As we watch our parents age, it often takes us by surprise that they are becoming more frail or exhibiting some signs of cognitive decline. We want to respect their wishes and believe that they can continue to care for themselves but when is it time to step in and provide support, when is it time to suggest community resources and when is it time to take charge and make decisions about their care.
Support can start early and might be framed with the thought that a grandchild wants to help by “returning the favor” for all that has been done for him/her by mowing the lawn, stopping by to take the garbage out, shoveling the snow, running an errand, taking them to a doctor’s appointment, washing a floor, turning a mattress, offering to clean house, flower beds or the garage. The amount of help that can be provided is endless and only as creative as you are able to be. It also offers time together and securing of that grandparent/grandchild bond that they have such fond memories of as their grandchildren were growing up. It helps with identifying the problem areas they may be experiencing and embarrassed to let you know about because they don’t want to bother you. It can go a long way in preventing accidents that can be catastrophic to an older adult. Always ask what they need, don’t tell them!
Perhaps it is time to offer community supports like home delivered meals, a housekeeper, local transportation. You can start simple so they become accustomed to support and suggest they use the local senior transportation on snowy days so that they are not isolated during the winter and can leave the driving to someone else. This can allow them to experience the ease of using this resource on an intermittent basis. Perhaps the gift of housekeeping from a daughter, granddaughter/grandson, niece/nephew or a hired housekeeper as a birthday, Mother’s Day or holiday gift. Consider utilizing the services of a professional organizer to help them begin to declutter while they are still able to make sure their prized possessions are distributed as they want them to be. Consider putting together a list of important documents with account numbers and passwords that they can keep private and only share where it is located should the need arise. It may be time to utilize a professional to make recommendations such as a Geriatric Caregiver, Social Worker, Nurse in whom they trust. It is easier than taking direction from the child they were once responsible for and guided through life.
Consider visiting an Assisted Living and having lunch so that if the time should ever arise, they will have made the decision of where they want to go when they can no longer care for themselves or there has been a crisis. Remind them that they don’t want to leave that burden to their children should they have a crisis.
If you have not been a frequent visitor or had a good relationship with your parents, don’t expect your benevolence to be well accepted. It may be time to use another resource (their doctor, pastor, friend, neighbor or a family member with whom they have had a good relationship) to recommend supports. And remember to always ask what they need and include them in the decision making. Your help will be much better accepted when you “listen” to what they want.
Where can you find trusted resources? Start with your local senior center and their outreach services or you’re your local Area Agency on Aging.