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Caring for Your Ageing Parent/s

Empowering you and your elderly parent/s when they need your support.

We’re all aware of what happens as we grow up. Our bodies age, our skin creases and our life experiences mount up. However, what we don’t always consider is how that universal struggle happens to our parents too. As we age, so do they. It’s almost impossible to conceive a world where the people who raised us aren’t in it anymore, and yet, for many of us, a time comes when they need us to support them the way they used to support us. Not only is this an incredibly emotional time, it’s a duty that tends to fall on women rather than men1, which is a societal issue that needs addressing.

This article is going to discuss the ways women can feel positive and empowered during this challenging time.

The reality of your obligations

We all live busy lives that can make looking after our ageing parent/s more challenging. Whether they live alone, with each other, or with you, the time and commitment that is required to ensure they receive a high standard of care can feel overwhelming.

Some of the support roles you may be expected to take on:

  • Housing
  • Finances
  • Shopping
  • Cleaning
  • Companionship
  • Health and wellbeing

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Every situation is different, which is why it’s worth exploring exactly what is expected of you. Once your parent/s’ needs are established, you must then consider what you’re able and willing to offer. Some daughters hire a caregiver to deal with some of the more practical aspects of their responsibilities, but that isn’t always financially viable. If that’s the case, there are other options available such as a care home or moving your parent/s in with you.

The emotional rollercoaster

When our parent/s require extra support, their needs can vary quite drastically. Whether it’s mobility issues or something as serious as Alzheimer’s, any change or disruption to our lives can have a marked impact on our health and wellbeing. It’s important to remember that while you and your parent/s adjust to the new dynamic, there will be ups and downs and everything in between. Settling into a new routine takes time, patience, and realistic expectations.

Boundaries and self-care

It’s true that unless you’re looking after yourself properly, you can’t look after anyone else. It’s not selfish to make yourself a priority while you’re dealing with an emotionally charged and difficult time. Remember to seek support from loved ones and friends, ensure you have space for yourself, and set healthy boundaries with your parent/s. This can include how often you spend time with them, when you visit/call/interact, and what you can realistically take on support-wise. Open communication is the key to ensuring you all feel respected and supported. It’s also important to forgive yourself when and if the situation gets on top of you. You are not an invincible machine with an unlimited source of patience and resilience. It’s okay to get overwhelmed need some space sometimes.

Help them help themselves

Our parents have looked after us for most of our lives, so when the tables are turned and they need our support, they can feel incredibly disempowered. Depending on their level of mobility and independence, there are ways you can help them retain some independence.

  • You can encourage them to visit community gatherings where they can meet other elderly people to interact with, giving them a social life and something to look forward to.
  • You can encourage them to take up a new hobby that keeps their mind occupied when you’re not around.
  • You can teach them how to use modern technology so they can stay connected with you and others, find new interests or distractions, and feel empowered to take control of their own life admin and entertainment.

The circle of life

It may sound cliched, but life is beautiful. It may not feel like it during the moments of difficulty or sorrow, but you have been given an opportunity to spend time with your parent/s during the last years of their life. It’s precious and not something everyone has the opportunity to experience. Although this can feel like a huge amount of pressure, it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Take the time to find the joy in the moments you share with your parent/s. Reconnect with them: bond, laugh, cry, relive memories, resolve issues and – most importantly – remember to be grateful for the life they’ve given you. Love is painful and beautiful; death is inevitable, and life is the only journey we all share. You won’t always get it right, but keeping this in mind can help you feel more positive during the moments of difficulty.

Resources

There are a lot of resources available for people looking for guidance and advice. Be Female is one charity that can offer support, while Age UK and AgeinPlace.org are also good sources of information. Regardless of how you choose to look after your ageing parents, feel safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to carry the emotional weight alone.

For further information on how stay positive when your parents need your support, visit our help page here.

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References

  1. Homecare. It’s not a woman’s job to look after ageing parents. Source article: https://www.homecare.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1606764/Its-not-a-womans-job-to-look-after-ageing-parents-says-Age-UK-boss

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