Caring For Aging Parents

When caring for aging parents, we do our best to offer effective, loving, on-target interventions to address their many needs. Sometimes we move them into our home or we relocate into theirs – for as long as we can. When it becomes clear that your parent requires more attention, time, skill and/or expertise than you can offer, a tremendous amount of guilt may distract from making timely choices for the next ‘must-be-taken’ step. Getting out from under that cloud of harsh self-judgment begins with re-framing the worn-out phrase: “You can do anything you set your mind to” so that it accurately reflects the human condition.  In other words, if you have done everything reasonably within your power (short of taking a home health-aide course, joining a gym to build muscles in order to physically rise to the task at hand – you get the idea), it becomes essential to temper the quoted statement above to: “You can do anything you put your mind to – within reason.” This takes into consideration personal resources including but not limited to: money, time, logistics & energy demand.

Once the decision has been made to include others in the journey, in consideration of the health and well being of you as well as your loved one(s), the ‘next step’ might include bringing a professional caregiver onto your wellness team. When searching for reputable in-home attendants, it is optimal to get word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or other family members who have experienced the journey before. If personal recommendations are not available, you can tap into online resources (such as AgingCare.com.)  If the ‘next step’ for your situation includes relocating your parent to a long term care facility, and no personal recommendations are available, then checking out resources for their on-site reputation becomes a viable alternative. You might find this resource helpful:  click here.

What if you have a particular location in mind?  For example, if geographic location to facilitate visits is a priority, choosing a facility that falls within your target radius may be done by searching online by the name of the state you have in mind.  For example, if seeking information about reputable facilities in Pennsylvania, you might check out this link: click here.   It might help to become familiar with terminology so that you can best address your particular needs; for example, your parent might need help with medication, bathing and eating. You may or may not need to consider memory support (dementia) in terms of hands-on ratio of care-givers at a particular facility; click here to learn more about how to meet your needs for your aging parent.

There are many additional considerations including but not limited to financial concerns, informing close friends or family, (as well as deciding whether or not to include the parent about whom you are concerned and/or those family & friends) in the decision-making process. This bring us to what may be, for some, the most significant concern; specifically, that which involves informing the aging parent of the ‘next-step’ process. Bringing a social worker or other well trained mental health professional on board at this tender time might be helpful – especially if your parent slips in and out of awareness. You might require more support than the parent for whom relocation and increased care is being planned. If your parent is relatively well oriented, then involving your parent – if that person is capable of decision-making, may provide a valuable bonding experience for all involved.

Decisions made out of sincere concern and love are very different from the “dumping” label we tend to give ourselves when considering long term care for aging and/or otherwise incapacitated loved ones.  In addition, the various elements of self-inflicted guilt you have mastered might be dissolved if your parent expresses awareness and agreement with the logic of the ‘next-step’ – whether it involves bringing an additional caregiver onto the team, or moving to a reputable facility in order to best meet the needs of all involved.

Whether the discussion happens in advance or at the time of need, it is best to have a few hints and tips in your back pocket. If you are fortunate enough to have parents who are alert, oriented and able to have this important discussion, click here for a few tips. Additional helpful pointers may be found at the following link:  click here.

Life is filled with lessons – some of which are learned more easily than others.  Try to learn from every experience, and find ways to let yourself off the hook when guilt distracts you from joy.  It is a difficult time for all involved.  Engaging a mental health professional yourself might assist in your journey back to centering your balance of mind, body and spirit. Remember, every family member is affected by this milestone.  Try to be kind and gentle with yourself and with each other.  Life is precious and there are always blessings to count.  Here’s to your best health.  ~Dr. Iankowitz

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