A time comes for many of us when parents or other elderly relatives reach a stage when they are no longer coping with independent living because of either physical infirmity or mental deterioration. Some of us are lucky (or unlucky!) enough to be well into middle age before this happens – but whenever it does it brings a whole raft of new and unfamiliar problems and emotions.
There are huge practical decisions to be made around possibly moving them in with you, home care, residential or nursing home care, arranging Power of Attorney if they are becoming incapable of managing their affairs and so on. There are massive financial implications to these decisions and, for those unfamiliar with the system it’s very easy to make very costly mistakes – I know I did the first time I had to deal with it. The benefit and social care systems are complex and frequently changing – and look likely to change again, possibly for the better, but I’m not holding my breath!
What about the emotional implications?
Apart from the practicalities, there’s a vast emotional load attached to being in this situation. For a start there’s the role reversal – suddenly you are in a position of caring for the person who has cared for you as a child, and in many ways since – a situation that can feel uncomfortable. If their memory is going it can be at best unbelievably irritating and at worst agonisingly painful as you seem to lose the person you’ve known all your life. There’s the inevitability of the end – you know this isn’t going to get better which can be very hard to contemplate. There can be a lot of guilt – you might feel you should have them at home with
you, but practicalities such as accommodation and work mean that is impossible. You may also try to manage their emotional journey – the
idea of giving up their independence can be terrible, the loss of dignity in having to be ‘cared for’, their own fear of the inevitable.
I haven’t got all the answers by any means, but having been through it all a few times, I can offer practical advice and help you to diffuse stress and manage your emotions.
A few tips that might help