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How to help and support your aging parents as they grow older

We want what’s best for our parents, in the same way that they have always looked out for our best interests. As our parents age, we find that their needs change, either because of medical conditions or simply because they have moved into a new phase of their lives. How can we support their continued growth and successful aging process while also being mindful of their physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs? It’s all about respect….


Do

Do realize it’s their life

Remember it’s their life. They have lived longer, in a different age, have different values, and have been where you are now. Experience is a great teacher. Don’t expect them to adopt your lifestyle.

Do know when to back off

What’s the use of creating strife in your relationship at this point in your lives? Share pertinent medical information and your opinion about their lifestyle. Answer any questions. Then, live with their decision.

Do realize you cannot eliminate all risks from your parents’ lives

To attempt to do so is to limit their growth. Your parents are complex people beyond their role as your parent. Their parent role is fading, and they should be exploring other roles and sources of meaning and purpose.

Do encourage them to get out of their comfort zone

Just as you should. Scaring ourselves a little every day is a tonic for vitality, youthfulness, and optimism. It builds self-esteem and confidence. Be on the right side of this and you will find an entirely new, rewarding relationship with the people who brought you into the world.

Do seek assistance if necessary

If your parents seem unwilling to move or interact with others, they may be depressed. First, try to stimulate them by attempting to get them talking about something they love to do, or used to love to do. If that fails, perhaps it’s time to call their physician to ensure there is no depression or perhaps side effects from medication.


Don't

Do not expect them to “act their age”

Acting one’s age is basically accepting that aging is mostly about decline. There is great potential in all of us as long as we have a pulse. Whether physical, social, intellectual, or spiritual, growth is our heritage. Stephen Hawking grew despite devastating limitations.

Do not fall on your sword over any issue

The most important thing is that you are in their lives; you are appreciative of all they have done; and you let them know you wish to see your relationship evolve as you age together. Giving up does no one any good, but support will aid both of you to grow.

Do not feel hurt if they have interests that don’t involve you

You are a parent forever, but that should not shut out other roles and interests. “Let them fly” just as you wanted them to do with you. They are the only parents you’ll ever have. Treat them accordingly.

Do not cut off all conversation

You will definitely not have any chance of influencing their lives if you break off conversation. Don’t convey that your love or caring comes with requirements. It should be unconditional.

Do not forget they’re the only parents you’ll ever have

If you get all wrapped up in a particular situation, you can very well lose sight of this most important piece of information. Parents are the reason you’re here. How can you forget that?


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Keeping these simple guidelines in mind will not only help improve the relationship you have with your parents, but it will also ease the stress that invariably accompanies changing roles. We all want what’s best for our parents. If encouragement, respect for their decisions, and appreciation for the continued potential we all have, no matter our age…if these are part of any advice we give our parents, it will go well for all.


More expert advice about Caring for Aging Parents

Photo Credits: © michaeljung, Stock Photo 49942154; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Dr. Roger LandryMD, MPH

Dr. Roger Landry is a preventive medicine physician, author of award-winning Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging and President of Masterpiece Living, a group of multi-discipline specialists in aging who partner...

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