You need to be prepared to deal with various situations.
Time passes very quickly, and one moment your parents are these energetic people full of life who enjoy their hiking trips, and the next they canít find their way home out of the nearby park.
As the reality sinks in, you realise that they rely on your help for some of the most basic, everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, cleaning, or even getting dressed.
Mother and daughter
Looking after your ageing parents will impact your life in a most profound way, and you need to be prepared to deal with various emotional and physically overwhelming situations.
Coming to terms with it:
The first step towards helping your parents is accepting the reality as it is. Your parents arenít getting any younger, and their medical conditions will only get worse. Itís important to understand that it will be very hard for you too because caring for them will require a lot of time, money, and energy.
Many elderly people also experience memory loss, and their judgement and decision-making abilities may become impaired. This means that their personalities can drastically change, so your once mild-mannered mother might turn into an angry, stubborn person.
Youíre not alone:
More than 2.7 million people in Australia look after a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member. Some of these people had to quit their jobs and move in with the person theyíre caring for, which is a tremendous sacrifice.
But, before making a decision to put your career and life on hold, itís essential to think your options through and find a way to make things work without putting your future in jeopardy.
Even if your parents suffer from Alzheimerís or some other form of dementia, or if theyíre disabled and require 24/7 care, you can carve out some time for yourself by hiring an agency, which provides in-home care service. Such a balanced approach means that your parents will be properly looked after in the safety of their home, while you will be able to go to work, run personal errands, or even travel.
Setting the rules:
If your parents are comparatively functional and capable of living alone, itís important to keep your eyes open for any red flags. Namely, in some cases elderly people may start exhibiting some harmful or dangerous behaviours such as reckless driving, forgetting to pay their bills, or even being susceptible to various scams.
Such incidents require your intervention, and no matter how hard it is, youíll need to ask them to give up their car keys and let you pay their bills. In many cases, they will refuse to do so, and you need to be aware that this is a very sensitive issue, as for them itís about losing control. Itís essential to be gentle, but firm about this because keeping them safe should be your priority.
Have the talk:
Talk to your parents about their wishes in case you are the one with the legal power to make important decisions for them. A discussion about putting their affairs in order is a gloomy reminder about their poor health, and itís extremely unpleasant and upsetting, but it needs to be done.
If you donít understand these legal matters, itís a good idea to ask an eldercare expert for help. If you arenít the only child, organise a family meeting together with your siblings and other close family members. This way youíll be able to assess the situation and delegate tasks.
Switching roles with your parents can be both physically and emotionally excruciating, but if you know what your options are, itís much easier to organise your life and make things easier.
When my daughter started daycare, I spent a lot of time trying to find the right fit for her and our family. I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions. Over and over again though, the answer to my question would come back the same, "she'll be fine."
I want hours upon hours of delicious sleep followed by hot cups of tea, reading my book and nothingness. But I'll have to get up now to comfort, feed, clean, dress, entertain, love, laugh, play, and repeat.