They’re your parents. You’ve looked up to them your whole life. They’ve given you nourishment, guidance, discipline, advice. They’ve always been there with answers.
And now they need your help.
It can happen quickly. One day you go for a visit or have a phone conversation and you notice that one or both of your parents is forgetting things or is less capable of doing some of the things they’ve always done.
Americans are living longer than in previous decades. In 1960, the average American was fortunate to make it past 70. Nowadays, the average American lives to nearly 80. And according to data from the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. If that happens, the amount of Americans who are 65 and older will grow from 16 percent to 23 percent.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the association predicts that number could rise to nearly 14 million.
But what do all of these numbers really mean?
For starters, it means that if you have found your parents rely on you now more than ever before, you’re not alone. But it also means that you may have some difficult decisions to make and some demanding days ahead.
We would love the opportunity to meet with you and your parents to share with you about the community and services we provide at Savanna House. But whether they decide to live here, we have a few tips for you.
Understand that if your parents are struggling with memory loss, it’s not their fault. You may have to repeat yourself often or take the time to remind them of things that once were top-of-mind. It can be easy to get frustrated. Do your best to not get angry at the moment. Find friends or family you can share your stress with.
Remind yourself of the new normal
If you’ve been lucky enough to have parents who were strong, intellectual providers, it’s natural to want them to continue to those things for you. But over time, roles can reverse. You have to remind yourself that the people who once were capable of juggling multiple obligations may need help with the tiniest tasks. That transition can be a tough pill to swallow.
Don’t put off discussions about your parents’ future
If your parents have started showing signs of aging and are frequently forgetting things, it may be time to have some conversations about the future. Start with some simple questions like, “What would you want to happen if you could no longer take care of yourself?” Or ease into it by saying, “I know things are fine now, but what do you think about assisted living?”
Don’t forget about yourself
The same way some new parents may quit hobbies or exercise routines to spend more time at home, children of elderly parents sometimes forget to make time for the things that help reduce stress and keep balance in their lives. You could very well be working a full-time job, taking care of your own children, keeping up with housework and yardwork, and trying to maintain some sort of social life — all while worrying if you’ll have time to stop and check on your parents. It could be as simple as picking up prescriptions or something as extensive as taking care of their home, preparing their dinner or making major decisions they’re no longer able to make. Either way, you still need to make time for yourself, as hard as that may be. You’ll be in a better state of mind when you’re with them.
Don’t give up
Remember – you’re not alone. Though, depending on the level of support from your family and friends, it may seem like it at times. We understand that. We’re here to help when you need us.