The transition point where you go from having caretakers for your parents to being their caretaker is a difficult one for everyone involved. It can even be more painful if you are losing a parent to dementia or a similar condition. They will change, their needs will increase, and their frailty will make it harder for both you and them to see to their needs.
In many ways, it will be easier for your parents to live in a senior assisted living facility than with you because they will feel less of a burden. Taking care of sick and elderly parents is emotionally and physically exhausting. This is something that will wear away at your patience and you may find yourself snapping at your parents. Neither you nor your parents will want such an ugly memory to be made.
That said, for everyone’s emotional well-being, it is better that you find a place where they can receive the specialized care they need. This allows you to visit them with a calm mind after bracing yourself for dealing with whatever arises patiently. You can concentrate on coming up with activities you can do with them to give them new experiences and keep making those precious memories that will sustain you when the end comes.
Adopt Their Timing
This will make it easier for you to keep your stress levels low. It can be distressing for your parents to lose the thread of conversation in the middle of a sentence. You may realize that they have forgotten who you are and it may feel very depressing for you. But your emotional wellness is no longer within their capacity to protect and soothe.
You must be the one to maintain balance. You must keep your hurt feelings at bay and go along with wherever your parents are at. If they mistake you for a worker or a long-dead relative/friend, then simply accept the sudden turn in the conversation. The point is not to make them stay on topic. The point is to make them feel loved and cared for, to ease their mind, so they do not get scared or anxious.
Seek Counseling for Yourself
Watching your parents lose themselves will take a great toll on you. Mentally and emotionally, you will be under a great deal of pressure. Seeking counseling whether with a therapist or through support groups will give you an outlet for your pain. It will allow you to express yourself safely and receive proper feedback and help to stay grounded.
Both therapists and support groups will also be able to advise you and help you to communicate and empathize with your parents better. This will be a great boon for your mental equanimity as well as allow you to tend to your parents’ changing needs with more positive energy.
Picnic on the Grounds
A lovely picnic on the grounds of the assisted living facility is a great way to make memories in a safe way. The staff will be within reach in the event that the picnic takes too much of a toll on your parents. They will also be within a safe area, so if they wander off or want to take a walk, they will not be in any danger.
An unfamiliar picnic area or perhaps even a far too familiar picnic area could cause an unexpected reaction from your parents. If they get physically distressed you may not have the emotional capacity to help them the way that the staff at the center would be able to help.
Staying on the grounds will allow you to relax and simply try to enjoy spending time with your parents. You can focus on talking to them and sharing their favorite meal with them.
Visit a Garden or Greenhouse
If your parents’ mental acuity has not degraded to such a degree that you must always stay on the grounds, you can take them somewhere calming like a garden or greenhouse. These are cool, soothing, and quiet areas that can be very welcoming and relaxing. If your parents were the type of people who enjoy gardening, then they will have a delightful time. They can share what they know about the plants with you and enjoy being in comfortable surroundings that feel familiar to them.
This is not the time for you to expect a lot from your parents. Elderly people, especially ones who are ill, may have memory issues and behave very differently from what you are used to from them. You must remove your expectations of how they must act so that you can handle their reality with patience and calm.
If you go in expecting them to be a certain way, you may show hurt, shock, or pain to your parents. This will cause them distress. They are less able to communicate and resolve such powerful negative emotions due to their old age or illness. You must take the emotional brunt of keeping back your expectations so that you do not place undue pressure on your parents.