Taking on a caregiving role with your parents can be tough enough, but it’s even more complicated when you’re still taking care of your own children too.
In fact, both generations may have trouble understanding how their needs fit into the three-generation picture with you in the middle, say experts. Although they may not show it, your children may experience worry and distress seeing their grandparents struggle and feel neglected by your split attention. The good news is that being prepared can ease the way for everyone.
Your role reversal with your parents, for example, may be exacerbated by them pushing back against some of the actions you want to take, making you feel a high level of guilt and angst.
There may soon come a time when you’ll need to move your parents from their home or ask them to give up their keys. No one wants their independence taken away from them, so this can be a very challenging discussion or action, but it’s important to talk about it while they are still mentally and physically fit.
Don’t wait until your parents are already having physical problems or behavioral or emotional changes to take the steps to be a partner in their ongoing care.
Most doctors have a form that a parent can sign saying the doctor can discuss their treatment with an authorized party, or you can assign someone to be your health care agent via a power of attorney so you can speak with their medical providers and their insurance company. A financial power of attorney is important as well, giving you access to financial information and resources such as checking accounts and other records if needed.
Once you’ve determined that your parents may need more assistance in their everyday lives, you’ll need to decide exactly how much intervention is warranted.
Be sure to talk to your children in an age-appropriate manner about the changes they may be seeing in their grandparents. The more they understand and feel included, the less they will feel they need to worry and speculate about what’s happening.
Every case is different, but the first line of help is always the family, and it’s important that all the adult siblings pitch in as equally as possible. Children can help out as well, doing simple things like making Grandma a snack or watching a movie with Grandpa while you run errands.
If you’re an only child or live out of town, there are many resources available through Medicare and county agencies on aging. Check with your parent’s insurance company as well to see if they have resources or recommendations. You may even be able to recruit friends, neighbors or other relatives who live nearby to help with day-to-day issues.
Finally–and most importantly–take care of yourself too. Keep yourself updated on checks-ups and appointments. You don’t want to end up taking care of your parents and children while also dealing with your own medical problems.
Seeing the signs
One of the most difficult parts of dealing with an aging parent is determining exactly when it’s time to step in. Here are some signs to watch for:
- Lots of empty kitchen cabinets, or food that’s past its expiration date
- Clutter in a house that has always been tidy
- Confusion in dealing with ongoing household records
- Cutting back on social activities or anxiety about driving or going to new places
If you don’t live nearby and most of your contact is by phone, be alert for telltale clues such as a parent not being as chatty as usual and not seeming to have activities going on or engaging with others socially. This can also be a sign of depression, which is common in the elderly.