Magazine article Work & Family Life

Facing the Plain Truth and Practical Realities of Elder Care

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Facing the Plain Truth and Practical Realities of Elder Care

Article excerpt

There are certain realities to caring for aging parents that may not be easy to accept but can't be ignored, because they provide a realistic basis for your actions and decisions. Here are some of the most important:

Your parents may not come around to your way of thinking. For example, you may dislike the way they're living or handling their money. But if you try to impose your will, they may become more stubborn and may even stop talking with you. If your parents comply grudgingly, they'll try to undermine your efforts, and if they surrender altogether, they may become completely dependent on you. Be willing to give a little. Look for a compromise. Accept an outcome that falls short of your wishes. Your parents have the right to make their own decisions. As long as they're capable of making decisions, they have the right to manage their own lives as they see fit. You may not appreciate their refusal to do things as you would like, but unless their health and safety are at risk, you have to bow out. Contrary to popular belief, you never become your parents' parent. As a caregiver, you are their helper. Although you may have to make decisions for your parents, you always remain their child. Ask permission before making changes or suggestions. Of course, if your parents' judgment is impaired, you will have to act in their best interest. If they are rude and bullying, you may need to assert yourself strongly. But to the extent possible, show respect to get cooperation.

Even if you can't agree, something good may come from simply talking. If you try to encourage your mother to give up her third-floor apartment, but she lets you know that she doesn't want to and can manage on her own, then a fruitful discussion has taken place. She knows that you're concerned about her, and you know that you can try again should circumstances change.

Not being clear about what you want can lead to bad decisions. Not bringing matters out into the open can lead to bad decisions. If your dad agrees to move in with you because he thinks that's what you want, and you invite him to move in because you think that's what he wants, you may both end up with a "solution" that makes neither of you happy.

Your parents may not tell you they need help. And even if you ask, they may deny it. "I didn't want to worry you" is a phrase you're likely to hear. Parents often conceal their anxieties and mask their distress because they don't want to be a burden. …

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