By Cindy Sproles
In a perfect world all aging parents would understand at some point in their lives, there will be need for assistance. When the time arrives, parents would willingly comply with the suggestions of their well-meaning children. But it’s not a perfect world. And…we avoid having the conversation. Here are a couple of reasons why.
No one likes to admit their abilities are slowly becoming inabilities, especially when, through the years, they’ve been independent, self-reliant and able. Still avoiding the conversation is not wise.
There’s always an excuse to prevent families from discussing the care of their aging parents. One of the greatest fears in sharing this information is anger. It’s difficult for parents to hear the words, “You need help.” Remember, our parents were raised during an era in America when they were forced to be self-sufficient. Many survived World War II and even some lived through the Great Depression. Times were hard and survival depended on their determination to care for themselves. Be sensitive to this ingrained independence and self-preservation. Many parents know they need assistance but simply refuse to accept the truth. Sometimes handling the conversation of acceptance in little doses is better. For example, a parent’s laundry may be stacking up because their washing machine is located in a basement. Getting up and down the stairs with a load is hard. They realize this and let the laundry slide. Approach the subject from the laundry stand point as opposed to saying, “You can’t do this anymore.” A dialogue might be like this:
“I see you’re towels are low in the hall closet. Can I help you get that laundry done?” This can lead to conversation that helps the parent see a need for assistance. Perhaps suggest having the appliances moved upstairs for convenience or “Maybe we can find someone to come by weekly and do the laundry for you.” Will there be resistance? Probably. But the subject is approached from a task needing to be completed rather than saying they are just not able anymore. It may take time, but small doses of conversation showing need is better received.
Families fear an onset of depression when aging parents are approached with a need for assistance. Depression is a possibility, especially in those who have lost spouses. When a parent has depended on a spouse for 50+ years, that spouse dies…two things can happen. The surviving parent over compensates by taking a strong initiative in their life or they sink into a deep depression feeling as though they can do nothing for themselves. Depression is best handled by a physician but it is not a reason to gently approach aging parents about assistance in their homes, especially if they are in situations that could endanger them.
*The truth hurts
Unfortunately, the reality of aging hurts. Our immortality becomes imminent especially as they see their peers enter nursing care facilities or pass away. Aging can be frightening and it’s something only few face head on.
The fact remains, if an aging parent needs assistance, take time to have the discussion about their care. Nothing supercedes their health and safety. The conversation is never easy but there are ways to approach the subject that eases tension.