Caring for Aging Parents: They’re Not Doing It On Purpose
We expect children to go through a learning curve.
When a young child is just learning to navigate his or her way through life and doesn’t get something right the first time or the second or the third, no parent in their right mind would think the child is being deliberately stubborn. The child does its best to learn and grow. Whether it’s eating with a spoon for the first time, drinking from a real cup instead of a sippy cup or going to the bathroom on their own for the first time, every child feels a sense of pride and accomplishment. And every parent feels respect grow as their child displays more abilities and achievements. This is how the respect of parents is gained.
The Sweet Feeling of Respect
Every person knows when they are gaining respect. Likewise, it’s pretty clear when we’ve lost a person’s respect too. Especially when dealing with caring for aging parents. Every child craves their parents’ love, respect and approval. Typically parents let their children know when they are disappointed in their behavior. For instance if a child grows up and begins using drugs or despite the parents’ insistence decides not to go to college, it’s difficult for parents to veil their disappointment. To a child that also means the respect their parents held for them has diminished.
When The Tides Are Turned Through Aging and Caring for Aging Parents
This roller coaster ride of respect and disrespect and disappointment keeps chugging along through life. Eventually you get married and start a family of your own and watch the cycle begin again. Then suddenly you notice that your parents are becoming old. Maybe they forget to come for one of the kid’s birthday parties. Or they are more tired than usual. As they age, perhaps they become ill and suddenly you are the designated caregiver.
When the parent is no longer the foundational rock or figurehead they’ve always been, the tides have officially turned. Except they are not children. Parents have lived full lives. They’ve been responsible and made difficult life decisions. Even though it may seem as though your parents’ frustration induced belligerence is deliberate, I can assure you, in most situations it is not deliberate. You may find yourself losing respect for your parent as a result of behavior that is a result of a condition related to physical or cognitive decline.
Maintain Mutual Respect
Adult caregiving children who are caring for aging parents will be best served by remembering the patience their parents displayed when teaching them how to negotiate life. As parents age and become more dependent on their children it is frustrating to no longer be the figurehead. It is frustrating to know that all the things one used to do, one can no longer do. Parents have driven themselves and their families around for most of their lives. To suddenly have the keys taken away can be disappointing, frustrating and the emotions may be strong.
In light of the mounting changes and responsibilities, the frustrations on both sides, it’s important to remember to be patient. It’s important to remember that your beloved parent is not behaving badly intentionally. We must hold onto the love and respect and continuously cultivate that respect for the people who brought us into this world. Leaving this world is so much more challenging than arriving. When those you love most think you are being deliberately cantankerous or mean, and you can’t tell them you don’t mean it, it’s a terrible burden to bear.
It so often feels like parents age very quickly. Aging doesn’t seem to happen as gradually as when children develop. What happened to the once strong person you looked up to and looked to for the answers to all of life’s challenges? You are the figurehead now. You are the one setting the example for your children. Play your cards right and hopefully your children will see mutual respect can be maintained from the beginning of life to its end.
Do You And Your Parents Have A Plan?
One of the most respectful thing parents and children who will likely be caregivers can do for each other is to create and implement a solid estate and asset protection plan. This way when your attention needs to be on the care of your loved one, all the details of life will already be set. This should be done long before signs of dementia or decline are apparent; however, even then it may not be too late.