You’ve known your parents all your life. For most of us, growing up, our parents were our heroes. They could do anything we couldn’t, and more importantly, they were the role models we needed to go through life. It’s an ingrained behaviour for all children to look up to their parents. They are not only the figure of authority at home, but they also have all the answers and the advice you need when you’re growing up.
So, it can come as a shock when suddenly the situation is reversed, and you find yourself becoming the parent of your parents. You don’t need to become a full-time carer to feel the wind blow in a different direction. It’s the little details you will notice first. One day, they don’t seem as strong and healthy as they used to be. Your energetic mother you used to love as a child is now a frail, old lady. To be honest, it’s as hard for them as it is for you to adjust to a new situation. But, there are many ways in which you can make the most of your parenting your parents time.
The first question is: Is it safe for them to stay in their home?
Getting old doesn’t mean that they can’t cope with the everyday challenges of living at home. Many elderly people stay active until very late in life and therefore are perfectly happy and safe living alone. But if you are worried that your parents’ health might be failing, it’s a good idea to have an honest conversation with them and figure out whether they need dedicated support. You can find all about aged care services from your local nursing homes and independent living communities, which can provide a variety of options to suit all physical and mental situations. It might be heartbreaking to suggest leaving their home, but sometimes it is the safest option.
Helping a parent cope with loneliness
Loneliness can affect anyone in life. But for elderly parents, isolation can be challenging to escape. Whether your mother lives alone after the passing of your father, or whether your parents have gone through a late divorce, it’s tricky to help the one who is left behind. But you need to help them to fight depression and find a reason to get up in the morning. You can spend more time together, of course. But you can also encourage them to rebuild their happiness. Why not surprise them with a dog, for example? A furry friend is an excellent company and makes it easier to meet new people.
Your loving but somehow toxic parents need management
Some parents can develop toxic behaviours in old age. They can choose to treat you as a child, which is often their response to losing the relationship they had with you when you were younger. Don’t let their comments hurt you. As toxic as your parents might seem right now, remember that it’s their coping mechanism for being afraid of not being needed anymore. Set boundaries to protect yourself but don’t be cruel. They don’t mean to hurt you; they’re hurting themselves.
Your relationship with your parents evolves and grows all the time. It’s your ability to manage when it’s time to become your parents’ parent that can save your relationship and make it last.