Years ago, you may have had a conversation with your parent that sounded something like this:
Mom: Did you hear that Sally’s children put her in a nursing home? That is so sad. Promise that you won’t ever do that to me!
You: I promise, Mom. I will always be there for you. You will never have to live in one of those places.
Now, years later, the reality of caregiving has hit you. Your Mother has Parkinson’s disease, or Dementia or chronic Depression, and her care has become increasingly difficult. As a caregiver, your health and your family are suffering. You know that something has to change.
But what about that promise you made to your Mother?
Caring for a parent involves a myriad of emotions. Adult children express sadness and grief for the loss of the parent they once knew, while at the same time may feel anger and resentment for the overwhelming responsibilities of caregiving. And, finally, there is that constant sense of guilt for not being able to manage the tasks at hand.
In the best world, we love our parents unconditionally, and want to be there for them when they can no longer care for themselves. But, there is a reality to caregiving. Adult children have responsibility, not only to their parents, but also to their children, their spouse, their job, and even to themselves. As much as we would like, we cannot be all things to all people.
The phrase, “it takes a village” is typically used in reference to young people, but is just as effective when referring to the aging senior population. No one can be a successful caregiver in a vacuum. It takes aides and therapists and neighbors and clergy and many more to provide support and care for an aging parent.
One of the most helpful resources you can enlist is an Aging Life Care Manager. As a seasoned professional, a Care Manager will assess your parent’s situation and sit down with you to discuss options. There may be resources available for your parent to continue to successfully age-in-place at home. Services, such as organizing medication, arranging for meals, or finding a doctor who makes house calls can be set up to lighten your caregiving load. The Care Manager will visit your parent on a regular basis to assure that she is safe and receiving the care she needs.
Alternately, a Care Manager might help with locating a residential facility where your parent can find new friends and receive the best care possible. The promise you made to your parent was ultimately that she would continue to feel loved and cared for in a safe and secure environment. She may have been fearful of being abandoned in a large facility. However, moving your parent to a residence where appropriate care is provided, may be the very best thing you can do. Many older adults, who have been isolated at home, actually thrive in residential facilities where they participate in activities, find new friendships and enjoy a reduced burden of responsibility. As the adult child, you are still available as an advocate, a friend, and a loving son or daughter.
Caregiving for an aging parent can be challenging. It is important to know that you are not breaking promises to your parent by using all the services available, including a residential care facility. An Aging Life Care Manager can help you navigate the maze of long term care services to assure that promises are kept in finding the best possible options for your older parent.