Stacy’s Book Note: How To Care For Aging Parents

Over the past year, a rapidly increasing number of people close to me are caring for aging parents or an elderly member in their lives. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given how our population is aging:

  • By 2030, the number of adults 65 or older is expected to be about 72.1 million; this is double the number in 2000. (AoA)
  • Baby Boomers are turning 65 at a rate of 8000 people each day. (AARP)

Yet, despite the inevitability of aging, no one wants to discuss elder care in the way we discuss child care. It’s neither pleasant nor easy. We know exactly when to start preparing for the arrival of a baby, and it’s a joyous occasion. But, the onset of caregiving for an aging adult is often unexpected and wrought with difficult emotions.

Award-winning writer, Virginia Morris, has done the research for us in her book How to Care for Aging Parents (available on my Bookshop and Amazon*). Buying this book (and then avoiding opening it until last week) was my first step to prepare myself. I’m glad I did. Reading it has been emotionally scary…but also empowering.

It’s one of those reference books that you browse, get enough info for now, and then use on an as-needed basis. It not only includes numerous checklists and an array of resources, but it also includes stories and examples that help you anticipate problems and common pitfalls.

Main take away for everyone

Stop avoiding the topic. The time is now, before that moment of crisis. (Check out the NYT article “A Tiny Stumble, a Life Upended“), but…

“No matter where you are in the process–whether you are just starting out, deeply enmeshed, or nearing the end–the most important thing you can do for your parent, and for yourself, is this: Be prepared for what might come. Complete the paperwork, explore the options, discuss his wishes, create a plan…. Staying one day ahead, one question ahead, one chapter ahead will… help insure your parent has choices and receives the best care possible.”

Main take-away for those caring for aging parents

Care for yourself. There is a tendency for one sibling (usually female) to become the default, primary caregiver. She can easily “become resentful that she is doing more than her share” while other family members “feel shut out or don’t realize how much work is involved (or both).” And, therefore…

“The first step is to get rid of that little voice inside of you that says, I can do it all. I am responsible for everything. Whatever I do it’s never enough…. You have to take a step back, take a realistic look at the situation, and establish some boundaries for yourself…. Setting some limits relieves your guilt, eases the tension and gives you more patience and energy for those things that only you can give.”

Are you having to care for an aging relative? If yes, what have you found helpful? And, where do you need more help/information?

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