Plan for aging parents

Parenting my parent—an uncomfortable thought and yet something that nearly 3 million Canadians, most of them women, will do in their lifetimes. For many who postponed having children until they were into their 30s, they will face the double responsibility of raising children while needing to provide increased care for their parents—the “sandwich generation”. 

Dealing with a teen-ager who needs the car, a mother who needs to be taken to a doctor’s appointment and a boss who wants the report ‘yesterday’ bring levels of stress to unhealthy proportions. According to a number of studies, stressors such as these effect caregivers’ employment and put them at increased risk for psychological distress.

Waiting for crisis leads to difficulty
Very often, instead of planning for their care, families wait until there is a health or safety crisis with their parents before talking about options. At that point, it is difficult if not impossible to make informed and helpful decisions. Talking with your parents about their future needs while they are still healthy is one way you can lighten the care giving burden if it arrives.

Underanding all the options and making preliminary plans can lessen the psychological and financial stress on you and your family.

Care giving can lead to rewards
Most often, the care giving role brings with it many joys. Usually, this happens when families have an open communication pattern, firm boundaries about expectations of the role and the ability to say “no” when it is necessary.

Talking with elderly parents about the possibility of the need for care and potential dependency on others can be difficult and requires sensitivity and diplomacy. No one in our culture likes to admit that they are failing and need help and yet, most seniors worry privately about what they are going to do if they have a fall, when they can no longer keep their home as tidy as they once did or if they become seriously ill.

Attending to these worries with love and respect can be a gift given to parents who will be able to look at and choose among the options available to them. By exploring these options when you are healthy, decisions will not be made in a panic if a crisis arrives. Decisions hastily made about things like housing can be regretted when it is too late to make changes.

Seminars a practical resource
My Parents are Aging: How do we Plan Together? is a series directed to adult children of aging parents to provide them with the skills and information needed to develop a realistic plan with for their future care. This series of four seminars is being offered in Toronto by The Dorothy Ley Hospice and the Toronto Public Library at the Richview District Library, 1806 Islington Avenue beginning on April 26 at 6:30 PM.

But even if you don’t live in Toronto and are not able to attend, the topics covered can give you an idea of the challenges you may face – and how to plan for them.
The four seminars cover the topics that can be the most sensitive to raise with parents. They are led by professionals with experience in each of their fields. More importantly, they all have had experience as a caregiver.

• Just getting started is often the biggest hurdle. Under the direction of a social worker experienced in working with the elderly, participants will to think about the best ways to begin to talk with parents about some of the more difficult problems they may encounter in the future.
• Legal and financial affairs are often seen as extremely private information. The second seminar will alert participants to the essential documents that need to be in place.
• A key component to success as a caregiver is the indispensable skill of self care. How do you have a life for yourself when there are so many demands on your time?
• Finally, what is the difference between a retirement home and a nursing home? How do you choose a new place to live? What government financial support is available? The final seminar will bring information and resources provide some clarity to these questions.

Being a caregiver can be a rich and rewarding experience. It brings with it possibilities, challenges and sometimes, heartache. Being prepared can be the best way to increase the richness and decrease the heartache. 

As one participant said: “Thank you so much for doing this series. You have no idea how helpful it has been to me. This came at such a perfect time for me just before my mother’s health had reached a crisis situation.”

Schedule for Toronto seminars:
Tuesday, April 26
Communicating with Aging Parents: Tools for Caregivers
Jan Skelton, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Elderly Community Health Services

Tuesday, May 3
Wills, powers of attorney and estate plans: Essential documents for older parents
Ellen Roseman, Toronto Star

Tuesday, May 10
“Self-love is not so vile a sin as self-neglect” What did Shakespeare know that we don’t?
Karen Henderson, Caregiver Network

Tuesday, May 17
Retirement home? Nursing Home? Home Care? What are all the options?
Jan Skelton, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Elderly Community Health Services

The series is free of charge. For more information and to register, call Jeanette Browne, The Dorothy Ley Hospice, Hospice, (416) 626-0116 ext. 240.