MAKING THE HARD DECISIONS FOR YOUR AGING PARENTS

When one realizes that their parent is starting to exhibit signs that they need help, decisions must be made. It is probably the most tragic thing to witness. To think that this person that raised you into an adult is now is need of care is heartbreaking.

Many times the parent is in denial and will become obstinate and refused to admit help is needed. I have learned that you cannot engage in an argument. You must first have empathy for the hand that was just dealt to them.

The very idea of relying on someone for assistance for a parent is scary. That parent is being asked to take a risk and let someone intervene in decisions that they have made years prior. As an adult child, you must understand their plight and also help that parent feel a sense of independence and pride.

Dr. Rob Crankshaw made this suggestions:

  • Give elderly parents every opportunity to continue to make their own decisions. It may take a crisis, but at some point it will become clear to all involved that a change in level of care is necessary.  Hopefully the crisis will not result in permanent physical damage.
  • Recognize that sweeping changes may not be necessary.  Sometimes smaller modifications like Occupational Therapy or a change in medication may be all that is needed. (that was hard for me because I became fixated on making it work now).
  • Be aware of your parent’s possible feelings of embarrassment, shame and impotence as more decisions are made for them.  Use humor, self-deprecation, and a positive outlook to help the elderly from focusing on their loss of independence.  Find a positive side of any negative occurrence without belittling what elders are going through (this may be the most important suggestion).

We forget, during our pubescence, our parents would become objects of embarrassment. We did not walk them to walk us to school or show public displays of affection. Our parents, despite their hurt, took  it on the chin knowing that we were trying to become independent. I would encourage adult children to remember that image and exercise patience with your aging parents.

I also caution adult children that if they need support to seek it out.  Adult children who become frustrated often turn into becoming abusive to their parent.  Share the load with your siblings, if you have them.

I want to add something I heard watching the Queen Latifah Show.  Swoosie Kurtz, the famous Broadway, movie and TV star, is taking care of the mother. Her mother has a “touch of dementia”, as she refers to it. One day her mother asked her if she was in the way. Her response was, “no mom, you are the way.”  To me, that says it all.

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

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