Much of our parenting style comes from the fact that, as children, we were subjected to parenting, most often from our own parents, but also our friends’ parents and other adults in our lives.
In other words, we came to the role of parenting with some experience of what it’s like to be parented as a kid.
The challenge many have in eldercare is that they have not been elderly themselves and, in their youth, likely experienced little eldercare unless their parents had to look after grandparents.
We tend to come to the role of caregivers of the elderly with little experience of what gets done and no true empathetic sense of what they are going through.
Add to this the fact that we have been accustomed to a life of deferring to our parents’ desires and it becomes extremely stressful to jump into an array of decisions for which we have no background and which may, in fact, go against the expressed wishes of our parents. It’s a role fraught with emotional anxiety.
Of course, as the population ages, everyone is learning more about the needs of the elderly and doing more to accommodate those needs.
As well, as technology improves, there are new options that assist with maintaining independence longer and certainly an explosion of information readily at the fingertips of anyone with a computer.
We may not know what we are doing, but we are not without considerable support to find and access resources to help us.
I contended, as a parent, that parenting was a team sport, where a lot of people contributed ideas and support to raising children.
It was another metaphor to support the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.”
Now that my children have grown, and my attention has been turned significantly in the direction of eldercare, I am finding those notions of cooperative efforts not only still true, but even more essential.
With little preconceived knowledge of what is needed, I have been even more reliant on the support of others “in the village” to assist my parents than I was as a parent seeking help with my children.
Virtually every health issue has a support group, either locally or on-line.
There are social agencies to support issues like housing and medical support for those who are struggling with such problems.
There are processes established, through both public and private institutions, to get people the care they need in a timely and appropriate manner either in their own home or outside the home.
The challenge is such resources are busy and getting busier, and to be effective you have to be both inquisitive and persistent.
I have taken to writing down lists of questions regularly, categorizing those questions as I seek advice, and drawing up charts of which resources can be linked for a multi-pronged attack on issues.
It’s then a case of burning up the phone lines (politely I might add) or making an appearance in person until I can get the answers necessary to propose the full list of options available.
There is help, lots of it. You just have to keep asking and keep standing in the queue to access it.
Graham Hookey writes about education, parenting and eldercare (firstname.lastname@example.org).