How to Cope When Your Parents Grow Old

Accepting that your parents are getting older can be a complicated process of acceptance for you. Now it's you who must rescue them, solve their problems and, most important of all, take care of them.
How to Cope When Your Parents Grow Old

Last update: 21 May, 2022

When your parents grow old, gradually losing their independence, your reality changes completely. They say that it’s just the way life is, that time has unforeseen twists, and those who used to carry you can no longer bear your weight. In effect, your superheroes lose their capes, those they used to use to shelter you from the rain.

At this point, the responsibility is immense as well as terrifying. Indeed, it’s not easy to cope with this stage in which, suddenly, your roles have been reversed. You, as their child, must take on the role of parent and they must learn to let you help them. That’s because although in many aspects, they’re still perfectly capable, fatigue often immobilizes them and their health is more than a little precarious.

However, it’s not easy for them to accept that they’re beginning to be vulnerable. After all, despite the wrinkles, they still have their pride. For this reason, they may well tend to refuse to accept the fragility of their bodies and the changes of age.

In fact, those who’ve spent their whole lives rescuing others and bearing all the weight of the world on their own backs don’t really know how to delegate. They’re even less likely to accept their own vulnerability.

The inner child that you carry within you usually experiences high levels of suffering and anxiety when you see how your parents have stopped fending for themselves. It’s a process of change that’s not exempt from difficulties. Nevertheless, you are finally able to accept them.

girl thinking about when parents get old
Our parents have taken care of us all their lives. Taking care of them when they’re no longer able to is the greatest act of love and honesty.

The changes you must accept when your parents grow old

Good parents are not those who simply give life. They’re those who also give love. Therefore, if you’re lucky enough to have grown up surrounded by that kind of affection and constant dedication, it hurts to see how they’re starting to age. In fact, the realization that age already weighs heavily on them is usually sudden and almost unexpected. It just seems like, out of the blue, they’re no longer able to do what they used to do.

It might be when their health fails them for the first time. Or, when they experience sudden forgetfulness or have to stop driving. It’s only then that you notice how fragile they’ve become. They, who could handle anything and everything up to now, have become figures who need more help than they’re able to offer.

An article that was written by Drs. Christine A. Price and Whitney A. Brosi of Montclair State University claims that we live in an increasingly aging society. For this reason, we need to learn certain gerontological strategies to use in our family environments.

It isn’t easy watching your parents grow older, nor dealing with all the associated factors. Therefore, we’re going to take a look at the phases that you’ll probably have to go through.

Your parents have been strong for you all your life. Finally, there comes a time when you must be strong for them.

1. The stage of self-reliance

Your parents have spent almost their entire life cycle enjoying the stage of self-sufficiency. They were in charge of their own lives, bodies, mental faculties, and decisions. At these stages, they were always there for you, helping you, guiding you, and rescuing you. It didn’t matter that you were an adult yourself and had moved away from home, in their mind you were still their child.

2. The relationship of interdependence

When your parents get older they begin to need your help. Genuine old age has nothing to do with the number of birthdays or wrinkles on the skin, it concerns the loss of independence. When the phase of interdependence arrives, when they need you to go to the doctor with them, organize their medications, or fulfill those tasks that are now beyond them, this is when everything changes.

If, until not long ago, they were those omniscient figures who took care of everything, you find that life has now taken a 180º turn. At this point, a part of you, the one that continues to harbor the child you once were, suffers and is stressed by this change. However, be careful, because your adult self also experiences these difficulties.

Your parents won’t always ask you for help when they need it. They’re not used to it and it may be difficult for them. Therefore, you must be aware, stay close to them, and try and anticipate their needs.

3. Dependence

Cooking for them, washing them, holding their hand when they’re suddenly gripped by fear or sadness, making them smile, accompanying them to their medical appointments… In old age, when your parents are already dependent figures, you give them the purest love that exists. You demonstrate it with your constant dedication, compassion, and affection.

Although this is a difficult stage, you can continue enjoying the company of your parents and discovering them in another way.

You must have the courage to accept the cycle of life. Seeing your parents age is a normal process and a stage that you must know how to take advantage of in order to intensify your bonds of affection with them.

4. Crisis management when your parents get older

Aging brings with it moments of crisis that put your management skills to the test. Indeed, as your parents reach more advanced ages, you’ll probably have to deal with incidents, illnesses, and unexpected diagnoses. However, nothing can prepare you for this stage in which anything from dementia to a broken hip can arise.

That said, as their child, you end up being able to face any situation and to be strong, just as they were for you.

Son giving coffee to his father thinking about when parents get old
Let’s try to celebrate and enjoy every moment of our parents while they’re still with us.

5. End of life

Celebrate your parents when they’re still with you. Do it every day. Either talk to them on the phone or spend time with them whenever you can. Like you, they won’t be around forever, but they’ll probably be gone far earlier than you.

We’re only on this planet for a short time and only one thing in life is certain. At some point, it ends. So make sure you enjoy the people you love so much, especially those who have given everything to you: your parents.

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