Eventually you the child grows up and begins to carve out a life. You may have a job, fighting to make ends meet or perhaps things are going well for you and your significant other. You check in with your parent(s) with visits or phone calls and within those windows, everything seems fine.
YOU: “Hey Mommy. Just calling to check in on you. How was your day?”
MOTHER: “Oh baby, I went to town today, to get some things for the house and pick up some medication. I saw a lady that gave me a help out, and I also stopped in at NIS to check on things. I’m alright. Got everything done. How are you Sunshine?”
(The conversation continues with general chit chat)
However, what the child may not know about the day, are the finite details. Four buses refused to stop for her, as the grey hair bellowed in the wind, because “Tante, you will slow us down.” Then continue waiting until she gets a spot within the second row of the bus, as it is the easiest to get into. While standing in line to pay for groceries, her walking stick falls, and she cannot bend down to pick it up. She is saved by the kindness of a middle-aged person who takes pity. This senior citizen has shoulder and leg pain, and it is a real struggle to lift those heavy bags of groceries onto the bus. It was the truth, she did go to the pharmacy to get medication, but did not end up purchasing it because she had to make a choice between food or medicine and chose food. Typically, the first defence is, she can ask for help. Maybe she did once and felt embarrassed. After been ‘in charge’ all your life, handling everything and then to turn around and HAVE TO ASK for assistance can be daunting.
Caring for a parent(s) is a delicate balance. Not everyone had a great childhood. In some instances, when the child ‘breaks free’ they do not look back as they move away from the verbal narcissistic, controlling, physically abusive, sexually tormenting, and/or emotionally deprived home. When this child did return home, hoping for the relationship they always wanted, got burned time and time again and has given up trying. Others had wonderful childhoods. The home was fully functional, full of love, peace, and present caregivers. Visits to the home after independence for this child, are filled with smiles, laughter, hugs, shared stories about growing up and plenty kisses. Based on these variables, no one can dictate to others what they ought to do. However, this health perspective is to encourage those with living parents to examine their parents living condition, economic wellbeing, healthcare and emotional/mental soundness – as you are able. Or maybe you already are assisting, and the burnout does not allow you to see the new needs.
Here are 5 tips to consider:
Invest a full day periodically with your loved one, especially errand days, and observe how they are moving around. Treat it as a Bonding Day. Be present and help as necessary. Be mindful, some parents may suddenly change plans, so you won’t be able to ‘see’ them at moments of weakness; nonetheless keep insisting. Also, evaluate the cleanliness of the home. In your estimation, can the parent continue keeping the outside and inside of the house tidy on their own – or do they now need help. Pop up visits work best for that, otherwise the parent may overexert themselves to clean before your arrival. Another point to consider is the parent expressing concern about living alone. Will an aid at night make them comfortable, can children take shifts spending the night or can siblings rotate taking the loved one in for a year each – as a suggestion. As elder abuse is a real thing, do inquire/observe if the parent seems uncomfortable with that family member who is currently living with them.
Some persons are 100% reliant on their pension plans. For many, it is not enough to meet monthly expenses. Write out all of the medical expenses, groceries, utility, medication and so forth that are required a month. Then compare that total with their pension income. Similarly, ask the person, what can you do that would help them out a bit.
- Have a family meeting with siblings
Once it has been determined the new needs of your parent, have a meeting apart from the parent to discuss what you have learned with siblings or family members who can pitch in. The parent does not need to privy to arguments or frank conversations about who can do what and for how long. Assistance can range from scheduled visits, one person committing to paying for medication, another utility, another food. Or perhaps everyone agrees to provide a set amount every month, so the parent is no longer secretly stressed.
After everything has been ironed out, have another meeting, this time with parent present and share what everyone will be doing moving forward. Share this innovation in a manner that will be received as, “It is being done as general love, care, concern and a willingness to just be helpful.” Ignore their efforts to refuse assistance as you would have already assessed and discussed the situation.
- Reassess Monthly
Check-in with those who made commitments and ensure that they can continue or if a reshuffling of responsibilities is needed. This is an important point to consider because sometimes life happens and people’s responsibilities or obligations change. If an obligation can no longer be met, that information must be discussed apart from the parent, with the core group, to come up with how it can be met. If the parent is told, they may feel obligated to ‘cover’ for the person and others may be oblivious to break down in commitment.
These are just suggestions, with the hopes it can begin an important conversation as it relates to senior care. The goal is simply to ensure that your parent is indeed ‘ok.’