Samantha Peters submitted this guest post. She is a regular contributor on the personal finance blog Paid Twice. Sam enjoys writing about ways to make sure that your money is working hard and earning you the highest rates of return.
As parents we often spend a lot of our time focused on making sure that we raise independent, kind, confident and successful kids. It’s easy to forget that while our own kids are growing up the people who raised us are growing older. Having an aging parent is a challenge. Here are some things that will help you deal with transitioning from their child to their caregiver.
Bridge the Gap
One of the hardest parts about getting older is giving up a person’s independence. Admitting that help is needed is difficult for even the most affable person. It’s understandable that your parent might not yet be ready to give up independent living or even that they need you to drop by more often to keep an eye on things. A good way to compromise is to install an elderly alert system so that if your parent is in need of help but can’t get to the phone you will still be alerted to his or her distress.
TIP: Do not joke about it being a baby monitor for your parent unless you want it to get smashed under a rock or “accidentally” dropped into a bathtub or sink full of water.
Go Over the Money Stuff Early
Try to stay away from phrases like “getting affairs in order.” Still, it is important that you understand what your parents’ financial situation looks like. If a parent is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or experiencing other cognitive problems, you will want to have yourself or an attorney put in charge of their estate. This is going to suck for everybody but it reduces the risk of someone preying on your parents’ weakened state and getting them to invest unwisely or something worse.
Even if your parents are both as sharp and better with technology and news than you are, understanding their financial situation is important for future reference.
Take Care of Yourself
Kids are demanding and so are aging parents. It’s hard to support everybody all the time without the effort taking a toll. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Putting yourself absolutely last is the worst thing you could do. The better care you take of yourself (getting enough sleep, eating well, taking a few minutes of alone time every day), the better able you will be to take care of them and the less likely you will be to forget things or make mistakes.
It is harder to get old than it is to grow up. Growing up means learning how to take things on. Growing old means learning how to leave things behind. Having to be dependent upon someone else after taking care of yourself for a lifetime is incredibly difficult even for the most patient people. It is also going to be really difficult for you to go from depending on your parents to being the person your parents depend on. Working with a counselor to help you with the different stages of the transition can be helpful for every generation involved.
It’s not an easy transition for anybody, but try to remember to be patient. And remember: there is no shame in asking for help, no matter how old you are!
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