Aging can be tough — not just for a senior, but for those who love them. You may watch the parent you once saw as omnipotent lose some of their abilities, become more vulnerable, and struggle with their own mortality. Though every family is different, many encounter similar challenges as they navigate the aging journey. Here are five pieces of advice from The Arbor Company’s aging experts.
Know That It’s Different for Everyone
“There's no roadmap to the aging process — aging is different for everyone, navigating the senior living maze is confusing, even for the experts,” said Victoria Vetter of Arbor Terrace of Johns Creek. “[T]here are no rules to what makes a ‘good’ child or ‘bad’ child. So relieve yourself of the burden that you're not doing as much as you are. As long as you're doing the best you can for Mom or Dad and advocate for their best interests, you're doing fine. All they really want is your company — near or far; visit, phone, video chat.”
It’s easy to fall into a cycle of guilt, because there’s always more to do. One way to break free of the guilt is to ask yourself: Am I capable of doing more, or do my children, my job, and my finances make it impossible? If doing more is not possible, then guilt makes no sense. Do what you can, and trust that everyone else in your family will, too. The truth is that there is no single list of criteria that works for everyone.
One of the most frustrating experiences caregivers report is that their loved ones won’t listen. Aging doesn’t change your loved one’s desire to live an independent life, even if their abilities change. Respect that they are still an autonomous person who is entitled to their own hopes, dreams, and opinions.
“I would advise them to just have patience. It isn't so easy growing old. One day they will experience it. Hopefully their children will show them the same respect,” Nancy Gunter of Arbor Terrace of Athens advised.
Particularly if your loved one has a progressive illness, you need to be prepared for the future so that you can honor their wishes and protect their assets. Arbor Terrace Roseland’s Ingrid Jensen recommended, “The importance of being prepared with planning for the future, which includes making sure that legal paperwork such as power of attorney, advance directives/living will are in place while your loved one is still able to make decisions. We often find that when families have to respond to a crisis, it becomes complicated and difficult to assist and provide for the right solution in a timely fashion without the proper documents.”
One human need never changes: the need for love. For Shanny Burge at Arbor Terrace Burnt Hickory, the formula for success is simple: “Honor them and live in the light. Open and honest communication [is] important,” she said.
Get the Right Help
Dena Premont-Dinsmore of Arbor Terrace Shrewsbury wants families to know that no one can walk this road alone. “Don’t wait too long to talk with your doctor and family. Never rule out assisted living. You can still live a full, engaged life and have the benefits of hotel living,” she explained.
At Arbor, we help bridge the gap between your loved one’s needs and what they’re currently getting. We work with families to make aging less overwhelming, less scary, less stressful. We’re here for you. Give us a call to learn what makes us special. And for more tips and strategies, download our free e-book, “How to Talk to Your Parent About Senior Living"