It’s a day that you hoped would never come. You have seen the scenario played out a million times over in other peoples lives. But to see it happen in your own is heartbreaking, gut wrenching and solidifies the fact that the older you get, the less of a ‘child’ you become to your parents. Learning how to parent your parents is a difficult transition. No matter how old you are, how many successes you can count on your own fingers or how many children you have – your parents are always supposed to be the strong ones for you.
The ‘help’ that your parents need can range from financial to medical. You may notice very slowly that their cognitive skills are changing over time and tasks that used to be simple are becoming complex and often overlooked. Your assistance may start out slowly as well; from helping them clean their house once or twice a week, to driving them to the bank every Friday. And for millions of others, who notice that their parents need help – their offers to do so result in hurt feelings and resentment.
According to statistics, there are an estimated 22.4 households that care for elderly parents. And every year with advances in healthcare, people are living longer than ever. In the next decade, these numbers are expected to grow even higher according to the AARP. It is also guessed that children parenting their own parents spend on average 18 hours per week performing assistance related tasks that pertain solely to elderly care. This is a great deal of time, which incidentally many people do not have. Fitting it in, often means that the adult children begin compromising their own wellbeing and happiness in order to do what they feel they should.
All around, family care is taxing. For the adult child, there are a great deal of emotions to transition through which range from sadness and resentment to grief. Most organizations claim that adult children who become responsible for their parents grieve the loss long before the death of the parent. And making matters worse is that many elderly people, who have full rein over their cognitive abilities do not want to be a burden and resist and fight the help being offered.
According to the book, Social Gerontology both parents and children should devise a plan for this situation long ahead of time. History is showing that elderly care can last around 18 years or more – up from less than 5 years just a decade ago. This means that caring for your parents is something that you will be committed to for almost as long as it took to raise your own children. This means that YOU have to be socially, financially, emotionally, and mentally ready.
Nearly every single help organization will advise adult children to gain assistance, and there is plenty of it out there. Some agencies will help with meals, while others will assist with long-term medical care. You should also try to plan for this care ahead of time, and make sure that you and your parents are all on the same page. This way when the time comes, many of the details will have been already worked out and the action plan can be carried through seamlessly.
If your parents are adamant that they do not want your help and live in a mode of denial, you should still seek assistance from outside agencies. Many parents do not want to become a burden on their grown children, and would actually prefer to have many matters – especially those pertaining to health issues, carried out by people that aren’t blood relatives. Look into insurance plans for this type of care and help your parents find resources for nursing homes or care facilities BEFORE THEY NEED IT, which they feel comfortable with. This way, they are still able to have control over their lives and will not feel so helpless.
Helpful Resources When You Are Parenting a Parent
Reaching out is by far the best thing that you can do. When you are faced with this situation, you need to make sure that you are both physically and mentally able to handle the details. Counselors suggest taking time (when possible) to get your own thoughts on board and to grieve the loss of the parents that you remember as a child. You also need to schedule a family meeting, to find out what other family members, siblings or grandchildren are able and willing to help. You will find that some will while others wont. For so many families when this time comes, there are great divides that begin to eat away at family members. Your best bet is to keep the focus primarily on providing what is best for your elderly or sick parent. If others are unwilling to help, then you need to reach out for assistance even more.
You also need to have a firm financial plan. If you cannot afford the care that a parent needs, make sure that you check out the programs available through insurance and government assistance programs. Keep in mind that the last thing your parents want is to bankrupt you, especially when you have your own retirement to think about.
The following are some phenomenal resources that you can utilize to help you get through this often painful and confusing period. Some provide information while others will provide you with economic and medical resources. Additionally, there are forums that you can take part in which will give you a full community of people, just like you, who are parenting their parents.
Aging Parents and Elder Care www.aging-parents-and-elder-care.com/
Elder Care eldercare.com/
FCA: Family Caregiver Alliance http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/home.jsp
National Family Caregivers Association caregiveraction.org/
Children of Aging Parents http://www.fsabc.org/
Remember, the bottom line is you are doing your parents and your family a great service. Even so, you have to remember to take care of yourself, your needs and be prepared for all the events that may arise. When all is said and done, you will be extremely proud that you did what you did.