Our parents are some of the most important people in our lives—they shape who we are, they invested time in caring for us as children, and they taught us how to show love to those around us. So as they start to age, it can be tough on both the adult children as well as their older parents when they may need to step in to help them. Here are five issues to address when helping older parents adjust to their aging bodies and minds.
1. Consider their living arrangements.
If your parent is starting to deteriorate and cannot do as much for themselves as they used to, it may be time to consider moving them to a place where you can more easily help them. You may not want them living in the main house with you and your family, and they probably also want their privacy. To honor this, you could consider adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your property. This gives them an apartment of their own, and this addition may make it easier for them to leave their primary residence to move to your home. Adding an ADU in Los Angeles and other places across the country may require a building permit or other necessary permits, so check your state law and contact your local government before proceeding.
2. Talk to them about becoming their caregiver should the need arise.
As they age, it may be harder for them to have complete autonomy over their medical decisions, especially if they are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to discuss their care plan with them and find out what they want, whether that involves handing over caregiver choices to you or signing a DNR agreement.
3. Remember to offer your help in a way that shows your respect for them.
While you may want to jump in and help if you see them struggling with a task, keep in mind that this is probably frustrating for them, and they still want to be able to do things on their own. Instead of immediately hopping in to relieve them from a task, ask them if they would like your help with it. Asking shows that you respect them and value their needs and wants, but also shows them that you care. Transitioning to a caretaker role can be a confusing time for both of you, but leading your actions with respect will make all of the difference.
4. Keep an open line of communication with your aging parents.
The process of taking care of an ailing parent can be taxing. For both of your sakes, work to keep an open line of communication with them so that the frustration does not end up boiling over for either of you. If they know you care and are just there to help when they need you, this may aid in the transition. Encourage them to communicate with you if they feel angry or like their opinions are not being heard.
5. Take care of your own mental health during this time, too.
Watching the person who raised you grow old and begin to lose abilities to do certain things can be draining for you, and it is important to make sure you are taking care of your own mental health during this time. Find someone who can help watch your parent so you can do something for yourself, whether that be a trip to the mall, a walk through the park or a therapy session with your mental health counselor. Keeping your mental health a priority will help you when you start to feel overwhelmed while caring for your aging parent.