Caring for Elderly Parents and Relatives
Caring for elderly parents and relations is something that many of us who are over 50 have to undertake. We are all living longer now and, therefore, more people over 50 have living parents and many of those parents either require care now or will do in the future. Indeed, many people get similarly involved with other relations, such as aged aunts, so whilst this Guide refers to parents, it is equally relevant for dealing with any elderly person.
Whilst it shouldn't be something that we worry unduly about before the event, to the possible detriment of our own enjoyment of later life, neither is it something that we can totally ignore. Like anything else, a bit of forward planning will make life much easier if and when the time comes. Also, if we have thought about it and planned for it in a calm and considered way, then it won't be so traumatic if and when it happens. This will actually help us to find better solutions and therefore be happier with the outcome.
There are a lot of issues to think about and, if you do want to start planning for your parents' care, the conversations can be difficult. For example, you may need to talk about wills, enduring power of attorney, care homes and so on. It may come across to your elderly parents that you have ulterior motives for discussing these delicate subjects and, if that's the case, the conversation will probably be a failure.
There is, of course, an element of role reversal when you start caring for your elderly parents and that is highly likely to bring its own tensions. You parents' attitude to you, now that you are having to care for them, may well change. They might feel guilty or resentful, or they may feel as if they have failed and will therefore think that they are inadequate. All these feelings will make the relationship potentially difficult. You must understand and accept that, approaching the issues with patience and understanding. At the same time, some elderly people do need guiding quite firmly in their own best interests; you know your parents best and you must deal with their care in the way you feel will get the best results for them, maintain their dignity and preserve your relationship with them.
Be prepared, too, for your elderly parent to behave badly when, for example, you want to go on holiday. Very often they will feign illness or try other ways of making you feel guilty. If this happens you must stand firm and show them that you will not be blackmailed. You need a holiday, especially when looking after elderly people, so don't be tempted to give in. Neither should you expect them to be politically correct; if they say things that you feel are not quite appropriate, it's just not worth getting into an argument about it.
You can get help on these matters from www.elderlyparents.org.uk . They offer free, impartial advice about health, home, travel, finance and wills to help you take control of the situation, plan ahead and reduce any stress and tension surrounding it. You can send for their free help guide that will help you through difficult conversations and enable you to have helpful, constructive discussions. There is also a very good resource at http://www.mortgageloan.com/seniors/ , which gives help and guidance for older people if they wish to get a mortgage or want other advice on housing.
There are four basic choices when deciding how best to look after elderly parents:
It can be difficult to come to decisions about caring for elderly parents without feeling guilty. However, these decisions are as hard for your parents as they are for you. They may feel that they are letting you down in some way, they may think that they are a burden to you and they may feel guilty about losing their independence. There will always be an element of guilt about the decisions that you make, whatever they are; realising that an element of guilt is a natural emotion when caring for elderly parents can be the first step to overcoming it.
This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team.