We all learn fairly early in life that there will come a time where we will have to care for our parents just as they cared for us when we were children. And while we might understand this on an intellectual level, the actual reality of making such important decisions can actually be much more challenging that we thought possible.
For one thing, there is the emotional struggle to accept that the people on whom we most relied during one of the most vulnerable parts of our lives are now relying on us during theirs. Compounding the issue is the fact that they, too, are not prepared for the shift. If anything, it’s harder. Our parents are used to being the caregivers and the advisers. Transitioning out of the life they are used to, homes they may have lived in for forty years or more, careers that defined their adult lives, can be a slow, often tumultuous process.
Our most important advice is to learn patience: patience with yourself and with each other. Patience is like a muscle, if you give it exercise, it becomes stronger. Listening is crucial here. Decisions you make here can be painful and you can’t force someone into something they are not ready for and hope to keep your relationship healthy. You can’t look for quick solutions either; the right solution will change over time as your parents’ health changes.
Another factor to consider is the decision making process. Everyone is fallible. The shift to a position of comparative strength in a relationship now doesn’t mean that you suddenly have all the answers. Yes, sometimes you will be right. But, sometimes your parents will be right. And sometimes you will both be wrong and will need to learn the right answers together.
That means not being afraid to seek outside help. Both of you are new at this. Some people spend their entire careers working on these issues. Don’t be too proud to get advice.
Finally, if the decision is made for your parents to move to a new place, make sure that it’s one you will be able and willing to visit. Their biggest fear will be that you will put them away and forget about them as you go on with your life. You owe your parents a lot, everything when you really think about it. Don’t make these decisions without taking your own accessibility into account.
If you have questions or concerns about caring for your aging parents, you can contact us at our website at rcjl.org or call us at 925.648.2800.