As you parents get older, you can’t help but notice that they’re less and less capable of caring for themselves, until you realize that it might be time for you to step in. However, it’s not always easy to know when the right time for that is. Furthermore, you aren’t always sure how to react or what to do in certain situations. Here are three challenges you’ll probably experience when caring for your elderly parents and ways to deal with them.
Balancing between your parents and your children
Being there to fulfill your children’s needs is something you’re used to by now. However, now you have to juggle between being a parent to your children and a caregiver to your parents. Start with making a schedule that will cover all the children’s activities, as well as your parents’ appointments or social calls. If you all stick to the schedule, you will avoid a huge amount of stress. Do some research and learn if there are any support groups or even financial resources for caregivers in Australia that are available to you. If your parents suffer from dementia, it’s a problem when you have to leave them alone to take your children anywhere, so consider asking your siblings or friends for help, or hire a part-time professional. Also, don’t hesitate to give your children some age-appropriate tasks, since their help can mean a lot to you, and it can help build their sense of responsibility, as well as their empathy. And finally, always find time for some self-care. If you don’t blow off some steam once in a while and if you don’t take good care of yourself, you won’t be at the top of your game, which will reflect on everybody in your household.
Discussing tough issues
There are certain conversations that can be extremely uncomfortable and create a lot of stress, both to you and your parents. For example, if it’s clear to you that your parents aren’t fit to drive any more, but they don’t see it, taking away their keys might insult and hurt them deeply. How do you even suggest that they should start wearing diapers if they refuse to acknowledge it themselves? And is there a way to explain to them that you can’t take care of them on your own? The way you approach these issues is extremely important. You might not reach a solution after just one conversation, but several of them instead. Be gentle and understanding, and try not to force them into anything, but rather work on opening their minds to new options. Do your research and show them only the best of the options you found. If you think your parents need assisted living arrangements, finding an aged care centre can be a good option, where they can choose where and how they want to live and exactly how much help they receive. Communities like these offer a variety of activities for those their age, as well as an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. Whatever the topic of the conversation is, make sure that they understand that you only have their best interest at heart and you’re doing everything you can to help them.
Balancing between their need of assistance and their independence
Once their bodies and minds start giving in, one of the main problems is that they aren’t always aware of the extent of the problem. They are used to making their own decisions and being independent, and now you’re waltzing on the thin line between having to care for them and respecting their right to make their own choices. Although they aren’t physically capable of doing certain things on their own and they might even show some signs of dementia, they are still your parents. The roles might seem reversed since they’re the ones in your care now, but the things aren’t so black and white neither in your, nor your parents’ heads. So, you need to give them as much autonomy as you can, while still providing them with the help they need. If there are things they want to do that day, like visit their friends or even attend an event in Sydney, do your best to make it happen. If you can’t, talk to them and explain your situation, and try to reschedule those activities for another day.
Caring for your elderly parents takes a lot of patience and strength. However, there’s no shame in admitting you can’t handle everything yourself. Therefore, both you and your parents should be aware of all existing options and choose the ones that work best for your situation.