Taking care of your aging parents is hard on someone of a young age, but it is especially hard on someone if their fifties or above. Caring for the elderly is a clumsy, exhausting both physically and mentally. It may force-partners isolated caregivers. It can also create a decline in the caregiver. There are 34 million or so Americans caring for a parent or an older relative. Many are in their fifties or above. Many feel honored to provide care for their aging parent, but this honor can also present serious challenges. The one challenge someone sees is the role reversal of parent and child. It is the child now making the decisions for the parent. This can be difficult because the parent may be resistant to this role reversal, but it is a necessity in order to keep your loved one safe and cared for.
The first difficult decision comes when you must decide what to do with the parent that is suffering from memory loss. Then they are eventually diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s. In the early stages of your loved one’s Alzheimer’s or dementia you might find yourselves consulting with your loved one. You may find yourself trying to talk them into moving closer to you, so you can help them more. The challenge with this is they may not want to, and it is okay to respect their decision in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Even when we have had the appropriate conversations with our loved one about his or her wishes under certain health circumstances and we know the choices that need to be made for them. The problem arises that life is rarely so neat that we are presented with clear choices. For this reason, caregivers often need to make tough decisions under sometimes murky conditions.
A murky condition is if your loved one’s condition deteriorates, and you have to decide what is best for everyone. You have to mostly decide what is best for your parent or loved one. This is the time when you find yourself trying to decide if they should move in with you, into an assisted living facility for memory care or a long-term care facility. That’s a decision that you must make on its own value. It is a decision that must be done with research about the facilities and resources near you. It is a very hard decision, but sometimes if you start looking into resources when your parent begins having memory loss and are diagnose in the first stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s it will be a little easier. Sometimes it is a decision that must be done quickly for the safety of your parent or loved one.
You must remember no matter what you choose, it is likely to be emotional. In addition, remember with the role reversal it is a stressful time for you and for your parent or loved one. Moving is stressful for anyone at the best of times, but it is even more so when you’re facing what might be the final move of someone you care about who also happens to be seriously ill. It is also a move that is the best under the present circumstances that will give your parent or loved one the care they need. The care they need for the rest of their life.
When the time comes that your decision is made, try to turn an emotional traumatic move into a positive move for your loved one. Use the move as an opportunity to bond more with your loved one. Help them go through everything and listen to the stories they have about things. Do not force them to get rid of things, offer to store some stuff at your place or in a storage unit. Sometimes looking at each item give them a chance to tell the story about and they are able to let go of it. In addition, make sure you know what your loved can have in the place they are moving to. Many facilities will allow a few mementoes in the room or apartment depending on if it is an assisted living or long-term facility.
Always remember when making any kind of decision for your loved one is that respect for the dignity and legacy of the person we provide care for can be a comforting to them and you. Having a foundation of respect for the vulnerable person we are caring for will mean that even if you have to do the role reversal you can approach this uncomfortable position in a kinder manner. Granted, there may resistance from your parent and with dementia or Alzheimer’s they may get angry and agitated, but if you start with a foundation of respect than your own negative attitude is likely to be short lived. Therefore, you will be able to think more clearly and act with more kindness, even when your parent shows anger and frustration and act out due to the dementia or Alzheimer’s
Respect yourself and your decisions, because when faced with a difficult decision that affects your parent or loved, you may question if you are doing what is best for them to have the best care. Remember you are not perfect and you are doing the best you can under the present circumstances, and that is all a parent wants from a child. If you feel you made a mistake learn from it and move forward, but always with self respect of your own worth. A healthy self respect of your own worth will make you feel less guilty and will also assure yourself you are doing what is best for your parent under the present circumstances.
When you are faced with having to place your parent in an assisted living or long-term care because there is no other way for them to receive good care, do not feel guilty even if you promised them they would not go to a nursing home. If there is no other way for you to care for them, it is the best you can do under the present circumstances. If your guilt is overwhelming, just honor the spirit of your promise and ensure they receive the best care where ever they are living. It is up to the family to get involved with the care even in a facility. Do your best for your parent, just like they did the best for you when you were a child. No one knows the future.
Of course, there are abusive parents who did little to deserve the respect of their children. Even then, in the long run, you, the caregiver, will likely feel much more comfortable making difficult decisions if you can find something in the person's past to respect, even it is just the fact they are your parent. They may have done the best they could even after their abusive childhood. The fact that they are your parents is not an excuse, but maybe a way to move on with your own life and ensure they receive the best care. Remember, no one is perfect and to show love and caring for someone who feel does not deserves your respect, is a rewarding experience and may even help you in ways you do not know. It may show a side of you your children will learn from and feel closer to you and show more respect. You never know what your actions will show your children.
Another hard decision for caring for your parents or loved one is whether or not a certain procedure should be done to keep them alive. Remember to respect what their wishes are, and make sure you know what their wishes are. Should you fight and try to keep them alive when there’s little hope? Should you try and fight to keep them alive when they may not regain consciousness? Should you try to cure the pneumonia that will likely take their life, only to leave them struggling with pain, dementia or Alzheimer’s until the next illness attack? These are questions you need to ask in making that decision. Care-giving is not for the frail of heart. In addition, caring for a parent may have you feeling like an orphan being weighed down with one or two insane strangers. This feeling is normal, and if will pass, as long as you remember they are your parents and your are doing the best you can for them under the present circumstances.
There is always one thing you need to remember when taking care of your parents or loved one, ensure you have the legal documents that allow you to do so. This is something that needs to be done before you have to be placed in the role reversal and have to make those hard decisions. Even with the legal documents there are circumstances that most of us hope to never have to face. Yet many have and have survived. Caring for your parents or a loved one is not easy, and can be very demanding and very emotional, but respect for them and us will help make those tough decisions.