Dealing with your elderly parents or parent can be an overwhelming undertaking. It really does feel like you’ve taken on the role of the parent in their stead. With the added stress of health concerns and personality changes, it can often seem like an insurmountable challenge. Whether your loved one is exhibiting typical signs of aging or a more serious condition like Alzheimer’s disease, contending with symptoms like rage, neediness, and general stubbornness while you’re truly trying your best to help is discouraging.
Understand What You’re Dealing With
When it comes to dealing with aging parents, research is key (reading this article is a great start!). If your parent has a particular diagnosis, look for books and other resources that can help you understand their condition. Similarly, look into aging and the effects it can have. By working to gain a better understanding of what’s normal, though often frustrating, you’ll be better prepared to care for your elderly parents. If possible, try to attend doctor’s appointments with your parent. Not only will you be able to address any questions or concerns with a medical professional directly, but you’ll also be able to ensure that recommendations and appointments don’t slip through the cracks if your parent struggles with memory.
Stay Ahead of Necessary Preparations
Whenever possible, save yourself some effort and stress later by staying ahead of what’s still to come. As you research, note where you’re parents fall in any timelines or symptom progressions, then look ahead to learn about what might come next. This isn’t to make you worry even more or expect the worse—rather, it will help you stay prepared in case the situation does worsen so that you’re better able to handle it. Consider working to understand your parent’s finances and researching unfamiliar concepts such as viatical settlements (which will buy a life insurance policy in exchange for a lump sum payout) now so that, when the time comes, you’re ready to make decisions. In an emotional time, you’ll be grateful that you did this research with a clearer mind ahead of time.
Remember That You’re In This Together
Acting as a caretaker to your elderly parent takes a mental toll, particularly if they become hostile towards you. Armed with the research you’ve done, try to remember that, as scary as this situation is to you, your parent is dealing with these changes as well. If their personality has been negatively affected, they may have moments of clarity and regret what they’ve said or done. If their memory fails, they contend with confusion and disorientation. Know that, symptoms aside, they are still the parent you’ve known and loved. Take a deep breath and try to be patient.
Talk to Them
Depending on the severity of your parent’s condition, you might find that they’re willing to listen to your concerns about their behavior. Set boundaries in a firm conversation and let them know how their stubbornness or other negative activity is affecting you. To the extent that they’re able, many parents will change for the better, letting caretaking become a better experience for you both. It may not seem like it at times, but your aging parents are adults, too, and will likely respond well to being treated as such.
Find Ways to Take Care of Yourself, Too
Once more, caretaking is hard work, both physically and mentally. It’s important to remember to care for yourself while you’re acting as a caretaker to your aging parents. Seek out support from others who’ve been in this situation, whether in real life or via online groups or forums. Ask trusted friends and family to lend a hand from time to time, or consider hiring someone to help care for your parents in addition to your efforts. If you find yourself struggling with mental health as a result of your role as a caretaker, look into help from a professional therapist, psychologist, or counselor. To provide the best care you can to your parents, you must take care of yourself first.
Parenting your elderly parents is a stressful endeavor that can leave you feeling guilty and defeated. Know that you’re not alone in these feelings and that these negative emotions are completely normal. Research medical, financial, and legal matters for a better understanding of the situation and what your parent is going through, and do your best to stay patient with them. And, of course, remember to take some time for yourself.