My parents are in their early 70s. And while we’re currently physically distanced, I’m using all methods of communication to constantly check in with them.
They’re fortunately fit and healthy, but this pandemic has caused me to fast forward the years. I feel like the tables have turned and I’m starting to parent them.
Thinking about and planning for the future collectively is no bad thing. But how is it best to approach parenting your parents?
Don’t parent them unnecessarily
Yes, you might be concerned about how they’re coping but make sure you’re not just projecting your worries and concerns about them getting older onto them unnecessarily.
There will be signs that they need your support, but look for them and don’t assume that as they are a certain age, they need to be parented. Just as you may not have wanted your parents monitoring you constantly when you were younger, they now deserve the same.
It’s fantastic that you are ready to take on the caregiver role, but wait until it’s required.
Talk about it
If it’s weighing on your shoulders, schedule in time with your immediate family (parents, siblings) to discuss your feelings.
Start the conversation, so you can all understand what your parents want as they get older and how you can help achieve this.
Different family members have different skill sets and time. Agreeing, even metaphorically, on sharing the load now will make helping your parents easier in the future.
And bringing them in on this conversation ensures you’re putting their interests at the heart.
Helping them stay independent
It makes sense that we want to stay independent for as long as possible. But independence can mean different things to different people. Does it mean staying at home no matter what? Broadening their social opportunities? Walking into town?
Having an understanding of what independence signifies to your parents means that you can then look into how this can be achievable.
Help them future proof their home
We can’t see them currently so it’s ever-more important to know that they’re safe at home. They’re relaxed and familiar with their home environment, but this doesn’t mean that accidents can’t happen – and as they get older, more hazards appear.
It could be an idea to video call them and walk round the house ‘with’ them, to see if there are easy hazards to spot and remove. Wires that can be tripped over, clean washing placed by the stairs – helping them see these and make changes can help them to stay safer, and give you peace of mind.
It also gives you a chance to observe how they are using the house. Do they seem unsteady on their feet as they go upstairs? Can they easily get into the garden?
Seeing how they manage during their daily routine can help you understand how well they are coping, and start thinking about what adaptations can be done if needs be.
Make the most of this time
Our world is spinning a little slower, so use the time to really connect with your parents.
I don’t know about you, but I have a patchy knowledge of their youth and family history. Pick up the phone, ask them questions, and enjoy piecing your background together.
Realising that our parents are getting older can be scary, especially against the current backdrop when so much is out of our hands. The more we can help them as they get older, the better. Good luck.