How To Parent Your Parents and Not Lose Your Mind
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Aging is a fact of life, there is no doubt about it. Let’s face it, none of us wants to get old. It’s scary, and it’s….. old! AND, it’s really scary when it’s your parents. I mean, our parents have been the ones who have raised you, cared for you, and provided for you until you could do all those things for yourself. It’s hard to see them becoming older and weaker and needing your help. Now you’re visiting the doctor with them, helping them get bathed and dressed, feeding them, helping them in the bathroom; all things you never imaged you would do. When that happens, it’s tough. For them, and for you. Becoming a parent to your parents is not… I repeat, NOT, an easy thing. It’s happening to me right now.
My parents are 81 years old, this month. They have led very long and very full lives. I think back to my grandparents, and in comparison, I’m lucky to still have my parents at their age. On my mom’s side of the family, her dad passed away of a heart attack in his 50’s. Her mother lived until she was 90, but was in a nursing home and had no quality of life at all. My dad’s parents both died in their early 80’s. So, it’s super important that we monitor their health and keep them as active as possible so they can be with us for a good while.
Now, how do I manage to keep my sanity while parenting my parents? Well, let me give you a few of my tips!
Seriously, I know it’s easier said than done, but this is absolutely the most important tip. Patience. Think back to when you were a kid and they took care of you. It took patience on their part. Time to reciprocate. Let’s look at it this way: would you rather they NOT be there? No? Well, have some patience then. Just chill about it.
This is a tough one, but also very important. Accept them as they are. No, they’re not the same as when you were a kid. They’re not the same as when you were a teenager or young adult. Their lives are changing. Physical limitations make it tough for them to just “go” like they were able to before. They’re frustrated that they are slowly losing their independence. I know I would be! They make silly mistakes about unimportant things. Don’t try to correct them. Just let it go! Unless it’s something vital, for example, about their health, or a medical appointment, or prescriptions. That’s different. But if it’s nothing significant, just let it go.
LET THEM REMINISCE
My parents LOVE talking about how things were when they were younger. At times it can be frustrating because you have a bazillion things going on, and listening to their story about Uncle Joe’s cabin and how everyone went to the swimming hole just isn’t one more you want to hear. Right? Seriously, just take five minutes and let them tell their story! It makes them feel better, and you never know, you might pick up something you didn’t hear before! Cherish those stories! Write them down! Someday you’re going to wish you had.
In my case, I have both my parents, but if you have a parent who lives alone, be sure and check-in daily. Not only will it give YOU peace of mind, but it will keep them from feeling forgotten. I get it, we all get busy. Spouses, kids, jobs, households. They all take up a lot of time. But, even a single daily phone call makes them feel loved and remembered. A phone call takes five minutes of your time. They want to hear from you! My parents love hearing how my day was, what I’ve got going on, and what my plans are. They get tired of doctor visits and the droning of the TV. We all crave human contact and conversation. Give them five minutes.
ADJUST YOUR ATTITUDE
Honestly, this is absolutely the single tip I can tell you that will save your sanity. Adjust your attitude. Let me be blunt: suck it up. It’s no picnic for them either. Their lives have changed, therefore so has yours. “Normal” is relative. Accept your new normal and adapt. Trust me, it’s going to be MUCH easier for you to adapt than it will be for them. Do yourself a favor and do it now. Why? Because someday you’re going to be in the exact same position and you’re going to expect your kids to understand you too. I know, we all hate change unless it’s OUR idea. Well, life changes whether we like it or not, so it’s better to learn to adapt. Otherwise, you’ll be miserable.
It’s not easy watching our parents age. Not.at.all. But it can be managed and you won’t lose your mind in the process. There are definitely times when you feel like you might, but just keep calm and adjust your expectations. They aren’t going to miraculously be back to the way you remember them. And someday, they won’t be there at all and you’re going to have to accept that too. But, in the process, you can survive their aging and enjoy the time you have with them. THAT is the absolute most important thing.
As with the rest of the world… we all need to learn some compassion for others and to be kinder and gentler with our parents. Enjoy them and let them enjoy you!
So tell me, how many of you have elderly parents? Do they have medical issues? Are you parenting your parents? Let me know how you’re handling it in the comments! Any tips you can share with me? Thanks!!