As we attempt to balance the needs of aging parents with our ability to care for them as they age, we often find that we lose our ability to understand how our decisions affect those we love due to our own frustration with tackling the process. It’s important that caregivers not let their own emotions about the difficulty of providing for an aging parent, who may not agree with the decisions being made on their behalf, affect their ability to understand how seniors might be resistant to those decisions.
Helping, Not Forcing, A Parent To Agree
One of the most frustrating battles that caregivers have with their aging parents is the one over what senior living arrangements best suit the needs of the elderly individual. Naturally, a parent wants to remain independent as long as possible, but this might not be possible if certain health, mental or emotional issues prevent the individual from living alone. It is understandably frustrating for both the parent and their adult child as both argue their case for their senior living preference. Many times, it is the caregiver who wins this battle, leaving the parent even more frustrated, angry and anxious about a situation over which they feel they have little control.
"When a parent feels involved in the decision-making process, the process can be less stressful."
Easing The Transition: Be Willing To Listen
There are several ways that caregivers can help parents deal with the emotional impact of what many view as a loss of independence. First and foremost, considering the parent’s own desires can make the transition easier for both parent and child. Additionally, it is important, wherever practical, to allow the parent input as well as control over the decisions that are being made for him or her. No one wants to feel as if all control has been wrenched away, least of all an aging parent. Of course, there are situations when a parent might not be capable of making rational decisions regarding their living arrangements, but, for the most part, changes that are eased into gradually are best for everyone involved. When a parent feels involved in the decision-making process, the process can be less stressful.
Senior Living Options: Talking Points
- When continued independence is a priority for the senior. Aging seniors understandably want to remain independent throughout the course of their lives. Changing a parent’s senior living situation does not have to mean eliminating independence. For as long as possible, seniors should remain in their own homes. Sometimes incorporating accommodations such as bathroom modifications, removing throw rugs, rearranging furniture, installing wheelchair ramps, handrails, electronic monitoring devices and security systems and even starting a meal delivery service can help an aging parent remain in the home indefinitely. Other options include either part-time or full-time home health aide services. As long as a parent is not overcome by physical or mental health issues, senior living at home may be a viable option.
- When total independence isn’t possible, the least restrictive senior living environment is often the next best option. Even if a parent cannot manage living alone, an assisted living arrangement does not have to mean a loss of independence. Many people elect to move an aging parent into their own homes because it is less expensive than assisted living accommodations or a skilled nursing facility. In such situations, parents can enjoy relative freedom while receiving the supervision they need. Other senior living options include assisted living facilities in which a parent is supervised while living in their own apartment or room. In general, a skilled nursing facility should be reserved for those individuals whose physical and mental health issues prevent them from being adequately cared for in a less restrictive environment.
- When financial limitations sometimes take the decisions out of everyone’s hands. Sometimes caregivers are faced with feeling as if they are forcing a parent into an undesirable situation simply because finances won’t allow for what the parent really wants. Home health care and assisted living facilities can be expensive and might prohibit many caregivers from considering them as options. When a parent wants to move into a new high-rise assisted living condo, but finances dictate that moving in with a family member is the only affordable option, conflict can ensue. Arrange a meeting between parents, their adult children and any other caregivers involved in the decision-making process to explain to the parent how finances play out when considering senior living arrangements. Involved and informed parents generally feel more in control of their own futures.
Life changes like these are not easy for an older person or for anyone, for that matter. Taking a step back and just imagine the trauma of being told you had to move out of your home, for your own good, and you can quickly understand the effect just talking about a move will have on your parent. Bringing compassion back to the conversation will help everyone involved see the choices that much more clearly and come to a better meeting of the minds.
"No one wants to feel as if all control has been wrenched away, least of all an aging parent."
For more specifics about the various choices in housing, read the articles in “Housing Options” in the Parentgiving Learning Center.
Rebecca J. Stigall is a freelance writer, author and editor with a background in psychology, education and business. She has written extensively on the topics of self-help, relationships, psychology, health and fitness.