Seniors: Respect Aging Parents

Jun 22nd, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Knowing when to impose yourself upon the lives of your aging parents is sometimes a hard call. Health considerations, particularly mental health, are of primary importance and consideration.  Imposing attention, presence, assumptions of need on aging parents can insult their independence and dignity.  Dealing with parents who, in large part, are still in control of most of their faculties means allowing them to be at the center of all choices and decisions which affect their lives.

Seizing responsibility for parents, before they are ready, may be predicated on “what seems good for them,” but may also be premature and unfair to the parent.  Allowing them to stay as actively involved in their life needs, choices and plans will likely enable them to manage, more handily, their own lives in ways that will keep them alert and active. 

Clearly, there are situations which arise which may require evaluation and careful examination of ability.  However, those situations need to be evaluated by persons whose objectivity and ability to interact with the aging parent(s) can be respected and honored.  Children, no matter their age, aren’t necessarily equipped to determine what is best for their parents as they age.  Bringing in resources, third party experts and others whose evaluataion skills will take into account more than emotional judgments will be critical and desirable.  Doing it, just because you care and you want to protect the parent(s) is not sufficient reason to smother the parents with too much attention.  If they need it, let them come to the moment when they ask.  If that doesn’t happen, then other measures will, of course, be required.

The other part of helpfulness is to allow the parent(s) to pick and choose in what ways they may need help.  In other words, don’t decide for them.  Suggest, offer, indicate willingness, but do not move in and control.  That eventually may create tension and ultimately can lead to alienation.  Of course, good judgment is not always and every time a trait of every aging parent.  This is when careful, diplomatic, and sensitive insight and interaction (not intrusion) may be necessary and called for.  Our parents, even if beset with dementia, are still our parents.  That does not mean to be callously indifferent to their state, but to be gingerly aware and usefully present to their declining needs. 

When I reach the age of cognitive or physical disability, I will want my family to show honor and respect to my persona, even with limited abilities.  I will want to be treated, as I hope I will treat those in my care and keeping. I will want to demonstrate careful tenderness, gentle respect and honest affection for so long as such can be received.  I don’t think that is asking too much for any of us.



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