At some point in our lives, we will almost certainly have to work out how to cope with elderly parents. Watching our parents grow old can be difficult to deal with emotionally, as well as demanding in a practical sense. Unfortunately it’s inevitable, unless you are unlucky enough to lose them when they are young. Here are some tips on how to cope with elderly parents.
1. Don’t Feel Obliged
When learning how to cope with elderly parents, it’s very important that you don’t feel obliged to do anything. Perhaps you don’t have a close relationship with them, live too far away to be of practical use, or have other commitments. If you are close, then of course you will be concerned about their welfare. But doing something out of a sense of obligation will simply foster a feeling of resentment, which is no good for you or your parents.
2. Don’t Feel Guilty
Read my other article about guilt – it really does nobody any good to feel guilty! You may feel bad if work, children or distance means that you can’t dedicate the time to your parents that you would like – or if you simply don’t want to. We have to live our own lives. But remember that you aren’t Superwoman! Taking on too many responsibilities is only going to wear you out.
3. Take Practical Steps
Even if you don’t live locally, there are a number of practical steps that you can take to help your parents when they get older. Ask friends and neighbours to keep an eye on them, and call regularly to check that they are okay. Look into anything that can adapt their home to suit their needs, organize helpers, or order their groceries via the Internet.
4. Keep in Touch
If your parents are silver surfers, then it will be easy to keep in touch with them. If not, a regular phone call will help reassure you. Regular contact will also be beneficial to your parents, as the awareness that they are growing older may bother them. So hearing from you frequently may help them feel less isolated and worried.
5. Seek Assistance
Caring for parents can be very demanding, so if you take on the responsibility then do look for any source of help that you can find. Ask family members to do their share (a daughter is often expected to be the sole person to look after elderly parents, and that isn’t fair when there are other siblings). Also look into any assistance that social services can provide.
6. Look after Yourself
These days, as people start their families later, it’s not uncommon for women to find themselves caring for both young children and aging parents. Often they are juggling a full-time job as well. It is essential that you look after your own health, as difficult as that may seem when there are so many demands on your time. So it’s best to try to minimize what you have to deal with.
We tend to think of our parents as immortal, and it comes as a shock when we start to see the first signs of aging. Yet we have to accept the inevitability that they will get older. It’s sad, but it’s a fact of life. So one day we will have to deal with the associated problems of having parents with health problems and practical needs.
Coping with elderly parents is demanding and often stressful. However, it’s important to recognize that although we will certainly do our best for them, we are not all capable of being carers. There’s no shame in admitting that. However much you love your parents, dealing with the needs that aging brings is something that not everyone can cope with, even if it is expected of us. How do you feel about caring for your parents – would you take them in without hesitation, or is it something that you could never do?