them adjust to being elderly, while also making sure they maintain a beautiful life? I’ve put together 11 ways to help you navigate life with your elderly parents, while also helping your parents feel safe and happy as they age.
KEEP IN TOUCH FOR FUN
Keep in touch with your parents, on as regular a basis as possible. Calling to share funny stories and anecdotes about your life and to ask about them about what’s going on with them, keeps your relationship with your parents open and in balance, instead of simply calling to check up on them.
REMEMBER YOU ARE AN ADULT
As your parents age, their memory and physical ability decreases and their role as a parent changes, and your role as a child changes. You have to remember that you are an adult now and work to move past frustrations that may arise when you talk to your parents, especially if they have a tendency to push your buttons.
ASK BEFORE YOU HELP
While you may have the best intentions when you do something to ‘help’ your parents, remember that they are experiencing lots of changes and unexpected things can be upsetting to them. When you want to do something to help, talk with your parents about what you want to do and why you want to do it for them, and allow them to be as involved as possible in making the decision.
MAKE AND KEEP MEMORIES
Making and keeping track of memories in a memory book can help your parents as their memory begins to fade. Print out pictures and make notes of who is in the picture and of what the occasion was, will give your parents a reference point and keep family and friends they may not see frequently in their thoughts.
BE THEIR ADVOCATE
No one likes feeling they have no one on their team, so be supportive of your parents and be their advocate whenever you go to bat for them, never diminish their wants or needs. Ask them what they want and how they want to be treated, provide them options to choose from. Do what you can to help them receive the best care and treatment possible. Be open and explain what’s going on to your parents, so they feel as though their wishes are being respected and represented.
As your parents age, they can lose many things, but one thing they must maintain in order to have a beautiful and happy life is their dignity. Nothing can diminish a person’s dignity more, than being treated without respect. Even when you have to have interventions with or make big decisions for, your parents, you can always do it in a way that is respectful to them. Be mindful of their feelings and remember that they are adults, not children.
DO IT THEIR WAY
While it may be faster or more convenient to do things your way or a new way, remember that too many changes or new things, can be very stressful and overwhelming to our parents as they age. This is why it’s important to ask how they like things to be done, and why. We all like things to be done, ‘our way’ and it can be very upsetting to have things done differently. When you ask why, you may find very valid reasons for why they like things to be a certain way.
PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES
If your parents are struggling or feeling frustrated over things, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how you would feel if you were them, and imagine how you would want to be treated and spoken to if you were in their position. This can give you great insight into why your parents may be grumpy or moody and can help you learn new ways to communicate with them.
KEEP THEM SAFE & ORGANIZED
When you visit them, keep an eye out for any safety hazards they may not have noticed, like burnt out light bulbs or loose handrails, help them make or schedule repairs. Are pantry and other items within easy reach? Are medications in date and organized? Are Dr. and safety phone numbers clearly written and available by the phone? Having the house safe and organized will go a long way in providing you and your parents peace of mind.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO BE ACTIVE
While physical activity may or may not be possible for your parents, encourage them to be as active as they can be, both physically and socially. Going for walks, out for meals or participating in groups will give your parents an outlet and some much needed socializing as they age.
The greatest bond between a parent and child is unconditional love and care. As your parents age and grow older they may have less and less opportunities for affection, especially if they are on their own, are bed ridden or have limited mobility. Always tell your parents that you think of them, that you love them and miss them, when you don’t see them.
These are things we often forget to say when we are in situations where we are providing care or making decisions. Greet them with smiles and hugs, sit close to them, hold their hand or link arms when you walk or sit together and let them know by both word and action how much you love them and how important they are to you.