When an aging parent becomes disabled or chronically ill, it affects the entire family. The parent is often coping with loss of independence, which can be devastating when you consider losses such as driving, which has often been a part of the person’s identity for decades. Role reversal can also occur when adult children may begin to care for and make decisions on behalf of a parent who was previous role was advising and supporting the rest of the family. While the parent is coping with their own losses, adult children often grapple with the stress of adjusting to changing roles. Unfortunately, the stress of such an adjustment for all involved can result in cracks in the circle of support for a seemingly healthy family. Below are suggestions for keeping the family circle intact in times of difficult decisions and transitions.
- Seek professional guidance. Geriatric Care Managers, Elderlaw Attorneys, Support Groups, and senior care providers can often provide education, resources and support in understanding illnesses, navigating decisions and making connections that will assist in easing the family’s stress.
- Maintain a normal routine and balance as much as possible for you and your loved one. Where indepence is being lost in one area, it can be pivotal to maintain independence in other areas. Mom may not be able to drive anymore, but that may not mean she cannot make a grocery list and plan dinner. Family caregivers and the prent should continue to participate in favorite recreational activities whenever possible.
- Have family meetings. Be open to listening to everyone’s thoughts and ideas. Plan ahead for next steps in care whenever possible, so that decisions not forced in emergency situations.
- Make time for the parent and family caregivers to spend together in an activities that do not involve caregiving, but is just about being a family. Enlist the support of a homecare provider for respite care when needed.
- Let yourself process the emotional response to these changes. Laugh when you need to. Cry it out if it makes you feel better. You can be strong for your loved one and still process what you are feeling. Trusted friends, clergy, support groups and other family members can be great sources of support in working through your feelings, while being there for your parent.