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How to Deal with Aging Parents

The relationship between you and your parents evolves over time, especially as you all grow older. Over the course of your life, a relationship that was defined by them raising you changes when you reach adulthood. And it changes again as they get older.

Adult children with older parents can often be challenged by this change, especially when their parents reach retirement age and beyond.

As parents age into their golden years, it can be difficult for adult children to know how to best help them in the face of their changing needs and capabilities. There are many factors to consider, such as their physical and mental health, their financial situation, and their social needs. At the same time, you need to consider how your personal and familial relationships with much older parents will continue to evolve. To that end, here are some tips for adult children on dealing with their aging parents.

Be Respectful and Understanding

Supporting your parents as they learn how to cope with aging is all about being respectful and understanding of the personal challenges they’re facing. Older adults often find themselves needing help with a variety of tasks like transportation, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. Being there to offer your support is a way to strengthen your relationship with them – as long as you know your limits. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other family members and friends.

At the same time, it’s crucial to remember that your parents are still adults and that they have every right to be treated with respect. Just because they might have difficulty doing everything themselves without help doesn’t mean they don’t still have the right to make their own decisions. If your parents are struggling to care for themselves in certain ways, it’s essential that you fully involve them by talking to your parents about their plans for aging. This conversation should happen sooner rather than later, as you will then have time to understand their wishes and help make arrangements for their care, if necessary.

One option, if they are still able to live independently, is to move into a type of retirement community called a Continuing Care Retirement Community. With CCRCs, if your parent is aging but still independent, they can move into one of these communities and continue to enjoy an active lifestyle surrounded by resort-like amenities. Then, should they ever need a higher level of care such as assisted living, instead of you needing to figure out where and how to move them and how much it’s going to cost, they can simply relocate to the assisted living center right on campus, with no direct impact on the monthly fee. That type of peace of mind is indispensable for worried adult children.

Alternatively, if your parents already need help with daily living — if they have trouble bathing on their own, remembering to take their medication or managing other self-care items — it may be time for direct enrollment into assisted living or another form of health service, which many continuing care retirement communities can also accommodate.

Keeping the Relationship Alive

One of the most effective ways to maintain a good relationship with aging parents is to keep the lines of communication open. Talking to them regularly, visiting them often, and letting them know how much you love and care for them will show through deeds and through words that you love and value them, not just as your parents but as people as well. This may very well require some work on your part, and is likely to be a challenge at times, especially for adult children who have their own busy lives and responsibilities. It’s recommended to keep the following in mind:

  • Patience. Aging can be a difficult process, and your aging parents may be dealing with a variety of challenges. Be patient with them and try to understand what they are going through. Keep in mind they aren’t happy about increased dependencies either.
  • Flexibility. Things may not always go according to plan, so be prepared to be flexible. If your parents need to change their plans, be understanding and work with them to find a solution.
  • Positivity. A positive attitude can go a long way. Let your parents know that you are there for them and that you believe in them.

How to Ensure Your Parents are Taking Care of Their Medical and Social Needs

As parents age, it’s important to ensure that they are taking care of their medical and social needs. There are several things adult children can do to help aged parents as they learn how to manage this, such as encouraging them to see a doctor regularly.

Our health needs change as we age, and this means it’s crucial to encourage older parents to see their doctor regularly for checkups and preventative care. They may say they’re fine, and even downplay pain or discomfort. The key is to push through that with tact and respect.

This extends to helping them manage any medications they’re prescribed as well. Aging parents may have difficulty in this area, so it’s appropriate to help them set up a system for taking their medications on time and to refill their prescriptions as needed.

Additionally, encouraging your parents to stay active is important, as it plays a role in supporting both better physical and mental health. Motivate your parents to participate in activities they enjoy, such as walking, gardening, or playing games. Joining them for these activities regularly is a wonderful way to strengthen your relationship with them while also ensuring the activity is beneficial.

Last but perhaps most importantly, helping your parents to stay connected with friends and family is incredibly helpful. Social interaction is important for both physical and mental health. Encourage your parents to stay connected with friends and family by visiting them, calling them, or emailing them regularly.

How Retirement Communities Can Benefit Aging Parents

Retirement communities are often one of the best places for aging parents, thanks to the number of benefits they provide.

They check all the major boxes for how to best deal with aged parents:

  • Providing opportunities for social interaction
  • Providing opportunities for mental and physical stimulation
  • Allowing for complete independence but built with aging limitations in mind (such as single-floor properties and protective measures like support bars in bathrooms).

Your parents may not be ready to give up their independence, and they shouldn’t have to! Living in a retirement community means you don’t have to worry about them and provide for them so much. They also offer a variety of amenities and services, such as transportation, meal preparation, swimming pools and fitness centers, activities and hobbies, and more, to help residents stay independent and active.

Retirement communities are wonderful at providing a sense of community for your parents as they navigate dealing with aging. They often have a variety of social activities and events, which can help residents connect with peers and build relationships. The amenities of modern retirement communities offer countless opportunities for physical, mental, and social activity. Additionally – and this is of great importance – retirement communities often provide peace of mind for adult children. Knowing that their parents are living in a safe and supportive environment can help adult children to relax and not feel burdened.

Maintaining Your Relationship with Aging Parents

If you’re considering a retirement community for your aging parent, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Be sure to visit the community and tour the facilities with your parents to ensure that both they and you are interested in moving there. Include your parents in all the planning processes and remember to always be supportive, respectful, and understanding. This is a huge change for them, but ultimately, it’s better for the lifestyle and health of your aging parents. Read more tips on how to deal with aging parents, or explore the 27 beautiful CCRC campuses overseen by Acts Retirement-Life Communities.