As a child, it can be heartbreaking to see your parent(s) age. But as a parent, it is just as heartbreaking to experience the aging process. Many times, both child and parent go through a period of denial in accepting the changes that are occurring. As hard as it is for a child to come to terms with the decline, the parent may struggle even more. From the child perspective, how do you keep your aging parents safe? How can you help them, even if you live far away? From the parent perspective, how do you engage with your concerned child while keeping the relationships intact?
In today’s article, we’re offering tips for both the children of an aging parent as well as the aging parents themselves!
Recognize Perspective: Put Yourself in Their Shoes
If You’re the Child of an Aging Parent
First things first, it is important to acknowledge the delicacy of the situation. As children, we sometimes leave off the pleasantries when interacting with our parents. We have higher standards, shorter fuses, and less patience with the ones closest to us than we practice with strangers or acquaintances in our lives. Yet when it comes to Medicare-age parents, they need our kindness and compassion as they age. Your grace and understanding in your interactions with your aging or elderly parents will go a long way. As much as you may feel frustrated, they feel it tenfold.
Take a step out of your shoes and imagine what it would feel like to experience what they are going through: to start to lose control of your body, not be as sharp mentally, experience new aches and pains, etc. Our culture focuses on the parent protecting the child, shielding their child from pain and sheltering them from hardships. Typically, Medicare-age parents keep things close to their chest and will not share or in their eyes “burden” their children with their challenges. Recognizing these factors may help you exercise more compassion and empathy when interacting with your Medicare-age parent.
If You’re a Parent of Medicare Age
Just as it is important it is for a child to have perspective on their parent’s viewpoint, Medicare-age parents should return the favor in acknowledging the challenges their children face in seeing a parent age. As children we almost always see our parents frozen in time from how they were as they raised us. We no doubt share in the denial that our parents are aging and the first few times we see a hand tremor, the memory wavering, struggles to walk long distance, or pain on a parents’ face, it feels like a harsh slap in the face.
We want the best for our parents and so we start to ask questions! This stems from our desire to protect and be part of our parent’s life. We don’t know what we don’t know. While questioning may feel like an interrogation to you as the parent, your child is asking for knowledge to ease their anxiety. When we don’t know what is going on, we make up the worst-case scenarios in our heads causing more worry and angst. As a parent, you may think you’re protecting your child by not talking about it, but in reality, the unknown is worse than the known. Recognizing these factors may help you exercise more compassion and empathy when interacting with your concerned children.
Practice Open Communication with Aging and Elderly Parents
If you’re the child of an aging parent, take the time to assess when you visit. Often our parent(s) will not openly communicate their needs and many times they don’t even realize them. Observe them in their environment, paying special attention to how are they eating, sleeping, and if they are able to safely maneuver their surroundings, etc. Think about any adjustments you could make or suggestions you might have to make daily life tasks easier for them.
If you’re a Medicare-age parent and your child is asking questions, embrace it! These inquiries are coming from a good place. Change is hard for everyone. Your body is changing forcing some of your environment to change as a result. Small tweaks can make a big difference, for example, like a handlebar in the shower to provide a stable place to hold onto preventing a fall or rearranging cabinets for more easily assessable items.
Research Health Insurance and Medicare Coverage for Aging Parents
As the child of an aging parent, you might be wondering if your parents are getting the healthcare coverage they need at a competitive price. Medicare can be an incredibly complex program to understand, and it can be frustrating to navigate all the information. Offering to discuss or research Medicare alongside your parent can go a long way to giving you peace of mind. Encourage them to re-examine their Medicare plan every year, especially if their medical needs have changed!
Are you of Medicare age? This is where you can enlist your Internet-savvy children to help! You could be spending hundreds of even thousands of dollars on Medicare that you may not need to spend. Get in touch with a Medicare expert like Medicare Dana to learn about your options. If you’re on a solid plan, we’ll be the first to let you know you don’t need to make any changes.
We know staying organized is half the battle. Letting someone know where your documents for your healthcare coverage are or even sharing your passwords with a trustworthy child or other family member can serve as a safety net in case you experience an unexpected injury or illness. Children, ask your parents to share these documents with you or better yet, help them create a secure file they can keep in a safe deposit box or another secure location.
Instead of seeing your caring family member as a burden or a pest, do your best to understand where they’re coming from. If you’re a child, understand how uncertain the future may feel to your aging parent. If you’re an aging parent, your child simply cares enough about you to ask difficult questions. We should all be so lucky to have someone care enough to get involved in our affairs! You CAN help aging parents and do so in a way that respects and honors their independence.