Aging Parents: My Mom or Dad needs help!

Moment of Truth - Brigitte Gueyraud

Moment of Truth – Brigitte Gueyraud

It’s painful to watch the physical and perhaps mental decline of someone you love. He or she has been there, always as you remember them to be, holding up the tent of the familiar world. We feel the helplessness of the frail old woman in Brigitte Gueyraud’s poignant painting.

As parents age, the vector of care shifts from adult “child” to parent. The reality is that you or your siblings are needed to help manage the complex ongoing care and changing medical needs of your parents so that they are as safe as possible.

What kinds of issues come up over and over?

Your parent(s) may or may not be in the habit of being their own friend:

  • You might need to find ways to encourage them drink water when they don’t like it to avoid trips to the hospital for dehydration.
  • It may not be safe for him or her to live alone as they always have. The inclusion of a caregiver into daily life or the move to assisted living or a nursing home is an enormous change.
  • Perhaps hiding or decreasing the booze is an issue.
  • They may feel hostility towards medical personnel or caregivers who, in actual fact, don’t butter the toast correctly.
  • A poignant moment comes when it is dangerous for them to drive.
  • You may need to help them decide about invasive ongoing medical intervention vs. hospice care and pain management.

Helping the helper:

  • You are giving increasingly stressful time to them while working and perhaps raising children yourself. We need to help you to help them.
  • What is the response of your current family?
  • The difficulties of the situation can not only try your patience but may also recall issues from your childhood. No matter how long ago, those reminiscenes weigh heavily and can interfere with your ability to act as you wish.The goal is doing it well, whatever that means for you, so that you avoid future regret.

No matter how expected, the finality of death is terrible. Over the years I have accompanied many people through this shock.