We saw them as our pillars, our source of security. How to accept the reality of their aging? And how can we properly accompany our parents in this stage of their life without losing sight of ourselves? We talk about it with psychologist and speaker Rose-Marie Charest
Why is it hard to watch our parents grow old?
Because the relationship with our parents is not rational. We know that they will grow old and die, we know that they will go from stronger than us to weaker than us but, emotionally, it is difficult to accept. We were used to counting on them. They were our landmarks. Seeing them age, we perceive their limits and it weakens us.
Their old age also confronts us with our own aging… and our mortality. At the same time that our parents mourn their youth, we must mourn our childhood and our carelessness. We are not prepared for this. The scariest part of this realization is often the change in dynamics. We then realize that not only can we no longer count on them, but that we will no doubt have to take care of our parents in turn. We can feel sadness, but also frustration, even anger. We must also mourn the idealized parents, those we would have liked to have had, those towards whom we had expectations. Seeing our parents grow old means having to give up on many things that we would have liked to experience with them, accepting what they are as parents and becoming aware of our own unfulfilled needs or desires.
How do we prepare for the aging of our parents?
The better we know our parents, the easier it will be to make the adaptations that their aging will require, both concretely and relationally. By talking with them, even before the problems arise, we should make them aware of the fact that they could one day need help; we pay attention to their priorities, we discuss their expectations, and, if necessary, we readjust the plan. Our parents are adults used to making their own decisions. The more they participate in those that we will have to implement, the easier it will be for us to act appropriately. Their future should not be reduced to illness, loss, the care and support it may require. They should also be asked about their future plans and desires to help them clarify them. What do they want to achieve? What do they want to invest in?
Travel abroad? Learn another language? Join a choir? Practice a physical activity? See their grandchildren and friends more often? There are a multitude of things that can interest our parents and make them more fulfilled people. Let’s remind them that seeing them happy also makes us happier.
How do you know when the time has come to intervene?
It is sometimes difficult to take a position between what could be seen as negligence (if we do not act) and what could be experienced as a failure to respect the freedom or privacy of our parents (if we acts). We can pay attention to certain indicators, such as forgetting to take their medication, the appearance of new health problems, difficulties with food, a certain isolation, a confusion that leads to risks. Above all, we can make our parents realize that we cannot guess their needs and invite them to share them with us, while specifying that we will not necessarily be able to respond to them ourselves, but that we will help them. find other resources. We can also suggest formulas that they may not have thought of, such as subscribing to meals on wheels or ordering groceries online.
If our parents won’t admit they need help, how do we convince them?
They are likely to be reluctant at first. Nobody wants to lose control of their life, not to mention that it is humiliating to lose their autonomy, especially in front of their children. This is why it is so important to involve our parents as much as possible when planning the help they will need. It will encourage them to see us more as a partner than as someone who suddenly intervenes to enact change. As long as our parents are not in immediate danger or in a situation of significant risk, we try not to impose anything. You can start with less intrusive approaches, focusing on one or two basic needs, and increase the level of help as you go.
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