Maintaining relationships with our parents is surprisingly complicated as they age. Our roles often change, and parents are unwilling to go from caregiver to the one being cared for.
You aren’t at the whims of your feelings or your parents’ attitudes as they age. You can maintain strong bonds with both of your parents when you follow these tips.
Look for Ways to Keep Them Safe
Aging is a natural process. It is nothing to feel disappointed or ashamed of, and yet, many seniors do. It can be hard to admit that something you could do just a few short years ago is nearly impossible now.
Instead of telling them what they need to do and getting frustrated that they aren’t doing it, look for ways to keep them safer. Then, take the initiative to implement what you found.
For example, slip and fall injuries are especially common as people age, but there are many simple things you can do to keep your parents safer, especially if they’re still living at home.
A few ideas include:
- Buying them a pair of more supportive shoes.
- Replacing their toilet seats with raised toilet seats.
- Securing rugs to the floor.
- Installing a walk-in tub in the bathroom.
- Hiring cleaners and landscapers.
Clarify Expectations and Boundaries
Although it can make for a difficult conversation, it is extremely important to clarify expectations with your parents and set boundaries based on both of your expectations.
Start by having a conversation about what they expect from you as they age. Do they expect you to become their primary caregiver when the time comes, or do they already have a plan in place for long-term care?
Then, you have to think about what you’re willing to do and set limits according to both your and their expectations. You might be willing to stop by every other day, but you do not have room at home for them to move in with you. Your parents may not mind you stopping by, but they may want to know exactly when you’re coming. Getting all of these details ironed out will ensure there are no hard feelings later on down the road.
Communicating with an elderly parent isn’t as easy as it sounds. Parents may be stuck in their old ways, and adult children may expect their parents to do certain things as they age, even if they aren’t ready. It’s easy for relationships to become combative, strained, and uncomfortable.
Instead of lecturing and telling them how you feel, listen to how they feel. What hopes and dreams do your parents have for their golden years, what are their fears, and what changes are they experiencing in their daily lives? By asking questions and really listening, you’ll learn more about your parents, they’ll feel like you really care, and they’ll be more likely to listen to you when it’s really important.
Find Ways to Make New Memories
Getting together with mom and dad often means reminiscing about the past. It’s a favorite past time among the elderly, and it’s definitely something you should do on occasion, but it’s also important to continue making memories as your parents age.
Memories make our lives meaningful, both in the past and the future. If you’re tired of hearing about the past, look for things to do so you and your parents can make new memories.
It doesn’t have to be anything grand or difficult. Go to the local zoo, try out a new restaurant, or offer to have Christmas dinner at your house this year.
Accept That They Are Autonomous and Can Make Their Own Decisions
Unless your mom or dad has been deemed medically or mentally incapable of taking care of themselves, they retain the right to make their own decisions about their life, whether or not you agree. Even if you wish your mom would take moving into a senior living facility more seriously or you wish your dad would stop driving, they ultimately have the final say.
It can be very helpful to remember that your parents get to choose how they want to live, even if you aren’t happy about it. They will make important decisions on their own time, not yours—and that’s okay!
The relationship you had with your parents as an adult is something you’ll remember long after they are gone. Make sure you have happy memories by following these tips as you interact with your aging parents.