So you’ve reached age 50 or older and discovered freedom again. The children have grown and left the nest, or are in the process of doing so. Slowly slowly, with baby steps, you are discovering what it feels like to be free again. You feel like a helium balloon; your spirit is high and you enjoy every single day.
Suddenly there is no need to get up early in the morning and prepare the kids for school. There is no problem with going out and you don’t fall asleep at social meetings. There are no household chores to complete every day, no need to clean after each meal (no meals!), no endless washing cycles, no toys to collect from the floor… in short: sheer, pure joy!
But then reality suddenly dawns. You understand that there is someone who needs you, desperately needs you, and you must attend to these needs with a full heart and all your efforts. You must take care of your parents who are getting older every day and need you more and more.
So you fall from the blue skies above and crash back down to reality. You look at your mother’s wrinkled face or your father’s bent back and realize that your parents are not what they once were. They are now simply old, and suddenly they need your help. Sometimes one of them has already left us and the other parent is left alone, and the freedom illusion is shattered in your face: You will never be free, as you have to take care of your parents.
Yes, it is part of our natural cycle of life, but if you’ve ever experienced a time when your parent was ill or unwell, you can identify with the feeling of heaviness and the responsibility falls that falls onto your shoulders. This is really the same feeling you felt when your child was sick, the same heavy weight and burden that lies on your shoulders and casts a heavy shadow over every aspect of your life.
Yet some of us still refuse to understand and internalize our parents’ need for help and sometimes we even get angry with them. Why does it take them so long to understand what we say? Why is he walking so slowly? Why is everything so hard for him to do? Indeed the fact is that it’s even harder for us than it is for them. It’s hard for us to see our parents in this situation. One of the best ways to deal with this is to simply make life easier for them.
And how can we make their lives easier? There are many ways. Some methods, surprisingly, we can from take our own experience as parents. There is a saying that “an old man is like a child.” Aging parents are in many ways like children and we sometimes have to use the same methods we used as parents with our children. Here are five tips to help you and your aging parents.
- Put your relationship with your parents in order and create a routine. Most older people do not like to be surprised. On the contrary! Set a day of the week and a fixed hour for visiting them. If you have siblings then share visiting days and hours and set up a visiting schedule.
- Set a time for phone calls too. Call them every day at the same hour. If they are in a retirement home then make sure that you call them when they have their friends round. They will be happy to show off their caring loving children!
- Bring small gifts of attention. These can be some food they like, a planter, a nice sweater, or anything that will make them feel like you have been thinking of them.
- If they live in an assisted living facility, bring their grandchildren to visit and if you can’t then at least show them photos and videos of the grandkids. If they can’t join in some of the family activities, make them feel like you were thinking about them. When you shoot the video of your children, ask them to say a few good words to their grandfather or grandmother. Let them always feel that they are part of the family.
- Find and buy them accessories and gadgets that can improve their lives. I’ve gathered here a selection of products like a shower chair, bed rail and things that can make our aging parents’ lives more safe and comfortable. You can click on any product and buy it on Amazon safely.
But most importantly of all – listen to them. They may be weaker and more fragile than they once were, but they are also full of wisdom and life experience. Open your ears and your heart to your parents, remember your childhood and always thank them for who you are.
In memory of my beloved father.