Aging parents are a part of life, after all we all get older. The difficult thing about getting older is that things seem to start wearing out. All of us will reach a point where we can’t do what we used to, even to the point where we cannot take care of ourselves as we need to.
Watching a parent age can be very difficult but nothing is more difficult than the time in which you have to make the transition of stepping in to help your parent as they age.
I am in the that phase of life right now. My dad is 83 and he has to have 24-hour care and companionship due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Even if we were not dealing with this divesting disease, he would be reaching a time in life where he would need more help taking care of this home or even his health.
Here are 3 ways to gracefully handle this new phase of life:
Realize you are not experiencing a role reversal.
Many people refer to this time in life as a role reversal, you become the parent and your parent becomes the child. That is not true. You parent is still your parent and always be. They are just aging and are not able to do all the things they used to do for themselves.
As I have watched my dad’s disease progress I have been sure to keep our roles in the forefront of my mind. He is my dad in need of my help not a child. This has helped me stay present in the moment. Instead of trying to reteach something or reacting to a mistake he makes over and over again in frustration. I try to just take a deep breath and remind myself he can’t help it.
It can be divesting to your parent to find themselves in a place where they can’t do all the things they used to do so easily.
How you treat them will make all the difference in the world. No adult wants to be treated like a child! Though you might be doing things for your parent that you do for your children please remember this is the person who changed your diaper, taught you to walk and loved you through the teenage years. They are still your parent!
Always show honor to your parent.
Exodus 20:12 tells us to “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
There is no expiration date on this command.
Though this time of transition is difficult always keep in mind you are to treat them with honor. There are so many changes happening in their life when you keep honor and respect as a part of your relationship it will make the changes easier to deal with.
As with all people, we need to treat our parents the same way we want to be treated.
As my family has faced the many changes brought about with age and disease I have always strived to keep the golden rule in mind. Someday I will be the one needing help. How would I want to be treated?
How would you feel if you were no longer allowed to drive and expected to give up your favorite activities? Look for other options. It might be time for your parent to stop driving but finding alternative transportation will be crucial to keeping them healthy.
My dad has always been very physically fit and he loves sports so when we reached the stage in his disease that the doctor said we needed to take away the keys I looked high and low to find someone to take over the part he could no longer do, drive.
He still loved participating in playing volleyball 3 times per week and work outing at the gym the other 3 days. He was able to continue playing volleyball for 3 more years and he still lifts weights at the gym 3 times per week. Needing more help in life meant he had to give up the keys but not the activities he loves so much.
Losing independence is difficult, treating your parent with honor will make it easier to accept.
Appreciate them for who they are right now as well as who they have been to you your whole life.
We hear it over and over again but there is a lot of truth in the statement, stay in the moment. Pooh has some wisdom to share in around this:
“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
Staying in the moment with your parent can really help you emotionally deal with how much life has changed for you and your parent. Make each day together a favorite day.
We all love to have fun. No matter our age laughter is good medicine for the soul. Challenge yourself to find ways to have fun together.
As Dad became more limited in the things he could do we searched for other things he had enjoyed in the past. I remembered playing ping pong with him when I was little so we gave it a try. He loved it and was still really good. Soon we replace the formal living room with a ping pong table. It has been the source of tons of fun for us, as well as for the others caring for him.
All of us enjoy things we are good at much more than something that is a struggle. Keep searching to find the things that still bring joy to your parent, it will create the opportunity for new good memories.
Appreciating them in the moment will help you cherish the time you spend with them now as you know they will not always be here. Your time and support will mean more to your parent than you can imagine.