When we’re kids, it seems like our parents will always be there for us. But the reality is that as our parents age, we often need to step up and take care of them. Thus began the sandwich generation, a generation that has found itself taking care of both its parents and its children.
There are many aging seniors who are completely self-sufficient and do not need any interference from their children or families. But there are also many seniors who haven’t planned for what may happen until it’s too late. In cases like this, it’s up to you to step up and help your parents find the right solution for their changing lives.
This is not an easy place to be. It’s incredibly stressful to worry about your parents, and if they are failing in physical and mental health, it’s particularly taxing on the ones who love them. Know that you are not alone in this battle, and there are places where you can turn for support and help.
Recognizing When You Need to Step In
It’s good to have a conversation with your elderly parents or loved ones, even if they are in good health, just to make sure that they are financially sound. But it’s a different kind of conversation when your loved ones are exhibiting signs and symptoms that they may no longer be able to take care of themselves, and need to consider a lifestyle change. According to the State Department, signs that adult children should look for include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Failure to take medication
- Burns or injuries
- Deterioration of personal hygiene and habits
- Car accidents
- Extreme paranoia or suspiciousness
- Consistent disorientation
The idea is to be on the lookout for blackouts or dizzy spells, as well as confusion or forgetfulness. Personality changes can indicate thought disorders and a need for help. Uncharacteristic actions and speech should not be taken lightly – keep a constant dialogue with your loved one’s doctor if any of the above signs appear.
Initiating Communication With Elderly Loved Ones
Often, the hardest step is the first. Your loved one may not be interested in hearing how he or she has gotten old, and may not want you meddling in their affairs. Understand that for most of their lives, your loved ones have been in control of their own future, and the prospect of losing control is very difficult. What’s important is to let your parents know that you care, and that you want to help them without being intrusive or controlling.
The best way to help your loved ones is to make sure that you yourself are educated on the matters that pertain to their lives. Use our Senior Center guide to educate yourself on the legal, financial, and medical matters that can affect the elderly. By being knowledgeable, you’ll be able to help them navigate the process.
It’s also important that you respect yourself during this process. Be honest with your parents and yourself about what you can commit in terms of time and resources. This will help keep you sane and set boundaries for the next few steps.
Here are resources to help you understand communicating with an elder:
Support Group Resources
You are not alone. There are a number of organizations and support groups designed for people like you. Don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance and help.
This forum is designed for caregivers to give advice, share stories, and provide support for each other. Meet someone else who is going through exactly what you’re going through.
With locations across North America, these franchise companies manage everything from packing boxes to finding a real estate agent for moving the elderly.
This nonprofit links caregivers with services for the elderly in the Washington, D.C., area, military families, and around the US.
The nonprofit organization supplies information and resources for those who provide long-term care for a family member or friend at home.
Family Caregiving 101
Find how other family caregivers handled similar challenges and get assistance, answers, new ideas and helpful advice for you and your family.
Designed to increase public awareness of the issues that face family caregivers, this nonprofit coalition connects family caregivers and the professionals who help them.
This online community is devoted to the issues of caring for an aging parent while working full time, including advice for adult children living far from their parents.
Using a question-and-answer format, this booklet offers information about caregiving from afar. It explores topics such as complex family relationships, legal issues, housing options, and advance directives.