Motherhood is often described as the hardest job in the world. A lot has changed over the centuries of our civilization. The physical and emotional strain of giving birth to life and then nurturing it into adulthood is a constant in every time and place. However, there has been one recent change in this millennia-long story.
Modern medicine has become remarkably adept at helping people live very long lives. But this often comes with a cost. People often live far beyond the point where their general capabilities have diminished to the point of disability. And that’s pretty much an inevitability. Physical and mental decline is just part of the human condition when one reaches a certain age, but it presents a new and rather ironic challenge for mothers.
Many women have found themselves not only caring for their children, but also for their parents. Nobody would ever claim that taking care of a baby is easy, but there’s at least some chance for preparation. It’s often the exact opposite situation with one’s parents.
There are some instances where an elderly relative experiences a slow and predictable decline. But it’s just as common for a diagnosis or accident to necessitate immediate action. For example, senile dementia is often fairly minor at the earliest stages. And this makes it easy to overlook. This also means that a fair amount of damage has already been done by the time it becomes noticeable.
Finding help in unexpected places
However, it’s important to remember that everyone is unique. The medical issues your parents face will always have unique elements. And there’s going to be equal challenges involved in becoming their primary caregiver. Again, this is further compounded by the fact that you’re also taking care of your own children. You’re essentially working to provide for the different needs of the next and prior generations all at the same time.
There are some solutions which should be considered right at the start, however. For example, a chair lift helps with a wide variety of medical issues. It’s one solution among multiple complementary ideas. But it’s also an example of how one should begin preparing for the arrival of an elderly parent.
Preparing for the unexpected
We touched on how unique every person’s medical needs can be. And this is going to apply to almost every aspect of your elder care experience. It’s obviously quite difficult to raise a child, but a child tends to progress along fairly well-defined paths. There are variations, but parents can usually count on words turning into sentences or crawling to walking. But the needs of an elderly parent will vary by how the various aspects of their condition interact with each other.
But you can prepare by just assuming it can’t be totally prepared for. The earlier example of a chair lift can cover a wide range of mobility issues. It will help someone with physical damage to a joint. It also provides that same support to people suffering from neurologically-based balance issues, edema, or a wide variety of other complications.
It’s important to look for home accessories which are versatile. Another example is an adjustable bedside commode. It’s more expensive than a traditional bedside commode, but it can also convert for use as a toilet stabilizer or shower seat.
Charting your own path
It’s also important to consider another difference between your children and your parents. A child’s abilities tend to go along a straight line. They develop a new skill and continue to improve it. Again, their crawling will turn into walking and then running. Many elderly people experience a series of highs and lows with their mobility or independence. Their bodies are in a constant state of flux as a variety of conditions fight against their ability to heal or adapt.
But one way to help push things in the right directions is family exercise. Staying active helps every member of the family. And there are often multiple ways in which people can work together to meet a common fitness goal. Your parents can often contribute to the family by helping the younger children along that path as well.
Again though, it’s important to remember that this is a complicated process. Every example presents unique challenges and rewards. But the experiences are also becoming more common. Just talking with friends going through the same thing can also prove to be a fantastic resource. It’s seldom easy when your parents become unexpected houseguests, but if you approach it the right way then it can also prove tremendously rewarding.