Watching a parent go through the physical and mental deterioration that accompanies the natural aging process can be extremely difficult. As an adult child, you want to do something to help. Knowing what to do and when to do it can be difficult to determine. Here are some suggestions that may hep guide you as you help your parents age.
Topics for Discussion
As you help your parents through the aging process, you may wish to keep the following topics in mind and discuss some, or all, of them with your parents:
- Worry and Denial — Your parents are probably worried about money. No matter how financially secure your parents appear to be, they are probably worried about money anyway. Most people entering their retirement years worry because their ability to earn money is dramatically diminished and the future is full of unknown variables. Denial is common among aging parents. Your aging parents may not be ready to face the fact that they are aging. Denial is common among the aging. Gently remind your parents that now is the time to accomplish things that are important to them.
- Abuse, Dementia, and Death — Victims of elder abuse often remain silent. Experts estimate that as many as 14 instances of elder abuse go unreported for every one that is reported. Talk to your parents about elder abuse to try and prevent them from becoming a victim. Your parents’ memory may not be what it once was. Even if your parents never develop Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, the natural aging process causes problems with memory. Keep that in mind. Avoid discussing death. Some people prefer to confront the end of life head one and have no problem discussing; however, others are frightened and no ready for the end of their life. If you must discuss the topic, try using a term other than “death.”
- Asking for Help — Technology may be intimidating for them. Technology is everywhere in the 21st century. For older individuals though, it can be very intimidating. It can also be a tool used by predators and scammers. Give your parents some basic tech tools to use and explain internet security to them. They probably will not ask for help. Your parents are likely proud people who have managed to get through life without much help up to this point. The idea of asking for help, especially from their own children, probably does not sit well with them. Find ways to offer that help that allows them to keep their dignity and independence when possible.
- Benefits and Assistance — Your parents may be eligible for state/federal benefits. Many seniors know very little about the various state and federal benefits to which they may be entitled because they never before needed those benefits. Now, however, they may qualify for assistance from programs such as SNAP (Food Stamps) and Medicaid. They may also be eligible for additional help from programs such as the Veterans Aid & Attendance if one of them served in the military.
- Long-Term Care — Educate yourself about long-term care options. When your parents enter their retirement years, they will each already stand a 50 percent chance of eventually needing long-term care (LTC). Educate yourself about the cost of that care, options for paying for LTC (such as by qualifying for Medicaid), and what facilities in the area have a good reputation. Doing so will make talking about the options much easier if the time comes when LTC is needed.
Above all else, remember to have patience with your parents as they age. Keep in mind that they probably needed a considerable amount of patience to handle you as you made your way through adolescence!
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