Do you have a parent or aging loved one nearing or in the most fragile years of life? Are you considering in-home care for them? Assisted living? A nursing home? Have they endured repeated hospitalizations, or are they facing major surgery? Are they refusing to give up their independence? Do they have adequate savings to pay for care? Are they getting the right Medicare, Medicaid, or VA benefits? The Fragile Years by Amy Cameron O’Rourke, a veteran care management professional, will help you secure the best possible care.
Read an excerpt from The Fragile years below.
I often cringe when I hear the adult children of fragile loved ones talk about how they feel like they’ve reversed roles with their par- ents who are now dependent on them. That attitude is a trap that can result in bitterness and resentment on both sides. Parents don’t like their children telling them what to do—no matter how fragile they might be.
There is a much healthier way to engage with the new family dynamic, and that is to view this as an opportunity to become your parent’s strongest advocate and supporter—a source of kindness, compassion, and understanding.
You aren’t reversing roles. You are entering a new stage of your relationship. This isn’t a burden; it’s an opportunity to make your loved one’s final years as comfortable, peaceful, and secure as possible.
Consider this also as your time to demonstrate to your own family, especially your children and grandchildren, how you would hope to be treated in the later stages of your own life. One of the keys to dealing with an aging parent is to let go of expectations that they will be fully capable of caring for themselves, or of conducting themselves perfectly or even up to your expectations.
For example, there may come a time when your loved one will turn inward and be much less communicative. Very often, the older adult is quieter, more introspective, and less interested in “making” conversation. This can make children and visitors very uncomfortable, so they try to “get” them to talk.
Consider that they might be in a stage or a phase where they are more introspective and processing information, memories, and reflecting. They might be uncomfortable out of fear of “being a burden” to the family. They might also feel guilty at how much you are doing for them.
Another consideration: you might not be asking the right questions and listening to their answers carefully. Be willing to ask
questions with the intent of determining their state of mind as well as their wants and needs. Don’t expect them to ask. They may be experiencing fear and insecurities about their own fragility and the approaching end of life.
Just knowing that you are there for them will be a great comfort. If you sense they are uncomfortable disclosing things to you, maybe there is a non-relative who can provide a valued, listening ear to them.
As an advocate for the aging, my priority is always the safety, comfort, and desires of the most fragile among us. I’ve learned to accept their quirks and often unpredictable behaviors, and I encourage their family members to do the same, rather than over-reacting when “Mom did something weird today.”