This is one of the toughest transitions a family can ever experience, and that is because it is so alien to all involved. It is a transition that brings up challenges in every sphere imaginable, from physical challenges to mental and emotional. The roles are beginning to shift, and your parents suddenly require more care and support than a child.
That can be quite unbearable for both you and for them. They don’t want to lose their independence or their pride, and you don’t want to see them become helpless or dependent. Sure, it is part of the cycle of life and one that is far more attractive than the alternative. But that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with.
They are your parents, the very people that went above and beyond to care for you and protect you, but the roles have now reversed and you are going to have to help make their transition into old age as smooth, easy and as bearable as possible. What’s more, there are going to be decisions to make, and decisions that will require you to master the art of respecting your parent’s independents and wishes while also ensuring they get the best care possible, whatever that means.
There is a lot to think about and consider, but ultimately you will want your parents to live happy and healthy lives, and to grow old gracefully, and there is a lot you can do to encourage that. It is just a matter of knowing what and how.
Always Have A Loose Plan
We don’t mean do what you think will be best at each stage. No. We mean anticipate each stage by being transparent with your parents and ensuring you know exactly what they want, what their priorities are and what they want to do. They are the priority, and by adhering to their wants and needs you will drastically reduce the stress levels of both you and them. So, what questions should you ask to plan for the future? Well, as a starting point, you should ask them where they would like to live as they get older, what activities they enjoy doing, what activities they want to enjoy doing for as long as physically possible, whether they feel confident living alone and getting about unassisted, and what their current health status is, according to a doctor, not them.
Importance Of Giving Them Control
One of the worst things about growing old is losing control and losing that feeling of independence. As such, it is imperative you include them in all decisions and get their input. Don’t tell them what to do, let them decide. That doesn’t mean you can’t recommend or usher them in a certain direction, but be as transparent with your reasons as you can. This could be recommending that they get help with household chores or transportation. It could be that they require medication reminders or even go one step further and get help with purchasing their prescriptions, in which case you can find some Nationwide Prescription Connection info here. It could be that they want help selling their home and moving closer to you or closer to their friends. It could be they plan to move to a retirement home. The point is, always include them in these tough decisions and always listen to what they want to do and their reasons for doing so. It may not seem logical to you, but it could be an absolute make or break for them. The best thing you can be is supportive, and that includes supporting their choices. If you put yourself in their shoes you will be to get a better understanding. What would you want? Empathy is going to become one of your greatest translation tools.
Staying active isn’t just about keeping the body active, it is also about keeping the mind sharp too. Age sees a lot of things slow down, from our metabolism to our muscle strength to our mental speed. But, by keeping active, we can stave this off a bit better. It will also protect them from common health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions. Of course, the idea of running 10km a week may not sound attractive, or possible, to your mother who struggles to walk around the kitchen. But that is okay because staying active doesn’t have to mean strenuous activity. It can just mean tai chi or yoga. It can mean walking around the garden or swimming. All of these will do your parents a world of good, it is just a matter of encouraging them to get stuck into a light routine that they can enjoy.
Our mind is our most precious gift, so to start losing that can be a horrendous realisation. That is why it is so imperative you find ways to help your parents stimulate their minds. Quite simply, regular mental workouts help elderly people maintain their cognitive functions. It could be that you get your parents into playing Bridge and getting them to join a local Bridge club. It could be that you invent a new game that they can play with your children – their grandchildren. Or it could be that you teach them how to use technology, even if only a little bit, enough to be able to play a tech game or learn a new language on something like Duolingo. Why not go one step further and research what local activities there are to help them remain cognitively active as well as social. That is the ultimate find.
There is so much that you can do for your parents to help them grow old gracefully, and make that transition as smooth as possible, but it requires patience and planning as much as anything else. It also requires a high-level of transparency, openness and empathy, all of which will be beneficial to both you and your parents. So long as you prioritise them and their wants you will be okay, and you will be able to help them through this next stage of their life, as uncomfortable and unfamiliar as it will be.