Caring for elderly parents can be a rewarding mission, a two-way street filled with joy!
When your parents grow old and are no longer able to adequately take care of themselves, there are a number of ways to deal with this natural development of aging. Too often, their grown children opt for a nursing home solution, even when they know their parents would prefer to stay in their own home, or perhaps move in with you. It's easy to rationalize this choice. Some kids of aging parents feel they're not qualified to give the proper time and care required in caring for elderly parents. Others feel that such an arrangement will eventually result in discordant relations among family members, or that their own hectic schedules will become unmanageably disrupted. What most people in this position fail to realize is that, instead of being a burden, caring for elderly parents can be a wonderful blessing.
Many children of the elderly also end up feeling guilty, believing they just don't really want to provide the necessary care. In fact, it's usually more a case of feeling fearful. After all, your parents raised and nurtured you until adulthood, continuing to provide support, good advice, a shoulder to cry on and sharing the good times long after you were out of the nest. Now, it's your turn to give some of that nurturing back.
If you feel beset by fears of caring for elderly parents, which is typically the basis of any reluctance to take on this responsibility, here are a few facts you should know.
First, as for being able to provide competent care, there are many avenues by which you can become educated in care giving for the elderly. Your first stop should be at your parent's doctors office. Make an appointment to discuss the sort of care the doctor feels your parent needs. Ask about community-sponsored classes in care giving as well as caregiver support groups. Such venues can boost your confidence tremendously and acquaint you with common problems encountered in a care giving environment. You might also investigate online support groups and forums which focus on caring for elderly parents. You'll learn everything you need to competently and compassionately provide care for seniors.
If you fear that having your parent move in with you will disrupt your family life, schedule and activities, think again. Elderly people still enjoy their privacy, too and likely have a circle of friends they remain in contact with and arrange outings, visits and activities on a regular basis. They want to maintain an independent life of their own as well. It's just that, at this point in their life, they need to rely on you to do certain tasks they're no longer capable of performing for themselves. Perhaps you need to remind them to take medications, drive them to doctor's appointments, or help them in and out of the bath.
One most important element of caring for elderly parents is giving them a sense of a warm and loving environment. Sitting with the family at dinner helps ward off loneliness, creating a sense of belonging, which a nursing home, no matter how lovely, simply doesn't provide. Remember how enjoyable it was for you, as a child, to share conversation and laughter around the kitchen table? Don't make the mistake of thinking that your parents have now outgrown this simple pleasure.
When you are caring for elderly parents, you'll soon see that the arrangement is a two-way street. You'll derive as much pleasure as they, recalling times past, reviving old, but pleasant memories. You may also be surprised to learn about your parents' younger years, events and thoughts they never previously discussed. Indeed, you may find their lives to be fascinating, in a way you never imagined, when your Mom was always busy cooking, cleaning, helping you with your homework and dispensing love galore. Dad might have been always working, but also managed to squeeze in a ball game and grill your dates for suitability.
Caring for elderly parents is a wonderful opportunity for you to get to know your parents in a fuller, richer way. Embrace this blessing! The rewards may well astonish you.