Many of you during Act 2.5 of your lives will find that your parents need extra help. For some, it’s seasonal chores and home repairs. For others, it’s driving to medical appointments and the grocery store. Still others may no longer be safe living alone and in need of assistance to find a more suitable place to live.
This is further complicated when there’s a chronic illness involved, which may mean helping to keep track of medications and doctors’ appointments, prepping healthy meals, and assisting with daily hygiene routines.
Whatever your parents’ needs, it can become burdensome as you continue to work, maintain a home, and assist your own children and grandchildren, if you have them. These new responsibilities can put pressure on your job, marriage and/or social relationships, and impinge on your self-care: exercise, sleep, etc. The stress of trying to do it all can take you to a breaking point, so before it goes that far make sure you reach out for help.
Don’t Go It Alone.
Communicate: Schedule some unpressured time with your spouse or significant other, your siblings, your children. Talk about the changing needs of parents/grandparents, and discuss options. Can your stay-at-home or retired sister or brother help with transportation? Housecleaning? Will your son or daughter run occasional errands? Can your spouse help with home repair and yard work, or at least find someone whom you can hire to mow the lawn each week?
Ask: Don’t assume; ask your parents what their preferences and priorities are for the long term. With help, do they prefer to remain in their home for as long as possible? Would they consider moving in with a family member? Are they considering an assisted living facility, where they’d be in a community with people their age? Are finances an issue? Share this information with your siblings, spouse, and children, and work out a plan together, so no one is caught unprepared.
Reach Out: Does their local senior center offer volunteer drivers? Meals on Wheels? Or other activities that your parent(s) might like to participate in? How about your parents’ church or place of worship – are there members who would be willing to visit an hour a week? A neighbor who is willing to check in once a day? Are there local businesses who provide delivery for groceries or medications?
Expectations: There will be bumps along the road. The transportation may not arrive for a medical appointment, and you or another family member may have to rush to get your mother or father to the doctor. One of your siblings may be unwilling to help with any chores, or the personal care assistant you hired may not be providing the quality of care you expected.
Taking the time to set up as much as you can – with the help of your siblings – will lessen the burden of having to face these challenges all at once or on your own. It’s important to get all family members on board to help, even with something small, like doing laundry once a week, or picking up the mail. Every little bit helps to take some pressure off you.
Last, but most important, make sure you schedule time each week for a break. Treat yourself to a coffee, a manicure, a favorite TV program, lunch with a friend. Those little gifts of time will make a big difference in the long term!
by Debby Adams, guest contributor