Coping with Ageing Parents
Many ageing parents don't need a great deal of looking after when it comes to personal care but they may still be in need of other attention especially if they are housebound or prone to loneliness and boredom.
Ensure that company is available if they want it but allow them some solitude if that is their wish. Coping will be far easier for you if they still have some say in matters that are important to them. Never take their choices away – they still need to feel in control however restricted their life has become due to immobility or other health problems.
Loneliness can be a real problem if it sets in although, funnily enough, ageing parents will sometimes not agree to mix with other people of their own age group – ‘but they’re all old!’ they will often protest if you suggest they join a luncheon club or go on a day trip with people of a similar age.
The Best Possible Care
Helping your elderly parent get the best possible care on a daily basis will benefit you both. There are many types of equipment and aids that can be a godsend around the home. Such items include raised toilet seats, grab rails and electrically operated beds and chairs. There are even items that can help older ladies put on their tights and 'grab sticks' for them to pick up small things they've dropped. Rather than see your parent constantly avoiding certain everyday actions because they now seem too tricky, it's wise to become informed about some of this equipment so they can still go about their daily lives with as much ease and comfort as possible.
Safety aids and home security aids such as key safes, personal alarm systems and non-slip mats can give both you and your elderly parent, peace of mind.
Deafness can be a major problem when it comes to communication with your ageing parent and causes no end of exasperation when talking to them. Some will point blank refuse to be fitted with a hearing aid and there is an almost universal inability for anyone to admit to deafness as they grow older although perversely no one seems to be too bothered about admitting to failing eyesight!
Be honest and realistic about your parent's health restrictions if any and discuss their options with them when any treatments are offered by health care professionals. Be prepared to accompany your elderly parent on hospital appointments if you live nearby.
The 'Twilight Years' Should be Worry Free
If your parent is still of sound mind, then things will be easier to cope with as dementia is one of the most difficult situations to be faced with when it comes to coping with the elderly. The only way is to humour them when they perceive things as being significantly different from the way they really are. They may not always remember the same things that you do or in the same way so you can both help each other. You will have forgotten things over the years too.
Even when ageing parents have absolutely nothing to worry about, they will often find something, however trivial and make a big deal over it. The only way to reassure them is to tell them not to worry and say it’s all been taken care of.
A Step Back in Time...
There is always a temptation as we get older to live in the past and remember the ‘good old days’ with more than just a little nostalgic fondness although those times were probably not half as good as we recall. Above all, listen to your parent and their stories of yesteryear – you may learn something new even though they will not be much use when it comes to discussing current trends and prices but they will gleefully tell you how much was in their first pay packet just as if it were yesterday.
There are many ordinary things which we take for granted nowadays which ageing parents never seem to grasp. How we are able to send emails, photos and text messages at almost the speed of light can be impossible to explain to a ninety-three-year-old who still remembers a 'cat’s whisker' radio. It will be the same for you when you are old as each successive generation becomes more technologically adept.
An ageing parent must be made to feel that they are still useful and can make a valuable contribution to family life in their own way and should be free to be involved with everything going on in your family even if they are out of touch with the modern world.
It is perhaps true that: ‘things are not what they used to be’ – the chocolate covering on Club biscuits is nowhere near as thick as it was and Jaffa Cakes are mere shadows of their former selves. An ageing parent will often pick up on things like that and make a big point of it as if it is your fault. Just when you think they have said their piece, they will start all over again like their favourite 78s when your patience is already near to breaking point. In order to cope, you have to agree with them and try to wean them off the subject.
Humour is the Best Medicine
Stubbornness can quickly take over the once easy-going personality of an ageing parent and it can be increasingly difficult to satisfy their demands. You'll often have to bite your lip in order to keep the peace when you're finding it hard to cope since losing your temper with your ageing parent will just make matters worse.
Comments like ‘I’m not going to be here much longer anyway’ and ‘there’s nothing to look forward to any more,’ can be very hard to deal with or reply to in a positive manner – especially if your ageing parent is an atheist. Maintaining a sense of humour is perhaps the best strategy when dealing with such difficult situations that will inevitably arise. If you can make each other laugh once in a while, it can be a coping strategy for you both.
Instead of listening to your ageing parent perpetually mourning their misspent youth and the loss of their film star looks, why don’t you try to convince them that they've been extremely fortunate to have survived many of their contemporaries and to have arrived at a grand old age?
A reply of: ‘would you rather have died young and beautiful?’ will really make them think when they look in the mirror and complain about whiskers, wrinkles and age spots. Many younger family members and friends may have died already and suffered more ailments than your elderly parent but getting some old folk to realise they should be pleased with their lot and relish the fact that they've lived a much longer life than most is still tough going.
Being cantankerous seems to be the way they're still able to maintain some control and they can become manipulative because of this. You can rush around after them buying all the items you think they'll like and attending to their every whim, yet they're still not happy. You have to develop a strategy that works and never lose your temper or the shopping list will be longer next time! A certain cynicism is acquired by the elderly that's completely negative and can be difficult for younger folk to deal with. Combating this negativity with a positive comment and making a note of the coping mechanisms that work for you is all you can be expected to do.
At a Distance
If your elderly parent lives at a distance, then you'll need an additional set of coping strategies and may need to arrange for someone else to pop in and see them on a regular basis. As they get even older, they will likely need more daily care so a move nearer you might be the best option. This can be a very delicate subject which is often a huge bone of contention in families. The joint decision to uproot someone from familiar surroundings is never an easy one to make and if your parent refuses to move nearer to you, then you will have to trust others to assist them in their daily care and be prepared to make adaptations to their existing home and provide them with assistance in doing their shopping and paying bills.
It's not often a subject your elderly parent will be willing to discuss but it is wise to ensure that you know what their final wishes are regarding their estate and funeral arrangements. It's surprising the number of people who die intestate leaving their loved ones in a state of limbo over monetary matters until the legalities have been sorted. Disputes over wills are also more common than most people are aware of and whereas the solicitors will be kept in business, legal fees can make a huge dent in even the smallest estates.
'Those Were The Days'
© 2019 Stella Kaye