I recently came across a May 13, 2021, article Talking to Family When You No Longer Care for an Elderly Parent, the author, Danny Szlauderbach, looks at the tension between what seniors want for themselves and what their adult children want for them. The older parents, suggests Szlauderbach, want to retain their independence, which can often bump up against their children’s need to make sure their parents are safe and getting any help they may need which can often include long-term home care.
It’s a universal human truth. There are points in our lives when independence is what we most yearn for. When we are young children we look forward eagerly to the independence we will gain as we grow older. Later, as we age, we defend our independence as something we earned and want, but are at risk of losing. This can be terrifying.
Make a plan together for the next steps
Those with aging parents know they need to think about what their parents may need, now and in the future. Szlauderbach writes, “If you need a change or feel you’re giving up your life to care for elderly parent, it doesn’t mean you’re being selfish or uncaring.” In a similar article the author shares findings from a 2004 study which concluded, in part: aging parents have a ‘strong desire for both autonomy and connection in relations with their adult children, leading to ambivalence about receiving assistance from them. They are annoyed by children’s over protectiveness but appreciate the concern it expresses.’”
We humans are great at holding sometimes opposing ideas in our heads at the same time. With young children, parents can simultaneously feel love and annoyance. There are also the opposing feelings of an adult child who is concerned about any number of things in their aging parent’s life. Right now there are individuals saying to their parents, “I respect you and your right to make your own decisions, but it is no longer safe for you to drive,” or “You are capable and responsible but your electricity was turned off because you did not pay the bill and I’d like to help you with that.”
The importance of striking a balance and communicating well
While it is common to resist the idea of accepting help, especially when it comes to long-term home care, our experience at Family Resource Home Care is that most elders welcome the care and concern. I know many families that work well together to provide just the right amount of care, adjusting as the needs of the older adult change. But that doesn’t mean it feels good to have lived a life of independence and now be relying on your kids. When older adults can say what they want and need, and their adult children can honestly voice their concern and both parties listen to and show respect for each other, families can usually find a way that works for them.