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  • Writer's pictureHospice of the Fisher Home

How to Support Aging Parents

As time passes, the roles within a family often shift. One of the most profound transitions that many of us experience is the gradual reversal of caregiving roles between parent and child. As our parents age, they may face challenges physically, mentally, and emotionally that need our support and care. Whether they are navigating big health issues, managing daily tasks, or simply seeking companionship, our aging parents rely on us to be there for them in ways that they once were for us.

two people holding hands in support

Supporting parents through this time can feel difficult. This role reversal tends to flip our lives upside down in some ways as we become the caregiver to our aging parents. As a hospice, we understand the gravity of this time in your life. So, we have come up with some tips to help you support your parents as they age.

If you find this information helpful or just want to support a nonprofit, consider donating to us today. Every penny helps us continue our mission to help those during their end-of-life journey. 

The Challenges of Aging

Aging is inevitable, and when you are younger, it can be hard to wrap your head around the challenges that come with aging. For anyone, the challenges of aging can encompass not just physical issues, but mental and emotional.

According to the World Health Organization, the most common physical conditions for older adults include hearing loss, cataracts, refractive errors, neck pain, back pain, osteoarthritic, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes. This can create complications for daily living like issues reading labels, driving, cooking for oneself, and performing other daily tasks. They can also create new problems like increased doctor’s visits that an older adult in your life may need help attending. 

The  Center for Disease Control lists anxiety, severe cognitive impairment (like dementia or general memory loss), and mood disorders as mental and emotional health problems that can arise as a person ages. These can make daily living difficult.

Initiating Conversation

two people talking over coffee

Starting conversations with aging parents about their needs and preferences can be sensitive and sometimes daunting. However, open communication is essential for understanding your parents wishes and providing the support they need. Here are some tips on initiating these conversations:

  • Choose the right time and place. Pick a quiet, relaxed environment where you can talk with your parent(s) without interruptions. 

  • Approach them with empathy. Let your parent(s) know that you care about their well-being and want to understand their needs better. 

  • Use active listening. Give them your full attention. Avoid interrupting or rushing to provide solutions. 

  • Ask open-ended questions. Encourage your parents to share their thoughts and feelings by asking open-ended questions. For example, instead of asking, "Are you feeling okay?", you could ask, "How have you been feeling lately? Is there anything on your mind?"

  • Offer support. : Let your parents know that you are there to support them and assist them in any way you can. Reassure them that you want to work together to find solutions that meet their needs and preferences.

  • Respect their autonomy. Respect your parent's autonomy and independence throughout the conversation. Avoid dictating what you think is best for them and instead involve them in decision-making processes.

Assess Needs, Finding Resources, Creating a Plan to Support Aging Parents

After having a conversation with your aging parent(s) and assessing what they need, it is time to find resources. With more adults finding themselves as a caregiver to a family member, it is important to find resources that not only help your parents but also make sure that you do not experience caregiver burnout. According to a study by Stanford University, many of those who are taking care of elderly parents face their own issues of negative emotions and social isolation. Here’s a short list of great resources that can help you narrow down your search:

Using these resources and other ones within your community, you can create a support plan tailored to the needs of your aging parent. This can help you delegate tasks among family members, hire professional caregivers if necessary, and use solutions that meet the specific requirements of your situation. Plus, it can help you be proactive in planning for the future, including the legal and financial considerations that come with having an aging parent. This includes wills, advance directive, and long-term care insurance. Remember that it is important to discuss end-of-life wishes and preferences with your parents. A hospice, like Hospice of the Fisher Home, may have the resources you need to figure out this part of your plan. 

Supporting your parents as they age feels daunting, but rest assured that you are not alone. Many people have to go through this time in their lives, so remember to take care of yourself and reach out for support when you need it. Be there for your parents as much as you can and listen to their needs. 

If you have any tips from your own experiences, leave them in the comments below and if you are in the Western Massachusetts area with an aging parent that requires hospice care, Hospice of the Fisher Home provides both in-residence or at-home (or wherever you reside) care through our community program. Contact us to find out more. 

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