Advice from Amy Recco, owner and executive director of Friends for Life.
How do you balance caring for your family, as well as your aging parent?
The heavy load carried by adult children caring for an elderly parent brings about common stresses. There is a lot of guilt involved in not being able to be there for everyone. Since the average time that the adult child will care for their aging parents is eight years, the stress that builds up and the difficulty of the situation may eventually force the child to a realization: it’s time to reach out for professional help. It’s important to remember that you can only provide quality care for someone if you are taking care of yourself. Hiring an in-home caregiver or placing a senior in the right assisted-living community can provide many new opportunities for the senior and adult child. By relieving the stress of meeting a senior’s caregiving needs, an adult child can better focus on his or her own needs and the needs of other family members. Peace of mind will come with knowing that the senior is receiving quality care. That said, many feel that the most important aspect of this arrangement is that the time spent with an aging parent can truly be quality time.
What do you do when your elderly parents aren’t listening?
There are a number of things you can do when your parents are not listening. Here are just a few solutions:
Accept the situation.
You may want your motto to be “It is what it is.” Said another way, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Suzanne Modigliani, geriatric care manager with a social work background in Boston says, “They are adults with the right to make decisions—even poor ones.” You probably wish you could control your aging parents for their own good, but the reality is you cannot force them to do anything. Accepting this can help reduce your stress and even improve your relationship with your parents.
To avoid problems in the future, help your parents by reminding them of important upcoming dates, instead of getting frustrated when they cannot remember. This is especially important to do if there is a specific milestone you want your parents to be around for, such as a wedding, anniversary or graduation. Simply bringing it up will be the best way to deal with their forgetfulness. Even if your parents have not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, living with memory loss can be especially difficult for elderly adults to live with.
Treat Them Like the Adults They Are.
While sometimes it may feel the roles between you and your parents are reversed, it is good to remember that they are still your parents and they desire to be treated with the same respect you have always given them. Dealing with a stubborn parent is not the same as dealing with a stubborn child. Older people should be autonomous. It is good to avoid behaviors such as threatening to move a parent to a nursing home or insisting you know what is best. Long-term, this may only drive a wedge between you and your parents. Remember the goal is to help your parents receive the best care possible. You’re more likely to receive results by treating your aging parents like the adults they are.
Amy Recco is the owner and executive director Friends for Life Homecare. For more advice, call 516-900-1818 and ask Friends for Life, now serving Nassau, Suffolk and all five boroughs of New York City.