There is a point in each of our lives when we begin to look at our parents differently. We move between the roles of child, friend and peer with relative ease. These are areas we expect our relationship with our parents to take. A phone call is all it takes to move these comfortable roles into the unknown.
A few months ago my mom called to say, “Hello, and by the way, I had a small episode yesterday.” Being in the healthcare business, alarms rang through my head. What she described to me next was the symptoms of a mild stroke. A few probing questions later I discovered that she had not been following her doctors’ orders. Isn’t she the one who made me take my medicine as a child and watched over me through surgeries as an adult? How could she ignore her own health and doctors’ advice? Although a lecture wanted to explode through my lips, I took a deep breath and began a new phase in our relationship. I became the professional, the caretaker. Although I must admit, a lecture did follow.
It may be a phone call from your parent, a neighbor, or a medical professional that throws you into this new role. It may be that while visiting with your parents you notice changes that over time raise your own alarms. Forgetfulness that now effects everyday activities, isolation, significant weight loss or exhaustion are a few signs. What do you do when you are faced with these challenges?
First and foremost, do a safety check. Where is the immediate risk? What steps do you need to take to alleviate this risk? Next, take a deep breath and look at the full picture. What information do you need to know and from whom? Talk to your parents to get their perspective. If needed, talk to other family members, medical professionals and your parents’ friends or neighbors to develop a clearer perception of the situation. When you have gathered all your information, prioritize it by the impact it would have on your parents’ current lifestyle.
If you’re a parent, you know how hard it is to let go and allow your children to be independent. It’s even more difficult for a parent to let go of his or her own life and allow their child to manage some of their independence. Remember, this is your parent’s life. Be sensitive to the impact that change has on it and keep them involved at all levels of the solution.
Solutions come in many forms…Medication management, healthy meals or home health support to senior housing, assisted living and skilled nursing. Sometimes the answers are easy and qui9ck. Sometimes they involve major decisions. There are many professionals who you can turn to for advice and counsel. Doctors, nurses, social workers, and church members are all willing to help you and your parents through these changes. There is one bit of advice I will give: If you do not feel comfortable with one professional and their advice, seek another, but if you keep receiving the same advice, look at it closely. It may have merit even if it isn’t what you want to hear. As for my mom, she’s doing well. I still ask about medication, blood pressure, and diet, but it is just a small part of our relationship. She rolls her eyes at me occasionally like she already knows what I’m about to say and doesn’t want to hear it. However, at the same time, she respects my advice and knows I want the best for her. Patience, love, and understanding are the best medicine for our parents and us.
Senior. VP of Sales Services