14th June 2013 at 3:41pm
Have you found yourself in the position of helping your parents more than you did before?
Or can you see a time in the future when they might need more support?
One of my colleagues, John Brewer, has faced these issues with his family. Here are some of his thoughts, in the first of what will be a regular series, as he looks at the practical and emotional issues involved in later life care. And more than anything, John’s comment here is food for thought:
“To build your support network and fuel it with the right information to make a difficult life event more acceptable for you and your family is an investment in the future.”
“Relationship problems with partners, work colleagues or children are acceptable conversation topics these days. I wonder if, like me, you hear a few conversations on how to cope with elderly and infirm parents? It’s an incredibly sensitive, emotive discussion.
A few years ago the admission of struggling to cope with an elderly parent seemed a taboo.
A few years ago the admission of struggling to cope with an elderly parent seemed a taboo. I am an example of an all-too-familiar story of middle-aged British society who had a key role to play in managing those we love, into care.
To be honest, when it came to me a few years ago I was probably reluctant to admit defeat. After all, these were my parents, I always knew them to be mentally and physically active and yet they had changed, needing me more than I needed them. I never saw it coming. Or, if I did, I was in denial and enjoyed a good helping of selective memory.
I think in our DNA we must have the ability to block out this inevitable challenge life has to throw at us. When it does come, it unearths characteristics and emotions not previously seen. I certainly have changed, interestingly for the better. At the time I was just too old-fashioned to ask for help.
Outsiders who would visit two or three times a year were shocked at the deterioration in my parents. I was probably declining with them, getting through and not wanting to see the journey ahead. I was definitely scared. It is only now that I realise I was fighting a losing battle, but believing in a campaign to do the right thing. Sound familiar?
Emotions run high in these difficult times. As our parents’ health declines it can be physical, mental or both. You might have those lovely images of a proud and loving mother and father crushed, now totally disconnected from the modern world, likely a liability to themselves, and others around them. They need you like a child needs their parents. This is a truly upsetting time that can bring out this worst in you – I hardly recognised this new relationship with my parents. Without action, the situation is unlikely to improve. There is a difficult job to be done.
In looking after elderly, infirm and ill parents stress is felt beyond just the caring son or daughter. Siblings will differ, maybe argue on how much to do and spend, and what to do for the best. There comes with it a new and significant strain on carers and their relationships. Marriage, children and grandchildren and even friends can be impacted. And let’s not forget certain career aspirations being put on hold for a while. Different opinions on what is the right thing to do will always be a constant theme. Blunt, upsetting and challenging discussions can happen. Lawyers, social workers, GPs, care home managers – all specialists that are quick to offer their professional (dare I say blunt) opinion.
Once I had let go of the old and embraced the new we could all get back to living our lives again.
I did find a way through all of this. My parents and family then enjoyed several wonderful years together. Once I had let go of the old and embraced the new we could all get back to living our lives again.
How we got there will be the subject of future blogs – if you relate to this story in any way, there is hope and information out there, and I have lots to of guidance I’ll be sharing with you.”