With Father’s Day approaching, are your thoughts turning to the men in your life – father, husband, son, other male figures? Mine are. It’s heartwarming to see how my sons have become devoted dads themselves, reflecting their own loving father. This weekend, I’ll also be honoring the memory of my dad, who died in his 90th year over a decade ago.
While helping with his care during the final years of a chronic illness, it was painful to see how he was declining. Always active and fun-loving while I was growing up, he became weaker as he aged, both mentally and physically. As Sandwiched Boomers, it’s difficult towatch as your parents deteriorate. And they may complicate the situation by being in denial about their vulnerable condition.
Today nearly 10 million adults are caregivers for their aging parents. If you’re caring for an elderly father, it’s up to you to acknowledge the true state of affairs and be straightforward in dealing with his increasing fragility. You’ll need to discuss practical, yet uncomfortable, issues – health care directives, long-term care options, a designated power of attorney, distribution of income and assets. After addressing your most immediate concerns, here are some tips to help you plan and implement your care:
Learn about your dad’s illness. Educate yourself on what to expect and how to recognize warning signs threatening your father’s health and independence. Talk to friends who have gone through similar experiences in order to get realistic feedback and concrete advice.
Surf the Internet to investigate resources available to you. Some nonprofit organizations offer free services or financial grants for respite care for family members who provide most of the care to their chronically ill elders. If you’re in the U.S., the National Family Caregiver Support Program provides funds and the Eldercare Locator identifies programs in local communities.
Involve you dad in decision-making. If you decide it’s necessary to move your father out of his home or take over management of his finances that may signify a loss of independence to him, leading to anger, frustration, or depression. Understanding his pain, taking it slow and engaging a geriatric social worker or gerontologist can help the process.
Embrace the changes in your dad and respect his integrity. As he becomes less strong physically and mentally, he may lose some of the magical power he once had in your eyes. Still you can admire his courage and dignity, as he struggles, coming to terms with end of life issues. Recall the good times you shared even as you adjust to the changes in your roles.
Check back here again on Wednesday for more Father’s Day tips for caring for your aging dad – especially if you’re part of the sandwich generation.