When our parents get old | VERO magazine

We saw them as our pillars, our source of security. How to accept the reality of their aging? And how can we properly guide our parents in this phase of their lives without losing sight of ourselves? We talk about it with psychologist and speaker Rose-Marie Charest

Why is it difficult to watch our parents grow old?

Because the relationship with our parents is not rational. We know they will grow old and die, we know they will go from stronger than us to weaker than us, but emotionally it’s hard to accept. We were used to counting on them. They were our landmarks. When we see them grow older, we see their limits and that weakens us.

Their old age also confronts us with our own aging… and our mortality. At the same time that our parents mourn their childhood, we must mourn our childhood and our carelessness. We are not prepared for this. Often the scariest thing about this realization is the change in dynamics. We then realize that not only can we no longer count on them, but that we will undoubtedly 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, the ones we wish we had, the ones we had expectations of. Watching our parents grow old means that we have to give up many things that we would have liked to experience with them, accept what they are as parents, and become aware of our own unmet needs or desires.

How do we prepare for our parents’ aging?

The better we know our parents, the easier it will be to make the adjustments their aging requires, both concretely and relationally. By talking to them before the problems arise, we should make them aware that they may one day need help; we pay attention to their priorities, we discuss their expectations and, if necessary, we adjust the plan. Our parents are adults who are used to making their own decisions. The more they participate in the measures we need 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 needs. They should also be asked about their future plans and wishes to help them clarify them. What do they want to achieve? What do they want to invest in?

Traveling abroad? Want to learn another language? Want to join a choir? Do a physical activity? Want to see their grandchildren and friends more often? There are many things that can interest our parents and make them more happy people. Let’s remind them that seeing them happy makes us happier too.

How do you know when it’s time to intervene?

It’s sometimes difficult to take a stance between what could be perceived as negligence (if we don’t act) and what could be perceived as disrespecting our parents’ freedom or privacy (if we act). We can pay attention to certain indicators, such as forgetting of medicines, the appearance of new health problems, difficulties with eating, 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, indicating that we cannot necessarily respond to them ourselves, but that we will help them find other resources. We can also propose formulas that they may not have thought of themselves, such as a subscription to a meal on wheels or ordering groceries online.

If our parents don’t admit they need help, how can we convince them?

They will probably be reluctant at first. No one wants to lose control of their life, not to mention how humiliating it is to lose their autonomy, especially in front of their children. That’s why it’s so important to involve our parents as much as possible in planning the help they need. It will encourage them to see us more as a partner than as someone who suddenly intervenes to make changes. As long as our parents are not in immediate danger or in a situation of significant risk, we do not try to impose anything. You can start with less intrusive approaches, focusing on one or two basic needs, and gradually increase the level of help.

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