How do you respect your aging parents’ independence, but keep them safe and engaged as they near the end their lives? Can you? It is a difficult but very rewarding task to care well for those you love during this part of their life journey and sometimes mirrors how they raised you.
For every loved one, in every cultural, economic and family situation, the answer is different. It is also different depending on their mental capacity; in fact, that question must be asked first! Are they aging normally or do they have Dementia? If they are able to make sound decisions, here are a few things to consider: Do we take away our parent’s car keys or offer to go with them to doctors’ appointments and to run errands? Do we take them to church, synagogue and other social activities or join them in these adventures? Do we cook meals with them in their home, bring in meals or hire a meal delivery service? Do we allow them to stay in their homes, move in with family, go to assisted living or other option? What are their wishes for after they pass away (funeral, burial, cremation, etc)? And, the list goes on. But basically, what questions do you and your loved one need to discuss? As hard as it is to have these discussions (I’ve been there too!), it helps everyone. It is best to have conversations before you are faced with decisions!
It is my belief that whenever possible, we should support our parents’ rights and allow them to make their own choices. My aunt shared some wise advice when I was walking this journey with my Mom. Mom needed me to support her choices. Not persuade her to make the ones I wanted, felt were the best or even the safest, I needed to honor her independence and her wishes. Respecting our parents’ rights to choose empowers them to be as independent as they can possibly be for as long as they can. Thinking back, they taught us the same thing as we launched into adulthood. They gave us less and less direction as we grew; the older we got the more decisions we made for ourselves. And what happened when we grew up? Our parents celebrated with us when we succeeded, supported our choices and helped pick up the pieces when we failed. Can we do any less for them?
Submitted by Brook Dickerson