7 tips for dealing with aging parents

Most adult children will have some role in their parent’s health and well-being as they age. Sometimes dealing with an aging parent is not a simple task. Used to being the person in charge, it’s challenging for a parent to give up that role and cope with their increasing dependence on others.

Accepting what comes with aging affects everyone differently. While there’s no magic method to manage aging parents, there are some guidelines you can use to help make this process smoother for everyone involved. 

1. Try to understand their perspective

Getting older isn’t a comfortable process for most of us. Health decline causes that many once simple tasks become more difficult. This loss of independence is not easy to accept. That is the reason why many seniors may have some degree of anxiety and depression. Taking the time to understand their viewpoint may help you communicate better and determine if and what kind of help they need.

If you’re not sure why your parents changed and maybe became difficult, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are they acting the way that they usually do?
  • Are they trying to assert independence?
  • Do they manage to maintain the home and do the chores?
  • Do they seem depressed?
  • Do they seem afraid?
  • Do they have any new health problems?
  • Is your parent confused or has memory problems?
  • How is their financial situation?
  • Do they lack anything?

By identifying the motivators to their behavior, you may have a better idea of making positive changes for moving forward.

2. Accept the present

As much as you would like to, you cannot prevent things beyond your power, such as your parents’ health condition. You have to accept that, like any other people, your parents will change, not just physically but also mentally. Expecting them to be as they were when they were younger would be unrealistic. For some, this change will be gradual, and for others, sudden. Be patient and let them adjust to the new way of living and coping with aging problems. You have to be attentive and recognize any changes that might indicate they need additional help. Some parents will avoid talking about their new issues because they want to spare you and not become a burden. On the other hand, some may become needy and demanding. Whatever your circumstances may be, you need to find a balance and find solutions that will work well for all parties.

3. Choose your battles

Sometimes it will look like you are parenting your parents. Most people don’t do well when they are nagged. Although you may wish that you could manage your parents in your way, the reality is that they are adults with the right to make their own decisions – even when they make poor ones. When you accept this, you can reduce your stress and improve your relationship with your parents.

In the long run, you may have better luck by avoiding small things like insisting your parents be more physically active, change some old habits or complete other good but essentially non-essential tasks. Instead, decide what is the priority for their health and well-being, and focus on those tasks initially. For example, any tasks that involve their safety should be a top priority. If you focus on one or two problems rather than trying to fix all of them at once, your parents are much more likely to take you seriously and participate willingly.

4. Plan ahead

Planning and discussing the options with your parents early on can prevent many problems later. Depending on your parents’ location, financial and health situation, you have different options to choose from. Don’t forget that you should also analyze your future position and responsibilities besides considering what your parents want. Be realistic in how much you will be able to help in cases of major health crises and if they need full-time assistance. Probably, as long as possible, your parents will continue to live independently and age in place. If your or family support is not sufficient, you can consider in-home health and care aid. Your parents’ condition will determine the required level and type of care. Have in count that these services usually come with financial commitments, and some preparations might be necessary.

Also, there are various long-term options – independent living communities, assisted living communities or nursing homes. Plan ahead and determine together which setting is the right choice for your parents, including both care and comfort aspects. As we cannot be sure what the future brings and how our health will be, having several options and a backup plan is wise. 

5. Reach out for help

It is great if there are siblings or other family members who can help out with elderly relatives’ care. If you are overloaded with tasks and overwhelmed with the whole situation, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and ask others for help. 

But, sometimes what you do within the family is not enough. When you realize that you simply cannot manage everything alone or that your support is inadequate for your parents’ specific health issues, you can consider getting outsourced help. You can hire an aide to help them with daily tasks and keep them company when you are away. If their health conditions require additional assistance, you might need to consider a professional caregiver. You can consult your parents’ healthcare provider for advice. When aging in place or in-home care is no longer an option, the senior residential facilities. 

Additionally, your parents as seniors and you as a caregiver may qualify for state and local support resources, and even financial help. Research options available in your community.

If you are struggling emotionally, find someone to talk to or visit caregivers support forums. Many people went or are going through the same as you with their aging parents. Their experiences can be a valuable source of information.

6. Use the advantages of new technologies

Today, you can easily incorporate many available new technological solutions in everyday life to help you aging parents and keep yourself on the track with their care. You can choose from gadgets to monitor their health, home security systems for their safety, to plenty of fun activities to keep them mentally or even physically active.

Many digital tools are specialized in senior care and caregiving. One of them is Gherry App, created with seniors, their families and caregivers in mind. It’s a comprehensive health and caregiving app that includes all relevant tools in one place – health tracking, medication management, storing documents, organizing daily routines, appointments and activities, sharing the updates and load of tasks with others. Another great thing is that you can have several care recipients at the same time, and everything is synchronized. Within your hand’s reach, you will have a complete overview of your parents’ health and coordinate everything related to their care. If they are familiar with using a mobile phone, they can use the app themselves and fully benefit from its features. There is also a financial perk: only one person pays the subscription for the care recipient, and all other people involved in the care can join for free!

7. Don’t feel bad

Many children have a hard time to deal with their feelings regarding the problems with aging parents. Sometimes they feel they are not doing enough, and start to feel guilty about it. This is especially the case when they have to handle their own families, career and other duties. If you stretch yourself exceeding your possibilities, you risk ending up with negative feelings, exhaustion, caregiver burnout, and depression. This will be contra-productive both for you and your parents, so careful planning and finding a balance are the keys.

Regarding the practical side, even professional caregivers often find themselves struggling when it comes to their own parents’ health and safety. You can try to support your parents as much as possible, ensure they are safe, taken care of and that they have what they need. But you should recognize that your parents will not always follow your advice. Accept that you can’t always stop them from doing what they want, and you cannot prevent all of their poor decisions. After all, they are adults, and they are responsible for their actions. If you think you know better what is right for them, but they disagree, try not to foster resentment. Try to find the compromise instead. The situation is different if your parents are cognitively challenged and unable to decide for themselves. Then you and other family members must make all decisions on their behalf. In this case, try to determine what is in their best interest with the understanding of how they would like it.

In conclusion

As once your parents supported you, you are there now to support them when they age. You are in this together. You all must be open about the needs and try to work as a team. Let your parents know you are always on their side. Although sometimes it may seem as though you’ve switched the roles, they’re still your parents and should be treated that way. Except when they are no longer in the capacity to make decisions for themselves, and you have to do it, avoid infantilizing them and concentrate on helping them live out the lives they want as safe and comfortable as possible. By treating them with respect and affection, you may find that your parents are much more willing to cooperate and follow your advice. With these guidelines in mind, you can resolve some of the issues you encounter on the way and focus on enjoying the golden years of your parents’ life as much as possible.