As you grow into your adult life, developing your independence along your own unique path, your parents are simultaneously ageing into their silver years. They’ll be approaching retirement, with the final chapter of their lives on the horizon and the reality that this entails weighing heavily on their minds. This article takes a look at what the children of elderly parents can do to support their loved ones in old age, much as these parents once nurtured them when they were young. The tips below will help you be compassionate and practical when confronted with the dilemmas of senior life.
You may well arrive at a point when your parents are simply unable to take care of themselves and their home on their own. Whether this is due to long-term illness, frailty or fatigue, running the house that they’ve enjoyed for years can prove increasingly difficult for older people whose energy and wellbeing are on the decline. Difficult conversations are here due: should they relocate to an old people’s home, or to a modest bungalow with assisted living possibilities? Don’t be afraid of this conversation. It may well become inevitable over the next handful of years.
While speaking of death is still largely taboo, especially for the elderly, it’s again another fact that you’ll have to accept. The death of an elderly parent can have devastating effects on their whole family, and especially their spouse – your other parent – who will have been with their partner for decades. Your responsibilities upon the death of a parent are to support your remaining parent through the grief and to help organise the funeral in order to mourn appropriately with all those who loved the individual who passed away.
As humans age, they become more likely to contract a number of life-threatening and disruptive illnesses and diseases. With a large proportion eventually destined to encounter one of these common ailments, it’s best to school yourself on how you can help in the event of one or both of your parents falling ill. Excellent resources exist on the internet to support this process, with dementia support from Dementia Australia and tips available online, and medical advice for those who have cancer and other disruptive illnesses circulating on forums and medical sites across the net.
Many old people can lead a life of increasing destitution if they’ve not saved enough money over the course of their working lives. It’s in this sense that helping your ageing parents with their finances can be of utmost importance. This isn’t to say that you should be giving them a monthly allowance or other infantilising hand-outs, but you should make yourself aware of the economic health of your parents, and with this knowledge ensure that you’re providing them with enough wealth and resources to help maintain their lifestyles – or put food on the table, at least. Make sure to keep asking about your parents’ finances to avoid them slipping into debt in old age.
Whether you’re taking your parents to hospital appointments or simply into the city centre to buy groceries, supplies or new clothes, transport is something that older citizens can struggle with as they lose their ability to drive their own vehicles. If your parents are living in an area in which public transport is scarce, they’re even more likely to isolate themselves as they decide to cut down on their driving, spending more time at home and less time exploring the world around them. Make yourself available to your old-age parents frequently in order to help them transport themselves to keep appointments, see friends, or make essential purchases.
As well as the most crucial and morbid support suggested above, there’s also an element to your support of elderly parents that is softer around the edges – your emotional presence in their lives. To be a supportive presence in this sense, you should:
- Make sure that you visit them regularly
- Introduce them to your grandchildren as much as possible
- Make regular phone calls to keep up to date with their lives
- Invite them over for family events such as meals or birthday parties
- Consider taking them on a short holiday to show your love for them
However you choose to support your beloved elderly relatives, it’ll be appreciated in making their lives that bit more bright, happy and exciting.
These tips aim to outline your major responsibilities towards your parents as they approach old age, preparing you for their twilight years and the support that might require of you.