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.
Watching our parents age is not easy no matter how you look at it. I hope you have found my 3 tips to gracefully help your parents as they age helpful.
If you are facing challenges with this transition in your life, coaching might be just what you need to handle it better. I would love to help. Please contact me and we can set up a time to visit and see if coaching is a good fit for you.
If you have additional tips or ideas to deal with aging parents I would love to have you share them below.
When did your mom become one of the smartest people you know? Isn’t it funny how when we were growing up it felt as if there was so much she just didn’t understand? When did you realize you were becoming just like her?
Transitioning into an adult can be challenging and complicated. I think one of the sweetest parts is when we are able to step back and think about how our parents influenced who you are today.
Since my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease when I was just 16 I have often thought of what I missed. Obviously, there are many things which we did not get to experience as mother and daughter.
Mom was never able to share dating or marriage advice. She didn’t get to beam with pride as the grandma of my sweet niece and nephew and tell us all about how they do things just like we did. We did not have the opportunity to walk this life as friends but she did teach me many things I am very thankful for. Here are just 5 of the lessons I learned from my amazing mom.
1. If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.
I know we have all heard this saying and I definitely grew up hearing it.
When my mom passed away I was so blessed to hear over and over again from people who knew her well that they never heard her say a bad thing about anyone. Not only did she teach me an important life skill but she lived it every day.
2. If you get it out, put it back when you are done.
Don’t you love it when you read something and you can hear the person who said it to you 1,000s of times saying it?
Mom taught me how to keep an orderly home and how much easier it is to find things when you put them away. I’m sure like all kids I did not always do a good job keeping things picked up but Mom never gave up training me.
3. Spend your money wisely.
Just because it seems like a good deal doesn’t mean it is.
I will never forget the summer when everyone was getting a pass to the swimming pool. I was so upset when Mom would not let me buy a pass. Instead she put the money in an envelope and had me take out the cost of getting into the pool each time I went. She assured me she would pay for additional visits if I went through my money in the envelope. Of course when the end of summer came there was money left in the envelope. I have not always spent my money wisely but practical her teaching has helped me to avoid many mistakes.
4. Always try your best, that is all anyone can expect.
Elementary school was no walk in the park for me. I had to work hard to get good grades. I will never forget how much my mom did to support me and help me. She always encouraged me to just do my best and that was good enough for her. You only fail when you stop trying. Thanks to mom I have faced many challenges in life with tenacity and found many successes after not giving up.
5. Reading can be fun.
My mom was a reader. I remember her enjoying books all the time. Since reading did not come easily for me I could never imagine wanting to read for fun. Now as an adult I’m just like my mom. I read for fun daily. I’m so thankful my mom enjoyed books and encouraged me to as well. Reading is not only a great way to learn new things but it also allows me to escape into different worlds.
Looking back it is always easier to see how smart our parents were/are. I wish I had had more time with my mom. She was an amazing lady who loved her family very much and taught me many valuable lessons. I am so thankful to have had her for a mom.
What lessons have you learned from your mom, now that you know how smart she really is?