Are you partnering or parenting?
The first question is for you. It’s not merely a matter of role reversal when we step in to care for our aging parents. In fact, “partnering, not parenting” is what Joy Loverde, consultant, spokesperson for the mature-market industry and author of Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? It’s not always easy watching our parents age. When we begin to notice memory loss or their energy level decline, it’s a signal our parents are aging. “Below the surface, adult children struggle with the fact that their parents will not be around forever. To avert the inevitable, the perceived role of the adult child is to shelter and protect parents at all costs,” says Loverde. Our parents, however, want to remain independent as much as possible and not be a burden to us. They’ll need our help to get them to doctor visits, with day-to-day financial decisions, and care decisions. “But nowhere in performing these and similar tasks should your actions be interpreted as taking on the role of parenting your parent,” advises Loverde. It’s not easy navigating your aging parent’s needs. Here’s some insight into the care your parents may need.
Are they lonely?
Asking your mom or dad if they’re lonely probably won’t result in an honest answer. But loneliness can be hazardous to your parents health so it’s an important question. However, you’ll have to be a little more creative in how you ask. David Inns, CEO of GreatCall, a connected health company for active aging, recommends trying the following: Have you been getting out of the house lately? Are you keeping in touch with family and friends by phone, e-mail, or social media? How are your friends doing? What did you do this week, did you go anywhere? “In addition to the responses to these questions, consider if your parent lives alone, or whether a family member or friend has recently moved or passed away, as these factors are likely to increase feelings of loneliness,” says Inns. Listen for clues in your conversations with your parent to help determine if they are lonely or depressed. For example, are they sharing stories about their activities with friends? Are they still going to church or volunteering? Do they show any interest in their cell phone, the Internet or using social media? “On the other hand, if your parent has never been known to socialize or make friends, and prefers a more solitary lifestyle, there is no reason to believe this situation will change,” says Loverde.