By original design, parents are there to guide their children, to teach them, and to advise them through the various stages of life. Children look to their parents for wisdom to overcome the challenges of life. When parents age, it can become a very stressful time for their child(ren). What unfolds is a role reversal that neither person is comfortable with. How do you handle the natural decline in memory, physical capability, or overall zeal for life? What is the best way to care for an elderly parent? It is important for them to have autonomy in their decisions, proper medical care, and patience (because love is patient).
Autonomy relates to dignity of life regardless of health circumstances. Aging can be scary for both the parent and the child. What was easy now becomes challenging. What was spontaneous now takes planning. Parents may feel reluctant to express concern or fear. It is important for them to continue making decisions. Don’t exclude them from conversations with doctors, caregivers, or family members related to their care. Decisions should be made in consideration of the elderly parent, not separate from them. Others may express knowing what is best, even if that is true, they still deserve autonomy and respect, and to be treated as a person – not a decision to be made.
One of the most important decisions is choosing a primary care physician who specializes in geriatric medicine. Elderly people need specialized care, but even with the best physician, you are their best advocate. Ensure your parent understands conversations with their doctor and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your presence is comforting to a parent as well as your willingness to advocate for them.
Finding a therapist for your parent may be helpful as well. The additional support can help the elderly parent normalize some of their feelings and help with anxiety and depression related to aging.
Interacting with your elderly parent in a patient manner can help to ease some of their anxiety. Not focusing on the losses of your relationship, but appreciating what is possible. At times, communication is difficult and emotions are high, resulting in negative interactions. In these moments, be the peacemaker and don’t take things personally.
No matter the age, children always need their parents. Continue to reinforce the importance they hold in your life. As they age, parents need their children more. They need support, love, and community. Allow time to be the focus of your care by including them in your life. When we show care and concern toward our parents, we leave an impression that they are valued, they are remembered, and they are loved.