Worried About Elderly Parents?
Jarrett McKay - Feb 20, 2017
In Canadian society today, it is not uncommon to find family units encompassing three and four generations. While this may be a joy to contemplate while everyone is healthy, it can often add substantial stress to interpersonal relationships should il
In Canadian society today, it is not uncommon to find family units encompassing three and four generations. While this may be a joy to contemplate while everyone is healthy, it can often add substantial stress to interpersonal relationships should illness or accident befall someone, particularly older members of the family.
How would you react if you learned that an aging parent, otherwise in perfect health, had suddenly fallen and broken his or her hip? How would it impact you and your family? At the best of times, it can mean an extended period of convalescence when the patient will be dependent on others for day-to-day support. In some instances, it may mean permanent impairment of some kind that can result in a radically changed lifestyle. Heart disease, stroke, cancers and other illnesses such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases are just some of the diseases that lurk as we age. In most cases, support of others may be essential to recovery or even survival.
Most children will naturally want to support their parents at such critical times. Recent surveys suggest a significant percentage of people are providing some level of assistance to an aging family member. Sometimes, this involves taking time off work and other monetary sacrifices. In some cases, their own retirement plans can be significantly impacted. The stress can also negatively impact their personal health.
It doesn’t help that the recipients of the assistance may resist, or if other family members are unwilling/unable to share the burdens.
What can you do to lessen the stresses and strains?
First Steps to Help Out
If there is a possibility that you may be involved with eldercare, the best time to think about it is when all parties are healthy and there is no pressure of an immediate crisis.
Talking is a good first step. Casual conversations, rather than formal planning meetings, can start a dialogue without being a perceived threat or intrusion. Involving all siblings is also a good idea. Researching available community resources will also be important. Support is available from a wide range of government agencies and charitable organizations that may fit your own situation well. The availability will vary by province and local community.
Taking Care of Yourself
Most of us know of individuals who have exhausted themselves in their roles as caregivers to an elderly parent. It’s important to know our own physical limits as well as to respect our ongoing responsibilities to our more immediate families. Don’t forget to reinvigorate yourself as needed. There are, for example, outside agencies that can provide a holiday respite, even if you are a full-time caregiver to one of your parents.
It may be a good time to review your own estate planning arrangements. Should you be discussing, with your immediate family, any preferences for your future care? Do you have your own updated will and powers of attorney in place? Might there be a place for long-term care insurance or critical illness insurance, to alleviate any fears of financial difficulties in times of crisis? The time is now to consider these matters. After all, time continues to march on and we will be the senior generation before long.
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