Discuss What Losing Independence Means to Them
By Kathy Quan, R.N., B.S.N., P.H.N.
Your parents may not be willing to discuss mortality issues, but they may be able to tell you exactly what it would mean to them to become dependent on you or someone else. You may be surprised at what losing independence means to and what it involves for your parents. This will give you some insight into the challenges you may face as they age and begin to require assistance.
The aging process will naturally rob everyone of at least some abilities in varying degrees. From issues of loss of general flexibility and being able to get up from a low couch or chair to loss of bladder and or bowel control, most people fear the embarrassment of these losses as well as becoming a burden or having to have assistance with simple acts of everyday living.
Independence can be defined by many things. Ask your parents what these things mean to them — living in their own home, driving a car, playing golf every day, having good eyesight or hearing, cooking their own meals, having to use a cane or walker — and you'll begin to understand how they perceive their lives and what losing their independence means to them.
In 2005, the results of a study of women with osteoporosis pointed out that the reason more than half of the women were compliant about taking their medication was that they feared losing their independence.
Surprisingly, 74 percent of the doctors surveyed thought the reason their patients were compliant about taking the medication was that they feared breaking bones. While a broken bone could lead to a dependency issue, the women clearly feared the bigger picture of becoming dependent on someone else.
Some will age gracefully and accept change as it happens. Others will fight it tooth and nail and will not accept change without kicking and screaming all along the way. A happy medium would be welcome by most children dealing with issues of aging parents.
One of the challenges for you will most likely be not overdoing it. Let them do as much for themselves as possible. This will not be the most efficient and timesaving method, but it is important. The temptation to jump in and just do it will be difficult to resist, especially at times when you are up against time deadlines.
Time management and organization will become key components in your new life, even more so than when you had three children all playing the same sport on different fields across town. Plan and allow for the extra time it will take them to get ready for the doctor's appointment, but let them do as much for themselves as possible. They will feel in control and you'll feel less stressed.