How to Parent Your Aging Parents
- Guy Hatcher The Legacy Guy
- 2016 19 Jan
Tough Love: Parenting our Parents
Our world is full of Heroes. Maybe in your home it is the action figure your young children want to be like, a favorite NFL player, or a person who most reflects what you want to be. Heroes encourage us to look beyond our definition of "normal " and believe we can accomplish the impossible — just by slipping on a power suit we will instantly acquire the mental fortitude to finish the course.
My hero is my beautiful wife. Tamara’s every day journey entails helping to raise our two teenage daughters all while taking care of her elderly mother. And, if this alone is not enough she jumps and helps with the care of my elderly mom.
Research shows females between the ages of 45-56 are the main caregivers for aging family members. They are referred to as the “sandwich generation,” because they are still parenting their children and maintaining a career while offering their parents care and support. While this is a formidable task it also one which is quite worthy in God’s eyes.
God’s word says to "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" – Exodus 20:12.
My wife and I are both Baby Boomers and because of the increased average life expectancy for Americans, we are also part of the “sandwich generation.” We have experienced many things along the journey of raising our daughters while, at the same time, taking care of both of our mothers. We have learned there are four necessary steps to successfully manage the care of an aging parent.
1. Cognitive Clarity.
Clarity of mind is our ability to understand and finish projects, tasks and goals. Cognitive clarity can be affected by stress, trauma, physical conditioning and age. As cognitive clarity wanes, so does a person's ability to reason and understand. The difficult reality is; they are no longer the same person they once were. My experience is that adult children become highly frustrated when they try to reason with a cognitively impaired parent about changes or choices. They still expect the parent to reason and react as they did in earlier years. If this is your situation you, as the adult child, must come to understand the time has come for you to step into a parental role with your parent. Since your parent no longer has the ability to make rational choices consistently, the roles must be switched. This requires you to step into the role of parent with patience and love. Your parent has become your child in that they now look to you for protection and help in making daily life choices.
2. Ability to Perform.
There are processes that can be implemented allowing for adult children to provide for their parent when needs arise. Legal documents including Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney are mandatory. These documents give your, the child, the ability to step in as your parent's agent when necessary to make financial and health care decisions. Upon your parent's signature, it gives you the power to make decisions immediately or after they have become incapacitated. Either way, completing these documents gives your family a back-up plan of support. If possible, meet with your parent's advisors (attorney, financial planner, and CPA) to better understand how to support their goals and plans. Establish a budget and help them monitor bill paying activities. As long as possible, encourage them to sign the checks before mailing, so your parent still feels in control.
As more changes begin to affect your aging parent, look for sources that can become a part of the support team to provide a safe and healthy environment. Senior care services are available and can provide in-home or custodial care as needed. As an alternative, if the budget allows, new options are available in senior housing. Due to the immense wave in the Baby Boomers marching toward their final phase of life, retirement villages are emerging all over the country. Many provide progressive care beginning with independent living, when necessary moving to assisted living and ending with full-scale nursing care to assist seniors as their needs change. Research what is available in your community as well as what resources are available to help your family successfully complete this journey.
The only way to effectively complete the journey of parenting on both fronts is to recharge. If your gas tank hits empty, someone will then need to step in and take care of you and consequently everyone suffers. Find a friend, clergy, counselor or support group that can encourage, pray, laugh and cry with you along the way. Set, for yourself, weekly times to work out, read or just take a nap. Ask other family members to share with time and/or money the load in caring for your parent. Remember you cannot give what you don't have — so recharging is necessary and hopefully staying charged is mandatory!
In order to finish well, embrace three words: acceptance, honor and respect. It is important that you accept the fact that this is a journey we will all walk through as we enter the elderly years of life. Showing honor and respect with a loving spirit of protection is mandatory as preserving your parent’s dignity should always be first on your list of priorities. Your ultimate goal should be to provide them with the highest quality of life possible.
Consider this final phase as the natural progression of the patriarch’s or matriarch’s passing of the generational torch. Finish the journey well as your children are watching and will emulate your actions as they continue to walk out your family’s legacy in one day caring for you.
Guy Hatcher: The Legacy Guy® – passionately coaches individuals and families in how to live a life filled with purpose while building a strong legacy that will deeply influence present and future generations. Follow him on Facebook: @Guy Hatcher, Instagram: @Guy Hatcher, Twitter @guyhatcher or contact him at www.guyhatcher.com.
Publication date: January 19, 2016