To care for an ageing parent is any child’s privilege. Firstly we can return some of the love and nurturing that we received and secondly we can still enjoy this person in our lives and help our loved one in ageing gracefully. Certainly a privilege when you consider anyone who has lost a parent and grieve’s that loss.
As I creep closer to 50 years of age I find that social gatherings inevitably leads to discussions about the options for an ageing parent. I am the primary carer for my 73 year old mother, who also has traumatic brain injuries from a car accident over 52 years ago. As part of caring for my Mum I have had to consider a lot of the issues now facing my friends a long time ago. So what are the issues?
- Downsizing or moving from a larger, quite often the Family Home to a smaller home that is easy to maintain.
- Self Care, especially following a fall or sickness. How will my loved one manage rehabilitation, managing money, preparing meals, showers, mobility and house cleaning?
- Safety around the home and in the event of a fall or sickness.
In the next stage of life, following the initial down sizing, many people express regret that they hadn’t made the move sooner. Regardless the process of downsizing for many people is extremely stressful, because it can be the first time that person has had to acknowledge they are getting older and recognition that they are not able to cope with everything like they once did. The new home will be easier to look after and there is a lot less stress because they are not worried about gardens, lawns, fences, painting or any number of items that must be maintained.
When making the decision about where to live many things have to be considered:
- Proximity to family, friends or support networks.
- Have they considered their current health issues and what the long term quality of life is likely to be?
In my mothers situation I had to consider her traumatic brain injuries and the real likely hood that in old age Mum will require a high level of care. To this end we decided that a self care apartment in a Retirement Village with a high care nursing home, as part of the facilities was the best option.
Mum will age gracefully in the knowledge that while she is mobile and able to live independently now. Then down the track, if required, there are options like the nursing home, that are in an environment that Mum is familiar with.
Most importantly we are anticipating Mum’s needs now and planning, instead of being in a stressful situation where we may not have options for accommodation or the best care.
Too often I see friends parents denying the reality of their situation and choosing to stay in the home that they can no longer care for and most damaging of all, trying to ignore the fact that they are ageing and their needs have changed. Inevitably they end up having a serious fall with a extended hospital stay and cannot return to their home and are in the unpleasant situation of having to move into care that is not to their liking or located away from family friends. Needless to say this involves stress and heart break to not only your ailing parent but you and your family as well. With a little planning and a few difficult conversations this can be avoided.
In The Telomere Effect we learn the importance of support networks, stress reduction, together with eating a Mediterranean style diet and aerobic exercise. By following the recommendations in The Telomere Effect, together with the guidelines above we can expect, not only ourselves, but our loved ones, to age gracefully and live a healthier longer life free of disease.