Adult children caring for aging parents can feel more confident and less burdened if they know what to expect. This primer on slow medicine and how to help them age in place can help.
The principles of “aging in place” and Dr. Dennis McCullough’s “slow medicine” can help adult children get unstuck from difficult relational issues when caring for aging parents.
Age in Place: What Those Caring for Aging Parents Should Know
Aging in place is a movement to help aging parents stay in their homes for as long as possible.
To achieve this, adult children and their aging parents need to overcome the prevailing belief in society that discussing illness and death is akin to bringing it on. Like any other goal in life, aging in place requires forethought, planning, and discussion.
Age in Place: What Those Caring for Aging Parents Can Do
Adult children can initiate conversations with aging parents early on by asking them about their experience of aging and their view of the future.
They can research legal and financial planning that will help achieve the goals of everyone involved, instead of waiting for a crisis that can take choices away.
Adult children can research and understand communities like Beacon Hill that provide the services people need to age in place.
Slow Medicine: What Those Caring for Aging Parents Should Know
Adult children caring for aging parents need to understand how to prevent medical crises.
Slow medicine teaches that the current medical protocols in our society are often not in the best interests of the elderly. In most cases, they cater to the needs of doctors, insurers, and younger people.
The prevailing medical paradigm teaches that everything that can be tried should be tried at all costs. This ignores the fact that death is a natural part of life, and an individual is more than just an illness.
Elderly individuals have needs unique to their age that are not taken into account in health care. For example, it can take an older adult twice as long to recover from a simple procedure than a person at mid-life. Yet insurers do not honor this.
Slow Medicine: What Adult Children Caring for Aging Parents Can Do
Slow medicine emphasizes developing a “Circle of Concern” – the friends, neighbors, adult children, doctors, nurses, and other support persons aging parents must rely upon to prevent crises and help them stay in their homes longer.
Adult children can help this type of trust develop over time by starting a conversation about health care early on and listening instead of pushing. Aging parents will be more likely to confide in adult children and doctors if they see them as collaborators and not dictators who will push difficult and taxing medical procedures on them.
When an elderly parent complains of being tired or slowing down, adult children need not tell their parents that he or she is “giving in” or “giving up.” Adult children need to accept the facts of aging.
Aging parents have slowed down cognitively. There may be hearing and vision loss. They are more apt to withdraw than to open up in a crowd of visitors. Adult children may need to spend one-on-one time with each parent to truly understand what is going on.
If adult children understand what to expect practically and medically, the latter part of their aging parents’ lives can be a healing time of connection, rather than a terrible burden being carried by an adult child alone. Slow medicine and aging in place resources can help.