Understanding the Aging Process: Adapting to Your Parents’ Needs (Part 2 of 4)

At The Reutlinger, we are experts in the aging process and strive to educate our residents, future residents and adult children about what to expect as a parent ages. In this four-part series, we explore the aging process and provide tips to help adult children navigate and manage these changes.

The aging process doesn’t just affect the individuals themselves. Aging has a ripple effect, spreading to friends, family and loved ones. The people who are usually the most affected are adult children – often because they end up as primary caregivers, but also because the role shift can hit them the hardest.

“Ever since we can remember, our parents have been the ones who guide and take care of us, but as they age, adult children end up stepping into that ‘parenting’ role,” says Andrea Campisi of The Reutlinger, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “This can cause a lot of tension in the relationship on both sides. On one side, parents will always view their children as ‘children,’ and there can be some big power struggles because of it. On the other side, adult children can experience feelings of grief, guilt and resentment because they’re thrust into a role they may not have been prepared for.”

Adapting to Your Parents’ Needs

Transitions are a natural part of daily life and, as with any transition, the best time to plan is before it happens. However, while a highly detailed plan can help plan actions, there are still issues that can arise due to personalities, emotions and mental states. There will be arguments, there will be frustrations and there will be sadness. But there can also be happiness, happy times and strengthened relationships, too. Here are some tips for helping adult children understand, prepare and adapt for the changes and challenges that come with the aging process:

Understand and be sympathetic about the realities that come with aging. Our health experiences a general decline as we age. We have more aches and pains and take longer to recover from sickness. You may notice your parents complaining more than they have in the past. While it’s tempting to shrug off their minor ailments, it’s important to be supportive and understand that they could be facing some very real health issues. Offer to drive your parents to get care if needed, even if they don’t want to “trouble you.” By checking into little problems, you can save them from much bigger harm down the road.

Know that disagreements will happen, and that’s okay. You may have what you believe is the best approach for Mom and Dad … but your parents don’t think so and have their own opinions. There are disagreements that come with any situation, especially in a big and emotionally charged situation like aging. Always remember that disagreements happen and are a normal part of daily life. Both seniors and adult children should do their best to listen thoughtfully and respectfully, acknowledge each other’s feelings and opinions, and work together to get through disagreements.

Avoid making unilateral decisions on behalf of your parents. No one likes to be told what to do or have their future decided for them. Although adult children may make decisions for their parents out of a place of love (or because it’s easier), this ends up making the parent feel marginalized, hopeless and depressed. Remember that it’s still your parent’s life, and they should have the final say in what happens to them. However, if your parent has advanced dementia or is otherwise mentally unable to make decisions, you or another family member may have to make decisions for them.

Include them as part of your daily life whenever possible and help them stay social. Adult children are busy with their own lives, families, jobs and friends – and up to a point, their parents have been social and active, too. When we age, it’s easy to become socially isolated because it’s too confusing, exhausting or just plain too much work to get out and do things. By reaching out to your parents and including them in your life – even if it’s just a phone call – can help them avoid social isolation and stay emotionally engaged. You can also research senior community centers, adult day services and other organizations that offer social activities where parents can meet new friends or stay connected with old ones.

Ask them how you can help. Your parents are smart cookies (after all, they have an entire lifetime of experiences), and they know very well when they can’t do things. Getting them to admit it and ask for help, however, is a completely different thing. It’s a hard thing to ask for help, so make it easy on your parents and ask them instead how you can help. You can even come up with some ideas and options to present to them to give your parents control and decision. Focus on their needs and what they may require help with, and ask them flat out how you can make things better.

Remember the importance of your relationship and treat each other with dignity, respect, care and love. Aging and the shifting of roles can be difficult, and tempers may flare and voices may raise. But remembering what’s important – the relationship you have with one another, and the love that exists between you – can help both of you step back, take a deep breath and refocus on making memories and a happy life for your parent. Keep your sense of humor. Laugh whenever possible. And although this stage of life comes with challenges, it’s also an opportunity for you and your parent to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering assisted living, enhanced assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, The Reutlinger provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger’s newly renovated 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.