I’m not sure at what age you start to hear parents say to their adult children things like, “who’s the parent here?” or “okay, thanks mom!”. But, I have been hearing it for a while now. Is it only me? Surely not! For example, I have told my dad he needs to drink more water, not as much diet coke. I have also recently tried to coach my mom on how to handle certain work situations and relationships in her life. I bring this up because I truly want to know what my parents need from me and be aware of what they don’t need. As we age our relationships do evolve with our parents and I want to know how to best embrace it. As I have grown in my adulthood, became a bit wiser, more experienced and a bit more knowledgeable than my parents in certain areas, I have begun to offer my advice, welcomed or not. My parents don’t really need my help physically at this point, but I do see them benefiting from my emotional support, I think?. After some time spent with one of my parents recently, I began to think more about my role and this relationship. I can only imagine, at this point, what it feels like to have your adult children, that you still see as juveniles, try to tell you what you should or should not do.
I haven’t to date surveyed my parents or found any specific literature on the topic. Most of what we think about when it comes to caring for our parents is later in life when they have more physical needs. But, I do think adult children can provide positive feedback around overall health, to their parents moving into retirement and their later years. I do hear from my friends, that their parents are dealing with all sorts of stuff now that they may come to them for consultation on or advice. I do feel like this third quarter of their lives is when we start to see this role reversal. I want to talk about it because I want to do it well. I also want to keep the lines of communication open, which will assist with future needs they may have.
Inspiring Overall Health in Your Parents
As I mentioned, I haven’t found any literature on this specific topic, therefore this blog serves only as a brainstorming session. Just a place to ask yourself and then maybe your parents, what they need from you, where they are currently at in their lives. I am going to brainstorm this topic by separating my parents’ health into 4 main areas of overall health.
Physical Health: I want my parents to know I am here if they need me and want me involved in their future care. My parents kept me alive for 18+ years, provided for all my needs to the best of their ability and just by nature, had to love me, therefore I want them to know they have a caregiver and advocate in me. So, my advice: you don’t have to pry into every aspect of their health, but at least let them know you are there for them and you want to know how they are doing. More than likely they may start to have more doctors’ appointments or procedures needed, like a cataract repair, etc. Your experience with technology, holistic medicine, resources available via the web etc., could help them out. Again, keeping communication open should help with your parents accepting more help from you as time goes on.
Mental Health and Purpose: Is anyone else nervous about retirement for their parents and maybe already themselves? Hand up here! I think retirement is so glamorized, but I think it can be a harder season than expected. Our work becomes us; it is difficult to not let it become your identity and just your ingrained routine. Most of us work for 50+ years of our lives. I want to be aware of my parents’ sense of purpose and belonging. I want to encourage them to think about their years after working and how they may fill their time. It’s important to be aware that the places and people that give them a sense of community, connection and purpose may change as they get older. A conversation with them about this will help get their wheels turning if they aren’t already and you can be there to offer suggestions. Volunteering is a great suggestion to allow them to still feel needed and helpful.
Cognitive Health: Brain health is never too late to invest in. This is a place to really encourage your parents. If dementia runs in your family, especially encourage them to exercise, make healthy food choices and keep their minds engaged. Some research suggests Alzheimer’s can develop in the brain 20 years before symptoms set in. This is again where communication is key. It’s important to have the conversation about dementia with your parents and educate yourself. Learn the 10 Warning Signs. Dementia statistics are big, one in ten 65 and older and one in three 80 and older are affected. We must all be talking about this. A cure is needed NOW. Visit alz.org to learn more.
Be proactive in your parent’s aging health
To sum this blog up, be proactive in your parent’s aging health, not reactive. Communicate no matter what, even about the hard stuff. Approach all of this in a loving and respectful way. God gave parents and children a relationship that is intended to be mutually beneficial. Let LifeLinks’ Care Managers assist you as you journey with your parents through the aging process. As an only child myself and “long-distance” future caregiver, Care Managers will most likely offer me that support one day and I hope to take full advantage of this profession. Contact us via the web at LifeLinks.care or at 615-595-8929.