Care Giving for Aging Parents: “Welcome To Your Life, There’s No Turning Back”
When thinking about care giving for aging parents, these words from the 1985 Tears For Fears song entitled “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” keep playing in my head.
It makes me think about how most children arrive in this world to the welcoming arms of parents who will guide them in all aspects of their lives. Parents who will do their best to make and mold their children into productive, independent, contributors to society.
Once you are here – faced with care giving for aging parents – it’s so true, there is no turning back. There is only moving forward. My thoughts now turn to how so many adult children are similarly tasked at the end of their parents’ lives. They are put in the position of guiding and caring for aging parents as they leave this life and move onto the next journey. Hopefully, the end of life care giving is carried out as lovingly by the adult children as their parents welcomed them.
Different Jobs, No Instruction Manuals
Every first-time parent probably feels terrified at being in charge of a new life. The anxiety of doing something “wrong” has plagued parents in every generation. While the end of life care-giving may seem very different, there are similarities that require a great deal of patience on the part of the caregiver. New parents know they are in charge of beings that are helpless. Adult caregiving children may forget that their parents are not children trapped in adult bodies.
Children Have Everything To Learn
When children come into the world, they are totally dependent on their parents. Without the love and care of their parents children would certainly perish. At the other end, when children are caring for aging parents, the tables are not exactly turned. Parents have been successful. They have raised families and run businesses. They are not dependent children who don’t know how to speak or walk or find out what life is all about.
Parents Have Everything To Lose
Adult children care givers who are care giving for aging parents must understand that their parents are amazing adults, perhaps imprisoned now in bodies that don’t function or with minds that have forgotten names and faces, places and things that once were so familiar to them.
Aging parents need their children to act as the CEO and/or COO of an already successfully functioning business; to oversee the future vision of the elder care journey, the financial outlook of future needs, to hire and supervise care providers /vendors, to maintain the status quo with respect and dignity as they would provide to their employees.
The problem is that most children have not been the CEO / COO of businesses and possibly only know how to be parents – telling their small children what to do, when to do it, and how to do it until the child gets to a place of being able to do it for themselves with little to no supervision. This doesn’t work for aging parents. They already knew how, when and what to do, but now they need increasing guidance on the when, the how, and eventually the what to do or stop doing.
How To Adjust To Care Giving
If you are the caregiver for an aging parent and you feel that you don’t have the patience required for the job, there are things you can do. For starters you can educate yourself on your parent(s) condition. If they have age-related dementia, or full-blown Alzheimer’s you’ll need to know the difference and how each one typically manifests. In addition, you can enlist the help of siblings or other relatives. You can also hire appropriate assistance if need be. And you must take care of yourself. Perhaps therapy will help to manage your own feelings about being in the position of caregiver.
Don’t Rob Your Parent(s) Of Dignity And Respect
Sometimes when caring for your parents, it may feel “easier” to just do a task for them instead of taking the time to teach them how to do it or give them the time they need to do it at their own pace. This can strip an aging adult of the opportunity to do what they have always done, and often robs them of all dignity and respect.
Caregiving for aging parents can be a wonderful experience if approached with a sense of curiosity and love. It can be a blessing for both parent and child. And, just like when a child arrives, there’s no turning back, when parents leave, there is also no turning back.