Looking after an elderly relative is one of the most difficult things a person can go through. Watching a relative become less independent is frustrating and stressful. Imagine what it is like them! A couple of years ago I was in this situation and found it extremely stressful and upsetting. Seeing my father deteriorate was heart breaking to say the least, but he was hard work. He would often lose his temper and get frustrated. Like bringing up children there are no rule books. Every senior is different which is why I decided to pass on my tips for looking after an elderly relative.
1. Accept that they have changed
When a parent gets very old and fragile it’s a bit like role reversal. In a way you are a bit like a being a parent to your parent. They may be stubborn and try to do things they just can’t do any more. Accept this and accept that they will get frustrated and angry. Don’t take it personally, they are still your parent and deserve a little bit more patience.
2. Get some help
Life will be easier if you get some help. Talk with other siblings and ask if they help out. Draw up a rota and make sure its fair. Obviously if family members do not live close by they will not be as helpful. But they could come over at weekends or times to suit them to give you a break. Plus look to grand children, can they offer help? Even if its just an hour or two a week. If you have no family members that can help and are struggling, look into getting some home care. There are companies that send carers round to help bath, dress or prepare meals. Get in touch with your local council to see what help is available.
3. Respect them
Caring for an elderly parent is challenging to say the least. It is also more so for them. They are the ones that have lost their independence and their bodies are failing them. Treating them with respect in every situation is the best way to make things easier on them. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they need help with. If its personal issues like bathing, ask them how you can help. Ask them if they are comfortable with you helping. Use respect at all times.
4. Expect anger
Expect them to lash out in some way or another and don’t take it personally. When you start taking care of your parent, remember they will have lost all authority over you and this will be frustrating. Inside they want to be the parent and have the authority over you, so they will find it very frustrating that they have to rely on you. Try to be patient and treat them as you would wish your own children will treat you when you are in a similar position.
5. Don’t expect them to open up or change
We all have different relationships with our parents and many hope that one day they open up about certain things. Perhaps your parent has never told you they love you. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you, it just means they find it difficult to show their emotions. They were brought up in a different era and will find it hard to change. Perhaps their own parents were the same. Some people find that caring for a parent gives them a greater bond, and they finally open up about things in the past, or finally say they are proud and love us. Don’t expect this. Great if it happens, but don’t be upset if they are just the same. Remember there is no rule book for being a parent and it is one of hard jobs on earth. Just remember they did the best job they could with the tools and guidance they got from their own parents.
6. Give them some automony
Rather than telling your parent what to do, ask them what they would like. It is important for them to feel as if they are running their lives and still have some independcne. So don’t assume you know what they want to eat or do, ask them. Let them decide as much about their care as possible
7. Ask for their advice
Asking your parent for advice is a great way to show respect. IT will show them that you still value them. Ask about anything, even if it’s something you wouldn’t dream of asking advice about.
8. Take care of yourself
Ensure you take care of yourself by spending plenty of time away from them. Seeing your parent struggle to do simple tasks in front of your eyes is upsetting and stressful. Look after yourself, eat well, get exercise and plenty of rest. You are no good to your parent if you are not managing your stress levels.
Remember we all get to old age if we are lucky, so try to treat them as you would wish to be treated. Whether you like it or not, they will not be around for long. Try to enjoy your final months with your parents. Life is too short for many of us so try to be the best son or daughter you can for those last precious moments.