My parents came over for dinner. Again. Though many people would wish their parents be less intrusive, I’m delighted that mine are as involved as they are in my family’s life.
My parents are too vibrant to even contemplate the later-life scenario, but inevitably, I’ll have to. And then the questions begin, the most important being: How responsible are we for our parents?
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For me, the answer is totally. No, we didn’t choose them, nor did we ask for them to raise us, but that’s what happened. And in their later years, when old age sets in and they need help, I believe it’s the children’s responsibility to look after their parents.
That includes, when necessary, getting involved with their health needs, possibly their finances, their living situation, and anything else that they can’t manage for themselves.
Undoubtedly, the transition period in which your parents — those adults to whom you’ve always looked for love, encouragement, help, and advice — go from being the caretakers to the ones needing care, is a confusing time. It doesn’t usually happen overnight, and may at first be unnoticeable.
Often, children, including adult children, feel initial annoyance at the added pressure. That’s normal. Suddenly, your already full life becomes even busier with the added responsibility. And the parent in question may not appreciate being looked after. Remember, it’s a major life change for them, too, and they may feel angry. Not at you, but at life, for starting to pass them by.
As natural caregivers, the burden of caring for elderly parents often falls on the female children, or the wives of the men whose parents are aging.
The first step is to talk — to your siblings, your spouse, perhaps one parent who isn’t aging as quickly as the other — and discuss the changing situation.
The next step is to evaluate. Have you checked out all the medical possibilities, not only for health changes, but also for cross-medications to see if there’s a problem that can be treated? Sometimes, the right medication, treatment, or therapy can prolong a person’s youthfulness, and keep them on the active side of old age.
And then, figuring out which resources are necessary to maintain the best quality of life, both for the parent and those caring for him/her. It can be as simple as getting them involved in seniors’ activities or a community day-care program.
In some cases, an assisted living situation is necessary; for others, hiring a caregiver for the parent’s home is what’s best. And for others still, making space in your own home to care for your elderly parent.
The key to this pendulum swing of responsibility, for everyone, is to know that this is the cycle of life. It’s inevitable in one form or another. So, for aging parents to know that, as they get older, weaker, and less aware, they’ll have their children by their side, is better medicine than money can buy.