Coping Strategies for Caring Kids

Handing over the keys © 2013 Tracey Lawrence

Entrusting control over one’s life to one’s children is never easy. Image © 2013 Tracey Lawrence

When roles begin to reverse between parents and children, there’s bound to be friction. Parents who’ve always been independent resist the intervention of their kids. Whether it’s control, not wishing to be a burden, or a combination, the need to involve one’s children is generally uncomfortable. It’s natural for children to back down, respecting long-established familial roles. But I’ve learned some tricks you may find useful in dealing with the transition.

Desired change: hired help in your parent’s home.
Parental response: “I don’t need a babysitter.”
Adult child strategy 1: Make it about YOUR needs, not theirs. “Of course you don’t need a babysitter. But I would feel better knowing you had a little extra help around the house. I worry about you. If I know someone is coming in to help you, I’LL FEEL BETTER. Please, do it for ME.”

Adult child strategy 2: Make it about EXTENDING THEIR INDEPENDENCE. “By having someone come in to help, you can continue to live in YOUR HOME instead of a FACILITY. I know you love your place, and this way, you can stay where you’re comfortable longer.”

Desired change: taking away the car keys.
Parental response: “I’ve been driving for 60 years. Who the hell are you to tell me I can’t drive?”
Adult child strategy: This is a terrible thing to have to address, but there comes a time when you know your parent is a danger behind the wheel. Hurting themselves is bad enough. Potentially hurting others is a catastrophe waiting to happen. So once you’ve inquired about umbrella policies for yourself and your folks,* take the keys away from them and sell their car. Give it away to charity if you have to. And if driving them around does not fit your schedule, look for a hired caregiver who can drive them where they need to go. Taxis are another viable option. And if you have to, get the local police involved to revoke their license. This is really hard and painful, but knowing the danger and allowing your parent to possibly kill or maim others is far worse.

Desired change: the move to a facility.
Parental response: “You are NOT going to warehouse ME.”
Adult child strategy: Do your homework. Start looking at places BY YOURSELF before you introduce the idea to your parent. Put yourself in their position. How would YOU like living there? Use checklists of considerations to evaluate facilities objectively. Have a meal or two to see how the food is. Talk to residents and family members. Consider how often you would be able to visit. No matter how great the place is, care will be better when staff knows family may pop in at any time. When you think you’ve found a good fit, invite your parent to visit. Realize that they’re going to push back until they’re ready. Concentrate on the future and setting positive expectations for the transition. When I brought my mom to one place, we chatted with a community relations person, and I told her that what mother wanted was for me to build a machine that would send her back in time 15 years. Mom looked at me in awe. “You’re right! That IS what I want.” That conversation opened the door for a discussion of an achievable future and how we might look ahead to an exciting new chapter rather than dwelling on sadness and loss.

Realize that this is a PROCESS. Change is not easy for anyone, and you need to take control of what you can control: the way YOU respond. When you are stepping up, you are doing something noble and valuable. But don’t expect gratitude, especially in the beginning. There will be denial, resentment, confusion and anger. Paranoia, distrust and misunderstandings are usually part of the package as well. People who were once rational and loving can become delusional and hateful. There’s no way to prepare for the emotional impact of these changes. But as you confront your own family transition, do reach out. Seek support, ask for help, talk to professionals. And DON’T WAIT. Procrastination is human, but it will bite you. Time marches on, and it’s much easier to prepare while everyone is still relatively healthy. Keep that strategy in the forefront of your mind and be ready with the others should the need one day arise.

*Talk to a professional about this kind of liability insurance. You don’t want to have to face a law suit without some kind of protection in place. And if you haven’t addressed a long-term strategy for your folks or yourself, for that matter, seek professional advice!


About traceysl

Digital Artist, creative technologist, problem-solving lover of life. Having cared for my mother, who died on April 14, 2015 after a long fight with dementia, I have refocused professionally to helping others through my experience. I have started a company called Grand Family Planning to provide unique Family Support Services. In this way, I share my knowledge and give meaning to the tragic turn of my parents' journey through the misery of dementia.
This entry was posted in aging, assisted living, caregiving, driving, Family, life changes, long term care, planning, research and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Coping Strategies for Caring Kids

  1. traceysl says:

    Reblogged this on Light of Gray and commented:

    Some tips for adult children in dealing with aging parents. Happy New Year!

  2. If your parents become frail or too old to do everything by themselves or if long term care becomes their immediate concern, we should start discussing with the need for caregiver – not a babysitter, one thing we can do is to ask someone to assist them in doing household chores and not daily activities like eating, bathing or dressing because they may find it offensive. It can be a hard task convincing and introducing parents to things like these but we can do it gradually. We can also ask someone they trust to talk to them about the idea. Gradually, as events unfold, they will realize that they are going to need help sooner or later. Like if they accidentally fall or they start experiencing weakness and difficulties, when they can no longer bear it, they will give into it and ask for assistance themselves…

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