If you have elderly parents, you might have to step in at some point and provide caregiving services. Whether that concept means hands-on personal assistance with things like bathing, dressing, grooming, and feeding, or handling their finances and making decisions for them, this change in your roles can be challenging for you and your parent. Here are some issues to consider about how to help your elderly parent without ruining your relationship.
It’s Usually Not “Leave It to Beaver”
Many people grow up seeing fictional families on television and wishing their parents and siblings got along better. Very few families measure up to the imaginary ones of fiction. You and your parent probably did not have the kind of relationship in which you would regularly get together for coffee or shopping. Quite a few people have strained interactions with their elderly parents.
Relationships carry the baggage of the past. It is not helpful for people to tell you to forget about the past. Your elderly parent is the same person with whom you have had conflict, which means he or she will continue to do things that upset you. If your parent was extremely authoritarian or independent, it will be difficult for him or her to accept someone telling them what to do – especially one of their children.
Patience versus Doormat
You should try to be understanding of what your elderly parent is going through, losing independence and feeling less valuable or powerful. He might get confused and forget you already did things, he now accuses you of not doing. He might also be dealing with chronic pain and other health issues.
You should, however, set boundaries. Getting old does not give your elderly parent a right to be physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive. Be firm with your parent, if any of these things happen. Being a dutiful son or daughter does not include being a doormat. Calmly inform your parent of the behavior that is not acceptable. You might need to have someone in social services arrange for counseling to help your parent adjust to the reality of aging and needing assistance.
The Silver Lining
For some people, this stage of life is a time to deal with unfinished business. You can talk out problems or questions. You might be able to resolve conflicts that could have caused you regrets down the road. The best approach for this goal to tread lightly. Just because your elderly parent is frail, you do not have the right to beat her up verbally with a long list of criticisms and complaints.
Address only one piece of a small issue in a visit, and do not dredge up unpleasant topics in every visit. You do not want your elderly parent to dread seeing you. Be the kind of person you might wish your parent had been when you were a child – kind, compassionate and nurturing.
Those of you who have enjoyed a happy, healthy relationship with your parents can deepen your mutual affection and interaction. Since your elderly parent is no longer rushing around to work and raise a family, you can have uninterrupted conversations and create memories to treasure. People who have had strained relationships might get to reach the point, at which they have pleasant times with their elderly parents.
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