Taking Care of Aging Parents

Grandmother and child

If you’re assisting your parents due to a physical or cognitive decline while trying to manage your own family, welcome to the sandwich generation club! Not a stress free place to be, but one that more and more Canadians are entering into.


by Vera Orsini

“Sometimes I get scared when I forget things,” my 69 year old mother said to me one day. Any little ‘hiccup’ in her brain, and she worries. Thankfully, she did go to see her doctor. She does not have dementia, and her hiccups are a normal part of aging. Right now my parents don’t need help, which is a good thing as they are two provinces away. However, as the senior population grows and outnumbers the younger generations, I wonder – how women out there are trying to balance their children, work, spouses, and suddenly parents that need help?

I’ve only been in the field a short time, but already I can see the stress that many women are experiencing. I’ve also seen children who are wondering what ever happened to their once independent grandparents. They don’t understand why mom is running to help grandma with an errand instead of staying home with them.

Grandmother and babyThrough research and talking with other professionals in the field, I came up with a few tips I thought might help. As always, talk to an accredited professional before following advice. They can steer you in the right direction with advice that is more relevant to your specific needs.

1. Talk with your parents. See what their wants are. See what their needs are. If they allow you into a doctor’s office with them, ask questions. Sometimes to understand what is necessary, you need proper information from a professional.

2. Allow your parents to stay as independent as possible. Let your parents make decisions for themselves – don’t try to do it all.

3. Be honest with your children. Let them know, in language they can understand, what is happening to their grandparents. Get them involved. It could be as little as going on a grocery shopping trip to see why grandma or grandpa needs assistance. This may take away from the fear and uncertainty they may be experiencing. Check in with them. Ask if there are any questions they may have and allow them to channel their frustrations in an appropriate manner. Involving children allows them the understanding of aging, and with knowledge, hopefully will see aging as a normal part of life.

4. Support from your spouse/partner, family and friends is key. Have a support system in place that will allow you to decompress, have people share or take over the responsibilities. Such support will help you balance your life and responsibilities.

5. Look for community services in your area. There may be local services your parents can access. Use respite services when needed. There are caregiver support groups- see if your area has one. If not, maybe this would be a good time to start one up in your neighbourhood.

6. Don’t forget self care. I am such a big believer in self care. Caregiver stress is real. Caregiver stress has broken marriages, settled people into depression, illnesses and so much more. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot help anyone else. From personal experience I can tell you that you will become run down. Caregiver support groups allow you to be with those who share the experience and understand what you may be going through. Self care could be going out with a friend for a walk. Self care could be revelling in alone time. Whatever you decide, do what’s best for you.

 

Vera Orsini is a mom of one funny amazing 8 year old daughter, and wife of one funny amazing man. With their blessing, she went back to school and completed the Social Service Worker Gerontology program full time. While it was difficult studying at night plus managing a family, she never looked back. She feels blessed to do what she does for a living and tries to spread the word about senior issues that are relevant to the family. She has recently become a registered Social Service Worker.

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I founded Mums 'n Chums in 2009 after realizing that the area I live in was drastically underserviced as compared to surrounding areas for support and activities for growing families. Mums 'n Chums grew popular very quickly and I have been dedicated to nurturing that growth through frequent networking, social media engagement and in person meetups. By the end of its first year, Mums 'n Chums had close to 500 members and was receiving regular inquiries from fans outside of its service area, asking when we would be expanding to serve them as well. After much careful research and polling, I expanded the site in May of 2011 to cover the entire North end of the GTA (from Cambridge to Markham), areas I believe are still receiving far less attention than they deserve from other sites and family services. We also changed the focus from small scale local mom and tot meetups to more of an informative purpose, closing down our forum and adding several talented contributors to the blog. We do still offer several large scale family events per year, such as our popular Birthday Bash events and our Holiday Bash in December. Our contests have also become a member favourite, and we strive to offer amazing prizes from trusted brands like Babies R Us, La Roche Posay, Johnson's Baby and many more. In March of 2016, after months of work spent migrating all of the site's content to a new platform, Mums 'n Chums re-launched with its fresh, new look. The changes and expansion have proven a great success and we're still getting inquiries from several other cities within the Greater Toronto Area, whom we have decided to serve as well. I have built this site and its' reputation carefully and look forward to continuing its growth!