If you are lucky, your parents will know when the time is right on their own and seek your assistance to find one that suits their lifestyle and finances. They will see their daily living gets harder. Maybe one parent is caring for the other and the caregiver’s health is declining. Falls could be happening more often. Tasks such as cooking, cleaning and home repairs become too difficult. They’ll know it and take charge of their living arrangements.
But, if your parents are like many, they need or have needed to move into assisted living for a long time but haven’t for whatever reason. Why wouldn’t they want to be waited on, cared for and entertained in their Golden Years? Some elderly parents are masters of the reasons NOT to move into a facility.
We don’t want to leave our home. We’ll miss it.
We don’t have enough money. We want to leave something for the kids.
We can manage things. We’ve lived here for “x” years.
The adult kids can help us.
We don’t fit in with “those people” in those places.
What will we do with all our things?
We don’t want people around us ALL the time.
Those places are for “old” people. Not us.
We’ll know when we are ready.
It is our decision if we want to die in our home.
We don’t need help. We’re fine.
The list goes on and on…
When parents fail to see that they are struggling, not thriving, isolated, lonely and not able to keep up with household tasks, it may become the adult kids’ problem. The adult children have lives of their own; jobs, their own kids/grandkids, vacations, hobbies, lives, and it all goes on hold during this time. It is a strain on marriages, work life, household chores, friendships fall away, and there is no down time for the adult children. The stress of running two households takes its toll.
Should the adult children pick up the slack? Do the parents expect them to do double the grocery shopping, double laundry, double house cleaning, double lawn mowing, double paying of bills and put their lives on hold?
What is the best thing to do? Should adult children care for their parents. A resounding YES if it makes sense. But if it doesn’t? Many things go into the equation. How many adult children/siblings are there? How many children are able to help, have the time, and live close enough? If the burden falls on one child more than others, it can cause hurt feelings and tear apart families. Parents who do not recognize their adult children have lives and their own families may expect too much. What is too much? It can probably last for a while, but there is certain to be burnout resentment towards the parents (or the siblings that are not helping) and create a breakdown of the family if it goes on for months or even years.
If there are many adult children and they all agree to take on specific responsibilities, visit often and provide equally, then it can work. If not, this situation can be heading toward a train wreck. Can it be avoided. The short answer is sometimes at best.
Elderly parents have valid reasons for not wanting to leave their homes and move into assisted living. If you are a parent who is wondering if your adult children want to help, they probably do. Will they be willing? Some will, some won’t. Should adult children be expected to help. YES! Should adult children be expected to take care of everything so their parents can stay home? That is a tougher one to tackle. Should they be giving up their lives and dreams to do so. Parents need to take some responsibility to look deep into their hearts and decide if they want their adult children to be their caregivers feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and giving up time with their own precious families. What do you do when this happens?
If you are adult child who is being expected to take over family finances, prepare meals, visit often, pick parents up when they fall, clean house, mow lawns, for an extended period of time you may be feeling all the things mentioned above and be close to a breakdown. You are not alone. If you are the only child doing it, you’ll especially be feeling torn in half because you want to help, you want to be the good daughter or son, and you certainly love your parent(s), but how much is too much? Is it worth your health declining, your anxiety growing, your resentment taking over your relationship with your siblings or parents?
There is no good answer to when or who is responsible. In a perfect world, parents would have a plan, but in so many families, there is no plan. If you are reading this, you might be living this very issue. You may be the parent who needs help, the adult child who wants to help, but is already overextended. Or are you the child that doesn’t want to get involved and figure the other “siblings” will or should do it.
Whatever your situation, talk to your parents long before it is time for them to make decisions about care preferences. Parents, talk to your kids about what you expect to happen. These can be difficult discussions, but necessary. You need to talk about this before you are in a panicked situation. Put parents’ wishes in writing while they are of sound mind so when the time comes and they cannot or will not make such decisions, you will know what they want. Talk about finances. Know their bank accounts and what is in them if they are willing to share this information. Ask the questions!
Parents, ultimately, safety is paramount. Falling, skipping meals, uncleanliness of body or surroundings, are certainly all causes for concern and can lead to untimely injuries or even death. Allow your adult children to help you, but not to the point of causing undue stress, anxiety, resentment and taking time away from their own families, careers, and living their lives. Have a plan in place and talk to your children about your wishes.
Adult children, talk to your parents about this before it is too late. Siblings, talk to each other. The stress of caring for parents is real. Be a team. When caregiving becomes too much, I hope your parents realize how much you love them and will do as much as you can for them, but you must take care of yourself, too, especially when months become years of caregiving. The time may come when it is time to leave the caregiving to the professionals and become their children again, not their caregivers.
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