Older Parental Carefinder

Often times, seniors refuse help for the same reasons that we often deny we ever need it – mainly for pride, shame, but also the fear of being ‘put away’, as well as parting with their home or losing their privacy and self-esteem.  When an you’re an older parental carefinder you must not try to be parental, but instead, just helpful.  This is new territory for you both.

Approach an older parent gently but honestly.  They may be offended that you want to be a carefinder for them, or they may even be relieved.  Simply express your concerns firmly but compassionately.  The following suggestions may help you become the older parental carefinder that you set out to be, without getting blown up by the ever-present minefields that accompany this journey:

Capitalize when they make a comment about not seeing or hearing as well as they used to.  Ask “How does that affect your reading, or driving, or ability to take medications”  Don’t tell them that you suspect a problem, simply ask them whether they think there may be a problem.

Do your homework before suggesting they get any outside caregiving.  Go online, gather resources, ask questions, and talk to a few people so that you can suggest practical options from a point of knowledge vs. not knowing any answers.  Now is not the time to explore new learning together, this may just cause your older but wiser elder some un-needed parental frustration.

Offer help, but don’t be perceived as taking over.  Then, make sure you don’t take over!  It’s still their life, remember that you’re offering some assistance and access to resources that they may not have.  Respect that they are still the one’s who will be making decisions about their lives.

When they clearly and emphatically state they don’t want to discuss the subject, stop.  Wait to bring up the subject another day, as pressing the issue is only a course of action when their immediate health and safety are in question.

Help them accept assistance by having someone they respect be the one to suggest help.  This may be an elderly friend, or a doctor, clergy member or other trusted relative.

Explain how help will keep them more independent.  Fro example, assisting an elderly senior who has failing vision by organizing a week’s worth of their medications in a pill dispenser, may cut the risk of illness caused by overdoses, missed doses or wrong drugs.  Show & tell them how help will benefit them.

Introduce anyone who comes over to assist as someone hired for your work.  Don’t say, “They’re going to help me take care of you” but instead, let them know by saying to them, “I’ve got (name) here to help me with some things I need to do, so I can get out of your way sooner” or “so that we can spend more time together”.

Ask them for their input.  An older parent is wise, ask for their wisdom.  Mention a neighbor who has trouble seeing or hearing, and that this caused dangers to their driving.  Ask your elderly loved one what they think would be the best way to handle the situation.

Being helpful depends on knowing the best way to help.  Just barging in like a bull in a china shop to save the day will never work, it will backfire so quickly that you’ll never be able to recover.

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