This post, written by Mulberry Parc retirement residence, shares four helpful tips to consider when you're supporting an aging parent.
Aging parents and older adults are living full, independent lives longer than ever before. But for most, there still comes a time when they need extra assistance – whether with household chores and home maintenance, or weekly shopping and transportation. Often, the support role falls to one of the adult children, who then find themselves burdened on both sides by family obligations. These individuals, known as the sandwich generation, can find it difficult to manage. The extra strain can bring up complicated feelings or lead to challenging changes in family dynamics. So, read on for four essential coping strategies.
1. Plan Ahead
While your parent is still active and healthy, take the time to talk about the future. Discuss different scenarios for the months and years ahead. Will they accept hired help for chores they used to do themselves, such as gutter cleaning and grocery shopping? How will they get around if they aren’t able to drive anymore? If maintaining a single-family home becomes too much work, will they be willing to relocate? Go over the options available to them, such as independent living, and what moving could entail. Talk about your role in this future, from how you anticipate supporting them to how you may feel.
2. Communicate & Support One Another
Sometimes the burden of supporting an aging parent falls disproportionality to one sibling, whether that person lives closest, or due to traditional roles. This can create tension within the family, or resentment among members – especially if the prime supporter has family obligations of their own. If you are the main caregiver, make sure you communicate frequently with the rest of the family about what you need, and how you are feeling. Ask for help, and don’t assume people will automatically know to offer.
3. Don't Neglect Your Own Needs
Even when an aging parent is still relatively healthy and active, playing the role of the primary supporter can add strain. If your physical or mental health takes a hit because you’re overtaxed and exhausted, you might not be able to provide support at all – which is counterproductive. A lack of self-care can also lead to resentment, frustration or stress. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests many caregivers experience negative psychological effects. So, it’s critical to make time for yourself. This might mean carving out a few minutes each day to go for a walk, splurging on a healthy meal kit instead of cooking or joining a support group. Ultimately, if your needs are going unmet, it may be time to consider an alternate lifestyle for your aging parent – like an independent-living residence that provides meals, housekeeping and transportation, along with the company of other residents and caring employees.
4. Remember the Rewards
While all of the above may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of positives to supporting an aging parent. Family relationships can grow closer through increased interaction, and you’re likely to learn new skills, tapping reserves of empathy and patience you never knew you had. Some studies even show that caregivers enjoy improvements in their own health and well-being compared with their non-caregiver counterparts. Many caregivers find a new appreciation for life, and increased self-esteem, in caring for their loved one. After all, your parent spent so many years supporting and caring for you. Now you finally get to return the favour!
If you have an aging parent who's looking to downsize, I'd love to help you and your loved one navigate through this time. Fill out the contact form on my website and I'll be in touch.