In 2005, I decided to make the move from North Carolina back to Texas and I was fortunate to have my mom fly o
ut to help me make the trek cross-country with my kids. When she arrived at the airport, I was excited to see her but after spending a few minutes with her it was apparent that she was struggling with some type of mental disorder. We were in my living room and she kept walking up in the middle of the night because she thought that she heard something outside. At the time, I was living in a remote area in the country and it was very quite except for an occasional car driving up and down the road. I would have to tell her to go back to sleep that there wasn’t anyone out there.
We finally got the U-haul loaded up and set out on our adventure(it was a crazy journey but I will spare you the details). After we made it back to my parents house, I finally had the opportunity to have a talk with my dad and told him that there was something wrong with my mom. Needless to say, she ended up being put on a leave of absence that resulted in her being put on permanent disability. This didn’t go over so well with my mom and she was upset for weeks because she couldn’t understand why she was no longer able to work.
Today, I wanted to share with you some tips on how to deal with your aging parents.
They Will Likely Be in Denial at First
As an adult, I have personally witnessed several situations where the patient is in denial about how serious their condition really is in reality. Denial is the first stage of acceptance and it is normal for them to feel this way about their condition or their health. In fact, as a child of an aging parent, you may face your own denial of the situations but you can’t stay in denial for their sake. You will have to help find the resources to help them continue caring for their situation and themselves.
For example, you may realize that it is no longer safe for them to drive their car. I remember that my dad ended up having to hide the keys from my mom. She wasn’t happy with him for hiding the keys but he knew that she no longer had any business driving. However, many people know that having the car means freedom, even if they haven’t driven it in months. It is hard to have to make these decisions but you are doing it for their own safety.
Don’t Expect Them to Ask for Help
If you have a parent, who is struggling to take care of themselves don’t expect for them to ask for help. Most of the time, a spouse or loved one will notice that they are struggling with certain tasks or realize that they are having a hard time taking care of things that a healthy person doesn’t have trouble doing on a daily basis. Many elderly people, choose not to ask for help because their impaired judgement makes it difficult for them to realize how bad they are or they don’t want to feel like a burden to the family. Instead, you will more than likely going to have to take the initiative and ask them if they need help. Just remember to be patient with them as they try and figure out how to process their own health issues or condition.
Talking About It is Often Difficult for Them
If your parents are having health issues, you will probably notice that it is often difficult to get them to talk about their problems. Don’t be surprised if they try to change the subject or down play their health problems. Like I mentioned before, everything is unraveling in front of them and it is difficult to accept that you are no longer independent. However, as a potential advocate for their health you will need to sit down and have a heart to heart discussion with them. The best way to get them talking is to take baby steps and work towards your ultimate goal of getting them the help that they need for their safety.
Update or Create Any Legal Documents
It is important to take a look any legal documents such as living will, estate planning, burial arrangements, and any other legal documents that might need to be updated. If they don’t already have a will or estate planned, they should meet with a lawyer so that they can get these documents take care of immediately. As their health continues to detonator over time, they will also need to appoint someone else in the family or several people to take over advocating decisions on their health and care. It is also a good time to find out if they want to be resuscitated if they end up in a life or death situation. If they don’t want to be resuscitated, they will need to have a DNR (do not resuscitate order) drafted.
Give Them Freedom to Continue Living at Home As Long As Their Safety Isn’t in Jeopardy
Depending on your parents health conditions, give them the freedom to choose living at home as long as possible. You don’t want to sacrifice their safety but at the same time you want to grant some of their requests. For example, if they have mobility issues you can invest in an electric motor scooter or motorized wheelchair, a power recliner chair that helps them get up, grabbers and railing, and other safety related items to make living at home easier. If they have other medical conditions, there are options available to get them help with the things that they can no longer do on their own.
Get Them Out of the House
Staying at home all the time can be quite depressing especially if your parents had an active lifestyle. Like I mentioned earlier, there are motorized scooters and power chairs that can help get them out of the house so that they can continue being active. It is amazing that a simple outing to the grocery store, to the mall, or their favorite place can easily cheer them up. If possible, help them find new hobbies that will help get them out of the house and give them something that they can look forward too. I know that I can easily get caught up sitting at home but when I do get out even for a brief outing that my mood is changed rapidly.
Watching an aging parent go downhill either mentally or physically can be very hard to watch. However, your parents are still alive and are depending on others to help with their care. I never imagined having to deal with my own mother’s health issues at such a young age but at the same time it has given me the opportunity to share what I learn with others. My mom passed away a little over 4 years ago to dementia of the frontal lobe aka Pick’s disease. Pick’s disease is a rare form of Alzhemier’s.
Photo Credit: Flickr via Creative Commons
Do you have any additional tips for dealing with aging parents?