We hear it in the news, see it in our community, we may be experiencing it ourselves, more and more of us are facing the challenge of taking care of elderly parents – we’re challenged practically, mentally, emotionally, sometimes financially and legally.
Roles are reversed as we take on responsibility for finances, health and welfare, and mum and dad’s living situation. This can creep up on us, or, come out-of-the-blue in the form of a ‘crisis’. For some, we wake up one day and realise that caretaking has taken over our lives; we feel frustrated, exhausted, helpless. We can feel angry, guilty at how we feel at times, resentful about the impact caring has on our life, conflicted, torn between responsibilities to parents and others.
I’ve watched my mum lose her sense of identity as she was diagnosed with dementia and then had a stroke which has left her with no capacity to understand, little ability to communicate, no longer able to stay at home.
How to manage this change – how can you get the best care for your parents AND take care of your own needs at the same time?
Are you prepared to talk openly with your parents and siblings, to hear what mum and dad’s wishes are as they get older, to plan, and talk about your feelings?
How to understand and support mum and dad who may be fiercely holding onto their independence, afraid of losing control, of life slipping away?
What is the one thing that will support you in moving through this experience as mum or dad’s condition progresses and things change?
When this happened for me, what helped was to practically arrange mum’s affairs so that everything flowed with ease. For example, with banking I made sure that payments in and out were automated. And, what helped me most was acceptance, knowing in my heart that what was happening was all part of the plan, all was well, even although I found it challenging.
There are positive aspects to supporting those we love as they age. Little moments, a smile, a laugh, a joke, the closeness, the joy of being with family, the privilege of assisting a soul on their journey….and healing in so many ways. Taking care of our parents, it’s all part of the circle of life.