While a lot is written about how to prepare physically for your parent entering an aging care facility, far less is out there about how to prepare yourself mentally as an adult child. When a parent enters the senior years, there is a lot to process as you watch this happen. It no doubt brings up feelings about your relationship with them, your own aging journey, and more. Let’s talk about how to mentally prepare for the senior years ahead.
Thank you to my friend and blogger Resa for pointing out to me the importance of the topic. She inspired me to write this one!
It’s going to happen
The reality is that everyone ages. There isn’t a Benjamin Button story in reality, at least not yet.
So, you will get older, as will your parents. Of course, illness and injury can shorten the lifespan, but that’s a separate discussion.
The thing is, few people talk about it. There’s a reason that most Canadians do not have a signed will. While one reason why is that they may feel they are too young, another big reason I think is that they don’t want to think about their mortality. So, avoid, avoid, avoid.
Have you ever tried to talk with someone about the end of life? It’s, well, awkward. It’s dark. It’s not a topic that most people want to enter into as part of a conversation.
But, it’s going to happen. Mortality is not a fantasy; it’s a reality.
In addition to not wanting to talk about death, most people probably don’t want to think about it either. Yet, when you see your parent becoming frail and entering a senior home, you can’t help but wonder about your own lifespan.
There is the fear of the parent, coming to terms with their aging, and your fear about losing them and about your own aging. A lot to think about!
Self-reflecting on a parent entering a senior care home
It’s natural to reflect on one’s own life when seeing your mom or dad move to an elderly care facility. Taking stock of one’s own life, from age to accomplishments, is likely going to happen.
This time could be one of feeling some regrets, which may bring up new issues that you may have swept under the rug. It could also make you feel very grateful for what you have seen and done over the years, as well as the time spent with your aging loved one.
Perhaps you start to evaluate how far behind your parent you are, and perhaps how you will continue to age over the years physically and mentally. Will your skin sag, will you become unable to walk without hunching forward, or will you begin to have memory problems?
A positive result could be that you realize the preciousness of life and have a new zest for life based on the limited time you know is ahead. You want to seize the day – and that includes spending more time with your parents.
Developing new memories as you visit them in the care facility and helping them transition there can be key parts of the stronger connection you form with them. If it has been an unhealthy or abnormal relationship, perhaps now is the time when you both are able to heal and make positive changes.
Thinking about the quality of care in the home
As your senior mom or dad moves to the assisted residence, think about what you too would want when you get to be around that same age. Is the facility up to the standards you would want?
Is your parent well taken care of, both physically and mentally? Are the staff there taking their unique needs and wants into consideration by staff?
These questions, among others, are all important ones to ask as an adult child. Seeking the best care for your parent can help them be safe and age gracefully, all while maintaining their dignity.
When you get to be their age, wouldn’t you want your children to make the same decisions for you? If you don’t have kids, these questions are ones for you to ask and for those closest to you, such as a partner, to help make decisions with you for your best care.
Other ways to prepare yourself for a loved one entering assisted living
There will no doubt be tough talks ahead between you, your siblings, and your parent. That is especially true if your loved one does not want to enter a retirement home.
Having the talk about making the transition can be easier if you practice the most important points to bring up before entering the conversation with them. Among the chief topics are what living options they can afford and the challenges that make them continuing to live independently an unsafe option. For instance, if they cannot move on their own or do basic hygiene tasks, moving to a senior living home might be the best solution.
Also, research local facilities to have a list on hand to approach your aging parent with when sitting down to have this important talk. By understanding where your parent is at in terms of being able to care for themselves, you can narrow down which places offer the necessary services.
Taking the time to do these things ahead of time gives you the opportunity to process what is happening. It also provides your parent with the chance to digest what was said and enter into more talks later.
It’s not only a one-time conversation. Instead, the best thing is to have a series of talks. After all, this isn’t something that happens every day. It’s a life transition and a major one. Everyone involved is learning and figuring out what is best for the parent. They are the focus here.
Try to remain calm in all conversations. It is a trying time for all but keeping an even tone of voice and staying positive is likely going to be what moves the talk forward and create a productive environment.
A few last words on the senior years
Of course, I am not saying that what your aging parent wants isn’t important! In fact, it’s most important. But what few people talk about is the impact that the transition to a senior home has on the adult child. From fear about their parent to fear about their own mortality, as well as dealing with change and much more, there is a lot going on here.
The move to assisted living affects everyone in the family. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting for all, especially the senior.