There’s a cruel cyclicity to life when it comes to parent-child dynamics. At the beginning of your life, they pour all of their energy into caring for you and making sure that you are raised properly.
However, as their life reaches its twilight years, the tables turn and you end up playing the caregiver role. Elderly people have a significantly higher chance of developing life-threatening conditions or suffering a life-altering injury. Such situations can leave them disabled, and it usually comes down to the effort of the child to grant them the best care possible.
Give them room to breathe
Nothing hurts as much as injured pride. We all want to live with dignity, so your parents will like to think of themselves as independent and self-sufficient even if they are limited by a disability. The trick is to let them do as much as they can by themselves.
Granted, finding the line between ‘help’ and ‘by yourself’ can be infuriatingly delicate since it depends from parent to parent.
You’ll simply have to give them space. Adults can exhibit helicopter behavior as much as their parents did when they were little, hovering about in constant worry. It puts unnecessary pressure on your parents and it keeps you consistently anxious without need.
Think about the layout
Small household tweaks can go a long way. Investing in an adjustable bed instead of a regular one is a good example of a significant change that impacts your parent’s lifestyle quality profoundly. But it doesn’t end merely with choosing the appropriate furniture. It is also about layout.
Your disabled parents might not be nearly as active as they used to be, but they are still living, breathing humans that metabolize air, water, and food. Accordingly, they’ll have basic needs that need to be satisfied efficiently. In other words, they require access to as many necessities as possible, within hand’s reach.
The solution for this is to keep all that a human requires from a household in a tight space – and on a singular level. Think in terms of ground-level layouts.
A bathroom should be close to the bed, access to the bookshelf and a TV remote (let’s define this as an ‘entertainment zone’) should be placed right next to the bed, and the optional kitchen can also be set up in the same room.
A singular room with easy access to the front yard or a back yard is the best of all worlds. A ramp outside the entrance is also a good idea. Factors such as this will make your disabled parents’ life much easier. Remember, entries and stairways will be the bane of their existence unless you eliminate them.
Keep the process gradual
The sooner your parents come to terms with their disability, the easier life becomes for everyone. However, this process has to be gradual and feel unforced.
It begins with conversations about the nature of their disability and the way it may profoundly affect their lives. Steer the conversation with the right questions, but let your parents dictate the answers. They’ll feel like they are leading the discussion. The problems should be framed as obstacles to overcome, and the focus of the conversation is all about solutions.
This is how the idea of a professional caregiver comes into play. While your disabled parent might be uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger probing their private space, they will at least see the logical ins and outs of why they are needed, if the conversation is done right.
The key is to introduce the medical assistant incrementally. It should begin with two to three visits a week that last for several hours, and then slowly build it to a full-time engagement. And if everything goes well, they’ll certainly appreciate the companionship once they get used to this new person.
Caring for disabled parents is a balancing act. On the one hand, you have their feelings and self-esteem. On the other, the realistic parameters of the situation rear their ugly heads. Each side has to give, and it is up to you to manage the equilibrium.
The demanding role of a caregiver can certainly be lonely and, while nobody has the right to tell you how to feel when you are doing your best, there is always an option to turn to medically licensed (and vetted) providers of care for the disabled elderly. It is all about the result – the wellbeing of your parents.
Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photography-of-left-hand-on-top-of-right-hand-on-white-pants-1305302/