There comes a time in life when the roles reverse. The parents who brought you up, cared for you, gave you your values and nursed you through every phase of life... suddenly need your help. It seems to happen overnight, and it's a startling realization that you're now the primary adult and decision-maker in the relationship.
If you find yourself struggling with the new change, it's worth making the time to take a few steps to help you adjust to the new situation. With a little time investment, you can ensure the new status quo is one that works for everyone.
1. Give yourself a chance to be upset. When you realize that your parents are aging and may not be able to make the same decisions they used to, it's heartbreaking. Give yourself some time to adjust rather than trying to force yourself to be okay with it. It's a big change, a sudden assumption of responsibilities for you and a fresh set of concerns. It's normal for you to feel thrown by it.
2. Make sure you know what to look for. There is a significant risk of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease or dementia as people age, and this is something you need to be aware of. With treatment and therapy, these conditions can become a lot more manageable and significantly increase the quality of life for your loved one. So familiarize yourself with the warning signs, and if necessary, seek medical advice.
3. Get the information you need. If you work and/or care for your children, there's every chance you might not have many spare hours to care for an ailing parent. Or perhaps you literally can't be there, if you now live in a different part of the country. Discuss with your parents and see what routes they would prefer to go down in the future. Perhaps they would prefer at-home for Alzheimer's care or are more reassured by the idea of a retirement community. It might even be feasible for you to bring them into your own home - but these are all conversations you need to have as early as possible. Facing these realities will help ease anxiety for all concerned.
4. Think the worst. Try and run through a few likely scenarios and think of how you would deal with them. If your parents called you in the middle of the work day and said they were feeling unwell, what would you do? Would you need any outside assistance from anyone else? Might you need a care agency, or perhaps they need a nurse for this exact situation? Run through the possibilities and see how you would respond.
5. Know where to get help. When you do the above exercise, you may realize you need a nurse or other support staff to assist you in caring for your parents. So source such assistance as soon as possible, before the crisis hits. You can be reassured you have got the right plans in place should the worst happen. Your parents will also have the time to meet and get to know anyone who might be assisting you, making it easier for all concerned.
There's no doubt it's a difficult adjustment to make, but with a few precautionary steps, you can walk forward ready for what comes next.