One topic that no one enjoys thinking about let alone talking about is how to accept and cope with the fact that our parents aging. As we enter our midlife, our parents are either in their golden years or entering retirement age. Their health may be deteriorating, or they may not be able to get around as easily as they once did. Maybe our relationship with our parents have not always been easy and that is causing worry or conflict. Even then, the thought of our parents not being around forever can be scary, sad and cause anxiety for everyone.
With a bit of discussion and planning, we can help ourselves (and our parents) navigate this next phase of life. Below I have come up with my 5 Tips for Navigating Life with Aging Parents.
Plan ahead for Health or Accessibility Concerns
We all know that planning ahead for things cuts down on unforeseen troubles and anxiety! Speaking to your aging parents about potential health problems or accessibility concerns you each have BEFORE they become an issue will save everyone a lot of frustration! Have these conversations often and be open to each other’s opinions and feelings. Work TOGETHER to adopt a plan of action for the future.
Call and Visit Often
Luckily, I live close to both of my parents. While I do not see them every day, we usually speak on the phone if not daily, several times a week. When I don’t speak to them, it feels as if something in my day is missing, or I am forgetting to do something. Just as we enjoy hearing from our own children, our parents look forward to hearing and seeing us!
Include and Invite Your Parents Places
If you are lucky enough to live close, make sure you include and invite your parents with you when you attend events or go places. Even if they do not accept your invitation each time, they will appreciate the invite. Not to mention, everyone wants to feel loved and included! If you do not live close, consider planning vacations with your parents. Pick a place they have always wanted to go. Utilize technology to involve them via video chat. Address accessibility issues by making arrangements for them easy. Maybe they no longer drive or need help getting into a restaurant or event. Again, planning ahead will make all the difference!
Just as midlife changes for us can be scary, your parents aging and the difficulties that may bring is scary for them. Listen to their health concerns and fears. In the event that they need assistance with making doctor appointments or finding a health care provider, make it known you are available for them. If you cannot be available, make arrangements for someone they trust to assist them.
Monitor for Safety Concerns
For the purpose of safety, monitor your parents’ homes, driving skills and accessibility if possible. Maybe they are nervous about the changing neighborhood and worry about crime. Consider installing a monitoring service or security cameras for them. If driving is becoming difficult, have an honest and open conversation with them regarding your concerns and fear for their safety. Remind them you want them around as long as possible and safe from automobile accidents. Make adjustments to their homes by adding railings or other safety measures. Maybe a ramp is easier for them to access their front door instead of stairs.
As a final point, navigating the topic with our parents of their aging is not always easy. Some parents may not be ready to accept that they can no longer do the things they used to. Aging is scary for all of us. New changes can sometimes cause frustration or even depression. Above all, remain PATIENT and loving and respectful. Plan ahead without being bossy. Remind them they are loved, and it is your turn to take great care of them just as they have always done for you!