There are undoubtedly so many phases in the life of a family, from your kids’ first day at school, to their last day under your roof. One particular phase that may look incredibly different from family to family is the transition of your elderly parents or in-laws from the workforce and into retirement. Naturally, this transition can be quite daunting for your elderly parents to navigate all on their own, and chances are high they’ll be grateful for your support.
When the time comes round for you to support your elderly parents as they prepare for retirement, there are absolutely some key factors that you’ll need to be keeping in mind, whether or not your parents have pre-existing health conditions or specific care needs. It’s also worth noting that ‘elderly’ is a rather subjective term, as over 55 living might be a time to retire for some, whereas other parents might slow down much later.
Read on if you’d like to learn just how you can prepare to offer support for your elderly parents during their transitional phase into retirement.
Home and living arrangements
Understanding the home and living arrangements that your parents are likely to require is going to inform the rest of the care you provide, so be sure to have these conversations frequently with your parents. Do they want to stay in their home, downsize to a retirement village, or had they envisaged living with you or a sibling? Be sure to include all members of your immediate family in these conversations to ensure that you can prepare as a collective and that all family members involved in this transition know precisely what steps can be taken next. If your parents plan on staying at home or with you past a certain age, there are easy modifications you can make to your home to make it safer and more comfortable for them.
If your parents choose to live in a retirement village or something like that, make it a priority to check some of them out for yourself and have a say in whether they live in the inner-city or by the water’s edge – and all those other decisions! There are so many modern aged care facilities and vibrant retirement communities to choose from now that your parents will likely have a lot of pamphlets outlining unique perks and attractions to peruse through.
Understanding their needs and your own
It goes without saying that love and respect will go a long way when caring for your parents, but you may also need to brush up on some other basic carer skills and other knowledge if you are preparing to be the sole carer of your elderly parent or parents. Managing their finances and bank accounts is by no means a full-time job, but there are processes that you will have to set in motion so that you can make arrangements for their years in retirement.
It may also be beneficial to attend some doctor and health specialist appointments with your parents so that you can equip yourself with a greater understanding of their changing care requirements. It is also a great opportunity to ask their health providers any questions and get on top of any concerns you may have nice and early.
Carer’s burnout is a very real thing, and you need to be aware of any signs that you may be feeling overwhelmed with this responsibility, so that you’ll be able to act on these signs well before they lead to the serious negative impacts of burnout. It’s also definitely worth keeping in mind that feeling burnt out is no reflection of how you feel about your parents. You shouldn’t feel guilty for taking a step back and tending to your own garden if it’s what you feel you need. You may like to incorporate some self-care practices into your own day-to-day life or you can also call on a friend or family member to share your load from time to time.
Physical and mental health
Support is so important when it comes to looking after your elderly parents, and that includes supporting them in their determination to reach better health outcomes. Physical health and mental health are areas that we have to address continuously throughout our own lives, so it’s not too far a jump to understand what these concerns may look like for an elderly person. Incidental exercise like walking to the store with your mum instead of driving may be the only physical exercise she needs, or maybe there is a target area of concern that requires a care plan that’s a little more tailored to suit their care needs.
The same goes for mental health. Providing your parents with the opportunity to speak about how they are feeling and any concerns that they may have will make them feel seen and supported. If speaking to you isn’t adequately addressing their concerns, then putting a mental health plan in place with a therapist or counselling service may prove to be highly beneficial in ensuring both your parent’s emotional and physical health and wellbeing.
You also want to support them in their aspirations, as they may have interests and passions they want to pursue now that they finally have the time and support to do so. If you are not sure how you can check in with their mental health, you can always ask for a referral should your parent wish to speak to a counsellor or someone else who can guide them through this next phase of life.
Finally, just because you are caring for your elderly parent or parents, it does not mean that they cannot bring something to your life also. If you have children, you are modelling wonderful community-oriented behaviour to them in looking after their grandparents. In fact, your elderly parents will absolutely have so much that they themselves can add to the lives of your children, and will contribute to your household in so many ways.
In a lot of ways, caring for your elderly parents is so much more of an opportunity for connection and enrichment over simply being a responsibility. Bring them along to your kids’ sports games, talent shows, birthdays, family dinners, grocery shopping, and all those joyous, little life tasks that make up your week. This inclusivity will go a long way for everyone who is touched by your support.
This is a part of your life that you will treasure forever, and it is an opportunity to show your parents how much you appreciate them and try to return all that they did for you in your youth. Be sure to cherish all this time that you have with them, all the days that they share with your children, and enjoy all the happiness and laughter that comes with multiple generations under one shared roof.